Although slavery had been around for thousands of years, abolitionists launched epic movements generating political support that doomed slavery in only about a century and a quarter. States’ rights prevented unification of the South. Other things being equal, Confederate military leadership were confident that if the Union did not display Napoleonic genius, the tactical and strategic power of the defensive could offset the Northern superiority. There would have been—and were—no more ardent anti-Nazis than the people of the South. We couldn't do it without you.
It was vast—750,000 square miles the Federals would have to invade and conquer. “Thus space was all in favour of the South; even should the enemy overrun her border, her principal cities, few in number, were far removed from the hostile bases, and the important railway junctions were perfectly secure from sudden attack. . Imagine that there had been no war against the South, and subsequently no Reconstruction putting the South under martial law, disenfranchising white voters with Confederate pasts, and enfranchising newly freed slaves as wards of the Republican Party. Incredibly, in the name of reconciliation, Union veterans and Confederate veterans gathered at Memorial Day ceremonies to mourn the dead without discussing any of the war issues. Then the party of Lincoln made a deal to resolve the contested presidential election of 1876: they would have federal troops withdrawn from the last three Southern states that were occupied after the Civil War, enabling Democrats to gain complete political control of the South, and in exchange Democrats would permit the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, to become the 19th U.S. president. “Early in the war, when Lincoln was still defining the Union cause narrowly (for reunion alone and not for emancipation) and when Union officers were still refusing sanctuary to runaway slaves,” writes Bruce Levine, “ . [I]nertia was on the South’s side and would have been fatal to the North. Some Southerners were counting on the manpower their slaves could provide in the war effort. The switch of a mere .75 percent of the votes (29,935 out of 4,031,195) in specific states would have given McClellan the ninety-seven additional electoral votes he needed. But these amendments soon became dead letters. .
In addition, the problem of supply in a very large but thinly settled region was a powerful aid to the strategic defensive.
John Cook has identified four specific Confederate advantages: the psychological edge of fighting for independence and to protect their homes and way of life; interior lines and geography, including rivers, mountains, and swamps that were the equivalent of successive lines of fortifications; higher per-capita production of corn, livestock, and other necessities of life; and cotton, which, properly utilized, could provide economic and diplomatic benefits. Instead of adopting the gambling offensive strategy and tactics of Lee, the Confederacy would have been well advised to follow the more conservative approach favored by Jefferson Davis. Enslaved people fled to join the Union army, depriving the South of labour and strengthening the North by more than 100,000 soldiers. We should cherish what we have in the Southern tradition. But to offset this lack Confederates fought the first major war in which both sides armed themselves with rifles and had the advantage of a temporary but very significant surge in the power of the tactical defensive. If Randolph was right (and Lee was wrong), then the causes of Confederate defeat were internal rather than external.
That was certainly how things looked in the bitter final year of the war, when Union armies vastly outnumbered and outgunned ragbag Confederate forces. The most convincing ‘internal’ factor behind southern defeat was the very institution that prompted secession: slavery. So did the grandson of the author of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” Francis Scott Key. It was Southerners, too, who had dreams of a cotton kingdom extending into Latin America, and Southern politicians (like Secretary of War Jefferson Davis and Mississippi Governor John A. Quitman) who supported American “filibusters,” like the Tennessean William Walker, who looked to carve out little empires in Baja California or Nicaragua. There will be no coercion of the Southern states by the people of the North. In MacKinlay Kantor’s classic rendering of Confederate victory, What If the South Had Won the War?, North and South eventually reunite, in large part because of common service on the side of Britain in both World Wars. In late February 1861, for example, Jeremiah Morton, a pro-secession delegate to Virginia’s convention, explained that “if the tug of war ever comes, I would rather have the four millions of slaves and the eight millions of freemen, than to have sixteen millions of free men and no slaves. © HistoryOnTheNet 2000-2019. Would you like to learn the complete history of the Civil War? Underground railroads further undermined slavery, and the runaways brought with them fresh horror stories for antislavery campaigns. According to this view, the Confederacy was hindered because its devotion to decentralised government, endless checks on executive power and obsession with individual liberty (for whites) undermined the capacity to fight. We have here one of the most astonishing reminders about how wars backfire, which we ought to keep in mind when discussing other wars, particularly preemptive wars like the one in Iraq or the one being contemplated in Iran.
Who were the Knights of the Round Table in Arthurian legend, and where does the Holy Grail fit in? The downfall of “the American colossus,” opined the Times, would be good “riddance of a nightmare. We have been told endlessly that the U.S. Civil War was a good war, fought to free the slaves. So just suppose that Abraham Lincoln had let the South go. In the end, perhaps the truth is that the North won the war because the idea of maintaining the Union was powerful enough to overcome setbacks.
It was the task of organizing and harnessing its superior resources and committing them to warfare on a financial scale that was historically unprecedented. By entering your details, you are agreeing to HistoryExtra terms and conditions. In this article, you’ll find answers on how the South could have changed history.
Subscribe today to gain unlimited access to all premium articles in The Library – an exclusive area of historyextra.com containing nearly 10 years’ worth of BBC History Magazine content. Defeating Lincoln in 1864 had been the Confederacy’s best opportunity for victory. The CSA Constitution banned emancipation, that would have been a real problem as the century ended and the CSA found itself a pariah state.Even during the war Europe developed new cotton sources in place like Egypt and India. . Let us through prayer and good graces work to achieve that end. though the South, of course, waged no aggressive war, committed no Holocaust against the Jews—in fact, included the Jewish Judah P. Benjamin as its, in succession, secretary of state, secretary of war, and attorney general, the first Jewish cabinet officer in North America—and had as its governing ideology states’ rights and an even more limited federal government than the United States. Baker says the package also sets aside funds to provide training for jobs that are available during the pandemic. Not long after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Abraham Lincoln’s hand-picked successor, Andrew Johnson, helped ex-Confederates reestablish white supremacy in the Southern states. . And if the Old South had its charms and grace and merit, it would be churlish not to count the many blessings we have as citizens of the United States. In 1874, Joseph E. Johnston insisted that the South had not been “guilty of the high crime of undertaking a war without the means of waging it successfully.” Pierre G. T. Beauregard added, “No people ever warred for independence with more relative advantages than the Confederates.” E. Porter Alexander’s retrospective assessment was more modest than Beauregard’s, but he too thought the South could have won: When the South entered upon war with power so immensely her superior in men & money, & all the wealth of modern resources in machinery and transportation appliances by land & sea, she could entertain but one single hope of final success.
Four score years ago we created a new nation, united in principle. Pollard said that McClellan’s election, which had some probability in midsummer 1864, “became impossible, in view of the rapid military successes of the North” and was stymied by the fact that the election occurred at the most propitious time possible for Lincoln. The only way the South could win the war was for the North to give up. Their principal handicap would be numerical inferiority. A historian of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey, he is a publisher of popular history, a podcaster, and online course creator. Crocker III. According to some historians, it would have in fact been confirmed, as the Southern states would have enjoyed that very thing and not have been forced into accepting a government that they did not want and that did not represent their interests, leading to a more peaceful late nineteenth century than America experienced. But the idea that the South was not “imperialist,” by this definition, is absurd. What If the South had won the war? . the Confederate Army suffered no crippling deficiency in weapons or supplies. But Lee’s explanation is too simple. Southern ideas were about as far from National Socialist ideas as can be imagined. In Why the South Lost the Civil War, four historians analyze the South’s defensive advantages: . I pray that sharing the same God, the same continent, and the same destiny, we might unite again in common principle and common government. Even so, slavery was not in itself the cause of defeat.
In the end, slavery was destroyed because the North won, rather than the other way around. Southerners’ confidence in McClellan’s malleability was demonstrated by Pollard’s early postwar analysis: Gen. McClellan’s letter of acceptance [of his nomination] . He defended slaveholders against charges that they were brutal, and he claimed they did much to civilize the slaves. Embittered ex-Confederates formed the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camellia, and other terrorist organizations that conducted brutal "Negro hunts." The importance of Lincoln’s reelection for Union victory was not lost on contemporaries.
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