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Could the South have won the Civil War?

Discussion in 'The Ballot Box' started by SouthernRebel772, May 30, 2011.

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Could the South have won the Civil War

  1. Yes

    40 vote(s)
    56.3%
  2. No

    31 vote(s)
    43.7%
  1. Jon G.

    Jon G. Sergeant

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    I don't believe so either for the same reasons, they had no chance of winning. Larry always said "the South simply ran out of bullets" and I can't imagine a scenario where they could improve on the amount of supplies and men.

    Even if one were to surmise that they could win every battle, the North could replace men and resupply......the south simply could not so the arithmetic always beats them.

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  3. Rebel from Finland

    Rebel from Finland First Sergeant

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    I think people that voted "no" have forgotten few things.. If you look only at the resources, war should not have lasted 4 years, but it did. South needed to get Northern opinion to move against the war, not to occupy North. History have many occasions that shows underdog gaining unsuspected success, most of them locate in pre-industrial era, but later, industrial era has its own cases too.. Winter War (yes, I had to bragg a little bit :smile: ) is one of those cases. Ken Burns stated something like "South didn´t have a chance.. North fought with another hand behind its back.." I feel that little odd, cause Norths number one man Lincoln sure had his both hands up to elbows in it.
  4. trice

    trice Major

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    If everything had gone right for the North and the South had put up a good fight while going down, I think the Union could have put an end to the Civil War in about 2 years. These things take time.

    I do not doubt that both sides produced men of bravery and skill as both officers and enlisted men. That much is obvious. But building an army is not about just that. It is about logistics and organization and experience and training and a host of other things. Simply learning how to keep a large force together in camp is a sore trial: note the massive losses to disease in the opening months of the war, largely preventable with experienced officers and non-coms, training, experience, organization and medical expertise.

    In the European militaries of the mid-Nineteenth Century, it was generally assumed it took about six months to train a raw recruit into an acceptable infantryman; 12-18 months for a cavalryman -- 24 months if the cavalryman was a lancer; about 12 months for an artilleryman. That is for armies with a large and experienced organization, used to turning raw recruits into soldiers. The US Army of 1861 is not that. They are only about 16,000 strong on January 1; some 1100 are interned in Texas at the start of the war; about 30% of the officers resign or leave to "go South" when the war comes. Almost all of them are between the Mississippi and the Pacific, and so out-of-reach for months. Experienced officers and men are scattered about to try to get the raw men into some kind of shape, to build organizations, to put the Army together.

    Without all the preparation and training, without the support organization, without the experience, a raw army can fall apart and lose a large part of its' strength simply making an unopposed march. Men become sick or crippled up; horses break down and become worthless; troops starve within a few miles of food; ammo is never near when you need it.

    That, in a nutshell, is why we see so little in the way of combat in 1861. The armies are training up and organizing. Any attempt at fighting is disjointed and falls into disarray (see 1st Bull Run).

    They are still disjointed and mistake prone in early 1862, but much better than in 1861. The early battles show brave men learning the trade in battle -- always a bloody and painful experience (Mill Springs, Henry & Donelson, Shiloh, Seven Pines, the Seven Days, Pea Ridge ...). By the second half, Lee and McClellan have the troops up to better standards and the mistakes start to become battlefield leadership instead of organizational incompetency (Pope and McDowell at 2nd Bull Run, McClellan at Antietam, Burnisde at Fredericksburg, etc.)

    In 1863, actual organizationally-competent armies have appeared, often with not-only-brave-but-competent leadership. Now we see battles of operational and tactical skill fought by worthy opponents: Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Stones River, Tullahoma, the Vicksburg Campaign, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Mine Run ... Somewhere in here the last real chance for the Confederacy to win disappeared, probably between the moment when Grant crossed the Mississippi and when Bragg failed to do something with his victory at Chickamauga.

    After that, the South can only hope for a war-weary North to throw in the towel and stop trying to win. The 1864 campaigns are all about that: can the South hold on long enough to defeat Lincoln at the polls and get a Democrat in committed to ending the fighting (I don't think McClellan would have, but they could hope.)

    But in late 1862 or early 1863, it is possible to picture some grand Confederate victory that would have broken the Union spirit: a better Chancellorsville, a smarter Pemberton, a Bragg-led force that actually does something victorious in Kentucky or smashes Rosecran at Murfreesborough, a luckier Lee who does something great in Maryland in September 1862. It just didn't come off. By late 1863 the sheer weight of the Union resources (men and material), organized and applied with skill, was beginning to become too much.

    Tim
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  5. Bomac

    Bomac Sergeant

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    I always say yes, they could have until the summer of 63.

    After that all bets were off.
  6. bama46

    bama46 Captain

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    The best chance was to follow up the victory at 1st Manassas with an assault on D.C. Everyone expected this war to be short and decisive. That was the opportunity to make that prediction come true. I believe it all could have been over before it really got started.
  7. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    Agreed. If the Confederacy could have had its short war and whipped 10 Yankees per Reb soldier, it might have prevailed. When the war went past a year, the handwriting was on the wall. When the war went past two years, it was essentially all over but for the shouting.

    The Confederacy simply couldn't handle a protracted war. It had to strike fast and hard and, as Trice has pointed out, such a move was not possible.
  8. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Captain

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    Well, 'anything' is possible, no matter how infinitismal the odds.
  9. oldreb1343

    oldreb1343 Retired User

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    I look at it same as Mr. OpnCoronet anything is possible but the ANV had several chances to make a change in the tide of the war. One of those moments was at Getteysburg when the confederates were advancing at night toward the Baltimore pike instead of stoping if they continued forward they north would have no choice but to turn and run. And we all know that getteysburg was the battle that would lead to who would win. But even after Getteysburg lee had oppertunities to make a big blow, but not having longstreet by his side things just couldnt be done the way they should have.
  10. gunny

    gunny Corporal

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    No. Going into this war without any absolute promise of foreign intervention was a major mistake. It could never have been won without another power's help.

    Unless Abe lost his backbone.

    Jamie
  11. gunny

    gunny Corporal

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    Anything is possible, but probablities are what one bets on, not possibilities.

    Jamie
  12. Ellsworth avenger

    Ellsworth avenger Sergeant Major

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    I agree ,#1 is the key and the more I research, the firm belief that the confederate gov. also made this determination. The various schemes to take President Lincoln out,by removal at first,and then by death shows the growing desperation,as the war wore on. I voted no to even out the poll a bit,and I believe the the result was god's will ,not man's .
  13. BillO

    BillO 1st Lieutenant

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    Actually Jon bullets and guns and artillery the south had in abundance to the very end. They ran out of trigger pullers and they never really had the logistics to move things like food and people around. IMHO no navy is what signed the CSA's death warrant.
  14. bama46

    bama46 Captain

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    they also ran out of senior officers.. those who could command.
    this is one of the reasons I feel that their only chance was after 1st manassas with the union army disorganized and routed. At that moment in time, they had everything they needed... Leaders, men, supplies, momentum, and a terrified populace that was convinced the war would be quick and decisive. If confederate brigades started marching down Pa. Ave after rolling up the AoP, then it would have been all over
  15. DixieDude007

    DixieDude007 Cadet

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    i said yes because if Jackson had lived and the congress allowed slaves to serve then the south would have won
  16. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    Dude, you've overlooked the idea that slaves would have served. Even then, they'd have known that they were fighting to continue their bondage.

    There's, somewhere out there, a quote about "we know who to shoot."
  17. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    That is ideal scenario, bama, but ... Can you name me a time when a victorious army actually pursued an defeated army and stomped on it?

    There is a reason for that lack. The victorious army is as discombobulated as the defeated army. Reorganizing after a victory is as much an impediment as the retreat is for the other.

    It would be nice to think of Grant pursuing Beauregard after Shiloh, or Meade pursuing Lee after Gettysburg, or Bragg pursuing Rosecrans after Chickamauga, but none of that happened. It couldn't.
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  18. Tin cup

    Tin cup 2nd Lieutenant

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    The South was never going to win as long as the North put in the resources/man power needed to bring the rebel states back into the fold.

    The South blundered into a no-win situation, they gambled badly, chose a bad cause, they have no one else to blame.

    Kevin Dally
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  19. trice

    trice Major

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    On those three:
    • Bragg should have and coul;d have pursued more/better/harder, but he didn't seem aware that he could
    • Meade actually did pursue Lee, but Lee's ANV wasn't badly enough beaten for it to be easy and Meade was still a bit too new to pursue as hard as everyone imagined he might.
    • Grant, OTOH, actually did want to pursue Beauregard after Shiloh and got over-ruled.
    Drop Grant into Bragg's place for Chickamauga and Rosecrans' army gets destroyed.

    Drop Grant into Meade's place July 4, 1863 and there will be a different pursuit and some sort of battle before Lee crosses the Potomac. I can't tell you if Grant or Lee wins that one, though.

    Tim
  20. Jon G.

    Jon G. Sergeant

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    I always thought Larry was talking hyperbole when he said bullets and was actually meaning men. The lack of logistics and inability to move men and supplies has always been apparent, but without a steady flow of men.......

    I sure agree that no CSA Navy was a big handicap too, good point Billo!
  21. TDMD

    TDMD First Sergeant

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    Regarding Bragg after Chickamauga, you're proposition ignores certain realities. First, as early as September 21, Bragg sent out Forrest and Wheeler on postbattle recon missions north, east and west of the Chickamauga Creek. Wheeler dithered. Forrest, on the other hand, came back with info that suggested that the AotC was unfortified and ripe for attacking in Chattanooga. Unfortunately he missed the fact that the Federals were already well into creating fortifications to defend the town. It is likely that if Bragg followed Forrest's advice an attack would have been a bloody failure. This comes from Dave Powell's Failure In The Saddle.

    Regarding Meade, Lee's army was fairly well beaten up. Every division in the ANV had been engaged and some, like Heth's, Rodes' and Pickett's were really shot up. In terms of divisions, that's one third of Lee's army. The AotP had also suffered. Three of Meade's most aggressive corps commanders were killed or wounded - Reynolds, Hancock and Sickles. The only almost fresh corps available was the Sixth, but they had conducted the march of their lives just to get to Gettysburg on the afternoon of July 2. Meade wound up having to call on William (?) French to take over Third Corps. There were faster snails than French. He sent for Couch from Harrisburg by the Fourth of July. Meade had to guess what route Lee would take -Lee knew what route he would take. Meade had to worry about administrative duties around Gettysburg, too. In short, Meade did just about everything he could or should to pursue Lee. Finally, Stuart deserves high praise for covering the withdrawal as does Imboden for how he protected the wagon train full of wounded Confederates.

    Given the circumstances, I don't think Grant could have been any more aggressive than Meade or Bragg. Plus, look at Grant after Chattanooga. Effective pursuit just wasn't normally in the cards after CW battles.
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