Biggest mistake of the war

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Is this simply your opinion, or do you have any evidence that any responsible Confederate leader ever actually tried to make the evaluations you are describing?
Well, this is the kind of calculation that goes on all the time - it's just not explicitly spelled out. When you consider whether you should go for a walk, you are doing a probability evaluation of things like whether it will rain.

Similarly when someone is making any kind of decision which is not an automatic one, they are (perhaps not even consciously) doing a probability evaluation. I don't claim that these evaluations were done rigorously, per se, but if someone makes a decision as momentous as revolting against the government then it is my presumption that they have some idea of what they think would happen without a successful rebellion, versus some idea of what they think would happen with a successful rebellion, and that they have decided to go for whichever option seems to them to be better; this includes probability of success.

It's like how when someone joins the army, they do so with pros and cons attached.



Basically I don't think we should necessarily assume that Confederate soldiers all felt certain of victory, and that instead they felt that victory was likely enough to be worth trying for (given their own opinions on what victory would mean, versus the alternatives).
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Well, this is the kind of calculation that goes on all the time - it's just not explicitly spelled out. When you consider whether you should go for a walk, you are doing a probability evaluation of things like whether it will rain.

Similarly when someone is making any kind of decision which is not an automatic one, they are (perhaps not even consciously) doing a probability evaluation. I don't claim that these evaluations were done rigorously, per se, but if someone makes a decision as momentous as revolting against the government then it is my presumption that they have some idea of what they think would happen without a successful rebellion, versus some idea of what they think would happen with a successful rebellion, and that they have decided to go for whichever option seems to them to be better; this includes probability of success.

It's like how when someone joins the army, they do so with pros and cons attached.



Basically I don't think we should necessarily assume that Confederate soldiers all felt certain of victory, and that instead they felt that victory was likely enough to be worth trying for (given their own opinions on what victory would mean, versus the alternatives).
Some people do that sort of thing all the time. Some people never do it at all. Some people never even think it is necessary to do it.

Can you point to any Confederate leader who actually did make the sort of analysis you are postulating back in 1861?
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Your first point doesn't lead to your second, notwithstanding that the mechanism by which "King Corn" would work is not well explained anyway.


I feel like I should go into a bit of detail about this.

So let's suppose there's a large amount of corn being exported from the US, and then Britain does something like recognizing the CSA or declaring war on the US.

How exactly does the export of corn change?

Well:

There is no embargo of corn exports.

In this case, neutral shipping (French, for example) will be able to sail into New York or Boston or wherever and take on loads of corn. They may be inspected by a British blockade, but will then be permitted to depart to wherever (including Britain).

There is an embargo of corn exports to Britain.

Same thing, but the corn is shipped to France and French corn is shipped to Britain.

There is an embargo on corn exports out of the US by all parties...

This actually might cause a food supply crisis. But there is another question here, which is:

...and the US government pays farmers for their unsellable corn.

This means the US government is now paying an enormous amount of money for a very large amount of corn that it can't do anything with - a difficult thing to do in the parlous economic situation brought on by a war with Britain, which would hit existing government revenues very hard. If the US is also paying farmers large subsidies to do very little with their corn then it seems obvious that an income tax is not really going to make up for this.

...but the US government does not compensate farmers for their corn sales.

In which case US farmers suffer major financial damage, as there is a massive glut in the US and there is no way to sell it beyond dropping the prices very low.
We know how Sanctions work in practice because we have decades of case studies although they would be post WWII so we can't really discuss them on this forum. Basically they add costs that the British at the time didn't wish to have. During the ACW the British weren't going to go through with diplomatic recognion of the Confedracy and getting cheap corn was one of the more important reasons. Of course there were others but it boils down to a cost benefit analysis. At the end of the day the benefits if recognizing the Confedracy were not worth the costs.
Leftyhunter
i think radical is a bit much
Also @bayonet please define bathe word " radical".
Leftyhunter
 

Nytram01

First Sergeant
Joined
Sep 13, 2007
Location
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
...but strictly war...firing on Sumter to start it.

By the time of Fort Sumter war was inevitable. Much like Europe in 1914, the tensions within America in 1861 were so high that it was just too much trouble not to have a war. If it didn't officially start at Sumter it would have started elsewhere - some might even argue it did, as the Star of the West was fired upon on January 9th, three months before the bombardment of Fort Sumter, and Federal Troops fired upon Florida Militia-men at Fort Barrancas on January 8th
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
It is my opinion that the key strategic miscalculations made by the decision makers in the South were:


1) A miscalculation of how long the war effort was likely to be sustained by their enemy.
This is a miscalculation they had in common with the Union. Both sides thought the war would be short and that they would win it; both were incorrect.
2) A miscalculation of how likely foreign intervention (in line with US independence in the 1770s-1780s) was.


Aside from this, however, I also want to point out that it seems plausible to me that the Southern decision makers could have had a probability estimate of how likely the following outcomes were:

- The North lets them go, as suggested by e.g. Winfield Scott
- A short war followed by Confederate independence
- A long war followed by Confederate independence
- Defeat

And that they could have compared those to the likely outcome without independence:
- The North continues to do what the South feels is imposing on their way of life
- The North lets the South do fundmentally what it wants

And decided that, all told, they'd rather fight than not. We know throughout history that revolts have come up in conditions that were felt to be intolerable (there's one in Poland in 1863 for example) and we shouldn't ignore that the same thing was going on from the Southern perspective just because their idea of what was intolerable includes "infringing on slavery".
The miscalculation was about what the effect of secession and a war would have on the power of the New England abolitionist politicians like Senator Sumner, and the effect of both on the tolerance of slavery among ordinary people.
As the war escalated, it became a high stakes gamble for the survival of the Confederacy and the survival of slavery.
Escalating the cost of the war left the northern population very angry about what had occurred. The upstart Republican Party proceeded to win 6 presidential elections in a row. And in the process their supporters obtained a firm grip on the US economy.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
By the time of Fort Sumter war was inevitable. Much like Europe in 1914, the tensions within America in 1861 were so high that it was just too much trouble not to have a war. If it didn't officially start at Sumter it would have started elsewhere - some might even argue it did, as the Star of the West was fired upon on January 9th, three months before the bombardment of Fort Sumter, and Federal Troops fired upon Florida Militia-men at Fort Barrancas on January 8th
It probably started in Kansas. Without Fort Sumter there would been additional provocations in the far west, like those that had occurred in Kansas.
 

atlantis

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 12, 2016
Both sides could have used a General of the Army to command all army operations nationwide instead we saw a lot of political meddling which dragged out the war. A General of the Army impowered to impose a grand strategic plan and see it thru may have shorted the war by a year maybe even 2. The fetish with taking or defending Richmond should have taken a back seat to other more promising operations in the Tennessee/Kentucky theater.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Your first point doesn't lead to your second, notwithstanding that the mechanism by which "King Corn" would work is not well explained anyway.


I feel like I should go into a bit of detail about this.

So let's suppose there's a large amount of corn being exported from the US, and then Britain does something like recognizing the CSA or declaring war on the US.

How exactly does the export of corn change?

Well:

There is no embargo of corn exports.

In this case, neutral shipping (French, for example) will be able to sail into New York or Boston or wherever and take on loads of corn. They may be inspected by a British blockade, but will then be permitted to depart to wherever (including Britain).

There is an embargo of corn exports to Britain.

Same thing, but the corn is shipped to France and French corn is shipped to Britain.

There is an embargo on corn exports out of the US by all parties...

This actually might cause a food supply crisis. But there is another question here, which is:

...and the US government pays farmers for their unsellable corn.

This means the US government is now paying an enormous amount of money for a very large amount of corn that it can't do anything with - a difficult thing to do in the parlous economic situation brought on by a war with Britain, which would hit existing government revenues very hard. If the US is also paying farmers large subsidies to do very little with their corn then it seems obvious that an income tax is not really going to make up for this.

...but the US government does not compensate farmers for their corn sales.

In which case US farmers suffer major financial damage, as there is a massive glut in the US and there is no way to sell it beyond dropping the prices very low.
We know how Sanctions work in practice because we have decades of case studies although they would be post WWII so we can't really discuss them on this forum. Basically they add costs that the British at the time didn't wish to have. During the ACW the British weren't going to go through with diplomatic recognion of the Confedracy and getting cheap corn was one of the more important reasons. Of course there were others but it boils down to a cost benefit analysis. At the end of the day the benefits if recognizing the Confedracy were not worth the costs.
Leftyhunter
Plusi think radical is a bit much
Also @bayonet please define bathe word " radical".
Leftyhunter
Both sides could have used a General of the Army to command all army operations nationwide instead we saw a lot of political meddling which dragged out the war. A General of the Army impowered to impose a grand strategic plan and see it thru may have shorted the war by a year maybe even 2. The fetish with taking or defending Richmond should have taken a back seat to other more promising operations in the Tennessee/Kentucky theater.
History is rather clear that in a civil war the larger side wins unless the smaller side gets massive forigen military intervention. There might be an occasional exception to that rule but then again not with the burden of enslaving forty percent of it's population creating a huge fifth collum.
Leftyhunter
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
With 20/20 hindsight the Secessionists drank their own Kool aid and didn't have the smarts that Sam Houston and William Sherman had from the very beginning of the ACW that starting with Ft.Sumter the Confedracy defeated itself.
For examples of out manned out gunned armies post 1870 you can if you like PM me since we can't go past the Reconstruction era.
Based on the size of the Confedrate Army they did as well as reasonably could be expected. Conventional Wars are won on the offensive and that's going to require at a minimum a two to one manpower superiority ratio plus much better logistics then the Confedracy had. As many have pointed out the Confedracy desperately needed what the Colonial Rebels had and that was massive foreiegn military intervention which has been discussed countless times wasn't in the cards for the Confedracy.
Leftyhunter

I know this stuff, but that is not my point. My point is the Confederates thought they could win. Do you have a reference to counter that assertions because I cannot find one? I know the Confederates believed hyperbole. I know the Confederates believed their own propaganda. I know the Confederates needed foreign support. I know the Confederates needed more soldiers.

But the Confederates didn't believe what you are saying prior to the war. Do you or anyone else have a reference to prove the Confederates didn't think they could win prior to war up until Gettysburg? Again, I never heard of a army entering a war believing the best they could do was cause a draw. I'm not taking about what a conscripted farm boy believed either.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
I know this stuff, but that is not my point. My point is the Confederates thought they could win. Do you have a reference to counter that assertions because I cannot find one? I know the Confederates believed hyperbole. I know the Confederates believed their own propaganda. I know the Confederates needed foreign support. I know the Confederates needed more soldiers.

But the Confederates didn't believe what you are saying prior to the war. Do you or anyone else have a reference to prove the Confederates didn't think they could win prior to war up until Gettysburg? Again, I never heard of a army entering a war believing the best they could do was cause a draw. I'm not taking about what a conscripted farm boy believed either.
As I stated earlier the Confedracy drank their own Kool Aid. Forrest Gump' s mother said" stupid is as stupid does " and the Secessionists lived to prove the point.
Leftyhunter
 
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GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
I Agree, I don’t see Lee regretting fighting for his home state just to be on the winning side or get some wartime clout from the union.
I agree as well. There isn’t a thinking non-sociopath out there who doesn’t have some regrets. I think Lee had several. Joining Virginia and leading a CSA Army was not one of them. Didn’t he say post war that he would have done the same given the same set of circumstances?
 

19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Sherman "left" Atlanta on his free will and not by force, so its not like the Confederates regained it through military action. Atlanta was abandoned and left for the vultures, but the Confederates reoccupied it because there was nobody there to defend it. It was abandoned because it had no strategic value
No strategic value in cutting off Virginia and the Carolinas from the rest of the Confederacy?...severing communication and the transport of supplies between the two sections?
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
No strategic value in cutting off Virginia and the Carolinas from the rest of the Confederacy?...severing communication and the transport of supplies between the two sections?
It was already done. Railroads and infrastructure to be used for military purposes were destroyed. Much of it by the rebels themselves before they abandoned the city due to their inability to hold it in the face of a superior general leading a superior force.
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
No strategic value in cutting off Virginia and the Carolinas from the rest of the Confederacy?...severing communication and the transport of supplies between the two sections?

I don't follow you. Are we talking about historical events that actual occurred or are we discussing ahistorical events that never occurred and pretending that they did? It was/is palpable that Sherman's March to the Sea campaign was a success. Are you saying Sherman's campaign was not success? I don't really have a fix on what you are trying to convey. Evidently, Sherman didn't think setting up a garrison in Atlanta was of strategic importance. Sherman's mission was to seek and destroy, like a surge destroying everything in his path, not setting up garrisons. The real issue here is that you are stating that the Confederates regained territory and I don't want to put words in your mouth but I think you insinuated that they took it back? No, Sherman let the Confederates have Atlanta back, it wasn't taken back. My question is what territory did the Confederates have a stronghold on? There were modern armies who lost just about all their territory but they had a stronghold on a parcel of territory that their enemy cold not take. I don't see where the Confederates had a stronghold. They lost 100% of their territory.
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
It was already done. Railroads and infrastructure to be used for military purposes were destroyed. Much of it by the rebels themselves before they abandoned the city due to their inability to hold it in the face of a superior general leading a superior force.

Perhaps you are better at interpreting what this member was trying to say? Last I checked, Sherman's mission was a success. Almost only counts in horseshoes and grenades. At least that's how I view historical events.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
Perhaps you are better at interpreting what this member was trying to say? Last I checked, Sherman's mission was a success. Almost only counts in horseshoes and grenades. At least that's how I view historical events.
Certain advocates see everything in white and black through their own particular lens.

I agree, Sherman’s mission, along with that of the Union in general was a success.
 
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