Counterpoint Did a longer war favor the North or South?

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
In the short and sweet words of U.S. Grant: "our cat has the longer tail."
A long conventional war favored the North with its greater resources and infrastructure. If you think of Reconstruction and Jim Crow as the long resistance, though, it would appear that the Southern states won much of their original objectives back.
 

wausaubob

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One of the Confederacy's biggest problems was its lack of a clear and consistent war strategy. It did define a simplistic war aim of "we just want to be left alone," which itself was not entirely accurate given the Confederate yearning to enlarge the CSA to encompass Union border states and parts of the western territories such as New Mexico. But as far as strategy to accomplish its aim was concerned, the leadership muddled through a range of plans at different times and in different locations that were often contradictory (e.g., Davis' cordon strategy to defend all the borders, Lee's offensive-defensive strategy to bring the war to the northern public, Johnston's Fabian strategy of giving up territory to cut off federal supply lines). It would be interesting to speculate how the war would have played out if the Confederacy had devised a unitary strategy from day 1; putting together a workable strategy would have required the Confederacy to seriously consider its resources and infrastructure, and determine whether its interests were best served by a short war, or a longer struggle.
The initial US strategy was supposed to have been the much derided Anaconda Plan of Winfield Scott. But that is not what happened.
Before there was very much shooting, the US admitted Kansas as a paid labor state.
Over the next 5 1/2 months, the US controlled critical territory in Maryland, western Virginia, St. Louis and Missouri, and finally in Kentucky. War, as extension of policy, allows a belligerent to do things in months, that would have taken years, the consolidation of former Whigs into a national economic coalition. The longer the Confederates were out of the nation, the tighter the control of these areas became.
Before a year was out, the US connected a telegraph wire at Ogden, UT, which connected Sacramento to the east.
A longer war strongly favored the Republican party, as it gave the Republicans control of the federal budget, and the exigency of the war as a rational for rapid change.
What were the elements of Republican policy that they were able to implement with the Confederates out of the nation?
1. A protective tariff on iron and steel. Foreign technology was welcome in the US. Foreign investment, and foreign ironworkers, all were welcome. But Pennsylvania won that part of the war and by 1880 Pennsylvania was a world power in steel production. https://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1880a_v2-16.pdf#[0,{%22name%22:%22FitH%22},805]
2. The Republicans were pushing for a national railroad reaching California. With the Confederates out of the nation, they were able to select the Council Bluffs to Sacramento route.
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https://trn.trains.com/railroads/abcs-of-railroading/2006/05/a-history-of-track-gaugeThis was a big step forward towards a national railroad network, with exchange of equipment and interstate operations. The longer the Confederates were out of the nation, the greater the impact of this change.
3. The Republicans were determined to give away as much land to the sons of prosperous farmers, and unscrupulous speculators, the longer the southerners were out of the US, the stronger these procedures became. The plantation system, and a southern class of commercial farmers were blocked from this program and their credit ruined by the war.
4. The intellectual elements in New England, and German intellectual elements, strongly favored using federal land to endow state colleges dedicated to agricultural science and teacher training. With the Confederates out of the nation, these land grant universities became fixtures in the Midwest.
5. Banking reform was extremely controversial in 1861. But with the war continuing to the one year point and beyond, the establishment of nationally chartered banks, and a federal currency, were imposed by the Republicans over Democratic objections. The longer war favored these changes becoming permanent, especially as the US took absolute control over the west.
6. The longer the war, the deeper the damage to chattel slavery. Although the southern states were able to preserve some aspects of slavery, by disenfranchising the blacks and imposing convict labor systems, chattelism was most likely dead by July of 1863. What died as result of the longer war? The ability of white owners to involuntarily move people to the new expanding areas of the south, in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. The freed people rapidly gained control over the families. The religious and cultural expansion of black culture occurred rapidly. And the ability of southerners to keep people from fleeing northward to look for work was greatly diminished.

Therefore, although the states of the Confederacy did regain home rule, Jim Crow segregation, and dominance of the world cotton market, the Republicans had instituted most of what had been the Whig program, during the war itself, and under President Grant, who won two more national elections.

The ex-Confederates could count their political victories, but by 1874 their increasing power was in an emerging world power, with a national economic system.
The exigencies of the war put the Republican program in place. The unity was preserved while the Republicans stopped a southerner who had become President from effective governing.
A war general won the next two Presidential elections.
By the time the fighting had ended, and the dominance of the Republican Party decreased, there was no chance for the southern states to challenge northern dominance.
 
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wausaubob

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The Confederates had about 10 months to win a quick war. After that the US navy would deploy on the coasts, and gunboats would be available on the internal rivers. The Confederacy had no means with which to contest these deployments on the water. Where their forts were will well built and well manned, they could hold a port or a river town. But the naval forces of the US had the mobility to test every fort, and steam power allowed the vessels to simply bypass the toughest fortifications. One by one, the Confederates lost their ports, and saw their western fortifications bypassed and surrendered.
 
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wausaubob

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These numbers are from the Preliminary Report of 1860 census and are an approximate measure of business production of flour and meal.
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See page 177 in the appendix. https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/preliminary-report/1860e-08.pdf?#

There was no other food commodity like flour, bread and hardtack, capable of supplying calories to men in camp, men on the march, or men on naval vessels.
After about 18 months, the US food system was going to geared up to feed the armies. Therefore the US land armies and their navies, were always going to be larger and better fed. This dominance of wheat production was a primary reason why it as almost impossible for a Confederate army to decisively defeat a US army. All the US army had to do to resupply and recover was retreat to a rail station.
 

wausaubob

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The situation with respect to shoes and boots was similar. Did Boston and NE suffer because the federal government was buying hundreds of thousands of shoes? The long war caused casualties, but there plenty of work in the shoe factories. Armies march in shoes. And the shoes become very important from November to April.
1598187070034.png
 

wausaubob

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With respect to foundry iron, which reflects the complicated cast iron processes that allowed iron makers to produce rifled artillery and rifled naval guns, the US started in a stronger position and was only getting stronger as the war proceeded. This meant the US was going to have more guns, with more range and more accuracy, as the war proceeded. The impact on land was clear as early as the battle of Gettysburg. The Kearsage v. Alabama engagement also reflected the US artillery dominance. And finally the armada massed against Fort Fisher in North Carolina slowly demolished the fort, while taking virtually no casualties. The land battle for the fort was ferocious, but the naval armada was not damaged.
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wausaubob

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The US started off ahead in the number of horses and mules. It produced the oats and hay necessary to sustain this livestock in cities and through winter. Shifting that animal feed from cities to armies required water transport and railroads. The US had plenty of both. As the US took control of Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee, and Texas was cut off from the rest of the Confederacy, the longer war could only end one way. The Confederacy was going to run out of horses and mules first. And those they kept alive were going to become steadily weaker.
1598187848902.png

https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/agriculture/1860b-09.pdf?#
 
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wausaubob

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The Confederates killed a lot of Yankees. But the agricultural economy of the US was rapidly shifting to Chicago, which was undergoing explosive growth. Pittsburgh/Alleghanie was becoming dominant in the iron and bridge component industry. Boston was dominating the shoe and clothing industry. And whatever these cities could not produce, New York City/Brooklyn/Newark could make up for.
The longer the Confederates continued the war, the stronger the grip of northern industry became on the economy and the greater the damage to the pre-war prosperity of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.
 

wausaubob

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The longer war might have resulted in an armistice granting Confederate independence. The northern voters may have become impatient and would have wanted to turn their attention to economic growth and westward expansion. But the war was being fought in Virginia and other southern states. Confederate raiders were ruining the economy of Kentucky and Tennessee. While the was happening, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri were being converted into new Midwest states. If one surveys the 1870 census, one sees the livestock losses, in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee were substantial. Further south even still in 1870, the decline in horses and swine were very crippling.
 

leftyhunter

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The longer war might have resulted in an armistice granting Confederate independence. The northern voters may have become impatient and would have wanted to turn their attention to economic growth and westward expansion. But the war was being fought in Virginia and other southern states. Confederate raiders were ruining the economy of Kentucky and Tennessee. While the was happening, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri were being converted into new Midwest states. If one surveys the 1870 census, one sees the livestock losses, in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee were substantial. Further south even still in 1870, the decline in horses and swine were very crippling.
Also has a general rule the winner in a civil war wins because of massive foreign intervention which definitly occurred in the American Revolutionary War. Jefferson Davis knew that but obtaining foreign intervention not just cash and carry sales was a diplomatic bridge to far.
Leftyhunter
 

OpnCoronet

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I've read some on this forum state that a longer war favored the North because of its advantages in men and resources. But the British had even greater advantages in the Revolutionary War, but after 7 years of fighting they decided it wasn't worth it. A longer war is likely to have more draft riots, and the chance of the Democrats winning and making some kind of peace settlement. I would have thought a longer war favors the most committed army (the South), which is defending its own soil, although I acknowledge the Union blockade did take its toll over time.






As has already pointed out I am sure, other than the the American Revolution and Southern Secession being wars for Independence, there was very little else in comparison between the two conflicts.

To try to reach a common comparison between the two conflicts is to do a disservice to both., especially fter the publication of the DoI.[/QUOTE]
 
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wausaubob

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The longer the war, the greater the damage to slavery. This was especially true in the Throne of King Cotton in Louisiana and Mississippi. But that was also true in Missouri and Maryland.
The war was being fought primary in the Confederate states and occasionally in the border states. Where do think the physical damage was greatest?
 
Joined
Dec 10, 2015
It really depends. With all circumstances being more-or-less the same, however, it would be the North. Even fielding and feeding an army was no small ask of the Confederacy's resources. Really, it was a question of whether the North's morale would cave in first, or the South's resources; and with Lincoln's reelection, the morale issue evaporated - and any real chance of the Confederacy's survival with it.
 

Tennis

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Not really a good comparison with the Revolution honestly. You have 3000 miles of ocean separating the bulk of British forces from the theater of war. And when France, Spain, and the Dutch joined in that complicated things even more for the British. And keep in mind, it was the British merchants that finally got Parliament and the King to back off the war because of shipping restraints was killing their bottom line. So just not an easy comparison.

I think if we simply look at history, we can see that a longer war (four years compared to say one or two years) hamped the South much, much more than the North.

Not really a good comparison with the Revolution honestly.

Very different times and circumstances

A McClellan win in 1864 may have had results for the war
 

OpnCoronet

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Given the set goals of both Lincoln and Davis and their administrations of Total Victory and the Iron determination of both Presidents to see their policies through no matter the cost, precludes, to me, any thought of the duration of the war , being a determining factor in the ceasing of the War.

As long as their peoples supported them, neither side would surrender and it would be a matter of attrition that determined public support, in the reality, it was only the war in Va., where Union superiority of numbers and production was not prevailing in the War, which I believe, canny Union politicians would keep Northern morale on a more level keel than the confederacy. As the war lengthened, the more obvious the failing strength of the confederacy.
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
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Mar 15, 2017
A longer war benefits no one except mabe the makers of military arms and equipment, also grave diggers. Greater number of casualties, devastated families, homes destroyed, widows & orphans, fortunes lost. Just to name a few.
The answer is in Lee's reason for surrender=the army was in no moral ,mental,or physical means to continue.Grant still had reserves to call on and with the means to supply his forces.As with Sherman and Johnson.Then the theory is what if Lee and Johnson could have been able to join? The answer - Grant and Sherman would have more than match this force.No one will know the courage that it took Lee than Johnson to do what they realized they had to do.Not only the armies were exhausted but the civilian population were demanding the end,A longer war would not have benefited either for the soldier of the North were receiving letters from home and they fought harder as they sensed the end became closer to binging them home
 

Hunter

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Apr 23, 2016
I've read some on this forum state that a longer war favored the North because of its advantages in men and resources. But the British had even greater advantages in the Revolutionary War, but after 7 years of fighting they decided it wasn't worth it. A longer war is likely to have more draft riots, and the chance of the Democrats winning and making some kind of peace settlement. I would have thought a longer war favors the most committed army (the South), which is defending its own soil, although I acknowledge the Union blockade did take its toll over time.
The war with the British is a different kettle of fish. Among other things, the British supply line was much longer, making the cost of making war much higher. In addition, the British had to overcome significant French intervention, the North did not. Without a French assistance, the South was forced to primarily rely on its own resources to supply its undermanned armies, and the continuance of the war gradually ate away at those resources. A strong argument can therefore be made that once the Confederacy was unable to capture a Washington DC in July 1861, Confederate loss was inevitable.
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
A longer war did cause war fatigue in the North, but while the Union could replace troops, the Confederacy forces dwindled over time. Also, I'm not sure Confederates were any more committed than black Union volunteers and immigrants who came specifically to fight for the republican form of government.
This may not help in this inquiry, is it possible that the administration wanted the total destruction to the South in order that the Confederacy could not rise again and return politically or economical to threaten the disunion the nation again .Slavery would have been dealt with but the ideas behind the separation }states rights and northern aggression}anger at having been defeated esp.by such an hostile people{the South would Rise Again must have been in certain politician's thoughts }and would remine as a core for a rebirth of the Confederacy. Study any ancient war and one of the main reason that the victor would do this to the foe is that it would not rise again to challenge the victor, Question -Why did the Allies demand Uncondional Surrender of the Axis?Why did Grant demand UC from the areas he defeated, Lee being the only one that he did not ,then Lee was totally defeated and would not be a threat to Grant, esp. with no weapons .
 
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