Did Jefferson Davis Just Lose the War?

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Bruce Vail

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One of our fellow posters several years ago argued that the moment when Davis lost the ACW was at the battle of Ft. Sumpter. Ft.Sumpter unified at least a majority of the North and West and a fair amount of Southern whites to fight against the Confederacy.
By the summer of 1864 not much anyone could do to save the Confederacy.
Leftyhunter
Yes, the summer of 1864 was way too late to save the Confederacy. Davis' actions in appointing military commannders could not have changed the outome at that late date.

The Fort Sumter date isn't right either. I'd say the Confederate armies lost the war in September-October 1862 with the failed invasions of Maryland and Kentucky -- and the subsequent decision by the UK not to intervene on the side of the South.
 
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leftyhunter

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Yes, the summer of 1864 was way too late to save the Confederacy. Davis' actions in appointing military commannders could not have changed the outome at that late date.

The Fort Sumter date isn't right either. I'd say the Confederate armies lost the war in September-October 1862 with the failed invasions of Maryland and Kentucky -- and the subsequent decision by the UK not to intervene on the side of the South.
I would politely disagree. The Confederacy lost the ACW by uniting the vast majority of Americans against the Confederacy. The invasion of the border States failed because by that time a majority of it's residents were either pro Union or neutral about the Confederacy. By neutral I mean they may not be opposed to the Confederacy but they aren't willing to fight for the Confederacy.
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jackt62

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I am thinking Hood knew that at a minimum of a two to one manpower superiority ratio in favor of Sherman with a very good possibility of reinforcement from the AoC the better option would be to invade Tennessee where Hood faces approximately an enemy forces of even size.
Of course with 20/20 hindsight we know how that worked out.
In defense of Hood he faced the ancient dillema of poker player's" " you have to play the cards you are dealt". Hood arguably chose the least bad option by invading Tennessee.
Leftyhunter
Remembering also that Hood, with Beauregard's acquiescence, had the grandiose scheme to get past the Ohio River, seize Cincinnati, and invade the north in the hopes of taking pressure off the Virginia front. So did Hood actually consider other options?
 
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leftyhunter

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Remembering also that Hood, with Beauregard's acquiescence, had the grandiose scheme to get past the Ohio River, seize Cincinnati, and invade the north in the hopes of taking pressure off the Virginia front. So did Hood actually consider other options?
In Hood's defense for the Confederacy to win the ACW the above senario or something along those lines would of had to occur. Was such a senario realistic is a whole other conversation.
On the other hand the potential of successively invading Cincinnati was about the same as successively preventing Sherman from reaching Savannah. At best Hood would face a two to one manpower disadvantage over Sherman with a very realistic possibility of being outnumbered three to one if the AoC moves in from Tennessee.
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leftyhunter

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Remembering also that Hood, with Beauregard's acquiescence, had the grandiose scheme to get past the Ohio River, seize Cincinnati, and invade the north in the hopes of taking pressure off the Virginia front. So did Hood actually consider other options?
With hindsight being 20/20 and being outnumbered at least two to one what should Hood have done to at a minimum prevent the siezure of Savannah?
Leftyhunter
 

C.W. Roden

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Three things that seem problematic with that assessment....one as long as JJ retreated without fighting he was continually losing troops to desertion, which wasnt exactly saving the army...…..two the army was hardly a formidable fighting force to be preserved, as its continual poor performance once called to fight showed...... And third the loss of Atlanta as transportation, supply. and industry center would remain irreplaceable, the point of risking a fight was to try to prevent its loss.

One and two seem intertwined as well, continual retreat doesn't generally lead to the morale or sense of élan that contributes to a formidable fighting force...…
"...two the army was hardly a formidable fighting force to be preserved, as its continual poor performance once called to fight showed..."

I have a feeling that the Yankees who fought against Cleburne's men at Ringgold Gap and got their butts handed to them for it would have different things to say about the so-called "poor performance" of the Confederates.
 
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archieclement

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"...two the army was hardly a formidable fighting force to be preserved, as its continual poor performance once called to fight showed..."

I have a feeling that the Yankees who fought against Cleburne's men at Ringgold Gap and got their butts handed to them for it would have different things to say about the so-called "poor performance" of the Confederates.
It remains the AoT as a whole showed little desire or initiative to fight overall, which isnt indicative of a force with a sense of elan and high morale, and oddly enough what did they do? They retreated as usual.

If a minor delaying action to cover a retreat, followed by retreat is the high point of the AoT as formidable.....…I'll remain with it wasnt all that formidable......After all Ringgold Gap was a consequence of their "formidable performance" as an army at Missionary Ridge
 
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Tin cup

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It remains the AoT as a whole showed little desire or initiative to fight overall, which isnt indicative of a force with a sense of elan and high morale, and oddly enough what did they do? They retreated as usual.

If a minor delaying action to cover a retreat, followed by retreat is the high point of the AoT as formidable.....…I'll remain with it wasnt all that formidable......After all Ringgold Gap was a consequence of their "formidable performance" as an army at Missionary Ridge
Well...I seem to remember that the elan of the ANV wasn't too good at one point, nor formidable. They retreated all the way to Appomattox and surrendered, the first Confederate Army to do so.

Kevin Dally
 

archieclement

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Well...I seem to remember that the elan of the ANV wasn't too good at one point, nor formidable. They retreated all the way to Appomattox and surrendered, the first Confederate Army to do so.

Kevin Dally
Yes any army can be broken, its generally how campaigns and wars are won

Not that its related to the OP, but was unaware anyone had referred to the AoNV during the Appomattox campaign as formidable.
 
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wausaubob

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When Davis replaced Johnston with Hood, the Confederate economy was approaching collapse. The situation in New Orleans was improving for the US and an operation to close Mobile Bay was pending. The US occupied almost all of Tennessee and AR and TX were separated from the Confederacy.
Once Schofield's force crossed the Chattahoochie River, neither Johnston nor Hood had a plan to keep the federals off the railroads east of Atlanta.
By August of 1864 the US could have taken part of Sherman's Army, under McPherson or Logan, and landed it in North Carolina above Fort Fisher and captured Wilmington. The US had plenty of capacity to accelerate the war if things had gone differently at Atlanta.
 
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archieclement

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When Davis replaced Johnston with Hood, the Confederate economy was approaching collapse. The situation in New Orleans was improving for the US and an operation to close Mobile Bay was pending. The US occupied almost all of Tennessee and AR and TX were separated from the Confederacy.
Once Schofield's force crossed the Chattahoochie River, neither Johnston nor Hood had a plan to keep the federals off the railroads east of Atlanta.
By August of 1864 the US could have taken part of Sherman's Army, under McPherson or Logan, and landed it in North Carolina above Fort Fisher and captured Wilmington. The US had plenty of capacity to accelerate the war if things had gone differently at Atlanta.
Havent disagreed, simply pointed out the poor performance of the AoT, lack of offensive spirit and desertion all existed under JJ, before Hood ever took command, so the argument JJ was preserving a "formidable" fighting force seems false to me, as its problems and faults had been increasing under JJ's leadership and continual retreats. Preserving a force thats lost its will and is incapable of effective offensive operations is preserving little.

Even pursuing a overall defensive strategy, a forces effectiveness still hinges on the ability and will to conduct offensive movements and launch counterattacks

One could conceivably argue the AoT was "broke" even before JJ......…my point that a "broken army" isnt the same as a "formidable one" would still remain.
 
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jackt62

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With hindsight being 20/20 and being outnumbered at least two to one what should Hood have done to at a minimum prevent the siezure of Savannah?
Leftyhunter
That's exactly the point I raised in this thread. If anything could have been done to prevent the seizure of Savannah (and that's still highly doubtful), I am of the opinion that it would more likely have been under Johnston's leadership of the AOT, rather than Hood's. Johnston would have safeguarded his army rather than diminish its strength into attempts to beat back Sherman around Atlanta. In that case, the AOT could have gotten between Sherman and the sea and continued the pattern that prevailed from Dalton to Atlanta. Now I don't presume that at the end of the day, Johnston would have been able to stop Sherman from going through Georgia, but at least there was some fighting chance to make things more difficult for him.
 

Bruce Vail

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I would politely disagree. The Confederacy lost the ACW by uniting the vast majority of Americans against the Confederacy. The invasion of the border States failed because by that time a majority of it's residents were either pro Union or neutral about the Confederacy. By neutral I mean they may not be opposed to the Confederacy but they aren't willing to fight for the Confederacy.
Leftyhunter
And I would politely diagree. Public sentiment had nothing to do with the Confederate military failures in 1862. Confederate military forces were neither strong enough nor well-led enough to prevail. It was a military failure, attributable neither to public opinion or the leadership qualities of Jefferson Davis.
 
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jackt62

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haven't ever seen it suggested the AoT under JJ had high morale and was begging for a chance to fight,
It's been a long time since I've read the Connelly series on the AOT, so don't hold me to it but my understanding was that Johnston's leadership, particularly after taking over from Bragg, was a morale booster to the soldiers of the AOT. When Hood took over, one of his complaints was that the troops lacked the proper fighting spirit because they were used to fighting behind entrenchments. But that was just Hood's opinion.
 

archieclement

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It's been a long time since I've read the Connelly series on the AOT, so don't hold me to it but my understanding was that Johnston's leadership, particularly after taking over from Bragg, was a morale booster to the soldiers of the AOT. When Hood took over, one of his complaints was that the troops lacked the proper fighting spirit because they were used to fighting behind entrenchments. But that was just Hood's opinion.
A morale booster? Would depend on the standard one wishes to use in comparison…..In comparison to the morale the AoT exhibited at Missionary ridge, perhaps...… It remains at no point From JJ on did the AoT switch to offensive operations that it exhibited signs of high morale, initiative, or swift movements.
 

leftyhunter

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We don't know what Johnston would've done or how well. Nor do we know how Sherman and his subordinates would've reacted to these things that never happened. Change one factor of a situation and a huge number of alternatives open up.

In the real event Sherman and his army group were capable of dealing with all the cards dealt, we know that.
And I would politely diagree. Public sentiment had nothing to do with the Confederate military failures in 1862. Confederate military forces were neither strong enough nor well-led enough to prevail. It was a military failure, attributable neither to public opinion or the leadership qualities of Jefferson Davis.
I would argue that public sentiment had everything to do with Confederate military failure's in 1862.
For example the failure of the Confederacy to incite the majority of the border state population" to throw off the yoke of Lincolnite Abolitionist oppression "
manifested in Confederate Army inability to " liberated " the border States. For example General Bragg in Kentucky had wagon's full of muskets but not enough brave young men to give them to.
Yes the Confederate Army was able to recruit men from the border States but the Union was able to offset that by recruiting more men from the border States.
Yes there were Confederate guerrillas in the border States except Maryland ( or at least very few) but the Union could recruit more local counterinsurgency forces.
So absolutely public sentiment had everything thing to do with military success or failure.
Leftyhunter
 
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wausaubob

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Havent disagreed, simply pointed out the poor performance of the AoT, lack of offensive spirit and desertion all existed under JJ, before Hood ever took command, so the argument JJ was preserving a "formidable" fighting force seems false to me, as its problems and faults had been increasing under JJ's leadership and continual retreats. Preserving a force thats lost its will and is incapable of effective offensive operations is preserving little.

Even pursuing a overall defensive strategy, a forces effectiveness still hinges on the ability and will to conduct offensive movements and launch counterattacks

One could conceivably argue the AoT was "broke" even before JJ......…my point that a "broken army" isnt the same as a "formidable one" would still remain.
Per Archie, by August of 1864, northern Georgia and Atlanta, and the Shenandoah Valley, were probably the two areas in the Confederacy with a wheat surplus. There were reasons President Davis had to fight for both areas.
Once the US closed Mobile Bay, the US blockade fleet was able to realign on Wilmington, NC, and the ratio of successful runs by the blockade runners had a direct bearing on Lee's sustainability in Richmond.
Also, the result of Missionary Ridge were much more damaging to the Confederates than they admitted in Richmond. After that desertion, the availability of remounts, and hunger became limiting factors.
 

leftyhunter

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That's exactly the point I raised in this thread. If anything could have been done to prevent the seizure of Savannah (and that's still highly doubtful), I am of the opinion that it would more likely have been under Johnston's leadership of the AOT, rather than Hood's. Johnston would have safeguarded his army rather than diminish its strength into attempts to beat back Sherman around Atlanta. In that case, the AOT could have gotten between Sherman and the sea and continued the pattern that prevailed from Dalton to Atlanta. Now I don't presume that at the end of the day, Johnston would have been able to stop Sherman from going through Georgia, but at least there was some fighting chance to make things more difficult for him.
That's what is difficult with hypothetical questions or senarios. If Johnston is out numbered two to one although he can utilize the Georgia State Militia (who's actual combat value was questionable at best) then it is unlikely that Johnston could protect Savannah. If Sherman is reinforced by the AoC then being outnumbered three to one would require close to a miracle to protect Savannah.
In the case of what actually happened Hood at least temporarily tied down the AoC in Tennessee but that didn't do the Confederate cause any good. Obviously General Wheeler's cavalry and the GSM where at best an irritant for Sherman's men.
Based on the circumstances Hood could make the argument that he chose the least bad option.
Leftyhunter
 
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