If you had to pick one person in the CSA who did more to lose the war, who would it be?

Hoseman

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#1
I have often thought about how differently the war in the east was in comparison to the western theater. In the east, Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia held their own and had many decisive victories whereas in the west it was much different. I believe the leadership in the east was vastly superior with Lee and his commanders such as Jackson, Longstreet, AP Hill, Hood, Gordon, Stuart, Hampton, etc. Conversely, many of the A team union generals were out west with Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Thomas, etc.

If you had to pick one man in the entire CSA who did more to lose the war, who would you pick and why?
 

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Carronade

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#2
Jefferson Davis, because he was head of state. Nothing against him personally, but he had more influence over Confederate strategy than any field general.

I think you make a good point that the eastern theater accumulated a disproportionate share of the Confederates' best troops and commanders, but again, who was the one who could remedy that?
 

Bruce Vail

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#4
Jefferson Davis, because he was head of state. Nothing against him personally, but he had more influence over Confederate strategy than any field general.

I think you make a good point that the eastern theater accumulated a disproportionate share of the Confederates' best troops and commanders, but again, who was the one who could remedy that?
Unquestionably Davis.

He was a West Point alum and former army officer himself, so he involved himself very deeply in Confederate military affairs. He was the one man who could have devised and directed a winning strategy.
 

Bruce Vail

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#8
Once you get past Jefferson Davis, maybe the focus should turn to Joe Johnston.

I'm slightly partial to Old Joe myself, but he did not exactly cover himself in glory in any of his major campaigns. He seemed to think that a cautious defensive strategy was always the best option. At some point he should have realized a new approach was needed.

It's a little surprising that Joe continued to hold top-level commands throughout the war.
 

Bruce Vail

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#9
I have often thought about how differently the war in the east was in comparison to the western theater. In the east, Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia held their own and had many decisive victories whereas in the west it was much different. I believe the leadership in the east was vastly superior with Lee and his commanders such as Jackson, Longstreet, AP Hill, Hood, Gordon, Stuart, Hampton, etc. Conversely, many of the A team union generals were out west with Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Thomas, etc.

If you had to pick one man in the entire CSA who did more to lose the war, who would you pick and why?
I want to quibble with your phrase "many decisive victories" won by Lee and the ANV.

There weren't that many: That was the problem.

Most of the battles in the East 1861-1863, even the real famous ones like Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, can best be described as inconclusive. In these and many other instances the opposing armies jockeyed for position, clashed briefly on the battlefield, and then resumed jockeying for position, without doing lasting damage to the enemy.

I would argue that this only changed in May 1864 with the opening of the Overland campaign.
 
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johan_steele

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#10
The problem was Davis had experiance as a professional politician, Colonel & Sect of War. By all accounts he had been an exceptional Sect of War and should have been able to excell as the commander & Chief of the CS. But he not only didn't do so I would be tempted to place the abject failure of the CS squarely on his shoulders.
 

johan_steele

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#11
I have often thought about how differently the war in the east was in comparison to the western theater. In the east, Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia held their own and had many decisive victories whereas in the west it was much different. I believe the leadership in the east was vastly superior with Lee and his commanders such as Jackson, Longstreet, AP Hill, Hood, Gordon, Stuart, Hampton, etc. Conversely, many of the A team union generals were out west with Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Thomas, etc.

If you had to pick one man in the entire CSA who did more to lose the war, who would you pick and why?
The ANV never managed to deliver that knock out blow to the AoP and in the west the CS was hemorrhaging territory almost from the start. Which is a big part of why I hold Davis largely responsible for the failure of the CS. He did little to stop or recoup the territory lost and didn't inspire that knockout blow in the east. It might be putting too much stock in the concept that the buck stops at the top but Davis had his fingers in every pot and I would go so far as to say when he put his fingers in it soured.
 

Bruce Vail

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#12
The problem was Davis had experiance as a professional politician, Colonel & Sect of War. By all accounts he had been an exceptional Sect of War and should have been able to excell as the commander & Chief of the CS. But he not only didn't do so I would be tempted to place the abject failure of the CS squarely on his shoulders.
Ill defer to more expert analysts on this, but it is my impression that the whole South blamed Davis for the military failures of the Confederacy, from 1865 to the present day.

James McPherson, by the way, recently produced a slim volume focusing narrowly on Davis' role as Commander In Chief. He says his study of Davis left him with a higher opinion of Davis than he had had before he started the book. He credits Davis with being smart, and a very hard worker. But the obstacles to success were almost insurmountable, McPherson writes, and there was never any other candidate for the job who clearly would have been better.

Here is the NYT book review:
https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/books/review/embattled-rebel-by-james-m-mcpherson.html
 
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johan_steele

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#13
Ill defer to more expert analysts on this, but it is my impression that the whole South blamed Davis for the military failures of the Confederacy, from 1865 to the present day.

James McPherson, by the way, recently produced a slim volume focusing narrowly on Davis' role as Commander In Chief. He says his study of Davis left him with a higher opinion of Davis than he had had before he started the book. He credits Davis with being smart, and a very hard worker. The obstacles to success were almost insurmountable, and there is no other candidate for the job who clearly would have been better.
I've read it and Agree with it for the most part. In all honesty I thought more of Davis before I read his memoirs and the more I have learned of him the less I like him.

Davis was a professional politician with all the baggage that entails.
 
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Hoseman

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#14
I always blamed Bragg as he failed at nearly everything he did as commander of the Army of Tenn and should have been relieved much sooner. But Davis was too loyal to Bragg and allowed him to stay on way too long so I guess Davis was ultimately to fault. I also fault Davis and Bragg for not allowing Forrest to have more of a role and for not unleashing him to his full potential. And then, the final nail in the coffin out west, Davis insisted on Hood taking command.
 

pfcjking

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#15
I want to quibble with your phrase "many decisive victories" won by Lee and the ANV.

There weren't that many: That was the problem.

Most of the battles in the East 1861-1863, even the real famous ones like Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, can best be described as inconclusive. In these and many other instances the opposing armies jockeyed for position, clashed briefly on the battlefield, and then resumed jockeying for position, without doing lasting damage to the enemy.

I would argue that this only changed in 1864 with the opening of the Overland campaign.
Arguably, the most decisive battle in Virginia could be Five Forks. The smaller scale battle had huge consequences. And to think that Pickett was in command....
 

pfcjking

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#16
I always blamed Bragg as he failed at nearly everything he did as commander of the Army of Tenn and should have been relieved much sooner. But Davis was too loyal to Bragg and allowed him to stay on way too long so I guess Davis was ultimately to fault. I also fault Davis and Bragg for not allowing Forrest to have more of a role and for not unleashing him to his full potential. And then, the final nail in the coffin out west, Davis insisted on Hood taking command.
It's hard to knock on Bragg too hard, no matter how fun it is. He really accomplished a lot in his invasion of Kentucky. You might could say that he set the Yankees back 6 months in that theater.
In late summer of 1862, Buell was gearing up for a push on Chattanooga, and there was not much to stop him, because Grant had an eye on Bragg in North Mississippi. Bragg left Van Dorn with 20,000 men to hold Grant's attention, taking the other 30,000 to Knoxville by train in maybe a little more than a week, and combined them with Kirby Smith's 17,000 men for an invasion of Kentucky. Buell had to pull all of his troops out of as far South as Bridgeport, AL and then try to catch Bragg on a mad dash to Louisville, all the way on the Ohio River. By the time the Battle of Perryville was being fought, I don't think there was a Yankee in Middle Tennessee further South than Nashville.
Chattanooga would have fallen to Buell by Christmas with any normal speed at all, but instead, they were fighting at Murfreesboro on New Years, and they didn't enter Chattanooga until mid way through August of 1863.
Also consider that Bragg undertook this campaign without even informing Richmond. He did it on his own initiative.

Bragg was not the best general by any means, but we should be fair with him and give him credit when it's due. The campaign had no great victorious battle in the end, and he was discredited for a lack of nerve and for not fighting a great all out battle before withdrawing, and rightly so IMO, but he did reverse the tide with more effect than any other invasion conducted by the Confederates. Bragg was a better strategist than he was a tactician, that much is certain.
 

Jimklag

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#19
I have often thought about how differently the war in the east was in comparison to the western theater. In the east, Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia held their own and had many decisive victories whereas in the west it was much different. I believe the leadership in the east was vastly superior with Lee and his commanders such as Jackson, Longstreet, AP Hill, Hood, Gordon, Stuart, Hampton, etc. Conversely, many of the A team union generals were out west with Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Thomas, etc.

If you had to pick one man in the entire CSA who did more to lose the war, who would you pick and why?
Probably Jefferson Davis. It was he who ordered the firing on Sumter to commence. This action went a long way to unifying the northern people against the rebels. He failed to give the same emphasis to the western theater as to the eastern. He recognized the importance of the Western theater, but was unable to apportion the resources more equally between the two theaters.
 

JeffBrooks

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#20
Didn't they have some completely incompetent guy who ran their supply department?
Lucius Northrop, who would be high on my list of choices. It's largely his fault that the Southern armies were so poorly off in terms of food and clothing. Of course, it was Jefferson Davis who put him there and refused to kick him out until early 1865, despite his obvious incompetence and the fact that every departmental commander hated the guy's guts. When Davis asked Breckinridge to take over as Secretary of War, he agreed only on the condition that Northrop be fired.

Honorable mentions also go to Bragg and Polk.
 

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