Interview: Longstreet says "It was lack of statesmanship that beat us..."

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lelliott19

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Failure due to Davis 3 with Cobb image.JPG

On the occasion of Longstreet's visit to Antietam in 1893, a correspondent of the Washington Post recorded the General's opinions on a number of topics. In this, the closing section of the interview, General Longstreet continues his response to the question: "Do you think, General Longstreet, that the Southern cause would have been successful if the administration had been in hands other than those of Mr. Davis."

Yall sure seem to have enjoyed debating some of Longstreet's opinions. Thanks to everyone for keeping it civil and on-topic -- even though some disagreed with Longstreet's suggestion that Howell Cobb might have made a better President than Jefferson Davis. :unsure: Here, General Longstreet restates his preference for Cobb over Davis -- and provides what is likely the most controversial declaration of the entire interview:

"President Davis was not great. At one time and another he had exasperated and alienated most of the generals in the service. It was lack of statesmanship that beat us, not lack of military resources; not lack of military success. We had them in equal ratio with the North, remaining carefully on defensive. I do not admit that we were outclassed by the North. With Howell Cobb or some other good man at the head, our chances would certainly have been largely increased."

Interview: Reprinted from the Washington Post of June 1893, the interview appeared in The Times Dispatch. (Richmond, VA.), November 12, 1911, page 3.

Note: This post is Part 24 of a series on Longstreet's opinions of various Generals and individuals, expressed during an 1893 interview with a Washington Post corespondent. Longstreet's opinions on various individuals are posted in separate threads so they can be easily located - Bragg, Jackson, A P Hill, Early, Ewell, Pickett, Sheridan, Joe Johnston, Beauregard, Hood, Jeff Davis, Lee, Meade, McClellan, and more. Here are the links to Parts 1-23, posted previously:
Part 1 - Intro to the article
Part 2 - Longstreet on Bragg
Part 3 - Longstreet on Jackson
Part 4 - Longstreet on AP Hill
Part 5 - Longstreet on Ewell & Early
Part 6 - Longstreet on Pickett, Sheridan, Five Forks & the Timing of the Surrender
Part 7 - Longstreet on Joe Johnston
Part 8 - Longstreet on Beauregard
Part 9 - Longstreet on Hood
Part 10 - Longstreet on Lee's military attributes
Part 11 - Lee's Best Battle
Part 12 - Lee's Poorest Generalship
Part 13 - Lee's greatest weakness as tactical commander
Part 14 - Lee's tactical weakness at Gettysburg
Part 15 - Meade's Lost Opportunity
Part 16 - Gettysburg Controversies
Part 17 - Post-Gettysburg Relationship with Lee
Part 18 - Lee's Dangerous Confidence
Part 19 - Longstreet on McClellan Part 1
Part 20 - Longstreet on McClellan Part 2
Part 21 - Three Lucky Shots at Antietam
Part 22 - The Trouble with Jeff Davis
Part 23 - The Trouble with Davis Pt 2

<Up next - Longstreet provides us with one last comment on Jeff Davis>
@Eleanor Rose @Union_Buff @FarawayFriend @War Horse @novushomus @GELongstreet @LeesWarhorse @Tom Elmore @Coonewah Creek @Yankeedave @Andy Cardinal @PeterT @Zella
 

jackt62

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While I agree with Longstreet that Davis was "not great" as a president, I doubt very much whether any other person in that position would have altered the outcome of the conflict. In contrast, I believe that Lincoln's leadership was more crucial to holding the Union together and seeing the struggle to its successful conclusion. Ultimately, the northern superiority in resources was what prevailed, provided that the people could stand for the terrible losses involved. Overcoming the northern will to fight was the only realistic way that the south could have attained its independence, regardless of who the confederate president was.
 

uaskme

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More Military Sucess in the West might have caused the Yankee to lose the Will to Fight. Keeping Sherman out of Atlanta before the 64 Election, would of helped. Pretty dismal results, out here. Personnel decisions, or lack of them, caused so much chaos. Just makes me wonder?
 
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Carronade

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That's certainly fairer than his comment in another interview: "I haven't a shadow of a doubt that the South would have achieved its independence under Howell Cobb"

I don't have a strong opinion about Cobb vs. Davis, and it seems unlikely that any one person could make enough of a difference to win the war, but "our chances would certainly have been largely increased" is not unreasonable.
 

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I tend to agree with @jackt62 in that I also doubt whether any other person in that position would have altered the outcome of the war. However, with that said I do think the Confederacy could have done a whole lot better than Davis. Even Jefferson Davis told the Confederate Congress in his inaugural speech in 1861:

You will see many errors to forgive, many deficiencies to tolerate, but you shall not find in me either a want of zeal or fidelity to the cause.

Indeed they did see many “deficiencies to tolerate.” General P.G.T. Beauregard once wrote: “If he (Jefferson) were to die to-day, the whole country would rejoice at it.”

In “Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief,” James M. McPherson wrote:

He did not practice the skillful politician’s art of telling others what they wanted to hear. He did not hesitate to criticize others but was often thin-skinned about their criticisms of him.”

The “deficiencies” of Davis had in fact been apparent long before his political rise. In his book, “Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour,” William C. Davis described his early career as, “a classic portrait of insecurity, of a man almost wandering through life allowing others to make his decisions for him.”

William C. Davis also wrote:

A man who would not relax into informality with his own wife at the table could hardly be the ‘man of the people’ that nineteenth-century Southerners needed to inspire their loyalty and enthusiasm.

The shortcomings of Jefferson Davis as a leader are clearly outlined by William J. Cooper, Jr. in his essay, “A Reassessment of Jefferson Davis as War Leader: The Case from Atlanta to Nashville” in The Journal of Southern History (Vol. 36, No. 2 (May, 1970), pp. 189-204) published by the Southern Historical Association.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/2205870?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

@lelliott19, I'm beginning to view Howell Cobb in a more favorable light. :smile:
 
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lelliott19

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Not much love lost between Longstreet and Davis
There was however an incident in Atlanta in 1888 in which the two men apparently forgave one another.
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/longstreet-nov-1888-reunion-at-athens-ga.143320/#post-1803173

@lelliott19, I'm beginning to view Howell Cobb in a more favorable light. :smile:
I agree with @jackt62 also -- that no other person in that position could have altered the outcome of the war. But Howell Cobb was much practiced in the skillful politician’s art of telling others what they wanted to hear. And he certainly outperformed Davis in his abilities to be the ‘man of the people’ . Whether or not Cobb could have been one who "nineteenth-century Southerners needed to inspire their loyalty and enthusiasm.remains to be known. But he did have more successful political experience -- he had managed more political conflict and his record indicates that he was much more skilled in the art of compromise. So, if nothing else, I do think he would have had a better chance at "inspiring Southerners' loyalty and enthusiasm" than Jeff Davis. Not that I think it would have altered the outcome of the war, but perhaps it would have ended sooner?
 

wausaubob

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A more pragmatic Confederate leader may have been able to lead the Confederacy to a point in which it was stated enough had been done and it was time for reunification, well prior to the point at which the Confederacy completely collapsed.
I think the war could have been throttled down in October 1864. After the election was in Lincoln's favor, prisoners and territory could have been yielded in an orderly fashion while the exact terms were worked out. Cobb and Brown might have done better at that, with a little help from Texas, and some slight assistance from Britain in offering asylum to some Confederates.
 

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IMO Cobb was quite capable of being president of the Confederate government. Would he have been more effective than Jefferson Davis? Who knows. He was considered for the role during the formation of the Confederacy, but passed over in favor of Davis.

One common theme thru a number of these threads has been the idea that Davis considered himself to be a military genius. He had commanded troops in the field and administered the War Department, which IMO gave him considerable insight into how the military worked. Cobb had no such experience. Davis at least had the experience to deal with Joe Johnston, Beauregard and other prima donnas in command positions. Lincoln had an existing command structure in place in the early years of the War while he learned the ropes. The Confederacy was starting from scratch. Could they have survived a couple years while a non-military president gained experience?
 
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Eleanor Rose

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The Confederacy was starting from scratch. Could they have survived a couple years while a non-military president gained experience?
Thought provoking question! President Lincoln read and absorbed works on military history and strategy while observing the successes and failures of his own and the Confederacy's commanders. He was able to draw conclusions and learn from the mistakes that were made. He was also gifted with a large amount of common sense. Jefferson Davis, even with his military experience, seemed lacking in many of these areas.

Lincoln didn't hesitate to appoint prominent politicians with little or no military training or experience to the rank of brigadier or major general early in the war. He also commissioned important ethnic leaders as generals with little regard to their military merits. Davis favored placing his friends in positions of leadership.

Lincoln had opinions about battlefield tactics, but he rarely (of course there were exceptions) made suggestions to his field commanders regarding that level of operations. As has been discussed in this thread, many perceived Davis to consider himself a military genius based upon his meddling. Lincoln searched for the right general, then let him fight the war. Davis continuously played favorites and interfered with his generals, even with Robert E. Lee.

So, could the South have survived a couple years while a non-military president gained experience? I think it's possible if the President appointed strong military leaders and the South definitely had some.


Source: Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World, edited by Eric Foner.


@ErnieMac, I'm not trying to be argumentative. I'm just playing around with the idea of the Confederacy without Jefferson Davis as President.
 
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ErnieMac

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Thought provoking question! President Lincoln read and absorbed works on military history and strategy while observing the successes and failures of his own and the Confederacy's commanders. He was able to draw conclusions and learn from the mistakes that were made. He was also gifted with a large amount of common sense. Jefferson Davis, even with his military experience, seemed lacking in many of these areas.

Lincoln didn't hesitate to appoint prominent politicians with little or no military training or experience to the rank of brigadier or major general early in the war. He also commissioned important ethnic leaders as generals with little regard to their military merits. Davis favored placing his friends in positions of leadership.

Lincoln had opinions about battlefield tactics, but he rarely (of course there were exceptions) made suggestions to his field commanders regarding that level of operations. As has been discussed in this thread, many perceived Davis to consider himself a military genius based upon his meddling. Lincoln searched for the right general, then let him fight the war. Davis continuously played favorites and interfered with his generals, even with Robert E. Lee.

So, could the South have survived a couple years while a non-military president gained experience? I think it's possible if the President appointed strong military leaders and the South definitely had some.


Source: Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World, edited by Eric Foner.


@ErnieMac, I'm not trying to be argumentative. I'm just playing around with the idea of the Confederacy without Jefferson Davis as President.
Except in attempting to organize a pursuit of the defeated Federal army at 1st Manassas, can you give me examples of Davis giving direction to his generals at the tactical level? I've tried to think of any, but cannot do so.
 

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Except in attempting to organize a pursuit of the defeated Federal army at 1st Manassas, can you give me examples of Davis giving direction to his generals at the tactical level? I've tried to think of any, but cannot do so.
Not really. At least not examples at the tactical level with particular generals. I have read that Jefferson Davis initially favored a defensive strategy suggestive of General George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. However, he dispersed his forces in an attempt to defend the whole Confederacy and essentially cancelled this strategic plan. For example, General Lee assumed an offensive strategy in the Virginia theater and was successful in winning battles but ultimately could not sustain his casualties. Some folks would argue he never had enough men to destroy a Union army in the field. This could point to Davis and the overall direction he gave his generals. He never appeared to have any national strategic design for military operations except to station troops all about the Confederacy in the various departments he organized. He wavered between a true application of his defensive strategy and an aggressive strategy like General Lee pursued. His indecision seemingly offered the worst of both - casualties that could not be replaced, loss of territory and logistics, and an enemy that was not destroyed on the field of battle but allowed to regroup, recover and continue to fight another day.

Yes I'm grasping at straws. This is really beyond my scope of knowledge. Perhaps others can think of some examples, but if you can't there likely isn't any. :smile:
 
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ErnieMac

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Not really. At least not examples at the tactical level with particular generals. I have read that Jefferson Davis initially favored a defensive strategy suggestive of General George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. However, he dispersed his forces in an attempt to defend the whole Confederacy and essentially cancelled this strategic plan. For example, General Lee assumed an offensive strategy in the Virginia theater and was successful in winning battles but ultimately could not sustain his casualties. Some folks would argue he never had enough men to destroy a Union army in the field. This could point to Davis and the overall direction he gave his generals. He never appeared to have any national strategic design for military operations except to station troops all about the Confederacy in the various departments he organized. He wavered between a true application of his defensive strategy and an aggressive strategy like General Lee pursued. His indecision seemingly offered the worst of both - casualties that could not be replaced, loss of territory and logistics, and an enemy that was not destroyed on the field of battle but allowed to regroup, recover and continue to fight another day.

Yes I'm grasping at straws. This is really beyond my scope of knowledge. Perhaps others can think of some examples, but if you can't there likely isn't any. :smile:
By the way, I didn't think you were being argumentative. Only issue I had with the post is that it required me to think while watching the football game. :D

The recent threads citing Longstreet's opinions of Jefferson Davis have me thinking about Davis' leadership. Did Davis play favorites with military commands? Certainly. Once you were in his doghouse could you get out of it. Rarely. That being said I don't see Davis micromanaging his commanders. Davis did expect them to keep him informed on what was happening in their commands. Davis would certainly urge them to take what he considered appropriate actions - urging Johnston to support Pemberton or to attack Sherman. Is that so different than Lincoln urging Meade to get after Lee following Gettysburg or asking Grant to tone down his attacks prior to the 1864 election?

I also think the structure of the Confederacy hampered Davis, more so than the Federal government stifled Lincoln. I remember seeing a statement to the effect that the Confederacy died of states right. The governors of Georgia and North Carolina fought Davis at every turn. Governor Vance even stalled the improvements in rail lines connecting to Virginia which would have provided better transport of supplies and men. Conscription laws were a sore spot in many areas. Would those problems have magically vanished if someone else were president?
 

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Would those problems have magically vanished if someone else were president?
I doubt it. Do you think Davis felt the Confederacy was too weak to dominate on the battlefield? Sometimes it seems like his goal was just to outlast the foe.

This thread has reminded me of what Varina Davis said about her husband, that he was “abnormally sensitive to disapprobation” and sometimes adopted “a repellent manner.” Yikes! :giggle:
 

leftyhunter

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View attachment 213157
On the occasion of Longstreet's visit to Antietam in 1893, a correspondent of the Washington Post recorded the General's opinions on a number of topics. In this, the closing section of the interview, General Longstreet continues his response to the question: "Do you think, General Longstreet, that the Southern cause would have been successful if the administration had been in hands other than those of Mr. Davis."

Yall sure seem to have enjoyed debating some of Longstreet's opinions. Thanks to everyone for keeping it civil and on-topic -- even though some disagreed with Longstreet's suggestion that Howell Cobb might have made a better President than Jefferson Davis. :unsure: Here, General Longstreet restates his preference for Cobb over Davis -- and provides what is likely the most controversial declaration of the entire interview:

"President Davis was not great. At one time and another he had exasperated and alienated most of the generals in the service. It was lack of statesmanship that beat us, not lack of military resources; not lack of military success. We had them in equal ratio with the North, remaining carefully on defensive. I do not admit that we were outclassed by the North. With Howell Cobb or some other good man at the head, our chances would certainly have been largely increased."

Interview: Reprinted from the Washington Post of June 1893, the interview appeared in The Times Dispatch. (Richmond, VA.), November 12, 1911, page 3.

Note: This post is Part 24 of a series on Longstreet's opinions of various Generals and individuals, expressed during an 1893 interview with a Washington Post corespondent. Longstreet's opinions on various individuals are posted in separate threads so they can be easily located - Bragg, Jackson, A P Hill, Early, Ewell, Pickett, Sheridan, Joe Johnston, Beauregard, Hood, Jeff Davis, Lee, Meade, McClellan, and more. Here are the links to Parts 1-23, posted previously:
Part 1 - Intro to the article
Part 2 - Longstreet on Bragg
Part 3 - Longstreet on Jackson
Part 4 - Longstreet on AP Hill
Part 5 - Longstreet on Ewell & Early
Part 6 - Longstreet on Pickett, Sheridan, Five Forks & the Timing of the Surrender
Part 7 - Longstreet on Joe Johnston
Part 8 - Longstreet on Beauregard
Part 9 - Longstreet on Hood
Part 10 - Longstreet on Lee's military attributes
Part 11 - Lee's Best Battle
Part 12 - Lee's Poorest Generalship
Part 13 - Lee's greatest weakness as tactical commander
Part 14 - Lee's tactical weakness at Gettysburg
Part 15 - Meade's Lost Opportunity
Part 16 - Gettysburg Controversies
Part 17 - Post-Gettysburg Relationship with Lee
Part 18 - Lee's Dangerous Confidence
Part 19 - Longstreet on McClellan Part 1
Part 20 - Longstreet on McClellan Part 2
Part 21 - Three Lucky Shots at Antietam
Part 22 - The Trouble with Jeff Davis
Part 23 - The Trouble with Davis Pt 2

<Up next - Longstreet provides us with one last comment on Jeff Davis>
@Eleanor Rose @Union_Buff @FarawayFriend @War Horse @novushomus @GELongstreet @LeesWarhorse @Tom Elmore @Coonewah Creek @Yankeedave @Andy Cardinal @PeterT @Zella
Longstreet is wrong on at least several counts. The Confederacy was never equal to the Union in military success. Conventional War's are won or lost by seizing and holding enemy territory. The Confederacy lost Territory every year of the war.
In conventional warfare size really does matter. Ideally an offensive army outnumbers it's opponents by a ratio of 3 to one. Based on data from many different battles in my thread " By what metric is the Confederate Army superior"
The average Union manpower superiority ratio of the Union Army vs the Confederate Army is 1.86 to 1. Not a huge advantage but enough to eventually win.
Longstreet fails to mention that the Confederacy simply could not reliably feed it's own army. Plenty of Confederate soldiers mention that in their biographies and letters. Longstreet fails to mention that morale was a huge problem for the Confederate Army especially by the summer of 1864.
Since the Confederacy had only one Commander and Chief we simply will never know if another man ( and it would have to be a man) would of made a better Confederate President.
Also by 1893 Longstreet is a bit long in the tooth. Not sure how seriously we should take his opinions.
Leftyhunter
 
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lelliott19

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The governors of Georgia and North Carolina fought Davis at every turn. Governor Vance even stalled the improvements in rail lines connecting to Virginia which would have provided better transport of supplies and men. Conscription laws were a sore spot in many areas. Would those problems have magically vanished if someone else were president?
Perhaps the ones in Georgia had H Cobb been the "someone else?" Who knows about NC? Of course, if H Cobb was the "someone else," it's fair to say that other problems, equally as disadvantageous, could have arisen in other areas.
 

O' Be Joyful

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I can not remember where I read it, but I seem to recall an incident with Cobb just before the powers that be in Montgomery chose their provisional president. I believe it was a drunken melee of some sort that took him out of the running, or I may be confusing him w/ someone else? Perhaps someone else has more info. I would swear that it was linked to a post I have seen on CWT in the past.

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leftyhunter

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View attachment 213157
On the occasion of Longstreet's visit to Antietam in 1893, a correspondent of the Washington Post recorded the General's opinions on a number of topics. In this, the closing section of the interview, General Longstreet continues his response to the question: "Do you think, General Longstreet, that the Southern cause would have been successful if the administration had been in hands other than those of Mr. Davis."

Yall sure seem to have enjoyed debating some of Longstreet's opinions. Thanks to everyone for keeping it civil and on-topic -- even though some disagreed with Longstreet's suggestion that Howell Cobb might have made a better President than Jefferson Davis. :unsure: Here, General Longstreet restates his preference for Cobb over Davis -- and provides what is likely the most controversial declaration of the entire interview:

"President Davis was not great. At one time and another he had exasperated and alienated most of the generals in the service. It was lack of statesmanship that beat us, not lack of military resources; not lack of military success. We had them in equal ratio with the North, remaining carefully on defensive. I do not admit that we were outclassed by the North. With Howell Cobb or some other good man at the head, our chances would certainly have been largely increased."

Interview: Reprinted from the Washington Post of June 1893, the interview appeared in The Times Dispatch. (Richmond, VA.), November 12, 1911, page 3.

Note: This post is Part 24 of a series on Longstreet's opinions of various Generals and individuals, expressed during an 1893 interview with a Washington Post corespondent. Longstreet's opinions on various individuals are posted in separate threads so they can be easily located - Bragg, Jackson, A P Hill, Early, Ewell, Pickett, Sheridan, Joe Johnston, Beauregard, Hood, Jeff Davis, Lee, Meade, McClellan, and more. Here are the links to Parts 1-23, posted previously:
Part 1 - Intro to the article
Part 2 - Longstreet on Bragg
Part 3 - Longstreet on Jackson
Part 4 - Longstreet on AP Hill
Part 5 - Longstreet on Ewell & Early
Part 6 - Longstreet on Pickett, Sheridan, Five Forks & the Timing of the Surrender
Part 7 - Longstreet on Joe Johnston
Part 8 - Longstreet on Beauregard
Part 9 - Longstreet on Hood
Part 10 - Longstreet on Lee's military attributes
Part 11 - Lee's Best Battle
Part 12 - Lee's Poorest Generalship
Part 13 - Lee's greatest weakness as tactical commander
Part 14 - Lee's tactical weakness at Gettysburg
Part 15 - Meade's Lost Opportunity
Part 16 - Gettysburg Controversies
Part 17 - Post-Gettysburg Relationship with Lee
Part 18 - Lee's Dangerous Confidence
Part 19 - Longstreet on McClellan Part 1
Part 20 - Longstreet on McClellan Part 2
Part 21 - Three Lucky Shots at Antietam
Part 22 - The Trouble with Jeff Davis
Part 23 - The Trouble with Davis Pt 2

<Up next - Longstreet provides us with one last comment on Jeff Davis>
@Eleanor Rose @Union_Buff @FarawayFriend @War Horse @novushomus @GELongstreet @LeesWarhorse @Tom Elmore @Coonewah Creek @Yankeedave @Andy Cardinal @PeterT @Zella
Interestingly enough Longstreet makes no mention of the Union Naval Blockade. Even if and it's a huge "if" the Confederacy lost not one inch of land if the Confederacy can't break the blockade then all it's slaves are almost worthless. The Southern economy was based on agricultural exports to the North and mostly Western Europe. While the Blockade had a rough start it became increasingly effective year after year.
There is no way to break a blockade other then a well manned and well equipped Navy. There is no way around the fact that a few commercial Raider's and blockade runners is not a long term cure for a blockade.
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O' Be Joyful

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Aha!! It was a thread questioning an answer for Trivia. :whistling: :unsure:
H/T @diane

I think those who mention Davis' office was provisional are correct, even though the trivia master is right too! Toombs was quite a candidate until the convention in Montgomery when he got snockered but good at the convention's supper party. A drunken episode can be forgiven but such poor judgement cannot! Davis was sober and appeared to be healthy - the other candidate of choice was Stephens. His frailty was sufficient to end all chance he had. Davis truly did not want the job and Toombs truly did - you can bet that was one morose hangover as he realized what he had done besides just embarrassing himself. Consequently, when elections rolled around, the country was at war and nobody wanted to switch horses in the middle of the stream - Davis and Stephens it was.

diane, Aug 30, 2014

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/daviss-competition-as-provisional-president.103694/
Surely there is more "detail" of this...somewhere.:sneaky:

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lelliott19

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Aha!! It was a thread questioning an answer for Trivia. :whistling: :unsure:
H/T @diane

I think those who mention Davis' office was provisional are correct, even though the trivia master is right too! Toombs was quite a candidate until the convention in Montgomery when he got snockered but good at the convention's supper party. A drunken episode can be forgiven but such poor judgement cannot! Davis was sober and appeared to be healthy - the other candidate of choice was Stephens. His frailty was sufficient to end all chance he had. Davis truly did not want the job and Toombs truly did - you can bet that was one morose hangover as he realized what he had done besides just embarrassing himself. Consequently, when elections rolled around, the country was at war and nobody wanted to switch horses in the middle of the stream - Davis and Stephens it was.

diane, Aug 30, 2014

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/daviss-competition-as-provisional-president.103694/
Surely there is more "detail" of this...somewhere.:sneaky:

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I think the drunken episode to which @diane refers involved Toombs --- not Howell Cobb?
 
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