Featured Where Do You Disagree With the "Conventional Wisdom" on the Civil War?

5th MSM

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If I remember right, the initial question was along the lines of, 'What conventional wisdom do you disagree with'. Well, here's one that should certainly generate some major flames.

I'd disagree that it was a good thing (for the south) that Lee was a general. He was a good general, some would say a great general. But because of his leadership, the war probably lasted a year or more longer than it would have without him. And that resulted only in death, casualties, and incredible economic hardship for the south, in the long run. Had it resulted in success, I would agree it was good for the south.

Not a Lee hater, just looking at the results.
 

Ellsworth avenger

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I don't believe McCellan's personality would have allowed him to give up any of the upper south in negotiations . I'm not so sure he wouldn't have continued to prosecute the war effort ,with the fall of Atlanta,had he won the election.
 

Lost Cause

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If I remember right, the initial question was along the lines of, 'What conventional wisdom do you disagree with'. Well, here's one that should certainly generate some major flames.

I'd disagree that it was a good thing (for the south) that Lee was a general. He was a good general, some would say a great general. But because of his leadership, the war probably lasted a year or more longer than it would have without him. And that resulted only in death, casualties, and incredible economic hardship for the south, in the long run. Had it resulted in success, I would agree it was good for the south.

Not a Lee hater, just looking at the results.

Well, he was trying to win the war without the benefit of hindsight.
 

5th MSM

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Well, he was trying to win the war without the benefit of hindsight.

You are right, that Lee didn't have the benefit of hind-sight. And yet Sherman, before the war, apparently did. He saw the carnage, the cost, and the eventual failure.

I'm not saying Lee was a bad general. The conventional wisdom is that it was a good thing that Lee was their general. I'm simply saying that we now have the benefit of hind-sight, and that his success over the long run cost a lot of Southern lives. Would the South have been better off, in terms of life, liberty, and property, if their generals had been less successful?
 

Lost Cause

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You are right, that Lee didn't have the benefit of hind-sight. And yet Sherman, before the war, apparently did. He saw the carnage, the cost, and the eventual failure.

I'm not saying Lee was a bad general. The conventional wisdom is that it was a good thing that Lee was their general. I'm simply saying that we now have the benefit of hind-sight, and that his success over the long run cost a lot of Southern lives. Would the South have been better off, in terms of life, liberty, and property, if their generals had been less successful?

Yes Sherman had hindsight, however , a Northern victory was not guaranteed. A lesser commander than Lee could have easily sacrificed his army at greater cost (ie Hood). If anything, having Lee in command cost the AOP more lives in the long run. The North had more troops to replenish the AOP.
 

OpnCoronet

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You are right, that Lee didn't have the benefit of hind-sight. And yet Sherman, before the war, apparently did. He saw the carnage, the cost, and the eventual failure.
I'm not saying Lee was a bad general. The conventional wisdom is that it was a good thing that Lee was their general. I'm simply saying that we now have the benefit of hind-sight, and that his success over the long run cost a lot of Southern lives. Would the South have been better off, in terms of life, liberty, and property, if their generals had been less successful?




Yes. The OP assumes an after the fact view of the history of the CW and in that view, that war was lost before it began and Lee's presence probably did, in that respect, prolong a war that was already lost.
in that t
 

BillO

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Yes but what's weird is the deserters had a tendency of returning? I've read they returned in flocks and diminished army's regained their numbers. What could have caused this. Where they close enough to home to escape the war til their nerve returned and then they returned. This has to be unique to the ACW and perhaps the revolutionary war. Only when fought on home ground could tis happen. Obviously.
Stragglers are the men who drop out on a route march due to weakness or equipment problems or just too tired to keep the pace. Some went looking for food or mischief. Deserters left intentionally. Some planned on coming back after the spring planting or the fall gathering and some had simply had enough.
 

favedave

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Much to think on here! Thank God! "Conventional Wisdom" has it that this was an 'irrepressible conflict." Balderdash!

Lincoln is inaugurated in March, delivers his speech, "Come back folks and we can work this out." Davis, Mississippi's U.S. Senator is still a member of Congress, as are all the other Congressmen and Senators who have come home from Washington. He sends a congratulatory letter to the new President of the United States, and suggests the President call Congress into a Special Session to work out the details. Of course all of this would be given straight to the great newspapers of the day. The Southern delegation of the 'seceded states' call for a constitutional convention to settle the issue. Ultimately the question is put before the American people as a whole to ratify. Should the nation be divided into two or more separate nation/states?

This is the legal and America's Traditional way of doing things. (See 1774 to 1789)

But Davis and those who had taken charge of the lives of the people living in their home states decided that shooting their way out of the Union was only way.

The South lost the Civil War the moment the lanyard was pulled on the first cannon to fire at Ft Sumter. Virginia started losing territory the moment she seceded. The Yankees took all of western Virginia (where McClellan made his bones and Bobby Lee was called "Granny") and virtually all of the State's territory bordering the Potomac's southern shore before the war was many weeks old. In early 1862 the blockade became tight enough to close down every established port on the Southern Atlantic Seaboard and the entire Gulf Coast. New Orleans fell. Then Grant knocked out the two forts (Donalson and Henry?) denying the Confederacy access to the entire Mississippi/Ohio/Missouri river system. The fall of Vicksburg was actually an anti-climax. With most of Tennessee under Union Control by the end of 1862, and great swaths of Virginia under Union Control, and all of the territory on both sides of the great river system under Union Control, and the entire coastline under Union Control, anybody but a complete blockhead would know the war was lost. Unfortunately the Confederacy seems to have had more than its fair share of self-selected blockheads in its elected government.

The South never reclaimed anything during the entire course of the war. If they did reoccupy lost territory like Atlanta, it was because the Union Army, which moved at will anyplace it wanted to go, was away despoiling somebody else.
 
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GlenAlan Graham

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Where do you disagree with the "conventional wisdom" on the Civil War. In other words, what commonly accepted "truths" about the war do you believe are incorrect?

I'll start.

1. I do not think that Gettysburg and Vicksburg marked the turning point of the war and I believe that the Confederacy had as much of a chance at winning the war at the start of 1864 as it did at the start of 1863, if not better.

2. On a strategic level, I think the performance of Ulysses Grant in 1864 was rather poor.

3. Aside from his logistical abilities, I think that Sherman was a poor general.

4. I think that the Confederacy lost the war more due to its own mistakes than due to the superior numbers and resources of the Union.
I agree with you. Especially agree on #4; it distresses me how frequently the Confederates all but won the first day of a battle -- only to lose it or have it go inconclusive the second day. E.g., at the Battle of Murfreesboro (aka Stones River) as 1862 ended, the Rebels had the momentum, but after the break for the New Year's holiday the Yankees revived. The Confederates snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. :-(
 

GlenAlan Graham

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I've hear speculation that as late as the middle of the overland campaign was a possibility for CSA independence.
September 2, 1864--The fall of Atlanta is a commonly accepted date.


Grant won.


Sherman won



The war was won or lost not so much by military victories but in the hearts of Northern voters. To figure out if the CSA lost the war by error is require showing how that error affected Northern voters. It can be said that the CSA had a narrow margin of error and made too many errors.
"Grant won" only after draws at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and a bloody defeat at Cold Harbor. He finally won, at Petersburg, only after way too much needless shedding of Yankee blood (not to mention Confederate blood). After Cold Harbor he was called by the Yankee press what he really was, not a winner but rather a butcher!
 

brass napoleon

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"Grant won" only after draws at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and a bloody defeat at Cold Harbor. He finally won, at Petersburg, only after way too much needless shedding of Yankee blood (not to mention Confederate blood). After Cold Harbor he was called by the Yankee press what he really was, not a winner but rather a butcher!

Sure he was a butcher. So was Lee. So was Napoleon. So were all the great generals. You don't win wars by planting dafodills. :cannon:
 

major bill

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Grant took over command. He devised a winning plan and implemented the plan. I doubt Grant's plan included losing less men than Lee. I doubt Grant's plan included winning more battles than Lee. What Grant wanted to do was drive Lee back to Richmond and and then capture Richmond. Lee never developed a plan to defeat Grant, all Lee could do was delay Grant.
 

jgoodguy

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The purpose of an army is to be used in a nation's service, not saved. Hard on the soldier.
There are 2 questions, did it win and was the cost acceptable.
 

jgoodguy

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"Grant won" only after draws at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and a bloody defeat at Cold Harbor. He finally won, at Petersburg, only after way too much needless shedding of Yankee blood (not to mention Confederate blood). After Cold Harbor he was called by the Yankee press what he really was, not a winner but rather a butcher!

Your point is what?

For the entire war, Grant incurred about 154,000 casualties (killed, wounded, missing, captured) while imposing about 191,000 casualties on his foes. Lee suffered about 209,000 casualties while imposing about 240,000 casualties on his opponents.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/mar/29/is-grant-or-lee-greatest-general/#ixzz3JBZudqOs

http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=10879
Tallying the number of dead and wounded for each side, he concludes that forces serving under Grant suffered acceptable battlefield losses in comparison to the Confederates. For example, 15 percent of Grant's soldiers were killed and wounded, while Lee lost 20.2 percent of his men. Grant's forces also imposed 190,760 total casualties on the Confederates yet suffered losses totaling 153,642 men (pp. 268, 286-287).
 

ole

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"Grant won" only after draws at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and a bloody defeat at Cold Harbor. He finally won, at Petersburg, only after way too much needless shedding of Yankee blood (not to mention Confederate blood). After Cold Harbor he was called by the Yankee press what he really was, not a winner but rather a butcher!
There are some very learned people who will insist that Cold Harbor was Meade's doing. Of course, being Meade's superior officer, some of that belongs on his plate. But not all of it.
 

jgoodguy

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There are some very learned people who will insist that Cold Harbor was Meade's doing. Of course, being Meade's superior officer, some of that belongs on his plate. But not all of it.
I am not sure why we trust the press of the mid nineteenth century for military analysis anyway.

Look at Ten Bloodiest U.S. Civil War Battles and cold harbor does not make the top 10.
 

cash

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"Grant won" only after draws at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and a bloody defeat at Cold Harbor. He finally won, at Petersburg, only after way too much needless shedding of Yankee blood (not to mention Confederate blood). After Cold Harbor he was called by the Yankee press what he really was, not a winner but rather a butcher!

To believe that one has to not know anything about Grant's record prior to 1864. Grant had remarkably light casualties going into 1864. It was only when he came up against Lee that he took heavy casualties. That's because Lee was a bloody general. If you were a soldier in the Civil War and you wanted to survive the war, you were better off being under Grant than you would be under Lee.

And it's a mistake to regard the Overland Campaign in terms of separate battles with wins and losses along the way. Grant wasn't thinking that way. The Overland Campaign was one continuous operation. Grant came into contact with Lee and then kept the pressure on. He knew that with Meade going against Lee, Sigel going up the Valley, Butler coming up the Peninsula, and Sherman going after Johnston there would be a break somewhere. He didn't care where it came. He only cared there was a break. While he had a stranglehold on Lee, slowly squeezing the life out of the ANV, Sherman in Georgia and then Sheridan in the Valley achieved the breakthrough.

The Overland Campaign was actually Grant's #3 plan, his first two choices having been disapproved by Washington.
 
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