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Subject: Could the South have won the ACW? rss

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Steve
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Is there any strategy that could have let them win without freeing their slaves? I add this because without their slaves England might have supported them. With them there was no way that could happen.

I'll start a discussion with a few of my thoughts, based on my reading so I'm not claiming I thought of it by myself.

1] Rush to ship all available cotton to Europe before the blockade took effect. This would have given them cash (Pounds Sterling) to buy Artillery and other weapons.

2] Do whatever was necessary to get Kentucky to join them. See 3 below.

3] Invade Ohio or Indiana a to cut the North in half ASAP. If Kentucky doesn't join them then march over it to cross the Ohio River.

4] Do not sit back and wait for the Northern Armies to attack them.
. . a] Do not respect the "neutrality" of Kentucky, which the North would not respect since it was the only way to attack the South between the Mountains and the Mississippi River and to the Union it is just another state in the nation.
. . b] Do not wait while the North builds armored river gunboats on the Mississippi River system.

5] Become a nation. This means for the duration of the war, local interests must be sacrificed to win at the national level. Governors can not be allowed to hoard troops, food, weapons, etc. To this end I suggest a War Cabinet to be composed of 1 person from each state plus Davis and his Sec. of War. The state reps must be close to their Governor and be committed Confederate nationalists.

........................................................................
Reasons:
1] Wars are not won on the defensive.

2] Obviously a long war favors the North.

3] So, their only hope was a short war and to do this they must invade the North.

4] All the nation's power must be behind these drives into Union territory. Holding any back by any state causes others to hold back and the South needs every man at the front to win.

.......................................................................
I'm not sure what they can do in the Virginia/Maryland front. Transferring Lee to the West is not possible because he will not go. And anyway, is Lee the South's General for conducting offensive operations? Jackson might be better.

 
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Jeb
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I think the South could have won but it was a long shot.

To me the real battle was getting the north to develop the political will required to win a war that would ultimately cost the north so much. That battle was largely won when Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 presidential election. A different President and the war easily could have gone a different way.

The war easily could have ended much sooner than it had. A decisive victory at Antiedem, or the first Bull Run could have mortally wounded the confederacy. Unfortunately, it was a war that saw few decisive offensive victories like an Austerlitz. It was a war of attrition.

I think the confederacy had the right strategy to win the war. Going on the offence was hard to be successful given the technology of the era. Had the technology of the era better supported the offense I would have expected the Union to have won earlier because their superior material strength.

The other option was intervention by the French/British European powers but given the fact that Europe itself was a powder keg with rivals looking to right perceived wrongs (Crimean war, Franco-Prussian wars etc) things would get unpredictable pretty quickly and not in a good way for France and England. Remember that, 'mighty' Mexico threw the French army out of Mexico in 1862 and only after the threat of other countries joining the combined French, Turkish, English Armies was a marginal victory over Russia in the Crimean war achieved. Given that the US Navy was approaching the power of the British navy in 1860's and coastal hugging monitors would guarantee US coastal waters a more global war could go very badly for the French and British ... But it would certainly make for an interesting wargame!

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marc lecours
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1. The South could not win a military victory over the North.

2. They can only win by having the North accept their right to independence. They must portray themselves as independent states who in 1776 joined a Union but still had the right to become independent again (which I am certain that virtually all the founding fathers of the USA believed.)

3. They need the major European powers to recognize the right of the South to separate.

4. They must not invade the North. This will only convince Northern citizens to fight to defend themselves. Instead the South must bleed the Northern armies on southern territory. The Citizens of the North must be brought to view the war as a pointless loss of life to subjugate the rights of states just like their own.

5. To have a chance, the South must fight a clean war. They have to avoid encouraging the North to want revenge.

6. Exception: A drive into Northern states could only work if it encouraged other states to want to separate. Maybe one or two might have joined the rebellion, but that's all.


A thought experiment: If in 1776, the USA rebels had invaded England would that have encouraged England to give in to an independent USA or would England have fought harder. England was divided over the issue of american independence, an invasion would have united them against the USA. The same goes for the war between the North and South.

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Kevin L. Kitchens
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Slavery was a minor issue in the Civil War in spite of the myth taught in schools. Slavery was a reality of course, but hardly the overriding cause. Lincoln never freed the slaves in the CSA, he issued an order to another sovereign nation, one that had no bearing. Slavery wasn't outlawed in the NORTH until after the war.

Yes, the South could have won, had they focused solely (as originally) on simply defending their country and not pushed so far into the North.

The North started it, the North could have ended it.
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Jeb
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It would be nice if people focused on the question in hand rather than express their political beliefs so that the thread does not get moved.

The OP is from Thailand and may not realize the politics they are wading into.
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Steve
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jeb123 wrote:
It would be nice if people focused on the question in hand rather than express their political beliefs so that the thread does not get moved.

The OP is from Thailand and may not realize the politics they are wading into.

But, in this case I'm an American expat.

I know some people don't agree that slavery was the only thing that separated the North and the South enough to fight over.

All I said was that the British would never send their fleet to help the Confederacy if they kept their slaves. I didn't say anything about the causes of the war. He brought that up all on his own.

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Etien
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Scholarly books to consider:

Why the South Lost the Civil War by Richard Beringer, Herman Hattaway, Archer Jones, et al.

How the North Won by Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones
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Peter Lloyd
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{b}Could[/b] is one of those funny words which opens up possibilities, dependent on what one is willing to consider. In the military sense, the South has one opportunity for victory. That opportunity comes with the shock effect after 1st Bull Run and making a very aggressive bluff by marching on Washington.

Whether or not the Southern leadership could have mustered the political will to force an strategically offensive campaign with defensively oriented army and population is quite another matter.

After the Union recovers from that shock, the only other hope is political, that being McCellan winning the election 1864. Sherman pretty well nixed that one.
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Bob Zurunkel
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While I would agree that slavery was not the sole cause of the war, it was the major cause (for both sides) and the one that kept the CSA from getting the, probably vital, foreign recognition needed.
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David Bush
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Shelby Foote said NO, so hey. In Ken Burns' The Civil War, he said the North "could have won with one hand tied behind its back" or words to that effect. This may have been predicated on the assumption that Lincoln was president. He mentioned as an example that Yale still held some kind of rowing race, or something like that. I'm an American, I don't need details.
 
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Ken B.
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"Slavery was not a major cause of the Civil War" is a lie some Southerners tell themselves so they can claim some sort of moral high ground about the war without making themselves look bad. (It doesn't work.)

I suppose technically there are an extreme set of circumstances where the South could have claimed some sort of victory during the war. But the odds are considerably tiny.
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Wendell
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klkitchens wrote:
Slavery was a minor issue in the Civil War in spite of the myth taught in schools.


It is the fate of every ACW-related thread in the wargames forum to end up with somebody trying to make the case that this wasn't about slavery. An unusually EARLY assertion in this one.

And as always, a wrong assertion.

------

As for the OP's question, I agree with others that an invasion of the north by the south would probably be counter-productive.
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They did not have the moral side on this - enslavement of human beings is so fundamentally wrong...and the little agrarian economy barely dipping its toes in the Industrial Revolution took on a behemoth.

No chance in hell they win.

The forces of Right and Might were against it.
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klkitchens wrote:
Slavery was a minor issue in the Civil War in spite of the myth taught in schools. Slavery was a reality of course, but hardly the overriding cause. Lincoln never freed the slaves in the CSA, he issued an order to another sovereign nation, one that had no bearing. Slavery wasn't outlawed in the NORTH until after the war.

Yes, the South could have won, had they focused solely (as originally) on simply defending their country and not pushed so far into the North.

The North started it, the North could have ended it.


South started it - I guess you subscribe to the Southern Apologist Mythology. A morally reprehensible place to stand, you know, along with war criminals.

Its hard to believe intelligent people buy this crap. Willful blindness?

So damned irrational...intelligence should prevent that.


This thread needs to go to RSP right now - it cannot end well.
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Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies and… Read the rulebook again.
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Statistically, the North held every advantage in the Civil War. Usually, many times over. The only advantage they didn't enjoy was the "home field" once they entered the southern states.

The key to prosecuting and winning the war was mostly of will and competence. Lincoln possessed the chief attribute of will. He knew that the fight had to be carried to the South and that, even with horrendous misjudgements, blunders, and losses, the Union must eventually prevail. Eventually, subordinates with the requisite competence filtered upward or were appointed into leadership positions to effectively wage the war.

I think the South's best chance for winning was in somehow undermining the North's will to prosecute the war to conclusion or in somehow stopping it politically before it was well under way militarily. I really have no idea how they could do that, since the Confederacy had a tough time the entire war acting in any coordinated manner.

I think once the Anaconda Plan (or the plan generally for sealing off the Confederacy's ports with the Navy and breaking it up piecemeal with the Army) was put into effect, the clock was on for the South.
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Tom O'Neill
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The North had the industry and population. But the South had the will to fight. The South gave the North all they wanted. But the longer it lasted the worse it got for the South.

had the South won a major victory in the North early in the war, England and France would have recognized them as a country. Which would have spurred them to enter the war on the South's side to protect their right to govern themselves. But the South din;t do that.

Also, The Federal government made a huge mistake early on. They decided to blockade the South. Which made it seem to the rest of the world that the South had a claim. Had Lincoln simply closed the ports, the world would not have sent ships to those ports.

This was such a deep and interesting conflict. it isnt as black and white as it seems. There were so many key mistakes made by both sides.
 
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Jeb
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Steve1501 wrote:
jeb123 wrote:
It would be nice if people focused on the question in hand rather than express their political beliefs so that the thread does not get moved.

The OP is from Thailand and may not realize the politics they are wading into.

But, in this case I'm an American expat.

I know some people don't agree that slavery was the only thing that separated the North and the South enough to fight over.

All I said was that the British would never send their fleet to help the Confederacy if they kept their slaves. I didn't say anything about the causes of the war. He brought that up all on his own.



My apologies Steve if you thought my post was aimed at you. You should be able to ask this question. There are however other folks who simply cannot help themselves. The post was aimed at them.
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Barry Harvey
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Tarc wrote:

had the South won a major victory in the North early in the war, England and France would have recognized them as a country. Which would have spurred them to enter the war on the South's side to protect their right to govern themselves. But the South din;t do that.

But would Britain and France have recognised the CSA with slavery still intact? I assume that there would have been diplomats from the North in Europe constantly bringing this up.

What would have been strange would be if, to be recognised by countries in Europe as a sovereign nation, the CSA had renounced slavery.
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Don Lynch
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OK, time for a iced-coffee break.

Others have done 'work' on this topic as basis for sci-fi or alternate history projects, like Harry Turtledove and Robert Conroy. My personal favourite is Harry Harrison's "Stars and Stripes Forever", the start of a trilogy. Totally not what you might expect.

Also, a fun book is Tony Horwitz' "Confederates in the Attic", about the author's experience with civil war re-enactors and a trip through the south. My favourite line in the book is something like:
'In the north the civil war is over; in the south it's just half-time.'

(Paraphrased; not a direct quote, long since returned book to the library.)
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Robert Morss
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No to the subject question. The south was too far behind the north's industrialization and had a much smaller military-eligible population at the outset.

Who started it? The South. Without meaning to sound glib, isn't it obvious that the immediate cause of the war was secession? I mean...no secession, no war, right? This was entirely the decision of the South.

Why did they secede? History.com says the south was "convinced that their way of life, based on slavery, was irretrievably threatened by the election of Abraham Lincoln." That sounds about right to me.

The Civil War certainly puts to lie the old saying that "the winners write the history."
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Robert Stuart
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I think the South could very well have won, and that it wasn't a long shot. Regarding your points, I think an early invasion of Ohio or Indiana would have been a sure way of losing the war.

Regarding your reasons:

[1] Wars are won on the defensive. The Greek-Persian wars were won by the Greeks because they waited for Persia to attack them. Europe, and Byzantium, resisted Arab conquest by being on the defensive. The Americans gained independence by being on the defensive. And so on.

[2] On the contrary, a long, defensive war favors the South. Lee's greatest mistakes were his invasions of the North which led to Antietam and Gettysburg. The South's position would have been far stronger if, after Chancellorsville -- very humiliating for the North -- he had remained in Virginia waiting for the next major Union offensive, which would probably not have come that year. Better yet, the Confederacy should have taken that victory as an opportunity to send sizeable forces West.

Regarding point [2] of the measures: yes, had Kentucky joined the Confederacy (on its own volition, not as the result of invasion) the North would have been much more hard pressed to have prosecuted a successful offensive in the West -- which is the theater which gave them the victory.

It really was a closer thing, I think, than it is generally given credit for. Secession may very well have succeeded. Thank goodness it didn't.


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Tony Doran
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It's not judt history.com which talks about slavery as the cause of the war. Several of the states which seceded also produced documents stating their reasons. Every one noted that the threat to slavery inherent in the election of a Republican president made secession necessary lest the institution be destroyed.

So thise who seceded thought it was the most important thing.

There was lots more. You just have to trouble yourself to actually read the letters and other writings of those who brought about secession to know that it was all about the preservation and extension of slavery.
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Robert Stuart
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rubberchicken wrote:
England was divided over the issue of american independence


Not just England, the entire English-speaking world. For an excellent analysis read "The Cousins' Wars" by Kevin Phillips -- a book which, by the way, I think should be mandatory reading by all high-school history teachers in the United States.

American victory in the War for Independence depended as much on sympathy for the cause in England -- including sympathy on the part of people in high places -- as on American resolve.
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Kevin C.
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Quote:
It's not judt history.com which talks about slavery as the cause of the war. Several of the states which seceded also produced documents stating their reasons. Every one noted that the threat to slavery inherent in the election of a Republican president made secession necessary lest the institution be destroyed.


That's the strange part of the "Slavery wasn't the main cause" trope in these threads. You are right that if you just read some of the actual Declarations of Secession, it's all right there, yet we keep seeing assertions to the contrary.

I mean, Mississippi says right at the beginning that their position is "...thoroughly identified with slavery," South Carolina is pissed about the Fugitive Slave Clause not being enforced in the North, Georgia says, "For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery."

Texas mentions the Fugitive Slave Clause also as a main cause.

This is from the horses mouth, not a result of some convoluted claim of brainwashing in public school.

You may have other factors, but it seems quite clear the main cause in the minds of the people do the seceding (not people trying to explain it or apologize for it a century later) was an imminent threat to the institution of slavery.

Criticizing public school for teaching "myth" doesn't change the facts in the historical record.

Kevin

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Rex Stites
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klkitchens wrote:
Slavery was a minor issue in the Civil War in spite of the myth taught in schools. Slavery was a reality of course, but hardly the overriding cause. Lincoln never freed the slaves in the CSA, he issued an order to another sovereign nation, one that had no bearing. Slavery wasn't outlawed in the NORTH until after the war.

Yes, the South could have won, had they focused solely (as originally) on simply defending their country and not pushed so far into the North.

The North started it, the North could have ended it.


I'm sorry, but saying that slavery was not the cause is naive and revisionist. Slavery had been an issue in the country from the moment that the ink was dry on the constitution. Nobody makes the claim that the South seceded because Lincoln abolished slavery. Pointing out that slavery wasn't actually abolished until after the conclusion of the war is a response to a strawman statement nobody has ever made.

Saying that Lincoln did not free the slaves in the south because the south was a sovereign nation, is equally naive and revisionist. Despite its claims, the CSA established neither de facto nor de jure sovereignty.

The only "myths" about the war are those propagated by the Lost Causers in the South.

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