Could the South Have Won the Civil War?

Topics: Confederate States of America, American Civil War, Southern United States Pages: 5 (1851 words) Published: May 23, 2005
"In all history, no nation of mere agriculturists ever made successful war against a nation of mechanics…You are bound to fail." Union officer William Tecumseh Sherman to a Southern friend. "Why did the North win the Civil War?" is only half of a question by itself, for the other half is "Why did the South lose the Civil War?" To this day historians have tried to put their finger on the exact reason for the South losing the war. Some historians blame the head of the confederacy Jefferson Davis; however others believe that it was the shear numbers of the Union (North). The advantages and disadvantages are abundant on either sides of the argument, but the most dominate arguments on why the South lost the war would be the fact that state's rights prevented unification of the South, Jefferson Davis poor leadership and his failure to work together with his generals, the South failed to gain the recognition of the European nations, North's superior resources made the outcome inevitable, and moral of the South towards the end of the war. First, the South couldn't have won the civil war because state's rights prevented unification of the South. The very issue that created the Confederacy helped to destroy it. In waging war, the South faced problems of politics and government that greatly complicated its problem of economic mobilization. No one would deny the troublesome effect of the conflict generated by differing ideas of how best to protect liberty and to organize southern society for the war effort. Southern people insisted upon retaining their democratic liberties in wartime, which proved fatal for the South. They had to struggle with a "confederacy formed by particularistic politicians [that] could hardly be expected to adopt promptly those centralists polices which victory demanded" (Donald, p. 26). Individual state governors fought bitterly with Jefferson Davis to prevent him from consolidating power to fight the war. They withheld troops and supplies while the Confederate Congress spent its time arguing over the rights of the states instead of prosecuting a war of national survival. Many internal conflicts within the South were acquiring and weakening the South's unity. Internal conflicts caused confederate officials to choose between moving troops from the coasts and strengthening their armies, or leaving them where they were and exposing the armies and the states they defended. Such choices caused "competition with state governments for men, and supplies, as citizens pressured their government to place defense above the needs of the entire Confederacy" (Beringer, p. 205). Another internal conflict that plagued the South was opposition to an establishment of a Confederate supreme court because supreme courts could destroy localism according to Senator Louis T. Wigfall. Even the building of railroads provoked a conflict because "such construction would undermine state authority and that the South did not need them because armies and munitions and military supplies…will be mainly transported by other means" (Beringer, p. 205). A constant "tug of war" was occurring between the central and local governments limited the South greatly and was a factor in its defeat in the Civil War. In addition to the South having conflicts with state governments, Jefferson Davis poor leadership and his failure to work together with his generals caused the South to lose the Civil War. Davis had two popular generals, Robert E. Lee and Judah P. Benjamin. Benjamin was never allowed to bring his ideas of originality to Davis and was often blamed for measures Davis chose not to explain. Lee never was allowed to command over the other officers. When congress adopted a bill establishing the office of general in chief, intended for Lee, Davis vetoed it. Davis's well-know feuds with two of the Confederacy's premier generals, Beauregard and Joseph Johnston, undoubtedly hurt the South's war effort. Another problem Davis had with...

Cited: Beringer, Richard. et al. Why the South Lost the Civil War. Athens: University of
Georgia Press, 1986.
Boritt, Gabor S. Why the Confederacy Lost. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992
Donald, David. et al. Why the North Won the Civil War. London: Collier Macmillan
Publishers, 1960.
Gallagher, Gary. The Confederate War. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.
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