Confederate failure to make Lee commander of all forces

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,278
#1
IMO the biggest reason the Confederacy lost the war was the failure to make Lee commander of the whole Confederate Army. Davis the West Point graduate tried to manage the war himself. Also, the Union did a much better job of putting talented generals in charge late in the war.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,265
Dispargum
#2
What decisions might Lee have made differently than Davis?

One decision Davis has been criticized for was leaving Bragg in command in Tennessee for too long. But who would have replaced Bragg? Joe Johnston? Another unfortunate decison was replacing Johnston with Hood. But again, what decision might Lee have made?

In some ways, Lee contributed to the problems in the west by using that theater as a dumping ground for officers who did not meet his expectations in Virginia.

I don't know that Lee ever proved himself as a strategist. Would Lee have come up with a winning strategy for the entire Confederacy when he could not even come up with a winning strategy in Virginia?
 
Sep 2013
900
Chattanooga, TN
#3
IMO the biggest reason the Confederacy lost the war was the failure to make Lee commander of the whole Confederate Army. Davis the West Point graduate tried to manage the war himself. Also, the Union did a much better job of putting talented generals in charge late in the war.
The biggest reason that the Confederacy lost the Civil War was that the Confederacy was ridiculously outmatched in terms of resources. The Union Army had approximately 3X as many troops as the Confederate Army (2,500,000 vs. 800,000). The Union was able to produce far better artillery and small arms than the Confederacy. The Union Army had a vastly superior navy than the Confederacy.

If the Confederacy made all the right decisions, would the Confederacy have had a chance to win the Civil War? Yes; but the Union's vast superiority in resources had a far greater influence on the outcome of the Civil War than Confederate mistakes.

If the Confederates made Lee a 4-star General of the Confederate Army from the very beginning, that alone probably would not have changed the outcome of the war. Viperlord and other here have convinced me that it would have been a mistake for Lee to send troops from the Army of Northern Virginia to relieve Vicksburg during the Siege of Vicksburg. However, I still say that Lee myopically focused on VA instead of focusing on defending the entire Confederacy. Who would have been the ideal southerner to be 4-star General of the Confederate Army? I don't know, but it cannot have been Lee since Lee focused on VA at the expense of the rest of the Confederacy.
 
Sep 2013
900
Chattanooga, TN
#4
One decision Davis has been criticized for was leaving Bragg in command in Tennessee for too long. But who would have replaced Bragg? Joe Johnston?
Yes. Joe Johnston was a better man for the job than Hood.

Another unfortunate decison was replacing Johnston with Hood. But again, what decision might Lee have made?
Lee was in favor of keeping Joe Johnston in command of the Army of Tennessee instead of giving Hood command of the Army of Tennessee.

In some ways, Lee contributed to the problems in the west by using that theater as a dumping ground for officers who did not meet his expectations in Virginia.

I don't know that Lee ever proved himself as a strategist. Would Lee have come up with a winning strategy for the entire Confederacy when he could not even come up with a winning strategy in Virginia?
It's highly doubtful that Lee would have come up with a winning strategy for the entire Confederacy.
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,628
#5
The biggest reason that the Confederacy lost the Civil War was that the Confederacy was ridiculously outmatched in terms of resources. The Union Army had approximately 3X as many troops as the Confederate Army (2,500,000 vs. 800,000). The Union was able to produce far better artillery and small arms than the Confederacy. The Union Army had a vastly superior navy than the Confederacy.

If the Confederacy made all the right decisions, would the Confederacy have had a chance to win the Civil War? Yes; but the Union's vast superiority in resources had a far greater influence on the outcome of the Civil War than Confederate mistakes.

If the Confederates made Lee a 4-star General of the Confederate Army from the very beginning, that alone probably would not have changed the outcome of the war. Viperlord and other here have convinced me that it would have been a mistake for Lee to send troops from the Army of Northern Virginia to relieve Vicksburg during the Siege of Vicksburg. However, I still say that Lee myopically focused on VA instead of focusing on defending the entire Confederacy. Who would have been the ideal southerner to be 4-star General of the Confederate Army? I don't know, but it cannot have been Lee since Lee focused on VA at the expense of the rest of the Confederacy.
While the Union did have a manpower advantage over the Confederacy, in the field it was not that vast. The majority of the war was fought in the South, and the longer the conflict the more territory the Union had to occupy and keep secure from guerrillas. A great deal of federal manpower was not deployed at the "front."

I forget the exact ratio now but I do recall reading awhile back the average manpower advantage of the federal armies over rebels in major Civil War battles, and it worked out to something like 1.75 to 1.

Keep in mind that is generally considered a truism that at least a 3 to 1 advantage in manpower is generally needed when on the offensive, unless there are other factors that can serve as force multipliers. The Civil War was also fought during an era where the military technology of the day favored the defender.

To be clear I'm not saying that the U.S. didn't possess advantages in manpower and materiel, because it clearly did. Just that that advantage sometimes gets exaggerated in the Lost Cause version of the history of the conflict.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,278
#6
I don't know if Lee was the answer, but he had capable top commanders in Longstreet, Jackson, and Stuart. The Union was able to put excellent generals in all the major spots late in the war. However, the Confederacy trotted out Joe Johnston again when it was clear his only gear was reverse. It seems like there were many better choices for the command of the Army of Tennessee than Hood. In lesser positions also, the Confederacy the west seemed to do a poor job of putting capable generals in charge.
 

Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
4,074
Caribbean
#7
IMO the biggest reason the Confederacy lost the war was the failure to make Lee commander of the whole Confederate Army.
IMO, the over-match of resources was so great that only a general aided by Divine Intervention was going to keep the Confederacy from losing.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,278
#8
IMO, the over-match of resources was so great that only a general aided by Divine Intervention was going to keep the Confederacy from losing.
That's the traditional view, but I have to agree with Scaeva in this case. If you had the same level of commanders of the Army of Tennessee as the Army of Northern Virginia, it might not have been so clear cut.

Also, without a Lincoln would the Union have won? I also have to agree that secession was mostly to protect the interests of the top 1-5% and the Confederacy had luke warn support from whites in some areas and obviously hostility from slaves.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,265
Dispargum
#9
^That's an interesting idea - Give Lincoln the political skills of Davis and Davis the political skills of Lincoln.

1. There'd probably be a new Northern president after 1864, and if his name was McClellan the South might get their independence.
2. Maryland and Kentucky may have seceeded. Maybe Missouri, too.
3. The Emancipation Proclamation may have been issued too soon, perhaps right at the start of the war, reducing Northern support for the war.
4. Possible foreign recognition for the South, although an earlier EP would work to the advantage of the North here.

Does anyone know Davis' support among the rank and file soldiers? Did Johnny Reb love Davis and much as Billy Yank loved Lincoln? This could have long term impact for the success of the Republican Party.
 

Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
4,074
Caribbean
#10
That's the traditional view, but I have to agree with Scaeva in this case. If you had the same level of commanders of the Army of Tennessee as the Army of Northern Virginia, it might not have been so clear cut.
Less clear cut still equals a one-sided affair. The Union advantage in men and material was never bigger than the morning of Appomattox. Second, I hope you don't mind if I retain some skepticism about how easy it is to rank generals. It's not like chess ratings.

And your argument about the lack of motivation of poor whites? Maybe if they fought on neutral a neutral field. This quote from Shelby Foote on the Ken Burns documentary is always nearby. I think it is from a letter a Union soldier wrote during a "siege" of some southern city. He yelled into the hills - why you fighting so hard Johnny Reb, you don't own no slaves? The rebel answered - we fightin' 'cause you down here. There's a lot of truth in that answer.
 

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