Confederate Redux, with Hindsight

Chlodio

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Aug 2016
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#21
I just realized something while re-reading your last post - we're falling into the false choice fallacy. It's inaccurate to describe American politics in the 1850s as either pro-slavery or abolition. There was a third position - containment of slavery. It's wrong to describe Lincoln in 1858 or '60 as an abolitionist. Both times he ran on a policy of containment. Containment was the more popular policy in the North than was abolition. I can accept that most abolitionists were motivated by humanitarian concerns if we understand that abolitionists were a small minority of voters.
 
Sep 2013
793
Chattanooga, TN
#22
You're probably right about most white Southerners. It's less about what the South wanted and more about what the North wanted. The North had come to equate slavery with political and economic gridlock (to use a modern term). Many in the North (it's impossible to quantify how many) had come to think 'Slavery has created political and economic gridlock. The only way to break the gridlock is to destroy slavery, or at least weaken it.
My problem with your position is that I've never seen much evidence that free-soilers thought the way you did. What are the campaign speeches or other speeches in which Lincoln or Seward or other prominent free-soilers said something to the effect of: "We need to contain slavery to make the slave states weaker so that we can pass legislation favorable to industry and break this political and economic gridlock"?

The closest thing to your position that I've seen is Hinton Helper's book The Impending Crisis of the South. But The Impending Crisis of the SOuth argued that slavery was bad for the South, not that having slavery in the South was bad for the North. So it's not a good example.

What the North really wanted was for the South to be less opposed to the North's political and economic ambitions. I'm sure you'll agree that an agrarian economy is going to create different political interests than will an industrial economy. The most obvious example in the decades before the Civil War was the debate over the tariff, but there were other disputes, too.
I admit that it's just common sense that the North wanted the South to be less opposed to the North's political and economic ambitions. However, where is the evidence that the North saw slavery as causing the South to be opposed to the North's political and economic ambitions?

Do you agree with this idea?: Slavery locked the South into a way of life and a set of political and economic interests, and as the North continued to evolve and modernize North and South found it increasingly difficult to find common ground resulting in political gridlock.
Yes, I agree with the idea, but there is not much evidence that free-soilers thought that way.

From there I move on to "Some in the North had come to see the survival of slavery as incompatible with further national progress. More people in the North had come to the more moderate position that a weakening of slavery, ie, containment, was necessary to national progress. Both of these groups had come to see slavery as the cause of much evil in the country without necessarily seeing the humanitarian aspect. The humanitarian wrongs of slavery certainly existed, but I think more Americans were motivated by the politics and economics than by humanitarianism.

There's another argument - containment of slavery was a more popular policy in the North than was abolition and containment does nothing to alleviate the humanitarian evils of slavery.
My experience in reading the speeches/letters of free soilers, free-soilers wanted to contain slavery to put slavery in the course of its eventually extinction. Free-soilers thought "If we want to eventually abolish slavery, the first step is to contain slavery." I think most free-soilers would not consider themselves to be abolitionists because they did not favor the immediate abolition of slavery, but most free-soilers hoped slavery would be abolished within, say, a few decades.
 
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Sep 2013
793
Chattanooga, TN
#23
I just realized something while re-reading your last post - we're falling into the false choice fallacy. It's inaccurate to describe American politics in the 1850s as either pro-slavery or abolition. There was a third position - containment of slavery. It's wrong to describe Lincoln in 1858 or '60 as an abolitionist. Both times he ran on a policy of containment. Containment was the more popular policy in the North than was abolition. I can accept that most abolitionists were motivated by humanitarian concerns if we understand that abolitionists were a small minority of voters.
I agree that it's inaccurate to describe American politics in the 1850s as either pro-slavery or abolition. I agree that there was a third position "containment of slavery only." All abolitionists were free-soilers, but not all free-soilers were abolitionists.

I'm not denying that I fell into the false choice fallacy, but I cannot confirm that I fell into the false choice fallacy in my posts on this thread either. Just out of curiosity, in what post of mine do you think I fell into the false choice fallacy?
 

Chlodio

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Aug 2016
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#24
Just out of curiosity, in what post of mine do you think I fell into the false choice fallacy?
We both fell into the trap of describing 1850s politics as either pro-slavery or abolitionist. You never used the word containment, and neither did I. In post 19 you used the word abolish or abolishionist four or five times. That's when I realized we've forgotten about containment. I know I'm clearly guilty of lumping all Northern oppostion into a single block. When I saw the greater appeal of containment in the North I forgot all about abolition and just lumped both ideas (abolition and containment) into "Northern anti-slavery policy."
 
Sep 2013
793
Chattanooga, TN
#25
Chlodio, in my post #11, I should not have said that I know that you think that the Confederacy did not have a chance to win the Civil War. I don't know that you think that the Confederacy had no chance whatsoever to win the Civil War. To me, your first post on my thread "Did the South have a chance to win the Civil War" back in 2016 implied that you don't think that the Confederacy had a chance to win the Civil War, but I've never seen you explicitly and unequivocally state that the Confederacy had no chance to win the Civil War. I'd like to pin down your opinion.
I'm not interested in if the South could have won the Civil War if the South did things differently long before southern secession because it just totally changes the situation. It's not meaningful. If you change the situation at the outset of a war enough, any country that has lost a war could have won any war.
Chlodio, given the situation when the Confederacy was formed in February 1861, and if the Confederacy did all the ideas you posit in the OP, do you think that the Confederacy had any chance to win the Civil War?
 
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Chlodio

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Aug 2016
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#26
I've long felt that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was a dumb idea because it split power 50-50. Democracy works on the principle of majority rule. If there's no clear majority, democracy can't work. That's what finally happened in the 1850s - nonfunctioning government ie, gridlock. We see this in Lincoln's "House Divided Speech." He's clearly talking about slavery and not industry, but I think he and I would have agreed that 50-50 power sharing doesn't work:

"In my opinion, [slavery] will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other."

When we look at the different party platforms we see the Democrats, clearly the friends of slavery, with a very different economic agenda than the other parties that drew most of their support from the North. For instance in 1848:

The Whig Platform mostly talked about the military virtues of Taylor but when they did mention economic policy they said: "Of Prosperity—now more than ever needed to relieve the nation from a burden of debt, and restore industry—agricultural, manufacturing and commercial—to its accustomed and peaceful functions and influences."
Whig Party Platform of 1848 | The American Presidency Project

That year (1848) the Free Soil Party Platform mostly spoke of ending slavery but they also mentioned:
"13. Resolved, That river and harbor improvements ... are objects of national concern, and that it is the duty of Congress, in the exercise of its constitutional power, to provide therefor.
14. Resolved, That the free grant to actual settlers ... of reasonable portions of the public lands under suitable limitations, Is a wise and just measure of public policy...
15. Resolved, That the obligations of honor and patriotism require the earliest practical payment of the national debt, and we are therefore in favor of such a tariff of duties as will raise revenue adequate to defray the expenses of the federal government...
1848 Free Soil Party Platform

Compare those two parties to the Democrats who are clearly opposed to any federal involvement in the economy:
"5. Resolved, That the Constitution does not confer upon the General Government the power to commence or carry on a general system of internal improvement...
6. That Congress has no power to charter a national bank...
8. Resolved, ...that no more revenue ought to be raised than is required to defray the necessary expenses of the government...
9. Resolved, That ... we are opposed to any law for the distribution of such proceeds [from the sale of public land] among the States...
11. Resolved, That we are decidedly opposed to ... a corrupting system of general internal improvements."
1848 Democratic Party Platform | The American Presidency Project

Again in 1856
The Republican Party Platform contained:
"Resolved: ... to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism — Polygamy, and Slavery.
Resolved, That a railroad to the Pacific Ocean by the most central and practicable route is imperatively demanded by the interests of the whole country, and that the Federal Government ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction
Resolved, That appropriations by Congress for the improvement of rivers and harbors .. are authorized by the Constitution...
Republican Party Platform of 1856 | Teaching American History

The Democratic Platforms of '52 and '56 didn't change very much from that of '48, above. In '56 the platform mentions transportation to the Pacific but they stop short of saying "railroad" although they probably mean "railroad." They mention the Gulf of Mexico and the Isthmus of Panama. They sound like typical conservatives who consider lower taxes and small government to be more important than a transcontinental railroad although they seem to be acknowledging that an eventual transcontinental railroad is probably inevitable.
1852 Democratic Party Platform | The American Presidency Project
1856 Democratic Party Platform | The American Presidency Project


One of the themes I find running through American history is the conflict between the unfettered individual vs some degree of collectivism. Jefferson, Jackson, Calhoun, and Reagan all believe that the unregulated individual could achieve great things. Hamilton, Henry Clay, FDR, and LBJ all believed that people working together, pooling their resources, can achieve great things. I'll give you this much Grey Fox, during the 1850s the conflict shifted from economics to slavery.

I find it interesting that the Free Soil Party could devote 80% of their party platform to the evils of slavery but still tack on some economic planks that also brought them into conflict with the Democratic Party. It's not causation, but I see a correlation between slavery and laissez faire economics and I don't think I'd be alone in the 1850s. The opposite was also true - if you wanted greater federal participation in the economy soonor or later you'd come out against slavery. It was the same people on both sides of both issues - the planter aristocrats wanted laissez faire economic policies while most of the North opposed slavery and also favored increased federal participation in the economy.
 

Chlodio

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Aug 2016
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#27
Chlodio, in my post #11, I should not have said that I know that you think that the Confederacy did not have a chance to win the Civil War. ...

Chlodio, given the situation when the Confederacy was formed in February 1861, and if the Confederacy did all the ideas you posit in the OP, do you think that the Confederacy had any chance to win the Civil War?
I took no offense from your post #11. I think the South had little chance to win the war, given the conditions of 1861. Consider:
The North had:
more railroads
more industry
larger population
a navy
an existing governmental infrastructure (a bureaucracy) while the South had to improvise a government from scratch
a superior diplomatic position (Britain was never going to ally with the slave power)

The South was hindered by:
a long coast that could be invaded at any point
several rivers that could function as invasion routes (the Mississippi, the Tennessee, and the Cumberland)
a large disident population (both slaves and Unionists)

The South's only advantages were:
a short surplus of better officers at the beginning of the war (these officers did not last and the South was deficient in its ability to develop new officers)
the advantage of fighting on the strategic defensive
 
Sep 2013
793
Chattanooga, TN
#28
I took no offense from your post #11. I think the South had little chance to win the war, given the conditions of 1861.
Then you do think that the South had a chance to win the war. I also think that the South had little chance to win the war. A little chance is still a chance.


The South was hindered by:

several rivers that could function as invasion routes (the Mississippi, the Tennessee, and the Cumberland)
The fact that the South had little amount of railroad track cut two ways. It meant that the Union needed to control the rivers to travel through the South. Rivers were the Union's umbilical cord throughout the South. What the South needed to do was prevent the Union from controlling the Mississippi River, the Tennessee River, and the Cumberland River by using fortresses along the coastline of the rivers. The fortresses needed to be designed both to defend against land attacks and to defend the river, unlike Fort Donelson which was only designed to defend the river. The sites of the fortresses should have been carefully placed based on extensive surveying of all possible areas to build a fortress. The fortresses should not have been built in floodplain. Fort Henry was foolishly built in a floodplain, and the Confederates had to abandon Fort Henry due to flooding. Colossal mistake.

The idea of using the topography around Vicksburg to turn Vicksburg into a natural fortress to defend the Mississippi River was an excellent idea. The Confederates just needed a better command structure to defend it. As I said upthread, the Confederates needed a clear command structure with both sides of the Mississippi RIver to be in the same Department so the Confederate forces would be able to coordinate their defense of the city.

If I were in charge of the Confederacy, I would not have fired on Fort Sumter. From the inception of the Confederacy, I would have traded all the cotton I could for the best type of artillery for sinking ships, high quality ammunition for the artillery, and rifled muskets. I would have built a bunch of fortresses on the Mississippi River, the Tennessee River, the Cumberland River, the James River, and the Alabama River. I would have used Vicksburg and Port Hudson just as the Confederacy did. I would have placed as much mines as i could in the five rivers I mentioned and possible other rivers in the Confederacy. I know that the USS Cairo was sunk by a mine, so mines seemed to have some promise.
 
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Chlodio

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Aug 2016
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#29
Mines are interesting. I haven't given much thought to them. I suspect there may have been technical reasons why the Confederates did not make more of them. They must have used a lot of gunpowder. Considering that one must sow dozens, if not hundreds, of mines just to sink one ship, I don't know if the South had enough gunpowder to make enough mines. I think there were also some problems with getting them to explode, most famously at Mobile Bay.

Forts are designed and used to delay an enemy attack. Given enough time, an attacker will capture a fort, but if the fort is built and manned properly, it should hold out long enough for a friendly army to march to its relief. If Sidney Johnston had concentrated his army north of Nashville he could have marched to Donelson in a week or so and maybe chased away Grant. As it was, Donelson surrendered ten days after the attack on Ft. Henry began. As soon as Grant began his attack on Ft. Henry, Johnston should have known that Donelson would be next. The problem was that his army was not concentrated. Parts of Johnston's army were scattered all along the Kentucky-Tennessee line. But if Johnston had concentrated, then Grant, Buell, Thomas, and all of the other Union armies in Kentucky would have also concentrated. Halleck would likely be the commander. He would have to march first against Johnston, defeat him, then Donelson would fall and Johnston would be unable to rescue it. It wouldn't matter how well built Donelson was. Given time, it will fall to a proper siege.

I wonder if Vicksburg could have been held with as little as 5,000 men? It would have required a smaller perimeter, but only the gun batteries on the river needed to be protected. Then Pemberton with the rest of his army could have linked up with Joe Johnston near Jackson. The Johnston-Pemberton army might then have fought Grant on near equal terms before Grant could capture Vicksburg. In both cases, Donelson and Vicksburg, it's not the fort but the relief army that makes the difference.
 
Likes: grey fox
Sep 2013
793
Chattanooga, TN
#30
Mines are interesting. I haven't given much thought to them. I suspect there may have been technical reasons why the Confederates did not make more of them. They must have used a lot of gunpowder. Considering that one must sow dozens, if not hundreds, of mines just to sink one ship, I don't know if the South had enough gunpowder to make enough mines. I think there were also some problems with getting them to explode, most famously at Mobile Bay.
The Confederacy had the giant gunpowder works at Augusta, GA. Supposedly the Confederacy never lost a battle for want of powder. If there was enough gunpowder available, maybe the Confederacy should have placed more mines in the water. If it was highly unlikely that a mine would explode when struck by a ship, then perhaps placing more mines would not have been a good idea. I don't know enough to have a strong opinion either way.


Forts are designed and used to delay an enemy attack. Given enough time, an attacker will capture a fort, but if the fort is built and manned properly, it should hold out long enough for a friendly army to march to its relief. If Sidney Johnston had concentrated his army north of Nashville he could have marched to Donelson in a week or so and maybe chased away Grant. As it was, Donelson surrendered ten days after the attack on Ft. Henry began. As soon as Grant began his attack on Ft. Henry, Johnston should have known that Donelson would be next. The problem was that his army was not concentrated. Parts of Johnston's army were scattered all along the Kentucky-Tennessee line. But if Johnston had concentrated, then Grant, Buell, Thomas, and all of the other Union armies in Kentucky would have also concentrated. Halleck would likely be the commander. He would have to march first against Johnston, defeat him, then Donelson would fall and Johnston would be unable to rescue it. It wouldn't matter how well built Donelson was. Given time, it will fall to a proper siege.

I wonder if Vicksburg could have been held with as little as 5,000 men? It would have required a smaller perimeter, but only the gun batteries on the river needed to be protected. Then Pemberton with the rest of his army could have linked up with Joe Johnston near Jackson. The Johnston-Pemberton army might then have fought Grant on near equal terms before Grant could capture Vicksburg. In both cases, Donelson and Vicksburg, it's not the fort but the relief army that makes the difference.
You make a lot of pithy points here. I agree with everything you wrote in these two paragraphs. Pemberton and Johnston should have combined and used the tactical advantage of defense to make Grant's army pay dearly for every inch of ground between the Pemberton-Johnston Army and Vicksburg.

I wish I was more knowledgeable about the Vicksburg Campaign. Why was Joseph Johnson's army in Jackson, Mississippi instead of combining with Pemberton?
 

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