Did the Confederacy have a chance to win the Civil War?

Did the Confederacy have a chance to win the American Civil War?

  • The Confederacy did have a chance to win the American Civil War.

    Votes: 26 47.3%
  • The Confederacy never had a chance to win the American Civil War.

    Votes: 18 32.7%
  • It is unclear to me whether or not the Confederacy could have won the American Civil War.

    Votes: 11 20.0%

  • Total voters
Sep 2014
Queens, NYC
Brazil was not a part of the Spanish Empire in the 19th century. Remember, it was colonised by Portugal and remained ruled by Portugal into the early part of the 19th century.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
It's best chance was to strike the USA early. And gain some kind of foreign support.
Both of these were very difficult. The Confederacy was on the defensive on all fronts early on. Attempts to invade Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Tennessee all ended badly.
Mar 2019
Most competent historians agree that the only way the CSA could have achieved secession would have been by #1 keeping the Yankees out of Richmond and #2 somehow bringing the necessary number of western states over to their cause.

The Rebels could have destroyed Wash. D.C. even but, as long as Lincoln was alive, the USA would never surrender.

I am saying that the only way the CSA could have fought to a draw and thereby achieved some from of secession would have required preventing the USA from drawing upon the super-massive material and personnel resources of the American midwest. Hypothetically, depriving the USA of the military resources of the midwest would have required something akin to the scorched earth strategy demonstrated by Sherman's March to the Sea (plus burning Atlanta); call it "Joe Johnston's Scorched Earth March to the Great Lakes (plus the burning of Chicago).


Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
Can someone expand on military leadership being superior in the North? I was always under the impression the South had the most seasoned combat generals.
The idea that the Confederacy possessed better generals is one of the great myths of the Civil War. Virtually all of the trained officers from Union states and about 40% of the officers from the Confederate states fought for the Union. Once you take a real look at Robert E Lee, or at war as a whole, it's clear that the CSA military record was largely one of failure. CSA attempts to invade Union territory, from Gettysburg to Glorietta Pass, always ended in failure. Even in an era that favored the defense, the Union successfully took and held an area about the size of modern Spain, France, Italy, Germany, and Poland. Lee was arguably the Confederacy's best, yet his track record on offense was poor and he was beaten by Rosecrans and Meade, who are generally considered second-string Union generals. When they weren't fighting Lee, men generally considered among the worst Union commanders - Burnside, Pope, Hooker, Pleasanton, and Butler - had a record of repeated success against the Confederates.

Joe Johnston was probably the best the Confederacy had in the west, and he wasn’t good enough. AS Johnston was out of his depth - he did not just fail as an army commander, he failed to be an army commander. Floyd and Pillow were cowards. Sibley led his forces to disaster in Arizona. Van Dorn did the same in Arkansas. Price did the same in Kansas, losing to Pleasanton, who is often considered one of the Union's worst generals. Polk was an incompetent backstabber; the Union did a service for the Confederacy when they killed him with artillery fire. Hood was a backstabbing subordinate and a total disaster in command of an army. Bragg was one of the few Confederate generals to win battles, but he had no idea what to do with a victory and his abrasive nature helped erode what little cohesion his Confederate army had. Jackson varied in quality - his performance in the Seven Days Battles was poor, where he was constantly late, often did not march to the sound of the guns, and repeatedly failed to communicate. At Brandy Station, Stuart was surprised by Pleasanton, who as noted is often considered one of the Union's worst generals. At Knoxbville, Longstreet was beaten by Burnside, who is also considered one of the Union's worst generals. During Early's one solo command in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864 he was unable to defeat Franz Sigel, who as you may guess, was also considered one of the Union's worst generals, then fatally delayed at the Battle of Monocacy, by Lew Wallace, a man more noted for his literary accomplishments than his military skill.
Sep 2013
Chattanooga, TN
The idea that the Confederacy possessed better generals is one of the great myths of the Civil War.
I agree. I think that the myth exists largely due to Lost Causers' glorification of Lee.

That said, I think that if Union Generals and the Confederate Generals had swapped sides at the outset of the Civil War, the Union probably still would have won the Civil War. In other words, I think that the imbalance in resources did more to cause the Confederate defeat than incompetent Confederate Generalship.

Some might think that I have an implied contradiction in two of my statements: 1# In the Civil War, resources were a factor in limiting the Confederacy's margin of error, rather than a final determinant and 2# if the Union Generals and Confederate Generals swapped sides at the outset of the Civil War, the Union probably would still have won the Civil War. There is no contradiction because of at least two facts: 1# the Union made mistakes also and 2# Some Confederate mistakes were not the mistakes of Confederate Generals.
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Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
the peace now movement could have won the 1864 election , there was a bloody stalemate , the draft was deeply unpopular
Sherman taking Atlanta was a boost for the unionist
Lincoln was dully reelected .

that was the last best chance for the confederate not loosing the war


Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
I defy you to name a First World country with legal slavery in the 20th century. A first world country, not some Second/Third World Country in the Middle East.
The United States. It wasn't called slavery anymore, it was called convict leasing, but it sure sounds like slavery in practice. The last states appear to have formally ended it around 1930.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
If the Confederacy had won the Civil War, what do you think that the chances are that the Confederacy would still have the institution of legal slavery in 2019?
I consider it unlikely that the Confederacy would last until 2019,, since it was founded on the idea that any state could leave at any time for any reason. I see an independent Confederacy as far less uniform than most people. The Border South had a higher number of free blacks than the rest of the South. One reason was they had more manufacturing. Slaves were heavily used in Southern manufacturing, but the owners soon found that paying a small wage drastically reduced the amount of tools, machinery, and product that was "accidentally" broken by the slaves. In some cases, these slaves were able to save enough to eventually buy their freedom. Slaves in the Border South also had a much shorter distance to escape to freedom than slaves in the Deep South. This led to a few masters offering freedom to their slaves after a set number of years in return for a promise not to escape. Other Border South slaveowners just sold their slaves to the Deep South to avoid any risk if them running away.

By the 1920s or 30s, I'd expect the Border South to have small enough black populations and enough free blacks that they would consider gradual emancipation, probably by declaring all children of slaves born after a certain point, perhaps 1940 or 1950, would be free. The certainly doesn't mean blacks would be treated as equals, I'd expect segregation and Jim Crow to be at least as strong as in OTL. The Deep South, OTOH, would be a small white minority outnumbered at least 2 to 1 by the slaves. They would see the end of slavery as guaranteeing Haiti-style revenge and slaughter.against the white minority. I'd expect them to try to expel any Confederate state that considers gradual emancipation or else attempt to secede from the Confederacy. This would also be the era that the boll weevil hits. If the ATL is similar enough to OTL, they could also be dealing with a Depression and the various extremist ideologies that flourished during our Depression. Odds are high for the Confederacy to break up in this era, possibly even with a Civil War between Confederate states. If the Deep South secedes, that could even lead to a timeline where slavery outlives the Confederacy.

Eventually, perhaps the 1950s to 1970s, economic and diplomatic pressure might lead to the Deep South formally ending slavery, In practice, I'd expect the result to still be slavery, but with enough legal fiction to say it isn't actually slavery. If any of the Deep South totters into the 21st century without being overthrown by their black majorities, I'd expect them to be still practicing what they don't call slavery anymore, because they would still believe that truly freeing the slaves would result in Haiti-style revenge and slaughter.against the white minority.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
This international censure/ostracism/trade embargoes/boycotts, combined with the fact that slavery was far less profitable in non-agricultural jobs and with humanitarian concerns among white Confederate citizens, likely would have led to the abolition of slavery.
Cuba's been under an embargo for over 50 years. North Korea's been under economic sanctions for over 60. Industrial slavery might be less profitable than agricultural slavery, but it was more profitable than freeing the slaves. And the slaves were also kept slaves for social reasons that had nothing to do with economics. Segregation did not end because most Southern whites had humanitarian concerns about the status of blacks, so I am highly doubtful that enough white Confederates would have enough humanitarian concrens about the slaves that they would end slavery.