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: 18 42.9%
  • The Confederacy never had a chance to win the American Civil War.

    Votes: 16 38.1%
  • It is unclear to me whether or not the Confederacy could have won the American Civil War.

    Votes: 8 19.0%

  • Total voters
    42
Aug 2012
800
Washington State, USA.
#11
I think they did have a chance when Lee marched into the North. What if he had captured Lincoln? Would Lincoln have agreed to let the South go in the same way Santa Anna let Texas go when he was captured by Sam Houston?
As far as a long lasting war of attrition, the South didn't have much of a chance.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,678
#13
I think they did have a chance when Lee marched into the North. What if he had captured Lincoln? Would Lincoln have agreed to let the South go in the same way Santa Anna let Texas go when he was captured by Sam Houston?
As far as a long lasting war of attrition, the South didn't have much of a chance.
He tried marching north twice and it worked out badly. Taking a defensive approach and waiting for the north to give up was a better idea. There were clearly many mistakes, and the Confederacy might have had a chance if the war had been managed better. It was difficult though to combat the blockade, the Anaconda Plan, freeing slaves, and hard war with looting and destruction.
 
Likes: Fiver

Edratman

Ad Honorem
Feb 2009
6,112
Eastern PA
#14
History is replete with examples of smaller, weaker forces prevailing in wars. Thus the Confederacy had a chance to win the war.

The common thread among these victors is quick, aggressive military actions defeating the larger opponents standing forces before it has time to coalesce its superior might. Smaller forces have also succeeded in wars of attrition, Vietnam and Algeria are examples, but this requires a willingness to accept huge losses along with other limits on the larger nation.
 
Likes: Fiver
Nov 2010
7,266
Cornwall
#15
Short-term the close proximity of the capiltals and the undistinguished tactics of the Union generals early in the war surely meant there was a chance of a quick settlement in their favour of some sort.

But there wasn't much of an end game surely? How much longer could formal slavery exist?
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,678
#16
Short-term the close proximity of the capiltals and the undistinguished tactics of the Union generals early in the war surely meant there was a chance of a quick settlement in their favour of some sort.

But there wasn't much of an end game surely? How much longer could formal slavery exist?
If the Confederacy had taken Washington early in the war, it might have been decisive. However, it might not have been easy, as it was heavily fortified and defended and the Confederate forces in Virginia were outnumbered.

It is true that slavery did end almost everywhere in the 19th century. However, I am not sure it was obvious at the time that slavery wouldn't last. If the Confederacy becomes independent with a Constitution strongly protecting slavery, then it isn't clear that slavery would end any time soon. However, slaves were primarily used as agricultural workers and servants, and technology drastically reduced the need for the former and somewhat reduced the demand for the latter by the mid 20th century. There just isn't as much need for unskilled labor in general with mechanization.
 
Last edited:
Sep 2013
796
Chattanooga, TN
#17
It is true that slavery did end almost everywhere in the 19th century. However, I am not sure it was obvious at the time that slavery wouldn't last. If the Confederacy becomes independent with a Constitution strongly protecting slavery, then it isn't clear that slavery would end any time soon. However, slaves were primarily used as agricultural workers and servants, and technology drastically reduced the need for the former and somewhat reduced the demand for the latter by the mid 20th century. There just isn't as much need for unskilled labor in general with mechanization.
I agree with this. If the Confederacy had won the Civil War, legal slavery (in practice, slavery has been in America since the inception of America) would have been abolished in the Confederacy anyway in the first half of the 20th century. The mechanization of southern agriculture would have eventually led to the abolition of legal slavery in the Confederacy.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,380
Dispargum
#18
Sharecropping resembled slavery in some ways, in particular as a system that gave great power of a landowner over his laborers. Sharecropping continued well into the 1930s. Cotton harvesting was one of the last agricultural jobs to be mechanized.
 
Likes: grey fox
Feb 2016
4,126
Japan
#19
I believe the odds of the Confederacy being able to win a conventional war vary from slight to impossible.

The demographics and economics skew the odds in the North’s favour so much. They could have had a Napoleon snd it would not have helped them.

So confederate chances then rely on sapping the North’s willpower to fight so much and draining resources to the point that it’s cheaper for them to make peace.
1- fight a drawn out constant guerilla, nasty nasty warfare. Raiding burning settlements in northern border areas, no prisoners, that kind of thing. This is risky and can result in the North retaliating to the point that the south are weakened and broken. But if done right could echo a Haiti or Vietnam like result.

The other is to gather enough allies to exert economic, political and even military pressure on the North... Britain and France are the usual suspects. But France is not going to act with out Britain and Britain does not want to get dragged into it... and even though they were nearly .... it was rightly avoided.
 
Sep 2013
796
Chattanooga, TN
#20
Sharecropping resembled slavery in some ways, in particular as a system that gave great power of a landowner over his laborers. Sharecropping continued well into the 1930s. Cotton harvesting was one of the last agricultural jobs to be mechanized.
Sharecropping alone did not resemble slavery much. However, sharecropping in addition to vagrancy laws did resemble slavery in some ways. The landowner could have the police arrest a sharecropper for vagrancy if the sharecropper stopped working for the planter. However, sharecroppers in the South in the 1930s were far better off than the slaves in antebellum South.

There are tens of thousands of people in America being forced to work for other people to this day, with most of them working as prostitutes but also people forced to work in agriculture and a multitude of other fields. If you are not allowed to quit, it's slavery.

Your statements about sharecropping in the 1930s and cotton harvesting being one of the last agricultural jobs to be mechanized is totally consistent with my theory that the mechanization of southern agriculture would have led to legal slavery being abolished in the South in the first half of the 20th century if the Confederacy won the Civil War.
 

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