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

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,526
Australia
#21
I have said yes, but with qualifications. The only chance was at the very beginning of hostilities. Early Confederate victories may have given a nasty shock to Washington and led to a negotiated peace with either recognition of the Confederacy as a separate nation or more likely reunification with most southern demands met. As this did not happen the only other slim chance was recognition by Britain or other European powers followed by military aid. In practice this was never going to happen.
 
Jun 2013
404
Connecticut
#22
The USA was going to win the war. I don’t believe the rebels would have won, not even from the start.
Four basic, but broad, reasons: capacity, mimicry, leasership,isolation and the people.

CAPACITY has always been discussed. “Capacity” is the term used to describe how the USA far outstripped the rebels in what it takes to build a nation, i.e. the quantity and quality of EVERYTHING.
This has been covered many times so I won’t get into it anymore.

MIMICRY. If you look at civil wars in world history one trend pops out. The rebellion is started with some sort of flashpoint. Fighting usually comes first then the rebels attempt organization and command structure.
The Confederates did the opposite. First nice documents, constitutions, cabinets, commands, etc. They mimicked the USA in every way without understanding what it takes to build a nation. Tunnel vision caused them to gamble all on one linchpin – recognition. The Confederacy was destroyed because of mimicry. Tit for tat the USA suckered the rebels into getting whipped.

LEADERSHIP. In every aspect, factor and function – political, social, economic and yes, military/naval. This has been discussed innumerable times.

ISOLATION. Very important. Mention has been made of how our colonies managed to break away from GB. The Confederacy hoped to do the same. It would never happen. The USA was blessed to develop without much interference from the world. We were able to cover our mistakes – make it right – without someone over our shoulders.
The same with the CW. The Confederacy was isolated and the USA, which devised a workable PLAN, took advantage of that. The USA was the ONLY ones doing the interfering. Otherwise the rebels were isolated. Drop the ACW into 19th c. Balkans, or Alsace-Lorraine, or the Kashmir region, etc. and it would be a totally different story. The rebels probably would have won. Some country, somewhere, somehow, someway would use the rebel cause as a reason to physically interfere in the USA. But instead there was ISOLATION.

The PEOPLE. Simply put the Americans were endowed with a healthy dose of common sense. It wasn’t the land of the aristocratic intelligentsia. By mid-century many were immigrants. Americans pretty much knew that it doesn’t get any better than here. They knew theit political views counted for something. They knew it was something the rest of the world could only dream about and they were going to make sure a section of the country was not going to cause havoc and a possible loss of that privledge.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,381
Dispargum
#23
^ I like what you say about mimicry. On isolation, how do you reconcile the decisive European support for American independence circa 1780 with your claim that European assistance would not have helped the Confederacy in the 1860s?
 
Jun 2013
404
Connecticut
#24
@Chlodio
Maybe I didn't state it correctly.
During the Revolution the US was far away from GB. They sought and received support. No foreign power took it upon themselves to interfere on their own.
The Confederacy sought the same type of support. It failed because there was constant interference from the USA (the war) and the rebels were isolated - an ocean away - from the powers that could help them.
 
Aug 2012
1,469
#25
Had the war taken just a few different turns, I think it was incredibly likely that the North would have sued for peace and some settlement would have been reached. I am unsure if this would have included recognising the sovereignty of the Confederacy? But the CSA may have been able to achieve many of their aims, regardless.
I am not an expert on the subject by any stretch of the imagination, but reading up on the conflict I certainly am impressed with their skill as an army, from their spies to their technology. I could see them holding out and bargaining a very lucrative peace, especially taking into account the unpopularity of the war.
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
2,181
Republika Srpska
#26
^ I like what you say about mimicry. On isolation, how do you reconcile the decisive European support for American independence circa 1780 with your claim that European assistance would not have helped the Confederacy in the 1860s?
I don't think the two situations can be compared. Britain had many other fronts that it needed to fight on, they didn't only fight in their American colonies, they fought in India, Europe, other parts of the Americas etc. The USA in the 1860s would have no such commitments.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2019
41
USA
#27
LEADERSHIP. In every aspect, factor and function – political, social, economic and yes, military/naval. This has been discussed innumerable times.
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.
 
Last edited:

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,381
Dispargum
#28
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 pre-war Southern economy produced few opportunities for ambitious young men so a disproportionate number of Southern men opted for military careers. So many Southern men sought admittance to West Point that there were not enough appointments available from Southern Congressmen. It was common for Southerners to move to the North long enough to establish residency then apply for West Point through their new Congressmen. The most famous example was probably George Pickett of Gettysburg fame who was born and raised in Virginia but was appointed to West Point by an Illinois Congressman. Later in life Pickett liked to tell the story that he was appointed by Abraham Lincoln, but that wasn't true. So it is true that the South had a higher per capita number of West Point graduates than did the North. Early in the war when officers were needed who could train raw recruits, the South had more trained officers.

But if you look at the number of successful generals on both sides, especially army commanders, the South comes up short. Lee was the only Confederate army commander who could consistently win battles. Joe Johnston, Beauregard, Bragg, Van Dorn, Price, and Hood were all disappointments. On the Union side there were Grant, Sherman, Meade, Sheridan, Thomas, Logan, Schofield, and probably several others who were all competent and successful army commanders.
 
Last edited:
Jun 2013
404
Connecticut
#29
Had the war taken just a few different turns, I think it was incredibly likely that the North would have sued for peace and some settlement would have been reached. I am unsure if this would have included recognising the sovereignty of the Confederacy? But the CSA may have been able to achieve many of their aims, regardless.
I am not an expert on the subject by any stretch of the imagination, but reading up on the conflict I certainly am impressed with their skill as an army, from their spies to their technology. I could see them holding out and bargaining a very lucrative peace, especially taking into account the unpopularity of the war.
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.
I too believed in @Commodus view. That it "could have been" a different situation. Historian James McPherson intricately details this in his essay "How the North Nearly Lost", 1989.
Then I read his "Why Did the Confederacy Lose?", 1992. My reflections on it steered me to the view I posted above. In summation it was a critical failure externally: In the West really no victories in the grand scheme of things; in the East Lee did not overtun anything but just contributed to grindiing down his own army.
It was a critical failure internally. generalship in battle, supplies, logistics; leadership in manufacturing (the USA created a true "war economy" while the South grew more cotton) and most important - leadership at the top.

The unpopularity of the war? Nothing compares to the South. If the South was gung-ho in the beginning, depair caused by constant Union control over wide swaths of the South cooled that. Sections of the South weren't pro-rebel; some 300,000+ served in the Union (that's two more field armies!!!). No sense of nationalism ever developed.
Only a suicidaal, long-shot gamble by Lee (Overland Campaign), banking on the political outcome of the North, was attempted and failed. The people of the North valued the USA more. See what I wrote above.
 
Jan 2019
41
USA
#30
The pre-war Southern economy produced few opportunities for ambitious young men so a disproportionate number of Southern men opted for military careers. So many Southern men sought admittance to West Point that there were not enough appointments available from Southern Congressmen. It was common for Southerners to move to the North long enough to establish residency then apply for West Point through their new Congressmen. The most famous example was probably George Pickett of Gettysburg fame who was born and raised in Virginia but was appointed to West Point by an Illinois Congressman. Later in life Pickett liked to tell the story that he was appointed by Abraham Lincoln, but that wasn't true. So it is true that the South had a higher per capita number of West Point graduates than did the North. Early in the war when officers were needed who could train raw recruits, the South had more trained officers.

But if you look at the number of successful generals on both sides, especially army commanders, the South comes up short. Lee was the only Confederate army commander who could consistently win battles. Joe Johnston, Beauregard, Bragg, Van Dorn, Price, and Hood were all disappointments. On the Union side there were Grant, Sherman, Meade, Sheridan, Thomas, Logan, Schofield, and probably several others who were all competent and successful army commanders.
I too believed in @Commodus view. That it "could have been" a different situation. Historian James McPherson intricately details this in his essay "How the North Nearly Lost", 1989.
Then I read his "Why Did the Confederacy Lose?", 1992. My reflections on it steered me to the view I posted above. In summation it was a critical failure externally: In the West really no victories in the grand scheme of things; in the East Lee did not overtun anything but just contributed to grindiing down his own army.
It was a critical failure internally. generalship in battle, supplies, logistics; leadership in manufacturing (the USA created a true "war economy" while the South grew more cotton) and most important - leadership at the top.

The unpopularity of the war? Nothing compares to the South. If the South was gung-ho in the beginning, depair caused by constant Union control over wide swaths of the South cooled that. Sections of the South weren't pro-rebel; some 300,000+ served in the Union (that's two more field armies!!!). No sense of nationalism ever developed.
Only a suicidaal, long-shot gamble by Lee (Overland Campaign), banking on the political outcome of the North, was attempted and failed. The people of the North valued the USA more. See what I wrote above.
Thanks for the responses. What of generals like Stonewall and Stuart? I understand they weren't around to see the end of the war. I remember hearing stories that Stuart was part of the problem in Gettysburg, that he was out prancing around PA during the battle. However, I was always under the impression Stonewall was a superb general.
 

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