Why did the American Civil War last so long?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
12,997
SoCal
#61
Good point. Also, given the Hundred Years' War, the Thirty Years' War, the Nine Years's War, the Seven Years' War, the US in Afghanistan for 17 years (though the government only claims it was a war part fo that time), or the US "failing" to defeat North Korea with troops still stationed after almost 70 years - I wondered how the the number 4 could ever be modified by the adjective "whopping."

In addition to all the salient points made in the thread,another factor that bore greatly on the length of the war was the secession of Virginia.
How long do you think that the ACW would have lasted had Virginia not seceded?
 
Jun 2017
2,380
Connecticut
#62
Sherman and his foes were evenly matched at the Battle of Atlanta. In fact the Confederate forces had a slightly superiority in manpower. (40,438 to 34,863)

Battle of Atlanta Facts & Summary

The Confederates also had enough manpower on hand *after* Atlanta to oppose the March to the Sea. They failed to do so because Davis and Hood decided that sending the Army of Tennessee off on the Franklin-Nashville campaign was a brilliant plan.

The Confederates did what they usually did when facing federal armies in Western campaigns...they lost at Franklin, lost at third Murfreesboro, and lost at Nashville, just as they had at Atlanta and nearly every other major battle except Chickamauga. This time however the damage done was catastrophic and it left Sherman free to impose his will on the Confederacy.

Sherman was content to see the Army of Tennessee go as it played right into his hands. IIRC when warned that Hood might strike for Tennessee Sherman said something along the lines of being happy to provide him with the rations to get there as his (Sherman's) business was down south.
I was mainly referring to the post Hood escapees period, Davis wasn't satisfied with simply "opposing" though, he wanted victories and Johnston's more patient style combined with Sherman's inability to recklessly attack after learning his lesson at Keneshaw Mountain meant that Davis was going to look elsewhere. In late 1864, taking away Hood's incompetence and hindsight you can kind of see their perspective seeing how dire the war in the east had become, the status quo in the West was no longer acceptable. I agree with almost everything you've posted substantially though, think we're misunderstanding each other. For the most part the Union outnumbered the CSA after Shiloh which was really the CSA's chance to gain the initiative early, a Lee or a Jackson might have been able to. Perryville the Gettysburgh of the West was doomed largely by lack of manpower.
 
Likes: Scaeva
Jun 2017
2,380
Connecticut
#63
I agree about Sherman, but as I said in an earlier post, it took a few years for the North to develop that strategy. For the first two or three years the North applied more traditional strategies like occupying and controlling territory which didn't work because there was too much territory and too few Union troops. The North also tried destroying Confederate armies but that didn't work because the South only agreed to fight battles when they thought they could win. Otherwise they used all of that maneuvering room to avoid battle or even invade the North.

I'm not sure which side of the argument you're on. Are you saying the North should have won more quickly than they did, or are you saying the South should have lasted longer? I agree with most of the posters in this thread that considering the obstacles the North had to overcome they did a good job to win in four years.
In the West the Union was very successful, after occupying Tennessee though which was an obvious invasion point(and a necessary one to prevent the CSA from hitting the Union in the West), there was no clear next step and focusing on taking major ports and "cutting the South in two" just seems like it would be much more time efficient than trying Sherman's strategy early on and that's what they did. The CSA also put up some of it's best resistance as the Western armies began to move out of Tennessee.

Without Robert E Lee's decision to join the CSA and McCllelan's caution, the war should have been over in 1861 or 1862. The CSA would have fallen apart if the Union had taken Richmond and destroyed the forces in the East to correspond with their success in the West they just were never able to do what rightfully seemed like a pretty obtainable goal.

Chances the Union had to end the war in the East.

1)First Bull Run-Opposite of the McCllelan problem if the army had been more experienced and quick they could have won this battle before Johnston was able to reinforce the main army. Similar thing happened vice e versa to the CSA at Shiloh, and Lee was able to prevent this sort of link up at Second Bull Run.

2)McCllean spent the better part of a year doing nothing and then used caution every step of the way during the Peninsular campaign. McCllelan had a pretty big number advantage and with more aggression could have ended the war before Lee even took command.

3)McClellan had Lee trapped at Sharpsburg and opted not to attack. Now the fact the Union even had this chance was lucky because a CSA soldier dropped Lee's war plans so it can be seen as luck going both ways but it was within the Union's power to end the war here.

4)Gettysburgh-This one is flimsy. We don't know what would have happened if Meade had counterattacked on July 4th and didn't let Lee go. This is not the same as example 3 and Meade should not be treated like McClellan given his caution wasn't really irrational but Meade could have continued the battle.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,500
#64
Secession was in the interest of the elite in the deep south, and most southerners did not want it. Once there was a war, Confederates fought an invading army which was looting house to house. They fought for southern independence, racial issues, and their property if they or the their fathers owned a few slaves. Union soldiers could only fight for the Union and against slavery and treason. There was much more to fight for than in other wars the US has been involved in, such as Vietnam or WWI. In WWI, a large part of the soldiers in the Austrian, Turkish, and Russian Empires were not from the controlling ethnic group. What motivation did people from Ireland and India have to fight for the British empire?

There was a big opportunity missed in the peace talks of January 1865. They could have agreed to essentially Union victory with conditions. For example, end to slavery with reunion, but Confederate states readmitted. Amnesty, soldiers go home but don't surrender, and no military occupation of the south. Davis was being unreasonable not being willing to consider either reunion or the end of slavery.

There were major mistakes on both sides, but the Confederate political leadership and the commanders of the Army of Tennessee made the worst ones. The war could have taken longer or been a Confederate victory with better political leadership.

If Virginia had not seceded, probably the rest of the upper south wouldn't have. It depends on the political situation though. The Confederacy fired on a US base to provoke a northern reaction and get the upper south into the war.
 
Jul 2018
11
Holstenwall
#65
There have been alot of valid in depth answers on this thread already. If I could give a simple answer it would be "southern pride" that ensured the longevity of the war. Southern stubbornness can not be discounted in the equation.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,061
Dispargum
#66
Without Robert E Lee ... and McCllelan's caution, the war should have been over in 1861 or 1862. The CSA would have fallen apart if the Union had taken Richmond...
I don't think so. The Confederacy was far less dependent on Richmond than the North was on Washington. In Washington there was a bureaucracy, records, etc that made administration so much easier. The Confederate government was an ad hoc affair, especially in the early years. If Richmond were threatened, they would have simply relocated to another city farther south.
If the Army of Northern Virginia had been defeated in '61 or '62, I doubt it would have been destroyed. The Army of Tennessee lost nearly every battle it fought and three and a half years into the war it was still able to invade Union-occupied Tennessee. Very few large armies were completely destroyed in the CW. Pemberton's army at Vicksburg is about the only example prior to April '65. More often, armies rallied after defeat and kept fighting.
 
Likes: Dr Caligari
Jan 2018
69
Iowa
#67
IMHO - the South mobilized more effectively early in the war - once the North caught up and passed the South - Union leadership was cautious due to early defeats and yes poor leadership within the Union Army. Over time - that was sorted out on the Union side and the South lost some of it's better generals and officers as casualties. Once the North had the advantage in material, men and leadership - it was just a matter of time. That played out as a much longer war than planned - but given the technology - that was war at that time. WW1 played out much of the same results with better firepower. Stalemate and high casualties being common outcomes.
 
Jun 2018
116
Philadelphia, PA
#68
Was an earlier Union victory realistic with better Union generals?
I would say “yes, undoubtedly”. If the Union’s plans had gone into effect from the beginning, then the war likely would have gone on for a year or two at most. Losing, then-Colonel Lee, to the Confederacy was particularly salient as he was seen by many to be equivalent to General Washington. In Lee’s educated opinion, the South was “unprepared” to wage war against the Union. If this was the case, had he joined the Union this was likely something he would have exploited to a devastating effect, but because he saw it he was able to cover the South’a weakness.

What If Robert E. Lee Accepted Command of the Union Army?

Lee, Robert E. and Slavery
 
Likes: Futurist

Fiver

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
3,639
#69
I would say “yes, undoubtedly”. If the Union’s plans had gone into effect from the beginning, then the war likely would have gone on for a year or two at most. Losing, then-Colonel Lee, to the Confederacy was particularly salient as he was seen by many to be equivalent to General Washington. In Lee’s educated opinion, the South was “unprepared” to wage war against the Union. If this was the case, had he joined the Union this was likely something he would have exploited to a devastating effect, but because he saw it he was able to cover the South’a weakness.

What If Robert E. Lee Accepted Command of the Union Army?

Lee, Robert E. and Slavery
This misses Robert E Lee's record on the offensive. In West Virginia, Lee launched a series of poorly coordinated attacks and lost against Rosecrans. In the Seven Days, Lee launched a series of poorly coordinated and very costly attacks, though he did intimidate McClellan. At Gettysburg, launched a series of poorly coordinated and very costly attacks that failed against Meade. It also misses Lee's feelings about fighting fellow Virginians. If Lee had accepted Union command, he would have been fighting somewhere other than Virginia, and based on his historical track record, Lee would have failed, after which he would have been sidelined, much like McDowell was after losing at 1st Bull Run.
 

Viperlord

Ad Honorem
Aug 2010
8,062
VA
#70
I don't think so. The Confederacy was far less dependent on Richmond than the North was on Washington. In Washington there was a bureaucracy, records, etc that made administration so much easier. The Confederate government was an ad hoc affair, especially in the early years. If Richmond were threatened, they would have simply relocated to another city farther south.
If the Army of Northern Virginia had been defeated in '61 or '62, I doubt it would have been destroyed. The Army of Tennessee lost nearly every battle it fought and three and a half years into the war it was still able to invade Union-occupied Tennessee. Very few large armies were completely destroyed in the CW. Pemberton's army at Vicksburg is about the only example prior to April '65. More often, armies rallied after defeat and kept fighting.
This actually is not accurate. There were more bureaucrats in Richmond than DC, and Richmond was a vitally important industrial center and one of the only places the South could manufacture their own artillery and weapons in any quantity. Further, without Richmond, there is no effectively defensible point in Virginia, and the whole state is soon in Union hands. Without Virginia's wealth, resources, and manpower, it's hard to see Richmond's fall as not having a major impact.