The American Civil War By Col. William “Big Willy” Ephraim, Cpt. Joe S. Paterson and Pvt. Dominique G. Scotting
The American Civil War 1861-1865 • Confederate States secede from the Union, over the issue of Slavery. • Major battles at; Manassas (Bull Run), Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Antietam, Chattanooga, Spotsylvania and Nashville. • Use of ‘Modern’ tactics – e.g. the use of trenches. • Union victorious over the Confederacy – application of Total War.
What was the South’s Strategy in the Civil War? Did it have any prospect of Success? • For the South to win all they had to do was not to lose – The problem was how to do this? • Adopted a defensive strategy that sought a preservation of their existing territory. • Sought outside intervention and recognition from Europe – ‘King Cotton’ • Kept forces concentrated to strike at Union encroachments into Southern territory. • The South later adopted the ‘defensive offensive’ – using offensive means to achieve the preservation of the Confederacy. • A change in the Union strategy under Grant in the winter of 1863-64 – Undermined the effectiveness of Southern strategy.
Was Robert E Lee truly a Great commander? • Immense reputation – seen as unbeatable by many in the Union. • Believed that Southern forces needed to take the offensive to the North. • Outflanking Hooker’s ambitious plan at Chancellorsville his greatest achievement as field commander. • Sought a campaign of annihilation of Union armies as best chance for Confederate victory. • Though he never won a victory so complete as to achieve annihilation • Critics argue that Lee focused too much on Virginia and the Eastern campaigns. • And that his preference for offensive tactics and strategy bled his army dry, when Southern forces couldn’t afford the losses that the North could.
Did the North win by industrial might alone? • The North had the overwhelming industrial and economic advantage going into and through the war. • The Union had the population advantage; 22 million to 9 million. • Due to the Union’s industrial strength the Confederacy had to look abroad for support and resources – Hampered by the Union’s naval blockade. • Despite Northern supremacy in terms of industry the South still was able to fulfil many of their war time needs. • Some historians have argued that the Union emphasis on the importance of logistics and supply was perhaps a greater factor in the outcome of the war.
Assess the impact of the naval war to the defeat of the South • From April 1861 Lincoln imposed a blockade of the confederacies Atlantic coast – Initially it wasn’t very strong but by the end of 1862 the federal blockade grew stronger and presented an evident danger to ships seeking to enter or leave Southern ports. • At the end of the war over 400 vessels blocked the coasts. • The blockade ended any chance for routine commercial relations between the Confederacy and other nations – hindering diplomatic attempts to encourage Britain to enter the conflict. • The blockade also limited resources that were available from abroad to help the South offset the Northern industrial advantage.
Did Sherman’s conduct of the ‘march thru Georgia’ simply confirm the American view of the utility of violence? • Sherman’s march was part of Grant’s new strategy to win the war • Instead of occupying the territory Sherman’s 21,000 men sought to destroy Southern economic infrastructure, denying resources to Confederate forces. • An estimated $100,000,000 of damage was done. • Key to understanding Sherman’s march was the Union’s need for a total defeat of the South due to the war aims and the ideology of the Union. • “War is cruelty and you cannot retire from it” – General Sherman. • Drawing upon this the historians argue that the North had commanders with a concept of total war and had the determination to make it succeed.
So did the South’s strategy have any prospect of Success? • Initially it perhaps did, based upon historical examples of successful defence. • But as the war progressed Northern commanders introduced total war concepts and moved away from a strategy that the South could respond to. • Northern Generals moved away from the need to occupy and pacify the Confederate States, instead they sought to destroy Southern economic infrastructure and the Southern will to fight.
So was Lee truly a Great commander? • Pro’s – Lee realized the importance of fighting a fast maneuverable war • Able to deceive enemies • Took the initiative and the offensive • Capable on the defensive • Saved the South in 1862 and kept it in the war for a further 3 years • Cons- Didn’t believe in the confederate cause, denounced it as a “revolution” • Unable to adapt to the necessary style of war, e.g. possibility of fighting a gorilla war, sabotaging Union railroads. • Too focused on the safety of Virginia. • Over all fails to achieve objective of “not losing the war” • Success are often of little real value as cost in lives is too high to sustain.
So did the North win by industrial might alone? No, But- “Amateurs study tactics; professionals study logistics The main advantage the North had over the South was their overwhelmingly superior transport network, This was in the form of steam locomotives and naval superiority. At the outbreak of war the North had 21973 miles of “railroad” compared to the South’s 9283miles. The North's railroads were also far more efficiently integrated with each other. The North’s naval advantage meant that they were also able to blockade the South meaning that they could not acquire the raw materials needed for war. Without these two “industrial” factors the North could not have won the war.
So was the Union naval strategy essential to the defeat of the South? • Answer: Yes, through Naval superiority the North was able to starve the South of essential materials as well as commanding the water ways enabling Naval support and combined operations with the Union Army which would prove extremely successful in routing Confederate forces as well as denying them key supply routes.
Did Sherman’s conduct of the ‘march thru Georgia’ simply confirm the American view of the utility of violence? • Yes. • We argue that the desire for destruction and the lack of remorse shown by Sherman and his men on ‘the march thru Georgia’ confirms the American view of the utility of violence – they were willing to use whatever methods necessary to achieve what they desired, a total destruction of the Confederacy as a political entity – Total War.
Bibliography • The Civil War and the Wars of the Nineteenth Centuryby Brian Holden Reid • The American Civil War 1861-1865 by Reid Mitchell • Jefferson Davis’s Generals edited by Gabor S. Boritt • The American Civil War edited by Susan-Mary Grant and Brian Holden Reid • Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson