The South Began The Civil War With One Large Advantage.

by Daniel Russ on March 28, 2017

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Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Florida were the first 11 states to leave the United States of America in 1861. Jefferson Davis famously declared that “We seek no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States for which were lately confederated; all we ask is to be let alone.” Yet three border slave states had not joined the new country, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri.

This secession had to happen. The south and its managers and legislators and business leaders were fully vested in the notion that the US was essentially a slave holding republic that made good bank shipping corn, cotton and other materials to European buyers. The election of Abraham Lincoln was an existential threat to the Confederacy. The strategy in the South then was to put a border around its 750,000 square miles and apply a counterweight to Northern troop build ups that would otherwise invade and subjugate the south.

The humiliation to a culture so steeped in pride and tradition was unconscionable. To be subjugated by these “Damn Yankees”, oh banish the thought. Fortunately for the Confederacy, the interior of the new country harbored few antagonists and the south had firm control and interior line of communication inside virtually all of its territory. So there would be fewer insurgencies, and less guerrilla warfare as a real threat than a battlefront where competing sides lived in proximity with each other in a patchwork quilt. The only enemy soldiers inside Confederate territory were at Ft. Pickens and Fort Monroe in D.C. And Virginia. What a tremendous advantage to begin a war with an army already trained and deployed and motivated. And what an advantage that they had only one front to fight on.

Another unusual fact about the mentality of the Confederacy was adapted in their own Constitution: the Confederated States of America were not a single country. Rather they were a confederation of independent states. Essentially each one was its own country.

Shelby Foote once noted that the North was so rich that when they started fighting there was little possibility the South had. Once Ulysses S Grant became the Union Military commander Foote remarks “I think that the North fought that war with one hand behind its back,” said  Foote. If the Confederacy ever had come close to winning on the battlefield, “the North simply would have brought that other arm out from behind its back. I don’t think the South ever had a chance to win that war.”

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The fact of the matter is that Confederacy could have won the war. Not on the battlefield, but in a world of nations. All they needed was one extra national entity to recognize the Confederacy.

The North had the industry, the population, the riches, and of course, the moral high ground. History played out here the way it should have.






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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Louis October 19, 2017 at 8:07 am

I am always struck by the fact that the south took the right to get out of the union as a given, but denied the north the same right to keep them in again (apart from the whole slavery issue). It seems to me that if a state has the right to leave the union, then a state also has the right to try and get a state that left, without the acquisence of the others, back into that union again. After all, they decided on the union together, so they should also decide on the dissolution of it together. And if some want to leave against the will of the others, then they run the risk of suffering the consequences. Which they then did…..

Daniel Russ October 19, 2017 at 8:26 am

Good point. I totally agree.

Mike S June 22, 2018 at 3:51 am

It may be fanciful to think that a 3rd party could have helped the Confederacy win the war but the odds are overwhelming stacked against an intervention by Britain or France, the only 2 contenders. France poured money, soldiers into the invasion of Mexico in 1861 to establish a monarchy under the Archduke Maximilian of Austria. They didn’t have a Sou or spare cartridge for the Southern Army. Britain, although keen to stifle American growth, universally opposed slavery, from Queen to both parties in Parliament to the common man. They easily switched from American cotton suppliers to India and Egypt.
And even if there had been a 3rd possible contender, supplying the South with AR-15’s and howitzers wouldn’t have helped. The North’s numerical advantage in population would still gradually decimate the southern army. Perhaps a slim chance might have been after the 1st battle of Manassas if the Confederate army had reorganized and stormed Washington. But they weren’t looking to acquire land, only be left alone.

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