15 July 2016

How the South could have won the Civil War

War History Online has an article about some alternate history for the Civil War:

On 9 April 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, effectively ending the Civil War, one of the bloodiest conflicts in American history. But could the Confederate States have won if things had played out another way? Here are five things the South could have done differently:
Used the Fabien Strategy
The Fabien Strategy, named after the Roman general who invented it, avoids fighting pitched battles and frontal assaults wherever possible. The focus is to wear an opponent down through attrition and skirmishes that are designed to disrupt supply lines and lower morale. Southern generals like Robert E. Lee are praised for their tactical genius, being called the American Napoleon, but his battles were bloody affairs. The Confederacy simply could not sustain the same amount of casualties as the Union, so taking this pressure off could have secured a Southern victory. 
They didn’t have to win; just not lose
With the Union armies invading from the North, the Confederacy had the geographical advantage. With public opinion in the North wavering, calls for a ceasefire from groups like the Copperheads and The Peace Movement were putting pressure on the government. If the South could have capitalized on this and bought the Union to the negotiating table, perhaps favorable terms for a ceasefire could have been drawn up.

Enlisted foreign aid
Although not officially recognized as a sovereign country by the rest of the world, the Confederacy did have strong international ties. It produced over eighty percent of the world’s cotton, and wanted to increase demand by hoarding it just before the naval blockade by the Union began. Enlisting the military support of mighty powers like Great Britain and France could have helped threaten the Union’s ability to trade and demand peace negotiations. 
Employed competent leaders
The South is seen as having the better military commanders during the war, but this mainly stems from what is called The Lost Cause, championed by the South after the war. Essentially it romanticized the southern military and portrayed General Lee as the perfect military general and strategist. While Lee was a very capable leader, men like General John Bell Hood and General Braxton Bragg are seen as being incompetent as military commanders, compared to the North’s leaders like Grant and Sherman. If the South wanted any chance of victory, it would need to shake up its command structure. 
Gained the technological edge
With balloons, steam-powered ironclads, and rapid firing guns becoming more common, both sides sought to gain the technological advantage over the other. The South even hit upon the idea of building a helicopter, almost a hundred years before they would be used by the US in Vietnam. Using a steam engine to drive two enormous Archimedean screws, the device was intended to fly above the battlefield, raining destruction down on the Union from above. Lack of funds grounded the project but, if it had been built, there it might have given the southern military the edge it needed.
Rico says this delusion just won't go away... (Speaking of splendid delusions, here's a model of that steam-powered helicopter.)

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