How the South Could Have Won the Civil War: The Fatal Errors That Led to Confederate Defeat

How the South Could Have Won the Civil War: The Fatal Errors That Led to Confederate Defeat

by Bevin Alexander
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Acclaimed military historian Bevin Alexander's surprising new book shows how the Confederacy nearly defeated the much larger and better equipped Union army, and reveals the fatal mistakes that led to the South's defeat. Debunking some of the most common assumptions about this great conflict, How the South Could Have Won the Civil War will transform the way you see the… See more details below

Overview

Acclaimed military historian Bevin Alexander's surprising new book shows how the Confederacy nearly defeated the much larger and better equipped Union army, and reveals the fatal mistakes that led to the South's defeat. Debunking some of the most common assumptions about this great conflict, How the South Could Have Won the Civil War will transform the way you see the war.

Editorial Reviews

Thomas J. Ryan
…readers who are unfamiliar with Alexander's earlier works will find How the South Could Have Won the Civil War thought provoking and informative.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal

In his provocative study Alexander (How Wars Are Won) posits that the Civil War was a "near thing." The skill of the South's field commanders far exceeded that of their Union counterparts, but there were tactical differences among the Confederate Army's top leadership: Jefferson Davis endorsed a defensive struggle to bring on war weariness in the North; Robert E. Lee sought to challenge the federal armies directly, and this resulted in bloody engagements of attrition; and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (who couldn't dictate) proposed an offensive war on Northern civilian targets, while fighting from defensive positions of strength. The stubborn Lee, for once, allowed Jackson to apply his philosophy of warfare at Chancellorsville, and the outcome was a victory. Regrettably, with Jackson lost after that battle, Lee reverted to trying to batter his adversaries into submission. At Gettysburg he lost a third of his army. The strength of this work is that it encourages historiographical controversy. Alexander's contentions regarding Davis and Lee are largely fair. But some, including this reviewer, may insist that it was Lee's defeat at Antietam on September 17, 1862 that sealed the South's fate. In turn, that battle prompted Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which gave the war a higher calling. Recommended for all libraries.
—John Carver Edwards

Kirkus Reviews
The Stars and Bars might yet wave, if only someone could have convinced Robert E. Lee not to attempt all those frontal assaults on heavily defended positions. Alexander, having previously pondered the business of military success (How Wars Are Won, 2002, etc.) and how wars could have turned out otherwise (How Hitler Could Have Won World War II, 2000), begins by observing that as a general Lee "was vastly superior to all of the Union commanders who came against him." Yet at Gettysburg and elsewhere, he insisted on the brute-force tactics of throwing men against fortified lines in the hope of frightening the enemy into running, which may have worked in an earlier century but, toward the end of the war, did not phase the better-armed and vastly more numerous federals. Against Union commanders who, until Grant arrived on the scene, were content to stay behind their fortifications, Lee could have made different choices. Alexander wonders why the Confederates did not move on Washington after the rout that was First Manassas, a tactic that could have ended the war. Another counterfactual: Had Stonewall Jackson not died, he might have carried off a later move on Washington, and in all events would have warned Lee not to throw away his army at Pickett's Charge. Interestingly, Alexander observes, William Tecumseh Sherman seems to have had an epiphany somewhere that led him to borrow Jackson's style, another turning point in the war. Alexander has a firm command of the military aspects of the struggle. Yet, as recent books such as David J. Eicher's Dixie Betrayed (2006) argue, the war was lost as much politically as militarily, and on that Alexander is largely silent. Still, Civil War buffs willlearn a thing or two from Alexander's considerations of events.
From the Publisher
"Alexander argues persuasively that the wartime policies of President Jefferson Davis and the military strategy of General Robert E. Lee led to the failure of the Confederacy. . . . Thought-provoking and informative."
Washington Post

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307345998
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/31/2007
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.51(w) x 9.61(h) x 1.26(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Alexander argues persuasively that the wartime policies of President Jefferson Davis and the military strategy of General Robert E. Lee led to the failure of the Confederacy. . . . Thought-provoking and informative."
Washington Post

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >