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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
 

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Could the South have won the Civil War?

To many, the very question seems absurd. After all, the Confederacy had only a third of the population and one-eleventh of the industry of the North. Wasn’t the South’s defeat inevitable?

Not at all, as acclaimed military historian Bevin Alexander reveals in this provocative and counterintuitive new

Overview

Could the South have won the Civil War?

To many, the very question seems absurd. After all, the Confederacy had only a third of the population and one-eleventh of the industry of the North. Wasn’t the South’s defeat inevitable?

Not at all, as acclaimed military historian Bevin Alexander reveals in this provocative and counterintuitive new look at the Civil War. In fact, the South most definitely could have won the war, and Alexander documents exactly how a Confederate victory could have come about—and how close it came to happening.

Moving beyond fanciful theoretical conjectures to explore actual plans that Confederate generals proposed and the tactics ultimately adopted in the war’s key battles, How the South Could Have Won the Civil War offers surprising analysis on topics such as:

•How the Confederacy had its greatest chance to win the war just three months into the fighting—but blew it
•How the Confederacy’s three most important leaders—President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson—clashed over how to fight the war
•How the Civil War’s decisive turning point came in a battle that the Rebel army never needed to fight
•How the Confederate army devised—but never fully exploited—a way to negate the Union’s huge advantages in manpower and weaponry
•How Abraham Lincoln and other Northern leaders understood the Union’s true vulnerability better than the Confederacy’s top leaders did
•How it is a myth that the Union army’s accidental discovery of Lee’s order of battle doomed the South’s 1862 Maryland campaign
•How the South failed to heed the important lessons of its 1863 victory at Chancellorsville

How the South Could Have Won the Civil War shows why there is nothing inevitable about military victory, even for a state with overwhelming strength. Alexander provides a startling account of how a relatively small number of tactical and strategic mistakes cost the South the war—and changed the course of history.


From the Hardcover edition.

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307450104
Publisher:
The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/25/2008
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
845,810
File size:
3 MB

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

Meet the Author

BEVIN ALEXANDER is the author of nine books of military history, including How Hitler Could Have Won World War II, How Wars Are Won, How America Got It Right, and Lost Victories, which was named by the Civil War Book Review as one of the seventeen books that have most transformed Civil War scholarship. His battle studies of the Korean War, written during his decorated service as a combat historian, are stored in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. He lives in Bremo Bluff, Virginia.


From the Hardcover edition.

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