"How the South Could Have Won the Civil War" is a good book? Is the defensive approach the best?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Gukpard, May 30, 2019.

  1. Gukpard hominem populist

    Aug 12, 2015
    São Paulo, Brazil.
    There is hardly anything that fascinates me more about the US history than the civil war, but I'm only beginning to learn about it, and so during my search I found this book: "How the South Could Have Won the Civil War: The Fatal Errors That Led to Confederate Defeat" by Bevin Alexander, on amazon for sale.

    The description reads:

    "Destroying conventional historical wisdom, acclaimed military historian Bevin Alexander reveals how the South most definitely could have defeated the North-and how close a Confederate victory came to happening. Alexander shows:

    •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 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 vulnerability better than the Confederacy’s leaders did"

    What do you think? It is worth a read? I'm asking that because I'm so low on funds now and I don't want to buy something that would move me on the wrong direction, and I showed this to a friend of mine from Georgia and he said that the book claims that the south should have kept the defensive and try to bleed the north, but according to this friend of mine the south did that and had no effect and then they drove north. On another hand the book seems to claim that the south incursions in the north only strenghned the north will to fight and thus increased their will to crush the south, something that seems reasonable to me. What do you think?
  2. James Ricker Own your mistakes

    Oct 29, 2016
    Boston Massachusetts
    You cannot win a war on defense.
    The Confederacy did not have the manpower to defend the entire South.
    That's how Grant's anaconda plan worked, the South could stop one thrust and slow down a second but wouldn't be able to stop down the Third.
    Last edited: May 30, 2019
    Gukpard and AussieHawker like this.
  3. Derek Pullem Butterfly Killer

    Jan 26, 2011
    Unusually the South could as not losing = independence = win.
    But I can't see how they can not lose for long enough if they give up tactical mobility - siege of Petersburg showed that.
  4. Arnold d.c Well-Known Member

    Apr 18, 2015
    Wandering around Site-19
    In my opinion, books like these are really not worth their money or are supplements to foundational knowledge of the ACW. Your money would be better off spent on a broad overview of the war such as James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. It is indeed a very good book that you can't go wrong starting with, but for my money, the best single book that covers the course of the war is Bruce Catton's This Hallowed Ground. If you want a good overview of the military history of the ACW then I recommend Hettaway and Jones' How The North Won, Donald Stoker's This Grand Design, or Russell Weigley's A Great Civil War. They're all useful books for different reasons; I personally liked the Weigley book the most out of these. Once you get a better grip on the subject, study whatever catches your attention for a deeper understanding.
    The idea that the Confederates could simply remain on the defensive is not a realistic one. As the war continued, various counties in Northern Virginia were ravaged by the scourge of war. If Lee's army was to remain a viable force on the field, it had to go north to raid for supplies. While the Gettysburg Campaign was a bloody defeat for Lee, he at least got away with enough supplies to make it through to 1864. Without those supplies, Lee's army might have collapsed or considerably weakened by the lack of supplies. In addition, an offensive north is very useful in alleviating pressure on Virginia and disrupting Union offensive plans. The Northern Virginia Campaign and Maryland Campaign had the Union on the defensive for July-September 1862 and the Gettysburg Campaign preempted what could have another summer offensive by the Army of the Potomac.
    In the western theater, the Confederate defense was constantly overwhelmed by the excellent and creative use of the Federal logistical might. If the Confederates had to throw off pressure, they needed to go on the offensive: Shiloh was an attempt to basically regain the initiative after the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson; Bragg's Kentucky Campaign was a partially successful campaign as the Confederates prevented the Union from capturing Chattanooga and retook middle Tennessee and Bragg's counterattack at Chickamauga came awfully close to destroying the Army of the Cumberland. So the idea that defense = good and offense = bad doesn't hold up.