khbynum
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Sat Mar 08, 2014 3:38 am

At the start of the war, all officers were trained in military theory derived from the Napoleonic Wars. Some never got over it (P.G.T. Beauregard?). I'll agree with you on the Seven Days, but at that point no one on either side had the experience (or the staffs) to handle such huge armies. At Chancellorsville, Lee tried to follow up the success of Jackson's devastating flank attack with general attacks the next day, but he was outnumbered 2:1 and his strength already ground down by two days of fighting. 2nd Manassas illustrates the general theme that the winners were usually as broken up as the losers. Lee did turn that victory into an (in my opinion) ill-advised invasion of Maryland, but his army was already worn out at that point. Grant did it at Vicksburg because Pemberton retreated into an enclosed fortified position rather than retaining his freedom of maneuver. He had no choice, considering who was running the war. In the Appomattox campaign, Grant faced an army with shattered morale and disintegrating logistics. As for Chickamauga, a more resolute pursuit might have crippled the Union army, but thanks to Braxton Bragg's unimaginative tactics his own army was as beat up as his opponent.

In fact, leaving aside sieges (Donelson, Vickburg) in which the Confederates foolishly allowed themselves to be trapped, no army was destroyed in the open field except Hood at Nashville and Lee at Appomattox. Lee was at least trying to regain freedom of movement with a disintegrating army and logistics. Hood? If you can think of a more bizarre campaign in the history of warfare, please enlighten me.

I don't want to say that because it wasn't done, it couldn't have been done. Despite a lot of trying, it wasn't. The armies were too large, too resilient at the tactical level and the combat so deadly that even if you won you were too badly injured to finish it. Grant did, with the resources of the Union to back him, at enormous cost and a nine month campaign, not a single battle.

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Sat Mar 08, 2014 6:08 am

At the start of the war, all officers were trained in military theory derived from the Napoleonic Wars. Some never got over it (P.G.T. Beauregard?). I'll agree with you on the Seven Days, but at that point no one on either side had the experience (or the staffs) to handle such huge armies. At Chancellorsville, Lee tried to follow up the success of Jackson's devastating flank attack with general attacks the next day, but he was outnumbered 2:1 and his strength already ground down by two days of fighting. 2nd Manassas illustrates the general theme that the winners were usually as broken up as the losers. Lee did turn that victory into an (in my opinion) ill-advised invasion of Maryland, but his army was already worn out at that point. Grant did it at Vicksburg because Pemberton retreated into an enclosed fortified position rather than retaining his freedom of maneuver. He had no choice, considering who was running the war. In the Appomattox campaign, Grant faced an army with shattered morale and disintegrating logistics. As for Chickamauga, a more resolute pursuit might have crippled the Union army, but thanks to Braxton Bragg's unimaginative tactics his own army was as beat up as his opponent.

In fact, leaving aside sieges (Donelson, Vickburg) in which the Confederates foolishly allowed themselves to be trapped, no army was destroyed in the open field except Hood at Nashville and Lee at Appomattox. Lee was at least trying to regain freedom of movement with a disintegrating army and logistics. Hood? If you can think of a more bizarre campaign in the history of warfare, please enlighten me.

I don't want to say that because it wasn't done, it couldn't have been done. Despite a lot of trying, it wasn't. The armies were too large, too resilient at the tactical level and the combat so deadly that even if you won you were too badly injured to finish it. Grant did, with the resources of the Union to back him, at enormous cost and a nine month campaign, not a single battle.


I realize that the thread is big What-if, but one has to make his points couched in historical terms and analysis. The above shows a tendency towards sweeping statements; it is better to use an inductive approach, presenting concrete examples and drawing valid & supportable inferences, or, the reverse, making a well-defined generalization and then citing examples and showing why the particulars support the general case.

Let's examine the above:

At the start of the war, all officers were trained in military theory derived from the Napoleonic Wars.


Really? Every single one. Down to lieutenant? Bear in mind that the US Army in 1860 was about 14,000 Regulars. Using a 100:1 ratio as an educated guess for men to officers, we arrive at about 140 officers in the entire Army - probably too low. 50:1 gives 280; 25:1, 560. Perhaps there were 1,000 officers, all grades, in 1860; probably closer to 700, maybe. Then you have quite a few who had resigned commissions and were in civilian life. So, in the entire country, you had, perhaps, about 2,000 individuals who had attended West Point, some in active service, some not. Anyone who had this education & training and fought in the war tended to rise high, many to general officer rank. More than a few never saw combat or are not well known names - their skills (particularly anyone with engineering experience) were too valuable in other tasks.

Many familiar to us fought in the Mexican War , which is too often overlooked as a crucible of experience and colored many officer's thinking. A decent acquaintance with the campaigns of 1846-48 should lead one to conclude that 'Napoleonic tactics', 'Napoleonic thinking', were hardly the prison of conception that some would have us believe. Many of the battles required improvisational talents and Scott, in particular, impressed his junior officers with his flexibility and adaptation to circumstances.

Other than the regular officers trained at the Point, the vast majority of Civil War units were led by the local grandees. In 19th century America, most men were used to arms and had few problems adjusting to the rigors of the field.

I hope this small discourse should show that the statement above is really not all that useful, if one is trying to actually be serious about inquiry.

I'll agree with you on the Seven Days, but at that point no one on either side had the experience (or the staffs) to handle such huge armies.


Yes, McClellan was completely befuddled and didn't have a clue, nor any staff to help. Johnston and Lee, of course, were overwhelmed with the colossal numbers under their command and could barely maneuver.

Do not mistake Gen'l McC.'s record as a combat commander with his fitness. GBM was a very good officer and had been the president of a railroad - in those days, roughly the equivalent of running NASA. He was far from a stupid or careless individual. Personally, I think he had a rather curious outlook on some aspects of national life, but that is impertinent to these points. He was an excellent trainer, all agree, and made a significant and lasting contribution to victory. The evolution of G1, G2, G3, G4 was in the future. In 1941, he would have been running TRACOM.

Although this evolution, pioneered by the Prussian and German armies, was yet to come, commanders had staffs and knew how to use a chain of command to effect their desires. They did not have some modern tools, but even today, radio silence returns one to tried and true means - anyone with military experience knows that face-to-face is the most secure form of communication, for example, and runners are still used on the battlefield.

ill-advised invasion of Maryland


If not for the Lost Order, the Union might still be looking for him. Wasn't a bad idea; Lee realized that a permanent defensive spelt doom. 'Worn out'? Yes, they were so worn out that Jackson stopped Hooker's Corps cold in its tracks, albeit by a miracle (go walk that ground), and AP Hill won the Olympic event from Harper's (go drive it, it's all uphill for 17 miles) and persuaded Burnside to retire, just when he was in a position to win.

Grant did it at Vicksburg because Pemberton retreated into an enclosed fortified position rather than retaining his freedom of maneuver.


Grant's brilliant solution to his problems by a daring maneuver downstream and quick, victorious strikes at Big Black River, Jackson and Champion's Hill had nothing to do with this. Pemberton was a nincompoop who handed over the ball at his own 20.

In the Appomattox campaign, Grant faced an army with shattered morale and disintegrating logistics.


Their lack of morale, supplies, general situation - any of these have anything to do with Grant's decisions for the last nine months? Just asking. That Grant, what a lucky SOB.

*****

The above is not a criticism of the OP. If I may, too many here just trot out assertions that would've been hauled into court for vagrancy about fifty years ago.

Read more than one author. Compare. Reflect. Think. Then, one can perhaps draw conclusions that aren't susceptible to being overly reduced. And when one does, qualify statements, put them into context. And always remember, we weren't there - all we have are records and documents.

Read Tuchman's Practicing History if one really wants to learn how an historian works and thinks.
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aariediger
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Sat Mar 08, 2014 6:51 am

At the start of the war, all officers were trained in military theory derived from the Napoleonic Wars.


So? We tend to confuse 'Napoleonic warfare' as in the time period (linear tactics, cavalry charges, infantry squares) with Napoleon's methods. The tactics were outdated, but his concepts were not. The use of the central position, the idea to march around rather than through enemy armies, the idea of creating a weak spot in the enemies lines with misdirection, all these and more, were used by Napoleon, and studied by most West Point attendees. And with good reason. Mahan's translation and interpretation of Jomini's ideas formed the core of many maneuvers throughout the war. You can observe Lee's use of the central position before 2nd Manassas, Sherman's march across to the sea uses a plan with branches, Grant at Vicksburg crosses the Mississippi and then strikes not directly at his objective, but rather east to Jackson, in order to drive a stake between Johnston and Pemberton's armies, and then uses his central position to defeat each in turn. The operational level was where campaigns were won or lost, and the generals who used Napoleon's example were the one's who succeeded. It was Grant's mastery of the operational art that won the war, and made him in my opinion the greatest commander in the history of our nation.

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Sat Mar 08, 2014 6:55 am

Have you read Grant as Military Commnder, by Fuller, IIRC? The author concludes that he is truly one of the Great Captains in history.

Not the equal of Alexander, or Caesar, I think, although it's really, really tough to measure. As with Wellington, though, he belongs.
[color="#AFEEEE"]"Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!"[/color]

-Daniel Webster



[color="#FFA07A"]"C'mon, boys, we got the damn Yankees on the run!"[/color]

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aariediger
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Sat Mar 08, 2014 7:00 am

Yes I have, along with his book Grant and Lee, which somewhat compares and contrasts the two. The main difference that he shows is Grant's success with logistics, compared to Lee's struggles. I may not remember entirely word for word, but Fuller believed Lee, whatever his positive qualities, to have been the worst quarter master in history. When the final showdown between Grant and Lee comes to a close, Fuller points out that Lee surrendered to Grant 8,000 men, 60 guns, a number of horses, and not a single ration.

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Sat Mar 08, 2014 7:07 am

Whereas Grant, while serving as a QM, was breveted at Chapultepec (could be wrong on the fight) for bravery and intrepidity - QMs didn't usually get involved in scrapping.

Wow, he had some hard crits of Lee, huh?
[color="#AFEEEE"]"Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!"[/color]

-Daniel Webster



[color="#FFA07A"]"C'mon, boys, we got the damn Yankees on the run!"[/color]

-General Joseph Wheeler, US Army, serving at Santiago in 1898



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khbynum
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Sat Mar 08, 2014 5:07 pm

GraniteStater wrote:The above is not a criticism of the OP. If I may, too many here just trot out assertions that would've been hauled into court for vagrancy about fifty years ago.

Read more than one author. Compare. Reflect. Think. Then, one can perhaps draw conclusions that aren't susceptible to being overly reduced. And when one does, qualify statements, put them into context. And always remember, we weren't there - all we have are records and documents.

Read Tuchman's Practicing History if one really wants to learn how an historian works and thinks.


I was trained to write succinctly. That sometimes results in generalizations to cut down on the verbiage. My forum posts are intended to stimulate discussion, not demonstrate my superior knowledge of history. I do compare, reflect and think. We all do, not just you. I don't tell the forum about my hobbies, job or military service. I don't disparage other poster's opinions. You have already shown in another thread that, despite your frequent obtuse references to mathematics, you don't even understand basic arithmetic. Why should I assume you understand history any better? Because you say so?

Your jocular, self-deprecating, folksy demeanor in other threads gives a very different impression than one gets from your posts in the history subforum. I am tired of your condescending attitude. We are all intelligent, accomplished, talented people. Fools don't play this game. Quite frankly, I will no longer be able to enjoy reading this forum unless I skip your posts. So, I will. Keep posting, though. The thing speaks for itself. You probably know how to say that in Latin.

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Sat Mar 08, 2014 8:27 pm

You may have noticed that when I made, and make, factual errors and am way off base, I apologize.

Now, remember - this is a History forum. If I try to assert that Neville Chamberlain started WW2, I should be called on it. History is a discipline, sir, not a license to trot any old horse out there and call it Secretariat.

I took pains to make it clear that I had reservations about certain statements and hoped that one could see that I was showing that these particulars ones were somewhat questionable.

You wish never to be gainsaid in your analyses? If you think that Grant is overrated, say so and marshal your arguments, arguments based on the record or what may be deduced logically. Yes, I have feelings on subjects - every historian does. An honest and fair historian makes it clear what his predilections are: Gibbon, in Roman Empire, can be said to blame the fall of the Empire, to a large degree, on what he saw as the enervating influence of Christianity. Others, since his time, have disagreed, some more strongly than others - but Gibbon is still treasured, because he is worth reading for his other observations, even if one is a devout Christian. Just because I may think Gibbon is mistaken in a major conclusion, doesn't mean I think he should be consigned to Nice Trys.

And that is because he is fair, honest and diligent - he did the work required and it shows.

This thread is a speculation, 'tis true - but the context is historical. If one wishes to bruit speculations about, then one needs to be prepared to argue from the record. I try to buttress my assertions. If people think I'm full of it, they are more than welcome to show me I'm full of malarkey - and many have done so, but argued from the record and cited other, better historians than ourselves.

Please, with all the goodness in my heart, be prepared to talk to others than those who simply nod and agree. All any reasonable person asks is that one be rational and not play fast and loose with what is generally agreed upon as the historical record and facts.
[color="#AFEEEE"]"Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!"[/color]

-Daniel Webster



[color="#FFA07A"]"C'mon, boys, we got the damn Yankees on the run!"[/color]

-General Joseph Wheeler, US Army, serving at Santiago in 1898



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(B) Pull my reins up sharply when needed, for I am a spirited thoroughbred and forget to turn at the post sometimes.





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aariediger
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Sun Mar 09, 2014 5:10 am

Whereas Grant, while serving as a QM, was breveted at Chapultepec (could be wrong on the fight) for bravery and intrepidity - QMs didn't usually get involved in scrapping.

Wow, he had some hard crits of Lee, huh?


And with reason too. While many people see Grant and Lee as similar generals, they had different styles, and fought different wars. In chess terms, Grant is white, he plays the conventional role of attacker, has ‘tempo’, while Lee is asymmetrical Black, fighting a defensive battle, trying to find an opportunity to steal the initiative. Lee was spontaneous, taking advantage of mistakes and surprising opponents. Grant was methodical, his surprises were planned. For example, my previous post pointed out both Grant and Lee’s use of the central position, but the circumstances were different. Lee finds himself in the central position between McClellan and Pope, and strikes both in turn before they can unite. His defensive and opportunistic usage is contrasted with Grant at Vicksburg.

Rather than simply finding himself lucked into the central position, Grant plans to create the situation. He drives between Pemberton and Johnston, placing himself in the central position from which he will defeat each in turn, and follow through with the destruction of the former. This is the pre-planned, offensive usage of one of Napoleon’s most important tactics. Here we see the difference between Grant and Lee. Both knew how to take advantage of an opportunity, but Grant sets himself apart by creating his opportunities.

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I should read that book. Fuller, you say?
[color="#AFEEEE"]"Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!"[/color]

-Daniel Webster



[color="#FFA07A"]"C'mon, boys, we got the damn Yankees on the run!"[/color]

-General Joseph Wheeler, US Army, serving at Santiago in 1898



RULES

(A) When in doubt, agree with Ace.

(B) Pull my reins up sharply when needed, for I am a spirited thoroughbred and forget to turn at the post sometimes.





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Sun Mar 09, 2014 8:09 am

GraniteStater wrote:I should read that book. Fuller, you say?


JFC Fuller. British army officer. Veteran of Boer War and WWI. Early theorist in tank warfare. After retiring in 1933, wrote a number of books on military history and theory. Wrote "Grant and Lee: a study in personality and generalship" in 1933 and "The Generalship of Ulysses S Grant" in 1929. Both books should still be in print.
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Mon Jun 09, 2014 7:53 pm

I don't want to negate the many good arguments before, but I think the South was very close to winning. Opposition to Lincoln existed and if Mclellan had more political talent or the situation had been looking more favorable for the South, it could have meant a completely different ending.

And more decisive victory for the south was a possibility (Shiloh won, Grant discredited or giving in to his self-doubts, New Orleans properly defended, a decisive victory following Chancellorsville, Antietam won, St.Louis campaign properly conducted, Gettysburg won, etc). In hindsight it appears that the war was decided by small accidents: the stupidity of some adjudant (mislaying the complete battle plan of the Marlyand campaign), the two bullet that killed Johnston and Jackson, Bufords cavalry and the 20th of Maine at Gettysburg, the miscalculations at New Orleans, Van Dorn, Bragg, etc.

On the other hand, it could have gone the other way too, meaning an earlier defeat. I think Lee's strategy was extremely risky, he could have run out of luck well before Gettysburg, a more decisive reaction of one of the Northern General could have exploited Lees weakness earlier. It appears Lee's success was mostly psychological, and the rest was luck (initially) and of course guts (but the Norther soldiers had those too). In the long run luck always equals out, so it does not surprise that after 4 years of ther there had been luck and misfortune, on both sides.

But it amazes me that the Northern population upheld the motivation to wage a bloody war when they could have ended it so easily, even if they were not fully aware of the real causes. Let's assume a certain number of key events would have gone the South's way.
"Winning" for the CSA means only a ceasefire, an end of the fighting, and difficult negotiations about border states (would the south for example accept that Missouri and Kentucky remained in the Union), then (complete or partial) recognition of CSA or just individual states rights. Also if the Southern States really must stay completely out of the Union, or if there were circumstances the states could reunite or form a new United States.
If the Democrats get into office, McLellan might recognize the CSA, and start negotiations. In the best case two smaller North American superpowers start to coexist, perhaps they reunite later, perhaps they don't. In the worst case another war erupts one or two decades thereafter, or perhaps a World War starting on NA some time in the 20th century. It's interesting, what this would have meant in WW1/WW2 and beyond. I believe in long terms the two could have remained allies, like Great Britain and USA

South America fell apart into many individual parts so it would not be such a different world today if there was a USA and a CSA.

That's all nice as science fiction, but didn't happen. They tried everything they could on the battlefield and succeeded many times, and it was still not enough. Davis himself said it best: "Died of a Theory!". The CSA won some surprising victories on the battlefied but
failed in politics, both internal and external. Externally, they did not have France as in 1777. Internally it existed on the principal of states rights and that was its doom: selfishness, corruption, lack of coordination, egos etc. And let's not ignore slavery, the South would have been prudent by abolishing slavery (slowly of course), but that would have meant that the CSA would have imploded.
When the South formed black regiments it was perhaps the first step but much too late, and the Governor of Georgia said something on the lines of "if we arm the negro and later recognize that he can be an equal soldier, everything that our Confederay is based on was a mistake." I think we know today that the "negro" was equal and that it was indeed a mistake.

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Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:17 pm

aariediger wrote:And with reason too. While many people see Grant and Lee as similar generals, they had different styles, and fought different wars. In chess terms, Grant is white, he plays the conventional role of attacker, has ‘tempo’, while Lee is asymmetrical Black, fighting a defensive battle, trying to find an opportunity to steal the initiative. Lee was spontaneous, taking advantage of mistakes and surprising opponents. Grant was methodical, his surprises were planned. For example, my previous post pointed out both Grant and Lee’s use of the central position, but the circumstances were different. Lee finds himself in the central position between McClellan and Pope, and strikes both in turn before they can unite. His defensive and opportunistic usage is contrasted with Grant at Vicksburg.

Rather than simply finding himself lucked into the central position, Grant plans to create the situation. He drives between Pemberton and Johnston, placing himself in the central position from which he will defeat each in turn, and follow through with the destruction of the former. This is the pre-planned, offensive usage of one of Napoleon’s most important tactics. Here we see the difference between Grant and Lee. Both knew how to take advantage of an opportunity, but Grant sets himself apart by creating his opportunities.


You analysis is a very interesting read. But what if the roles were reversed? If Grant would play Black, wouldn't he also have tried longer chances as Foote believes?
Grant had more material, so the style he chose was the blunt attack with rooks and Queen, while Lee had to try different things. but it could have been reversed.
Sherman said about Grant that he was not a very outstanding officer in almost every respect, but that he (Grant) had this "eery ability to not be scared a damn what the enemy does out of his sight, while it scares the hell out of me (Sherman)". But what does this "eerie ability" amount to? isn't it just a way to describe the cold blood of the risk-seeking gambler, to claim the initiative without thinking about the huge risks, don't give a damn what the opponent does and never stop even when things look bad? And isn't this what Lee also had (even Hitler seems to have had that ability as a leader, and had success with it, only until he became completely delusional of course)
In Chess terms, I think you can make an impressive start to every match with that all or nothing attitude, and you can win many times. Many players get too easily impressed if you just show an usual amount of aggression. That was the card both played regularly, because their opponents were not up to it.
So the keys are: aggression, initiative and pressure. I think that both Lee and Grant probably also knew the risks they were taking, they were just confident that 99% of their opponent Generals were cautious, methodical or even timid, and would break psychological if they just put them under constant pressure, and never stop. Lee was playing more on the psychological level it seems, that's what I meant with "had to try different things". but it must have been also clear to Grant that this would be a good strategy, had he needed it.

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Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:27 pm

What do you think about Lee's frontal attack in Gettysburg? Was it stupid or an attempt at a complete, psychological victory (they have held the flanks, now we simply overrun them in their centre), that completely misfired? From then on he seems to have lost his psychological advantage, and purely become a methodical defender.

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Tue Jun 10, 2014 8:37 pm

I don't want to negate the many good arguments before, but I think the South was very close to winning. Opposition to Lincoln existed and if Mclellan had more political talent or the situation had been looking more favorable for the South, it could have meant a completely different ending.

And more decisive victory for the south was a possibility (Shiloh won, Grant discredited or giving in to his self-doubts, New Orleans properly defended, a decisive victory following Chancellorsville, Antietam won, St.Louis campaign properly conducted, Gettysburg won, etc). In hindsight it appears that the war was decided by small accidents: the stupidity of some adjudant (mislaying the complete battle plan of the Marlyand campaign), the two bullet that killed Johnston and Jackson, Bufords cavalry and the 20th of Maine at Gettysburg, the miscalculations at New Orleans, Van Dorn, Bragg, etc.

On the other hand, it could have gone the other way too, meaning an earlier defeat. I think Lee's strategy was extremely risky, he could have run out of luck well before Gettysburg, a more decisive reaction of one of the Northern General could have exploited Lees weakness earlier. It appears Lee's success was mostly psychological, and the rest was luck (initially) and of course guts (but the Norther soldiers had those too). In the long run luck always equals out, so it does not surprise that after 4 years of ther there had been luck and misfortune, on both sides.

But it amazes me that the Northern population upheld the motivation to wage a bloody war when they could have ended it so easily, even if they were not fully aware of the real causes. Let's assume a certain number of key events would have gone the South's way.
"Winning" for the CSA means only a ceasefire, an end of the fighting, and difficult negotiations about border states (would the south for example accept that Missouri and Kentucky remained in the Union), then (complete or partial) recognition of CSA or just individual states rights. Also if the Southern States really must stay completely out of the Union, or if there were circumstances the states could reunite or form a new United States.
If the Democrats get into office, McLellan might recognize the CSA, and start negotiations. In the best case two smaller North American superpowers start to coexist, perhaps they reunite later, perhaps they don't. In the worst case another war erupts one or two decades thereafter, or perhaps a World War starting on NA some time in the 20th century. It's interesting, what this would have meant in WW1/WW2 and beyond. I believe in long terms the two could have remained allies, like Great Britain and USA

South America fell apart into many individual parts so it would not be such a different world today if there was a USA and a CSA.

That's all nice as science fiction, but didn't happen. They tried everything they could on the battlefield and succeeded many times, and it was still not enough. Davis himself said it best: "Died of a Theory!". The CSA won some surprising victories on the battlefied but
failed in politics, both internal and external. Externally, they did not have France as in 1777. Internally it existed on the principal of states rights and that was its doom: selfishness, corruption, lack of coordination, egos etc. And let's not ignore slavery, the South would have been prudent by abolishing slavery (slowly of course), but that would have meant that the CSA would have imploded.

When the South formed black regiments it may have been the first step but much too late, and the Governor of Georgia said something on the lines of "if we arm the negro and later recognize that he can be an equal soldier, everything that our Confederay is based on was a mistake." I think we know today that the "negro" was equal and that it was indeed a mistake.

aariediger wrote:And with reason too. While many people see Grant and Lee as similar generals, they had different styles, and fought different wars. In chess terms, Grant is white, he plays the conventional role of attacker, has ‘tempo’, while Lee is asymmetrical Black, fighting a defensive battle, trying to find an opportunity to steal the initiative. Lee was spontaneous, taking advantage of mistakes and surprising opponents. Grant was methodical, his surprises were planned. For example, my previous post pointed out both Grant and Lee’s use of the central position, but the circumstances were different. Lee finds himself in the central position between McClellan and Pope, and strikes both in turn before they can unite. His defensive and opportunistic usage is contrasted with Grant at Vicksburg.

Rather than simply finding himself lucked into the central position, Grant plans to create the situation. He drives between Pemberton and Johnston, placing himself in the central position from which he will defeat each in turn, and follow through with the destruction of the former. This is the pre-planned, offensive usage of one of Napoleon’s most important tactics. Here we see the difference between Grant and Lee. Both knew how to take advantage of an opportunity, but Grant sets himself apart by creating his opportunities.


You analysis is a very interesting read. But what if the roles were reversed? If Grant would play Black, wouldn't he also have tried longer chances as Foote believes?
Grant had more material, so the style he chose was the blunt attack with rooks and Queen, while Lee had to try different things. but it could have been reversed.
Sherman said about Grant that he did not think much of him as an officer in almost every respect, but that he (Grant) had this "eery ability to not be scared a damn what the enemy does out of his sight, while it scares the hell out of me (Sherman)". But what does this "eerie ability" amount to? isn't it just a way to describe the cold blood of the risk-seeking gambler, to claim the initiative without thinking about the huge risks, don't give a damn what the opponent does and never stop even when things look bad? And isn't this nerve exaxtly what Lee also had (though not a General, even Hitler seems to have had it and had success with it, only until he became completely delusional of course)
In Chess terms, I think you can make an impressive start to every match with that all or nothing attitude, and you can win many times. Many players get too easily impressed if you just show an usual amount of aggression. That was the card both played regularly, because their opponents were not up to it.
So the keys are: aggression, initiative and pressure. I think that both Lee and Grant probably also knew the risks they were taking, they were just confident that 99% of their opponent Generals were cautious, methodical or even timid, and would break psychological if they just put them under constant pressure, and never stop. Lee was playing more on the psychological level it seems, that's what I meant with "had to try different things". but it must have been also clear to Grant that this would be a good strategy, had he needed it.
And with roles revised I am sure if Lee ever had a 2:1 superiority in men, I am sure he would have chosen a frontal assault even if initial losses were 25-50% higher.

By the way, what do you think about Lee's frontal attack in Gettysburg? Was it stupid or an attempt at a complete, psychological victory (they have held the flanks, now we simply overrun them in their centre), that completely misfired? Because I always thought that it could have been another gambling move that turned into his worst. What could have been on his mind when he came up with it, I really want to understand.
Did he already realize after days of inconclusive fighting, that the last thing that could save the last offensive the South could make was a miracle? So like if he was gambling Roulette, he decided to do the last move that he had reserved, to put all his remaining chips on a number? From then on he seems to have lost his psychological advantage, and turn into a pure, methodical defender.

Take note nothing I said was meant to discredit Lee. He developed a brilliant series of surprise moves that will live on for generations to study, but his brilliance could have been more related to that of a poker player, as I wrote above. Whereas Grant, who also neglected enemy counter action (according to Sherman ever) was never putting "everything" at stake, and could rely that if he should run into a trap, some other army would prevent the worst.

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...but I think the South was very close to winning.


When?

The one single day when the CSA might have won a 'decisive battle' (and man, is that term ever abused - it means a battle that decides things and there was almost none of those in the ACW - Petersburg in April 65, most probably; Franklin/Nashville, destroying the AoT, arguably another, although it didn't end the war) was 30 June 1862, but Jackson failed to snap the jaws shut.

I've just finished with a while lotta reading, and I mean a whole lot. Catton's trilogy, a bio of Lincoln, a book on Grant & Lee, and a book by Keegan on a military analysis. Some things I was corrected on, to be posted shortly.

Both sides pursued the chimerical 'decisive battle'. It didn't happen, for a number of reasons, imo, the chief being the lack of pursuit after battles. Keegan points out that compared to other mid-19th century conflicts, the war in North America was short in both cavalry and artillery. Hence the lack of pursuit. ACW battles were mostly fought by large bodies of infantry with rifled muskets. Also, both sides, actually early on, started realizing the value of defensive works, any works, no matter how hastily improvised. By 1865, troops that that had been in position one day could throw up enough defensive shelter to give even the most vigorous attacks serous pause. A good example is Cold Harbor. Grant said he regretted the last assault at the place, not the decision to attack itself. He felt he had a chance to destroy Lee's army, thus he attacked then & there. He felt the potential losses were worth it if he could put the kibosh on the ANV. Didn't happen, mostly because assaulting even hasty works could be daunting.

Grant, after Shiloh, realized it was going to be a long hard war of outright conquest - to a large degree, attrition, a remorseless grinding down of the South's ability and resolve to fight. Even he occasionally succumbed to the bauble of the Decisive Battle, but, for the most part, he realized it wasn't going to be over until the South was thoroughly whipped. Sherman was thought to be a nutjob for seeing early on it was going to take hundreds of thousands to defeat the rebellion.

The South had their chance, and chances, to convince the North to quit. They didn't do it.

...it amazes me that the Northern population upheld the motivation to wage a bloody war when they could have ended it so easily, even if they were not fully aware of the real causes.


Really? 'Amazing'? And the North was delusional, or tricked by that rascal, Lincoln, if I'm reading this right?

There were certain fundamental principles at stake, one of which was whether a dissatisfied minority in a free republic could arbitrarily defy lawful authority by force of arms, simply on an apprehension of what an administration might do - and entirely in contravention of repeated statements by that administration (yet to take office, mind you) that it had no intention of exercising unconstitutional powers to change the domestic arrangements of the several States.

The North had definite dissensions within it - war Democrats, peace Democrats, radical Republicans, "antebellum" Republicans, but most of the North, although divided on the exact terms of the results, were for prosecuting the war. The 1862 elections were a good barometer of this resolve. The Democrats gained seats, but not anywhere near the amount needed to change policy. Note that in '64, Lincoln carried the soldier's vote in a tidal wave. IMHO, if Sherman had not taken Atlanta, nor Sheridan won Cedar Creek, Lincoln still would've won, just not as pronouncedly. Yes, there was a great deal of war weariness by '64 and without the two events above, a great many people would've been sick of no light at the end of the tunnel, but I think Lincoln would've still won, but probably with a more fractious Congress.

Yes, the South might have won - but it was a very long shot, very long, especially after the EP. Foreign help or an armistice 'imposed' by the European powers (fat chance - make us stop this war) simply wasn't going to happen, not after the war took on aspects of a holy crusade to end slavery.
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Wed Jun 11, 2014 3:55 pm

GraniteStater wrote:When?


Before the 1864 election of course. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1864
There was a good chance that the North, especially the soldiers would simply give up.

GraniteStater wrote:Really? 'Amazing'? And the North was delusional, or tricked by that rascal, Lincoln, if I'm reading this right?

There were certain fundamental principles at stake, one of which was whether a dissatisfied minority in a free republic could arbitrarily defy lawful authority by force of arms, simply on an apprehension of what an administration might do - and entirely in contravention of repeated statements by that administration (yet to take office, mind you) that it had no intention of exercising unconstitutional powers to change the domestic arrangements of the several States.

The North had definite dissensions within it - war Democrats, peace Democrats, radical Republicans, "antebellum" Republicans, but most of the North, although divided on the exact terms of the results, were for prosecuting the war. The 1862 elections were a good barometer of this resolve. The Democrats gained seats, but not anywhere near the amount needed to change policy. Note that in '64, Lincoln carried the soldier's vote in a tidal wave. IMHO, if Sherman had not taken Atlanta, nor Sheridan won Cedar Creek, Lincoln still would've won, just not as pronouncedly. Yes, there was a great deal of war weariness by '64 and without the two events above, a great many people would've been sick of no light at the end of the tunnel, but I think Lincoln would've still won, but probably with a more fractious Congress.


It's quite obvious that Lincoln wanted the War, the northern population did not. Like Roosevelt in 1940 he was dragging the country behind, onto the battlefield. Don't get me wrong, I know Lincoln was not an idiot and he had to do it because otherwise the USA would fall apart and never be again. So yeah, while he had his long term goal that we all understand, the short term result was still that men from Northern states died by their thousands in a war they did not understand, against people which were not their enemies. Sorry if that goes against your convictions. I wouldn't disagree though that Lincoln was probably the greatest president you ever had.

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Wed Jun 11, 2014 5:02 pm

GlobalExplorer wrote:Before the 1864 election of course. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1864
There was a good chance that the North, especially the soldiers would simply give up.



It's quite obvious that Lincoln wanted the War, the northern population did not. Like Roosevelt in 1940 he was dragging the country behind, onto the battlefield. Don't get me wrong, I know Lincoln was not an idiot and he had to do it because otherwise the USA would fall apart and never be again. So yeah, while he had his long term goal that we all understand, the short term result was still that men from Northern states died by their thousands in a war they did not understand, against people which were not their enemies. Sorry if that goes against your convictions. I wouldn't disagree though that Lincoln was probably the greatest president you ever had.


There was a good chance that the North, especially the soldiers would simply give up


Oh, that's why Lincoln took the soldier's vote 85 - 15. Got it.

A 'good chance'? Show from the record, please. The election results in '62 and '64 would tend to demonstrate otherwise, in any fair reading of these, not to mention the initial overwhelming response to calls from volunteers. Don't get real fired up about the Copperheads and the New York Herald's editorials - if ever anyone blew hot and cold, it was Greeley.

There is no solid historical record to show that the Northern masses, in toto, were, on principle, willing to drop the whole thing, not in anywhere near the numbers needed to effect policy changes in Congress and most certainly not in the re-election. Yes, there was a good deal of war weariness as time went on, enough to have Grant and Lincoln and others worried about dragging it out much longer than it did, which is why Grant was very concerned about ending it as quickly as possible. Still, one has to conclude from the evidence that a substantial majority of the North supported the war and wanted to see the rebellion quashed.

It's quite obvious that Lincoln wanted the War, the northern population did not.


Lincoln did not want a war, quite the opposite. Read the First Inaugural Address and become conversant with some of his other statements and decisions from November '61 to April '62. The last thing he wanted was a war. He was begging the South to come to their senses. '...quite obvious' he wanted a war? Please.

...men from Northern states died by their thousands in a war they did not understand...


This just simply flies in the face of all available evidence. Overwhelming numbers of people understood quite clearly what was at stake, from PFC Jones to Horace Greeley. Some disagreed with particulars and policies - to state that they 'didn't understand' is just an assertion without merit, I'm afraid.

And none of this has anything to do with my convictions. Those can be found on another thread. What this has to do with is a fair reading of the historical record.

BTW, your characterization of FDR is off the rails, also. He did all he could to support the UK, 'tis true, that, and even a bit more, to the point where he practically authorized a shooting war against the Kriegsmarine. Still, all the records show that FDR was most certainly not trying to drag the US into a European war, especially not in 1940, when he had an election to win. He won a third term because the people of this nation endorsed his handling of the situation and wanted him in office in a very troubling time. The USN being given a hunting license wasn't until after the election, IIRC.
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Wed Jun 11, 2014 9:08 pm

You could be right. I agree with you on Lincoln inasfar that he did not want "a" war. What I meant was that he did not want to make peace with the CSA either, so he wanted "the" war once it was the only way to impress his will on the Southerners. [Sorry if I sound needlessly pro-South, but the question has never been settled why they could not just "walk out of the Union" when they so pleased]
Lincoln had ideals, visions, and he was extremely intelligent. But such politics and grand designs for the future are always one thing, the other are blood and toil and "rich Man's war, poor Man's fight". I believe the people may have preferred peace, let the Southerers have theirs and that the price for preserving the Union was exorbitantly high. It may have been right to let 2% of the population die to preserve the Union, but he could have avoided it if he had the will.

About FDR, I freely admit I dislike him. I am sure you know his Fireside Chat to the Nation speech: "When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck to crush him." - Franklin D. Roosevelt September 11, 1941. Strong words, but ironically he herbeby offered the perfect pretext for Pearl Harbor some months later, which he called "dastardly". When I see such double standards I think it is fair to say that he was a warmongerer, though he was not nearly as bad as our European warmongerer. USA could have stayed out of the war if they had wanted it. If she should have is another question of course.

I hope we do not get into an ideological argument, but from what you write I get the impression that you are not the ideological type either.
I am just explaining some things I realized recently about those two personalities, and what I meant with "dragging the nation onto the battlefield". It may have been right, but the fact remains that considerable dragging by those 2 presidents was necessary.

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Wed Jun 11, 2014 9:28 pm

GraniteStater wrote:Oh, that's why Lincoln took the soldier's vote 85 - 15. Got it.

A 'good chance'? Show from the record, please. The election results in '62 and '64 would tend to demonstrate otherwise, in any fair reading of these, not to mention the initial overwhelming response to calls from volunteers. Don't get real fired up about the Copperheads and the New York Herald's editorials - if ever anyone blew hot and cold, it was Greeley.


That is easy, as I only need to quote the man himself:

Lincoln, 1864: "This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterward."

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Wed Jun 11, 2014 10:01 pm

Every historical event looks like fate

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Wed Jun 11, 2014 10:37 pm

Dear GlobalExplorer:

You're just throwing assertions out there. I don't see much that is supportable by historical fact or record. As far as the quote goes, I'm well aware of it, as any student should be. Personally, I think Lincoln was being a bit too pessimistic about his chances, but he knew better than I.

To say that Lincoln could've avoided the war if he had the will, is, sorry, just nonsense. Try to remember that armed rebels fired on a Federal installation. And he, according to your lights, should've done what - shrugged it off? Are you aware of the responsibilities of a US President? Are you familiar with the oath he takes?

And the question has been settled - it was settled before Lincoln was born. Read the First Inaugural Address. If you haven't, then you're totally at sea when it comes to the fatuous notion of secession from this Union. There are people to this day who would like to entertain the notion of secession - they're mistaken. A State could leave the US, legally, but it would take at least the assent of every other State and is so far-fetched as to be a practical absurdity. If you want to debate this, there's an entire thread about it and you will see what my stand is there.

And, while I'm here - I was trying to close off the FDR discussion. May we do so?

With all respects, you are fast reaching the 'throw the spaghetti and see if it sticks" school of discussion. History is not up for grabs. There are facts. Then there are logical and rightful conclusions we may draw. Historians disagree about some of these, but they try to base their conclusions on something resembling logical inferences that can be supported by the facts. I am very afraid I see little of this in the statements you make. If I may say so, I see some unacquaintance with events in mid-19th century America and what these meant to the parties involved.

You're entitled to your opinions. So am I. Do bear in mind, however, that if one insists that Columbus discovered Pomerania, then perhaps one shouldn't be expecting that Ph. D. in history from Heidelberg anytime soon.
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Wed Jun 11, 2014 11:02 pm

BTW, we're kind of way off base at this point, aren't we? The thread is whether the South could have won. IMHO, a very, very small chance, given the preponderance of assets the Union had. I think they did very well to hang on as long as they did.
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Wed Jun 11, 2014 11:18 pm

Two cents worth: my American Civil War mentor E. B. "Pete" Long (The Civil War: Day by Day) published a small book title 'Why the South Won the Civil War.' He is, of course, not making a case for military victory, instead he demonstrates how much the South benefited economically, politically and socially from having engaged in this war. Just a different way of viewing the outcomes of war.

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Wed Jun 11, 2014 11:59 pm

That would be very interesting to read, seeing as the South's 'GDP' didn't regain the level of 1860 until the 1920s.

The political and social aspects, of course, are not as amenable to quantification.
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Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:06 am

I recognize that it can be upsetting when sports stars use war as a metaphor for their game, but I'd like to look at it in the other way. Some people talk about how perfect tennis is in that it is a sport where the better player on a given day (and given surface, etc) wins more often than any other sport (compare to the NCAA basketball tournament, for instance). Similarity, in the NBA they play best of 7, and over so many games the best team almost always wins.

It seems to me that sometimes war is more like tennis or the NBA finals than like golf or a single baseball game. I think the Confederacy had every right to believe that they could win. In fact, I think that before 1865, no one could have known who would win. But now that we see what happened (and I'm thinking of the idea that the North fought with one hand tied behind its back), it is much harder to imagine the South winning than it must have been before 1865.

I think this is truer of more recent wars than wars longer ago. Also, I think it is truer in wars with no single charismatic leader. I think any single leader in the Civil War could have been replaced except maybe Lincoln. If Lincoln had been killed much earlier, who knows (thankfully he wasn't).

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Thu Jun 12, 2014 10:35 am

GraniteStater wrote:With all respects, you are fast reaching the 'throw the spaghetti and see if it sticks" school of discussion. History is not up for grabs. There are facts. Then there are logical and rightful conclusions we may draw. Historians disagree about some of these, but they try to base their conclusions on something resembling logical inferences that can be supported by the facts. I am very afraid I see little of this in the statements you make. If I may say so, I see some unacquaintance with events in mid-19th century America and what these meant to the parties involved.

You're entitled to your opinions. So am I. Do bear in mind, however, that if one insists that Columbus discovered Pomerania, then perhaps one shouldn't be expecting that Ph. D. in history from Heidelberg anytime soon.


Dear Granite Stater, I value your opinion, but declaring yourself the PhD in a discussion, that's pretty much laughable and beggin for a bruising :)
I hope you have not inferred from some grammatical mistakes that I made that I am receiving a lecture from you! It's up to you if you cross the line to arrogance, but I hope you won't expect me to leave such jabs uncommented. Ok, Friends again :)

The quote I gave, was the assessment of Lincoln himself and his advisors and it was extremely pessimistic. It was the response to your previous denial of facts (when I wrote that war weariness in the North could have ended the war under some circumstances, at some point, you made it sound like it was something I had taken out of a Klu Klux Clan pamphlet).

I think the Lincoln statement refutes yours, so I'll let it stand. If Lincoln believed that he may not be re-elected so much, it can only mean that he may not have been re-elected indeed, and that no one can tell me that it's an absurd notion.

I agree however that it may be truer to facts that Lincoln and his staff did not have the clear picture themselves. But the fact remains that Lincoln's re-election was a great uncertainty (Great Britain had come to the same conclusion at some time), and a Northern Drôle de guerre under the next management was a possibility - under some circumstances, at some point. At the election 1864 that point and the conditions had passed though.
But that's something we already know don't we.

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Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:56 am

It is curious and interesting to speculate on the possible effect of a McClellan win in 1864. Common knowledge holds that the Dems were the peace party and were advocating a cease fire which would lead to an independent Confederacy. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party 1864 Election Platform and their selection of George B McClellan as Presidential candidate does not support the notion.

The platform called for "a cessation of hostilities, with a view of an ultimate convention of the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that, at the earliest practicable moment, peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States". Note that the objective is the union of the states. There was no mention of an immediate unconditional armistice or of an independent South.

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29578

McClellan rejected the peace plank that was proposed by the Copperheads. and his running was conditional that the southern states would not be granted independence, but had to return to the Union. McClellan proposed better leadership in prosecuting the war. His acceptance letter:

http://www.nytimes.com/1864/09/09/news/presidency-gen-mcclellan-s-letter-acceptance-letter-committee-reply-gen.html

A McClellan victory would not have saved the Confederacy. What would have changed under a McClellan presidency would have been the conditions by which the South would have re-joined the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation would have been repealed and slavery possibly extended into the western territories.
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Thu Jun 12, 2014 6:05 pm

Unfortunately for the Democratic fantasy factory of the day, the CSA had zippo interest in rejoining the Union - in any form. Quite understandable, really. If you were so bent on getting your own way, you were willing to start a war over the whole thing, why would you consent to co-operate with the scoundrels from whom you wished to separate in the first place? You're risking doing the whole thing all over again twenty years later. For a good historical illustration, see the history of Germany in the first half of the twentieth century.

Furthermore, the droll insouciance with which the Democrats of the day, and others, just blithely assumed that men who had been freed, and some who had served in the US Army & Navy, were just going to calmly and meekly return to the charms of 'ole massa', shows a lack of understanding and a dishonorable cast of mind and spirit that finds few parallels in all of history.

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Dear Granite Stater, I value your opinion, but declaring yourself the PhD in a discussion, that's pretty much laughable and beggin for a bruising
I hope you have not inferred from some grammatical mistakes that I made that I am receiving a lecture from you! It's up to you if you cross the line to arrogance, but I hope you won't expect me to leave such jabs uncommented. Ok, Friends again

The quote I gave, was the assessment of Lincoln himself and his advisors and it was extremely pessimistic. It was the response to your previous denial of facts (when I wrote that war weariness in the North could have ended the war under some circumstances, at some point, you made it sound like it was something I had taken out of a Klu Klux Clan pamphlet).

I think the Lincoln statement refutes yours, so I'll let it stand. If Lincoln believed that he may not be re-elected so much, it can only mean that he may not have been re-elected indeed, and that no one can tell me that it's an absurd notion.

I agree however that it may be truer to facts that Lincoln and his staff did not have the clear picture themselves. But the fact remains that Lincoln's re-election was a great uncertainty (Great Britain had come to the same conclusion at some time), and a Northern Drôle de guerre under the next management was a possibility - under some circumstances, at some point. At the election 1864 that point and the conditions had passed though.
But that's something we already know don't we.


I've never claimed to be some Big Expert. I have done some considerable reading, though, and have learned from other posters here and other well informed people on the subject. Your characterization of me is wholly unwarranted and is a creature of your own fabrication.

Your command of English (or not) interests me not in the slightest degree. How you arrived at this musing, I have no idea.

I am well aware of what Lincoln, Grant, other Northern leaders (and promoters of sedition) felt about the electoral landscape in 1864. Some felt it was the worst summer of the war and had good reasons for this. My opinion (they were there, I wasn't) is that I think they were being a bit too pessimistic - but that's all it can be, an opinion, for which I could marshal some evidence, but no one can measure these things to the satisfaction of all.

Whether Lincoln's re-election was a 'great uncertainty' is not a fact. That is an opinion. Whether it is well grounded or not is another issue. Personally, I think it was an uncertainty, but not a great one. The election results (i. e., a fact) would seem to support my hypothesis, in my opinion.

Finally, you seem to be heading in a direction of mischaracterizations of me, ascribing things to me without foundation, afaics, and seem quite unwilling to engage on any real grounds of historical analysis or appeals to the record, except for a few instances. Some of your statements have been entirely insupportable by any fair (or even unfair) reading and understanding of what happened. This is unfortunate. I much prefer to learn from others and enhance my understanding of the period. I am afraid that statements characterizing the inhabitants of the North at the time as being sheep led to the slaughter (one example) by wily politicians are neither helpul nor especially informative.

Things like the immediate above are not an historical discussion. This is just spaghetti throwing.

P. S. - you misspelled 'Klan'.
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Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:48 pm

If you want to insist that it is all baseless spaghetti throwing, so be it. I however believe that it was my criticism of Lincoln that set this in motion.

Alas. Just let me make it clear that I never in any way claim that Lincoln was the cause of the war or the culprit. He played his role, and he had a vision that incorporated many, good ideals. But it must be allowed to say that he also abused his power to get to those means.

GraniteStater wrote:To say that Lincoln could've avoided the war if he had the will, is, sorry, just nonsense. Try to remember that armed rebels fired on a Federal installation. And he, according to your lights, should've done what - shrugged it off? Are you aware of the responsibilities of a US President? Are you familiar with the oath he takes?


I am not saying he should shrug it off. But he clearly demonstrated that he would not feel coerced to act like a robot because of his oath. Lincoln was a very good strategist, and he was always prepared to bend the rules if he would get away with it. Without getting into discussion of the righteousness of his motives, he broke or violated his oath, for example when he ignored the Federal Court or planned to arrest the Chief Judge. He also suppressed the press and lied. I assume that you think it was either not the case or justified, but there is so much evidence it must be allowed to say it.

P.S. Klan, yes that's correct. I was not sure how it is spelled.

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