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Lecture 7


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Stalemated War, 1861

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Lecture 7

  1. 1. Stalemated War, 1861
  2. 2. Explanations for Confederate Failure • For many years after the war, the reasons for South’s loss seemed obvious – Massively outnumbered – Less industrialized; fewer resources • Creation of the myth of the “Lost Cause” – Slavery would have withered anyway – North was a bully—determined to subordinate South – South bound to lose from the outset – Key thing is that Confederates fought honorably for so long, faced with unfavorable odds • But experience of Vietnam led historians to consider the question anew – Having technological superiority no guarantee of victory
  3. 3. Perceptions of Confederate advantage at the war’s outset • Believed they were better prepared because of cultural differences – More martial: valued bravery; knew how to use guns – Viewed North as populated by greedy businessmen and slavish workers – Notion that the South had produced all the nation’s great generals – Contrast between Lincoln and Jefferson Davis • Military novice v. former Sec. of War • South had the advantage in fighting a defensive war on terrain they knew
  4. 4. Confederate Advantages One of the few ex-Confederates who challenged the Lost Cause Myth in the post- war years was General P.G.T. Beauregard: “No people ever warred for independence with more relative advantages than the Confederates. . . The South, with its great material resources, its defensive means of mountains, rivers, railroads, and telegraph, with the immense advantages of interior lines of war, would be open to discredit as a people if its failure could not be explained otherwise than by mere material contrast.”
  5. 5. Development of Myth of the Lost Cause • After the war, Southerners were reluctant to acknowledge these advantages – Would mean acknowledging that maybe the population was not as resolute as portrayed • Hence the emphasis on the material advantages of the North – Manpower pool of 3.5 million v. 1 million – Manufacturing capacity, railroads, animals, etc.
  6. 6. Advantage of fighting a defensive war • The 11 states of the Confederacy covered more than 750,000 square miles – Equal to Europe and Britain combined • 9 million people; 12th most populous nation in the world • Experience of the Revolution gave them confidence • Did not have to wage an offensive war – A stalemate would have been fine • The North had to win: not only subdue territory but hold it – This required protecting supply lines, garrisoning key towns, and pacifying local populations and protecting local Unionists – Needed many more men
  7. 7. Slavery • Initially seen as an advantage to the South – 1/3rd of South’s population • Grant estimated that slaves contributed at least 3x as much to the Confederate cause and the equivalent number of non-combatants contributed to the North – Backbone of the economy • Produced food for army; mined raw materials; worked in war plants; dug and repaired fortifications – Freed white men for fighting • Upshot: Given what the North had to accomplish, and the South’s access to slave labor, the actual disparity in the size of the armies looks less impressive – In fact, the two sides were too evenly balance, which is why their was no quick victory.
  8. 8. Union’s war goals • Lincoln wanted to persuade the South to rejoin the Union – Every military move initially dictated by desire for reconciliation • Adopted a relatively mild hand, especially in dealing with the border states • Early in the war, keeping border states in the Union was Lincoln’s most pressing goal – Maryland was especially critical • Because of the capital and the RR
  9. 9. Maryland, April 1861 • MD: slave state with a significant pro-Confederate faction • In April 1861, as the first Massachusetts troops made their way to the capital through MD, southern sympathizers pelted them with stones – Killed 12 people • Confederate sympathizers also destroyed railroad bridges leading to the North and telegraph lines to Washington, cutting off communications between the capital and the rest of the Union for 6 days – Panic in D.C.
  10. 10. “First Blood.—The Sixth Massachusetts Regiment Fighting Their Way Through Baltimore, April 19, 1861,” Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (1866)
  11. 11. Lincoln and civil liberties in MD • Lincoln stationed troops along the RR and declared martial law • Arrested ringleaders and held them without trial, along with 32 secessionist state legislators and dozens of sympathizers – First of a number of violations of civil liberties justified on national security grounds – Lincoln also suspended habeas corpus without waiting for Congress – Circuit Court (Judge Taney) says it’s unconstitutional – Later, in 1863, Congress passed the Habeas Corpus Act • Allowed the government to detain anyone suspected of disloyalty • MD voted to stay in the Union, but many people spent the whole war in jail • Lincoln also instituted military courts, arguing that civil courts were inadequate
  12. 12. Missouri and Kentucky • MO provided access to the MS River – Plagued with guerilla fighting throughout war • KY controlled access to rivers needed to get supplies to armies in the West; – Also had vital minerals; livestock and grain- producing region – Both sides tried to court KY, but in Sept 1861 the Confederacy invaded – Union sent in Grant – KY remained a battleground for the rest of the war
  13. 13. Importance of border states • Can’t underestimate the importance of the Union keeping hold of the border states – These states provided Union with 200,000 white troops and eventually 50,000 black troops • No huge battles in border states in 1861 – But the outcome of political struggles were critical – Control over these territories gave Union Army a launching pad; control over rivers • Lincoln had to tread lightly – Couldn’t just go in militarily – Delicate political balancing act
  14. 14. “On to Richmond” • Importance of public opinion in shaping war strategy • Once Confederates shifted the site of their capital to Richmond, Northerners clamored for a quick victory – But the terrain favored the Confederates • After Fort Sumter, nothing much happened for 3 months – Both sides amassing their armies
  15. 15. “Anaconda Plan” • Union strategy proposed by Gen. Winfield Scott early in the war – Eastern Army would protect Washington and pin down Confederate troops in Northern VA – Navy would blockade all ports – Joint army-navy invasion down the MS River would cut the Confederacy in two • Plan was widely mocked – But in the end, the Union victory looked pretty similar to what Scott envisioned
  16. 16. Richmond: tantalizing target In response to public pressure, Lincoln replaced Scott with General Irvin McDowell and urged him to attack Confederate forces, amassed just 25 miles from the capital at Manassas Junction, a major railroad center. They attacked July 21, 1861, in what was the first major battle of the war, the Battle of Bull Run. It was utter chaos.
  17. 17. First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) • Fought July 21, 1861, near Washington, D.C. – Spectators from DC came to observe • Over 60,000 troops involved • Terrible Union defeat • Casualties seemed shockingly high to people – 900 dead, 2,700 wounded (total of both sides) – Single bloodiest day in Western hemisphere – Showed the war was not going to be quick • Afterwards: Lincoln signed bill calling for 500,000 troops to enlist for up to 3 years • Confederates called for an additional 400,000 men • Congress passed the Crittenden Resolution – Designed to assure border states that they could keep their slaves
  18. 18. Chaotic retreat
  19. 19. George B. McClellan • “Little Napoleon” and “Little Mac” – See as the embodiment of a martial hero • West Point graduate; second in class • Well educated (spoke several languages) • Fought with distinction in Mexican-American War • In 1850s studied military tactics in Crimean War • Chief engineer and later Vice-President of Illinois Central Railroad • Assembled the largest force (nearly 200,000 men) since Napoleon invaded Russia • Public enraptured; army a popular spectacle
  20. 20. Army of the Potomac, Grand Review, November 1861
  21. 21. Gen. George B. McClellan Idolized at first, he came to be seen as overly cautious, pompous and insecure – responsible for bogging down the Union Army during the war’s first year. By the end of 1861, the Northern press and politicians were turning against him – attacking him for failing to strike hard against the enemy. Lincoln increasingly impatient.
  22. 22. Visiting McClellan, Oct. 1862 "Gen McClellan and myself are to be photographed…if we can be still long enough. I feel Gen. M should have no problem…"
  23. 23. Lincoln to McClellan, Oct. 3, 1862 “You remember my speaking to you of what I called your over-cautiousness. Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you cannot do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be at least his equal in prowess, and act upon the claim?…. I would press closely to him, fight him if a favorable opportunity should present, and at least try to beat him to Richmond on the inside track, unless you admit that he is more than your equal on a march. It is all easy if our troops march as well as the enemy, and it is unmanly to say they cannot do it. This letter is in no sense an order.”
  24. 24. McClellan’s view • Wanted to prevent the war from turning into a revolutionary struggle – Strongly believed that slave ownership was a constitutionally protected right • Wanted to keep a distance between the military and politicians • Hated to see soldiers die • Hoped to amass a huge force, plan meticulously, and strike Richmond with a single deadly blow • Did not want to make war on civilians; wanted a war between armies, not peoples
  25. 25. Assessing McClellan • Organized an army of unprecedented size and complexity • Instilled discipline/pride in untrained troops • Understood the importance of logistics -- supplying the army, equipping and clothing men; arranging for transportation • Successful CW generals would be those men would understood the importance of logistics – And understood the importance of an ever-watchful press