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How the South Could Have Won the Civil War: The Fatal Errors That Led to Confederate Defeat Paperback – November 25, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
For the author, Jackson is a transcendent military genius, Lee is myopic at best, and Davis becomes pretty quickly becomes immaterial. Ordinary soldiers enter the narrative mainly as numbers engaged, and casualties.
The author posits that the Army of Northern Virginia could have wandered around eastern Pennsylvania for months in the summer living off the land. On the other hand, he suggests that any Union army would have surrendered almost immediately if cut off from supply. Similarly, he suggests the Union itself would have surrendered upon the capture or cutting off of either Washington, Baltimore, or Philadelphia. The possiblilty that any of these events would have merely riled up the Union against an invader is not even mentioned, much less discussed.
So, while I found the book an enjoyable read, I also find it possible to doubt many of the author's opinions and spectulative theses. For me, these things balance out to a four star rating.
In all my studies I have found exactly one large unit that surrendered -- Pemberton at Vicksburg. This occurred after a campaign lasting about a year. I mention this because Mr Alexander has units surrendering left and right, had the Confederacy only done the right thing. Page 28 -- 1st Manassas -- "...a brisk move with only a few troops up to Centerville would have...forced them to surrender." Page 41 -- Stonewall Jackson -- "Jackson's aim...was to...force the opposing army against some terrain feature such as a mountain or river, where it would be compelled to surrender." Page 79 -- Seven Days -- "Lee felt he had a good chance of defeating McClellan and forcing his army to retreat in panic or surrender." Page 81 -- Seven Days -- "If this had been done, McClellan would have been forced to surrender his entire army."
We're only in 1862 and AoP has already surrendered three or four times! This sounds good if you know little or nothing of the war.
Alexander's thesis is a good one. He advocates Fuller's indirect approach.Read more ›
This books supposed subject in contained in its title, but it does not really achieve that. The subtitles is slightly more accurate. It is 337-pages including notes, bibliography and index with eighteen maps and very readable type.
The introduction is entitled "No Victory is Inevitable" which is true but analysis of why and how victory could have shifted to the historically defeated is a difficult task. Such analysis moves into the realm of counterfactual (or alternate) history, a field more usually the playground of fiction writers rather than historians.
In Chapter 2 "A New Kind of War" (p 33-43) Alexander lays out the three strategies that the Confederates had to choose from:
* Passive defense, championed by President Jefferson Davis and, as such, the de facto strategy of the CSA.
* Engaging and destroying the enemy, championed by Robert E. Lee and later pursued by him.
* Invasion of the North to destroy its ability to make war, by destroying economic and transportation assets, according to Alexander, this was the strategy that `Stonewall' Jackson wanted to see followed by the CSA.
Alexander believes that the war against the infrastructure of the North would have been a winning strategy. By Jackson was not able to find support for such a course of action, nor does it seem that he tried very hard to do so, and it did not happen. There Alexander leaves the matter, Jackson was right and if the Confederates had just listened they could have won. No discussion is made of how the Confederacy could have effectively pursued this.Read more ›
Stonewall Jackson is the key element in the author's arguments. Jackson is pushing Lee, Lee's orders trump Jackson's strategy, Jackson's actions produce total victory while the actions Lee & Davis only delay defeat. The author produces some interesting gymnastics in maintaining the position that Jackson was the CSA's best hope of victory. James Longstreet is villain or hero, depending on the battle. At Second Manassas, Longstreet delays attacking until Pope is in a position to escape destruction. At Gettysburg, Longstreet is the champion of Jackson's ideas fighting and overly aggressive Lee trying to save the South.
People who read Civil War history will be troubled by many of the author's conclusions and should find a number of misstatements. This is not to say that the author plays fast and lose with the truth but that he tends to over state his position and be carried away by his arguments.
What is right with the book? First, it is an excellent compilation of the position of where the South could have won the war.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you like to read about the Civil War as I do, I recommend this bookPublished 6 months ago by Ahmed
Bevin Alexander is probably the best military historical analyst around today. I've read all his books and this one is particularly interesting. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Robert Whitman
An excellent analysis of the strategic options which faced the South. I recommend it to all Civil War enthusiasts. But be warned it is not complimentary to Lee.Published 12 months ago by Herb Wilson
Bevin's fascinating book is basically a short history of the war in the Eastern theater, focusing on the possible ramifications of the many, many mistakes made by both sides. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Darrell J. Hartwick
This definitely is not a pro-South apology text. Slavery is certainly not being defended and admirers of the CSA should not be offended. Read morePublished on August 10, 2013 by The Max
I like a story line with some form of actual footage, you know pictures, this was a very slow read - soon to be back at the used book storePublished on May 23, 2013 by Cheryl A. Wipfli
This is strictly a military history. There is barely a mention of slavery or reasons why the CW was fought. Read morePublished on March 6, 2013 by Gderf