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Why the South Lost the Civil War Paperback – October 1, 1991

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

According to the authors, the South lost the Civil War because Southern nationalism was weak, indeed almost nonexistent. Previously, many reasons have been cited for Confederate collapse, such as states rights squabbles, the Union's naval blockade, economic weaknesses, and inadequate military leadership. The authors make interesting but not always convincing counterarguments, concluding that states rights actually helped the Confederacy, the naval blockade was ineffective, the South's economy kept its armies supplied, and military leadership was about equal on both sides. While refuting views of several historians, including those in Why the North Won the Civil War, edited by David Donald (1960), the essays here are, overall, not as persuasive as in that book, though they are sure to renew the historical debate. Suitable mainly for university and large public libraries. History Book Club main selection. Joseph G. Dawson III, History Dept., Texas A&M Univ., College Station
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"[The authors] show that the Southern states were not united around a single leader or cause. . . . In the end, they discovered that God did not wear gray."--New York Times


"The most comprehensive, sophisticated, and well-informed [book on this subject] I have ever read."--New York Review of Books


"Should be required reading for anyone interested in the Confederate experiment. Its superb analysis of the previous literature, including respectful disagreement with many of the conclusions of Owsley, McWhiney, Jamieson and other prominent historians, makes it an ideal starting point for any discussion of Confederate defeat."--Dallas Times-Herald

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press; Reprint edition (October 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820313963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820313962
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Gregory J. W. Urwin on July 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
_Why the South Lost the Civil War_ was hailed as a classic at its first appearance in 1986, and it continues to remain a useful survey of the Civil War and an exploration of the reasons for the Confederacy's defeat. I have regularly assigned it to my undergraduate and graduate students at both the University of Central Arkansas (where I taught until 1999) and Temple University, and most have never failed to get a lot out of it (including those who are professional military officers).
In many ways, the book is a reflection of America's experience in the Vietnam War, where the side with the larger armies, greater wealth, and technological advantages failed to win. To say that the Confederacy lost the Civil War simply because it was outnumbered and outgunned is only half the story. Why did Confederates choose to quit when their forebears in the American Revolution persevered against even more formidable odds? While some may question this book's insufficient nationalism thesis, it is delineated with such grace and authority that the effort demands respect.
The book begins by providing a comprehensive overview of previously offered theories explaining the fall of the Confederacy. That historiographical survey alone makes this book worth the price of admission and makes it an invaluable tool for the serious Civil War student.
As some of the other reviews here attest, this is not a book for those who prefer their Civil War history as vapid entertainment. If you are just interested in killing, there are plenty of good battle and campaign histories to read. But if you are the kind who wonders why nations rise and fall and how wars are won and lost, you will find this a rewarding and thought-provoking experience.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By lordhoot on February 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
I considered this book to be an interesting and quite a complex book which integrated all facets of Civil War elements to explained why the South lost the Civil War. To fully appreciate this book, you have to be pretty well knowledgable about Civil War and understand it without regional bias. This is a military history book and probably not geared toward the casual reader. I have read the previous reviews and they tell me that these folks probably didn't understand what the authors were trying to do. A good example would be how one of them would complaint about how the authors would compared things with the Napoleonic armies and tactics. Well, to anyone who knows anything about the American Civil War, most of the miltiary commanders who were West Pointers were heavily influenced by the Napoleonic Wars and concepts. The southern commanders especially were heavily influenced by this. Its only logical that some cause and effect reasonings must be shown between the Confederate military effort and Napoleonic influence. Others complaint about lack of nationalism in the Confederacy that book explain. Yes, nationalism was very high at the beginning of the war but it wane considerably by the end. Like the Third Reich, Confederacy fought on beyond a reasonable limit and led to a devastating effects to the region as result. Lack of nationalism definitely made it easier for the North to overcome the south in the end as southern armies were bleeding men who were just walking away from their unit (see that movie Cold Harbor for small example). The hard core Confederate soldiers was heavily outnumbered by the southern population who just wanted the war to end. Was the authors bias against the south? I don't think so. I think the authors were pretty straight forward on the facts why the south lost the war.Read more ›
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
Clearly the above reviewer has no clue to the value of the scholarship in this book. The authors clearly explain the complex combination of factors leading to the confederate defeat. They avoid the easy, single explanation. The discussion is well-organzed and lucid as the four authors write as a single voice. They remind us that the tragedy of the civil war cannot be simply explained.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Helton on April 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Beringer, et. al. provide a remarkable synthesis of military, social and cultural factors contributing to Confederate defeat. While much of their material may seem dry to young readers, this work is solid history written by consumate professionals. Although I disagree with their central thesis that a lack of will brought about the South's defeat, I do believe this had a significant effect along with the other factors. Perhaps, Beringer's thesis was a product of the era in which he wrote--the Post-Vietnam Era.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. S. Overall on March 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
Four professors authored an excellent comprehensive analysis of the Civil War, "Why the South Lost the Civil War" (1986), still pertinent today. Over generations, many military, political, diplomatic, and social factors have been evaluated for impact on Civil War developments. I regard their synthesis of historical writings and their researches have been very commendable, concluding logically that the South lacked the will to win in the Civil War.

That the South lacked the will to win is "quite a firm consensus" by scholars although not accepted by the dean of academic historians, Gary Gallagher, recorded in his "Lee and His Generals in War and Memory" (1998), page 20, footnote 28.

"Why the South Lost the Civil War" related analyses of academic historians on the collapse of the Confederacy: major military battles, noting if generals followed, ignored, or were oblivious to the military theories of Karl von Clausewitz and Baron Antoine Henri Jomini, in particular; a modest naval blockade and combined army-navy operations; the industrialization of the South; the diplomacy of the South; the frequent states-rights disputes ameliorating key political issues in the Confederacy; the inability of combatants to crush an army in battle; Grant seeking to break the military stalemate in the eastern theater; the roles of religion, Southern nationalism, and political will; and the policy to arm the slaves in early 1865. "So the Confederacy succumbed to internal rather than external causes." (Page 439) "Why the South Lost the Civil War" is comprehensive of, and very relevant to, an understanding of the Civil War.
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