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How the South Could Have Won the Civil War: The Fatal Errors That Led to Confederate Defeatby Bevin Alexander
Synopses & Reviews
Could the South have won the Civil War?
To many, the very question seems absurd. After all, the Confederacy had only a third of the population and one-eleventh of the industry of the North. Wasnt the Souths defeat inevitable?
Not at all, as acclaimed military historian Bevin Alexander reveals in this provocative and counterintuitive new look at the Civil War. In fact, the South most definitely could have won the war, and Alexander documents exactly how a Confederate victory could have come aboutand how close it came to happening.
Moving beyond fanciful theoretical conjectures to explore actual plans that Confederate generals proposed and the tactics ultimately adopted in the wars key battles, How the South Could Have Won the Civil War offers surprising analysis on topics such as:
•How the Confederacy had its greatest chance to win the war just three months into the fightingbut blew it
•How the Confederacys three most important leadersPresident Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jacksonclashed over how to fight the war
•How the Civil Wars decisive turning point came in a battle that the Rebel army never needed to fight
•How the Confederate army devisedbut never fully exploiteda way to negate the Unions huge advantages in manpower and weaponry
•How Abraham Lincoln and other Northern leaders understood the Unions true vulnerability better than the Confederacys top leaders did
•How it is a myth that the Union armys accidental discovery of Lees order of battle doomed the Souths 1862 Maryland campaign
•How the South failed to heed the important lessons of its 1863 victory at Chancellorsville
How the South Could Have Won the Civil War shows why there is nothing inevitable about military victory, even for a state with overwhelming strength. Alexander provides a startling account of how a relatively small number of tactical and strategic mistakes cost the South the warand changed the course of history.
"Alternative history is an alluring parlor game. Pick a crucial historical event — Gettysburg, say — and try to pinpoint exactly where things started to go wrong for the losing side. That's what military historian Bevin Alexander does in his latest book, 'How the South Could Have Won the Civil War.' Alexander argues persuasively that the wartime policies of President Jefferson... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Davis and the military strategy of Gen. Robert E. Lee led to the failure of the Confederacy. Had Davis and Lee listened to Gen. Stonewall Jackson, the South might have won. Some battles and campaigns — including the Shenandoah Valley and Seven Days campaigns, Second Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and those that ended with the final surrender at Appomattox, which all led to tremendous loss of life — might not have been fought at all. Jackson wanted to bring the war directly into Union territory. He would have moved the Confederate army 'north of Washington, where it would threaten Baltimore, Philadelphia, and the capital's food supply and communications,' writes Alexander. By destroying vital industries, thereby undermining the Union's means of production and livelihood, Jackson hoped 'to win indirectly by assaulting the Northern people's will to pursue the war.' Alexander also contends that Jackson's tactics of 'maneuver,' rather than the frontal assaults favored by Lee, would have led to fewer casualties, an important point given the difficulty of replacing soldiers from the comparatively small Southern population. Alexander's opinions are firmly stated, but his assertions are not always well documented. There is no evidence that I am aware of that Union Gen. George Meade 'ordered the entire Union army to retreat back to Pipe Creek' in Maryland from Gettysburg on June 30, 1863. Nor does Alexander provide any proof for this. He may be referring to Meade's so-called Pipe Creek Circular, a contingency plan the general never implemented. 'How the South Could Have Won the Civil War' echoes chapters from two of Alexander's earlier books, 'Lost Victories' and 'Robert E. Lee's Civil War.' Even the chapter headings are essentially the same. It is not clear why Alexander felt compelled to repackage these previous works for public consumption, since the arguments he made in them are not substantially changed. Yet, despite the book's limitations, readers who are unfamiliar with Alexander's earlier works will find 'How the South Could Have Won the Civil War' thought provoking and informative. Thomas J. Ryan is president of the Central Delaware Civil War Round Table in Dover, Del." Reviewed by Thomas J. Ryan, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
Book News Annotation:
Alexander posits the idea that the South could have won the Civil War given some tactical and strategic changes and better communication among the generals, rather than differing views about how to fight the war. He discusses how Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson disagreed on strategy, the turning point battle that was never necessary, how the Confederate army never implemented its strategy to negate the Union's advantages in manpower and weaponry, how Abraham Lincoln saw the Union's problems better than the Confederacy's leaders, and how the South failed to learn from the lessons of its 1863 victory at Chancellorsville. Among the battles examined are those at Fredericksburg, Antietam, Gettsyburg, and Appomattox. Alexander is the author several books on military history, including Lost Victories. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Acclaimed military historian Alexander presents a surprising new look at how close the Confederacy came to defeating the much larger and better equipped Union Army, and the fatal mistakes that led to the Souths defeat.
About the Author
BEVIN ALEXANDER is the author of nine books of military history, including How Hitler Could Have Won World War II, How Wars Are Won, How America Got It Right, and Lost Victories, which was named by the Civil War Book Review as one of the seventeen books that have most transformed Civil War scholarship. His battle studies of the Korean War, written during his decorated service as a combat historian, are stored in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. He lives in Bremo Bluff, Virginia.
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