Why the South Lost the American Civil War

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Why the South Lost the American Civil War

A frequently, and sometimes hotly, discussed subject; the outcome of the American Civil War has fascinated historians for generations. Some argue that the North's economic advantages proved too much for the South, others that Southern strategy was faulty, offensive when it should have been defensive, and vice-versa. Internal division in the South is often referred to, and complaints made against Davis' somewhat makeshift, inexperienced, government. Doubts are sometimes raised over the commitment of Southerners to a cause many of them were half-hearted about. Many historians have argued that the South lost the will to fight long before defeat was an inevitability. However, many of these criticisms could easily be applied to the North, had the outcome been different, and a simple superiority in resources is an insufficient explanation, when one considers the many examples in history, not least the American War of Independence, when a weaker defender has kept a far stronger attacker at bay. James Mc Pherson offers an alternative view in his contingency theory, where he outlines four turning points in the war which led ultimately to Southern defeat. However, while a recital of the war's events and key points may explain how the South lost the Civil War, it fails to explain why they lost. Why did the Southern war effort fail at three key stages? While valid, McPherson's explanation seems little more than a more complex restatement of the question he attempts to answer.

The North's superiority in manpower and resources must not be omitted in any answer to this question. Lincoln had at his disposal a population of 22,000,000, compared with a Southern population of 9,000,000, which included 3,500,000 slaves whom they dared not arm. This provided a far larger base from which to draw troops, although it has been suggested that Southerners were keener to join up than their Union counterparts

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