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Did the Confederacy ever have a chance of winning the war, or was it a lost cause from the beginning?

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Introduction

Did the Confederacy ever have a chance of winning the war, or was it a Lost Cause from the beginning? The idea of the "Lost Cause" only appeared in the closing stages of the war, and it became more formalised in the 1870's and 1880's with the emergence of the "New South", in order to lift the morale of a shattered people and transform the Southern soldier living and dead, into a true hero. Historians continue to argue over whether the Confederacy was a "Lost Cause" from the beginning of the war, however, although the North had its advantages - better resources and more men - Confederate defeat was not inevitable. In 1861, most Southerners, and European observers, were confident that the Confederacy would triumph and even after the war people recognised their advantages and high hopes of victory, as General Beauregard said "No people ever warred for independence with more relative advantages than the Confederacy". The fact the North had more resources was an obvious and key advantage, however the Northern financial structures were not ready for war, as there was no national bank and in 1862 the Northern banking system seemed near collapse. Besides, the outcome of war is not only dependent on numbers or productive capacity. History offers many examples of a society winning a war even when the odds were stacked against them. ...read more.

Middle

The Confederacy's best chance of victory was if Britain and/or France joined the war on their side, therefore Davis tried to secure European recognition and support. Similarly Lincoln had to try to remain on good terms with Britain and France because of a fear they would enter the war on the side of the Confederacy. Lincoln's administrations made it clear that the conflict was an insurrection, not a war, to try and deter foreign powers from getting involved and Seward, although praised for his blunt and often threatening attitude to Britain, made it clear the Union would declare war on any European nation which recognised the Confederacy, which may have been counter-productive as it served only to alienate the British government. Both Britain and France had economic interests that tied them to the Confederacy. The long-term self-interest plan was that if the USA broke up then a potential rival was weakened but also the Confederacy would have strong economic links, as it would provide Europe with raw cotton in return for manufactured goods. The French Emperor Napoleon III was keener to get involved in the war than the British, as Napoleon had imperialistic ambitions in Mexico and was aware that he stood a better chance of realising his dream if the USA splintered, however he was not willing to take on the Union without Britain's support and only if the Confederacy looked like winning would Britain recognise her. ...read more.

Conclusion

After the defeats of 1863, and the fall of Atlanta, the centre of the Confederacy's railway network in July 1864, the last hope of success for the Confederacy, was if Lincoln was not re-elected in 1864. The Confederacy hoped that by continuing to inflict heavy casualties on the Union there was still chance that the North would become war weary, and in the 1864 election the Northern electorate would vote for peace. However, Lincoln was re-elected giving clear signs to the Confederacy that the North had no plans of giving up. It was at this moment that the Lost Cause was born; Mary Chesnut, likened this point in the war to "living in a Greek tragedy", proving that Southerners were coming to the realization that peace would only be attained if they surrendered. It is fair to say that the Confederacy with their advantages had a chance of winning the war, and they were definitely not a Lost Cause from the start. It proved itself resilient on many occasions and throughout the war the tide constantly shifted, and with that, so did the political, economic, and military strength of either side. But by 1864, the Confederacy's military, political and social will was drained due to heavy losses, defeat in battle and the invasion and occupation of its territory. Southerners who had engaged in battle for four years, determined to win, realised there was no longer any chance of victory, and the problem of limited resources and men, began to take its toll. Louise Terallis ...read more.

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