There are constant debates on why did the South lose the Civil War. The Civil War ended 150 years ago but that has not affected historians to question the outcome of the war for the Confederacy. According to Gary Gallagher, many historians work backward starting from Appomattox to explain the failure of the war. He continues by stating that those historians claim the reasoning for the failure was caused by the lack will to win the war by the Confederates. Gary Gallagher disagrees with these methods historians use. Gary Gallagher believes that the best way to understand why the Confederates lost the Civil War takes a different approach.
This is Gary W. Gallagher’s thesis in his The Confederate War is ‘Why did so many Confederates fight for so long? Until this question receives the detailed attention long accorded the first, the history of the Confederacy will remain imperfectly understood” (17). Gary Gallagher first examines the drive that the Confederates had to fight. Gary Gallagher expresses that it was not just the soldiers on the battlefields that wanted the war it was almost every citizen in the Confederacy. It included women, teenagers, planters, yeoman farmers, and people that were living in the cities all believed in the cause.
Sadly has the war progressed some Confederates began to lose faith in the cause. Desertion became a problem in the Confederates armies. Gary Gallagher does state that the Union also had deserters in their army, but he argues that the Confederates had more logical reasoning for desertion than Union soldiers. Statically Gary Gallagher gives information to show the different desertion numbers, “At least 200,000 northern soldiers deserted, and in the state of Virginia around 12,000 men were deserters and in North Carolina round 24,000 Southern soldiers became deserters” (31&32).
Most of the soldier’s in the South who fled from the war fled because of unknown fate for their families. The Civil War was costly for the South causing economic catastrophe, and widespread famine. Confederate soldiers would often return home to help feed their starving families and help them survive since families mainly depended on the men in the house to support the family. Gary Gallagher does express some rters would rejoin the army after ensuring their family was doing well.
While some Confederates had lost hope in winning the war there was still a number of Confederates that believed in the Cause and did not lose faith in it. When the war was coming close to the end and some Confederates realized that they had lost the war there was still some that believed that the South would undoubtedly win the war. Gary Gallagher stated, “One no longer sees but women in the families and Negroes in the fields. Yet Confederate manifested discipline born of “a unity of will” and still “held on, and no one can say when they will succumb” (54).
The “will” of the South did not seem to die throughout the war. Gary Gallagher then examines the Confederates and their nationalism. There is no question that the South had strong nationalism; they believed in independence and free from oppression from the Union. Gary Gallagher states, ” Strong feelings of national identity helped spawn the impressive will Confederates exhibited during their was for independence” (63). Nationalism was strong to everyone in the Confederacy. Women in the South showed a great deal of national pride.
Gary Gallagher gives many examples of women expressing their loyalty to the Confederacy through letters they had written to family members and friends. There seemed to be no hesitation in joining the Confederacy in letters Gary Gallagher examined and he notices that they all said “my country’ our nation” and many others. When the Union began entering into Southern states and the Confederate armies were retreating nationalism in the South did not dimmer.
The people of the South did not lose hope in their great nation, but they began to put all of their nationalism and hope into General Robert E. Lee and his Army the Northern Virginia. Gary Gallagher said, “Many citizens of the Confederacy persevered in their national determination because of Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia” (85). General Lee became a national hero to the South. The people of the South said nothing put praise about General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Many Confederates believed that General Lee and his army were the only hope the people had for independence. General Lee and his Northern Virginia army virtually became nationalism in itself.
People believe that General Lee and his army were the way the South was going to win the war. The military strategy the South used during the Civil War caused them a huge amount of causalities and ultimately the war. General Lee had the thought process of offensive tactics on the battlefield rather than having a defensive tactic. By General Lee almost always going for the offensive move it cost him a great number of men’s lives even if General Lee have won the battle.
By using this tactic the South progressed the first three years of the war, but because of always using an offensive attack they army went through many resources and men faster than the North did. This caused the latter years of the war to be difficult; the Southern armies were outnumbered and had to cut back on their resources to survive. In The Confederate War, Gary Gallagher stated, “Lee erred on the side of audacity most often, depleting the magnificent Army of Northern Virginia and thereby opening the way for Union victory” (120).
General Lee and the citizens of the Confederacy would argue with this because they believed that an offensive way of fighting was the proper and most respectable way to win battles. Some Confederates suggested that they fight like their ancestor in the American Revolutionary war by using mobileroute across the Confederacy. Gary Gallagher talks about how many people believe that if the Confederacy army had taken this approach they would have most likely have won the war.
Many people believed this type of war fair would put their grasp of slavery in danger, and people were not willing to lose their slaves. All of these reasons were why the Confederate lost the war. Gary Gallagher states, “Southern military traditions in place as the Confederacy mobilized for fighting, civilian expectations to a democracy at war” (126). Gary W. Gallagher’s thesis in his The Confederate War is ‘Why did so many Confederates fight for so long? Until this question receives the detailed attention long accorded the first, the history of the Confederacy will remain imperfectly understood” (17).
Gary Gallagher believes that if this question is answered then it will be possible to fully understand why the South lost the Civil War. Gary Gallagher states that historians are going about studying the Civil War wrong; he states that they should not start from Appomattox and go backward to the beginning of the war to try and understand why the South lost. Gary Gallagher disagrees that the South did not have enough will to win the war but rather there a multiple reasons that cause for the South losing the war that has not been studied yet.