Editor's note: This article was
originally published in The Charger in the Spring of 1999.
In the beginning of the Civil War, the
Confederacy won many decisive victories.
As the war continued, however, the Confederacy weakened and in the end,
the Union was the victor. But, could the South have won? There are
five events, that, had they turned out differently, might have
allowed the South to win:
had Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson not died, he would have been of great
importance to the Confederacy in future battles.
Second, had cavalry
commander J.E.B. Stuart been at Gettysburg, the South might have had
a decisive northern victory and won the War.
Third, had England come into the War
as the Confederacy’s ally, the Northern blockade could have been
broken, allowing the South to sell its cotton to England and be
Fourth, had the railroad system not
fallen into Union hands, the Confederacy would have been able to
transport supplies and men to the army.
Finally, the Mississippi River was of
great importance to the Confederacy. Had Grant not captured it,
the Confederacy would have still been able to use it for
Had history turned differently at
these five points, the South might very well have won the war.
The Loss of Jackson
Jackson is shot by his own pickets while out scouting the area
between Confederate and Union lines at Chancellorsville
When Jackson died near Guiney’s
Station in Virginia on May 10, 1863, Lee was devastated. Jackson had
been of great importance to the army and made many indispensable
contributions. It was at the First Battle of Manassas on July 21,
1861 that Jackson earned his legendary nickname “Stonewall.” It was
Confederate General Bernard Bee who said, “There stands Jackson like
a stonewall, rally behind the Virginians!” Jackson had also been
vital during 1862 when be made his famous Shenandoah Valley
Campaign, which kept the valley in Confederate control. Jackson had
also produced a high sense of morale among his troops, which
strengthened the army even more.
On May 3, 1863 during the Battle of
Chancellorsville, Jackson was wounded by North Carolina infantrymen
who mistook him for Union cavalry. Jackson would have his left arm
amputated. It looked like Jackson would recover and be back in the
saddle. But pneumonia set in and he died a week later on May 10,
1863. It was Lee who stated after Jackson’s arm was amputated,
“General, you have lost your left arm, and I have lost my right.”
Jackson’s corps would be split in two and given to Ambrose Powell
Hill and Richard Stoddart EweIl. Had Jackson not died, he probably
would have been at Gettysburg with Lee and produced a Southern
victory due to his superior strategies and tactics.
Breaking the Union Blockade
Navy patrolling the Southern coast
When Lee made his first invasion of
the North In September 1362, he hoped to achieve a decisive victory.
With this victory, the Confederacy hoped to have England enter the
war as their ally because of the cotton the South could trade with
England. Unfortunately, Lee’s army would lose what would become the
bloody Battle of Antietam. The British lost interest in supporting
the South, and looked to Egypt to get their cotton. Had the
Confederacy won a decisive northern victory and had England allied
with them, they would have an overpowering army and navy. More
important, key supply lines could have been kept open and the
British Navy could have diverted Northern military energy.
J.E.B. Stuart at Gettysburg
When Lee made his second invasion
of the North in June 1863, he did not have his “eyes” which was
J.E.B. Stuart and his renowned cavalry. Stuart was off joy riding in
the North and would not return until July 2, 1863. Lee was thrown
into battle “blind” with Meade’s Army of the Potomac at the sleepy
little crossroads town of Pennsylvania. Since Stuart was absent, Lee
had no knowledge of the enemy’s strengths or movement.
might have been destroyed had it not been for General James Longstreet’s scout Harrison. He had spotted the Union army while on
reconnaissance and reported it to Longstreet who informed Lee. Lee
was furious with Stuart’s unnecessary absence when be needed him
most. Stuart’s tardiness may have cost Lee the Battle of Gettysburg.
Had Stuart been there when Lee needed him, the Confederacy would
probably have been aware of the Union positions and crushed them.
The Confederacy's Railroads
The railroads were of great
importance to Lee’s army. They allowed the army to be re-supplied
with provisions, ammunition and men. But because the Union army
captured the railroads, the Confederacy could not send supplies to
the army. Thus it began to starve and decrease in numbers, until it
finally had to give up. Never was this more apparent than at
Petersburg where railroads at City Point provided Union soldiers a
never ending supply of food, uniforms, ammunition, and arms, while
the Confederate troops received no re-supply.
rail yard after William T. Sherman's Union troops left town
Losing the Mississippi
When Ulysses S. Grant captured
Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 4, 1863, the Union army gained full
control of the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two.
This event weakened the Confederate Army. This allowed the Union to
focus their entire efforts on the East.
It is not hard to picture the following scenario. Jackson survives,
and continues to lead a superior force against poorly lead Union
troops. At Gettysburg, Stuart warns Lee of Union troop movements,
allowing Lee to capture the high ground. The British break the Union
blockade, allowing the Southern economy to flourish and the troops
to be re-supplied. Key railroads remain in Southern hands, allowing
for troop movement and provisioning. And the Mississippi River stays
in Southern hands, forcing the Union to fight on two fronts.
Had the Confederacy achieved these
five goals, they most likely would have won the war. The Confederacy
would probably have become their own country and the United States
would today consist of thirty-nine and not fifty states.