[lit-ideas] The North and South at the beginning of the Civil War

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Lit-Ideas" <Lit-Ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 22 May 2008 17:11:53 -0700

I've been reading B.H. Liddel Hart's 1929 military classic, Sherman,
Soldier, Realist, American.  

 

On pages 79-80, Liddel Hart is sketching the differences between the North
and the South from a military standpoint.  As I read I couldn't help but
compare the tasks before the Lincoln administration with the task before an
administration we are more familiar with: 

 

"In the cold abstract light of census returns the odds seem heavily in
favour of the North, for the white population of the nineteen free states
was nearly nineteen million, while the eleven seceded states had only five
and a half million whites - who possessed between them three and a half
million slaves.  The four border slave states (Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky
and Missouri) which did not secede were so full of Confederate sympathizers
that their actual contribution to the two armies was probably equal.  

 

"But strategical factors modify this impression of Northern advantage.  To
fulfill its purpose the South had merely to make the North weary of the
attempt to restore the Union by force.  In contrast, the North had to
conquer its opponents and convince them that resistance was hopeless and
that the North could not be wearied.  Moreover, the southerner was bred to
arms and through his code of 'honour' had acquired a readiness of
self-defence and an instinct for fighting which the Northerner had lost
through disuses.  So also the forests which, except for interspersed
clearings, covered most of the theatre of the war gave an advantage to the
native woodsman.  And the war, be it remembered, was fought out on Southern
soil.  An even greater asset was the simpler and lighter diet of the
Southerner, which enhanced his strategic mobility, whereas the heavy-feeding
Northerner was not only handicapped by dependence on rail-borne supplies but
strained the capacity of the railroads to supply him with beef and corn.
The battlefields also offered a pungent proof of the difference - in the
Northerner's quicker decomposition as a corpse.

 

"These compensating advantages were augmented by the greater promptness and
thoroughness of the Confederacy to convert its raw material into armies.
Jefferson Davis called for 100,000 twelve-month volunteers as early as March
6, 1861, and applied conscription only a year later - in ironical
repudiation of the Confederacy's stand for States' rights.  Another year
passed before Lincoln introduced conscription, and even then with gaping
holes in the net; temporary exemption being allowed on payment, and
permanent, on provision of a substitute."

 

Comment:  

 

The early days of the Civil War aren't an exact comparison with the war in
Iraq.  I don't intend to say that, but I was struck by one similarity.  We
are not fighting the main population in Iraq - that population is benefiting
by our efforts -- but the insurgents and jihadists are somewhat in the
position of the South as described by Liddell Hart.  If they can make us
weary such that we leave off and withdraw, then they win, or at least they
might win if they can subsequently defeat the main population in Iraq.   We
on the other hand can only win if 1) we show that we will not weary or 2) we
build up the Iraqi military to such an extent that it can demonstrate to the
insurgents and jihadists that it will not weary.

 

As to the diet, no doubt that is applicable as well, but our ability to
supply our soldiers with the diet they are used to is probably not strained
in any way.  

 

As to differences in codes of honour, I don't think the insurgents or
Jihadists have an advantage.

 

As to fighting on native soil, that has been an advantage in the sense that
the insurgents, not necessarily the Jihadists, can meld back into a
sympathetic society.    Danner's comments address this problem.  We wouldn't
have had the large number of insurgents if we had refrained from
deBathification.  What that would have done to the Shiite and Kurdish
populations who needed to pick up the tasks we want to leave them with
before we leave isn't that clear to me as I indicated in a note to Eric.

 

Lawrence Helm

San Jacinto

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