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 Posted: Wed Jan 4th, 2012 02:24 pm
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Mark
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Since we like to do counterfactuals here, I got this as a question on a semester exam once.

"How would the Civil War have been different if Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis had their personalities switched?"

I argued that the war would have been over much sooner and that pre-war institutions would have remained in place. Reasoning: Davis was a very hands on and capable military leader (indeed, one of the best secretaries of war the US has had). With the resources of the north and available to him and early rage militar in the North, I think he could have ended the rebellion by the end of 1862 through the concentration of forces in time and space. Davis proved very adept at this very early in the war. Lincoln, on the other hand, had to learn military strategy as he went along and was lucky that he had the resources and time available to make strategic mistakes. For instance, how long would Lincoln have kept Joe Johnson in charge of the Virginia Army? Would he let himself be walked all over by PGT Beauregard? I think he probably would have. With meager resources, I'm don't think that Lincoln would have the opportunity to make mistakes. The downside to this, of course, is that with the war ending so quickly, I think the institution of slavery would have been allowed to continue in some fashion. Have I gone wrong somewhere?

I know that its impossible to give a perfect answer, but it was a fun problem to think about.

Mark



 Posted: Wed Jan 4th, 2012 06:47 pm
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Old Blu
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Don't like "what ifs".  They go nowhere!  :(



 Posted: Thu Jan 5th, 2012 04:51 pm
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MildMan
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I think its this is a VERY interesting point and post. Thanks for bringing it up.

Davis has been vilified and Lincoln deified, but was the early Confederate military success partly due to Davis's military experience, his understanding of how the military worked and what was possible in designing strategy?

Clearly, Lincoln was learning on the job. I also think his LACK of military acumen diminished his credibility with congress and with citizens. Congress may have been predisposed to micromanage the war, generals less likely to take direction and citizens more likely to lack confidence. Early failures just reenforced his lack of experience and made congress, generals and citizens to want to act on their preferences rather than those of the commander in chief.

Did Davis have more respect from his legislature and the confidence of the southern people because of this experience? Did this give him more freedom to act and more command over his generals because of his experience?

Interesting idea - and I don't mind it being bought up a counter history.



 Posted: Thu Jan 5th, 2012 09:25 pm
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Mark
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You bring up an interesting point with respect to the legislative bodies, Mildman. Lincoln certainly benefited from a two party system in the North. People opposed to the administration could still be counted as "loyal opposition" whereas Davis's detractors had no recourse but to stymie the war effort through desertion, withholding specie and other resources, and generally ignoring Confederate legislation. I think Lincoln's personality was better suited than Davis's for the one-party system of the South--Lincoln was more of a consensus builder. Yet, Davis was a moderate on secession, and almost certainly would have been more effective in a two-party system. Thanks for the response Mildman.

Mark



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