View single post by Wrap10
 Posted: Fri Aug 15th, 2008 03:09 am
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Joined: Sat Jul 28th, 2007
Location: Oklahoma USA
Posts: 97

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Some very good points. As I think several folks have already suggested, there are so many ways to approach a study of the war, you could spin your head silly thinking about it. Dividing the war into East and West, and focusing on the campaigns in each theater, is certainly one way of approaching it, and a pretty good one at that. (Is there a bad way of approaching a study of the war?)

It's interesting, several folks mentioned having something of a 'haphazard' approach to learning about the war, and that probably describes me too. But as I'm sure you've all discovered, over time, you get to where you can start to see how things fit together in the larger picture, even with a less than systematic way of learning about it. And of course, we all reach the same conclusions about everything. ;)

One thing I think a study of the fighting in the East and West can help show, is the vastly different manner in which each major theater impacted the course and outcome of the war. I think you can do this by isolating the fighting in each theater, and see how it either helped or hurt the two sides.

For example, the fighting in the East clearly favored the Confederacy for the first three years of the war, and furthered the southern cause of independence. In the West, on the other hand, the fighting favored the Union, and furthered the northern goal of saving the Union and denying independence to the Southern Confederacy.

What's interesting about that, to me, is that if you view either theater in isolation, it can give a false impression of the war as a whole. Studying only the East, for example, can leave you wondering how and why the South lost the war, since, for at least the first three years, they were doing what they needed to do to win it. Which is to say, they were not losing. The war in the East to 1864 was a stalemate. Which favored the South.

By the same measure, a study of the Western Theater can make you wonder why on earth the North didn't win the war by 1864 at the absolute latest. Seemingly everywhere you turn when reading about the West, you encounter Union victory after Union victory, Confederate setback after Confederate setback. Even when things went well for the South in this theater, i.e., Chickamauga, it turned out badly for them in the end.

So for me, this really exposes what I think is the fallacy that one theater was more important than the other. In my opinion they were both important, but for different reasons. I think the fighting in the East goes a long way toward explaining why the war lasted as long as it did, and the fighting in the West basically explains why the North finally won it.

Learning about the two theaters separately, and then seeing how they each affected the war as a whole, can provide a very good lesson in my opinion. Even with our haphazard way of going about it all. ;)


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