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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

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