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 Posted: Tue Nov 13th, 2007 02:56 pm
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J
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What do you think of Jefferson Davis?  To me, he had an easier job than Abraham Lincoln but was no where near as skillful a politician and no where near as (for lack of a better word) saintly as Lincoln.

The one place where Jeff Davis failed miserably was in his appointments of generals.  The south had an embarrassment of riches in skilled commanders.  But by indulging in personal vendettas and favoritism Jeff Davis ended up hurting the Confederate cause.

Three cases come to mind.  Nathan Bedford Forrest was never given his own command probably because he did not graduate from West Point.  Beauregard was given minor assignments because Jeff Davis just didn't like him.  And, Braxton Bragg was kept in command of Army of Tennessee too long because he was a friend of Jeff Davis.

In stark contrast, Lincoln put up with all of the insubordination and condescenscion of McClellan and would have kept him in command throughout the war if McClellan's brain didn't freeze in combat situations.

Picking generals by how much you like them or don't like them personally is a poor way to run a war.

+_

Jae



 Posted: Tue Nov 13th, 2007 03:54 pm
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ole
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That is the obvious pinata for Jeff, but he was inept in other areas as well. ("Inept" is perhaps too strong; how about less than outstanding?)

While Lincoln managed to assemble a semi-efficient cabinet from a group steely-strong, highly individual men; Davis never did. Davis had some good men among his good friends, but not enough. And he was inflexible. And with his inflexibility, he was notoriously intolerant of those who disagreed with him.

But he was in a trying situation during a bad time. I don't know if Lincoln hisself could have presided over the CSA, even without the war interfering.

What do you think, past the failures of the military aspects?

ole



 Posted: Tue Nov 13th, 2007 06:05 pm
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ole wrote:  And with his inflexibility, he was notoriously intolerant of those who disagreed with him.

But he was in a trying situation during a bad time. I don't know if Lincoln hisself could have presided over the CSA, even without the war interfering.

What do you think, past the failures of the military aspects?



Jefferson Davis was much more of a Dictator than the head of a repulic.

He wanted to be the second coming of George Washington.  So, he forces on us the comparison between him and Washington as well as comparison between him and Lincoln.  Jeff Davis suffers from both comparisons.  One cannot run a republic, even a nascent one, without being able to build consensus.

And, I don't agree that Jeff Davis had a tougher job.  Lincoln constantly struggled to keep his coalition together, and he constantly had to mssage the North's flagging will to fight.  He even managed to hold onto the border states.

The South meanwhile had a strong will to fight and was much more united.  Even southern papers, not a big fan of Lincoln, admitted that Jeff Davis was no where near the stateman that Lincoln was.

The one other big failing that I see of Jeff Davis was the inability to draw Great Britain into the conflict.  Great Britain had just fought the Opium Wars because they didn't want to pay for their tea with silver.  So, don't tell me that convincing Great Britain to fight on the Confederate side was a hard sell, given Great Britain's dependence on Southern cotton.

Jeff Davis basically had to do two things.  Get the best generals to lead the armies and get Great Britain and France involved in the war.  He failed on both counts.  He had good generals in the East, but he had Braxton Bragg and Joseph Johnston in the west.  Why didn't he give command of Army of Tennesse to Stonewall Jackson?  Jackson would have wiped the floor with Rosecrans.

Cheers,

Jae



 Posted: Tue Nov 13th, 2007 10:02 pm
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Texas Defender
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J,

  I have to disagree with some of your conclusions about Jefferson Davis in your last posting. One is that it was somehow the fault of Davis that England and France did not recognize and come to the aid of the Confederacy.

  What makes you think that better performance from Davis would have made any difference? The Confederate Government sent several diplomats to Europe to try to achieve recognition. I do not believe that they or any others could have achieved that purpose based on the events taking place during the war at that time.

 It is true that the loss of cotton from America greatly damaged the people in certain areas of Britain at that time. It is also true that there was a great degree of sympaty for the southern cause among the British aristocracy. However, the average Brit did not favor any form of intervention on the behalf of the Confederacy, because of slavery and other issues.

  When the war began, the British had stockpiled a good supply of cotton. They were also able to get a supply from Egypt during the war. This reduced the impact of the loss of American cotton as the war progressed. It can be maintained that the south relied too much on the so called British dependence on cotton, which gave them a false sense of security.

  The British soon decided on a passive neutrality, and refused to meet with the Confederate ministers. The French weren't going to do anything unless the Brits did. It was never in their interest to become entangled in the conflict. Both profited through a policy of neutrality. In fact, it was early blunders on the Union side (TRENT affair and diplomatic bellicosity) that gave the southerners hope early on. But this led to nothing. Charles Francis Adams and William Seward were soon able to put out those fires.

  I am at a loss to see what actions by Jefferson Davis would have turned the tables. Perhaps if Lee had won at Antietam, it might have been seen as the inevitability of the success of southern independence. But that didn't happen.

  My conclusion was that southern diplomacy tried and failed to win over the British and the French. It isn't easy to get people to take actions that aren't in their own self interest. Pointing a finger at Davis for this doesn't seem reasonable to me.

  I don't think that Davis saw himself as the second coming of George Washington. In fact, he never wanted to be president of the Confederacy. What he wanted was a military command. Being a major general commanding a division probably would have satisfied him completely.

  The South might have had a strong will to fight, but they were hardly united. The eleven Confederate states acted as eleven little oligarchies, each jealous of their own rights. There was no standardization of weapons, equipment, or even railroad gauges. Some governors openly defied the central government at times, and much of the Confederate Congress was hostile to Davis, as was much of the press.

  So- was Davis' job easier than Lincoln's? I don't know how you can measure that. It was certainly different. Davis had to try to make do with much fewer resources in almost every area. In the end, certainly after Lincoln's re-election, the task was an impossible one. While Davis had many faults as a national leader, I'm not sure that anyone else could have been successful in his position.Clearly, the south lost the war for a lot more reasons than just the decisions made by Jefferson Finis Davis.



 Posted: Wed Nov 14th, 2007 01:02 am
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A very interesting book that goes into much greater detail on what Texas Defender has so ably described is "Jefferson Davis and His Generals: The Failure of Confederate Command in the West" by Steven E Woodward.

Although the book does concentrate on the generals who fought in the western theater of operations which includes Georgia and the Atlanta campaign, it spends much time describing Jefferson Davis himself , his character, his illnesses and the way he chose and treated his generals.  It also describes many of the very difficult challenges Davis faced.

This book is one of my favorite books about the Civil War and the Confederacy.

 

Last edited on Wed Nov 14th, 2007 02:00 am by CleburneFan



 Posted: Wed Nov 14th, 2007 01:19 am
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I really don't like to pick on Jefferson Davis. The Confederacy had no business going to war (or thinking it could just walk away). Perhaps it was just too much to ask of one man who had no ability to make compromises or to admit that he wasn't Napoleon's equal.

That said, the ambitions of those who pushed for secession and confederacy far exceeded the abilities of the man they chose to administer it.

ole



 Posted: Wed Nov 14th, 2007 01:28 am
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And, Texas Defender is mostly right. You can't lay the failure of English recognition on Davis. Although many say that England was really close a couple of times, I doubt it. Close, I'll admit, but REALLY close doesn't fly.

I can't imagine what it would have taken for England to pitch in on the side of the Confederacy. Even if Lee had driven Mac out of Maryland, I'm not sure that would have done it. It simply wasn't in the best interest of England's burgeoning pacificity to pitch in on dividing a profitable, strong, nation into two weak ones. Oh, yes, there were those who thought a divided America would pose no threat to their world domination, but there were more who were looking to American resources for trade and national prosperity.

ole



 Posted: Wed Nov 14th, 2007 02:05 am
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This subject does beg the question, if Jefferson Davis was not an adequate leader for the Confederate States, who would have been a better leader and made better use of what limited resources were available to the South? Or was the situation too much for any one man to have managed?



 Posted: Wed Nov 14th, 2007 05:57 am
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"In fact, he never wanted to be president of the Confederacy. What he wanted was a military command. Being a major general commanding a division probably would have satisfied him completely."

This was the first thing that I thought of when I started reading this thread.   Thank You, Texas Defender.

It should be remembered that Jefferson Davis did not aspire to be The President of The Confederacy, but was chosen by The South.  And as his wife, Varina, famously said, he responded to his election "as a man might speak of sentence of death."

Also, it should be remembered that, in the 1860 census, The North's population totaled around 22 million people, while that of The South had only 5.5 million whites (I think that may sound inflamatory, it is NOT meant to be!!!!!! 
As an awful reminder of that pecular institution, slaves were counted differently than whites, and as something like 2/3 of a person.... but I think we all know the census statistics, and how to interpret them, and no matter what horror they reflect, ,do not need to address that in this thread; another would be more  appropriate. )                                              

Also -
The North had 1.3 million industrial workers, while the South had 110,000. 


Also -
The North produced 97% of the nations firearms, 94% of its cloth, and more than 90% of its industial output.

 Draft animal in The North number 800,000, compared to 300,000 in The South.  Northern railroads were twice that of Southern.       

Also -                                                                                                                          the North had 290 naval vessels, The South almost none.

To verify these stats, I suggest "Damage Them All You Can", by George Walsh,  an admitted northerner, trying to understand The South during The CW.  I have verified them elsewhere, but if you look at the bibliography for that book, well, it is well researched, in my book (no pun intended!).

O'l Jeff had notable personal faults that interfered with his running of The Confederacy; but he should not be totally made a pinata of, either. 

BTW, I dare anyone to say he wasn't the best president The Conferacy ever had.  Or, the worst, either.

Off topic - so many thought-provoking threads  these past few days: I regret the fact that silly things like earning a living keep from addressing them more & better.


Last edited on Thu Nov 15th, 2007 05:01 am by JoanieReb



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 Posted: Wed Nov 14th, 2007 02:24 pm
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And finally, Lincoln was quite willing to exercise force to accomplish his goals.. the draft, the imprisonment of members of the Maryland legislature, shutting down of newspapers, the suspension of habeus corpus, etc, etc, etc... Davis did not!

Did too.

Mark Neely's Southern Rights goes into some detail on Davis' civil rights record. It's a small book, but well worth reading. Neely found records misfiled somewhere in the depths of wherever it is they keep such stuff. They were, of course, somewhat limited, but they gave him sources for further research.

Try it. You'll like it.:D

ole



 Posted: Wed Nov 14th, 2007 02:42 pm
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This subject does beg the question, if Jefferson Davis was not an adequate leader for the Confederate States, who would have been a better leader and made better use of what limited resources were available to the South? Or was the situation too much for any one man to have managed?
The question would be a good topic for a very short thread. Someone, somewhere once suggested that Zebulon Vance might have been more capable. That was the first and last time I've seen a suggestion of a better choice.

Davis was selected primarily because he had been in the Federal Cabinet as Secretary of war -- and because he was the least objectionable of the other possibilities.

Just a thought.

ole



 Posted: Wed Nov 14th, 2007 02:48 pm
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Bama46 wrote: In fact, it can be argued that if you love the monstrosity the federal governemt has become, you probably idolize Lincoln...if you do not, you probably (ahem) do not!

You cannot be serious.  The huge federal bureaucracy was created by Franklin Roosevelt.

As for Lincoln locking up the Maryland legislators, that was a necessity.  In fact, I think the Civil War would have been much less traumatic had he done the same to Virginia legislators.

The more I read about Lincoln, the more I think he should have been canonized a saint.  You don't have to rely on historians' word.  You can instead rely on first hand accounts.  Americans of the civil war era were prodigious letter writers and diarists.

Cheers,

Jae



 Posted: Wed Nov 14th, 2007 03:01 pm
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Also -
The North had 1.3 million industrial workers, while the South had 110,000. 

I'd read a slightly different comparison. I don't recall the exact numbers, but it was that however many factory workers the south had, the north had that many factories.

All of which only illustrate the impossibility of the job he was appointed to do. It wasn't his fault that southern leaders kicked off a devastating war. Although his ineptitude can be called into the lime-light, he gets far too much blame for the Confederacy's failure.

ole



 Posted: Wed Nov 14th, 2007 04:33 pm
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Bama writes:
'And finally, Lincoln was quite willing to exercise force to accomplish his goals.. the draft, the imprisonment of members of the Maryland legislature, shutting down of newspapers, the suspension of habeus corpus, etc, etc, etc... Davis did not!'

Ole is right. The Confederacy approved conscription in Apri, 1862, while the Union approved conscription in March, 1863.

Also, both Lincoln and Davis suspended the writ of habeas corpus at various times in their presidencies.

It's actually remarkable, to me, how similar their presidencies were as opposed to how different they were.



 Posted: Wed Nov 14th, 2007 09:46 pm
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ole wrote: Also -
The North had 1.3 million industrial workers, while the South had 110,000. 

I'd read a slightly different comparison. I don't recall the exact numbers, but it was that however many factory workers the south had, the north had that many factories.

All of which only illustrate the impossibility of the job he was appointed to do. It wasn't his fault that southern leaders kicked off a devastating war. Although his ineptitude can be called into the lime-light, he gets far too much blame for the Confederacy's failure.

ole


One would think at first blush that Davis simply had to know how outgunned, outmanned and out "industrialized" the Confederacy was, but I have read many times that he and his compatriots believed with all their hearts and souls that Northerners simply would not fight. Yanks were deemed to be bascially cowardly and would flee from battle at the first adversity. 

In contrast,they believed that Southern men were natural-born fighters of stout heart and unflinching courage...true cavaliers.  In fact, at the start of the war it almost looked as if Southerners were correct in their estimation of Northern fighting spirit.



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 Posted: Thu Nov 15th, 2007 04:27 am
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FDR improved on a theme, but 'twas St. Abraham that started it all
Oh, dang! Here we go again.

ole



 Posted: Thu Nov 15th, 2007 01:21 pm
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J wrote: The more I read about Lincoln, the more I think he should have been canonized a saint.  You don't have to rely on historians' word.  You can instead rely on first hand accounts.  Americans of the civil war era were prodigious letter writers and diarists.

Cheers,

Jae

Some in the South feel the same way about Robert E. Lee.:D



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