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Why was the American Civil War such a bitter and brutal affair? - Civil War Preservation - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Sat Dec 11th, 2010 03:05 am
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bearsmith
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Why was the American Civil War such a bitter and brutal affair?

As in, what exactly made the American Civil War the bloodiest war in US history?

- so bloody that casualties in the American Civil War alone outnumber the total casualties and losses from all the other wars the United States participated in from the American Revolution all the way to the Vietnam War.

Please explain your answer in-depth, with relevant examples and support.

Thanks!
HCG Pro

Last edited on Mon Dec 13th, 2010 11:52 am by bearsmith



 Posted: Sat Dec 11th, 2010 05:06 am
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Albert Sailhorst
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WOW!!....What a question!!

From a Southern soldier stanpoint, theire homes, in their opnion, were invaded. I won't quote a source, as I feel any basic research would show this. Hence, their ferocity in defense. Although, the Wester soldiers had the opinion that the war was lost long before the Eastern soldier held that opinion (which is justified by the success/failiures of the respective armies)..Additonally, there were more per capita casualties as technolgy, strategy, etc seprated this type of warefare from that of subsequant wars......For example, we've lost more lives at Gettysburg than we have in 9 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq......Why??.....Difference in terain, strategy, technogy, etc. The same can be said for the Civil War vs WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam.......



 Posted: Sun Dec 12th, 2010 01:37 pm
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HankC
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Most textbooks correctly answer this question: the means of killing advanced faster then the military tactics.

If we took 10% casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, heads would roll and governments fall. Civil War armies frequently absorbed 30% casualties and they did this over and over.

Always keep in mind that 2/3 of the casualties were from disease and many more from poorly treated wounds...



 Posted: Sun Dec 12th, 2010 04:48 pm
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BHR62
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The North had to build an army from scratch. The regular army at the start of the war was about 16,000 troops. Half of that force along with its best officers went south to join the Confederacy. There were a lot of political appointees getting generalships. They had to be weeded out over time/failures.

McClellan built the Army of the Potomac into a real fighting force....but he didn't know how to lead it in combat. Until Grant and Sherman advanced up the ladder into their positions the North was at a disadvantage in leadership. Then you have to consider while all this was going on that they were trying to subdue a very bitter and determined enemy that was fighting on its homeground. The war couldn't be fought any other way in subduing the southern states.



 Posted: Mon Dec 13th, 2010 01:16 am
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Albert Sailhorst
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On the other hand, show me a war that was'nt brutal.....Regardless of technology, terrain, strategies, every war, within the context of it's own time frame, was brutal......ask any Vet.....After thinking about it, I can't say one war was more brutal than the other.....my opinion now is: the CW wasn't any better or worse than any other war......No book or reference to site, just the plain, accepted truth.....



 Posted: Mon Dec 13th, 2010 11:54 am
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Mark
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AS, read "The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction" by Mark Neely. It examines the exact question you are asking by comparing the Civil War to the Mexican War and the Indian Wars. Neely comes to the conclusion that the Civil War was actually less brutal than the American wars that immediately preceded and followed it. His explanation is that the Civil War was primarily fought by white protestants against white protestants and that the combatants accorded civility to their enemies that they did not to Mexican catholics and American Indians. I think he went a bit far (since I think that combatants in the Civil War felt much more deeply about the outcome Civil War than the others), but he does have a strong thesis. Hope that helps.

-Mark



 Posted: Mon Dec 13th, 2010 01:31 pm
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j harold 587
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As to brutal, "war is hell, and it can not be changed" to quote Sherman.  As to bitter when families are split on idelogy, politics, and personal honor how can it not be bitter?

If you are referring to total casualities, the sheer numbers involved, and as already stated the ability to injure had passed the ability to heal, and the food was bad sanitation was horrible. As stated allready as many deaths were caused by disease as by wounds. 

If you are referring to a specific incident of brutality the ACW was actually mild. There were no attempts to eliminate a race, or religion as in other military actions.  



 Posted: Tue Dec 14th, 2010 12:18 am
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Albert Sailhorst
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Mark, You make an excellent point, and well taken!!

That's why I said 'every war, within the context of it's own time frame, was brutal"....the Mexican War was brutal in it's time, the Indian Wars, WWI, etc were brutal in their times.....Shoot, how brutal was the Iraqi war, looking at it from the Iraqi standpoitn. Though I haven't studied it, the news reports at the time all talked about Iraqi divisions no longer existing. What they didn't say was: A) Did they surrender?, B) Did they all run away, or C) Were they wiped out?.....Whatever the answer is, I am failry certain they suffered heavy casualties......brutal.....

I like what you said: "the Civil War was actually less brutal than the American wars that immediately preceded and followed it."........It kind of goes along with my comment: "my opinion now is: the CW wasn't any better or worse than any other war"

Thanks for the post!!



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