Confederate Numerical Disadvantage Confederate Numerical Disadvantage: The Union’s Ability To Conduct Total Warfare and Confederate Defeat by Gary Phillips Gary Phillips History 253-03 Civil War and Reconstruction The American War for Independence was a successful struggle of a smaller nation fighting a larger, more powerful force. However, in the case of the American Civil War, the larger more powerful Union defeated the southern Confederacy. The Union won the Civil War because the Confederacy could not sustain a war of attrition in the Napoleonic style that evolved into Total War. This paper will briefly explain what Napoleonic warfare is and examine the resources of the North and South. Then, the paper will develop how the Union used its advantages in resources and the use of Total War to defeat the Confederacy.
The American War for Independence, on the American side, was fought in a semi-guerilla style. This means that battles were fought in the traditional European style and by guerilla tactics. The guerilla style includes undercover, clandestine, radical, and subversive tactics, in which men make raids, especially behind enemy lines. The traditional European style or Napoleonic style of warfare is based on two opposing armies meeting in battle and facing each other head on. Each side lines their men up in tremendous ranks and the conflicting armies march upon each other.
It involves flanking, direct assaults, and other military tactics. The battle’s principle concept is that a general uses his artillery to soften up the enemy’s defenses, the infantry to fight, and the cavalry to raid and decimate the adversary. The American armies, during the Revolutionary War, used both these styles of warfare to defeat the greater military power of Great Britain. However, this doctrine of warfare was not used by the Confederacy when fighting the greater military might of the Union. The Confederacy fought in the traditional European style. The South opted to engage the North face to face on the battlefield.
There were many battles fought in this style. Some of the famous battles fought in this style are Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Antietam, and Chancellorsville. Here is an account of Pickett’s Charge during the battle of Gettysburg, which exemplifies Napoleonic warfare: ” .. Longstreet ordered a concentration of Confederate artillery .. to soften up the enemy at the point of attack. For almost two hours an artillery dual among nearly 300 guns filled the Pennsylvania countryside ..
[Then] With parade-ground precision, Pickett’s three brigades moved out .. It was a magnificent mile-wide spectacle.” This style of battle may have worked, at times, for the Confederacy. However, in the long run, it would lead to the South’s defeat. The North had a preponderance of resources that are needed to conduct a war of European style. In order to conduct a war, a government needs men to fight and an economy that can be suited for wartime production.
For wartime production to be efficient, there needs to be available labor, transportation, communication, natural resources, and foodstuff. The North had a larger population, more fighting age men, more railroad and canals, and more factories that could produce materiel. For example, the North had 5,832,128 draft animals (horses, mules, and asses) compared to 2,928,494 in the South. Furthermore, in 1840, the South had 44 percent of the nation’s railroad lines. By 1850, “the more rapid pace of northern construction” made the South’s railroad line percentage drop to 26 percent. During the 1850’s, the Northern railroad companies laid another 21,000 miles of track, dwarfing the amount in the South.
These two examples are among countless other numerical advantages that the North enjoyed over the South. The attrition of the Civil War depleted Southern manpower. The many battles and campaigns of the Civil War had a great effect on the population of the South. At the Battle of Shiloh, the Confederacy lost 10,700 men. During the Peninsular Campaign the Confederacy lost over 20,000 men.
And at the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederacy lost 25,000 men. In total, Confederate causalities amounted to 450,000 men. This significant loss of manpower had dire consequences on the ability of the South to wage war. For example, as more men in the Confederacy lost their lives on the battlefield, the more men that were needed to take their places. This means that men engaged in the production of wartime goods had to go to war.
Therefore, as more men went to war, the Confederacy produced less and less for the war. This was not a problem in the Union because it had a great surplus of men to be used for fighting and producing. The Union used its numerical advantage in population to decimate the South. The North, by fighting a war of attrition in a Napoleonic style, was able to steadily deplete the fighting power of the South. The Union general, Ulysses S. Grant, recognized the numerical advantage of the North and exploited this advantage.
He did so by continually fighting Confederate soldiers, no matter the cost to his army. Grant may have lost many soldiers under his command, but his tactics led to a Northern victory. Northern triumph also came with the innovation of Total War. Total War is the attack, not only on opposing armies; but the attack on civilians, livestock, towns and cities. With greater numbers, the Union could attack more often and consistently.
Union generals soon engaged in Total War and decimated the South. Union troops burned down cites such as Atlanta. This action had a severe psychological factor against the citizens of the Confederacy. The demoralization effect Total War produces is tremendous upon civilians. If a soldier is fighting for a country and is not supported at home, then the soldier does not have much to fight for. Furthermore, the effects of Total War went beyond that of city living. Total War tactics decreased the South’s agricultural capacity.
Later in the war, Northern armies were in the heart of the Confederacy. It was during long marches that Union troops destroyed farmland. Invading troops would burn farms and leave the land in ruin. Union soldiers also killed livestock. Since the South was an agricultural society, it depended on its farms.
Cotton, the chief export of the Confederacy, was burned bale after bale. The Union, safe in the North, was immune from the effects of Total War. The Confederacy never had the chance to begin Total Warfare. This is because the Confederacy lost the Battle of Gettysburg, which is the turning point of the war. If the Confederacy would have won this battle and marched onto Washington D.C., then Southern Total Warfare could have been a possibility.
The dream that was the Confederate States of America never was realized. European style warfare lead to a great number of causalities on both sides of the Civil War. The North could sustain this damage and the Confederacy could not. As Southern numbers dwindled, the North delivered the final blow. The Union destroyed Southern morale and its economy. The Confederacy should have taken a better look at how the Union was formed in the first place.
The American colonies won the Revolutionary War with a smaller number of men and materiel. It was not won with the doctrine of Napoleonic warfare, but that of semi-guerilla tactics. Had the Confederate States of America used semi-guerilla tactics, the outcome of the Civil War may have been different. History Essays.