View Poll Results: Which theater in the American Civil War was the most important?

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  • Eastern Theater

    5 45.45%
  • Western Theater

    6 54.55%
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Thread: Eastern vs. Western Theater in the American Civil War?

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by lwarmonger View Post

    When you lose 400000 dead and thousands more incapacitated out of a population of 21 million against a country that can't conquer you and has no interest in conquering you with no end in sight.... at that point it would be time to call it quits. No democracy in the world is (or was) going to vote to keep fighting under those circumstances. The only reason Lincoln got re-elected was because the end of the war was clearly in the near future... and even there it seemed like he might very well lose the election.
    Good points, all. But I am left with the nagging doubt that we can't be sure if Lincoln would have lost for those reasons. There are too many snipets of history to consider. For example, why did most of the radical republicans in Congress not support Fremont, the candidate nominated by their own wing of the Republican party. Why did McClelland not get the support he expected from his former supporters and friends among the senior military ranks?

    And those 400,000 union war casualties...can it possibly be that their families would be content knowing their sons died for nothing? What about the soldiers still fighting? Would they be content having fought for nothing. What about the abolitionists? No way they could accept the Democratic platform of restoring the southern states to their original status with slavery still legal. Sure, Atlanta was a boost. It gave Fremont an out. But did it turn the electoral outcome? We will never know.
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  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAD_333 View Post
    Good points, all. But I am left with the nagging doubt that we can't be sure if Lincoln would have lost for those reasons. There are too many snipets of history to consider. For example, why did most of the radical republicans in Congress not support Fremont, the candidate nominated by their own wing of the Republican party. Why did McClelland not get the support he expected from his former supporters and friends among the senior military ranks?
    Well, I can't answer the first question, but the second seems pretty clear to me. George B. McClellan was one of those idiots that stood for the failures that had plagued the Union Army. He lost. A lot. And a lot of soldiers (and their families) remembered that. If somebody who wasn't tainted with failure had run a peace platform, they might very well have won.

    And those 400,000 union war casualties...can it possibly be that their families would be content knowing their sons died for nothing? What about the soldiers still fighting? Would they be content having fought for nothing. What about the abolitionists? No way they could accept the Democratic platform of restoring the southern states to their original status with slavery still legal. Sure, Atlanta was a boost. It gave Fremont an out. But did it turn the electoral outcome? We will never know.
    What were they fighting for in the first place? The vast majority of them cared nothing for the slaves, especially not enough to die for them. To preserve the Union? What is the point of fighting to forcibly keep people in your democracy, especially when this huge section wants to leave? If you've lost one son, would you care enough to lose another? Preserving ones freedom is one thing... conquering others who very clearly don't love you is something else, especially when it is costing you so much. I would make the argument that many of those families had felt that their loved ones had died for nothing. And as for the soldier still fighting, Gettysburg provided an essential morale boost. Lose enough, and you'll be convinced that you can't win. At that point, why fight just so your idiot generals can go out and get you killed? That was largely the attitude by the time Meade and Lee clashed at Gettysburg. If the North had lost a few more battles than it did I doubt the soldiers would have felt that their continued commitment would have made their comrades deaths worthwhile.

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by lwarmonger View Post
    What were they fighting for in the first place? The vast majority of them cared nothing for the slaves, especially not enough to die for them. To preserve the Union? What is the point of fighting to forcibly keep people in your democracy, especially when this huge section wants to leave? If you've lost one son, would you care enough to lose another? Preserving ones freedom is one thing... conquering others who very clearly don't love you is something else, especially when it is costing you so much. I would make the argument that many of those families had felt that their loved ones had died for nothing. And as for the soldier still fighting, Gettysburg provided an essential morale boost. Lose enough, and you'll be convinced that you can't win. At that point, why fight just so your idiot generals can go out and get you killed? That was largely the attitude by the time Meade and Lee clashed at Gettysburg. If the North had lost a few more battles than it did I doubt the soldiers would have felt that their continued commitment would have made their comrades deaths worthwhile.
    You know what it's like to be fighting, even for a good cause. You're puttting your life on the line for an idea. That's a lousy trade if the cause isn't life or death of your country. Aside from the usual deserters, malingerers, and draft dodgers, what made so many men join the Union army, bearing in mind that conscription wasn't introduced until the 3rd year of the war? I disagree with you that slavery was the prize at the outset. Keeping the Union together was the prize. Would secession have ended with the southern states breaking away? What would stop New York from seceding a few years later, or California, today? Secession was the issue--the 10th amendment...slavery provided the human element.
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  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAD_333 View Post
    You know what it's like to be fighting, even for a good cause. You're puttting your life on the line for an idea. That's a lousy trade if the cause isn't life or death of your country. Aside from the usual deserters, malingerers, and draft dodgers, what made so many men join the Union army, bearing in mind that conscription wasn't introduced until the 3rd year of the war? I disagree with you that slavery was the prize at the outset. Keeping the Union together was the prize. Would secession have ended with the southern states breaking away? What would stop New York from seceding a few years later, or California, today? Secession was the issue--the 10th amendment...slavery provided the human element.
    I didn't say that slavery was the prize... I said that slavery wasn't what most of them were fighting for. However what I was really talking about was acceptable loss. Is it acceptable to lose or cripple 3% of your population to preserve your freedom? Absolutely, and most people would agree. Is it acceptable to lose that many fighting to preserve the Union? How about when you aren't making any progress? Most people would say "yes" and "no" respectively. Dying for no reason for extended periods of time isn't in the cards for a democracy.

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by lwarmonger View Post
    I didn't say that slavery was the prize... I said that slavery wasn't what most of them were fighting for. However what I was really talking about was acceptable loss. Is it acceptable to lose or cripple 3% of your population to preserve your freedom? Absolutely, and most people would agree. Is it acceptable to lose that many fighting to preserve the Union? How about when you aren't making any progress? Most people would say "yes" and "no" respectively.
    After you've sacrificed 3% of your population in a war, then decide to give it up even though you're not losing, seems to me to be 1) a horrible waste of life and 2) politically, if you let the south remain independent or allow it to rejoin the union with no change from before, you have repudiated the very Constitution which the south defied in breaking away.

    Dying for no reason for extended periods of time isn't in the cards for a democracy.
    Lincoln made the reason clear at Gettysburg. To put it into base words, he said we can hold human life more dear than a mere nation and refuse to fight to preserve it. Come what may, God will smile on us. I am all for that, if all the people on the planet mind their own business and let me go my way. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. So, if you want to preserve your democracy, cranky as it may be, you have to fight for it or kiss it goodbye.
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  6. #21
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    Lwarmonger:

    My last reponse to you didn't really address you points which I apologize for.

    If I understand your point, you are saying the public's mindset in the north at the time of the Civil War had, by 1864, become inclined to accept a settlement with the south. I agree the sentiment was widespread, but I wouldn't necessarily agree that it represented the view of the majority. Lincoln won by half a million in the popular vote, 55%, and carried all but 3 states. Whether he would have won without Atlanta is conjecture.

    One reason there is disagreement over whether Lincoln would have won without Atlanta is that antiwar sentiment ran close to 45% of the population. That means one out of almost 2 of everyone you would have known in those days was against the war. That's a lot of volume. It could in retrospect easily make one imagine that Lincoln was on the ropes. And it just as easy to explain why he didn't lose to some major event like Atlanta. But again, it's all conjecture. You may be right; I may be wrong.
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  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAD_333 View Post
    I agree the sentiment was widespread, but I wouldn't necessarily agree that it represented the view of the majority. Lincoln won by half a million in the popular vote, 55%, and carried all but 3 states. Whether he would have won without Atlanta is conjecture.

    One reason there is disagreement over whether Lincoln would have won without Atlanta is that antiwar sentiment ran close to 45% of the population. That means one out of almost 2 of everyone you would have known in those days was against the war. That's a lot of volume. It could in retrospect easily make one imagine that Lincoln was on the ropes. And it just as easy to explain why he didn't lose to some major event like Atlanta. But again, it's all conjecture. You may be right; I may be wrong.
    Ok, I think you and I are having a misunderstanding. What I've been saying all this time is that had the South managed to fight North to a standstill, or had they been able to achieve a significant political victory (such as the capture of DC or crushing the Army of the Potomac), then Lincoln would have lost the 1864 election. Atlanta was important in the public's eye, but the war was clearly lost for the south by then. All of the fighting since Gettysburg had been waged in Virginia and the South was visibly failing by the time the election rolled around.

    I wasn't aware of the numbers, but look at how many people were against the war with the North obviously winning... what I've been saying is what if they weren't? We can't say for certain, as you said... but if I were living in New York, Ohio, ect in 1964 I would be pissed. And in having to choose between bunglers I think I would choose the one who wouldn't continue a war he couldn't win.

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by lwarmonger View Post
    Ok, I think you and I are having a misunderstanding. What I've been saying all this time is that had the South managed to fight North to a standstill, or had they been able to achieve a significant political victory (such as the capture of DC or crushing the Army of the Potomac), then Lincoln would have lost the 1864 election.
    That's a reasonable hypothesis.

    Atlanta was important in the public's eye, but the war was clearly lost for the south by then. All of the fighting since Gettysburg had been waged in Virginia and the South was visibly failing by the time the election rolled around.
    Right. That's why I doubt Lincoln was really in danger of losing.


    I wasn't aware of the numbers, but look at how many people were against the war with the North obviously winning... what I've been saying is what if they weren't?
    How many people knew the Union was winning? You have to close your eyes and imagine what the state of media communication was back then. They didn't have TV, radio, embedded journalists with sat phones, and in-depth talking head analysis of the war's progress. Newspapers and magazines could pretty much say what they wanted without being called to task for poor reporting or badly attributed editorializing. People in the hinterland would get news of events weeks after they happened. Meanwhile rumors were rife. We could go on, e.g. image of the south's former prowess, Lee's reputation for pulling rabbits out of hats, etc. would add to a sense of futility.

    We can't say for certain, as you said... but if I were living in New York, Ohio, ect in 1964 I would be pissed. And in having to choose between bunglers I think I would choose the one who wouldn't continue a war he couldn't win.
    [/QUOTE]

    You'd do that even after reading the Democrat's 1864 Chicago convention platform. It's the same defeatist stuff the Democrats are saying today. Although McClellan repudiated the peace plank saying he would fight on, but do better than Lincoln, it was an albatross around his neck. Check it out. Democratic Party Platform
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAD_333 View Post
    You'd do that even after reading the Democrat's 1864 Chicago convention platform. It's the same defeatist stuff the Democrats are saying today. Although McClellan repudiated the peace plank saying he would fight on, but do better than Lincoln, it was an albatross around his neck. Check it out. Democratic Party Platform
    As things turned out historically, in 1864 I would have voted for Lincoln... after all McClellan was one of the reasons why I would accuse Lincoln of incompetence, and at that point the war was clearly won. If the war was not being wonand Lincoln was talking about fighting on though, I would have voted for McClellen. Sure he was a weasel, and an incompetent one at that, but at least he recognized that he wasn't competent enough to win.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JAD_333 View Post
    Newspapers and magazines could pretty much say what they wanted without being called to task for poor reporting or badly attributed editorializing. People in the hinterland would get news of events weeks after they happened. Meanwhile rumors were rife. We could go on, e.g. image of the south's former prowess, Lee's reputation for pulling rabbits out of hats, etc. would add to a sense of futility.
    Just thought of this. By this point people were used to hearing about fighting in the South. There were "victories" that didn't require too much lying to actualy become victories, and all of the fighting was in the South. Moving closer to Richmond too. Soldiers write letters home, and while they might have hated Grant, it was becoming clearer and clearer to them that the South's ability to resist was being worn down.

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by lwarmonger View Post
    If the war was not being wonand Lincoln was talking about fighting on though, I would have voted for McClellen. Sure he was a weasel, and an incompetent one at that, but at least he recognized that he wasn't competent enough to win.
    I don't get it. McClellan said he would continue the war but do it better than Lincoln. Doesn't sound like someone aware of his incompetence.
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  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by lwarmonger View Post
    Just thought of this. By this point people were used to hearing about fighting in the South. There were "victories" that didn't require too much lying to actualy become victories, and all of the fighting was in the South. Moving closer to Richmond too. Soldiers write letters home, and while they might have hated Grant, it was becoming clearer and clearer to them that the South's ability to resist was being worn down.
    Good point. Grant and Lincoln had a meeting that year in which Lincoln discussed the ramifications of his losing the election. Though Grant got no orders from Lincoln, he came away with the understanding that the army had to produce a dramatic victory in order for the war to go on until the north won. Also, Grant became more interested in making sure all the troops could vote. He banned direct campaigning among the troops which would have favored Lincoln since 75% of the troops backed Lincoln.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAD_333 View Post
    I don't get it. McClellan said he would continue the war but do it better than Lincoln. Doesn't sound like someone aware of his incompetence.
    As you said earlier, he was only doing that because the war was so clearly won. If it hadn't been won he would never have repudiated the peace platform.

  14. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by lwarmonger View Post
    As you said earlier, he was only doing that because the war was so clearly won. If it hadn't been won he would never have repudiated the peace platform.

    Did I say that? I know Fremont quit because of Atlanta. McClellan was the surprise winner at the Chicago Convention over the two peace candidates, but I am not sure when he repudiated the peace platform. Do you know?
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAD 333
    Although McClellan repudiated the peace plank saying he would fight on, but do better than Lincoln, it was an albatross around his neck.
    This is what I'm going off of... I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of the military aspect of the civil war is far greater than the political aspect.

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