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How the South Could Have Won the Civil War: The Fatal Errors That Led to Confederate Defeat

by Bevin Alexander, Crown, 336 pages, $25.95.

In this fascinating counterfactual chronicle, historian Bevin Alexander contends that because the Confederate military leadership, though deeply divided throughout the war, was markedly superior to the Union’s, it should have been able to lead the South to victory. Stonewall Jack son’s approach was the only potentially winning strategy, Alexander claims, noting that “He proposed moving against the Northern people’s industries and other means of livelihood. He wanted to avoid Northern strength, its field armies, and strike at Northern weakness, its undefended factories, farms, and railroads.”

Davis and Lee tended to reject Jackson’s approach, a proclivity that Alexander says resulted in repeated “lost opportunities.” By adopting Jackson’s proposals, the author theorizes, Confederate armies might have avoided disastrous frontal attacks on entrenched positions—think Gettysburg. But in a war of attrition (pursued by Ulysses S. Grant and Lee alike), it turned out the Confederacy did not have much chance at all.


Originally published in the June 2008 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.