The Union's Ability to Conduct Total Warfare and Confederate Defeat
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-guerrilla style. This means that battles were fought in the traditional European style and by guerrilla tactics. The guerrilla 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...