in the civil war,explai the advantages the south had over the north on military factors?

7 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Almost none. As historian (and Mississippi native) Shelby Foote liked to say, the North fought the Civil War with one hand behind their back.

    My reckoning, here are the advantages the North had:

    --More good senior officers from the regular army. Oh, I know, the traditional wisdom is that the South got the better of the deal. Well, Lee and Cleburne were the only senior officers from the Regular Army that went for the Confederacy that a consensus would say were outstanding. Maybe you can include Longstreet (although he was unimpressive when he faced better Union leaders in the West). Meanwhile, the North inherited: Thomas, Sherman, Hancock, Sheridan, Reynolds (who peers regarded as Lee's equal tactically, intellectually and as a leader), Wallace, Sedgwick and Meade. Both sides got some lousy leaders, for the North they were mostly in the East (Burnsides, Pope, McDowell, McClellan). But for the Confederacy, there was an equally long list of bad senior officers: Johnson, Johnston, Hardee, Bureaugard, Bragg, Polk, C. E. Smith, Hood--all of them did poorly as Army or Corps commanders. And for those who would still insist the South had more great leaders, look at it this way: when the South lost Jackson, they had no-one to replace him with (and probably failed to exploit the success of Day 1 at Gettysburg because they had Ewell instead of Jackson). When the Union lost Reynolds or Sedgwick, they simply slotted in Hancock or Meade.

    --Artillery: the Union had more of it, better guns, better organization, and better leadership of their artillery. Artillery (for the Union) was the deciding factor at Shiloh, Stone's River and the 3rd Day at Gettysburg. You can't find a single major engagement where Confederate artillery was a positive factor or even contributed to a draw for the South.

    --Markmanship: the North had a huge advantage here. First, the North organized specific units of marksman (Berdan's Sharpshooters are just one example). Second, most of the Southern boys showed up with smoothbore muskets from home some of which had been handed down from their father or grandfather. The Northern boys were issued rifled muskets from the armory. Field tests done by solders at that time on the same range showed that rifled muskets had better distance and better accuracy than smoothbore, especially once you got beyond 100 yards.

    --Navy: the South's was small, the North's was powerful. They successfully blockaded every Southern port and captured most, took the Mississippi.

    --Supplies: the North, besides having industry, had more agriculture. The South just outproduced them in tobacco and cotton (and you can't eat either). The North produced more corn, wheat, fruit, cattle and horses.

    --Supply lines: once the Mississippi fell, the South's supply lines were a mess. They were never good anyway because of the poor road system and limited railroads.

    --Logistics: as bad as the Union's quartermaster corp was (corruption was one factor), the Confederacy's was a disaster. Confederate troops always lacked for every single element--food, shoes, rifles, cartridges, horses, uniforms--you name it.

    --Superior leadership in the West. Except for the battle of Chickamauga, the South failed to win a single major engagement in the West. It's one of the most stunning examples of incompetence and military failure in any war lasting more than 2 years. Meanwhile, leaders like Grant, Sherman, Thomas, Sheridan, and Wallace were just kicking serious butt over and over and over in the western theater.

    --in the middle of the war, with both sides badly bloodied, the North added 200,000 fresh, highly motivated reinforcements (US Colored Infantry).

    --Leadership: the Commander in Chief for the US was Abraham Lincoln who all historians regard as no worse than one of our five best presidents. The CSA had Jefferson Davis.

    --coherent military strategy (the anaconda plan) while the south had none. The decision to go into Maryland (leading to Antietam) was to get additional recruits--this was a failure. The decision to go into Pennsylvania was because Lee didn't want to give up any troops to Vicksburg and hoped to gain supplies (which led to Gettysburg). Strategy in the west was even more incoherent for the South. Shiloh was an attempt to prevent the armies of Grant and Rosecrans from uniting (but by attacking Rosecrans came to Grant's aid). Almost every major offensive operation by the Confederacy ended up as a disaster--it failed in it's objective and produced horrendous casualties that wrecked the South's warfighting ability.

    Here are the advantages the South had:

    --Superior cavalry. The Union cavalry was poorly led, poorly organized. This was exacerbated by the reality that the Confederacy produced some first rate Cavalry leaders: Turner Ashby, Nathan Bedford Forrest and JEB Stuart.

    --Usually they knew the territory better. This was a combination of skilled use of mapmakers (especially by Jackson and then Lee) as well as often fighting on familiar ground (for instance Jackson knew the field of 2nd Manassas, Pope from the western theater did not).

    --In the East, the combination of Lee and Jackson versus some inadequate leaders led to a series of successes that produced a very confident and cohesive Army of Northern Virginia. Note: this was not much of an advantage--it led to their downfall in other engagements when people like Henry Heth got too cocky and started fights they though would be easy to finish.

    The argument that the Southerners finished at the top of West Point is just plain wrong. Lee was superb. But Pickett was notorious for finishing at the bottom of his class. Grant finished low. But Reynolds and McClellan finished high.

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    The souths biggest advantages was It's great people who were willing to fight and lose their lives for freedom. It also was fighting a defensive war on it's on land which gave it more incintitive to fight. The south had the best leadership. Most union military leaders were trained southerners who switched to the confederacy. Southern women immediately came ot the aid of confederates troops in making uniforms,flags, medical care and other worthy causes. (most union mills were staffed by indentured or enslaved white children(both sexes) who rarely lived beyound their 15 birthday due to the hardshps they suffered) Southern troops were more accustomed to hardships than union. Many thousands of union troops were new arrival immigrants who had never seen a gun. Entire ship loads were unloaded into military service. The south had several advantages but lack of a industral base doomed it. They had several chances and officers blew that one. The biggest blunder was even getting into the war without an industral base, The had not manufacturing base at all and even though oput the war the planter society kept it out. The second blunder was Lee's decision to go ahead and count Union force with his mens lives at gettysburg. That was a move the south could not afford. We lost 36,500 men in three days of fighting. the union lost 34,500 in the same 3 days, but as we left the field of battle they were given the victory. It was a loss of man power , and material we could not afford but one the union could well afford. Grant was cornered between two rivers in tennessee. had the southern command push on on him it would have been all over, but General Sidney Albert Johnson died there and they stopped to honor him and his replacement made a bad decision to rest his men and gave the union time to regroup. with much needed supplies and fresh menpower the sounthern armies did not have. The third bluunder was the battle of Battle of Chickamauga in which Confederate failed to follow up on their victory and run down the fleeing union army. This gave the union time to bring in fresh troops and supplies. something the confederates did not have. Had the confederates kept the feds on the run out of Chattanooga lincoln would have lost the last election and the war would have ended with two nations. this would have meant a better world for all of us.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Another advantage the South had was a superior Secret Service with a large network of Spies. The North did have a better use of telegraph and Signal Corps, mostly due to better telegraph lines. The South had a much better use of Scouts and better quality information on troop numbers and deployment.

  • 1 decade ago

    The South's greatest advantage was that it had superior officers. The South was fighting in familiar territory which was also a great advantage.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Cavalry, more good marksmen, and more men used to simple living and accustomed to privations.

    It claimed to have soldiers with better morale, dedication, and offensive spirit. (Casualty figures do not support this claim.)

    Making a virtue of necessity, the South had interior lines of supply and troop movement, though fewer roads and railroads on which to move them.

    In the end, little advantage. and none that counted for much.

  • Naz F
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Southerners dominated (more at top of their class) at the military training facility of West Point. Northerners had to waste many troops (eg, putting down Native-American revolts) west of the Mississippi.

    Also, South pioneered use of ironclad ships in navy. (First to do this, though later the North built many more.)

  • glenn
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    better general officers, their sole advantage.

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