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CAPTAINS OF THE CIVIL WAR
Jackson stood head and shoulders above any North- ern leaders till Grant and Sherman rose to great
ness during the latter half of the war. Lee himself was never surpassed; and he, like Jackson and several more, made the best use of home surroundings and of interior lines. Anybody can appreciate the prime advantage of interior lines by imagining two armies of equal strength operating against each other under perfectly equal conditions except that one has to move round the circumference of a circle while the other moves to meet it along the shorter lines inside. The army moving round the circumference is said to be operating on exterior lines, while the army moving from point to point of the circumference by the straighter, and therefore shorter, lines inside is said to be operating on interior lines. In more homely language the straight road beats the crooked one. In plain slang, it's best to have the inside track.
Of course there is a reverse to all this. If the roads, rails, and waterways are better around the circle than inside it, then the odds may be turned the other way; and this happens most often when the forces on the exterior lines are the better provided with sea-power. Again, if the exterior forces are so much stronger than the interior forces that
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these latter dare not leave any strategic point open in case the enemy breaks through, then it is evident that the interior forces will suffer all the disadvantages of being surrounded, divided, worn out, and defeated.
This happened at last to the South, and was one of the four advantages she lost. Another was the hope of foreign intervention, which died hard in Southern hearts, but which was already moribund halfway through the war. A third was the hope of dissension in the North, a hope which often ran high till Lincoln's reëlection in November, '64, and one which only died out completely with the surrender of Lee. The fourth was the unfounded belief that Southerners were the better fighting men. They certainly had an advantage at first in having a larger proportion of men accustomed to horses and arms and inured to life in the open. But, other things being equal, there was nothing to choose. between the two sides, so far as natural fighting values were concerned.
Practically all the Southern “military males" passed into the ranks; and a military male eventually meant any one who could march to the front or do non-combatant service with an army, from boys in their teens to men in their sixties.
Conscription came after one year; and with very few exemptions, such as the clergy, Quakers, many doctors, newspaper editors, and “indispensable civil servants. Lee used to express his regret that all the greatest strategists were tied to their editorial chairs. But sterner feelings were aroused against that recalcitrant State Governor, Joseph Brown of Georgia, who declared eight thousand of his civil servants to be totally exempt. From first to last, conscripts and volunteers, nearly a million men were enrolled: equaling one-fifth of the entire war-party white population of the seceding States.
All branches of the service suffered from a constant lack of arms and munitions. As with the ships for the navy so with munitions for the army, the South did not exploit the European markets while her ports were still half open and her credit good. Jefferson Davis was spotlessly honest, an able bureaucrat, and full of undying zeal. But, though an old West Pointer, he was neither a foresightful organizer nor fit to exercise any of the executive power which he held as the constitutional commander-in-chief by land and sea. He ordered rifles by the thousand instead of by the hundred thousand; and he actually told his Cabinet that if he could only take one wing while Lee took the
other they would surely beat the North. Worse still, he and his politicians kept the commissariat under civilian orders and full of civilian interference, even at the front, which, in this respect, was always a house divided against itself.
The little regular army of ’61, only sixteen thousand strong, stood by the Union almost to a man; though a quarter of the officers went over to the South. Yet the enlisted man was despised even by the common loafers who would not fight if they could help it. “Why don't you come in?” asked a zealous lady at a distribution of patriotic gifts, “aren't you one of our heroes?”. “No, ma'am," answered the soldier, “I'm only a regular."
The question of command was often a very vexed one; and many mistakes were made before the final answers came. The most significant of all emergent facts was this: that though the officers who had been regulars before the war did not form a hundredth part of all who held commissions during it, yet these old regulars alone supplied every successful high commander, Federal and Confederate alike, both afloat and ashore.
The North had four times as many whites as the South; it used more blacks as soldiers; and the
complete grand total of all the men who joined its forces during the war reached two millions and three-quarters. But this gives a quite misleading idea of the real odds in favor of the North, especially the odds available in battle. A third of the Northern people belonged to the peace party and furnished no recuits at all till after conscription came in. The late introduction of conscription, the abominable substitution clause, and the prevalence of bounty-jumping combined to reduce both the quantity and quality of the recruits obtained by money or compulsion. The Northerners that did fight were generally fighting in the South, among a very hostile population, which, while it made the Southern lines of communication perfectly safe, threatened those of the North at every point and thus obliged the Northern armies to leave more and more men behind to guard the communications that each advance made longer still. Finally. the South generally published the numbers of only its actual combatants, while the Northern returns always included every man drawing pay, whether a combatant or not. On the whole, the North had more than double numbers, even if compared with a Southern total that includes noncombatants. But it should be remembered that a