cguy.gif book0800.gif uguy.gif
Book Review
Richard E. Beringer, Herman Hattaway,
Archer Jones, and William N. Still, Jr.

The University of Georgia Press, 1986, 442 pages
(appendices, notes, bibliography and index)

Reviewed by Joe Childress

Why did the South lose the Civil War?  At the  beginning  of
the  Civil  War,  conventional  military  theory held that a
country as large as the Southern Confederacy  could  not  be
conquered  by  military  invasion.  Even as late as December
1864, only one Confederate state  (Tennessee)  and  a  small
portion   of   the   remaining   Confederate  territory  was
substantially under the control of the Union  army.   Almost
all  important  cities  and  industrial  centers remained in
Southern hands.  No Southern army with competent  leadership
had been captured, or annihilated in the field; the military
power of the Confederate army was still formidable.         

In this study the authors contend that the  Confederacy  was
not  defeated by overwhelming force.  The Confederate States
Army had  the  men  and  materiel  needed  to  continue  the
struggle  indefinitely.  Referring throughout to the premier
military theorists of the time, Clausewicz and  Jomini,  and
basing their conclusions on these contemporary theories, the
authors analyze carefully  the  military  prospects  of  the
Confederacy  at the beginning of the conflict and throughout
the war.  They make a convincing case that  the  outcome  of
the  Civil  War  was  far from preordained; given the proper
strategy, the Confederacy had a very good chance of winning,
even as late as 1864.                                       

The  Union  successfully used its superior military power to
destroy the Confederate will, both civilian and military, to
continue  the  war.   The Confederate defeat resulted from a
lack  of  morale,  among  both  the  military  and  civilian
populations  due to a variety of causes, including lack of a
clear objective, insufficient nationalism, a  strategy  that
pinned  Southern  hopes  on winning battles, and the loss of
the belief that God favored their side.                     

In the course  of  laying  out  their  own  explanation  for
Southern  defeat,  the  authors  also  argue  against  other
conventional theories, including: the  Confederacy  died  of
"states rights", the Confederacy was overwhelmed by Northern
might; and theory that the South's Celtic  heritage  brought
on defeat.                                                  

"Why  isn't  this  book more widely read, or, at least, more
widely known?" Quite frankly, this is a  difficult  book  to
read.  It is much slower reading than the standard Civil War
biography or campaign study.  This is serious history; it is
meticulously  researched  and  the  authors  back  up  their
conclusions   with   dense,   fact-laden,   (and   sometimes
redundant)  arguments.  However, this reviewer believes that
every serious Civil War  student  should  be  familiar  with
these  ideas,  and  this  book deserves a place in the basic
Civil War library.                                          

Availability: Currently available from Barnes  &  Noble  for
$18.36  soft cover and $34.95 in hardbound.  Used copies are
available from on line book dealers.  Hardbound  copies  are
available  from $11.00 to $65 for a signed first edition and
softbound copies are available at prices ranging from $8.00.

RCWRT Members, if you would like to share a CW book report on our web site, please mail it to: Joe Childress 12706 Fox Meadow Drive Richmond, VA 23233 OR E-mail either as text or a .doc attachment to:

Return to Book Report Index
Return to main page

©R.C.W.R.T. 2000