The Southern Road to Appomattox

The Southern Road to Appomattox

The Southern Road to Appomattox

The Southern Road to Appomattox

Excerpt

Not long ago one of America's best political commentators made an observation about the problem of causation in history that every responsible historian would surely endorse:

I hold a kind of Tolstoyan view of history and believe that it is hardly ever possible to determine the real truth about how we got from here to there. Since I find it extremely difficult to uncover my own motives, I hesitate to deal with those of other people, and I positively despair at the thought of ever being really sure about what has moved whole nations and whole generations of mankind. No explanation of the causes and origins of any war -- of any large happening in history -- can ever be for me much more than a plausible one, a reasonable hypothesis.1

This is a position to which I fully subscribe, and I believe that it is as valid for explanations of why a war was won or lost as for explanations of why a war began.

With this cautionary statement in mind, I am going to suggest one of the conditions, among several, that may help to explain why the South lost the Civil War. I think there is reason to believe that many Southerners -- how many I cannot say, but enough to affect the outcome of the war -- who outwardly appeared to support the Confederate cause had inward doubts about its validity, and that, in all probability, some unconsciously even hoped for its defeat. Like all historical explanations, my hypothesis is not subject to definitive proof; but I think it can be established . . .

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