The South's Greatest Opportunity
Excerpt from How The South Could Have Won the Civil War, by Bevin Alexander, page 4
Three decades before the Civil War, the great Prussian strategist Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) argued that in a country involved in an insurrection or torn by internal dissension, the capital, the chief leader, and public opinion constitute the Schwerpunkt, or center of gravity, where collapse has the greatest chance of occurring.
Following this theory, the Confederacy’s most glittering opportunity lay not in defeating the Northern field army in Virginia but in isolating or capturing Washington, evicting Lincoln and his government, and damaging Northern industry and railroads in order to turn public opinion against the war.
British Colonel G.F.R. Henderson, the famed biographer of Jackson, made this point graphically in 1898: “A nation endures with comparative equanimity defeat beyond its own borders. Pride and prestige may suffer, but a high-spirited people will seldom be brought to the point of making terms unless its army is annihilated in the heart of its own country, unless the capital is occupied and the hideous sufferings of war are brought directly home to the mass of the population. A single victory on Northern soil, within easy reach of Washington, was far more likely to bring about the independence of the South than even a succession of victories in Virginia.”<< More 'Civil War' Excerpts << Back to top