Why were the soldiers so ill-prepared?

Discussion in 'Civil War' started by primalclaws1974, Dec 31, 2014.

  1. The soldiers did not seem to have enough supplies, clothing, and food. This was especially true of the Southern soldiers. Some did not even have the basics of clothing, like boots. Food rations often consisted of hard tack, which was nutritionally insufficient, and notoriously contained worms and other vermin. I know that the North had more money and the factories to build weapons, but the South had the food supplies. One would think that the North would have been set up for guns and cannons, but the South was well-fed. But this was not how it was. What was the reasoning for this?
  2. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Interesting question, but perhaps based on a flawed premise.

    It is true the North was much better established with the basics for establishing an expanded Armed Force in 1861. They had manufacturing capacity, transportation (rail and shipping), banking, manpower, and even foodstuffs. The South had an abundance of Cash Crops (cotton and tobacco) but without ship-bottoms could not easily translate crops to cash to war materials.

    Regarding foodstuffs, the South did not have a plethora of nutrition available to them even at the start of the war. As I pointed out above, much of their effort was the production of ineddible crops, which, in the long run was depleting the soil. And the reliance upon CORN as a feed-crop for the labour force lead to malnutritian as a constant diet heavy in corn leads to vitamin B deficiancy (Pellagra?).

    Then there was the grand stratgy of the North, the Adaconda plan, as designed by Winfield Scot before he resigned as the CIC for the Union. It was essentially economic warfare writ large. First blockade the harbours, capture seaports, control the Mississippi and other rivers, and eventually do what Sherman march to the sea did -- destroy the capacity of the land to sustain an army.

    It was a variation on the concept of Clauswitz: Wars are won by reducing the will of the enemy to resist submiting to your politics.
  3. Alexander

    Alexander Member

  4. Thank you for the information. It makes sense. The cash crops were not edible. Were they able to even sell them? My thoughts would be that the North were the first to buy cotton from them, and then they would sell to other nations. Did the North, who was better suited for naval warfare as well, block all attempts to secure funds elsewhere, for the Southern war effort? In an ironic twist, did the North starve out the agricultural South?
  5. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Were the cash crops of the South marketable? Yes. Read the book which Alexander provided a link; the book is a memior from the South's commercial agent in England for most of the ACW. His duel job was to broker deals in Cotton et al for delivery in either England or the Bahamas, and use the profits to purchase war materials for delivery in Southern ports.

    Yes, there was some blockade running throughout the war. You may recall from the movie "Gone with the Wind" Rhett Butler was referred to as one, though a fictional character. And if you are really interested you can find books detailing the use of swift ships to run the Union blockade.

    At the start of the ACW the blockade was declared but ineffectual. The US Navy started the war with too few ships, cutters, boats, officers and men to be truely effective. The South was even worse off. But the North was able to correct shortages much more effectively and rapidly.

    You may recall the epic first clash of ironclad warships the CSN Virginia/Merrimac v. USN Monitor was an attempt to break the blockade of Norfolk harbour.

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