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Danny O'Donohue - History Civil War

Danny O'Donohue - History Civil War

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Published by: Danny O'Donohuge on Nov 14, 2010
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Total War Danny O Donohue Military History

The Civil War was not a total war, and those that believe otherwise have bought into Confederate propaganda and not truly examined all that a total war entails. A grasp on the definition total war and all the factors it includes is necessary to both understand and to make the case that the Civil War cannot be categorized as totalitarian warfare. The distinction between combatant and noncombatant remained in place from the assault on Fort Sumter in 1861, up to General Lee¶s surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865. Abraham Lincoln¶s objectives in waging war against the South, never matched the ultimate purpose intrinsic to waging total war. The Civil War simply does not meet the criteria of a total war and should not be classified as one. Total war was a term first used by Giulio Douhet in 1921 and defined by him as when ³the entire population and all the resources of a nation are dragged into the maw of war.´ Those waging total war did so to achieve unconditional surrender and with the goal to destroy an enemy nation and reshape its society. During World War II a further characteristic of total war was that the economy of a nation shifted direction in order to fuel the war effort. The idea of total war came to constitute a war ³without scruples or limitations´ that made no distinction between civilians and soldiers. James Turner Johnson elaborates on the dissolving of barriers in his study of Just War Tradition and the Restraint of War where he writes, ³total war bears hardest on noncombatants, whose traditional protection from harm according to the traditions of just and limited warfare appears to evaporate here.´1 By comparing the characteristics of a total war to how civilians were treated by Union generals and the intent of Union political leaders it becomes evident that the Civil War simply does not match up to the definition.
Comment [D8]: nice discussion of total war and good working definition Comment [D7]: in which he writes Comment [D1]: There is something to this (and as Grimsley shows, much of the modern understanding of the CW is built around myth), but this is a pretty strong statement that does not recognize the validity of the counterargument
You can make a case for dismissing the counterargument, but try to be a bit less polemic

Comment [D2]: Simply give your definition and work it into the text without the extra intro to it Comment [D3]: No comma Comment [D4]: until Comment [D5]: no comma Comment [D6]: clear thesis


Mark E. Neely, Was the Civil War a Total War? Civil War History, (Kent State University Press 2004), 30.

The counterargument would say that while this does not result in civilian death/harm. It is important to note that interpretation was open to Union commanders. Comment [D12]: Valley. Philip Sheridan¶s mission was to lay waste to the Shenandoah Valley but his operation orders read that ³no villages or private houses will be burned´ and that enough food be left for civilians¶ personal use. (the key being whether civilians are classified as combatants) You might consider refining your earlier definition to make this distinction. 3 However. large-scale destruction carried out by large bodies of troops to achieve a military advantage. as specific examples will show. Hard Hand of War. to pragmatic. citizens were still treated with distinction from soldiers. (Cambridge University Press. 141 4 Mark Grimsley. Lincoln and the Union did not hope to achieve unconditional surrender from the South or destroy the states that seceded. supporters of the enemy had their property confiscated but civilian lives were never threatened. Comment [D10]: was Comment [D11]: purposes. Hard Hand of War. this destruction of property and supplies were for military purposes and civilians were still held distinct from combatants. When General Halleck was general-in-chief during the pragmatic stage. 4 Hardships and injustices were undoubtedly inflicted on civilian secessionists but the Union army never broke the barrier separating combatants and noncombatants.The policy that Lincoln favored was to have no policy which meant no standardized set of rules in dealing with civilians. As the policy went from conciliation. regarded as fellow brethren who were merely misguided. 2 Even when Grant assumed the position of general-in-chief and ³took off the kid gloves´ with his operations beginning in 1863. 3 Mark Grimsley. 171-175 . The significant shift from pragmatic is seen in the systematic. it fully involves them in the conflict. to hard war citizens were still recognized as just that. Hard Hand of War. routine. While there were vast differences in doctrines ranging from draconian and brutal to understanding and lenient. at no point in the Civil War was the distinction between civilians and soldiers ignored. at least in the beginning of the war. 1995). 51 Mark Grimsley. even if punishment for active secessionists became harsher. Comment [D13]: Your interpretation of no harm to civilians more or less means intentional bodily harm and you classify destruction of goods/property as not fitting in this category. Civilians who supported secession were. For the first fifteen months 2 Comment [D9]: policy.

The Union s purpose was not to destroy the Sou th but achieve reunion. However. The civil war. You make a good case for the CW not qualifying as a TW. in a way. this would reshape the South s economy. The reoccupation of government positions wrongfully taken from the Union was Lincoln¶s primary objective for the war. asking the South to commit political and cultural suicide. that the end of slavery and restoration of the Union truly were unconditional. but Comment [D18]: Civil War Comment [D19]: the Union.5 On July 9. Comment [D16]: War. To qualify those who take that stand as dupes is a bit strong and puts your own argument at risk. Lincoln and the North¶s ultimate goal were to restore the Union of the states. To accept reunion and emancipation was. The Emancipation Proclamation ended up transforming the South¶s society and economy but it was not the primary intention of the Federal government. Citizens were never classified as combatants and viewed as fair game as objects of attack by the Federal army. though.7 The ultimate goal in waging the Civil War was to restore the Union. Neely. which employed strategic punitive tactics on disloyal citizens in order to restore the Union from a total war. There is an element of truth to this. A. you make a good case that the North s intentions are key to evaluating these actions. but that is the only link found between the outcome Union leaders desired and the outcome resulting from total war. While you must recognize and dismiss the counterargument. 5 Grimsley. not to destroy the Southern nation or receive unconditional surrender. As you say. conciliation warfare was the policy. but one could also make a very valid argument for that point of view. Additionally. you are sometimes a bit too dismissive of its validity. and the success of your argument is rooted in a good concept of TW.5/20 Comment [D14]: But a pretty significant link. Great effort. a policy that only changed when it became evident that a quick and decisive victory was not feasible. but also its culture and society. as Grimsley points out. 121 6 . your comment that those who argue the CW was a TW have bought into Confederate/Southern propaganda. My one point of criticism is in regards to your treatment of the counterargument. For instance. Hard Hand of War. Comment [D17]: Economy. 1864 Lincoln¶s conditions for surrender were that the Confederacy accepts both the restoration of the Union and the abolishment of slavery.of the war. 23.6 Granted. never crossed the distinguishable line separating a hard war. You make effective use of our varied sources as well as those quoted and used by Grimsley and Neely. Was the Civil War a Total War? 30 7 Grimsley. these conditions would completely reshape the South¶s economy which was currently dependent on slavery. Brutal tactics were resorted to by the North in order to bring an end to the Civil War but the policies and actions of Union leaders never escalated to the level of total war.18. although ruthless and bloody in many instances. from Comment [D20]: Overall a strong paper. the Federal government initially had no intention of getting involved with slavery in the fear that it would legitimize the South¶s secession. Hard Hand of War. see the next comment Comment [D15]: One could argue. which viewed civilians as combatants in order to destroy the South.

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