In explaining Union victory and Confederate defeat, James McPherson once pointed out, historians tend to emphasize either internal factors (why the Confederacy lost) or external factors (why the Union won). I happen to think that the management of the Union war effort exploited potential fissures in Confederate society: without the pressure of Union success in 1863/64, those fissures would have been present but would not have had the effect they did. Think of it as driving a wedge into pre-existing cracks.
Next week I’m going to take a closer look at those fissures and why they widened. My argument is that in fighting a war for independence the Confederacy challenged the very principles which it was supposed to protect. In short, it became not only a divisive but counterproductive experience. I’ll detail my reasoning in several posts, but I wanted to give you a head’s up so that you are prepared to compare the reality of the Confederate experience with the concept of the Confederacy.