Abraham Lincoln eBook

George Haven Putnam
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 609 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln.

On the other hand, the South was in some respects very favourably placed for resisting invasion from the North.  The Southern forces during most of the war were, in the language of military writers, operating on interior lines; that is, the different portions of them lay nearer to one another than did the different portions of the Northern forces, and could be more quickly brought to converge on the same point; the country abounded in strong positions for defence which could be held by a relatively small force, while in every invading movement the invaders had to advance long distances from the base, thus exposing their lines of communication to attack.  The advantage of this situation, if competent use were made of it, was bound to go very far towards compensating for inferiority of numbers; the North could not make its superior numbers on land tell in any rapidly decisive fashion without exposing itself to dangerous counter-strokes.  In naval strength its superiority was asserted almost from the first, and by cutting off foreign supplies caused the Southern armies to suffer severe privations before the war was half through; but its full effect could only be produced very slowly.  Thus, if its people were brave and its leaders capable, the South was by no means in so hopeless a case as might at first have appeared; with good fortune it might hope to strike its powerful antagonist some deadly blow before that antagonist could bring its strength to bear; and even if this hope failed, a sufficiently tenacious defence might well wear down the patience of the North.

As soldiers the Southerners started with a superiority which the Northerners could only overtake slowly.  If each people were taken in the mass, the proportion of Southerners bred to an outdoor life was higher.  Generally speaking, if not exactly more frugal, they were far less used to living comfortably.  Above all, all classes of people among them were still accustomed to think of fighting as a normal and suitable occupation for a man; while the prevailing temper of the North thought of man as meant for business, and its higher temper was apt to think of fighting as odious and war out of date.  This, like the other advantages of the South, was transitory; before very long Northerners who became soldiers at a sacrifice of inclination, from the highest spirit of patriotism or in the methodic temper in which business has to be done, would become man for man as good soldiers as the Southerners; but the original superiority of the Southerners would continue to have a moral effect in their own ranks and on the mind of the enemy, more especially of the enemy’s generals, even after its cause had ceased to exist; and herein the military advantage of the South was undoubtedly, through the first half of the war, considerable.

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Abraham Lincoln from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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