introduction! when is the civil war a total war?
Perhaps more so than any other episode in American history, the main lines of the Civil War story are familiar to Americans. Insofar as todays discussion of total war is concerned, that conventional wisdom proceeds through three logical stages. First, we all recognize that this war was a tremendously destructive war. Second, accounts of the conflict often characterize it as the world s first excursion into total war or modern war, terms sometimes, although not necessarily, used interchangeably. Some approach that conclusion more gingerly, suggesting that this was a transitional war, with one foot in modern, total war and the other in some sort of traditional world. The third stage in this common analysis acknowledges the North as the side most ready to engage in total war. This conclusion builds on the North’s industrial superiority, emphasizing the link between the Industrial Revolution and the global transition to a new kind of warfare. The North was the more modern, industrialized state and thus best prepared to win a total war.
Although this chain of logic makes some sense, it blurs distinctions and can lead to imprecise conclusions. The first point-the Civil War was tremendously destructive - is certainly true. But before we take the next step and locate the Civil War on war s grand evolutionary scale, we should define our terms more clearly. When we do so, we are left with a paradox: The industrial North may have adopted fewer of the trappings of total war than its more agrarian opponent.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this to your organisation's collection.