How The South Could Have Won the Civil War: The Fatal Errors That Led to Confederate Defeat Click here to purchase from Barnes & Noble. Click here to purchase from

The Lost Order in the Antietam Campaign 1862

Excerpt from How The South Could Have Won the Civil War, by Bevin Alexander,
page 155, 157

Many observers have concluded that the accident of the Union’s discovering Lee’s order [showing the wide scattering of his forces] determined the outcome of the Maryland campaign. If Lee’s order had not been lost, the thinking went, the South might have succeeded.

This is not correct. If the North had not found the order, Lee still would have been defeated—for the same reason that he had been defeated at Frayser’s Farm and Malvern Hill [in the Seven Days] and that Union General John Pope had been defeated at Second Manassas. The defensive power of the Minié-ball rifle was causing nearly all frontal assaults to fail.

If Lee had accepted [Stonewall] Jackson’s proposal to strike east of Frederick, on the other hand, the campaign would have taken an utterly different course—and would have had an almost certain likelihood of success...

[Lee] wanted to bring the attack to McClellan. He revealed his mind-set in a statement he made to historian William Allan on February 15, 1868, well after the war had ended: “Had McClellan continued his cautious policy for two or three days longer [after the Confederates seized Harpers Ferry], I would have had all my troops reconcentrated on the Maryland side, stragglers up, men rested, and intended then to attack McClellan, hoping the best results from the state of my troops and those of the enemy.”...

No one can circumvent a cardinal verity about warfare: to succeed, an army requires a leader who can see a way to victory. Without such a leader, all the valor, all the dedication, all the exertion, and all the sacrifice of an army’s soldiers will go for naught.

Napoleon saw this truth most clearly. “In war,” he said, “men are nothing; it is the man who is everything. The general is the head, the whole of an army. It was not the Roman army that conquered Gaul; but Caesar; it was not the Carthaginian army that made Rome tremble in her gates, but Hannibal; it was not the Macedonian army that reached the Indus, but Alexander.”

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