Was the Best Defense a Good Offense? Jefferson Davis and Confederate Strategies

James M. Mcpherson

in Jefferson Davis's Generals

Published in print October 2000 | ISBN: 9780195139211
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199848799 | DOI:

Series: Gettysburg Civil War Institute Books

Was the Best Defense a Good Offense? Jefferson Davis and Confederate Strategies

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Although the personalities and the relationships between Davis and his generals had an important impact on the outcome of the civil war, this chapter focuses on the strategies employed by the confederacy that might yield better understanding. Davis, like the leaders of the first American war of secession, seems to have envisaged a “thoroughly defensive, survival-oriented military strategy.” Another phase of the confederate's military strategy was labeled as offensive-defensive, offensive-defense, or defensive-offensive. Davis described it as offensive-defensive and contrasted it with what he called a “purely defensive operations.” This confusion of nomenclature perhaps reflects a confusion about the precise nature of this strategy and about whether Davis favoured it, opposed it, or both favoured and opposed it at different times with varying emphasis on the offensive or defensive parts of it, according to circumstances.

Keywords: generals; civil war; strategies; confederacy; American war; military strategy; offensive-defensive; defensive-offensive; nomenclature

Chapter.  6077 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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