Rhett Butler: Why the South Was Bound to Lose
My favorite scene from Gone With the Wind in which Rhett Butler explains succinctly the disadvantages the South will encounter in any war with the North. Far sighted Southerners at the time also gave such warnings:
“To secede from the Union and set up another government would cause war. If you go to war with the United States, you will never conquer her, as she has the money and the men. If she does not whip you by guns, powder, and steel, she will starve you to death. It will take the flower of the country-the young men.”
Far sighted Northerners living in the South saw the disparity at the time also:
“You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is follu, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mightly effort to save it… Besides, where are your man and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive or railway car, hardly a yard of cloth or a pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical people on earth – right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and your determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see that in the end you will surely fail.”
William Tecumseh Sherman, December 1860
Shelby Foote, perhaps the greatest Southern historian of the War sums it up for us:
I think that the North fought that war with one hand behind its back. At the same time the war was going on, the Homestead act was being passed, all these marvelous inventions were going on… If there had been more Southern victories, and a lot more, the North simply would have brought that other hand out from behind its back. I don’t think the South ever had a chance to win that War.