Why The Civil War Was Lost Before It Even Started

Why was the Civil War lost? It’s not why you think: the Civil War was lost before it even started! It was lost sometime around 1846, some 15 years before fighting actually broke out in 1861. According to author Clifford Dowdey, the South got caught in a LOGICAL TRAP that forever put it on the offensive when it came to issues they were fighting for.

This is incredible! The South was in a checkmated position even in 1846!

According to his book “The Land They Fought For: The Story of the South as the Confederacy, 1832-1865,” Clifford Dowdey makes some pretty bold statements. As a Southern historian, even he is loathe to believe the position Southern leaders got put into by the politics of their day, especially under the leadership of John C. Calhoun of South Carolina.

During his long, and let’s say illustrious, political career, John C. Calhoun served as the Vice President to the fiery Andrew Jackson. From his beginnings in the beautiful port city of Charleston, South Carolina, Calhoun made a name for himself fighting against the so-called Tariff of Abominations of 1828 which put “a 62% tax on 92% of all imported goods” to the South.

That is an abomination! It would attempt to enslave the Southern economy to their Northern counterparts.

This Tariff led to what was called the Nullification Crisis wherein Southern states, led by John C. Calhoun and South Carolina, were actually thinking of disregarding Federal Law in favor of their own States Rights.

It wasn’t legal then, and it isn’t legal now.

This Nullification Crisis took place from 1832 – 1837, in theory at least. This idea of “nullification” basically challenged the authority of the Federal Government and begged the question of the superiority of States Rights over Federal Authority. A huge question, indeed!

It’s the question that led to the Civil War.

That was happening in the late 1820s and early 1830s. What fueled the fire from political wranglings into a Cold War before the Civil War was Missouri, Kansas-Nebraska, Texas, and California.

The following quote answers exactly why the Civil War was lost before it even started. It was a logical trap, a checkmate move by the North against the South. It was the paradox that could not be escaped.


“It came about during the Mexican War, in the administration of Tennessee’s Polk (1845-49), which was dedicated to national expansion. The Westerners thought Polk had been less aggressively interested in their expansions . . . To retaliate, the Westerners made a new issue over slavery in order to create trouble for Southern projects.

“The Wilmot Proviso alarmed and enraged Southerners of all persuasions. It showed the most Union-loving Nationalists that they were in a fight against containment. The Southern states were to be restricted to their present territory while the North gained new states which would give it majority power.

“His [Calhoun’s] counteroffensive must suddenly demand slavery anywhere, since the Wilmot Proviso – disregarding all former agreements – would prohibit it everywhere . . . Though this position might appear just in the abstract, as long as Calhoun accepted slavery as the natural order, it was out of tune with the times.” (p.37-8, emphasis added)


You see what happened right? Even though slavery was not the central issue, sleight-of-hand politics made it that way. This Wilmot Proviso (1846) was the vehicle that enabled newly-created states to choose whether to be free or slave-holding, even though, technically, the Missouri Compromise said that there was no choice. Ironically, it was a case of States Rights trumping Federal Law!

Texas was admitted to the Union in 1836 as a Southern State. California entered in 1850 as a free state followed by the Kansas and Nebraska Territories in 1854. The Kansas-Nebraska Act basically ‘repealed and replaced’ the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

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This episode in American history is kind of sad in that a civil war broke out when there shouldn’t have been one. Since over 90% of Southerners did NOT own any slaves and the first manumission and abolitionists movements actually started in the South, it seems totally unnecessary that a war was branded as racially based when in fact it was economically based.

It was industrialization versus agrarian-life. It was about city centers in the North versus rural communities in the South. Even at that time the of dichotomies ‘North’ and ‘South’ were nothing new. Those were situated as soon as the first settlers from England planted new colonies, Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 being the first (not Plymouth Rock).

The Civil War was lost before it even started because of political brinksmanship in the wild west, because of things politicians still fight tooth and nail over . . . who has the most votes. Labeling states, then as now, determines which politicians get more votes. The labels have changed over time, the motives have not!

Author Clifford Dowdey’s book “The Land They Fought For: The Story of the South as the Confederacy, 1832-1865,” gives us a unique perspective on the causes of the Civil War.

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