What if the Civil War were fought today?

On a holiday first created to remember the massive loss of lives in the Civil War, it’s a good time to put in perspective the enormity of those losses and the detrimental effects another civil war would have on our nation. Around 750,000 combatants died in the Civil War, the mortality being the highest on the Confederate side, taking the lives of one in five southern men aged 20-24. Even after the Union victory, the Civil War was a lost decade for the south, as besides the lives lost in the military, southerners, especially blacks, migrated away from the south resulting in a massive loss in human capital that hobbled the south for decades. In 1870 the white population of the south was 25% less than it would have been if the war had not occurred. There was an even larger black migration north, as the black population in Ohio doubled in the 1860s and tripled in Washington, D.C.. The south began the Civil War as an economic powerhouse fueled by slavery, was economically ruined for much of the century, and even today many of it’s states are still economic dependents.

Many have said that we are now on the verge of another Civil War, with guerrilla attacks by domestic terrorists already targeting religious and minority groups. Right wingers, nationalists, and fascists are already stockpiling weapons and rehearsing. So lets game out a second civil war and it’s long term effects on our nation…

The borders between the rebel forces and the union would not be clear, with the rebels clearly occupying much of the south and less clearly situated in rural America. The actual borders of the Union and Confederacy weren’t real clear either, despite the maps in the history books- Besides Virginia being permanently divided, many highland areas of the south never supported the confederacy, Missouri was split and had both a Union and rump Confederate state governments, and south Florida was under union control for most of the war. Military organization was lacking in the Civil War, fought largely by state militia units further divided by ethnic groups, resulting in rival units from the same town fighting with one another. That’s clearly the case today on the rebel side with dozens and hundreds of rival groups fighting for adherents and control. The “command and control” structure isn’t much more decisive on the Union side- Would the military obey Trump’s or the future democratic president’s orders? What of the state National Guards? Then there’s the twenty odd federal police forces (Even the EPA has one)- Will the Capitol Police enforce a subpoena of the Trump administration’s crooks, and would another federal police agency answer with an armed response? And which side will state and local police forces choose?

Then factor in corruption, and just plain disorganization and stupidity… My great great grandfather served in the 28th Wisconsin Infantry Company F which during three plus years of service saw but a couple weeks of combat between postings guarding something or other in Arkansas and occasional forays into Mississippi and Tennessee. Drunkenness was the order of the day and corruption was rampant, and he was one of the nine out of ten of his company’s casualties that lost his life to disease rather than in combat.

Compare the relative strengths of the army and rebel “army”- Even a divided or half MIA military and loyal police forces would ultimately defeat a disorganized “army” of 50+ white guys, who even with ARs and pickup trucks full of ammo aren’t exactly model physical specimens. But given that disorganization and extended “mopping up” operations and the death toll could rival the Civil War’s… With ten times the population we had at the time of the Civil War, another civil war could take seven our eight million lives. The long term economic losses would be even greater- We’re now a mature economy trying to survive and maintain our place in a world with dozens of tough competitors while during the 1800s we were a growing nation with plenty of immigrants to continue that growth after the Civil War. Today a civil war would leave us an uncompetitive and impoverished nation for decades. That’s the “upside” prognosis, we could end up a failed state at war with itself for decades…

So our nation was lucky to survive the Civil War, we might not be so lucky next time… So please,  tone down the rhetoric and hatred and work to unite instead of divide!

 

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