Secession and Civil War Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

Why did the Civil War last so long?

Expert Answers info

Michael Koren eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write2,982 answers

starTop subjects are History, Law and Politics, and Social Sciences

The Civil War lasted from 1861-1865. Many people thought it would be a shorter conflict. One reason why the Civil War lasted four years is that the South had better military generals than the North had. Many of the military schools were located in the South, and the generals tended to fight on the side that their home state had supported. For example, Robert E. Lee, who some people regarded as the best American general at that time, stated he would fight on the...

(The entire section contains 247 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

hargett88 | Student

The Civil War is unique when compared to other wars and conflicts that the United States has been involved in. I would argue two main reasons why the war lasted as long as it did.

The first reason is that the war matched old-school fighting tactics with new-age technology. Never before had soldiers been able to shoot with such accuracy and range. The minie ball, a newly invented type of bullet, wreaked havoc among injured soldiers, leaving a wake of injuries that could not be properly treated in the 1860's. As a result, many soldiers died from infection. The massive numbers of injuries and deaths caused the war to drag out as both sides were devastated by major battles.

The second reason for the length of the war has more to do with the strategies (and blunders) of the Union army. For starters, General George McClelland squandered early opportunities to capture Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia by showing hesitancy on the battlefield. After years of fighting, the Confederacy was forced to surrender because they ran out of supplies (food, ammunition, etc.). Confederate port cities faced Union naval blockades throughout the war, which were intended to keep out the crucial supplies needed by the Confederates. While the plan ultimately worked, it proved a long and costly one.

jomomerritt | Student

There are many reasons why the Civil War lasted so long. First, it went on for five years, and it started Apr 12, 1861, and ended on May 13, 1865. The North could have effortlessly overwhelmed the South within weeks to months. However, this only could have happened if there had been the same number of rail lines into the district as there were in the North. The Union Army could have placed troops into most of the major Southern cities. By doing this, they could have suppressed any indications of defiance and alongside the naval blockade. If this had of occurred, the revolt would have been terminated by mid-1862 at the most recent.

Without modernization equipment and rail links, troops were compelled to walk several miles to front lines. Also, the logistics of that did not end up likely until Sherman went on his now celebrated "Walk to the Sea." Likewise, a weak military initiative on the Union side assumed a part in the matter of why the Civil War went on for so long. Case in point, The Union armed force was not put into pursuit after Gettysburg when believed that at that point could have crushed Lee's armed force shortening the war by years. Another slow demand for General Robert E. Lee, who was commander of the Confederate States Army enabled him time to delve in at Petersburg adding a very long time of trench fighting to the war. If they had of got him there sooner, they could have finished the fight ten months sooner.

Likewise, President Lincoln certainly had a hard time finding the correct general to engage the war. Then again, the south had astounding officers crushing Lincolns attempts to find a general to crush the south, while unite the union back. Gen. George Brinton McClellan, a Union soldier was magnificent at sorting out a brigade. However, when it came to fight strategies and plans, things did not turn out so well. For example, he failed to capture Lee's Army following the strategically unproductive but tactical Union victory at the Battle of Antietam outside Sharpsburg, Maryland. After that, he was never acknowledged for another field command.