What did Shelby Foote mean:

Union8448

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When he proposed that the US fought the Civil War with one hand behind its back.
Shelby Foote on Union Victory - Bing video
I think he meant that the US had the ability to bring overwhelming industrial power to the war at any time it chose.
That might was likely to be seen in naval power, and as actually happened, in more and more accurate artillery. Because the US had the ability to move the tonnage of food and fodder it could create and deploy much larger cavalry units than the Confederates could maintain.
HIs metaphor is illustrative, but the other hand was not behind any figurative US back. By the end of the decade the US had experienced growth and fantastic industrial growth.
In other comments the late Mr. Foote seems to explain the romantic ardor of the Confederate soldiers. But he may have also judged it to be terribly naive. Men in the south had little chance to see what industrial warfare would be like. The changes wrought by science and engineering between Napoleon and the Crimean War were known to only a few and even those few men could not explain how much things had changed in 40 years.
 

diane

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I've disagreed with Foote on that. At the beginning of the war, Stonewall Jackson was right about a very hard, fast moving war taken to the North immediately. The Union was not geared up to fight and, as the first battle at Bull Run showed, they were pretty green. The whole army had been about 15,000, mostly in the West. The South had been training militia for a while. When the Union kicked it into high gear, they were amazing but not inexhaustible. They were using both hands and both feet, nothing in reserve. That's why generals like Joe Johnston thought treading water during the last years of the war might work. Try not to lose and the Union might start flailing from the war effort. Lincoln was worried about this as well - he was most grateful for California. Without the gold from that new state, the Union may well have lost.

I do think arrogance and underestimating the enemy cost the South very much. They believed one Southerner could lick seven Northerners because they were trained fighters and the Union was trained shopkeepers. (This conceit happened to be true in Forrest's unique case - he could be attacked by a dozen soldiers and kill half of them...and live to tell the tale...)
 

Union8448

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Foote's comment was based on the fact that the US was fighting the war and growing the nation simultaneously. With respect to manpower, he could have spoken in more detail. But based on renewed immigration, recruitment of freedom, and a work force that already included a very large number of female workers, the US had unlimited industrial man and woman power to support its inventiveness.
Ironclads, magazine rifles and 3" ordinance artillery pieces were just some of the things the US could produce. The US had already reached the mass production stage. The Confederacy had little idea of what northern industry could provide.
 

Union8448

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Mr. Foote understood the Confederacy and the south. Based on experience he might have been aware of just how slow the south was progressing up to 1860. I think he read a lot northern magazines and newspapers from the Civil War era. He probably learned how lightly the war touched on the economy of most of the US states. Unlike General Jackson, Mr. Foote is commenting not only on the US during the Civil War, but what progressed in the following 8 years when the US grew at an explosive rate. The static positions of the two sides barely mattered because growth was accelerating in the paid labor states.
 

5fish

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Have you ever looked at the total size of the Confederate Army compared to the Union Army and thought about the total population of both sides? The Union had 18.9 million people and the Confederacy had 8.6 but only 5.5 were white people. The Union army was 2.1 million people while the Confederate army was 1.1 million in total. The Confederacy had put 22% of its total white population into the war effort while the Union only put 12% of its total population into the war. If you use the Confederate total population of 8.6 which includes slaves the total percent of the population in the war drops down to like 12%... I believe Foote was pointing out that the Union never fully mobilized the nation for the war effort unlike the Confederacy did.

The stats show an industrialized society and nation going to war with an agrarian society and nation. The Union never fully mobilized the nation for the war effort. If things had gone terribly for the union, we may have seen our nation fully mobilize for war.

Here are stats

.

 

Union8448

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Have you ever looked at the total size of the Confederate Army compared to the Union Army and thought about the total population of both sides? The Union had 18.9 million people and the Confederacy had 8.6 but only 5.5 were white people. The Union army was 2.1 million people while the Confederate army was 1.1 million in total. The Confederacy had put 22% of its total white population into the war effort while the Union only put 12% of its total population into the war. If you use the Confederate total population of 8.6 which includes slaves the total percent of the population in the war drops down to like 12%... I believe Foote was pointing out that the Union never fully mobilized the nation for the war effort unlike the Confederacy did.

The stats show an industrialized society and nation going to war with an agrarian society and nation. The Union never fully mobilized the nation for the war effort. If things had gone terribly for the union, we may have seen our nation fully mobilize for war.

Here are stats

.

That's a big piece of it. Foote touched on the agricultural sector, the mechanical revolution, and as you note, the extra military manpower that the US possessed if it had needed it. What Foote is saying in discussions with Burns is that the US was ready for further wars, or simply an economic cold war, if that is what was required.
He seems to be observing that the US Civil War had a unique characteristic, the US was winning and growing stronger at the same time. How many countries receive 180,000 new immigrants 2 years into a 4 year war?
 

Union8448

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Foote's example is illustrative. But when he speaks of marvelous inventions he could have mentioned the crazy situation in most northern states that the county and state fairs went on just like normal with people being particularly interested in sewing machines.
This article is not hard to find:
1705163767192.png
 

5fish

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Here are Patents... 1860...

 
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