The Best Book Ever Written About the Civil War: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

Reviewed by Jon Thompson
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2005, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: On January 12, 2005, the subject of The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable’s annual Dick Crews Debate was “What is the best book ever written about the Civil War?” The article below is the text from one of five presentations made that evening.


Best book? Does that mean best research? Best scope? Best style? Biggest audience? Best reviews?

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The Great Debate of 2008

The Southern Victory of 1865:
Was the Confederacy a Viable State?

The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Was the Confederacy a viable state? Could it have survived as a nation? If so, what made it viable? If not, what did it lack?

The 2008 Dick Crews Debate posed the question: The Southern Victory of 1865: Was the Confederacy a Viable State? Five speakers presented on the topic of how the Confederate States of America won its independence and how it did or did not survive. Below are the texts of those five arguments, along with moderator William Vodrey’s opening remarks, presented in the order the speakers addressed the Roundtable.

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The Great Debate of 2008: Opening Remarks

The Southern Victory of 1865:
Was the Confederacy a Viable State?

By William F.B. Vodrey – Debate Moderator
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The subject of the annual Dick Crews Debate at the January, 2008 Roundtable meeting was: “The Southern Victory of 1865: Was the Confederacy a Viable State?” Five members made presentations on the topic; the article below was the opening remarks made by the moderator of the debate.


Many of you have probably heard the old children’s rhyme:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

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A Captain-Less Raft Floating On a Sea of Problems

The Confederacy Was NOT a Viable State.

By C. Ellen Connally
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The subject of the annual Dick Crews Debate at the January 2008 Roundtable meeting was: “The Southern Victory of 1865: Was the Confederacy a Viable State?” Five members made presentations on the topic; the article below was one of those five presentations.


We are faced tonight with a question – a burning question in the minds of most of you – was the Confederacy a viable state? It is the conundrum of the hour, a question that historians and Civil War buffs will argue into time immemoriam. But tonight, we, the Great Debaters of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable, will provide the wisdom and the knowledge so that all of you can answer the question and decide the fate of us, the humble debaters.

I intend to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Confederate States of America was not a viable state; not in its beginning, not in its end and not in the minds of a sufficient number of its citizens to allow it to survive as a nation.

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The Myth of a Weak Confederacy

The Confederacy WAS a Viable State.

By Paul Burkholder
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The subject of the annual Dick Crews Debate at the January 2008 Roundtable meeting was: “The Southern Victory of 1865: Was the Confederacy a Viable State?” Five members made presentations on the topic; the article below was one of those five presentations.


CSA Independence

I think most of us would agree that, with a not too absurd twist of fate, there were several points before 1865 when the Confederacy could have won its independence. The Confederacy’s best chance for a viable independence with the least absurd twist of fate occurred in the fall of 1862 when Lee was invading Maryland, Bragg was invading Kentucky and Lord Palmerston’s government in London was seriously deliberating English intervention.

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Follow the Money

The Confederacy WAS a Viable State.

By Hans Kuenzi
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The subject of the annual Dick Crews Debate at the January 2008 Roundtable meeting was: “The Southern Victory of 1865: Was the Confederacy a Viable State?” Five members made presentations on the topic; the article below was one of those five presentations.


For purposes of this debate, I have assumed that the Confederacy survived the Civil War as an intact sovereign nation. This may have occurred in a number of ways: through victory on the battlefield, as the result of some domestic calamity or due to the intervention of a foreign power. In any case, it is my position that with the conclusion of hostilities, the Confederate States of America would have not only survived but thrived as an independent republic.

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‘Too Small for a Republic…Too Large for a Lunatic Asylum’

The Confederacy Was NOT a Viable State.

By Peter Holman
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The subject of the annual Dick Crews Debate at the January 2008 Roundtable meeting was: “The Southern Victory of 1865: Was the Confederacy a Viable State?” Five members made presentations on the topic; the article below was one of those five presentations.


After the order of secession had passed the South Carolina legislature in December 1860, the old anti-nullification attorney James L Petigru was asked if he would now, at last, support his native state. “I should think not!” he replied. “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for a lunatic asylum!” And that, despite the fantastical notions we discuss tonight, is the key to answering the question – was the Confederacy a viable state following their victory of 1865?

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The Second Shot Heard ‘Round the World

The Confederacy WAS a Viable State.

By Thomas E. Stratton-Crooke
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The subject of the annual Dick Crews Debate at the January 2008 Roundtable meeting was: “The Southern Victory of 1865: Was the Confederacy a Viable State?” Five members made presentations on the topic; the article below was one of those five presentations.


The “genesis” of the Civil War may be found at the time of the American Revolution which began in 1776. Therefore it might be construed by some to say that the Civil War started in 1776.

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Hysteria, Democracy and Terrorism

By William F.B. Vodrey
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2003, 2007, All Rights Reserved

On July 7, 1865, Mary E. Surratt was hanged in the Arsenal grounds at Washington’s Old Penitentiary Building, having been convicted of conspiracy in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Also executed were Lewis Payne, George A. Atzerodt and David Herold. Mrs. Surratt’s execution was perhaps the most extreme example of how the American rule of law was put to the severest test – and in some ways failed – in the cauldron of the Civil War.

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Remembering 9/11

By William F.B. Vodrey
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2013, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The Roundtable’s September 2013 meeting was held on the twelfth anniversary of the horrific events of 9/11/2001. Past president William Vodrey opened our meeting that night with the commemoration below.


On this day in 2001, the United States was attacked by religious fanatics who struck at some of the most visible symbols of American commerce, military strength and self-government. In doing so, the terrorists remorselessly killed thousands – men, women and children – whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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