Possibly, but I’d bet against anyone else being able to pull it off. The Confederacy needed far more cooperation from its member states than the states themselves were willing to give. It didn’t matter what Davis did if the states wouldn’t cooperate.
Davis was a pretty bad President and really was not up to the task, though, so, hell, you never know. Maybe a true consensus builder could have done something with what he had.
I’m half way through Shelby foote’s The Civil War: a narrative, what I’ve gathered so far is its certainly his contention that Davis was the man for the job. I’ll let you know how it turns out for him.
A consensus builder with a rebellious states rights crowd? Had he known, the best thing Davis could have done for the south was not to do such a great job updating the federal governments military before he switched sides.
I was reading some stuff on this today and Robert Toombs’ name came up. Toombs was a Georgian senator. He was considered a “fire eater” - one of the strongest voices pushing for secession. And he was an alcoholic. For these reasons he was not chosen as President (although he had been considered and he wanted the job). As a consolation prize, Davis named him Secretary of State.
But while Toombs was considered an extremist, he turned out to be more of a realist. He saw that the United States was much stronger than the Confederacy and urged Davis to do everything he could to avoid a war. Toombs basically felt that the CSA had achieved its main goal be declaring its independence and didn’t need to prove any points by fighting the United States. He was willing to accept, at least temporarily, the ongoing occupation of Forts Pickens and Sumter.
At the very least he felt that if war came it must clearly be the Americans who started it. An American attack would push the border states towards the Confederacy, divide public opinion in the north, and help diplomatic efforts in London and Paris.
It seems to me that Lee would have been one of the very, very few viable options. He had three major advantages–
1, He was something of a natural diplomat, and was able to persuade people quite effectively.
2, He was smart enough to realize when somebody had a better plan than he did.
3, He was ALSO smart enough to let that person put their plan into action.
Conversely, Davis was very jealous of his power, and hoarded it far too much. It was only in the last days of the war that Davis gave Lee authority over the other Confederate armies. If he had done that in the beginning, things very well might have turned out differently.
I just can’t see Lee as even being a possibility in 1861. He was a regular army officer with no political experience - and he wasn’t even considered to be the most prominent army officer the south had at that point. Why would he have been singled out to be President of the new country?
I remember reading that Howell Cobb was the front runner to be CSA president but the Confederacy wanted to repeat George Washington’s example of having their first president elected unanimously. Since Cobb was not going to be a unanimous choice (the book I read implied that he would have been a unanimous choice but there was some misinformation going around), the consensus candidate was Davis.
The real problem with Davis was he was never really the President as much as his own Secretary of War. A person that had a better grasp of the political game and not made major mistakes such as the self-imposed embargo of cotton early on or the poor treatment of Joe Johnston might have made a difference.
I don’t know if that is one of the lessons the fellow who wrote Everything I Know I Learned in Kindergarten learned out on the playground, but the rest of us knew by then the power of the words, “He started it.” Confederate Revisionists try to play that card with several lame excuses, but none of them equal a flagrant, offensive act to build support in London and Paris.
I could work with that Toombs fellow, traitor though he was.
After the war he also said George McClellan was the best general the Union had by a long shot, which is such utter nonsense even Lee can’t believe that. Rather, it was a compliment one wealthy gentleman of superior breeding makes towards another wealthy gentleman of superior breeding which both considered themselves and each other. And it was a diss to Grant.
Jefferson Davis was included in that class as well.
One always gets the feeling that the CSA suffered dued to having leaders who had not been secessionists pre 1861. Davis, Lee, Stephans, Johnson all had opposed secession until in became inevitable, even if they accepted the theory, they did not see it as the appropriate remedy to the issues presented.
The Confederacy was destroyed by a war, not an idea.
Look at Lincoln - or, for that matter, his master general, Grant. Both were men of very dedicated ideological positions. Both, however, fought the war in ways that were noteworthy for their willingness to adapt, to cut ethical corners if need be, to apply force wherever needed and then play nice whenever needed, to be ruthless when demanded and conciliatory when demanded. We often forget that while the CSA was so decentralized it barely constituted a country, the Union was itself a place that required a LOT of management to keep together (from Lincoln’s perspective) and its army was a people’s army held together with volunteerism that was led by a lot of political generals and required a deft touch to manage (from Grant’s perspective.)
A true believer might or might not have worked, but his true belief wasn’t relevant. LEADERSHIP skills were what were needed.