Perhaps one of my greatest interests is that of the United States Civil War. It was not a war of slavery, but rather a war of ideals, based upon the lingering question of the earlier Federalist and anti Federalists.
Both the North and the South were opposites, yet came from the same ideals founded back in 1776.
The South knew that slavery was an outdated institution, but was not ready to do away with the "peculiar institution". In fact the leaders of the South knew the extinction of slavery was imminent, but when the North elected Lincoln, the south became recalcitrant.
The North for her part saw tremendous wealth in the agrarian south. She had wanted some of the economic prosperity, which the south enjoyed. The North was in its industrial age, with many new immigrants coming to its shores.
The South tended to be more structured, a civilized culture patterned after the English Cavaliers. The South had more wealthy people who liked to flaunt their wealth. It was not at all unusual for deference to be paid to the more affluent people in society. People were addressed as Sir; or by military rank. The military culture of the past was also an integral part of the culture.
They say to the victor, so goes the spoils. This is particularly true of the United States Civil War. Our modern history taught in today's schools reaffirms the myths created by the victors of the conflict. What we have been told for the 30 years is a far step from the truth. (Please see the Politics and Law page.)
We are taught that the Civil War was fought over slavery. This is simply not true. Less than 25% of the families in the south owned even 1 slave. Large plantations were, by in large the exception. To read diaries of the southern boys who went to war reveal that most went to war, because "my country is being invaded by the north." The underlying theme to most of these people, who defended the south's honor, was that the State had the Constitutional Right to determine its own outcome, its own laws, and the a large all encompassing federal government was inherently wrong.
We are taught that slaves were subject to depravation, cruelty, and harsh punishment. We were further taught that slaves were considered property to be disposed of at an owner's whim. The fact of the matter is that slaves were considered an investment, which cost the owner large amount of money. The slave owner had an inextricable interest in seeing that his property was maintained and cared for. This meant adequate housing, adequate medical care and substance. Some southern slave owners set up schools for their slaves to be educated. Corporal punishment was the exception rather than the rule. His peers judged a slave owner in southern society on how he treated his slaves. A slave owner who resorted to corporal punishment too frequently would be shunned by the society. Furthermore we were taught that no man of color would fight for the south, yet southern military roles contain the names of many men of color, both free and slave that defended the south's honor.
We are taught that Lincoln was the great emancipator of slaves. Yet Lincoln, although sympathetic to the plight of the slaves, did not consider slavery to be the overriding issue. Lincoln saw the preservation of the Union as the main issue of the war. In fact Lincoln was quoted as saying, If I could preserve the Union half slave, half free I would. Lincoln's famous Emancipation Proclamation freed only the slaves held in the rebellious territories. Slave states loyal to the Union (parts of Maryland, Delaware and Ohio) were not subject to the proclamation. In fact, General U.S. Grant, future president of the United States owned slaves until the close of the war.
We are taught that slaves ran away, and then enlisted in the Northern Army to fight for their freedom. No mention is made of the free blacks and slaves who served in the Confederate forces. Nor is mention made of the blacks who disagreed with Lincoln's' supposition of the Union. The fact of the matter is that there were free blacks who were living in the south, who were readily accepted into the society, and were quite content with their place in that community and society. There were even freed blacks that owned black slaves. In fact, the first slave owner in the State of Virginia was himself a free man of color who petitioned the court for the right to own black servants (Anthony Johnson of Northhampton County, 1654).
We are further taught that the South invented segregation in order to deal with the blacks. Once again, this is not true. Segregation, by in large is a Northern invention. Black enjoyed suffrage in both the North and South prior to 1861. In 1861, a series of states in the North passed measures revoking suffrage from blacks. Public transportation in the North became segregated, and the social institutions followed suit. The South was somewhat puzzled, when they felt they were merely imitating their neighbors to the north.
Furthermore the North attitude toward the war was reflective of resentment of the blacks. Many Northern soldiers' diaries reflect that they went to war to protect and preserve the union, not to die for the "darkies". Draft riots broke out in New York City, when it was felt the war was killing white men unequalibility for the "darkies." Racism was more rampant and prevalent in the North during the war, and for a short period post war, than in the south.
Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, was the only leader imprisoned without due process of law, as a political prisoner held at Fortress Monroe, Hampton Roads, Virginia. Davis had served prior to this as a Representative and Senator from Mississippi, Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce, and was descended from a Patriot in the American Revolution. Every historical text at that time preached sovereignty of the State, and the right of the State to secede when the Federal government threatened state sovereignty. Jefferson was labeled as a traitor, yet no formal charges (even when imprisoned) were ever filed.
Henry Wirz, the infamous Commandant of Andersonville Prision, was charged with the murder of Union prisoners under his care, and executed by a vengeful Union government, yet his treatment and survival rate of prisoners under his care, was actually a bit better than the Union prison at Elmira, New York. Nothing was done to the administration of the Union camp at Elmira, yet Wirz, the political prisoner was hung.
The American Civil War affected people both North and South. Between 1861 to 1865, over 250,000 Americans died, and one quarter of the male population was either killed or wounded. Many were maimed for life.
Even today over 125 years after those events we still debate the principles of the war as well as its impact on the culture of today.
The Civil War history is however becoming a thing of the past. The American public has been spoon-fed the history that the education system wants us to learn. Only upon a visit to the various sites can one gain an appreciation for both the sacrifices and events, which occurred. Unfortunately development, a lack of interest, as well as decreased funding, places these hollowed grounds at risk.
I would ask you to visit the links below and help us preserve these "hallowed grounds", so those future generations can enjoy, learn, and experience this true test of the nation.
Association for the Preservation
of Civil War Sites, Inc.
Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg
Mort Kunstler Civil War Art Gallery
National Park Service
Welcome to the U.S. Civil War Center
If anyone knows of additional links,
Please E-mail me @ firstname.lastname@example.org