There are two things that struck me as a little odd when studying about the Civil War.
First, why do we refer to it as a “Civil War?” A Civil War is a war between organized groups within a country with the aim of taking control of the country to achieve independence or to change government policies. The southern states had been unable to persuade congress to correct the taxing inequities that caused the agricultural south to pay a disproportional amount of taxes than the industrial north. In other words their civil rights had been violated and they took the only action left to correct the inequities by seceding. Didn’t the Confederates win the first battle at Manassas? If it were truly a Civil War, they would have marched into Washington DC and taken over the federal Government. But that wasn’t their objective. They didn’t want to take control of the country. All they wanted to do was to separate from the Union as was permitted by the Constitution.
Instead of referring to the war as a “Civil War”, it is more appropriate to call it ‘The War Between the States” or maybe even “The Civil Rights War.”
Secondly, ever since the end of the ‘The War Between the States,” there have been heated arguments as to whether it was fought to free the slaves. If the Civil War was in fact fought to free the slaves, it should be pointed out that the United States was the only country in the world to do so. At a cost of over six hundred twenty thousand lives and insurmountable financial loss and suffering, it would rank as one of the biggest mistakes by a government in history. It is more accurate to say that the War Between the States was fought over states’ rights with the issue of slavery as secondary. The actual letters from Union soldier Charles Gamble in my son’s book, “Letters Home…” quote Charles as saying; he joined the army to, "preserve the country and the constitution." Note: he didn’t say to “free the slaves.” If the war was fought only to free the slaves, Abraham Lincoln could have peaceably ended slavery by using the federal treasury to reimburse the slave owners the price they had paid to purchase a slave and then set them free. England resorted to such a program and ended slavery without having a civil war.
Was there really a huge consensus in the North that the slaves should be free? One would assume that freedom included civil rights, particularly the right to vote, act as a juror, the right to live in close proximity of white folks etc. But it would be another 100 years before the Negro would be granted his civil rights. Lincoln and people like Ulysses S. Grant wanted to free the Negro slaves but then send them to Liberia Africa or the South sea islands. It sounds like the idea of freeing the slaves in the 1860’s was not as it is understood today.
Abraham Lincoln only used the “Emancipation Proclamation” well into the war to garner more support for the war effort. Prior to the proclamation, the northern motivation was primarily to preserve the Union; not to free the slaves. Actually the Proclamation did not free any slaves because it only applied to the seceded southern states where he had no jurisdiction. The unfair taxation was the main reason for secession with slavery as a secondary issue.
Many of the schools, Civil War books, and movie documentaries continue to unfairly blame the south for causing the war when Abraham Lincoln could have taken steps to avoid it altogether.
Abraham Lincoln’s goal to preserve the Union was admirable but not in the manner in which it was done.
Larry Flinchpaugh, author of "Against All Odds-President Paul Ronan."