Civil Warriors Greatest Hits: Propositions and Implications

(this post originally appeared in Civil Warriors, February 4, 2007)

One of the more troubling aspects of Civil War history lies in going beyond the tales of battles and leaders and tightly-focused military studies to ask broader and more probing questions about issues of causes and motivations. Such queries are sensitive in part because some people see a characterization of motivation or cause as passing judgment on one’s own ancestors and perhaps on oneself. There’s something deeply personal about these queries, and simply to explore the topic is a risky proposition. Nevertheless, we make moral judgments all the time about the past, whether we admit it or not.

I find challenging the following propositions about the American Civil War:

“Both sides fought for what they believed in.”

“There was racism in the North as well as in the South.”

“Most Confederate soldiers did not own slaves.”

All three of these statements are grounded upon a factual basis. But that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss their implications (and we do). If we posed similar propositions about a more recent conflict, would we draw the same implications?

“Both American and German soldiers fought for what they believed in during World War II.”

“There was antisemitism in the United States as well as in Nazi Germany.”

“Most German soldiers did not take part in the Holocaust.”

One can raise these questions without necessarily equating the Confederacy with Nazi Germany (and I would not). Moreover, one should be able to raise these questions without being labeled a Yankee apologist who renders the Civil War in simple and stark moral contrasts of Union good, Confederate bad, Union pure, Confederate sullied. In fact, for someone to raise that objection is an intellectually feeble evasion of the import of the exercise. Simply questioning the motivation of the questioner (an all too frequent practice in such discussions, which are full of “you, too” fingerpointing) is an admission that one does not want to answer the question. I’d ask, why not?

I raise these issues to ask whether there are the meaningful differences between these two sets of propositions, what they might be, and the implications one draws from that discussion. We owe it to ourselves to engage in that sort of discussion every once in a while rather than simply rehash the same old controversies.

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58 thoughts on “Civil Warriors Greatest Hits: Propositions and Implications

  1. Ok, Brooks, I’ll try it.

    “Both sides fought for what they believed in.”

    The South fought to protect and expand the institution of slavery. The North fought to preserve the Union and to end slavery.

    “There was racism in the North as well as in the South.”

    Yes, there was.

    Racism in the South was both a consequence of and foundational basis upon which a slave society was built. Racism in the South was endemic and affected all areas of life.

    On the other hand, racism in the North was varied and also included ethnic bias. The New York draft riots excepted, the brutality of Southern racism did not have its equal in the North.

    “Most Confederate soldiers did not own slaves.”

    Immaterial. The South was a slave society and all aspects of life–religious, economic, social and cultural–were impacted by the institution of slavery. The fear of emancipation of slaves helped to garner support of non slaveholding whites for the Confederacy.

    Now, here is my problem with all of this: there is more to the “you too” argument than these tired old controversies indicate. Lost in the “you too” dialogue are the Native peoples of this land, as well as African American men and women after the war and into Reconstruction. Southern racism led to full scale terrorism after the war, as you have indicated, and Northern racism allowed many white Northerners to turn a blind eye. Racism throughout the nation allowed the following massacres to occur: Rosewood, Bear River, Sand Creek , Marias River, and that is just scratching the surface. We all speak of the concept of agency in our conversation about the Civil War. Pro Confederate adherents who claim that slavery was a benign institution, that states’ rights caused the war,etc, are conspicuously unaffected by any argument of agency on the part of white Southerners. Those who uphold an idealized Union interpretation of the war, also begin to sound as though white Northerners of the Civil War era were not responsible for their actions, either. That is when an apologist attitude does seem to come into play. In other words, white Southerners could not continually make white Northerners do what white Southerners wanted them to do, unless the majority–or at least many–white Northerners were sympathetic to the goals of white Southerners. As you pointed out in another post, it takes two to tango, and tango the white society of the times did–over the dead bodies of men, women, and children of other races.

    • I think the position native Americans and enslaved blacks found themselves in wasn’t only based on race… but on civilizational differences and all that that entails (which can definitely include race). European civilization, by the time of Columbus, had just begun to to out pace much of the rest of world technologically and scientifically. Furthermore, European thinking and policy had become expansionist. This was very bad news for the New World peoples’ because they just couldn’t stop Europeans from colonizing their lands. As soon as Europeans arrived in the New World in the 16th and especially the 17th century, that was the beginning of the end of all of Native American civilization. And West African states couldn’t stop the Europeans either, and couldn’t have cared less about profiting from the relationships that developed between themselves (the local rulers) and their colonizers.

      So race was a factor for sure, especially as new institutions and culture developed in the New World, but racism I think sprouted from a position of scientific and technological superiority. The United States has just been a continuation of this western civilization dynamic that has existed for quite some time, but is slowly changing.

      • I agree, interesting read. I have referred to it as European imperialistic expansion. Some do not like that term.

    • Racism throughout the nation allowed the following massacres to occur: Rosewood, Bear River, Sand Creek , Marias River, and that is just scratching the surface.

      Thank yankees…and mormons for that. King Brigham himself had the Utah papers rally up support for the attacks on shoshones–and there were other, lesser-known Bear Creeks when the LDS seized Utah territory from the natives, but well…..dead men tell no tales..

      I would not presume to defend the South but the idea of the virtuous Union/Federals may be nearly as absurd as the southerners who defend slavery as benign. Also, some Natives–cherokee, comanche, others– fought with the Confederacy, willingly–most likely hyped up by rebel leaders (ie, “the yankees are coming to kill/enslave you”), but warriors nonetheless. The PC moralistic interpretation of the civil war is usually just BS.

      Lee, Davis, Jackson, Beauregard, et al should been hanged immediately afterwards, IMHE—at least Beauregard sort of admitted some guilt (and was detested by Davis and most white southerners—really probably one of the reasons for the growth of the Klan, who detested french and catholics as much as they did blacks). For that matter, PGTB was the brains behind the hicks (and…sort of a grand Napoleonic figure in a sense)–Granny Lee’s forces would have been cut down within the first few months sans Beau. Or something like that.

      • J,

        Well, “Yankees” weren’t responsible for the Rosewood massacre, white southerners were. The Rosewood massacre occurred in Florida and was a massacre of African American men and women by white southerners.

        I agree that hypocrisy exists on both sides. What I find interesting is that this is the second time this week I have had this conversation.

        You seem to equally condemn all sides, so you are not attempting to support an argument. In fact, you don’t seem to have an argument. You are just disgusted with everyone, if I read your comment correctly, so that is your view and you are entitled to it. I am not certain that that helps us understand our history any better, but you are entitled to think what you think and to express those thoughts within the limits set forth by our blog moderator.

        References to PC are meaningless. You have some witty characterizations, though. “Granny Lee”. I never heard that one before. I guess you could be described as an equal opportunity disgusted person, in that you detest “Yankees”, “hicks” “Federals” Lee, Sherman, the Mormons, and PC people? 8) I am shooting for a smiley face here with 8 close parenthesis. I doubt I will succeed, so Smile)

  2. Don’t forget, there are fewer documented black soldiers in the Confederate army than Jewish soldiers in the Wehrmacht, almost all of whom would have had family in the camps. Were they “fighting for what they believed in” also?

  3. It is an uncomfortable comparison, but I’ll give it a shot:

    “Both sides fought for what they believed in.” vs. “Both American and German soldiers fought for what they believed in during World War II.”

    USA and CSA soldiers fought to define the country they lived in. All knew the “peculiar institution” underlay the conflict – a polarizing political question experienced by most of the soldiers before the war as an abstract principle, yet important enough to their psyches that most men willingly took up arms to defend their position. Soldiers in WWII were fighting for or against empire. I doubt the average GI enlisted to save Jews from the chambers (btw, my grandfather was murdered by the Nazis and my mom and grandmother survived the concentration camp at Terezin). I’d be curious to know the ratio of enlisted men to draftees in the CW vs. WWII. I imagine there were more draftees by percent in the latter. Still, probably all in all, for Americans at least, they fought for what they believed in in both wars, so I suppose the comparison is valid.

    “There was racism in the North as well as in the South.” vs. “There was antisemitism in the United States as well as in Nazi Germany.”

    There’s just no comparison here. We’re not talking about feelings, we’re talking about actions. Southerners institutionalized slavery for economic reasons, and benefitted enormously. Northerners benefitted too, but they were willing to give up the benefit. And both sides argued the point as a moral principle for decades before it came to war. Anti-semitism, on the other hand, may have always existed in America, but it did so in such a mild form (compared to what Jews have experienced for millennia elsewhere) that it just doesn’t rise to a level worth noting, except to say that German Jews felt the same way about their adopted country prior to the 30’s. Then a lunatic took over, and enough of the German people went along with him to create the worst genocide in our history. And given the many genocides in that history, that’s saying a lot. I’m somewhat impressed by the intense effort Germans have made since then to atone for their national sin – it makes me think of Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural and the call for Northerners to accept the Civil War as punishment for the nation’s collective sin. But the fact remains that the German people of the 30’s participated in a grand scale unspeakable evil that American anti-semites had nothing to do with (with the possible exception of Henry Ford.)

    “Most Confederate soldiers did not own slaves.” vs. “Most German soldiers did not take part in the Holocaust.” Yes, both are true. But they all watched it happen. This is really a tough one, and I’ve got work to do. I leave it to a better mind. Brooks?

  4. Brooks, thank you for giving me something to seriously think about; enough to say something: ;)

    “I raise these issues to ask whether there are the meaningful differences between these two sets of propositions, what they might be, and the implications one draws from that discussion.”

    Istm the meaningful difference between the two sets of propositions…

    Both sides fought for what they believed in.”
    “Both American and German soldiers fought for what they believed in during World War II.”

    …is that the German soldiers adopted a new set of beliefs, and an agenda to go with it, antithetical, even lethal, to any non-German within their reach, which they dispensed and IMPOSED on all their neighbouring peoples; fought specifically for that purpose. The Confederates supported an existing set of beliefs and way of life that had been in place lawfully for generations; in other words, fought for their very way of life. They fought to DEFEND it against all attacks upon it; and to separate themselves as a people and an entity from their attackers. They did not fight to disseminate and impose on their beliefs on their fellow citizens beyond their own sphere of influence. Their beliefs, whatever we may think of them, are more defensible than the German case, then, on this level, and arguably more; and additionally and particularly, because the war waged against them by the Union was not declared because of them; nor fought for the purpose of ending them.

    “There was racism in the North as well as in the South.”
    “There was antisemitism in the United States as well as in Nazi Germany.”

    These propositions stm to be is as far apart in implication as the belligerants themselves! ie: the Mason-Dixon Line barely separates the sentiment and its weight on America and the Civil War vs the chasm between the Continents and their carriers.

    “Most Confederate soldiers did not own slaves.”
    “Most German soldiers did not take part in the Holocaust.”

    Those Confederates that didn’t own them when they started, didn’t acquire them by fighting, either. In one sense, we could consider them altruistic for fighting to support those who did, could we not? ;) They stood to gain nothing, as a matter of fact, but maintain their way of life, if they could help to keep it.
    Meanwhile, the holocaust could not have happened without the German soldier.
    BIG difference.

  5. Oops! Knowing how pick you all are, I note I made a typo:

    ” impose on their beliefs ”
    s/b “impose their beliefs”

    I’m Sorry!

  6. Oh dear, and that should be “picky” not “pick”.
    I’m shaky today, not flakey. (Some of you know I’m ok.) :0

  7. “is that the German soldiers adopted a new set of beliefs, and an agenda to go with it, antithetical, even lethal, to any non-German within their reach, which they dispensed and IMPOSED on all their neighbouring peoples; fought specifically for that purpose. The Confederates supported an existing set of beliefs and way of life that had been in place lawfully for generations; in other words, fought for their very way of life. They fought to DEFEND it against all attacks upon it; and to separate themselves as a people and an entity from their attackers. They did not fight to disseminate and impose on their beliefs on their fellow citizens beyond their own sphere of influence. Their beliefs, whatever we may think of them, are more defensible than the German case, then, on this level, and arguably more; and additionally and particularly, because the war waged against them by the Union was not declared because of them; nor fought for the purpose of ending them.”
    ———–
    This claim is at odds with the fact that confederate soldiers invaded what they considered to be a separate country and imposed their system, which was unlawful in the place they invaded, on any black residents they happened to find, taking them south into slavery. It is also at odds with the fact that confederate soldiers invaded the territory of Arizona to try to take it into the Confederacy, thus imposing their system on a neighbor.

    “These propositions stm to be is as far apart in implication as the belligerants themselves! ie: the Mason-Dixon Line barely separates the sentiment and its weight on America and the Civil War vs the chasm between the Continents and their carriers. ”
    —–
    This statement has no meaning. Saying racism existed (and still exists) in all areas of the country is no different from saying anti-Semitism existed (and still exists) in both the US and Germany. Intercontinental distance is a distinction without a difference. It has no effect on either statement.

    “Those Confederates that didn’t own them when they started, didn’t acquire them by fighting, either.”

    Not so. We have several accounts of confederate soldiers picking up slaves along the way. William Christian’s account during the Gettysburg campaign is only one such account. Additionally, they were fighting to keep the system in place. There was more to slavery than an economic system. It was also a system of racial control. You seem to think that one could support the system of slavery only if one actually owned slaves. This ignores the motivations of nonslaveholding southern whites, who benefited from the institution’s existence in terms of status, in terms of racial control of blacks, and in terms of the ability to rent slaves from owners. It also ignores the aspirations of nonslaveholding whites to one day own slaves themselves.

    “In one sense, we could consider them altruistic for fighting to support those who did, could we not? They stood to gain nothing, as a matter of fact, but maintain their way of life, if they could help to keep it.”
    ————–
    Incorrect for the reasons outlined above.

    “Meanwhile, the holocaust could not have happened without the German soldier.”
    ————-
    They felt that slavery could not be maintained without the confederate soldier.

    “BIG difference.”
    ————-
    LITTLE difference.

  8. Al Mackey says, (among other things that are incidental and tangential to the points I made: “Intercontinental distance is a distinction without a difference. It has no effect on either statement.”

    I say: “That’s a stretch!” (pun intended).

  9. Al:
    Since Brooks Simpson was sincere in asking us this: “whether there are meaningful differences between these two sets of propositions, what they might be, and the implications one draws from that discussion” and acknowledges that “there’s something deeply personal” about doing so, what it comes down to is our personal reflections and considered opinions. My response was sincere and given in this spirit. So, for you to dispute my perspective on each one of the propositions strikes me as trying to defeat the purpose. Why? One may quibble over the details, but that isn’t meaningful, and doesn’t take us there.

    On your arguments concerning the contrabands: These examples are of incidental importance and secondary effect in the context of my comparison; they are side effects and consequences, outside of actual policy, reactive in nature, a response by some Confederates, some of the time, especially the unrulier contingents, to the war effort; nor are the numbers significant.

    As I said before, the poor privates stayed poor. The soldiers involved in rounding up the contraband weren’t the ones who directly gained from it. The evidence is the contraband was sold at auction, imprisoned, and returned to their owners. And, however the average rebel soldiers saw themselves and their prospects as compared to the slave, as a reason to fight, it didn’t constitute a primary or conscious choice. You’re arguing an intangible; and maybe, (hypothetical) motivator.

    “There was racism in the North as well as in the South.”
    “There was antisemitism in the United States as well as in Nazi Germany.”

    I said: “These propositions stm to be is as far apart in implication as the belligerants themselves! ie: the Mason-Dixon Line barely separates the sentiment and its weight on America and the Civil War vs the chasm between the Continents and their carriers. ”
    —–
    You said: This statement has no meaning. Saying racism existed (and still exists) in all areas of the country is no different from saying anti-Semitism existed (and still exists) in both the US and Germany. Intercontinental distance is a distinction without a difference. It has no effect on either statement.

    The racism among white Americans in the Civil War period was something they had in common, among the many things they didn’t; racism was not one of the sentiments that separated them. Among racists still, in America, one would be hard-pressed to differentiate what they say and how they behave, wherever you find them. However, the Antisemitism that was in the United States was as vast a chasm of difference from Nazi Germany’s as the Atlantic Ocean; as Americans’ expressed thoughts, words, and deeds were from final solutions, concentration camps and gas chambers.

    Since you did not offer any meaningful differences of your own, but differed with my perceived differences, it would seem, you’ve left us to believe the propositions are all the same to you.

    In terms of “causes and motivations” as mentioned by Brooks Simpson, I see no meaningful common comparisons between Confederates and Nazis; nor of American soldiers and Nazis in ww2. Comparing the latter to Genghis Khan & sons and would be more meaningful, in terms of the propositions posed, istm.

    • “My response was sincere and given in this spirit. So, for you to dispute my perspective on each one of the propositions strikes me as trying to defeat the purpose. Why?”
      —-
      Sincere as your response was, it was also historically inaccurate. Why dispute it? Because historical inaccuracy should be disputed.

      “On your arguments concerning the contrabands: These examples are of incidental importance and secondary effect in the context of my comparison”

      You apparently stopped reading when I pointed out there were in fact confederate soldiers who acquires slaves during the war. Perhaps you should revisit my reply and read what I wrote after pointing out the 55th Virginia’s soldiers acquiring slaves in the Gettysburg Campaign, as evidenced by their colonel’s letter to his wife.

      “the poor privates stayed poor”
      —-
      And the poor German privates stayed poor.

      “The soldiers involved in rounding up the contraband weren’t the ones who directly gained from it.”

      Col Christian’s letter indicates soldiers of the 55th may have been directly gaining. But there are other aspects, as my original response pointed out and apparently you didn’t read.

      “However, the Antisemitism that was in the United States was as vast a chasm of difference from Nazi Germany’s as the Atlantic Ocean; as Americans’ expressed thoughts, words, and deeds were from final solutions, concentration camps and gas chambers.”
      ——–
      I would dispute that as well, since the Nazis’ “final solution” wasn’t a solution brought about by the population. The general population of Germany possessed anti-Semitism just as the population of the United States possessed anti-Semitism. As the third proposition said, most German soldiers didn’t participate in the Holocaust.

      “Since you did not offer any meaningful differences of your own, but differed with my perceived differences, it would seem, you’ve left us to believe the propositions are all the same to you.”
      ——
      You fail to see Brooks’ point. The point is not that confederates were comparable to Nazis. The point is that the three statements about confederate soldiers, which are often used as moral apologia about the confederacy and its relation to slavery, can be applied to almost any situation. “Both sides fought for what they believed in.” Sure, confederate soldiers fought for what they believed in. So what? Al Qaeda is fighting for what it believes in. The Taliban is fighting for what it believes in. Do you see? It’s not comparing them, it’s showing how the claim is meaningless.

  10. Al: I’ll come back to your other comments later.
    However, for now, let me start with this:

    You said: You fail to see Brooks’ point. The point is not that confederates were comparable to Nazis. The point is that the three statements about confederate soldiers, which are often used as moral apologia about the confederacy and its relation to slavery, can be applied to almost any situation.

    I am aware they can; and I was aware they can when I began. However, if the intention was what it was declared to be, we would still being dealing with the propositions in specific, as I did.

    So, what you are confirming for me, is that Brooks Simpson hasn’t been genuine about what he wants from us, but is baiting us. Trick question. And you, somehow, have the inside track–that there’s a “right” answer and you’re privy to it. (I’m not so sure his propositions have been fully considered, or covered, in the others’ comments, but passed muster, I guess. (They didn’t say anything defensible of the southern soldier)
    As evidenced by the fact that my seeing differences in these propositions; accordingly, my perceptions more favorable to the Confederates than you can countenance; my reply is the only one commented on, and jumped on by someone who claims to speak for historical accuracy.

  11. “So, what you are confirming for me, is that Brooks Simpson hasn’t been genuine about what he wants from us, but is baiting us. Trick question.”
    ———-
    I fail to see how any person can reasonably come to that conclusion.

    ” And you, somehow, have the inside track–that there’s a “right” answer and you’re privy to it. ”
    ————
    Only because I can comprehend the written word in the English language. Perhaps you should read his posting more carefully.

    • Al:
      Just now, I lost my reply I’d carefully drafted in response to your “issues”, when I went to copy-paste it, having forgot to save it first. Very annoying but that should be a signal to me. I’m not going to work on the redraft. I’ve decided I really don’t have time to devote to this. I have my own group, I’m neglecting, by doing so. There is no point in coming here, to waste my time. Whoever wants to discuss something with me, including this, can come to me: You know where I am.

  12. Wow. Challenge some cherished assumptions with facts, point out that they haven’t read what they’re talking about carefully enough and some folks scurry away, weakly claiming not enough time to devote. Whatever. I note, however, the comments have been illustrative of a type of view where accuracy seems to be thought of as a relative term depending on which “side” one is “on,” and a seeming belief that one shouldn’t be challenged if one’s views are “sincere.” It doesn’t matter if contemporary documentary evidence exists that contradicts that view. And note the leap to the conclusion that this has all been some sort of “trap” laid by those cunning Yankees. Combine this with the complete ignoring of the institution of slavery as an institution of racial control and of what appears to be total ignorance of how a white nonslaveholding southerner would benefit from the institution of slavery’s existence.

    I expect that we would next have seen another example of the “you too” approach where some Federal actions would be cited as some type of “defense”. But I suppose we’ll never know for sure.

  13. In principle, the authentic American should support the Union cause. After reading a bit of Catton, Foote, and/or other Civil War klassics he should come to realize there were nearly as many villains in blue as there were in gray . Sherman’s March to the Sea, in particular demonstrates the ruthlessness of the Union war machine..and Reconstruction was a continuation of Northern exploitation. Sherman used a iron-fisted approach to the natives as well. As a man he seems pompous and hypocritical. The House Divided should be a…Madhouse Divided.

    • Rather than supporting either side, why don’t we just seek to understand what happened and let the chips fall where they may? As a patriotic American, I’m very happy the Union was preserved and slavery abolished. But as a student of history I want to understand what happened.

    • J,

      You might consider updating your reading list. You are presenting an outdated view of Sherman and of Reconstruction. (I can think of one scholar who is an expert on Reconstruction whom you might consider reading–as in the same scholar who moderates this blog)

      As Sherman led his army through the South, following the army were hundreds (thousands?) of slaves. That is the paradigm shift that must take place for some men and women–the Union army did indeed free men and women who were held in bondage against their will (as in four MILLION men and women) and the minute those men and women were presented with the opportunity to be free, they seized it. Being a patriotic American is incidental to embracing this history. How about just being a human being? (I don’t mean you, J, I mean all of us) Arguments that ignore this basic fact are made by those who are either uninformed or who wish to distort the facts. (I have found the piece of writing that has influenced me most–and that piece of writing is contained in a blog post. The post explores how slaveholders controlled every aspect of a slave woman’s reproductive life in order to produce more slaves. That distills the argument for me. There is nothing more to say. This is what Sherman’s army brought an end to. )

      On the other hand, this was not so in the West. And this issue is not a side issue, but an issue central to our understanding of the Civil War. Although one could be a racist and still be an abolitionist and believe strongly in the need to bring about the end of slavery, when it came to Indigenous men and women, there was no such delineation between belief and action. Racism translated into action, and that action translated into war, murder of civilians, reservations, and residential schools. To present these facts does not make the person presenting them a neo confederate. How this even became a default reaction to presenting this argument is a mystery to me–although in the past week I have begun to formulate some ideas concerning how this came about.

      You can believe that slavery was one of the most heinous crimes in history, as Dr. Gates described it, that the Union army was indispensable in bringing about an end to slavery, and that the US army under Sherman after the Civil War was ruthless in its conquest of the Plains Nations, all in one thought. In my view, I don’t see how you can believe otherwise without distorting the facts. The Sand Creek massacre, which was conducted by militia under the command of Chivington, an abolitionist , preacher, and officer involved in La Glorieta Pass, included the removal of reproductive organs of Cheyenne women as part of the massacre, and this occurred in 1864 before the war ended. It doesn’t get much more brutal than that, except, perhaps, for the rape of dying women in the Bear River massacre, the three hundred years of brutality inflicted upon slave men, women and children, or the reign of terror endured by African American men and women during and after Reconstruction. There is no defense of these actions. To even attempt to defend them, or to deflect attention away from them, is unconscionable. That is my problem with the hypocrisy that exists on both sides of this debate. Thanks to all, and thanks to Brooks for providing this forum. Sherree

      • I don’t deny General Sherman’s bravery, valor, etc and triumph per se in bringing an end to the Confederacy. Yet it was “scorched earth” however trite or “Cattonesque” that sounds (Catton’s not fancy but fairly thorough)–and I suspect (not a pro. historian) that one aim of that policy was meant to set up the Reconstruction, that is re-building of the south, by assisting northern contractors and businessmen–not unlike Bush in Iraq, actually.

        However I do generally disagree with an overly PC/moralistic interpretation of the Civil War. Had modern US history people read…and understood a bit of Hegel’s Phil. of History, they might understand the perils of that moralizing (really…even Marx would say much the same). It wasn’t just Good vs Evil (whatever…that is)–slavery was a def. evil, but the South was an agrarian society, in ways somewhat ..harmonious. The North/Union represented industry, finance, urban-modern existence. Lincoln himself was a deeply flawed person, and had financial reasons for pursuing war.

  14. I don’t deny General Sherman’s bravery, valor, etc and triumph per se in bringing an end to the Confederacy. Yet it was “scorched earth” however trite or “Cattonesque” that sounds (Catton’s not fancy but fairly thorough)–and I suspect (not a pro. historian) that one aim of that policy was meant to set up the Reconstruction, that is re-building of the south, by assisting northern contractors and businessmen–not unlike Bush in Iraq, actually.

    However I do generally disagree with an overly PC/moralistic interpretation of the Civil War. Had modern US history people read…and understood a bit of Hegel’s Phil. of History, they might understand the perils of that moralizing (really…even Marx would say much the same). It wasn’t just Good vs Evil (whatever…that is)–slavery was a def. evil, but the South was an agrarian society, in ways somewhat ..harmonious. The North/Union represented industry, finance, urban-modern existence. Lincoln himself was a deeply flawed person, and had financial reasons for pursuing war.

    • Harmonious? I suspect that those enslaved experienced it somewhat differently. Also, I’d be interested in hearing some examples of ” an overly PC/moralistic interpretation of the Civil War.” Who are the “modern US history people” who present such a view? Finally, what were Lincoln’s “financial reasons for pursuing war”?

  15. Harmonious? I suspect that those enslaved experienced it somewhat differently.

    Didn’t I just grant that slavery was an evil? So, you said nothing. But the agrarian society did have a certain harmony, notwithstanding the evil of slavery (then…..what sort of life would the slave have had back in the west africa/congo, etc? He might have been killed/enslaved there as well. Liberia was probably the proper MO, historically speaking).

    Also, I’d be interested in hearing some examples of ” an overly PC/moralistic interpretation of the Civil War.”

    Read most of the comments in this thread for starters, or the usual sentimental textbook used in the PC edu-gulags. Even someone who believes the Confederacy had legitimate reasons to secede, or “Lee was a great man”, or even approves of the South has not exactly blessed slavery. Ive been in those PC classrooms not so long ago and recall the little moralists and faux-marxists who consider RE Lee a Hitler, etc. They’ve more or less ruined History (if not academia).

    Now Mark–instead of the usual US history-by- numbers –Hegel’s
    Philosophy of History! It’s phunn and fact-packed as well

  16. No, you have nothing but …..PCness–the typical White-hat vs Black hat mentality, sort of sunday school history, if that

    I have plenty–you just didn’t read my comments. Like the ….financial motivations of the North, evident even in Sherman’s deathmarch, and brought to light during Reconstruction. Or the fact that natives, frenchmen, and even some hispanics fought with the South, alongside the WASPs (who I also grant were mostly….horrible human beings). And I granted that it was the yankees outwest liquidating the natives (with help from Mormons, though much of that ugly piece of Americana has been purged since the LDS racket is even PC these days)

  17. No, you have nothing but …..PCness–the typical White-hat vs Black hat mentality, sort of sunday school history, if that
    ——————-
    I’d love to see where you get that from what I wrote.

    I have plenty–you just didn’t read my comments.
    ——————
    I did read your comments, and saw no evidence to support your claims about “PCness.”

    Like the ….financial motivations of the North, evident even in Sherman’s deathmarch, and brought to light during Reconstruction.
    ——————-
    You admitted yourself that you had no evidence to support this when you wrote: “I suspect (not a pro. historian) that one aim of that policy was meant to set up the Reconstruction, that is re-building of the south, by assisting northern contractors and businessmen–not unlike Bush in Iraq, actually.”

    Or the fact that natives, frenchmen, and even some hispanics fought with the South, alongside the WASPs (who I also grant were mostly….horrible human beings). And I granted that it was the yankees outwest liquidating the natives (with help from Mormons, though much of that ugly piece of Americana has been purged since the LDS racket is even PC these days)
    —————–
    I don’t see what any of this has to do with the questions I asked, nor have I seen any evidence that you’ve actually read any of those “sentimental textbook used in the PC edu-gulags,” or been in any of those “PC classrooms.” Perhaps you could tell me which books you are referring to, and what they say that you object to. By the way, the antebellum North was also overwhelmingly an agrarian society, so that would also make it “harmonious,” so this is a meaningless and trivial assertion.

  18. Not exactly–non sequitur in fact. That I am not a pro-historian does not imply I don’t have evidence for my speculations regarding the motivations of the Reconstruction . It’s fairly common US History fare–ie, the Recon. (started with Johnson but going on for at least 12 years or so) was a great boon to northern opportunists–and I think it’s fairly safe to assume the stage for Recon. was set via the destructive campaigns of Sherman and Sheridan (and others).

    Foote says nearly as much–I haven’t exactly memorized his rather massive Civil War set, and not going to get into a citation shootout–but he does in a few places (in Red River to Appomattox) point out that the North , even with Lincoln in his last year and including many officers (and politicians, ie Sumner, Thaddeus Stevens, perhaps Grant himself) wanted the pay back: “jacobins all, accomplished haters, out for vengeance at any price. ” And capitalist minded as well.

    Shelby was not too PC or a hip beatnik but a few paragraphs of his finely crafted history worth a boxcar of phonies

  19. “. It’s fairly common US History fare–ie, the Recon. (started with Johnson but going on for at least 12 years or so) was a great boon to northern opportunists–and I think it’s fairly safe to assume the stage for Recon. was set via the destructive campaigns of Sherman and Sheridan (and others). ”
    ———–
    That’s a quite meaningless statement. Any war sets the stage for the reconstruction that follows it. The destructive campaigns of R. E. Lee also had a part in setting the stage for Reconstruction. And Reconstruction started with Lincoln, not Johnson. As to Reconstruction being “a great boon to northern opportunists,” that’s another meaningless statement. Any historical situation is a great boon to many opportunists, and there were southern opportunists in great abundance as well, such as Nathan Bedford Forrest.

    “Foote says nearly as much”
    —————
    Anyone who leans on Foote for accuracy is on a very weak foundation.

    “the North , even with Lincoln in his last year and including many officers (and politicians, ie Sumner, Thaddeus Stevens, perhaps Grant himself) wanted the pay back: “jacobins all, accomplished haters, out for vengeance at any price. ” And capitalist minded as well.”
    ————-
    This is a remnant of the racist Dunning School of Reconstruction Historiography which looked at allowing African-Americans to participate in state government as being a form of vengeance on a “prostrate” south. You may want to read the current scholarship on Reconstruction.

    “Shelby was not too PC or a hip beatnik but a few paragraphs of his finely crafted history”
    —————
    His narrative is a work of art. But calling it a history (he doesn’t do so, so why should we?) is more than charitable.

    “worth a boxcar of phonies”
    ———-
    Irony can be pretty ironic. :)

    • No, it’s not meaningles, whatsoever, you and Ferg. simply don’t understand it: it’s a claim, which can easily be fleshed out with evidence–one might say an empirical claim . The point is the financial motivations, along with vengeance–perhaps even religious motivations (ie, northerners opposed to the southern protestants).

      Like most history people, you respond to what you take to be tone or something. Historical rhetoric. But Im all about facts, proof, verification, though do attempt to avoid the, shall we say, Sentimentalist History Rhetoric 101.

      Similarly with Foote–his writing was a bit…hyperbolic, but he’s got the evidence, citations, the data . He uses the same resources the usual hackademic does. So it’s not…Stephen Ambrose and the Discovery channel, Schlesinger, etc. It’s legitimate, just not blessed by the Ivy league, U-Texas or UC marxists, etc. Carlyle’s history of the French Revolution somewhat similar . Hegel…or Spengler even. But Foote’s not “official historical bureaucrat” prose, so the hackademics don’t care for it. Ill take Walker Percy’s opinion of Foote over Ward Churchill ‘s (tho Ward writes a few interesting things. Or at least rips them off effectively)

      • You seem to be claiming that it was Union policy to cause damage to the Southern infrastructure so that Northerners could benefit financially from reconstruction after the war, and that Lincoln himself was motivated by this in directing wartime strategy. Above you wrote: “… it’s a claim, which can easily be fleshed out with evidence.” Okay, where is the evidence?

        • Im not going to post a treatise here. In regard to the Reconstruction, that’s a fairly standard view, even in “liberal” texts. Foote’s quote demonstrates it as well.
          I am not claiming that the initial intention of the North initially was just financial and/or avarice but by the end of the war–ie Sherman’s march– that was a motive. As Sherman said,

          “As my combined armies moved southwest toward Atlanta, all the people fled before us and there was nothing but desolation behind. We burned all the factories and shops in northwest Georgia that made cloth and other things for the rebel government.” “”

          So combine the assault on the civilians, factories, infrastructure of the Southern cities (really, the battles were pretty much finished), etc with the aims of Reconstruction, and…. greed …. a plausible scenario—somewhat similar to like the RAF bombings of Germany (and german civilians) at the end of WWII. The British were in West Germany immediately after the war and profiting from the re-building (not to say the…perqs of running west germany (as the USSR did in the east, and US in Bavaria). And I suspect Sherman’s troops (and Hooker’s, IIRC) did their own “Komm, Frau” regularly as well.

          • ” In regard to the Reconstruction, that’s a fairly standard view, ”
            —————
            No, it isn’t. You really haven’t read any serious work on Reconstruction, have you?

            “Foote’s quote demonstrates it as well.”
            —————
            Foote’s quote demonstrates Foote’s ignorance of the scholarship on Reconstruction.

            “I am not claiming that the initial intention of the North initially was just financial and/or avarice but by the end of the war–ie Sherman’s march– that was a motive. As Sherman said,

            “As my combined armies moved southwest toward Atlanta, all the people fled before us and there was nothing but desolation behind. We burned all the factories and shops in northwest Georgia that made cloth and other things for the rebel government.” “””
            ——————
            Nothing there to support your claim. You don’t understand military actions, do you? Destroying the warmaking function of the confederacy was a legitimate military action, something any general would have done. So will we read you claim that Early’s destruction of Thaddeus Stevens’ Iron Furnace in Caledonia during the Gettysburg Campaign was an attempt to pave the way for southern economic dominance in Reconstruction?

      • “No, it’s not meaningles, whatsoever, you and Ferg. simply don’t understand it:”
        ———-
        Apparently we understand it far more than you do. It’s meaningless for the reasons I listed.

        ” it’s a claim, which can easily be fleshed out with evidence–one might say an empirical claim .”
        ———-
        It’s still meaningless. As I said, any war sets the stage for the reconstruction that follows it, and every situation has people who will take economic advantage. So what?

        ” The point is the financial motivations, along with vengeance–perhaps even religious motivations (ie, northerners opposed to the southern protestants). ”
        —————-
        Laughable. So what were the financial and religious motivations behind the Colfax Massacre?

        “Like most history people, you respond to what you take to be tone or something. Historical rhetoric. But Im all about facts, proof, verification, though do attempt to avoid the, shall we say, Sentimentalist History Rhetoric 101. ”
        ————–
        You’re all about a completely discredited interpretation of Reconstruction thus far. But carry on.

        “Similarly with Foote–his writing was a bit…hyperbolic, but he’s got the evidence, citations, the data .”
        ————–
        You obviously haven’t read him, then, since he has zero citations, zero evidence, zero data.

        “He uses the same resources”
        ————–
        No, he doesn’t.

        ” Ill take Walker Percy’s opinion of Foote over Ward Churchill ‘s (tho Ward writes a few interesting things. Or at least rips them off effectively)”
        ————–
        Ward Churchill’s not a historian either, so you’re showing how little you know about what you’re trying to criticize.

        • Shelby Foote’s writing puts a cartload of sentimental leftists to shame. And it’s documented, using the same holy primary sources that all the hackademics use, though a bit eloquent for collegetown.

          Besides, you ducked the verification issue. How do you know what “canonical’ CW text is like THE most accurate? You don’t, even at this stage. Macpherson ‘s text, or the older ones, Wiley, etc are not gospel. There are no necessary truths to history. There’s a more or less accepted record, and then speculations

          Churchill wrote some material on the Sand Creek massacre, and other native affairs. Whether he’s anthropologist, sociologist, historian or radical freak, it was….historical.

          Maybe try the MBA program, Al. Or is it LDS ministry.

          • “Shelby Foote’s writing puts a cartload of sentimental leftists to shame.”
            ———-
            His writing is a work of art, that’s for sure. But don’t rely on it for accuracy.

            “And it’s documented, using the same holy primary sources ”
            —-
            This is wrong. Shelby didn’t document a single word in his work of art.

            “How do you know what “canonical’ CW text is like THE most accurate?”
            ————–
            You have to look at the evidence they used and how they handled the evidence.

            • Whether one agrees that Sherman’s destructive campaign was in a sense profit-driven (ie, creating opportunities for the northern rail barons, contractors, financiers, etc) or not (just vengeance or ” salt the fields”), it did facilitate greatly Reconstruction–certainly in Georgia. The point being that war profiteering is another of the topics most traditional CW historians overlook–that’s bit too unsavory for either the abolitionist minded yankees or the “Lost Cause” southern sentimentalists (Foote’s good with the Recon, but not economic aspects of the war itself IMHE). .

              • It isn’t a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, it’s a matter of evidence. You have provided not a shred of evidence that the policy of “hard war” practiced by Sherman on his drive through in the South in 1864 was motivated by the policy of destruction for the sake of northern profit from rebuilding after the war. All you have established is that Sherman described the destruction resulting from his army’s march. The purpose of the destruction was most certainly military and intended to hasten a Union victory by crippling the Confederacy’s capacity, and it’s inhabitants will, to wage war.

                • Plunder, at the least–not merely military objectives. Sherman’s destruction of the railroads in particular made it convenient for the Union rail barons to erect new lines a few months after the surrender. The L & N for one wanted more lines in the South–Sherman actually made use of the L & N line before entering Georgia.
                  That’s an inference based on the historical record–ie a fact based claim. (That is not yr favorite liberal academic doesn’t matter)– the Union generals did have contacts with industrialists as well (Carnegie for one).

                  Also peruse some of Foote on Sherman’s “bummers” digging up the yards of the well-to-do Georgians–or the wives left behind– in hopes of finding cash and jewels (which they often did)–not to say the occasional rape, ie “military objectives”

                  • This is getting silly. Are you asserting that plunder and rape were Union military policy, or that Sherman, or other Union officers, were acting at the behest of railroads or industrialists? I don’t know what you are talking about when you refer to “a fact based claim,” and I suspect you don’t either. That plunder and crimes are committed by soldiers during wartime, and there were certainly instances of this by Sherman’s troops, is not in dispute. Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with Sherman’s Special Field Orders #120, setting out the ground rules for his troops during the march.

                    • Silly? That would be you, suggesting that Sherman’s March –and the devastation to civilian structures– can be explained away as part of the Union “military objectives’. I know exactly what Im saying (and again it’s a common part of the CW narrative).
                      Digging for jewels in the yards of private homes does not a military objective meet. Or are you saying that is? You don’t really argue– you merely disagree without argument.

                      The claim that Sherman’s March assisted the subsequent cause of Reconstruction–ie, the Northerner’s economic policy (and exploitation policy)–why, I leave the substantiation of that as an exercise. Obviously, Reconstruction happened, and Union rail barons turned a profit (actually they had during the War–and that can easily be verified). So, whether one thinks Sherman was directly following orders from industrialists or not, —his actions did have economic consequences (ie, positive, in regard to the North).

                      Instead of looking for it in the usual sentimentalist CW “historians”, try say … Kropotkin on the capitalist aims of modern warfare.

                      Sherman may have been a valorous and capable officer but was no saint . Bierce also said as much.

  20. Ill take it that ….you can’t reason. A better question–what would be sufficient evidence? If people were required to prove historical speculations “beyond a reasonable doubt” most of academic history would be…Cerrados. Do you have proof say of what exactly went down at Shiloh, or just believing what you read? History is not logical in that sense.

    The quote from Sherman himself offers fairly convincing evidence that the March had nothing to do with military objectives, but was merely payback—and the inference that the payback involved like setting up opportunities for northern businessmen and contractors is hardly radical. Foote said as much. Catton, of course not “official” history and granted fairly popular, also hinted as much. Reading some of a recent bio of Beauregard (Williams, I believe–Napoleon in Gray–) one finds a similar theme. Bory was hardly perfect but definitely felt that the South was being unduly punished

    • “The quote from Sherman himself offers fairly convincing evidence that the March had nothing to do with military objectives, but was merely payback”
      ——————
      It does no such thing. It shows very clearly that Sherman was pursuing military objectives.

      • Oh to keep those dastardly textile workers from making more CSA uniforms. Not exactly.

        No, it’s vengeance, PLUS setting the stage for the union construction a few months down the road–nearly… BushCo tactics

        • “Oh to keep those dastardly textile workers from making more CSA uniforms. Not exactly. ”
          —–
          Quite exactly. Textiles destined for military use are legitimate targets and any military man worth his salt would have them destroyed.

  21. “what would be sufficient evidence?”

    How about some documentation? Anything in the ORs, for example? All you’ve done is speculate, which is not how historians work. They work from the actual documented historical record.

  22. You mean, like, Sherman’s own commentary on his march? That’s a primary source. Not real profound but relevant. So think about it–why else are the civilian factories/buildings/crops destroyed, since there was no military objective? Just for payback? The eastern forces had been effectively destroyed, except for Lee in Virginia.

    So, the inference—the last few punishing months of the war fit in with the Reconstruction plans (which Grant/Lincoln were already considering–even from the beginning of the CW). The North’s control of the South’s post bellum railroad system (deliberately destroyed by Sherman) provides further evidence –wouldn’t Sherman and the Union leaders have realized the entire system would have to be rebuilt?? Hell yes. One doesn’t have to prove intent–just show a highly plausible scenario (as with much historical writing—for those pseudo-positivists who need a factoid list, why have writing at all?/–just the old McGuffey reader history outlines)

    • “You mean, like, Sherman’s own commentary on his march? That’s a primary source. Not real profound but relevant. So think about it–why else are the civilian factories/buildings/crops destroyed, since there was no military objective?”
      ——–
      You’re embarrassing yourself. As Sherman wrote, they were engaged in making war material for the confederacy, meaning they were military objectives.

      • No. you’re mistaken, as usual. It was a destruction of civilian targets, as Sherman’s quote reveals. There were no major battles .

        The question should be…somewhat Humean—if it wasn’t a financial motive, what was Sherman’s March, apart from mere vengeance? Moreover the railroad barons–including young Carnegie– had already envisioned the rebuilding of railroads and factories. So whether intended or not (we say…intended), the North did benefit greatly from the rebuilding of infrastructure.

        Like I said, the “history” grad students who want nothing but a list of factoids are in the wrong bidness

        • “No. you’re mistaken, as usual. It was a destruction of civilian targets, as Sherman’s quote reveals. There were no major battles .”
          ———-
          You really shouldn’t comment on military actions considering you don’t understand anything about them. Everything mentioned by Sherman was a legitimate military target. The existence of “major battles” is irrelevant to that fact.

          “The question should be…somewhat Humean—if it wasn’t a financial motive, what was Sherman’s March, apart from mere vengeance?”
          ————-
          Probably a good question if someone knows nothing about the Civil War, but it’s very simple to anyone who’s spent any time studying the Civil War. It was a military campaign designed to weaken the warmaking power of the confederacy and to demonstrate to the people in the confederacy that the confederacy was an empty shell, with further resistance being useless. It was also a psychological attack on the morale of the populace. Sherman’s campaign led to families at home writing to their soldiers sitting in Lee’s trenches in Richmond and Petersburg, leading to increased desertions.

          • Wrong again, not to say yr typical little Ad Auctoritas. Iw ager Ive completed nearly as many holy History courses as you (including seminars), but like….decided to work for a living (instead of pander people in academia). And have read a good deal of the battle notes. No real battles went down during Sherman’s march–there was the big union guns firing at empty buildings, farms, factories, and then the complete dismantling of the railroads.

            Calling the plunder, destruction and indeed rape of Atlanta, Charleston, Savannah, Augusta, etc a “military objective”–why nearly enough to have me go Jubal Early on yr ______ [named religious group excised by ed] __. Foote fairly generous to the North thought as much–and Ill trust Foote on that instead of the usual collegeboy apparatchik

            • Moreover you overlooked my central claim- -which is, along with the plunder and destruction , Sherman ..and the union generals as a whole– assisted Northern business/industry and paved the way for Reconstruction (or rather, blasted the fields clear for Recon). A bit deep, like requiring an inference, not just memorizing the fact sheet .

  23. Actually I know what it is….you want the Imprimatur, ie Ad Verecundiam. In other words if Prof. Simpson or some ivy league historian had suggested as much (as some have) then you would probably believe it, even without a lengthy bibliography. When some unknown “J” suggests it online you don’t, though Ive offered cites and a primary source (Sherman).

    Some of the Lost Cause sorts (including Foote, perhaps) went a bit farther in terms of suggesting conspiracy. They accused the North of a socialist-statist angle as well–with Lincoln as sort of crypto-marxist (Karl Marx admired Lincoln–even sent him letters). I don’t agree completely—industrialists like Vanderbilt wanted to make money off the war–but one could perhaps read the Northerners as socialist-corporate–a sort of conglemerate of federalists and capitalists (ie, and one shouldn’t forget the old Federalists’ hatred of the states rights south as well…or Emerson & Co’s views (RWE also close to Lincoln, IIRC) .
    This southerner suggests something of the sort:

    “”””Of the total of those serving, at least 36,000 served under German officers. If the total number of German troops is assumed to be 216,000 and we accept that the total of all foreign-born troops was nearly 500,000, which was about one-quarter of all Union troops, we see that as many as 1 in every 4 Union troops was actually of foreign birth, and that that foreigner was as apt to be a German as not. This is an astonishing statistic, and bears out the widely held Confederate belief that they were fighting an army of Hessians.

    What were the political beliefs of these men? As noted above, a great many of the Germans, and virtually all those who had arrived since 1848, were former revolutionaries and socialist in political orientation. Many were imbued with the Liberal ideas that had come into prominence in Europe with the Jacobins in the French Revolution, and had remained around in various guises ever since. In America, these radicals retained their beliefs, finding encouragement in such something-for-nothing policies as the Homestead movement. Most of the recent immigrants came to be free-soilers. Combined with their Liberal antipathy to slavery, and their ideological devotion to omnipotent central government, they were thus natural-born Unionists.””””

    Most would probably call that….nearly -neo-confederate hype (and I don’t actually agree completely), but it can hardly be denied that the North had many germans, many liberals, many RW Emerson like dreamers.

    http://www.confederateamericanpride.com/LincolnPutsch.html

    (though granted, this would probably make the hair of the average liberal-academic stand on end)

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