Are individual soldiers' motivations important?

Patrick H

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Outside of Confederate advocates defending Southern soldiers I know of no-one else in the world that is concerned about individual soldiers' motives. Can someone enlighten me?
Well, now you know of someone--me. The question in the thread title is whether the motivations of individual soldiers matter. Neither specific side is mentioned, so it's a generalized question. I think we can safely assume that the motivations were important to the soldiers themselves. We can assume motivations mattered to their families, their comrades--perhaps even their enemies. We should further assume that the motivations were as individual as the soldiers themselves. I think about these things and they are important to me.
 

jgoodguy

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Well, now you know of someone--me. The question in the thread title is whether the motivations of individual soldiers matter. Neither specific side is mentioned, so it's a generalized question. I think we can safely assume that the motivations were important to the soldiers themselves. We can assume motivations mattered to their families, their comrades--perhaps even their enemies. We should further assume that the motivations were as individual as the soldiers themselves. I think about these things and they are important to me.
Good point.
 

leftyhunter

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If someone is looking for a specific phrase like "I am fighting for slavery" that may not be found. However, there are rebel letters writing home with instructions to buy or sell slaves. I would count that as fighting for slavery. A letter saying he is fighting for the Southern way of life is fighting for slavery in my mind. There are no letters condemning slavery or the Sothern slave labor system.

In addition, motives change during service.

We are trending off topic. Which is do individual soldiers especially named individuals really matter to a lay historian or historian.
It's pretty simple unmotivated soldiers are just not going to fight. Civil War conditions for soldiers on both side were horrific.
Only a highly motivated soldier will tolerate severe hardships and danger. The pay was not that high in the Union Army at only 13 dollars a month. Confederate soldiers either didn't get paid or if they did by mid war their pay was not much better then Monopoly money.
An effective soldier needed plenty of motivation to stay in the fight. Certainly motivation was a major problem for both armies with Hugh desertion rates plus in the case of the Confederate Army quite a bit of defection.
Leftyhunter
 

CSA Today

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There are more non Southern states then Southern states so yes there were unfortunately more anti miscegenation laws in other states. My point is fear of miscegenation was more pronounced in the South as evidenced by the fact that no Southern state repealed miscegenation laws on their own.
Miscegenation would be an excellent motivation for Confederate troops to fight in order to protect their sisters and significant others.
Leftyhunter

That prospect would have been excellent motivation for any 19th century white male to fight. A good reason why Yankees didn't want large numbers of non-whites moving north,
 
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Edited.
I should think individual motivations would be important, the only reason it wouldn't be, would be to try to disingenuously lump everyone into something they aren't. Fact is most people are going to defend their community/country if needed, regardless of politics...….and to many on both sides in 1861 their state was their country.....Take the border states, many here try to lump them with the south in identity/affiliation, yet in every one the majority followed as the state went. Missouri doesn't secede, Missourians served roughly 3-1 for the north
 

leftyhunter

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As to that I should think individual motivations would be important, the only reason it wouldn't be, would be to try to disingenuously lump everyone into something they aren't. Fact is most people are going to defend their community/country if needed, regardless...….and to many on both sides in 1861 their state was their country.....Take the border states, many here try to lump them with the south in identity/affiliation, yet in every one the majority followed as the state went. Missouri doesn't secede, Missourians served roughly 3-1 for the north
Yet we have 104k white Southerners who enlisted in the Union Army plus most of the 180 k USCT were Southerners so different Southerners had different motivations.
In Kentucky per Freeling 50k for the Union vs 25 k for the Confederate Army which is two to one vs three to one in Missouri.
I could never get good statistics for Maryland maybe somebody knows more about that.
Leftyhunter
 

WJC

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The pay was not that high in the Union Army at only 13 dollars a month.
$13 in 1862 would be $330.43 today. Maybe not much to us, but it certainly was to a poor farmer or immigrant then.
As I mentioned earlier, I can only guess why my family members fought. I believe at least one fought for that $13/month to help support his family.
 
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Yet we have 104k white Southerners who enlisted in the Union Army plus most of the 180 k USCT were Southerners so different Southerners had different motivations.
In Kentucky per Freeling 50k for the Union vs 25 k for the Confederate Army which is two to one vs three to one in Missouri.
I could never get good statistics for Maryland maybe somebody knows more about that.
Leftyhunter
And we have northerners who served in the CSA. The division of politics generally ends when it comes to defending home and community. I know of Illinoisans, Iowans and Minnesotans joining the MSG, however I'd still say the majority of Illinoisans Iowans and Minnesotans went as their states went

Think a lot of it is clouded by did they consider where they were living in 1861....or where they had been born as their state?...….think some went each way

Sul Ross is a good example, Iowas only confederate general....he most certainly was living in Bentonsport Iowa in 1861, reckon technically a Iowan.....but he had moved there from Texas, he returns to Texas to serve.
 
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leftyhunter

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$13 in 1862 would be $330.43 today. Maybe not much to us, but it certainly was to a poor farmer or immigrant then.
As I mentioned earlier, I can only guess why my family members fought. I believe at least one fought for that $13/month to help support his family.
Plenty of civilian jobs in the North that paid the same or better and were a whole lot safer. I have read a fair amount of ACW biographies and the conditions for troops on both sides was far worse then modern warfare for American troops.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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And we have northerners who served in the CSA. The division of politics generally ends when it comes to defending home and community. I know of Illinoisans, Iowans and Minnesotans joining the MSG, however I'd still say the majority of Illinoisans Iowans and Minnesotans went as their states went

Think a lot of it is clouded by did they consider where they were living in 1861....or where they had been born as their state?...….think some went each way

Sul Ross is a good example, Iowas only confederate general....he most certainly was living in Bentonsport Iowa in 1861, reckon technically a Iowan.....but he had moved there from Texas, He returns to Texas to serve.
That's why I don't use the term" War between the States". The ACW was an ideological war not a regional war. Patterson has mentioned was a Confederate soldier from Ohio.
I don't buy into the notion that Southerners were defending their homes from invading hordes of blue bellies.
That does not ring true for black Southerners nor for the people of Knoxville,Tennessee who greeted General Burnside and his men by the thousands.
Union troops in Northern Alabama were greeted as liberators by the local population.
Either one believed in slavery or one didn't. That's why Southerners fought on both sides.
I never saw an academic estimate of how many Northeners fought as enlisted in the Confederate Army. Certainly some but no good estimates.
Leftyhunter
 

WJC

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I have never come across "interracial sex" as a reason Southerners were fighting to prevent it!
From the period letters I have read and those quoted by Manning, I don't recall specific mention to "interracial sex" probably because that was not the common term then and decorum dictated different language. One can only speculate whether fears of wandering bands of freed Blacks intent on revenge that some allude to included fears of rape.
 
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That's why I don't use the term" War between the States". The ACW was an ideological war not a regional war. Patterson has mentioned was a Confederate soldier from Ohio.
I don't buy into the notion that Southerners were defending their homes from invading hordes of blue bellies.
That does not ring true for black Southerners nor for the people of Knoxville,Tennessee who greeted General Burnside and his men by the thousands.
Union troops in Northern Alabama were greeted as liberators by the local population.
Either one believed in slavery or one didn't. That's why Southerners fought on both sides.
I never saw an academic estimate of how many Northeners fought as enlisted in the Confederate Army. Certainly some but no good estimates.
Leftyhunter
Your obviously wrong in either one believed in slavery or not.....slaveholders served on both sides, just as non slaveholders served on both sides. And again many northern letters reflect disgust at the emancipation proclamation, there surely were some abolitionists in the ranks, however they hardly reflected the entire armies attitude.

I still say the majority of democrats and republicans, regardless of the political divide went as their state went, it doesn't mean their politics had changed, just they were allegiant to their state. And some considered their current state as their state, others their native state.
 
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leftyhunter

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Your obviously wrong in either one believed in slavery or not.....slaveholders served on both sides, just as non slaveholders served on both sides
True slave owners fought on both sides although not equally. On the other hand the Confederacy wanted to expand vs the Union originally wanted to restrict it to the states where it was legal.
Leftyhunter
 

jgoodguy

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Edited.
I should think individual motivations would be important, the only reason it wouldn't be, would be to try to disingenuously lump everyone into something they aren't. Fact is most people are going to defend their community/country if needed, regardless of politics...….and to many on both sides in 1861 their state was their country.....Take the border states, many here try to lump them with the south in identity/affiliation, yet in every one the majority followed as the state went. Missouri doesn't secede, Missourians served roughly 3-1 for the north
Good points, but politics is part of community and country and hard to separate out.
 

leftyhunter

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jgoodguy. I have been doing research at the Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania for the last four years for my articles and I have examined literally thousands of individual soldier's letters from both sides and I have not found one letter that states the main reason or motivation for that particular soldier's reason for fighting being slavery, either defending the institution or destroying the institution. Perhaps there are letters at this research institution that I have not seen at this time but from what I have seen so far I would say it is highly not probable. I therefore concur wholeheartedly with your response. David.
Have you read "What they fought Fought for 1861-1865" James McPherson Louisiana State University Press?
On p.14 McPherson describes a sample of 374 letters written by Confederate soldiers and how most letters unsurprisingly are from the well educated Southerners. On p.15 " 75%of the soldiers from slave owning families avowed strong patriotic convictions.
Let's examine what these convictions were.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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jgoodguy. I have been doing research at the Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania for the last four years for my articles and I have examined literally thousands of individual soldier's letters from both sides and I have not found one letter that states the main reason or motivation for that particular soldier's reason for fighting being slavery, either defending the institution or destroying the institution. Perhaps there are letters at this research institution that I have not seen at this time but from what I have seen so far I would say it is highly not probable. I therefore concur wholeheartedly with your response. David.
P. 15 and 16
" Thus is a Rich man's Woar (sic) but the poor man has to Doo the fitting ( sic) from a Soldier in the 60th North Carolina.
From a man in the 57th North Carolina
" I could be be at home if it weren't for a few big rulers who I can not help blame for it..these big fighting men can't get out to fight as easy as the poor men run away from home as they lay feasting on the good things of the land while we poor men are forced away from home and dare not return if we do we are liable to be shot."
Leftyhunter
 
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