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Fighting for Slavery?

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by Drew, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    "The triumphs of Christianity rest this very hour upon slavery; and slavery depends on the triumphs of the South...This war is the servant of slavery." -- Methodist Rev. John T. Wightman, preaching at Yorkville, South Carolina, The Glory of God, the Defence of the South, 1861.

    "The question of Slavery is the rock upon which the Old Government split: it is the cause of secession." -- G. T. Yelverton, of Coffee County, Alabama, speaking to the Alabama Secession Convention on Jaunary 25, 1861.

    "Sir, the great question which is now uprooting this Government to its foundation---the great question which underlies all our deliberations here, is the question of African slavery." -- Thomas F. Goode, Mecklenburg County, Virginia, March 28, 1861, Virginia Secession Convention, vol. II, p. 518.
     
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  3. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    shanniereb,

    I think you would find very little difference between ordinary Confederate soldier's letters and those of soldiers of the United States in later wars, to include our soldiers in this day (although I doubt secession comes up that often).

    I would not give offense or insult to you, shanniereb, for I know your respect for the men and women of that time is honorable and with real passion.

    But as I have stated elsewhere, soldiers of any time, to include Confederate soldiers, may enlist and fight for many individual reasons, but it does not matter one whit what an individual soldier believes is his reason for fighting and dying, as he has no say in the matter of who he is going to fight and why he has to fight.

    As painful as it may be to come to grips with, Confederate soldiers, all of them, were fighting to protect and defend slavery, whether they wanted to or not, whether they owned slaves or not, it did not matter. I have included in this thread the many quotes of those who decided what the war was actually over and I can only come to one conclusion, that it was about slavery, at least by those who determined the course of secession and the why of it.

    In my own career with the military, I have seen and heard the many reasons individual soldiers enlist in the army. For some, for travel and adventure. For others, a chance at an education and technical training for better job prospects when the leave the military. Some because there were no job propects where they lived and they needed the money, for them and their families. Others are offered an enlistment instead of a jail term. The reasons are as numerous as there are soldiers. And when it comes to war and soldiers are sent to fight it, none of those reasons matter.

    It was the same for Confederate soldiers. You go where you are told, you stay there for as long as your are told, and you fight and kill who you are told regardless of your personal feelings or reasons for being in the service. You are a tool, a blunt instrument, deployed and used by your government to enforce its will upon another government. Your personal reasons for service to your nation do not matter nor are they ever asked or considered by those who thrust you into harms way.

    A soldier seldom knows why he is where he is or why he is put into a fight at a particular time and place. This is left to the "big bugs" like generals and presidents. This is why his letters are mainly about home, family, and all the things he misses about both.

    The Confederate soldier had no choice but to fight for slavery, as his country told him to do so, with every march he took, with every battle he fought in, to every bullet he sent downrange to kill an enemy soldier.

    He was not evil, he was not a monster and he may not have owned one slave or ever wanted to. His individual reasons are his own as was his soul, but his body belonged to the army and those appointed over him and their aims and goals, which was the preservation of slavery.

    From the Confederate Constitution:

    Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 4: "No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of propety in negro slaves shall be passed."

    Article IV, Section 3, Paragraph 3: "The Confederate States may acquire new territory...In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and the territorial government."

    Again, I have no intent to insult or cause hard feelings and apologize if I have done such. I merely wished to express my own views and opinions on the topic you alluded to in your post above.

    Sincerely,
    Unionblue
     
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  4. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    A Faulkner wannabe? Kudoes.
     
  5. KeyserSoze

    KeyserSoze Captain

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    Since Congress has to summon a convention of the states to consider an amendment to end slavery, then would such an act be unconstitutional since article 1 section 9 said that no "law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed"?

    It would have made for an interesting Constitutional question...had there been a Confederate supreme court.
     
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  6. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Major

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    I think that 90%+ of the people here agree with the notion that soldiers did in fact fight for reasons that were individual to them.

    But the questions are this:

    A) Did the soldiers (as well as other citizens) know, or should they have known, the reasons why government officials wanted to secede from the Union?

    B) As members of a democratic republic, are soldiers (as well as other citizens) accountable for the decisions of their government? That is, if Confederate politicians sought independence as a means to protect slavery, then aren't the citizens (including soldiers) responsible for approving (via official or unofficial/silent consent) that policy? {And we do know that many people voted for secession.}

    - Alan
     
  7. CMWinkler

    CMWinkler Colonel Forum Host Retired Moderator

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    Interesting, Alan. What is the fascination with trying to taint every Southern soldier with slavery? Do we really need to end every sentence with "and he fought for slavery"?
     
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  8. Battalion

    Battalion Banned

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    And the United States soldier was fighting to uphold slavery in "loyal" states and for genocide of the American Indian, whether they wanted to or not, whether they owned a slave or not.
     
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  9. RobertP

    RobertP Major

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    Not only Southern soldiers but also every white southerner that breathed through the Jim Crow era.
     
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  10. CSA Today

    CSA Today Colonel

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    Amen brother! :lee:

    "I salute the Confederate Flag with affection, reverence
    and undying devotion to the Cause for which it stands."

    The Sons of Confederate Veterans Salute
    to the Confederate Flag
     
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  11. Jake Patterson

    Jake Patterson Sergeant

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    If you asked soldiers even today, most would rank personal reasons, to include the guy next to him, as his main motivation for fighting. Most young men, as today, join because they get swept up in the hoopla of the momment.
     
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  12. Jake Patterson

    Jake Patterson Sergeant

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    This was my experience as well....
     
  13. Eric Calistri

    Eric Calistri 2nd Lieutenant

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    Are you sure you don't have this backwards? That the fascination is with trying to remove the taint of slavery from the southern soldier?
     
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  14. BillO

    BillO Captain

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  15. CMWinkler

    CMWinkler Colonel Forum Host Retired Moderator

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    Hardly. You see I don't think Southern soldiers are "tainted" by slavery, hence the seeming obsession here with mentioning slavery in almost every sentence. The South fought for independence so that they could protect their way of life that included chattel slavery. I tire of incessant drumbeat on slavery as the only cause of the war because it was not the only cause. The South wanted to secede to protect slavery, yes, but independence offered them far more than simply that. It offered reduced tariffs, increased foreign trade in King Cotton and a myriad of other things the South wanted. The war aim of the South was clearly to create an independent Southern Republic in which slavery was protected, but an independent Republic.
     
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  16. BillO

    BillO Captain

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    Sorry that didn't go as planned
     
  17. matthew mckeon

    matthew mckeon Brigadier General Moderator

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    I've posted this before, so forgive me.

    I don't think current military experience is a good guide to the Civil War armies(both sides). Today we have a big military of professionals, who join because of a variety of incentives and individual motivations, and to become something: trained, educated or a marine or what have you. Where will they be sent? What ever godforsaken remote corner of the world the political leadership deems worth sacrificing some noncommissioned officers for.

    Civil War guys were enlisting to accomplish something, and then go home. The army had one purpose. The army didn't exist before the war, and it dissolved as soon as the war was over. So I concede the myriad motivations of individual soldiers, being a political scientist wasn't a requirement for enlistment. But I think the armies were in tune with the national purpose of the societies they were fighting for.
     
  18. Eric Calistri

    Eric Calistri 2nd Lieutenant

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    The obsession with slavery comes from the political leadership of the secession movement. If you look at the convention delegates voting for secession, the percentage who were slave owners is about 75%. THEIR issue was slavery, THEIR obsession was slavery, perhaps your resentment, if that's what it is, should be directed there, rather than at those who relay their message. Note that the "drumbeat" as you call it, consists of historical quotes. Any "taint" on the soldiers comes from the political leadership that specifically identified slavery as their cause.
     
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  19. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Major

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    (a) In the above, I am merely asking the question: what did Confederate soldiers - and Confederate citizens - reckon as being the political stakes in the war? I think it is a legitimate question to ask. If it is not a legitimate question to ask, then why is it not?

    You know, it seems to me that everytime we discuss this subject - and this is the one-zillionth time we've done so - there is this idea that Confederate soldiers and citizens were perhaps, or somehow, unknowing of or uncaring about the political situation in which secession and then war took place. I think that is insulting and disrespectful to those citizens and soldiers. Now, no question about it, there were folks who did not keep up with the politics or didn't care. But it is hard for me to believe that in the course of the war, with tens and then hundreds of thousands of deaths on the Confederate side, that soldiers did not ponder what it was that led their politicians to do what they did. To say that soldiers had no thoughts on this is ridiculous to me. Now, I'm not saying they spent forever and a day talking about this, but I have no doubts they had views and ideas of this. And I don't see why we can't talk about that.

    I will add that as an aside, as someone coming out of the Viet Nam War era, and now the post-9/11 Iraqi War experience, I have had some minor fascination with the idea of the responsibility that a nation's citizens have in war policy. I think about that a lot in the case of WWII. In the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States killed tens of thousands of "innocent" people - that is, non-soldiers, women, children. On another thread, killing women and children was called murder, but in the case of Japan, the US used weapons of mass destruction twice. Was this murder? Is the blood of those "innocent" people on the hands of all Americans of that time? Did they concur with the use of such massive force? Each war has its own unique questions to be asked, so that people of succeeding generations can get a handle on the questions what happened? and why did they do it? There are unique questions to be raised in the case of the Civil War, and I am asking them.

    (b) I myself do not believe that it "taints" a soldier or a citizen to say that their government or cause was related to the institution of slavery. That is presentism, to me. If a soldier believed that their cause was related to slavery, then that is simply a fact, not a value judgement.

    My own feeling is that many people with Confederate ancestors are themselves the ones who feel that their ancestors are "tainted" with the association with slavery, and so, they go to various lengths to disassociate their forefathers from the institution. But if we are going to talk about political and social history, that is impossible to do.

    As I often do, I cite this comment from the Grey Ghost, John Mosby:

    Now while I think as badly of slavery as Horace Greeley did I am not ashamed that my family were slaveholders. It was our inheritance. Neither am I ashamed that my ancestors were pirates and cattle thieves. People must be judged by the standard of their own age. If it was right to own slaves as property, it was right to fight for it. The South went to war on account of Slavery... I am not as honored for having fought on the side of slavery-a soldier fights for his country-right or wrong-he is not responsible for the political merits of the course he fights. The South was my country.​


    My views on this mirror what Mosby says. I think many - perhaps most - Confederate soldiers and citizens believed that the Confederacy went to war on account of slavery; I don't think they felt any shame about this, whether they owned slaves or not; and I believe they fought not to protect slavery per se, but to protect their nation, of which slavery was one institution, but a very very vital one.

    I don't believe any of that "taints" the Confederate soldier, but your mileage may vary. But again, it seems to me that it is Confederate descendants who feel that "the slavery thing" taints their ancestors, and a lot of the friction in these discussions comes from the ignoring, marginalizing, or denial of the role of slavery in the war.
    - Alan
     
  20. KeyserSoze

    KeyserSoze Captain

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    I'm wondering why you all try and pretend slavery didn't exist. You insist that the reason was 'independence' and want to ignore that which led you to the decision to rebel in the first place. You saw a threat to slavery, you announced your secession, you resorted to armed rebellion to achieve your goals. Why is that so hard for you to accept?
     
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  21. RobertP

    RobertP Major

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    You? I'm old but not that old. The Treasury of Virtue book must be on Your living room coffee table.
     
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