Discussion Most Absurd Civil War Claims

GwilymT

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
Through reading the past several pages, it seems the absurd claim that Rob Lee was an abolitionist is still alive and well in certain circles. The OP listed this as one of the absurdities out there and was proven correct.

If nothing else, this as to be one of the most absurd claims that otherwise intelligent people make, Marse Robert the abolitionist!
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
This https://www.aei.org/articles/a-class-war/
is powerful. Thank you for the reference.
IMO, VDH is the top intellectual in the country.

I love Sherman's thoughts on cotton. Here's an excerpt:

The pragmatic Sherman scoffed at these paternalistic rationalizations. He demonstrated how much he thought cotton was really worth to the United States when one head of local Confederate forces in South Carolina offered to cease burning cotton if Sherman’s men would in turn stop torching estates. Sherman replied: “I hope you will burn all the cotton and save us the trouble. We don’t want it; it has proven a curse to our country. All you don’t burn, I will.”

Talking about Uncle Billy calling the Confederate's bluff. Paraphrase: go ahead and burn it, whatever you don't burn, I will. LOL With the above excerpt in conjunction with post #2 in this thread, cotton was never worth much to the north. How absurd people believe cotton was indispensable and not expendable.
When did Lee ever pre-war suggest that slavery should end in a decade or two? In the most-quoted letter, Lee wrote that God would decide when slavery ended, and said something to the effect that a thousand years is nothing to God, so presumably he felt the end of slavery could be a very long way off.

I get it. Blame slavery on God, then expect God to clean up the mess in his time. Maybe, God wanted man to clean up their own mess, but that would reveal that Lee was a hypocrite and eisegesis interpreted the bible. Lee would have made millions TV evangelist.
 

John Winn

Major
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
State of Jefferson
Having thought about it a while I think the most absurd claim (others may be overstatements or untrue and the like but not necessarily absurd) is that there were thousands of black Confederate soldiers - i.e. in actual organized units. I think there were a few who popped off a round or three here and there but no organized units and certainly nothing even close to one thousand much less thousands.

Oh, and there's the claims of Sam Watkins that men were frozen solid standing with their weapons on guard duty. And yeah, I know he probably said it just to make a good story but he was claiming he actually saw such things so I think it still qualifies as absurd.

And of course I agree the woman impregnated by the bullet story qualifies as a prime example of the absurd.

And while not absurd, I think one of the most frequently seen inaccuracies (call it a legend perhaps) is that Lincoln freed all the slaves with one pen stroke with the EP and thus was the "great emancipator." He certainly freed some but not in Union slave states or those in occupied territory. I think he should get credit for giving black men the opportunity to fight and for pushing for the 13th. but he did not free all the slaves - or end slavery - with the EP.
 
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TSJ

Cadet
Joined
Feb 2, 2021
You are aware that the Confederare government, which had been created "to preserve and expand slavery," rejected his proposal?

And, Lee continued to lead its army.
The Emancipation Proclamation was a useful tool towards victory. It was decided upon 2 months before it was announced, nearly six months before it was promulgated. That delay doesn't suggest "desperation."
But does it suggest a political move for reelection?
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Many who had lived through the war were much more gracious to each other than we are today. Having tried to kill each other across the battlefield, they knew where anger and resentment led, and I think most of them realized the value of letting those who had been on the opposite side honor their veterans and their heroes rather than keep the vitriol and anger going. That example and that lesson is lost on too many in today's generation.
Not true at all in regards to the treatment of USCT veterans in the South and Unionists. Both USCT and Unionists were murdered by and fought Confedrate Veterans.
Leftyhunter
 

kabrown

Cadet
Joined
May 11, 2020
I have a theory I can't back up with hard data that the majority of modern Civil War animosity is a belief that everyone in the North fought the war to end slavery, and everyone in the South fought the war to preserve slavery, making it a moral crusade. This prompts a defensiveness that makes it difficult to bridge a gap there.

Slavery's role in prompting conflict is well documented and central to the narrative, but it being a central issue in secession doesn't mean that the individual soldiers fought for that reason.
"For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War" is a book by Pulitzer prize-winning author James M. McPherson and relies upon a compilation of over 25,000 letters and 250 personal diaries. This is what McPherson found.

Unlike many slaveholders in the age of Thomas Jefferson, Confederate soldiers from slaveholding families expressed no feelings of embarrassment or inconsistency in fighting for their own liberty while holding other people in slavery. Indeed, white supremacy and the right of property in slaves were at the core of the ideology for which Confederate soldiers fought.

— James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1997), p. 106.

Emancipation was a salient issue for Union soldiers because it was controversial. Slavery was less salient for most Confederate soldiers because it was not controversial. They took slavery for granted as one of the Southern 'rights' and institutions for which they fought, and did not feel compelled to discuss it.

— James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1997), pp. 109–110.

Continuing, McPherson also stated that of the hundreds of Confederate soldiers' letters he read, none of them contained any anti-slavery sentiment whatsoever.
 
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Toward the end of the war, if not earlier, Robert E. Lee became an abolitionist. When the Confederacy began to debate emancipation for slaves who served as soldiers in the army in late 1864, Lee publicly threw his weight behind the proposal and also argued that eventually soldiers' families should be freed and that this should be followed at some point by a general emancipation program.
I hate to contradict you but as much as I respect and admire Lee, the last thing he could EVER be defined as was an abolitionist. What you are referring to is his reluctant concurrence in the waning days of the war to solicit slaves of fighting age to fight under the Confederate flag; in return at the successful conclusion of the war they would be manumitted. Not they and their wives, or they and their children...or brothers/sisters...parents....just themselves. That policy may be many things but it was not abolition.
 
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
The most absurd was that Ben Butler was a "Beast"
Oh please.
He did more for America in the whole than nearly anyone else and had he been good looking, less vindictive, better at PR, had a more reliable brother, didnt jump parties then he could have really been something special.
Oh for just 100 more Northern generals just as good as Butler. With such caliber opponents, not only would the South not have lost the war, they could probably conquered the North, and fairly easily too.
 
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
1.That the Confedrate Army was heavily intergrated and had tens of thousands of African American troops.
2.Slaves were loved by their masters and delighted to be slaves.
3. Southeners fought to pay less tarriff's but our posters have no idea what they bought or what percentage of their income went into paying tarriff's.
Leftyhunter
1 and 2 are absolutely true. I can prove it because I took my souped up DeLorean and time travelled back to the late 1850's and conducted thousands of interviews and have the video tape to prove it....Oops sorry I accidently erased all the recordings.

However as far as 3 is concerned. I think that understanding the effect of tariff's on the Southern populace's opinions regarding the war needs to be based on an understanding that for the most part the South was a barter economy. There was very little currency passing from hand to hand. In fact you would have probably seen more dollars printed by a bank than by the government. Think of how many small mainly subsistence farmers there were. Think of all the rural Southerners, all the small town Southerners--to even ask them what their annual income was would elicit a befuddled "Huuuhhhh?????"

For these people a simple 1 cent tax on any item...a pair of pants, a hammer, a knife, a pot or kettle, a scythe could and very often did mean buying or having to make do without.

It's very easy to say that the slave owning class instigated and fought the war to protect their slaves...oops their property. That's like stating that the sun is hot and bright. But if you look at the little guy, think about the accumulated animosity of years, even decades of deprivation where their lives were made poorer in order to make others more prosperous. They probably could not have articulated a cogent explanation as to why they hated the North but it would have been there just as well.
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
But does it suggest a political move for reelection?
Not particularly. It was a full two years before the next Presidential election.

But, then, to appear to be be winning the war was the best "political move for reelection." Are we to interpret Lincoln's attempting that as a cynical political motive? There's no need to be reading anything dark and sinister into it. But the compulsive "Anti-Lincoln" crowd surely will. That goes for all "Anti-anybody" obsessives. Whoever the target of their venom, his every move must be framed as insincere and fraught with ulterior motives.
 
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General Butler

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 16, 2017
Oh for just 100 more Northern generals just as good as Butler. With such caliber opponents, not only would the South not have lost the war, they could probably conquered the North, and fairly easily too.
Ya it would have been like Grant, Sherman and Thomas taking on an army for Cooper, Wise and DH Hill ...the North would have crushed the south in 2 months.
 

19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
"For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War" is a book by Pulitzer prize-winning author James M. McPherson and relies upon a compilation of over 25,000 letters and 250 personal diaries. This is what McPherson found.

Unlike many slaveholders in the age of Thomas Jefferson, Confederate soldiers from slaveholding families expressed no feelings of embarrassment or inconsistency in fighting for their own liberty while holding other people in slavery. Indeed, white supremacy and the right of property in slaves were at the core of the ideology for which Confederate soldiers fought.

— James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1997), p. 106.

Emancipation was a salient issue for Union soldiers because it was controversial. Slavery was less salient for most Confederate soldiers because it was not controversial. They took slavery for granted as one of the Southern 'rights' and institutions for which they fought, and did not feel compelled to discuss it.

— James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1997), pp. 109–110.

Continuing, McPherson also stated that of the hundreds of Confederate soldiers' letters he read, none of them contained any anti-slavery sentiment whatsoever.
McPherson. Not exactly an unbiased source, but at least he admits that letters from slaveholders are overrepresented (x2).

Slaveholders in the Confederate army- 1/3
Slaveholders in his collection of letters- 2/3

"Nonslaveholding farmers are underrepresented in the Confederate sample. Indeed, while about one-third of all Confederate soldiers belonged to slaveholding families, slightly more than two-thirds of the sample whose slaveholding status is known did so."
— James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1997), p. ix.

 

dlofting

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 13, 2013
Location
Vancouver, BC, Canada
However as far as 3 is concerned. I think that understanding the effect of tariff's on the Southern populace's opinions regarding the war needs to be based on an understanding that for the most part the South was a barter economy. There was very little currency passing from hand to hand. In fact you would have probably seen more dollars printed by a bank than by the government. Think of how many small mainly subsistence farmers there were. Think of all the rural Southerners, all the small town Southerners--to even ask them what their annual income was would elicit a befuddled "Huuuhhhh?????"

For these people a simple 1 cent tax on any item...a pair of pants, a hammer, a knife, a pot or kettle, a scythe could and very often did mean buying or having to make do without.

It's very easy to say that the slave owning class instigated and fought the war to protect their slaves...oops their property. That's like stating that the sun is hot and bright. But if you look at the little guy, think about the accumulated animosity of years, even decades of deprivation where their lives were made poorer in order to make others more prosperous. They probably could not have articulated a cogent explanation as to why they hated the North but it would have been there just as well.

This is the first argument about tariffs that has some sense about it. I'm not saying it's correct but would be interested to hear more and get some sources, if that's possible.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
McPherson. Not exactly an unbiased source, but at least he admits that letters from slaveholders are overrepresented (x2).

Slaveholders in the Confederate army- 1/3
Slaveholders in his collection of letters- 2/3

"Nonslaveholding farmers are underrepresented in the Confederate sample. Indeed, while about one-third of all Confederate soldiers belonged to slaveholding families, slightly more than two-thirds of the sample whose slaveholding status is known did so."
— James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1997), p. ix.

Any numbers on how many Confederate soldiers were against slavery and slaveholding?
 

GwilymT

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
McPherson. Not exactly an unbiased source, but at least he admits that letters from slaveholders are overrepresented (x2).

Slaveholders in the Confederate army- 1/3
Slaveholders in his collection of letters- 2/3

"Nonslaveholding farmers are underrepresented in the Confederate sample. Indeed, while about one-third of all Confederate soldiers belonged to slaveholding families, slightly more than two-thirds of the sample whose slaveholding status is known did so."
— James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1997), p. ix.

He touched on this I believe citing the lack of literacy in the rebel ranks.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Many who had lived through the war were much more gracious to each other than we are today. Having tried to kill each other across the battlefield, they knew where anger and resentment led, and I think most of them realized the value of letting those who had been on the opposite side honor their veterans and their heroes rather than keep the vitriol and anger going. That example and that lesson is lost on too many in today's generation.
Not true at all in regards to the treatment of USCT veterans in the South and Unionists. Both USCT and Unionists were murdered by and fought Confedrate Veterans.
Leftyhunter
1 and 2 are absolutely true. I can prove it because I took my souped up DeLorean and time travelled back to the late 1850's and conducted thousands of interviews and have the video tape to prove it....Oops sorry I accidently erased all the recordings.

However as far as 3 is concerned. I think that understanding the effect of tariff's on the Southern populace's opinions regarding the war needs to be based on an understanding that for the most part the South was a barter economy. There was very little currency passing from hand to hand. In fact you would have probably seen more dollars printed by a bank than by the government. Think of how many small mainly subsistence farmers there were. Think of all the rural Southerners, all the small town Southerners--to even ask them what their annual income was would elicit a befuddled "Huuuhhhh?????"

For these people a simple 1 cent tax on any item...a pair of pants, a hammer, a knife, a pot or kettle, a scythe could and very often did mean buying or having to make do without.

It's very easy to say that the slave owning class instigated and fought the war to protect their slaves...oops their property. That's like stating that the sun is hot and bright. But if you look at the little guy, think about the accumulated animosity of years, even decades of deprivation where their lives were made poorer in order to make others more prosperous. They probably could not have articulated a cogent explanation as to why they hated the North but it would have been there just as well.
It's highly doubtful that Southeners would charge into musket and cannon fire over paying a bit more for imported items vs the Confedracy imposed a tax in kind where average Southern whites lost far more then a historically low tarriff. Had there been no Secession tarriff's would of remained low.
Unless proponents of the " the war was fought over tarriff's school of thought" can clearly show just how harmful a historically low tarriff is then we can't there claims seriously. Tarriff's would be raised quite a bit for the next one hundred years so if Southeners went to war over tarriff's it wasn't a smart move.
I appreciate the De Lorean reference.
Leftyhunter
 

19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Any numbers on how many Confederate soldiers were against slavery and slaveholding?
Probably some. I doubt McPherson was looking for them...

"The people of North Carolina regard this struggle as one for self government and not for slavery or a slaveholders' Confederacy."

Richmond Enquirer, November 14, 1864:

1613698166869.png

1613698183346.png
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Many who had lived through the war were much more gracious to each other than we are today. Having tried to kill each other across the battlefield, they knew where anger and resentment led, and I think most of them realized the value of letting those who had been on the opposite side honor their veterans and their heroes rather than keep the vitriol and anger going. That example and that lesson is lost on too many in today's generation.
From what I've read, this wasn't always the case. In fact, the 1913 Reunion (the one with all the photographs of hand shakes), the animosity came to a head when a Confederate veteran insulted Abraham Lincoln--which caused a Union vet to challenge him to a duel. A general melee broke out and 7 of the veterans wound up in the hospital with serious injuries. I guess that we never learn.
 

Andersonh1

Brigadier General
Moderator
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Location
South Carolina
From what I've read, this wasn't always the case. In fact, the 1913 Reunion (the one with all the photographs of hand shakes), the animosity came to a head when a Confederate veteran insulted Abraham Lincoln--which caused a Union vet to challenge him to a duel. A general melee broke out and 7 of the veterans wound up in the hospital with serious injuries. I guess that we never learn.
It wasn't universally true, I agree, which is why I said "many" and not all. Some of those vets were bitter, no doubt.
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
I have read, and posted here, a good many examples of reconciliation and good feelings between ex-confederates and Union veterans from the North -- including exchanges of visits between GAR and UCV posts, or opposing regimental Associations. I have also seen a good many expressions of bitterness and hostility on both sides. But, I have never encountered even a single example of peaceful rapport of any sort between ex-confederates and former USCT or southern Unionist veterans. In many areas of the South, the latter seem to have been forced to move away, and the former were tolerated only if they concealed their veteran status and ceased to be 'uppity,' behaving in a manner that was sufficiently 'humble' and obedient.
 
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