What Was In The Mind Of Most Of The Confederate Soldiers As To Why They Were Fighting And Willing To Die?

Scott1967

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
I suspect many were their because of the Southern and Northern press at the time just like social media today can influence many millions of people so too could the newspapers , The hatred had been brewing for 10 years or so it wasn't an overnight thing by the time of 1861 both sides were ready for war both sides wanted it , It was going to happen regardless and nothing could stop it in my view.

As an ex soldier my self its very easy to join up you have dreams of adventure and excitement but the reality is very different and hits you in the face like a truck i suspect many soldiers from both sides went through the same emotions as for their reasons they would be varied and mixed but overall i think many saw it as their duty and a chance to escape everyday life.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
I suspect many were their because of the Southern and Northern press at the time just like social media today can influence many millions of people so too could the newspapers , The hatred had been brewing for 10 years or so it wasn't an overnight thing by the time of 1861 both sides were ready for war both sides wanted it , It was going to happen regardless and nothing could stop it in my view.

As an ex soldier my self its very easy to join up you have dreams of adventure and excitement but the reality is very different and hits you in the face like a truck i suspect many soldiers from both sides went through the same emotions as for their reasons they would be varied and mixed but overall i think many saw it as their duty and a chance to escape everyday life.
I don’t think this sentiment can be discounted. I’m sure several soldiers signed up because it was “the thing to do”.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
There were likely many a northern private who never thought about slavery a day in his life. There were likely little to no rebel private’s who didn’t grow up surrounded by and immersed in a society based on slavery.

The notion that the economic and social implications of slavery ended at the Mason Dixon line is foolish. The notion that an economy and society entirely based on slavery ended at the Mason Dixon line is solid.

If slavery ended, the vast majority of the northern economy and northern society would not be affected. The same does not hold true for the seceding states. Without slavery, their economy and society would be torn down.
 

Pete Longstreet

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Location
Hartford, CT
I suspect many were their because of the Southern and Northern press at the time just like social media today can influence many millions of people so too could the newspapers , The hatred had been brewing for 10 years or so it wasn't an overnight thing by the time of 1861 both sides were ready for war both sides wanted it , It was going to happen regardless and nothing could stop it in my view.

As an ex soldier my self its very easy to join up you have dreams of adventure and excitement but the reality is very different and hits you in the face like a truck i suspect many soldiers from both sides went through the same emotions as for their reasons they would be varied and mixed but overall i think many saw it as their duty and a chance to escape everyday life.
I agree with that. You hear it even 150 years later... the argument of why the Southern men fought and whether it was over slavery, or states rights, etc... but some less educated on the war believe every southern soldier was a slave owning planter fighting to keep their slaves. Although true in some cases... there is another reason: duty. To them, it was the protection of their homes. They believed they were being invaded and were fighting the "second revolution". There was also the thought of a "90 day war" which I'm sure many didn't think was too bad. Although if they knew it was going to be 4 long years of carnage... they may have forgone enlisting on just "duty" alone.
 

Scott1967

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
I agree with that. You hear it even 150 years later... the argument of why the Southern men fought and whether it was over slavery, or states rights, etc... but some less educated on the war believe every southern soldier was a slave owning planter fighting to keep their slaves. Although true in some cases... there is another reason: duty. To them, it was the protection of their homes. They believed they were being invaded and were fighting the "second revolution". There was also the thought of a "90 day war" which I'm sure many didn't think was too bad. Although if they knew it was going to be 4 long years of carnage... they may have forgone enlisting on just "duty" alone.

Well unfortunately we live in a world full of hypocrites its always black and white with the media today they tend to label everything as good vs bad , But some of us who enjoy reading about the war and the times know fully well that the South and North were as racist as each other the fact that one side still had slavery made no difference.

The hatred and jealousy over free labour in the South brewed mass resentment in the North this is shown in the Mini series North and South very well thus fanning the flames for eventual war , Personally I feel the hatred between Northern and Southern troops was very real they did not see themselves as one nation anymore regardless of the romantic claptrap you hear after and during the war.

The southern soldier fought to keep the Yankee out of their states and the Northern soldier fought to give the the Rebels a bloody nose and put them in their place.

Men of their times in my view.
 

BuckeyeWarrior

Sergeant
Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Location
Ohio
I am new to the forum, but I had a question. I know it is hotly debated as to the motives of the southern states seceding from the union and fighting a civil war. Seems like the arguments center on whether it was mainly to protect state's rights or to protect slavery. And many think that slavery just happened to be the most current/volatile issue that tested federal vs. states rights. My questions are: Of all the men who fought for the south, how many of them were actual slave owners? I have to believe it was a minority percentage. If the south was fighting mainly to preserve slavery, you're telling me that thousands of young southern men marched off to war to kill/be killed just to protect the rights of wealthy plantation owners who employed slaves? I would not go to war, nor send my sons to war for that reason. What was in the mind of most of the confederate soldiers as to WHY they were fighting and willing to die?
Slavery was the foundation that the lower south was built upon. In some of the lower south states close to 50% of households owned slaves. Add to that the number of people employed in slave related "industries" and those who aspired to become slave owners and you are probably closing in one 80-90% of southerners in the deep south. When southern rebels stated that they were defending their way of life they meant not only slavery but the social and political subordination of the black race to the white race. Here are some examples of rebel soldiers confirming this.


"The vandals of the North . . . are determined to destroy slavery . . . We must all fight, and I choose to fight for southern rights and southern liberty." [Lunsford Yandell, Jr. to Sally Yandell, April 22, 1861 in James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, p. 20]

"A stand must be made for African slavery or it is forever lost." [William Grimball to Elizabeth Grimball, Nov. 20, 1860, Ibid.]

"This country without slave labor would be completely worthless. We can only live & exist by that species of labor; and hence I am willing to fight for the last." [William Nugent to Eleanor Nugent, Sept 7, 1863, Ibid., p. 107]

"Better, far better! endure all the horrors of civil war than to see the dusky sons of Ham leading the fair daughters of the South to the altar." [William M. Thomson to Warner A. Thomson, Feb. 2, 1861, Ibid., p. 109]

"A captain in the 8th Alabama also vowed 'to fight forever, rather than submit to freeing negroes among us. . . . [We are fighting for] rights and property bequeathed to us by our ancestors.' " [Elias Davis to Mrs. R. L. Lathan, Dec. 10, 1863 Ibid., p. 107]

"Even though he was tired of the war, wrote a Louisiana artilleryman in 1862, ' I never want to see the day when a negro is put on an equality with a white person. There is too many free n----rs. . . now to suit me, let alone having four millions.' " [George Hamill Diary, March, 1862, Ibid., p. 109]

"A private in the 38th North Carolina, a yeoman farmer, vowed to show the Yankees ' that a white man is better than a n----r.' " [Jonas Bradshaw to Nancy Bradshaw, April 29, 1862 Ibid.]

"A farmer from the Shenandoah Valley informed his fiancée that he fought to assure 'a free white man's government instead of living under a black republican government.' " [John G. Keyton to Mary Hilbert, Nov. 30, 1861, Ibid.]

"The son of another North Carolina dirt farmer said he would never stop fighting the Yankees, who were 'trying to force us to live as the colored race.' " [Samuel Walsh to Louisa Proffitt, April 11, 1864, Ibid.]

"Some of the boys asked them what they were fighting for, and they answered, 'You Yanks want us to marry our daughters to the n----rs.' " [Chauncey Cook to parents, May 10, 1864, Ibid.]

"An Arkansas captain was enraged by the idea that if the Yankees won, his 'sister, wife, and mother are to be given up to the embraces of their present dusky male servitors.' " [Thomas Key, diary entry April 10, 1864, Ibid.]

"Another Arkansas soldier, a planter, wrote his wife that Lincoln not only wanted to free the slaves but also 'declares them entitled to all the rights and privileges as American citizens. So imagine your sweet little girls in the school room with a black wooly headed negro and have to treat them as their equal.' " [William Wakefield Garner to Henrietta Garner, Jan 2, 1864, Ibid.]
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
Slavery was the foundation that the lower south was built upon. In some of the lower south states close to 50% of households owned slaves. Add to that the number of people employed in slave related "industries" and those who aspired to become slave owners and you are probably closing in one 80-90% of southerners in the deep south. When southern rebels stated that they were defending their way of life they meant not only slavery but the social and political subordination of the black race to the white race. Here are some examples of rebel soldiers confirming this.


"The vandals of the North . . . are determined to destroy slavery . . . We must all fight, and I choose to fight for southern rights and southern liberty." [Lunsford Yandell, Jr. to Sally Yandell, April 22, 1861 in James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, p. 20]

"A stand must be made for African slavery or it is forever lost." [William Grimball to Elizabeth Grimball, Nov. 20, 1860, Ibid.]

"This country without slave labor would be completely worthless. We can only live & exist by that species of labor; and hence I am willing to fight for the last." [William Nugent to Eleanor Nugent, Sept 7, 1863, Ibid., p. 107]

"Better, far better! endure all the horrors of civil war than to see the dusky sons of Ham leading the fair daughters of the South to the altar." [William M. Thomson to Warner A. Thomson, Feb. 2, 1861, Ibid., p. 109]

"A captain in the 8th Alabama also vowed 'to fight forever, rather than submit to freeing negroes among us. . . . [We are fighting for] rights and property bequeathed to us by our ancestors.' " [Elias Davis to Mrs. R. L. Lathan, Dec. 10, 1863 Ibid., p. 107]

"Even though he was tired of the war, wrote a Louisiana artilleryman in 1862, ' I never want to see the day when a negro is put on an equality with a white person. There is too many free n----rs. . . now to suit me, let alone having four millions.' " [George Hamill Diary, March, 1862, Ibid., p. 109]

"A private in the 38th North Carolina, a yeoman farmer, vowed to show the Yankees ' that a white man is better than a n----r.' " [Jonas Bradshaw to Nancy Bradshaw, April 29, 1862 Ibid.]

"A farmer from the Shenandoah Valley informed his fiancée that he fought to assure 'a free white man's government instead of living under a black republican government.' " [John G. Keyton to Mary Hilbert, Nov. 30, 1861, Ibid.]

"The son of another North Carolina dirt farmer said he would never stop fighting the Yankees, who were 'trying to force us to live as the colored race.' " [Samuel Walsh to Louisa Proffitt, April 11, 1864, Ibid.]

"Some of the boys asked them what they were fighting for, and they answered, 'You Yanks want us to marry our daughters to the n----rs.' " [Chauncey Cook to parents, May 10, 1864, Ibid.]

"An Arkansas captain was enraged by the idea that if the Yankees won, his 'sister, wife, and mother are to be given up to the embraces of their present dusky male servitors.' " [Thomas Key, diary entry April 10, 1864, Ibid.]

"Another Arkansas soldier, a planter, wrote his wife that Lincoln not only wanted to free the slaves but also 'declares them entitled to all the rights and privileges as American citizens. So imagine your sweet little girls in the school room with a black wooly headed negro and have to treat them as their equal.' " [William Wakefield Garner to Henrietta Garner, Jan 2, 1864, Ibid.]
Seems quite clear to me.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
Well unfortunately we live in a world full of hypocrites its always black and white with the media today they tend to label everything as good vs bad , But some of us who enjoy reading about the war and the times know fully well that the South and North were as racist as each other the fact that one side still had slavery made no difference.

The hatred and jealousy over free labour in the South brewed mass resentment in the North this is shown in the Mini series North and South very well thus fanning the flames for eventual war , Personally I feel the hatred between Northern and Southern troops was very real they did not see themselves as one nation anymore regardless of the romantic claptrap you hear after and during the war.

The southern soldier fought to keep the Yankee out of their states and the Northern soldier fought to give the the Rebels a bloody nose and put them in their place.

Men of their times in my view.
That’s a nice view but it doesn’t really square with the facts.
 

Scott1967

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
That’s a nice view but it doesn’t really square with the facts.

Are you suggesting the southern soldier fought to preserve slavery?.

The average Southern soldier had more than likely never read the Confederate constitution or wouldn't pull a hair if Slavery was abolished or not as a common man he would have thought those things out of his control so to speak.
However you mention Yankees wanting to invade and enforce their will on his state and I bet he's making a grab for than gun and hat and off to join the nearest Reb regiment.

Sure Slavery was the cause of the war but why? How many Northerners do you think really wanted to abolish slavery apart from the big business owners and the elite well read toffs?.
Lincoln himself didn't feel the need to free the slaves if he could avoid a war he only wanted to prevent its spread it wasn't even a war aim till late 1862.

We also see the indifference of Northern soldiers to slaves we have some good eye witness accounts on Sherman's march where the soldiers just ignored the suffering of the many slaves following Sherman many of whom lost their lives.

No sir the real reason Northerners fought that war was to give the South a bloody nose for being to big for their britches sort of like scolding a naughty child that got out of line.

I think its a total fallacy that the North were the good guys and the South the evil Slaveholders both sets of soldiers were bigoted and racist for the most part and both sets of soldiers saw it as their duty to kill each other even though at the time many men were deemed themselves good Christians , I wonder what it takes to make a good Christian pull the trigger well i can tell you 10 years of mistrust and hate does that to a man all sanctioned by politicians from both sides and warmongering abolitionists and slaveholders and the newspapers.

In truth both sides didn't give any thought to the Slaves both during and after the war.

You say slavery was the cause of the war maybe your right but was it also an excuse for war?.

Ill leave you to ponder that.

All my impartial view with a certain leaning to the North but fair i hope.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
Are you suggesting the southern soldier fought to preserve slavery?.

The average Southern soldier had more than likely never read the Confederate constitution or wouldn't pull a hair if Slavery was abolished or not as a common man he would have thought those things out of his control so to speak.
However you mention Yankees wanting to invade and enforce their will on his state and I bet he's making a grab for than gun and hat and off to join the nearest Reb regiment.

Sure Slavery was the cause of the war but why? How many Northerners do you think really wanted to abolish slavery apart from the big business owners and the elite well read toffs?.
Lincoln himself didn't feel the need to free the slaves if he could avoid a war he only wanted to prevent its spread it wasn't even a war aim till late 1862.

We also see the indifference of Northern soldiers to slaves we have some good eye witness accounts on Sherman's march where the soldiers just ignored the suffering of the many slaves following Sherman many of whom lost their lives.

No sir the real reason Northerners fought that war was to give the South a bloody nose for being to big for their britches sort of like scolding a naughty child that got out of line.

I think its a total fallacy that the North were the good guys and the South the evil Slaveholders both sets of soldiers were bigoted and racist for the most part and both sets of soldiers saw it as their duty to kill each other even though at the time many men were deemed themselves good Christians , I wonder what it takes to make a good Christian pull the trigger well i can tell you 10 years of mistrust and hate does that to a man all sanctioned by politicians from both sides and warmongering abolitionists and slaveholders and the newspapers.

In truth both sides didn't give any thought to the Slaves both during and after the war.

You say slavery was the cause of the war maybe your right but was it also an excuse for war?.

Ill leave you to ponder that.

All my impartial view with a certain leaning to the North but fair i hope.
I think @BuckeyeWarrior ’s previous post says why rebels were fighting, in their own words. Your argument isn’t with me, it’s with the confederates themselves. They told us exactly why they were fighting, from the leaders in their proclamations, to the pastors in their sermons, to the boys on the line as outlined above. We should listen to them and stop pretending.

The only difference is that I actually believe the rebels were telling the truth when they told us what they were fighting for...
 
Last edited:

Scott1967

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
I think @BuckeyeWarrior ’s previous post says why rebels were fighting, in their own words. Your argument isn’t with me, it’s with the confederates themselves. They told us exactly why they were fighting, from the leaders in their proclamations, to the pastors in their sermons, to the boys on the line as outlined above. We should listen to them and stop pretending.

The only difference is that I actually believe the rebels were telling the truth when they told us what they were fighting for...
Yep sorry Gwilym i have no idea why i posted your quote and not Buckeyes ill remedy that now , Just finished a 14 hr job so I'm tired my bad.
 

Scott1967

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
Slavery was the foundation that the lower south was built upon. In some of the lower south states close to 50% of households owned slaves. Add to that the number of people employed in slave related "industries" and those who aspired to become slave owners and you are probably closing in one 80-90% of southerners in the deep south. When southern rebels stated that they were defending their way of life they meant not only slavery but the social and political subordination of the black race to the white race. Here are some examples of rebel soldiers confirming this.


"The vandals of the North . . . are determined to destroy slavery . . . We must all fight, and I choose to fight for southern rights and southern liberty." [Lunsford Yandell, Jr. to Sally Yandell, April 22, 1861 in James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, p. 20]

"A stand must be made for African slavery or it is forever lost." [William Grimball to Elizabeth Grimball, Nov. 20, 1860, Ibid.]

"This country without slave labor would be completely worthless. We can only live & exist by that species of labor; and hence I am willing to fight for the last." [William Nugent to Eleanor Nugent, Sept 7, 1863, Ibid., p. 107]

"Better, far better! endure all the horrors of civil war than to see the dusky sons of Ham leading the fair daughters of the South to the altar." [William M. Thomson to Warner A. Thomson, Feb. 2, 1861, Ibid., p. 109]

"A captain in the 8th Alabama also vowed 'to fight forever, rather than submit to freeing negroes among us. . . . [We are fighting for] rights and property bequeathed to us by our ancestors.' " [Elias Davis to Mrs. R. L. Lathan, Dec. 10, 1863 Ibid., p. 107]

"Even though he was tired of the war, wrote a Louisiana artilleryman in 1862, ' I never want to see the day when a negro is put on an equality with a white person. There is too many free n----rs. . . now to suit me, let alone having four millions.' " [George Hamill Diary, March, 1862, Ibid., p. 109]

"A private in the 38th North Carolina, a yeoman farmer, vowed to show the Yankees ' that a white man is better than a n----r.' " [Jonas Bradshaw to Nancy Bradshaw, April 29, 1862 Ibid.]

"A farmer from the Shenandoah Valley informed his fiancée that he fought to assure 'a free white man's government instead of living under a black republican government.' " [John G. Keyton to Mary Hilbert, Nov. 30, 1861, Ibid.]

"The son of another North Carolina dirt farmer said he would never stop fighting the Yankees, who were 'trying to force us to live as the colored race.' " [Samuel Walsh to Louisa Proffitt, April 11, 1864, Ibid.]

"Some of the boys asked them what they were fighting for, and they answered, 'You Yanks want us to marry our daughters to the n----rs.' " [Chauncey Cook to parents, May 10, 1864, Ibid.]

"An Arkansas captain was enraged by the idea that if the Yankees won, his 'sister, wife, and mother are to be given up to the embraces of their present dusky male servitors.' " [Thomas Key, diary entry April 10, 1864, Ibid.]

"Another Arkansas soldier, a planter, wrote his wife that Lincoln not only wanted to free the slaves but also 'declares them entitled to all the rights and privileges as American citizens. So imagine your sweet little girls in the school room with a black wooly headed negro and have to treat them as their equal.' " [William Wakefield Garner to Henrietta Garner, Jan 2, 1864, Ibid.]
Are you suggesting the southern soldier fought to preserve slavery?.

The average Southern soldier had more than likely never read the Confederate constitution or wouldn't pull a hair if Slavery was abolished or not as a common man he would have thought those things out of his control so to speak.
However you mention Yankees wanting to invade and enforce their will on his state and I bet he's making a grab for than gun and hat and off to join the nearest Reb regiment.

Sure Slavery was the cause of the war but why? How many Northerners do you think really wanted to abolish slavery apart from the big business owners and the elite well read toffs?.
Lincoln himself didn't feel the need to free the slaves if he could avoid a war he only wanted to prevent its spread it wasn't even a war aim till late 1862.

We also see the indifference of Northern soldiers to slaves we have some good eye witness accounts on Sherman's march where the soldiers just ignored the suffering of the many slaves following Sherman many of whom lost their lives.

No sir the real reason Northerners fought that war was to give the South a bloody nose for being to big for their britches sort of like scolding a naughty child that got out of line.

I think its a total fallacy that the North were the good guys and the South the evil Slaveholders both sets of soldiers were bigoted and racist for the most part and both sets of soldiers saw it as their duty to kill each other even though at the time many men were deemed themselves good Christians , I wonder what it takes to make a good Christian pull the trigger well i can tell you 10 years of mistrust and hate does that to a man all sanctioned by politicians from both sides and warmongering abolitionists and slaveholders and the newspapers.

In truth both sides didn't give any thought to the Slaves both during and after the war.

You say slavery was the cause of the war maybe your right but was it also an excuse for war?.

Ill leave you to ponder that.

All my impartial view with a certain leaning to the North but fair i hope.
 

BuckeyeWarrior

Sergeant
Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Location
Ohio
Are you suggesting the southern soldier fought to preserve slavery?.

The average Southern soldier had more than likely never read the Confederate constitution or wouldn't pull a hair if Slavery was abolished or not as a common man he would have thought those things out of his control so to speak.
However you mention Yankees wanting to invade and enforce their will on his state and I bet he's making a grab for than gun and hat and off to join the nearest Reb regiment.

Sure Slavery was the cause of the war but why? How many Northerners do you think really wanted to abolish slavery apart from the big business owners and the elite well read toffs?.
Lincoln himself didn't feel the need to free the slaves if he could avoid a war he only wanted to prevent its spread it wasn't even a war aim till late 1862.

We also see the indifference of Northern soldiers to slaves we have some good eye witness accounts on Sherman's march where the soldiers just ignored the suffering of the many slaves following Sherman many of whom lost their lives.

No sir the real reason Northerners fought that war was to give the South a bloody nose for being to big for their britches sort of like scolding a naughty child that got out of line.

I think its a total fallacy that the North were the good guys and the South the evil Slaveholders both sets of soldiers were bigoted and racist for the most part and both sets of soldiers saw it as their duty to kill each other even though at the time many men were deemed themselves good Christians , I wonder what it takes to make a good Christian pull the trigger well i can tell you 10 years of mistrust and hate does that to a man all sanctioned by politicians from both sides and warmongering abolitionists and slaveholders and the newspapers.

In truth both sides didn't give any thought to the Slaves both during and after the war.

You say slavery was the cause of the war maybe your right but was it also an excuse for war?.

Ill leave you to ponder that.

All my impartial view with a certain leaning to the North but fair i hope.
No matter what the reason the individual rebel soldier was fighting they were in an Army of a rebellion who’s purpose was to protect slavery from a perceived threat slavery.Though as the evidence I presented shows some rebel soldiers personal reason for fighting were the same as the governments.

There were three main positions on slavery in 1860.

The first, and most immoral, was that slavery was a positive good and blacks were god ordained to be slaves. This view was held by most of the leaders of the rebellion, most southerners, and some northerners.

The second was that slavery was wrong but that blacks should not have social and political equality with blacks. This view was held by many northerners.

The third view was slavery was wrong and that blacks should have full social and political equality with whites. This was the most moral view and sadly the smallest. It was held by radical Republicans and abolitionists.

Views two and three were morally superior to view one. This can be showed by looking at two quotes from the leaders at the time.


"African slavery, as it exists in the United States, is a moral, a social, and a political blessing."
~Davis

"I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, "Letter to Albert G. Hodges" (April 4, 1864), p. 281.

I believe that keeping our nation intact was worth the cost of 300,000 lives and I believe ending slavery was worth many more lives than that.

However, I am glad the rebels rebelled (and America won) because without the rebellion I believe we would have had slavery in America until at least the early 1900s if not longer. Which would have made a complete mockery of our Declaration of Independence.

Having served 20+ years in the US military and having studied (and been in) war and combat I know the individual soldiers have many reasons for fighting but when they choose to fight those reasons don’t matter, they are supporting the reason the government chose to fight.

I also know that in most wars there are no clear good guys or bad guys, but the Civil war is one of the few that there is. Once the emancipation proclamation was issued it turned the US Army (of which I am retired from) into an Army of liberators. Every new territory they conquered brought freedom to those enslaved. Contrast that with the rebel army who whenever they went north would grab blacks and send them back into slavery and the moral difference is clear.
 

Pete Longstreet

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Location
Hartford, CT
I think @BuckeyeWarrior ’s previous post says why rebels were fighting, in their own words. Your argument isn’t with me, it’s with the confederates themselves. They told us exactly why they were fighting, from the leaders in their proclamations, to the pastors in their sermons, to the boys on the line as outlined above. We should listen to them and stop pretending.

The only difference is that I actually believe the rebels were telling the truth when they told us what they were fighting for...
"People who say slavery had nothing to do with the war are just as wrong as people who say slavery had everything to do with the war."

-
Shelby Foote
 

Viper21

Brigadier General
Moderator
Silver Patron
Joined
Jul 4, 2016
Location
Rockbridge County, Virginia
No matter what the reason the individual rebel soldier was fighting they were in an Army of a rebellion who’s purpose was to protect slavery from a perceived threat slavery.Though as the evidence I presented shows some rebel soldiers personal reason for fighting were the same as the governments.

There were three main positions on slavery in 1860.

The first, and most immoral, was that slavery was a positive good and blacks were god ordained to be slaves. This view was held by most of the leaders of the rebellion, most southerners, and some northerners.

The second was that slavery was wrong but that blacks should not have social and political equality with blacks. This view was held by many northerners.

The third view was slavery was wrong and that blacks should have full social and political equality with whites. This was the most moral view and sadly the smallest. It was held by radical Republicans and abolitionists.

Views two and three were morally superior to view one. This can be showed by looking at two quotes from the leaders at the time.


"African slavery, as it exists in the United States, is a moral, a social, and a political blessing."
~Davis

"I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, "Letter to Albert G. Hodges" (April 4, 1864), p. 281.

I believe that keeping our nation intact was worth the cost of 300,000 lives and I believe ending slavery was worth many more lives than that.

However, I am glad the rebels rebelled (and America won) because without the rebellion I believe we would have had slavery in America until at least the early 1900s if not longer. Which would have made a complete mockery of our Declaration of Independence.

Having served 20+ years in the US military and having studied (and been in) war and combat I know the individual soldiers have many reasons for fighting but when they choose to fight those reasons don’t matter, they are supporting the reason the government chose to fight.

I also know that in most wars there are no clear good guys or bad guys, but the Civil war is one of the few that there is. Once the emancipation proclamation was issued it turned the US Army (of which I am retired from) into an Army of liberators. Every new territory they conquered brought freedom to those enslaved. Contrast that with the rebel army who whenever they went north would grab blacks and send them back into slavery and the moral difference is clear.
I have also worn the US Army uniform. As did my father (30 yrs Sgt Maj). Both of my Grandfathers served as well. One entered Europe through Omaha Beach, the other retired with 37 years as a Navy Captain. All are buried in Arlington National Cemetery with the exception being my father who is pending. As I go back through my family tree, every generation had a male serve in the military all the way back to the American Revolution.

Not a single one ever said, they joined the military because of the political views, or policies of our government. Several quite explicitly said the opposite. Instead, those I spoke to, read their writings, or had conveyed from family members who knew them, all spoke of their "duty". Or their desire to serve their country, & by default their families, & local communities. I have in my possession, copies of over a dozen letters that two of my Confederate ancestors wrote during the war. Slavery isn't mentioned even once. Instead, their written words only speak of their families, their faith, & their devotion to their communities.

I entered the US Army at 19 yrs old. While I knew who our President was at the time, I had literally no idea, or even concept of our politics at the time. Not on the national level, the state level, or even the local level. I just felt compelled as a young man, to serve. I would've felt even more so, had I come of age in a time of war. My Grandfather didn't join the Army because of our politics, he joined because our country was attacked (Dec 1941). Go back to 2001, & look up enlistment numbers for 17-20yr olds. I think you'll find HUGE enlistment numbers, & the overwhelming majority of those folks, were just as naive to our nation's politics as I was years prior.

My point is, plenty of folks like to point the slavery finger at every Confederate soldier, & claim it doesn't matter what they individually thought because they were apart of the Confederacy. I consider that nothing more than modern day virtue signalling. If somebody would've told me at 19, I was fighting for US Imperialism, because I was in the US Army, I wouldn't have even known at the time what they meant, let alone have agreed. Regardless of all the bantering back & forth, soldiers, sailors, & airmen today, serve for their own reasons, many of which are personal, & have absolutely NOTHING to do with the motivations, or politics of our Nation as a whole. The same has always been true.

I have siblings with whom I am 180 degrees from politically. I mean literally polar opposites. Very little if any, common ground. Attack one of them violently, I'm coming for that hiney. It doesn't mean I agree with their views, or support their views in any way. I'd simply be protecting my family from attack. Just like my Confederate ancestors.....
 

Pete Longstreet

2nd Lieutenant
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Location
Hartford, CT
Having served 20+ years in the US military and having studied (and been in) war and combat I know the individual soldiers have many reasons for fighting but when they choose to fight those reasons don’t matter, they are supporting the reason the government chose to fight.

I also know that in most wars there are no clear good guys or bad guys, but the Civil war is one of the few that there is. Once the emancipation proclamation was issued it turned the US Army (of which I am retired from) into an Army of liberators. Every new territory they conquered brought freedom to those enslaved. Contrast that with the rebel army who whenever they went north would grab blacks and send them back into slavery and the moral difference is clear.
First and foremost, thank you for service.

Secondly, I respectfully disagree. My late father fought admirably in Vietnam. Did his tour and was honorably discharged. Although he fought well, and has medals to prove it, he hated the war and the cause. He never once mentioned in a letter that he disagreed with the cause, but tried to stay focused on not getting killed. When he returned home... he threw his uniform out and never looked back. He hated that war even before he was thrown into the middle of it. But he fought because it was his duty.

This has to apply to a certain population of the Confedrate soldiers. I find it hard to believe they all were fighting so the planters and politicians could keep their slaves. With that being said... was slavery a horrible cause to fight for, absolutely. But to group them all in the same category as to why they fought is unfair to them.
 

Paul Yancey

Sergeant
Joined
Jan 13, 2019
Location
Kentucky
As was mentioned in an earlier post on this thread, the book For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War by James McPherson provides a well balanced perspective on why men fought in the war. McPherson uses letters and diaries of the soldiers to provide first-person insight as to the various reasons why men chose to fight.

I have read many letters of soldiers on both sides, and rarely is slavery mentioned. Of course, if one chooses to "cherry pick" through these letters I am sure they can present a biased view to support their case.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
Soldiers enlist for various, personal reasons, just as they did in 1861-1865.

But EVERY soldier fights for the political goals and objectives of the government that puts him in harms way. The individual soldier may not know those goals or why they are wakened in the middle of the night to board planes or ships to fight people they have never met or had an argument with BUT, that same government does not ask each and every soldier if they want to fight and kill complete strangers who have never given themselves harm or insult. The individual soldier does not have the option of voting whether they wish to go to war with or for what cause.

They are cartridges in a government gun, waited to be expended for that government's objectives and political goals. They are the constant threat, the chained power of a government's will, to be unleashed when that government decides force is the answer to meet it's political and economic objectives.

No matter what that Confederate soldier enlisted for, whatever reason he had in his head or heart, he fought for the preservation of slavery, as that was his government's, his leaders, stated goal. Just as every Union soldier fought to preserve the Union, his government's stated goal, no matter what his individual reason was for enlisting and getting off the farm.

What's the old saying? "If you would have peace, then prepare for war."

Neither side in the Civil War was prepared for war, least of all the soldiers of both sides.
 

Yankee Brooke

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PA
Soldiers enlist for various, personal reasons, just as they did in 1861-1865.

But EVERY soldier fights for the political goals and objectives of the government that puts him in harms way. The individual soldier may not know those goals or why they are wakened in the middle of the night to board planes or ships to fight people they have never met or had an argument with BUT, that same government does not ask each and every soldier if they want to fight and kill complete strangers who have never given themselves harm or insult. The individual soldier does not have the option of voting whether they wish to go to war with or for what cause.

They are cartridges in a government gun, waited to be expended for that government's objectives and political goals. They are the constant threat, the chained power of a government's will, to be unleashed when that government decides force is the answer to meet it's political and economic objectives.

No matter what that Confederate soldier enlisted for, whatever reason he had in his head or heart, he fought for the preservation of slavery, as that was his government's, his leaders, stated goal. Just as every Union soldier fought to preserve the Union, his government's stated goal, no matter what his individual reason was for enlisting and getting off the farm.

What's the old saying? "If you would have peace, then prepare for war."

Neither side in the Civil War was prepared for war, least of all the soldiers of both sides.
But the discussion here is what was in a soldier's mind. Why did he THINK he was fighting? Regardless of if that's really what he was fighting for or not doesn't weigh much into this.
 

RabbiJem

Cadet
Joined
Feb 22, 2021
I am new to the forum, but I had a question. I know it is hotly debated as to the motives of the southern states seceding from the union and fighting a civil war. Seems like the arguments center on whether it was mainly to protect state's rights or to protect slavery. And many think that slavery just happened to be the most current/volatile issue that tested federal vs. states rights. My questions are: Of all the men who fought for the south, how many of them were actual slave owners? I have to believe it was a minority percentage. If the south was fighting mainly to preserve slavery, you're telling me that thousands of young southern men marched off to war to kill/be killed just to protect the rights of wealthy plantation owners who employed slaves? I would not go to war, nor send my sons to war for that reason. What was in the mind of most of the confederate soldiers as to WHY they were fighting and willing to die?
Over 80% of the men in the Confederate Army did not own the property that they lived on...Check out the book "Blow, Gabriel, Blow!"
 
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