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

unionblue

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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.
Most every soldier had on his mind his initial reason for enlisting.

Just reading the period newspapers of the time will give some idea of what most thought was important enough to risk their lives.

Slavery was THE issue decades before the Civil War. That fact cannot be denied nor hidden behind other excuses. How anyone can deny that their ancestors of the time were unaware of this giant issue is beyond my own comprehension.

Bottom line: The South seceded over the issue of slavery, PERIOD. To say the men who cheerfully enlisted into Confederate forces were unaware of this fact is just silly. They all knew this was the issue at the bottom of 'the cause.' While many may not have owned slaves or enlisted for many a personal reason, the main issue could not escape their attention.

Yes, the concern for home, family, etc., was in that mix, but after the 20 slave law was passed, men knew what they were fighting for. The political objective of the entire Confederacy, the preservation of slavery.

Unionblue
 

Yankee Brooke

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I would not say every man "cheerfully" enlisted in the army. Again, I've read journal entries and letters, and plenty of them that seem much more like "begrudgingly enlisted" is the proper term. Usually it was some form of peer pressure that caused this begrudging enlistment. Also remember, for at least half the war the army would have had a large percentage of conscripts in the ranks.
 

BuckeyeWarrior

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The political objective of the Confederate States was independence. Everything else was ultimately negotiable. Most of the men had that in mind.
The only reason the rebels wanted independence was to protect slavery from the threat that they believed the Republicans posed to it. They said so themselves, over and over again. For some reason certain people on this site don't want to believe them.

In view of such effects and consequences here from the mere possession of one branch of Congress we ought not to shut our eyes to the effects of the possession of the government in all of its departments by any Black Republican. It would abolitionize Maryland in a year, raise a powerful abolition party in Va., Kentucky, and Missouri in two years, and foster and rear up a free labour party in [the] whole South in four years. Thus the strife will be transferred from the North to our own friends. Then security and peace in our borders is gone forever. Therefore I deeply lament that any portion of our people shall hug to their bosoms the delusive idea that we should wait for some "overt act." I shall consider our ruin already accomplished when we submit to a party whose every principle, whose daily declarations and acts are an open proclamation of war against us, and the insidious effects of whose policy I see around me every day. For one I would raise an insurrection, if I could not carry a revolution, to save my countrymen, and endeavor to save them in spite of themselves. – Letter from Senator Robert Toombs to Alexander Stephens-February 10,1860
 

Andersonh1

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The only reason the rebels wanted independence was to protect slavery from the threat that they believed the Republicans posed to it. They said so themselves, over and over again. For some reason certain people on this site don't want to believe them.

It's actually everything else they said that people don't want to accept.
 

unionblue

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"Everything else" comes across as a desperate attempt to hide the main reason for the Civil War.

I can accept the fact that many Southerners did not own slaves.

I can accept the fact that there were those who enlisted for the sole purpose of defending hearth, home, and family.

But I cannot accept the fact that any other "everything else" outweighs or overshadows slavery as the cause of secession and the Civil War. It's just too plain obvious of it's importance to the Confederacy as the cause for seeking "independence."
 

Scott1967

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"Everything else" comes across as a desperate attempt to hide the main reason for the Civil War.

I can accept the fact that many Southerners did not own slaves.

I can accept the fact that there were those who enlisted for the sole purpose of defending hearth, home, and family.

But I cannot accept the fact that any other "everything else" outweighs or overshadows slavery as the cause of secession and the Civil War. It's just too plain obvious of it's importance to the Confederacy as the cause for seeking "independence."
Can you also except that the North did not fight to free the slaves and that it was only deemed a war aim to do more harm to the Confederacy than to really free the slaves as no plan was in place on what to do with the salves afterwards?.

The British did more to free and stop Slavery than Lincoln every did in his life and yet its Lincoln that's taught in American schools not the big bad British Empire which of course abolished slavery in 1834.

But I totally agree the cause of the Souths independence was the threat of freeing the slaves and stopping its spread to the new territories however only a minority of very rich men would suffer from this.

The actual cause for the common Confederate soldier would have been years of enduring <Edited> Northerners telling them how to live their lives Edited.

Edited.

The vast majority of Southern soldiers fought because their state asked them too and if that meant supporting their old way of life a life which they grew up in then yes in a way it was supporting slavery indirectly but you forget many Southern soldiers grew up with said slaves they knew them personally some were friends or they worked together not everything is black and white no pun intended.

Personally I cant stand people forcing their ideas and rhetoric down my throat at every opportunity Edited. and even distort it from the truth and I'm sure this is how the average Confederate soldier felt about the Yankee their saw them as jealous hypocrites intent on destroying the only life they had ever known.
 
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Paul Yancey

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Always liked this quote of James McPherson which appears in Gary Gallagher's book The Confederate War.
"The concepts of southern nationalism, self-government, resistance to tyranny, and other ideological purposes ... all have a rather abstract quality. But for many Confederate soldiers these abstractions took a concrete, visceral form: the defense of home and hearth against an invading army."
 

unionblue

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Can you also except that the North did not fight to free the slaves and that it was only deemed a war aim to do more harm to the Confederacy than to really free the slaves as no plan was in place on what to do with the salves afterwards?.

The British did more to free and stop Slavery than Lincoln every did in his life and yet its Lincoln that's taught in American schools not the big bad British Empire which of course abolished slavery in 1834.

But I totally agree the cause of the Souths independence was the threat of freeing the slaves and stopping its spread to the new territories however only a minority of very rich men would suffer from this.

The actual cause for the common Confederate soldier would have been years of enduring <Edited> Northerners telling them how to live their lives Edited.

Edited.

The vast majority of Southern soldiers fought because their state asked them too and if that meant supporting their old way of life a life which they grew up in then yes in a way it was supporting slavery indirectly but you forget many Southern soldiers grew up with said slaves they knew them personally some were friends or they worked togetnewly freed slavesher not everything is black and white no pun intended.

Personally I cant stand people forcing their ideas and rhetoric down my throat at every opportunity Edited. and even distort it from the truth and I'm sure this is how the average Confederate soldier felt about the Yankee their saw them as jealous hypocrites intent on destroying the only life they had ever known.

@Scott1967 ,

Actually, there is very little in your above post that I can find fault or disagree with.

Yes, the North went to war initially to preserve the Union and not free the slaves. That action came later as a war aim to, as you say, weaken the Confederacy. I will also agree that because of Lincoln's death, very little thought was given by the majority in the North about what to do concerning newly freed slaves. But there was some effort made in their behalf with new amendments and the Freedman's organization. But it did fall off to almost nothing after the war.

I agree the British did an enormous job in stopping the slave trade but I cannot agree that what Lincoln did is less in measure with his EP and all of his work in getting the 13th amendment passed in Congress. I really would have liked to see if his efforts would have continued along those lines if he had lived.

I agree the vast majority of Southern soldiers fought for their way of life and I agree a lot were of the view they were defending family, home, etc., but that way of life, a slave society and a slave economy, was the basis of that way of life, to include a distinct, strict, social order. You speak of growing up with slaves and that some whites were friendly with them. I don't deny or forget this. But the distinctions between the two were never erased or forgotten. And you speak that only a minority of very rich men would suffer at the exclusion of slavery from the territories, but then fail to mention it was the rich men who dictated the objectives of the newly formed Confederacy, to maintain, even expand, slavery.

The point is, men join an army and then surrender their individual goals and reasons to that minority and then end up fighting for THEIR goals and reasons. Every soldier who has ever served in the army from the beginning of time until the 21st century fights for his nation's political leaderships goals. It was no different for the soldiers of the Confederacy. It was no different for me during my 20 years of service.

A soldier, in my own view, prays for two things. That his nation is in the right and that his life is not wasted in a bad cause.

And I happen to agree with Frederick Douglass on this one. There was a right side and a wrong side in the Civil War and I am glad of it's eventual outcome.

Unionblue
 

Belfoured

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@Scott1967 ,

Actually, there is very little in your above post that I can find fault or disagree with.

Yes, the North went to war initially to preserve the Union and not free the slaves. That action came later as a war aim to, as you say, weaken the Confederacy. I will also agree that because of Lincoln's death, very little thought was given by the majority in the North about what to do concerning newly freed slaves. But there was some effort made in their behalf with new amendments and the Freedman's organization. But it did fall off to almost nothing after the war.

I agree the British did an enormous job in stopping the slave trade but I cannot agree that what Lincoln did is less in measure with his EP and all of his work in getting the 13th amendment passed in Congress. I really would have liked to see if his efforts would have continued along those lines if he had lived.

I agree the vast majority of Southern soldiers fought for their way of life and I agree a lot were of the view they were defending family, home, etc., but that way of life, a slave society and a slave economy, was the basis of that way of life, to include a distinct, strict, social order. You speak of growing up with slaves and that some whites were friendly with them. I don't deny or forget this. But the distinctions between the two were never erased or forgotten. And you speak that only a minority of very rich men would suffer at the exclusion of slavery from the territories, but then fail to mention it was the rich men who dictated the objectives of the newly formed Confederacy, to maintain, even expand, slavery.

The point is, men join an army and then surrender their individual goals and reasons to that minority and then end up fighting for THEIR goals and reasons. Every soldier who has ever served in the army from the beginning of time until the 21st century fights for his nation's political leaderships goals. It was no different for the soldiers of the Confederacy. It was no different for me during my 20 years of service.

A soldier, in my own view, prays for two things. That his nation is in the right and that his life is not wasted in a bad cause.

And I happen to agree with Frederick Douglass on this one. There was a right side and a wrong side in the Civil War and I am glad of it's eventual outcome.

Unionblue
I would just add Glathaar's excellent study, which found that if you look at the ANV and don't limit the question to "how many owned slaves" (in an era when young men were unlikely to "own" much of anything) but expand it to "how many came from families that owned slaves" and "how many had personal connections to slave ownership", the percentage is pretty significant.
 

Viper21

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I would just add Glathaar's excellent study, which found that if you look at the ANV and don't limit the question to "how many owned slaves" (in an era when young men were unlikely to "own" much of anything) but expand it to "how many came from families that owned slaves" and "how many had personal connections to slave ownership", the percentage is pretty significant.
A subjective standard. In my opinion, done so on purpose, to expand the slavery net over folks that in fact, were NOT slave owners.

My parents owned, & have owned lots of things, that I've never had an ownership interest in, or even a casual interest in. My wife grew up on a dairy farm. She absolutely hates Cows, & couldn't wait to get away from them, she in fact left as a teenager. She's never owned a Cow in her life. She's no dairy farmer, & would scoff at the label.

While it is true, some folks follow in their father's, or families foot steps, many folks choose much different life styles, occupations, politics, etc.. than that of their families. I believe that has always been the case.
 

John Hartwell

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There are thousands of possible answers to the question in the OP. Here's just one:

"Well, here I am with all my buddies around me, and in a few minutes there's going to be lots o'lead flying about. I may be skeered, but I ain't about to show them just how skeered I am. Besides, mam would be ashamed of me if I ran away, and sweet Peggy wouldn't go sparkin' with me, like she promised when I enlisted."​
 
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Yankee Brooke

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There are thousands of possible answers to the question in the OP. Here's just one:

"Well, here I am with all my buddies around me, and in a few minutes there's going to be lots o'lead flying about. I may be skeered, but I ain't about to show them just how skeered I am. Besides, mam would be ashamed of me if I ran away, and sweet Peggy wouldn't go sparkin' with me, like she promised when I enlisted."​
Like I said earlier, peer pressure was probably a big reason a lot of them went. On both sides. I'm sure there were a lot of Union soldiers who were there simply because they were pressured into enlisting as well, but couldn't care less about what the war was about.

Now does that make them right? I don't know, that's not what I'm discussing. I'm not trying to defend anyone here. The discussion as about the why and the what, not about the morality of either decision.
 

Belfoured

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A subjective standard. In my opinion, done so on purpose, to expand the slavery net over folks that in fact, were NOT slave owners.

My parents owned, & have owned lots of things, that I've never had an ownership interest in, or even a casual interest in. My wife grew up on a dairy farm. She absolutely hates Cows, & couldn't wait to get away from them, she in fact left as a teenager. She's never owned a Cow in her life. She's no dairy farmer, & would scoff at the label.

While it is true, some folks follow in their father's, or families foot steps, many folks choose much different life styles, occupations, politics, etc.. than that of their families. I believe that has always been the case.
I don't think either one of us can say what Glathaar's purpose was - other than responding to a point made frequently by a lot of people who use the relatively small % of those in the Confederate armies who actually owned slaves as proof that preserving slavery was not a motivation for most. Like it or not, it makes sense that if a young man's family's livelihood was invested in slavery, he was likely to have a stake in it himself. Nothing's ever 100%, but it's also far from an irrational conclusion. And that doesn't mean that the soldier wanted to become a slave-owning planter himself - he may not have - but it's a separate issue from concluding that he was motivated to preserve the institution. Both of those things can be true at the same time.
 
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