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

Viper21

Brigadier General
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Location
Rockbridge County, Virginia
It is the role of historians (and, presumably of history buffs) to reach rational and supportable conclusions. Personalizing an issue--saying that criticism of a viewpoint is an attack on oneself--is counterproductive. We are no more responsible for our ancestors than they are for us. If it is accepted that faulting some historic viewpoint is tantamount to an attack on descendants, matters here are going to come to a grinding halt while we research each other's genealogy! 😟

The provincialism that you ascribe to the "average Southerner" was also true of the average Northerner. Wendell Phillips spoke for the average Bostonian (on the trampling of states' rights by the Fugitive Slave Act) when he said: "This is the first time hostile soldiers have been in our streets since the red coats marched up Long Wharf." Fanny Seward described the exact moment she became an abolitionist while on a trip in the South--witnessing the lashing along of a group of boys, taken from their families to be sold.

The years leading up to a conflict like this are filled with passions. "Virtuous fingers" can be ascribed to both sides. But the Civil War is more than 150 years over; what it means to later times is out of the purview of this forum.
What army marched into Boston..? How many folks in Mass had their farms overrun by troops who took everything they could, from food, to personal belongings, set everything on fire, & shot the livestock..?

^ happened much more than some folks want to believe.

Read up on Jack Hinson. He voted against secession, & helped negotiate a peaceful surrender of a Confederate fort without bloodshed. Yankees stayed at his farm. He was no secessionist. His sons were out deer hunting when they were approached & accused of being bushwhackers. Executed, their bodies were drug through town, & their heads put on posts at the entrance to Jacks farm, ala Vlad the Impaler. THAT is what made him become a Sniper & take out Yankee officers.

How many folks in Boston had an experience like Jack's..? Or so many other Southerners who had their entire winter food supply seized, their home burned, & turned out into the elements. Stuff like that leads men to take up arms. Regardless of the politics involved.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
What army marched into Boston..? How many folks in Mass had their farms overrun by troops who took everything they could, from food, to personal belongings, set everything on fire, & shot the livestock..?

^ happened much more than some folks want to believe.

Read up on Jack Hinson. He voted against secession, & helped negotiate a peaceful surrender of a Confederate fort without bloodshed. Yankees stayed at his farm. He was no secessionist. His sons were out deer hunting when they were approached & accused of being bushwhackers. Executed, their bodies were drug through town, & their heads put on posts at the entrance to Jacks farm, ala Vlad the Impaler. THAT is what made him become a Sniper & take out Yankee officers.

How many folks in Boston had an experience like Jack's..? Or so many other Southerners who had their entire winter food supply seized, their home burned, & turned out into the elements. Stuff like that leads men to take up arms. Regardless of the politics involved.
Ooooh!

War is a messy business and one of the hard lessons of the time is that armed conflict wasn't a good thing to have started. To quote Joshua Chamberlain to an irate Southern woman, "If you didn't want us, you shouldn't have invited us down." The knight in the Fairy Queen was wrong when he stated that he was invincible because he was armed with the Justice of his Cause. The justice of his cause and $5.00 will buy him a cup of coffee. What will make a cause somewhat invincible is the ability to win over support but, alas, the tide of history was turning against slavery. The writing was on the wall. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Law was the Swan Song on Southern dominance--the law that saw (to cite historian Charles Carleton Coffin, historian ) "At five o'clock in the morning, before the people were astir, three hundred armed policemen marched him to Long Wharf and put him [the fugitive] on board the schooner Acorn, which took him back to slavery. "

That the ACW was fought mainly on Southern soil, was not part of the original game plan--who would instigate a war that would decimate his own lands?

I'm bowing out! This is getting far too emotional for rational discussion.
 
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danny

Sergeant
Joined
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Location
Hattiesburg
View attachment 401408

Speaking to this point, Flat Rock, North Carolina, which is where the murder of Andrew Johnstone occurred, is not that far from Cold Mountain. Asheville was also a destination for wealthy refugees from South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and anywhere else the Union was encroaching. Obviously the blue line is following modern roads.
The movie, as you know, takes much of its focus on the hopelessness of some soldiers after the battle of the crater. The war was entering the final stages and months.The savagery of the war would add to the cumulative effect of the cold, hunger and constant reinforcement of the Yankees of the well supplied Yanks.
It can be noted that even with all the overwhelming advantages, there were Yankee desertions at this time as well.
 

Zack

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Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
What army marched into Boston..? How many folks in Mass had their farms overrun by troops who took everything they could, from food, to personal belongings, set everything on fire, & shot the livestock..?

^ happened much more than some folks want to believe.

Read up on Jack Hinson. He voted against secession, & helped negotiate a peaceful surrender of a Confederate fort without bloodshed. Yankees stayed at his farm. He was no secessionist. His sons were out deer hunting when they were approached & accused of being bushwhackers. Executed, their bodies were drug through town, & their heads put on posts at the entrance to Jacks farm, ala Vlad the Impaler. THAT is what made him become a Sniper & take out Yankee officers.

How many folks in Boston had an experience like Jack's..? Or so many other Southerners who had their entire winter food supply seized, their home burned, & turned out into the elements. Stuff like that leads men to take up arms. Regardless of the politics involved.

What of those in 1861 who enlisted before any of this occurred?
 

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
Read up on Jack Hinson. He voted against secession, & helped negotiate a peaceful surrender of a Confederate fort without bloodshed. Yankees stayed at his farm. He was no secessionist. His sons were out deer hunting when they were approached & accused of being bushwhackers. Executed, their bodies were drug through town, & their heads put on posts at the entrance to Jacks farm, ala Vlad the Impaler. THAT is what made him become a Sniper & take out Yankee officers.
He's been discussed before. His story is mostly tall tales, unsupported by the record.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Wait, did Massachusetts or Boston rebel against the United States?

I know they did so against Britain to create the country but in 1861?
At the time of the American Revolution, it was one of the 13 colonies that rebelled against Britain.. But never against the United States.
 

Scott1967

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
My overall point is, I believe it is unfair to paint all Confederates with the modern moral judgement of fighting for slavery. It's much more complicated than that. I hope my point is never proven but, I'm sure that the overwhelming majority of people, faced with similar situations, would choose differently for their own families, than the moral high ground they claim while pointing their virtuous fingers at my ancestors.
Anyone with a brain knew that soldiers fought for varied reasons mainly in the early war for preserving the Union or Defending their state as the war progressed and losses occurred those reasons changed for the CSA is was men pressed into service and for the USA for the money imho.

The Purity of the war was in the first two years and then it became dirty around 1864 imho.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
I always find it interesting how so many disregard anything at all, other than slavery as a motivation for Confederate Soldiers. I often ponder what men on both sides of the war would think of the power the Federal branch has evolved into. I'm sure Lincoln would be smiling.

On that same note, I wonder how folks today would react to war coming to their front yard. How righteous, & virtuous would they be..? Having a gun pointed at you, or hearing a bullet go by, is a very unique experience that many people are not capable of comprehending. It's nothing like the fiction on television. There are only two primary reactions. Fight or flight. The majority of people honestly have no idea how they would react until put in that position.

This was the situation many Confederates found themselves in. Troops in their communities. In their yards. The average Southerner in those days, weren't very worldly. Many folks never left the county they were born in. Plenty had lived their whole lives, & never heard a Boston accent. Yankee troops were foreigners to them. Foreigners that were attacking, & pillaging their homes.

Take some of the nonsense we saw last year. How would you react to those mobs coming to your home...? Even in today's world of information..? Regardless of whether or not you agreed with their ideology, most folks would defend their homes, & families. Might sound ridiculous to some folks but, it's reality for a lot of people.

While I can only speak for myself, I can assure you, regardless of your ideology, regardless of your motivations, come to my property with bad intentions, & it's not gonna end well for one of us. EVEN IF, I agree with what you are trying to accomplish in the big picture. A great example of this in my opinion is, Jack Hinson.

My overall point is, I believe it is unfair to paint all Confederates with the modern moral judgement of fighting for slavery. It's much more complicated than that. I hope my point is never proven but, I'm sure that the overwhelming majority of people, faced with similar situations, would choose differently for their own families, than the moral high ground they claim while pointing their virtuous fingers at my ancestors.
@Viper21 ,

First off, thanks for helping me out. :wink:

Now, on to answering your above post #117.

First off, none should disagree or ignore your view that Confederate soldiers enlisted for many things that motivated them, not just slavery. (Take a breath, this is not going to be exactly what you may think at this point.)

As for any Civil War soldiers pondering what power the Federal branch has evolved to, I would submit in their time, at least Union soldiers did not think it was strong enough to prevent rebellion and enforce the legal outcome of a federal election. And they were right, if you think about it with what the Federal government entailed at the time. 16,000 soldiers, scattered throughout the country, a part-time attorney general, a handful of federal marshals, and the only personal contact with it's citizens on a daily basis being their local Post Office.

In fact, I am willing to posit the fact that one of the reasons for Southern Rebellion was the obvious truth that the Federal government was looked upon as weak, too weak to stop the oncoming bout of unilateral secession.

You state above how many people today would react to a war coming right to their front yards. Isn't that possibility the reason we have a strong federal government that can call upon it's armed forces to protect us from such ever happening here? Maybe the reason most people wouldn't have an idea what to do in a situation like that is because they believe their government would do all it could to prevent such from happening?

Now, I am a bit sympathetic on the plight of your average Southerner put in the position of having war come to his doorstep and that he might enlist on the idea he had to protect his home and his loved ones. Bullets have very little reasoning power or sympathy when they are fired at you.

But I am once again taken back to that fateful day at Gettysburg when my grandchildren and I toured the battlefield and they asked THE question, "Pappaw, WHY did all these men come here to fight?" Back to that question a bit later...

Now you continue your post above with the comments that most Southerners at that time weren't very worldly. That plenty of them had never left their counties and had lived there all their lives and had never heard a Boston accent.

All that reminds me when I enlisted way back when. I had never left the county I had been born in, hardly had any idea what was going on in the world (only 3 channels on TV at the time and only got the Sunday paper) and had never had heard a Boston accent! Weird, huh?

But I will agree that most people back then usually identified with their State before being thought of as a purely American citizen. But I will not agree that they were totally ignorant either. There were plenty of newspapers then and the telegraph that relayed news locally and nationally. Speeches and sermons were made touching on the issues of the day. Even Uncle Bill and Aunt Sarah got into town once in a while and heard the news.

As for mobs coming to the door in the present? Yep, I too would more than likely call the police, tell my wife and dog to shelter in the bathroom and get out my Uncles .32 pistol and pray help came before I had to defend the lives of my own. What you would do is up to you and not all that unreasonable, BUT, a riot verse a civil war? To me there is a difference, a BIG one.

But to the main point of this reply and the answer to my grandchildren. You complain that many here paint all Confederates with the modern moral judgment of fighting for slavery. You should realize that it is far too late for any of us here to do that paint job. I have often posted here that I believe the soldiers of both sides enlisted for various, individual, reasons. I stand by that. But neither you nor I can disregard why these men felt compelled to enlist, why they had to enlist and what called them into enlisting in the first place.

They all came when called by their leaders and their government to fight for their countries political goals. Preserving the Union was one goal, protecting, and even expanding slavery was the other. So, in a sense, none here are "painting them." Their merely reporting what their government painted them, for whatever individual reason they enlisted.

They had no choice in their leaders political agenda or their stated goals.

That's enough from me for now,
Unionblue
 

Viper21

Brigadier General
Moderator
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Location
Rockbridge County, Virginia
You state above how many people today would react to a war coming right to their front yards. Isn't that possibility the reason we have a strong federal government that can call upon it's armed forces to protect us from such ever happening here? Maybe the reason most people wouldn't have an idea what to do in a situation like that is because they believe their government would do all it could to prevent such from happening?
What if it's the government that is doing it ..?
 

Piedone

Corporal
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
@Viper21 ,

First off, thanks for helping me out. :wink:

Now, on to answering your above post #117.

First off, none should disagree or ignore your view that Confederate soldiers enlisted for many things that motivated them, not just slavery. (Take a breath, this is not going to be exactly what you may think at this point.)

As for any Civil War soldiers pondering what power the Federal branch has evolved to, I would submit in their time, at least Union soldiers did not think it was strong enough to prevent rebellion and enforce the legal outcome of a federal election. And they were right, if you think about it with what the Federal government entailed at the time. 16,000 soldiers, scattered throughout the country, a part-time attorney general, a handful of federal marshals, and the only personal contact with it's citizens on a daily basis being their local Post Office.

In fact, I am willing to posit the fact that one of the reasons for Southern Rebellion was the obvious truth that the Federal government was looked upon as weak, too weak to stop the oncoming bout of unilateral secession.

You state above how many people today would react to a war coming right to their front yards. Isn't that possibility the reason we have a strong federal government that can call upon it's armed forces to protect us from such ever happening here? Maybe the reason most people wouldn't have an idea what to do in a situation like that is because they believe their government would do all it could to prevent such from happening?

Now, I am a bit sympathetic on the plight of your average Southerner put in the position of having war come to his doorstep and that he might enlist on the idea he had to protect his home and his loved ones. Bullets have very little reasoning power or sympathy when they are fired at you.

But I am once again taken back to that fateful day at Gettysburg when my grandchildren and I toured the battlefield and they asked THE question, "Pappaw, WHY did all these men come here to fight?" Back to that question a bit later...

Now you continue your post above with the comments that most Southerners at that time weren't very worldly. That plenty of them had never left their counties and had lived there all their lives and had never heard a Boston accent.

All that reminds me when I enlisted way back when. I had never left the county I had been born in, hardly had any idea what was going on in the world (only 3 channels on TV at the time and only got the Sunday paper) and had never had heard a Boston accent! Weird, huh?

But I will agree that most people back then usually identified with their State before being thought of as a purely American citizen. But I will not agree that they were totally ignorant either. There were plenty of newspapers then and the telegraph that relayed news locally and nationally. Speeches and sermons were made touching on the issues of the day. Even Uncle Bill and Aunt Sarah got into town once in a while and heard the news.

As for mobs coming to the door in the present? Yep, I too would more than likely call the police, tell my wife and dog to shelter in the bathroom and get out my Uncles .32 pistol and pray help came before I had to defend the lives of my own. What you would do is up to you and not all that unreasonable, BUT, a riot verse a civil war? To me there is a difference, a BIG one.

But to the main point of this reply and the answer to my grandchildren. You complain that many here paint all Confederates with the modern moral judgment of fighting for slavery. You should realize that it is far too late for any of us here to do that paint job. I have often posted here that I believe the soldiers of both sides enlisted for various, individual, reasons. I stand by that. But neither you nor I can disregard why these men felt compelled to enlist, why they had to enlist and what called them into enlisting in the first place.

They all came when called by their leaders and their government to fight for their countries political goals. Preserving the Union was one goal, protecting, and even expanding slavery was the other. So, in a sense, none here are "painting them." Their merely reporting what their government painted them, for whatever individual reason they enlisted.

They had no choice in their leaders political agenda or their stated goals.

That's enough from me for now,
Unionblue
You maybe know that our points of view are usually somehow different here -
but for once during my membership in this forum I have to admit that I am sharing your opinion here wholeheartedly.

I have to admit....I am somehow puzzled by myself.....
 

Piedone

Corporal
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
Alas I feel some caveat should be introduced...

just in case somebody is still stoutly adhering to black-and-white-television....

as far as I know even R.E.Lee was adhering to the idea of gradual emancipation -
at times even more so than Lincoln (who preferred Liberia as a solution for a long time)....

and a lot (I’d even prefer to say quite all...) of people on both sides had not the slightest idea how a transition from a society with slavery to a society with freedmen could be handled without severe disruption...

as also the protagonists of slavery who seemingly dominated confederate politics had quite obviously absolutely no idea how it should be possible to uphold such a system that was showing it‘s absurdities and inherent contradictions almost everywhere - and was at that time already almost generally refuted by more or less all of the relevant nations....
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
You maybe know that our points of view are usually somehow different here -
but for once during my membership in this forum I have to admit that I am sharing your opinion here wholeheartedly.

I have to admit....I am somehow puzzled by myself.....
Relax, @Piedone , I'm sure the feeling won't last or do permanent harm. :wink:
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
What if it's the government that is doing it ..?
What if Aliens are responsible for "it?"

"What if's" count very little to me.

I remember once while I was in the Army, a nation-wide survey or poll came out that said the U.S. military was the most efficient arm of the federal government. I just about laughed my a** off.

As I watch how the government struggles everyday to encourage COVID shots and pass legislation, the idea that the government can do anything such as "it" doesn't cause me too much worry.

Yes, it deserves watching, in a sober, informed manner, as every U.S. citizen should do as their civic responsibility, but the idea that we need to go around with our heads/brains cut off and scream the sky is falling at every point helps nothing in my own view.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
It wasn't a "what if" to many Southerners. It actually was the Federal Government that was in their yard.
Well, at least were back in the right, 19th century, ballpark!

I still think we should remember that phrase by former and passed member Larry.

"If you wish to secede, make sure you can succeed."

Southern leadership of the time, mostly Southern slaveholding leadership, cheerfully invited the Federal government to come into the many Southerners yards.

Until that invitation, the Federal government was hardly a blip on the national radar and could have barely stirred from it's own yard.
 
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