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What Were the Confederate Soldier Reasons for Fighting

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by 1stvermont, Nov 16, 2016.

  1. 1stvermont

    1stvermont Corporal

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    Confederate Soldiers

    The confederate solder “Fought because he was provoked, intimidated, and ultimately invaded”
    -James Webb Born Fighting a History of the Scoth-Irish in America


    I was fighting for my home, and he had no business being there”
    -Virginia confederate Solider Frank Potts


    We are told that the south left the union to preserve slavery, while I disagree and future threads will dress that issue and are current. The question of this thread is what did the southern solider fight for?

    To think the southern armies were full of non slave owning soldiers leaving their families and risking there lives so a few rich slave owners could keep there slaves seems a stretch. 80% of southern soldiers did not own slaves. In every major battle there were slave owning union soldiers fighting for the north, and non slave owning southern soldiers fighting for the south. In the book What They Fought For, 1861–1865 by James McPherson reported on his reading of hundreds of letters and diaries written by soldiers on both sides of the war on the question of what they believed they were fighting for. McPherson concluded that nearly all Confederate soldiers believed they “fought for liberty and independence from what they regarded as a tyrannical government.” As one Illinois officer explained, “We are fighting for the Union . . . a high and noble sentiment, but after all a sentiment. They are fighting for independence, and are animated by passion and hatred against invaders” “The letters and diaries of many Confederate soldiers bristled with the rhetoric of liberty and self-government and with expressions of a willingness to die for the cause.” An Alabamian solider wrote “When a Southerner homes is threatened the spirit of resistance is irresistible.” [1]

    The south was fighting for independence, the north to restore the union...young southerners rushed to arms to defend home and family while like their revolutionary grandfathers- seeking a new Independence"
    -James Robertson The Untold civil War Exploring The Human Side Of War National geographic


    In The Confederate war by Gary W Gallagher he quotes multiple soldiers letters home as saying the reason they were fighting was because of what they saw as northern tyranny, oppression and northern invasion. In the book the common solider of the civil war[2], The average southern soldiers diaries and letters to home barley even mentioned slavery, much less as a reason for fighting. It was because they were defending their homes and families and country, or the expansion of government [3]. Thousands of Californians [non slave owning state] volunteered for the confederacy [4]. The confederate soldiers flags mottos talked of liberty, justice, freedom, and god, not of slavery as reason to fight[3].

    Believe me no solider on either side gave a **** about slaves, they were fighting for other reasons entirely in their minds. Southerns thought they were fighting the second American revolution norther's thought they were fighting to hold the union together [With a few abolitionist and fire eaters on both sides].”
    - Shelby Foote


    To tar the sacrifices of the Confederate soldier as simple acts of racism, and reduce the battle flag under which he fought to nothing more than the symbol of a racist heritage, is one of the great blasphemies of our modern age”.
    -James Webb-Secretary of Navy And Assistant Secretary of Defense



    1]What They Fought for James Mcpherson
    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-they-fought-for-1861-1865-james-m-mcpherson/1003238237
    2] The Confederate war Gary Gallagher Harvard U Press 1999
    3] The South was Right James and Walter Kennedy Pelican Publishing 1994
    https://www.amazon.com/South-Right-James-Ronald-Kennedy/dp/1565540247
    4] War on the Frontier Alvin M Josephy JR Time Life Books Alexandria, Virginia 1986
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2016

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  3. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Please continue to keep your posts short
    Thanks
     
  4. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    Nearly a million men served in the Confederate army and you could probably find a million reasons why they fought. The question becomes, so what? What does this teach us about either the individuals or their society? The question of why they fought is academically interesting but ultimately doesn't give us much information about anything. Trying to give blanket reasons for a million men is impossible.

    Ryan
     
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  5. 1stvermont

    1stvermont Corporal

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    Very true sir. I am sure a million reasons could be found, but i think an underlining reasons could be found that are common. I think they fought so well, what drove them is an interesting thought.
     
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  6. unionblue

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

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    Sure.

    The major, underlying reason was to preserve and protect slavery, whether they wanted to or not.
     
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  7. 1stvermont

    1stvermont Corporal

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    Could you support with instances of soldiers pronouncing that was their reason for fighting?
     
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  8. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    That seem to be the motivation of the government that recruited/conscripted them.
    John S. Mosby
    reference
     
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  9. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

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    That's certainly the reason there was a fight to be fought, whatever the reasons the individual soldier had for choosing to participate -- if a choice he had.
     
  10. 1stvermont

    1stvermont Corporal

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    Thanks for that. But i hope to keep this thread on the topic of why soldiers fought. So it seems mosby thought and did fight to preserve slavery, very interesting indeed.

    Edit

    I also would question Mosby the newly republican after the war, if he isn't saying that for points. Not saying that is case who knows. But i was hoping for war time experiences.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2016
  11. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    A citizen's sovereign chooses the cause he fights for. It is involuntary. If a soldiers motive is different, it does not matter, he will be compelled to fight for his sovereign's cause.
     
  12. 1stvermont

    1stvermont Corporal

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    I dont disagree just as if the motives are the same. Same with the north. However i am concerned and hoping for [any scv's here?] journals and such where southern soldiers told the reasons they fought for. I also would question Mosby the newly republican after the war, if he isn't saying that for points. Not saying that is case who knows. But i was hoping for war time experiences.
     
  13. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Some relationships are complicated.
     
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  14. Eric Calistri

    Eric Calistri 2nd Lieutenant

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  15. Eric Calistri

    Eric Calistri 2nd Lieutenant

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    As It Was: The Story of Douglas John Cater’s Life, edited by William D. Cater 1981


    “The democrats in convention were hopelessly divided in the choice of candidates for president. Stephen A Douglas of Illinois was nominated, but this nomination was not unanimous and part of the delegation
    withdrew from the convention and met elsewhere and nominated John C Breckenridge. This put two men before the people as candidates for the Presidency as Democrats. The Whig Party nominated in its convention a third man for office whose name was Bell. There was not a great difference in the platforms of
    the two parties. TheWhigs favored more power to be invested in the Congress and [than] the President than [and] the Democrats were willing to agree to. A third partywas organized a little preceding this time, known
    as the Black Republican Party. This party opposed states’ rights and Negro slavery, but the main plank in their platform was to destroy the institutions of slavery and to free the Negroes in the southern states...This [Lincoln’s election] caused dissatisfaction in the southern states because of his often expressed opposition to
    Negro slavery.
    The southern people could not see clearly what could be done with the Negroes if given their freedom and thus far they gotten along nicely with them....They felt that to ‘free the Negro’ would be his chief aim as President.”



    _____________________

    A Texan in Search of a Fight: Civil War Diary and Letters of a Soldier in Hood's Texas Brigade by John C West

    "With the results of the war and the experience of thirty years, we have facts and elements and experience before us not conceived or dreamed of by the fiery and sentimental statesmen and patriots of former days, and we are divested once and forever of the real bone of contention, to-wit: slavery, which, whatever may be said to the contrary, was the "apple of discord," without which it is difficult if not impossible on any reasonable hypothesis to account for an overt act on either side; and while the preservation of the Union was the declared purpose of the invasion of the South and was the basis of a "war cry" which appealed effectually to patriots, south as well as north, yet the inner and germinal question of slavery was the real cancer which poisoned the entire blood and circulation of the body politic, and for years threatened final dissolution and was in fact the only subject of that "irrepressible conflict" which was beyond reason or agreement simply because with the South it resolved itself into the elemental question of the right to hold against the world property, the right of possession and ownership of which, had been legalized and had descended from father to son for more than two hundred years."

    _________________________
     
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  16. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    I trust someone here will find some. Outside of generalities, this is not a big interest of mine. I believe someone has statistics based on letters. I believe also there are databases of letters on line. Also keep in mind, motives changes, a fellow joins to get out from the business end of a mule plowing his dads farm, full of the excitement of seeing the Elephant, sees friends and relatives get ripped to pieces--dying in screaming agony, becomes interested in only in personal and his comrades survival with a bit of stubborn honor tossed in, survives and mustered out to tell his grandchildren how fired up with patriotism he was running to join the army as a young man.
     
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  17. Scotsman

    Scotsman Sergeant

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    At a day-to-day, personal level, most Confederates probably fought for the same reasons most soldiers on the battlefield fight--because their friends (and family) were standing there too and they felt compelled to support and defend them.

    Underneath all of that, though, were the cultural and political factors. Simply put, Confederate soldiers came to see a United States government led by an anti-slavery Republican president as a threat to Southern society. That is what led them into the ranks (unless drafted, of course).
     
  18. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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  19. 1stvermont

    1stvermont Corporal

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    Any support for that?
     
  20. 1stvermont

    1stvermont Corporal

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    i am sorry i did not realize a thread had been done on this before.
     
  21. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    Sure. Your own source has a number. I'm making dinner but will try to pick some quotes from McPherson's For Cause and Comrades.

    Ryan
     
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