Why did the AVERAGE soldier fight in the ACW

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johan_steele

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#1
This is an effort to put a pair of legit threads back online and keep the discusison going. I've locked both threads for two reasons: 1. I received NINE complaints via email about the threads from both US & CS sympathizers. 2. I'm sick of editing flamebait & in too much !@#$% pain at the moment to wade through both threads and sort through the **** and seperate it from the legit posts. I'm going to make an effort to pull the pertinent posts from both threads and put them here.

SO please everyone who posted in the threads please be patient and understand this. Keep it civil or find your bloody !@#$% post deleted. And IF YOU ARE ASKED FOR A SOURCE IT ISN'T AN ATTACK!!!!
 

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johan_steele

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#2
was going to try to tack this onto the "Acceptable Response to Sumter" thread because there were some posts there that dealt with this topic, but it is not really germain to the thread title so I'm starting this one.

Before beginning I want to restate that I am pro-north, and pro-Lincoln.

Having said that:
Yes I believe that slavery was the cause of the war, and I think that is why hundreds of thousands of southerners left home to join up.

Besides defending their homes, homeland, land of their fathers, I believe that the southerner did fight to maintain his way of life, which did include slavery.

I think the southern soldier fought for slavery not to keep humans in bondage for bondage's sake, but more out of fear of the catastrophic change that was heading his way like a huge, dark, ominous stormfront moving in from the north, signifying the end of the only way of life he knew. He was fearful that this war would upset the status quo in a major, devastating way, and humans don't like major, sudden change, especially if it's violent.

The fight to keep the status quo, the slavery system intact, in large part, for the common southern soldier, was also to prevent the large-scale liberation of millions of slaves, who might possibly unleash violence towards their former masters or anyone who was white. Slave insurrection was always a very major concern in the south. Again, in the mind of the southern soldier, another good reason to resist.

Was slavery a consideration for the average southerner at the beginning? I believe it was. Southern newspapers had for a long time told of the evil and doom that would befall the south if Lincoln were elected, namely the end of slavery, even though Lincoln made it quite clear in his first inaugural that he intended to leave it alone where it existed. Then Ft. Sumter happened.

After Southern leaders began the war, excitement, southern patriotism, and fear of a possible major calamitous blow to the southern way of life, which would affect everybody in that region, were all factors in the rush for southern men to join up.

My point is yes, the southern soldier fought to preserve slavery, only in the sense that that system, that way of life, whether he owned a slave or not, was all he knew. If you asked him why he was fighting he wouldn't say, "Because I don't want Master Roberts to lose his slaves", but instead he might say in today's English, "because the yankees have come down here onto our land, into our country, and are bringing unwanted changes, chaos, death, destruction, and we won't tolerate it. They have no right to be here, and we want them gone."

Now whether one agrees with that reasoning or not, can one not see how a southern soldier might feel that way? Remember that this was the early 1860's and most of his information came from relatives, word of mouth, and newspapers, many of them pro-slavery.

I would hope that before one summarily condemns any southern soldier outright, for fighting, that they take the above into some consideration.




Lee

Originally posted by Glorybound
 

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By and large they knew that slavery was the cause of secession/the war. By and large they fought for the Union, the Constitution, and the Old Flag. By and large they came to know that to end the war meant ending slavery, and by and large they came to see that as a good thing.

Originally posted by Scribe
 

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I personaly think the average southern soldier faught to defend his homeland and protect his family more than to protect slavery, after all the average soldier was a poor white who didnt have much to lose and didnt own slaves, not the wealthy plantation owners who had something to lose like his slaves and his plantation/ income, Once the states you lived in left the union and war brokeout I beleive most of the soldiers who signed up for a fight were looking for a good way to make more money that what they could where they lived, and left to protect their faimily's and what life they did have back home, While the threat of losing the war ment losing slavery I dont think that was the average soldiers bigest concern, i beleive most Confederate soldiers were alot like the German soldier in ww2, Most German soldiers aside from the Waffen SS were not ardent Nazi's and were drafted in, most fought to protect their homeland and their family, not the regime who led the country,
But thats just my $.02,
Jonathan

Originally posted by ME-109
 

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Why did the southern soldier fight?

It is difficult to believe that after the concerted propaganda campaign from their press, politicians and clergy, from at least 1855 to 1865, that the avg. southerner, much less soldiers, was Not aware of what it was that the government of the army they were fighting in stood for and supported by their efforts and sacrifice.
Others on this board have commented that the assumption that the avg southern soldier was unaware or unsupportive of the goals of the gov't he was fighting for, says little for the intelliegence and character of southern soldiers.

Oribinally posted by opnDownfall
 

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#7
Patriotism.

Belief that the Union was a good thing and that there was something wrong with attacking it, which the South/the Confederacy did.

Originally posted by Ellennsar
 

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#8
Copied from the Acceptable Response thread.

"It is patronizing and insulting to Confederate soldiers to pretend that they did not understand the war was a battle for slavery when they so plainly described it as exactly that. There is no way to understand the Civil War from a Confederate perspective -- no way to understand why the war began or why it lasted so long -- without understanding why white nonslaveholding men would believe that the preserving of slavery justified a fight."

Chandra Manning, What This Cruel War Was Over.

Here are just two of the many cases-in-point that she offers.

Letter from Pvt. James Williams, 21st Alabama: "... confound the whole set of Psalm singing 'brethren' and 'sistern' too. If it had not been for them.... preaching abolitionism from every northern pulpit, I would never have been soldiering."

Letter from Pvt. Ivvy Dugan, 15th Georgia: "[If the men who fought the Revolution] could not endure a tax on tea because it violated a sacred principle, how could WE submit to be governed by those whose steady determination is to sacrifice our happiness, and even our lives, in the abolition of an institution guaranteed to us by the constitution of our fathers?"

Originally posted by Scribe
 

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Those are good sincere quotes, Scribe. Remember please that those two gents were from south Alabama and south Georgia ie, slave country. Not all Confederates were of that ilk nor temperament.

Originally posted by Larry in response to the above post.
 

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Why did the northern soldier fight?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Most northerners were inculcated with the idea that the USA was not just another nation. But a great and noble experiment, founded on earth by great men, dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal and were inherently capable of governing themselves.
This great experiment, the only one of its kind, was threatened by the forces of slavery, dedicated to the proposition that man's place in the universe was fixed by God, and could not be changed.
At first it was enough that the nation itself had been attacked and needed to be defended later came the realization that the nation's claims of freedom and democracy were incompatible with slavery. That the very cause of the attack on the USA, was the result of trying to find accomodation for slavery in a nation claiming to represent the freest most democratic gov't in existence at the time.
Then the northern soldier's war for Union, which he supported, had been subsumed into a Crusade for Freedom and the Rights of all Mankind, of which the Union soldier became its entusiastic cutting edge...

Originally posted by OpnDownfall
 

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#11
Why do soldiers fight wars today..?
More than likely for the same reasons soldiers fought in any period of history..
1. The excitement...seeing the elephant
2. Friends are joining up and so must "I" or I am the wimp.
3. Wanderlust...never been to ..... fill in the blank
4. Look good in the eyes of a certain "young lady"
5. Everything Lee said in Post #1
6. Got Drafted!
7. Bored, nuttin better to do...
8. Patriotism.. defined anyway you wish to define it..
9. Beats the hell outta.... fill in the blank
10. Those dirty..... fill in the blank ...did such and so to .... fill in the blank....and I'm gonna get 'em!
11.... and probably a gazillion more..

Originally posted by bama
 

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#12
The yankee soldier fought the war for many of the same reasons the rebel soldier did, including those listed above, among others. I might add that in 1861, this country was still very young, the sacrifices of the American soldiers of the revolution still very fresh in the minds of many, north and south. I would venture that many of those who mustered in realized the extraordinary and unique nature of this democratic experiment, especially those who were recent immigrants. They did not want to see it fail.



Lee

Originally posted by Glorybound in response to the above post by bama
 

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#13
From the many diaries and letters that I have read it seems that to a whole, most New York men enlisted because there country was attacked by people trying to tear it apart...Strangley enough, most of these same men sort of supported the South up to the point where Ft. Sumter was fired upon.. After that, it was defense of the Union, the South Really Really shouldn't have fired on that fort...Almost all support disappeared after that eventful day..
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Originallyposted by Wilbur6150
 

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#14
Originally, the cause is clear: the attack upon Ft. Sumter. Historians have long noted the watershed effect of that event in "the North". Before it happened, no troops being raised. After it happened, volunteers in the 10's of thousands.

But in "the South", well, there seem to be 32,000 volunteers before that. I guess Ft. Sumter didn't have quite the same effect there.

Tim

Originally posted by Trice
 

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#15
was going to try to tack this onto the "Acceptable Response to Sumter" thread because there were some posts there that dealt with this topic, but it is not really germain to the thread title so I'm starting this one.

Before beginning I want to restate that I am pro-north, and pro-Lincoln.

Having said that:
Yes I believe that slavery was the cause of the war, and I think that is why hundreds of thousands of southerners left home to join up.

Besides defending their homes, homeland, land of their fathers, I believe that the southerner did fight to maintain his way of life, which did include slavery.

I think the southern soldier fought for slavery not to keep humans in bondage for bondage's sake, but more out of fear of the catastrophic change that was heading his way like a huge, dark, ominous stormfront moving in from the north, signifying the end of the only way of life he knew. He was fearful that this war would upset the status quo in a major, devastating way, and humans don't like major, sudden change, especially if it's violent.

The fight to keep the status quo, the slavery system intact, in large part, for the common southern soldier, was also to prevent the large-scale liberation of millions of slaves, who might possibly unleash violence towards their former masters or anyone who was white. Slave insurrection was always a very major concern in the south. Again, in the mind of the southern soldier, another good reason to resist.

Was slavery a consideration for the average southerner at the beginning? I believe it was. Southern newspapers had for a long time told of the evil and doom that would befall the south if Lincoln were elected, namely the end of slavery, even though Lincoln made it quite clear in his first inaugural that he intended to leave it alone where it existed. Then Ft. Sumter happened.

After Southern leaders began the war, excitement, southern patriotism, and fear of a possible major calamitous blow to the southern way of life, which would affect everybody in that region, were all factors in the rush for southern men to join up.

My point is yes, the southern soldier fought to preserve slavery, only in the sense that that system, that way of life, whether he owned a slave or not, was all he knew. If you asked him why he was fighting he wouldn't say, "Because I don't want Master Roberts to lose his slaves", but instead he might say in today's English, "because the yankees have come down here onto our land, into our country, and are bringing unwanted changes, chaos, death, destruction, and we won't tolerate it. They have no right to be here, and we want them gone."

Now whether one agrees with that reasoning or not, can one not see how a southern soldier might feel that way? Remember that this was the early 1860's and most of his information came from relatives, word of mouth, and newspapers, many of them pro-slavery.

I would hope that before one summarily condemns any southern soldier outright, for fighting, that they take the above into some consideration.

Lee

Originally posted by Glorybound
Now, before the usual misconceptions about my posts come into play, since I haven't commented on Lee's original post yet, let me say I essentially agree with what he says. I might quibble with a little bit of wording on the edges, but I think he and I see pretty much eye-to-eye on this issue. Hopefully the other thread will stay available and those who are interested can look back and read carefully what I actually wrote, not a misinterpretation of what I wrote, in that thread. I refer you back to Post #122 in that thread, where I wrote, "nobody's saying slavery was the SOLE reason the confederate soldier fought; however, it was a highly significant reason, often in more than one aspect. It affected everything about the war, even strategy. Everyone knew what the confederacy was after, and to deny that the soldiers knew it insults their intelligence. They knew what slavery was, they knew who were slaves, and they knew what a confederate victory meant for slavery, and they were okay with that. For a few, no aspect of slavery may have been their primary reason for fighting, but it was at least one of them. For many, protection of slavery was the primary reason for fighting, but they also had other reasons that were less important though unrelated to slavery."

That they were all fighting for slavery in one way or another doesn't automatically lock out additional motivations. What I object to, and was reacting to, are formulations that seek to minimize slavery's importance, sometimes to the point where protection of slavery is even discounted as a motivation.

Once again, I'll voice my agreement with Ulysses S. Grant on the subject:

"I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us." [Ulysses S. Grant, _Personal Memoirs_]

If we want to explore other motivations, then fine, let's be clear on what we're doing. But I don't see Lee's post in that light. If you want to branch off, I'm okay with that, but be clear that we're looking at motivations in addition to protection of slavery.

Regards,
Cash
 

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#16
Were the basic motivations of the Union soldier that much different than those of the Reb?

I'm not certain, although they may have been on a somewhat different scale.

Originally posted by Baggage Handler
 

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#17
The idea that the average Confederate soldier fought to defend his land from a "foreign" or "tyrannical" invader would be really nice if it had any foundation whatsoever in the facts.

The idea that the average Confederate soldier wasn't told over and over and over and over again by those who did have an interest and did own slaves that he, too, benefited from the system (for instance, slavery meant that the least of white men were superior to someone, and the idea that white liberty was tied to black slavery was enthusiastically preached) to the point that a great many - I cannot and will not say "all" - believed it - is bunk.

The fact that Johnny didn't own slaves has no bearing more bearing on whether or not he supported the institution and was willing to fight for the "Southern way of life", which in no significant way is different between North Carolina and Ohio other than that issue, any more than the fact I'm not gay/black/female/etc. has a bearing on my support for equal rights.

It would be nice if the average Confederate soldier was fighting purely for home and hearth. It would also be nice if we assumed he was intelligent enough to recognize that those wouldn't be threatened if the slave owners hadn't tried to overthrow the government of the United States for their benefit and were having the war for their benefit and if he hadn't taken up arms to support it, there wouldn't be much of a war.

I refuse to use the word "Southern" in this discussion describe the Confederate soldier.

If the people of East Tennessee felt threatened by an invader, that invader wore grey.

West(ern) Virginia is mixed. There's a significant amount of Union support in some of the counties that became said state and considerably mixed in others - quite a few Confederate units were recruited in that part of the state.

North Carolina - I don't know, but there were too many Unionists in them thar hills. Again, if they were threatened by an invader, said invader wore grey.

"Going along with the majority" may be an excuse for an individual after a majority to pressure and "persaude" comes along. Its not an excuse for the majority and the individuals that make it up.

Naturally, those conscripted - not those who enlisted after the conscription act, those actually forced into service because of it (and those already in the ranks do not count, at least for this analysis) may be another story - though how much those trying to conscript anyone could do anything is worth its own thread. At least one serious historian (David Herbert Donald) suggets that "When Jefferson Davis attempted to construct a more stable army through conscription, he probably lost more than he gained." and that "Other Southern sodiers expressed their resentment by deserting in droves."

Worth its own topic - but at least something of an indication that "was conscripted and forced to serve" didn't hold as much weight as it could have.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Scribe
Okay, how about this golden oldie from Virginia's

R.M.T. Hunter of Virginia: "If we are right in passing this measure [the proposed legislation to enlist slaves into the CSA armies], we were wrong in denying the old government the right to interfere with the institution of slavery and to emancipate slaves.... Why did we secede if not to protect our property?"

And this from South Carolinian Brig. Gen. Clement H. Stevens: "Our justification is the inferiority of the negro.... Give that up and I take no more interest in the fight."

Even if the average Confederate soldier didn't personally profess such beliefs, that he would be ignorant of his leaders believing such - the leaders he chose to follow, that is - is pretty hard to believe.

Originally posted by Ellennsar
 

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#18
Reasons Union soldiers fought:

Defend the Union
Patriotism
Adventure
Curriosity
Abolitionism
Enlistment Bonus
Conscripted/ Forced to Join
Employment


Originally posted by Freddy
 

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#19
“The fact that slavery is the sole undeniable cause of this infamous rebellion, that it is a war of, by, and for Slavery, is as plain as the noon-day sun.” [_The Wisconsin Volunteer,_ the newspaper of the 13th WI, 6 Feb 1862]

Stephen Emerson, a Harvard College student who hoped to become a minister, attended a campus meeting that also passed resolutions. ‘We see our beloved country in imminent peril, our institutions of civil liberty threatened, [and] the genius of freedom & human progress assailed by the spirit of slavery and despotism.’” [Resolutions recorded at Cambridge, Mass., by Stephen Emerson, 1861. The undated resolutions followed the fall of Fort Sumter. Quoted in Manning, Op. Cit., p. 19] “Pvt. Stephen Emerson, First Massachusetts Invantry, fought for the Union until he died at Chancellorsville.” [Chandra Manning, _What This Cruel War Was Over,_, p. 21]

To young farmhand Leigh Webber, compromise along the Crittenden lines amounted to allowing ‘an oligarchy of slaveholders,’ not the electorate, to ‘rule our nation.’ Simultaneously decrying the compromise proposals and chiding friends for not writing to him often enough, Webber announced, ‘I want no more compromise like the correspondence between you and me, or like a jug handle, all on one side.’” [Leigh Webber, to friend Charly and Charly’s father, Mr. Brown, 31 Jan 1861, Page Co., Iowa. Webber later joined the 1st Kansas Infantry as a private. Quoted in Manning, Op. Cit., p. 27]

“Firmly convinced that the rebellion was started by slave owners ‘to secure the extension of that blighting curse—slavery—o’er our fair land,’ an Iowan volunteered to defend ‘the Union and a government’ from destruction by such base motives.” [Sgt. John Quincy Adams Campbell, 5th Iowa, diary, 9 Jul 1861, quoted in Manning, Op. Cit., p. 43]

“A Vermont soldier claimed that the moral ‘stigma’ of slavery brought ‘animosities and wranglings’ down on the nation and threatened its very existence.” [Pvt. Jerome Cutler, 2nd Vt., to fiancée Emily, 11 Nov 1861, quoted in Manning, Op. Cit., p. 43]

“A Wisconsin chaplain emphasized that ‘radical reform must be had everywhere’ or else ‘a slave Empire’ would replace ‘Republican Government,’ and then ‘our country must die.’” [Chaplain A. C. Barry, 2nd Wis., to S. C. Tuckman, Baltimore, published in Wisconsin State Journal, 28 Jul 1861, quoted in Manning, Op. Cit., p. 43.]

“Andrew Walker, a son of Irish immigrants, was teaching school in Illinois when he heard that Fort Sumter had fallen. He hoped that the crisis would at last allow the United States to ‘forever set aside Slavery,’ and before the year was out, he enlisted in the 55th Illinois to help.” [Sgt Andrew Walker, 55th Ill., to parents, April, 1861, quoted in Manning, Op. Cit., p. 44.]

“Disagreement never wholly disappeared from the Union Army, but fighting the war convinced many Union troops early on that slavery was ‘the exciting as well as the approximate cause of the trouble which now agitates our once proud republic,’ which meant that winning the war would require the destruction of slavery.” [Capt. John Callis, 7th Wis., to Wisconsin State Journal, 3 Oct 1861, quoted in Manning, Op. Cit., p. 44.]

“If Southerners had not rebelled, a Pennsylvanian insisted, most Northerners would have continued ‘following their plow, minding their forge, or exerting their talents in the mercantile line’ with thoughts of slavery and war far from their minds, but the South had left no choice but to take action against the institution that brought the war.” [_The Cavalier,_ the newspaper of the 5th Pa. Cavalry, 30 Jul 1863, quoted in Manning, Op. Cit., p. 44]

“Wisconsin Chaplain A. C. Barry spent a lot of time talking to residents of Virginia’s eastern shore, where he was repeatedly struck by their insistence that they had gone to war because they believed ‘the institution of slavery was in danger.’” [Chaplain A. C. Barry, 4th Wis., to Wisconsin State Journal, Nov., 1861, quoted in Manning, Op. Cit., p. 45]

“Sgt. E. C. Hubbard, a hard-bitten volunteer serving in Missouri, explained to his brother that white men were killing one another ‘all for a detestable black man.’ Hubbard hardly qualified as a radical abolitionist, yet his observations convinced him that slavery had caused the war. The longer he served, the more certain he grew that successful war policies would have to strike at slavery.” [Sgt. E. C. Hubbard, 13th Ill., 9 Aug 1861. See, for example, Hubbard’s 3 Dec 1861 letter to his sister in which he complained that policies that did not strike at slavery were prolonging the war. Quoted in Manning, Op. Cit., p. 45.]

"Men like Hubbard added up to a striking pattern that took shape between August and December of 1861: soldier after soldier began to insist that since slavery caused the war, only the destruction of slavery could end it. In October, a member of the Third Wisconsin told the _Wisconsin State Journal,_ 'the rebellion is abolitionizing the whole army.' Time in the South forced troops 'to face this sum of all evils, and cause of the war,' slavery. 'You have no idea of the changes that have taken place in the minds of the soldiers in the last two months,' the soldier continued, and the changes were not restricted to Republicans. Now that they saw slavery with their own eyes, 'men of all parties seem unanimous in the belief that to permanently establish the Union is, to first wipe [out] the institution' of slavery." ["Enlisted soldier," 3rd Wis., to _Wisconsin State Journal,_ Oct, 1861. Quoted in Manning, Op. Cit., p. 45]

"A Missouri private agreed that since 'it was slavery that caused the war,' it would take 'the eternal overthrow of slavery' to win it. Throughout the rank and file, as enlisted soldiers decided that only elimination of the war's cause could end the rebellion and prevent its recurrence, they championed the destruction of slavery a full year ahead of the Emancipation Proclamation, well before most civilins, political leaders, or officers did." [Pvt. John Boucher, 10th Mo., to wife, 7 Dec 1861, quoted in Manning, Op. Cit., p. 45.]

“When an Iowan encountered a young child about to be sold by her own father, who was also her master, he vowed, ‘By G-d I’ll fight till hell freezes over and then I’ll cut the ice and fight on.’” [Sgt. Cyrus Boyd, 5th Iowa, diary, 10 Feb 1863, quoted in Manning, Op. Cit., p. 49.]

Originally posted by Cash
 
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