Why did the AVERAGE soldier fight in the ACW

Status
Not open for further replies.

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
29,386
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
Forum,
We know by now that both Confederate and Union soldiers had their own reasons for fighting in the ACW, or War for Southern Independence.

And what were those reasons in your own view, Rebelrose?

Why is the question of whether someone fought for or against slavery such a big issue?

Because it was THE issue, one that had been debated and argued for decades before the Civil War. No other issue caused such anger, such consternation, such debate or rancor, as the issue of slavery in the United States at that time.

Slavery was included in the U.S. Constitution, sanctioned by the Bible, and had been a part of the national economy for decades.

Rebelrose, slavery was included in the Constitution at the insistance of the South, who would not join the Union or ratify the Constitution unless the institution was secure.

As for using the Bible to sanction slavery, I seem to recall there were many Northern sermons (and a few Southern ones, before those parsons were forced from the pulpit and the South altogether) preached from the Bible AGAINST slavery. But the simple fact of the matter is, one can use the Bible to support almost ANYTHING. It's that context thing. :smile:

You may want to browse the following website to see what I mean:

Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection.

http://digital.library.cornell.edu/m/mayantislavery/browse.html


Slavery was almost not a part of the national economy and had been slowly losing favor and a 'necessary evil,' until the invention of the cotton-gin. Once slavery is profitable, NOW it is a money-maker and a 'positive good.'

The North was involved in the slave trade much longer than the South, because of the outcome of the war.

Miss Rose, no slave ship from the North ever had to sail into Charleston Harbor, and force white Southern men to buy their cargo at gun point. Without the Southern demand for slaves, there would have been no Northern slave ships. One must have a market in order to sell a particular item. This does not excuse Northern slave traders. In my view, they are just as guilty as Southern slave holders and buyers. But if there were no drug addicts in the US, would the South American drug cartels be shipping drugs to the US? Saying one end of the slave trade (Northern carriers) is bad does not excuse the other end of the slave trade (Southern slaveholders), which was just as bad.

And remember, there were calls to reopen the slave trade and to expand into Mexico, Cuba, and South America to EXPAND slavery.

As for your observation that the South had been out of the slave trade longer than Northern carriers, this was simple economics. More slaves imported would mean the price for slaves would drop in the South, which no Southern slaveowner, who wanted to maintain the high price of his chattel, wanted to happen.


We cannot judge those living in the timeperiod of antebellum America by our contemporary values re: slavery. Yes, as Americans in the 21st century, we have accepted that slavery is immoral, but Americans in the 19th century were not so sure.

Sorry, but I don't go along with this premise at all.

Murder is murder, no matter what century it occurs, the same as other henious crimes, such as rape, robbery, genocide, etc.

Evil is evil, no matter what the century, and slavery is one of the oldest and most intractable of evils. The world was already coming to the conclusion that slavery was immoral, even by 19th century standards. It was being outlawed and the slave trade slowly shut down. The weight of history clearly shows that.


Those who had begun to consider slavery immoral in the 19th century, were in a minority, and considered "fanatics" by many of their neighbors. (Some of my Quaker ancestors who were abolitionists, had to move around alot because of their unpopularity in the various towns they tried to make their "home"). Many of these towns also refused to permit any Negroes, whether legally "free" or runaway slaves, to settle there...they were "encouraged" to move further North to Canada. Just a few comments.

Rebelrose
What we find in the 19th century is that most 'abolishionists' are looked upon as radicals, much as most in my day looked at 'hippies' as radicals for the time.

But most Americans of the time were beginning to want the issue of slavery (not racism, a completely separate issue) resolved and placed on the path of 'natural extinction.'

And like it or not, a reading of the issue of slavery through US history of the time shows that slavery was THE issue of the day, much as the war on terror or the financial bailout/TARP is of our day.

The South left the Union over the issue of slavery, which it felt was not going to be secure under Lincoln and a Republican administration, nor under the Constitution of the United States. This is clear because this is what the South said, loud and clear, without any hesitation or attempt at moderation of this one, basic issue. The war was begun over the issue of slavery.

And from my research, the soldiers on both sides said that also.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Joined
May 6, 2008
Messages
3,235
Location
Old Northwest Territory
You have failed to demonstrate a statistical correlation between soldiers' motives and southern policies. I don't think it is possibe at this distance.

A hundred years from now people may claim that troops enlisted in the 20th century because they wanted to flatten Vietnamese villaiges or overthrow the deocratic government of Chile, as both of these were part of US foreign policy. It's the same sort of generalization.

And RR, There may have been a white majority in the south that supported slavery, but once the slaves' voices are considered the issue narrows considerably why it remains necessary to keep them silent is disturbing. In the northern states, it had been outlawed. A fact supported by a majority of the voters.

It may be that like smokers who have quit, states that had quit slavery annoy their neighbors. Nonetheless, they did quit the practice and we shouldn't overlook that.
 

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
33,526
Location
Right here.
Why is the question of whether someone fought for or against slavery such a big issue?
It was the biggest single issue of the war. It was their biggest issue at the time. So why would it NOT be a big issue in discussing the war?

Slavery was included in the U.S. Constitution,
I find no mention of the words "slave" or "slavery" in the Constitution. :smile:


sanctioned by the Bible,
One can find support for any position one would like to take in various parts of the Bible.



and had been a part of the national economy for decades.
Even longer than decades.

The North was involved in the slave trade much longer than the South, because of the outcome of the war.
This makes no sense to me. Can you explain what you mean?


We cannot judge those living in the timeperiod of antebellum America by our contemporary values re: slavery. Yes, as Americans in the 21st century, we have accepted that slavery is immoral, but Americans in the 19th century were not so sure.
On the contrary. A large majority of Americans in the 19th Century believed slavery was immoral and wanted nothing to do with it.


Those who had begun to consider slavery immoral in the 19th century, were in a minority, and considered "fanatics" by many of their neighbors. (Some of my Quaker ancestors who were abolitionists, had to move around alot because of their unpopularity in the various towns they tried to make their "home").
There's a difference between immediate abolitionists and those who were simply antislavery. Those who were antislavery and wanted nothing to do with it were the majority. But they didn't want to dictate what somebody else was going to do in their state. They were okay with slavery existing in the south as long as it didn't touch them personally.

The Garrisonian abolitionists were the onese who were the tiny minority, about 10% of the population. They actively worked for abolition in other states and were blamed for "stirring up" trouble.


Many of these towns also refused to permit any Negroes, whether legally "free" or runaway slaves, to settle there...they were "encouraged" to move further North to Canada. Just a few comments.

Rebelrose
Many runaway slaves had to go to Canada because of the Fugitive Slave Law.

Regards,
Cash
 

K Hale

Colonel
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Joined
Aug 10, 2009
Messages
16,538
Location
Texas
Speaking for myself: With due respect, while I would take Watkins at his word if he wrote what he felt was being fought over in 1861, what he wrote years later is subject to the fact that memoirs are not always reliable.

Simply saying "a guy who served wrote it, so it must be true" oversimplifies.
Primary sources are invaluable, as long as the reader keeps in mind that everybody who ever wrote one, since the dawn of time, had a personal ax to grind.
 

K Hale

Colonel
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Joined
Aug 10, 2009
Messages
16,538
Location
Texas
I should add, I don't mean to imply that everyone or anyone in particular who wrote a memoir was lying about anything. I'm just saying -- and I know I'm stating the obvious here -- you gotta read as many POVs as you can. Read the primary sources, read the latter-day analyses of the events, and then make up your mind as to what makes sense. Overemphasizing either one at the expense of the other will not lead to any sort of meaningful understanding of What Really Happened.

And, of course, 25 people can read the same 25 sources and come to 25 different conclusions.
 
Joined
Jan 18, 2009
Messages
2
Location
Ia
coffee and hardtack

In his memors Billings described the national frenzy that swept the North to "Crush the rebellion" Politics, promises, and pretty girls had a LOT to do with why a young man would sign up for the army.
 
Joined
Sep 6, 2009
Messages
190
Location
USA
Cash,
Depending upon your perspective of the reasons for the ACW, slavery was, or was not, the single biggest reason soldiers were willing to fight.

Slaves were counted as part of the population, in determining the number of representatives a state had in Congress.

I wasn't the one who stated that women and slaves were to obey their masters. Do you know who did? Hint: it's in the New Testament.

Centuries are made-up of decades...so your point is?

Are you not aware that the largest slavetrader in North America continued to "ply his wares" up until 1875, ten years after the end of the War for Southern Independence?

Some people believed that slavery was immoral, but not a majority in antebellum America. I'm not even convinced that a majority of Northerners considered slavery immoral during that timeperiod. Of course, you've entitled to your opinion, just as I am entitled to my opinion.

You are correct when you say there was a difference between antislavey folks and true abolitionists. However, when my Quaker ancestors even hinted that they believed slavery to be immoral, they were not welcomed with open arms. People preferred the "status quo".

You are correct again when you say many runaway slaves went to Canada because of the Fugitive Slave Law. That doesn't change the fact that many runaway slaves were also "encouraged" to continue North, and not remain in Ohio, for instance.

Rebelrose
 
Joined
Sep 24, 2008
Messages
6,367
Location
Alabamian, living behind enemy lines in Illinois
Cash

"On the contrary. A large majority of Americans in the 19th Century believed slavery was immoral and wanted nothing to do with it."



Quote:
Originally Posted by Rebelrose Expired Image Removed
Those who had begun to consider slavery immoral in the 19th century, were in a minority, and considered "fanatics" by many of their neighbors. (Some of my Quaker ancestors who were abolitionists, had to move around alot because of their unpopularity in the various towns they tried to make their "home").

"There's a difference between immediate abolitionists and those who were simply antislavery. Those who were antislavery and wanted nothing to do with it were the majority. But they didn't want to dictate what somebody else was going to do in their state. They were okay with slavery existing in the south as long as it didn't touch them personally."

the above is from your Post #202

since you are always requesting citations for statements made by others, I am sure you would be willing to provide same for the statements quoted.
When in the 19th century did a large majority of Ameericans oppose slavery? How was their opposition measured? Do you include all Americans or just those in the northern states?

Ed
 
Joined
May 6, 2008
Messages
3,235
Location
Old Northwest Territory
Any claim that a majority supported slavery ignores the slaves themselves. I suppose a clear majority of southern voters supported it, but that is about as much as anyone can state with much confidence.

I am always uncomfortable using a book of faith for advancing secular arguments. Somewhere between "do unto others" and "do not take Someone's name in vain" I get worried about crossing the line.

I will,however, note the silent acceptance on crucifying those who challenged the government and remark how glad I am that that practice at least, had been abandoned by the 19th century.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
662
The subject of this thread is too often used by many lost causers and neo-confederates to ignore slavery and/or relegate it to only one of many causes of the ACW, as opposed to the motivation of the troops themselves.
They try to validate the assumption that the motivation of the southern troops fighting the war is a corollary to the cause of the war itself.
 

larry_cockerham

Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011
Honored Fallen Comrade
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
10,182
Location
Nashville
The subject of this thread is too often used by many lost causers and neo-confederates to ignore slavery and/or relegate it to only one of many causes of the ACW, as opposed to the motivation of the troops themselves.
They try to validate the assumption that the motivation of the southern troops fighting the war is a corollary to the cause of the war itself.
You seem to have a different twist to the traditional argument, a twist to which you're entitled. I don't hold much stock in the term 'lost cause' to begin with. The "cause" for which the South fought is very much still alive, just in a different format. Slavery has never been ignored by those of us who maintain the southern soldiers were drawn into the conflict without giving a hoot in h...l about slavery. Slavery doubtlessly contributed to the initiation of war, but one should not hang that one on the back of the soldier. No one, I hope, has suggested that the reasons the soldiers fought had much of anything to do with the cause of the war. Many have claimed that the actions and mere presence of the Confederate soldier supported the preservation of slavery. Hogwash. Only by association, not by intent.
 
Joined
May 6, 2008
Messages
3,235
Location
Old Northwest Territory
... Many have claimed that the actions and mere presence of the Confederate soldier supported the preservation of slavery. ...
Oh poppy-rooster. It isn't necessary to suppose that all southern soldiers or any particular southern soldier supported the peculiar institution.

It is self-deceit of the strongest magnitude, however, to suppose that NO Confederate soldiers did or that "the mere presence of a Confederate soldier" meant anything but the support of slavery. Tell me, if you were a free person of color in 1863, what else could the presence of Confederate soldiers possibly mean? You see the butternut, you see the flag. You're not going to go ask them for a cup of coffee. You're going to run like H or get sold.

Now, as far as whether any particular soldier in the company had feelings one way or another, I suspect we agree on the futility of attempting to make that judgment.
 

Dred

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 22, 2007
Messages
1,016
Location
Tulsa, Oklahoma
You seem to have a different twist to the traditional argument, a twist to which you're entitled. I don't hold much stock in the term 'lost cause' to begin with. The "cause" for which the South fought is very much still alive, just in a different format. Slavery has never been ignored by those of us who maintain the southern soldiers were drawn into the conflict without giving a hoot in h...l about slavery. Slavery doubtlessly contributed to the initiation of war, but one should not hang that one on the back of the soldier. No one, I hope, has suggested that the reasons the soldiers fought had much of anything to do with the cause of the war. Many have claimed that the actions and mere presence of the Confederate soldier supported the preservation of slavery. Hogwash. Only by association, not by intent.

The southern leadership was out to perpetuate the institution of slavery. The victory of the confederacy would secure this institution for however much longer. Any aims of the war were for a confederate victory. Whatever the individual reasons of the soldier, they knew the ultimate aim of the war was to perpetuate slavery, and were therefore supporting this agenda by their mere presence.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.



Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top