Why did the AVERAGE soldier fight in the ACW

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K Hale

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I'm still trying to figure out who or what the "average soldier" is supposed to be. If I ever get clear on that, I might have a thought on why he fought, if indeed he existed at all.
 

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One of major arguments against the Emancipation Proclamation, was that it would stregthen support in the south for independence and cause the csa armies to resist restoration of Constitutional authority all the more fanatically. Which it did.
The avg. soldier in the Union quickly came to the realization that slavery was the mainstay of secession and thus the war and Union armies transformed themselves into the cutting edge of emancipation.
In historical terms, the avg. soldier in rebel armies had to realize that they were fighting to resist emancipation and thus, whether they wanted to or not, would have to become the shield for slavery, or their war for independence was lost, i.e. without slavery, there was no reason for independence and southern armies would melt away.
 
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I'm still trying to figure out who or what the "average soldier" is supposed to be. If I ever get clear on that, I might have a thought on why he fought, if indeed he existed at all.
The average soldier was 5'6" tall, weighed around 140 pounds, had blue eyes and dark brown hair.

I read that in a report somewhere. Cannot remember just where. Hope that's OK.

:smile:

Why he joined up, why he stayed in, why he fought, why the war was started, and why the war was prosecuted to its conclusion are all, as I've opined before, very different questions.
 

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One of major arguments against the Emancipation Proclamation, was that it would stregthen support in the south for independence and cause the csa armies to resist restoration of Constitutional authority all the more fanatically. Which it did.
The avg. soldier in the Union quickly came to the realization that slavery was the mainstay of secession and thus the war and Union armies transformed themselves into the cutting edge of emancipation.
In historical terms, the avg. soldier in rebel armies had to realize that they were fighting to resist emancipation and thus, whether they wanted to or not, would have to become the shield for slavery, or their war for independence was lost, i.e. without slavery, there was no reason for independence and southern armies would melt away.
I doubt the average Union soldier believed he was fighting to emancipate slaves even after the EP. There were many arguments in the Union army over the EP.
 
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Well, to be fair, it was a little more than just highly critical... Still no excuse for whacking on somebody, though. Particularly not in such a sneaky, cowardly way.
I liked Stephen Douglas' take on the situation when he heard Sumner's speech: "That d____d fool is going to get himself killed by some other d____d fool." Which sums it up perfectly and is very nearly what happened.
Well, I don't know the exact words, so "extremely critical" seemed unnecessary. Can't agree more on the sneaky, cowardly part. If it was an honest whacking - say they got into a fist fight - that would actually be understandable, but a sneaky cowardly whacking was looking for blood for blood's sake, not to balance any unbalanced scales.

I'm still trying to figure out who or what the "average soldier" is supposed to be. If I ever get clear on that, I might have a thought on why he fought, if indeed he existed at all.
In my opinion - and thus my usage of the term - the average soldier is the typical, ordinary, commonplace, most common, etc.

In mathmatical terms, the mode.
 

cash

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I doubt the average Union soldier believed he was fighting to emancipate slaves even after the EP. There were many arguments in the Union army over the EP.
Not as many as lost causers would have you believe.

There was a consensus among the common soldiers in the Union armies prior to the EP that slavery had to be destroyed to win the war. See Chandra Manning, _What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War._

Bruce Catton identified this early consensus.

"The New York soldier was beginning to see it. The war was changing, and it was no longer being looked upon as a species of tournament between unstained chivalrous knights. It had reached a point now where the fighting of it was turning loose some unpleasant emotional drives. It had become a war against--against slavery, perhaps against the men who owned slaves, by inevitable extension against that man and his family and his goods and chattels who by living with the hated institution seemed to have made war necessary and who in any case were standing in the road when the avengers came." [Bruce Catton, _Glory Road,_ pp. 86-87]

"Increasingly the men ran into the problem of slavery, and as they did they began to encounter an arrogance in the southern attitude toward slavery that increased their own antagonism. Slavery seemed to be central. It was the one sensitive, untouchable nerve-ending, and to press upon it brought anguished cries of outrage that could be evoked in no other way." [Bruce Catton, _This Hallowed Ground,_ p. 224]

"When fugitive slaves came into camp these boys would shelter them; yet there were not really very many cases of this kind, after all, 'and had the owners been satisfied to exercise a little patience when the fugitives could not readily be found the soldiers would soon have got tired of their new playthings and turned every black out of camp themselves.

"But there was no patience. The slavholder was driven on by a perverse and malignant fate; he could not be patient, because time was not on his side. Protesting bitterly against change, he was forever being led to do the very things that would bring change the most speedily. He was unable to let these heedless Federals get tired of their new playthings. He had to prod them and storm at them, and because he did, the soldiers' attitude hardened and they grew more and more aggressive." [Ibid., p. 225]

Regards,
Cash
 
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Not as many as lost causers would have you believe.

There was a consensus among the common soldiers in the Union armies prior to the EP that slavery had to be destroyed to win the war. See Chandra Manning, _What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War._” [Cash/#245]



Considering adding Ethan Rafuse to that as well, perhaps. Below is kind of interesting:


Impatience with events on the Peninsula was not the only force straining political and popular support for McClellan’s way of war in the spring of 1862, however. First, there was the slavery issue. In April 1862, Lincoln still believed that the way to win the war quickly was by demonstrating the falseness of the secessionist charge that a Republican administration meant the Southern way of life would be threatened. That was the underlying logic of the policy of conciliation. Yet the war was producing new questions, such as what to do with the slaves who were abandoning their masters upon the approach of the Yankee army. There were also signs that the public mood in the North was changing on slavery. Antislavery politicians and abolitionists were enjoying unprecedented popularity with the public, as large crowds packed lecture halls to hear their speeches – crowds that only a few months before might have ridden antislavery “agitators” out of town on a rail.” (36) [McClellan’s War; Ethan S. Rafuse; Indiana University Press; 2005]

Here’s the footnote for note (36):

Donald, “Abraham Lincoln and the American Pragmatic Tradition,” 131-41; Paludan, Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, 123-34; McPherson, Struggle for Equality, 82-86, 89-90. The efforts of Radical Republicans to shape northern public opinion during the first half of 1862 are well chronicled in William A. Blair, “The Seven Days and the Radical Persuasion: Convincing Moderates in the North of the Need for a Hard War.” In The Richmond Campaign of 1862, ed. Gary W. Gallagher (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 159-60, 165-70.



E. Rafuse points to changing attitudes during the war and even prior to the EP. Kind of interesting, IMHO.






CC
 

K Hale

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Well, I don't know the exact words, so "extremely critical" seemed unnecessary. Can't agree more on the sneaky, cowardly part. If it was an honest whacking - say they got into a fist fight - that would actually be understandable, but a sneaky cowardly whacking was looking for blood for blood's sake, not to balance any unbalanced scales.
I think Brooks may have been offended by all the sexual language Sumner put into it, directed at the elder senator from SC. All that talk about wanton harlots and the like was probably not necessary. But if it bothered him that much, he ought to have called Sumner out, Andy Jackson style, pistols at dawn. Instead he snuck up and whaled on him. Lame.
 
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For purposes of finding out what the average soldier thought, that's a good thing. Bob thinking that slavery is the awesome just tells us about Bob. Having several hundred people stating that becomes a lot stronger a sign.
 
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Unionblue,

Understanding that slaves were considered "property", and that the right to own property was a basic tenet of the U.S.Constitution, and that the South looked upon any attempt to "limit" the areas of the country as to where they could have their "property" a threat to their "property rights", then the answer is in the affirmative. Also, was the issue of slavery the biggest concern of the average American (North and South)...no. Was slavery the "hot-button" issue used by political leaders to gain whatever power they desired...yes. Perhaps the following information will present another argument re: the issue of slavery as the cause of the war:

..."Indirectly slavery was a cause of the war. Most Southerners did not own slaves and would not have fought for the protection of slavery. However they believed that the North had no Constitutional right to free slaves held by citizens of Sovereign Southern States. Prior to the war there were five times as many abolition societies in the South as in the North. Virtually all educated Southerners were in favor of gradual emancipation of slaves. Gradual emancipation would have allowed the economy and labor system of the South to gradually adjust to a free paid labor system without economic collapse. Furthermore, since the New England States were responsible for the development of slavery in America, Southerners saw the morality claims by the North as blatant hypocrisy. The first state to legalize slavery had been Massachusetts in 1641 and this law was directed primarily at Indians. In colonial times the economic infrastructure of the port cities of the North was dependent upon the slave trade. The first slave ship in America, "The Desire", was fitted out in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Further proof that Southerners were not fighting to preserve slavery is found in the diary of an officer in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. He stated that "he had never met a man in the Army of Northern Virginia that claimed he was fighting to preserve slavery." If the war had been over slavery, the composition of the politicians, officers, enlisted men, and even African Americans would have been different. Confederate General Robert E. Lee had freed his slaves (Custis estate) prior to 1863 whereas Union General Grant's wife Julia did not free her slaves until after the war when forced to do so by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and court action. Grant even stated that if the abolitionists claimed he was fighting to free slaves that he would offer his services to the South. Mildred Lewis Rutherford (1852-1928) was for many years the historian for the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). In her book Truths of History she stated that there were more slaveholders in the Union Army (315,000) than the Confederate Army (200,000). Statistics also show that about 300,000 blacks supported the Confederacy versus about 200,000 for the Union. Clearly the war would have been fought along different lines if it had been fought over slavery. The famous English author Charles Dickens stated, "The Northern onslaught upon Southern slavery is a specious piece of humbug designed to mask their desire for the economic control of the Southern states."
The above quoted material is from a "white paper" by James W. King, SCV.

Rebelrose
 

unionblue

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Rebelrose,

I am afraid I cannot agree with the phrase that "Indirectly slavery was a cause of the war."

From a letter, written by Rebecca Latimer Felton, mistress of a Georgia plantation.

"If there had been no slaves there would have been no war."

Slavery was directly responsible for the war.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 
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The economic infrastructure of the northern port cities was most certainly NOT dependent on the slave trade.

Not in 1641, not in 1860. Not even in the years in between. Was it an element of some ports for some years? Yes.

Did the economy of those cities collapse when the trade ended? No.

Fishing, whaling, trade in agricultural and manufactured goods were allcritical elements of many northern seaports.

But what is the point? Quoting that particular wack job does nothing to establish motive for Johnny Reb or Billy Yank.
 

unionblue

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More views of soldiers.

From The Vidette, Nov. 2, 1862, unit newspaper of Morgan's Confederate Brigade.

"...any man who pretends to believe that this is not a war for the emancipation of the blacks...is either a fool or a liar."

General Robert E. Lee's aide-de-camp, Colonel Charles Marshall stated in his memoirs that,

"It is very certain that the immediate cause of the political agitation which culminated in the dissolution of the Union was the institution of slavery." "There can be no doubt," he wrote, "that the Southern people" were "fighting to maintain slavery or prevent its overthrow by the hands of their enemies."

Col. John Singleton Mosby stated,

"The South went to war on account of slavery...South Carolina went to war as she said in her secession proclamation, because slavery would not be secure under Lincoln...don't you think South Carolina ought to know why it went to war?"

General Nathan Bedford Forrest, quoted from Brown, The Confederacy's Relentless Warrior; Ashdown and Caudill, The Myth of Nathan Bedford Forrest, said,

"If this da*mn war ain't about slavery then I'd sure as he** like to know what it is about."

In a letter to his wife, dated March 27, 1863, US Sergeant Eli K. Pickett said,

"I have never been in favor of the abolition of slavery until this war has determined me in the conviction that it is a greater sin than our Government is able to stand...It is opposed to the Spirit of the age--and in my opinion this Rebellion is but the death struggle of the overgrown monster."

Unionblue
 
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Cash,



Academic literature is supposed to present both sides of an issue, so we can acquire a "balanced view" of the subject matter. We're not talking about an editorialized rendition of a subject, i.e. a position paper.

You ask why the South wanted independence from the Union. Let's hear the reason from a couple of folks:

"The cause of the South was the cause of Constitutional government, the cause of government regulated by law, and the cause of honesty and fidelity in public servants. No nobler cause did ever man fight for!"
(From- The Case of the South Against the North; or Historical Evidence Justifying the Southern States of the American Union in Their Long Controversy With Northern Statesby Benjamin Grady), and then there's the words of Robert E. Lee,
"All that the South has ever desired was the Union as established by our forefathers should be preserved and that the government as originally organized should be admininstered in purity and truth."
(I think they stated the reason better than I ever could).

I stated that the Southern States attempted to peacefully withdraw from the Union. Of course there was violence i.e. the vicious threats against Lincoln to the point that he had to secretly enter Washington, D.C. before his inauguration, to insure his safety. Secession wasn't to blame...Lincoln's political positions put him in this dilemma.

The secession of the Southern States would destroy the U.S.Constitution? Give me a break...were the Northern States going to forego the Union, also? I never heard that one before. What proof do you have of such thinking?

You were doing pretty well until you "slipped" and referred to the legitimate delegates sent to Washington, D.C. from first, South Carolina and second, the Confederate States of America, as "criminals". You just can't help yourself, can you?

Huh, that's where you find artillery...forts. They're built for protection from "bad guys".

Why can't you give me an answer as to why the North couldn't accept the peaceful secession of the Southern States? Why did over 600,000 lives have to be lost just to keep the Southern States in a Union where they were so disliked?

I'm sorry you don't approve of Larry Tagg's opinions, but he has a right to his viewpoints, don't you agree? This is the United States of America and we have the First Amendment to protect our freedom of speech. I read his comments from an interview he gave re: the book I listed as reference.

In all of your extensive "research", you haven't come across any other issues that lead to the outbreak of hostilities between the North and the South? Interesting...I wonder why?

Since when did the Congressional hearings always involve the issues of concern to the average American? (Aren't you aware of how political leaders "deliberate"...over select "pork-barrel" projects, that one politician can convince another politician to support, and vice-versa?) And since the issue of slavery was not the major concern of the majority of Americans in the antebellum timeperiod, they could've cared less about Congressional hearings involving slavery.

You're attempting to compare "apples and oranges" here. Yes, the political leaders were consumed with the issue of slavery for reasons I have previously stated. However, the average American was not.

You really like to "nitpick", don't you? I said that slaves were discussed in the U.S.Constitution...what was meant by the 3/5 th's reference? Come on, I know you know the answer.

Yes, unfortunately the Bible has been used to defend various positions... many times in direct conflict with each other. (Sorta like you do with statistics).

What you really mean to say is that I can be just as sarcastic as you are, when the occasion requires such a technique.

I know an insult when I see one, and the use of "Mississippi inbred" is an insult, no matter how the "cookie crumbles". I would hope you are too professional to stupe to such depths to try to make a point. If you have to use insults to convince someone of your point-of-view, then perhaps your point-of-view is faulty. Re: the largest slavetrader in North America, the DeWolf family, was located in Rhode Island, and was involved in the slave trade up until 1875. I first learned of them from a PBS series on the slavetrade, as it existed in the United States.

Why do you think more people lived in the Northern States than in the Southern States? Would it have anything to do with: 1) the availability of more jobs, i.e. cheap immigrant labor, for the business leaders to profit from, and 2) the availability of more land for agricultural use, than was available in the Southern States? Oh, I know, you attribute it to the dislike of slavery. Is that correct, Cash?

There had been too much dissension between the North and the South by that time for Southerners to put much trust in the court system. They believed the only solution to their survival was to secede from the Union, which they did, because secession was not illegal.

I am well-aware how historians operate, thus I made my statement re: official records and historical authors. Have you had the "pleasure" of editing historical works? I have, and I stand by my comment.

Northerners wanted nothing to do with slaves...period. Abolitionists had a problem with the Fugitive Slave Law, not the average American...North or South.

Who's "sugercoating" anything? Although a good sugar donut would be nice about now. LOL.

Rebelrose
 
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Cash,



Academic literature is supposed to present both sides of an issue, so we can acquire a "balanced view" of the subject matter. We're not talking about an editorialized rendition of a subject, i.e. a position paper.

You ask why the South wanted independence from the Union. Let's hear the reason from a couple of folks:

"The cause of the South was the cause of Constitutional government, the cause of government regulated by law, and the cause of honesty and fidelity in public servants. No nobler cause did ever man fight for!"
(From- The Case of the South Against the North; or Historical Evidence Justifying the Southern States of the American Union in Their Long Controversy With Northern Statesby Benjamin Grady), and then there's the words of Robert E. Lee,
"All that the South has ever desired was the Union as established by our forefathers should be preserved and that the government as originally organized should be admininstered in purity and truth."
(I think they stated the reason better than I ever could).

I stated that the Southern States attempted to peacefully withdraw from the Union. Of course there was violence i.e. the vicious threats against Lincoln to the point that he had to secretly enter Washington, D.C. before his inauguration, to insure his safety. Secession wasn't to blame...Lincoln's political positions put him in this dilemma.

The secession of the Southern States would destroy the U.S.Constitution? Give me a break...were the Northern States going to forego the Union, also? I never heard that one before. What proof do you have of such thinking?

You were doing pretty well until you "slipped" and referred to the legitimate delegates sent to Washington, D.C. from first, South Carolina and second, the Confederate States of America, as "criminals". You just can't help yourself, can you?

Huh, that's where you find artillery...forts. They're built for protection from "bad guys".

Why can't you give me an answer as to why the North couldn't accept the peaceful secession of the Southern States? Why did over 600,000 lives have to be lost just to keep the Southern States in a Union where they were so disliked?

I'm sorry you don't approve of Larry Tagg's opinions, but he has a right to his viewpoints, don't you agree? This is the United States of America and we have the First Amendment to protect our freedom of speech. I read his comments from an interview he gave re: the book I listed as reference.

In all of your extensive "research", you haven't come across any other issues that lead to the outbreak of hostilities between the North and the South? Interesting...I wonder why?

Since when did the Congressional hearings always involve the issues of concern to the average American? (Aren't you aware of how political leaders "deliberate"...over select "pork-barrel" projects, that one politician can convince another politician to support, and vice-versa?) And since the issue of slavery was not the major concern of the majority of Americans in the antebellum timeperiod, they could've cared less about Congressional hearings involving slavery.

You're attempting to compare "apples and oranges" here. Yes, the political leaders were consumed with the issue of slavery for reasons I have previously stated. However, the average American was not.

You really like to "nitpick", don't you? I said that slaves were discussed in the U.S.Constitution...what was meant by the 3/5 th's reference? Come on, I know you know the answer.

Yes, unfortunately the Bible has been used to defend various positions... many times in direct conflict with each other. (Sorta like you do with statistics).

What you really mean to say is that I can be just as sarcastic as you are, when the occasion requires such a technique.

I know an insult when I see one, and the use of "Mississippi inbred" is an insult, no matter how the "cookie crumbles". I would hope you are too professional to stupe to such depths to try to make a point. If you have to use insults to convince someone of your point-of-view, then perhaps your point-of-view is faulty. Re: the largest slavetrader in North America, the DeWolf family, was located in Rhode Island, and was involved in the slave trade up until 1875. I first learned of them from a PBS series on the slavetrade, as it existed in the United States.

Why do you think more people lived in the Northern States than in the Southern States? Would it have anything to do with: 1) the availability of more jobs, i.e. cheap immigrant labor, for the business leaders to profit from, and 2) the availability of more land for agricultural use, than was available in the Southern States? Oh, I know, you attribute it to the dislike of slavery. Is that correct, Cash?

There had been too much dissension between the North and the South by that time for Southerners to put much trust in the court system. They believed the only solution to their survival was to secede from the Union, which they did, because secession was not illegal.

I am well-aware how historians operate, thus I made my statement re: official records and historical authors. Have you had the "pleasure" of editing historical works? I have, and I stand by my comment.

Northerners wanted nothing to do with slaves...period. Abolitionists had a problem with the Fugitive Slave Law, not the average American...North or South.

Who's "sugercoating" anything? Although a good sugar donut would be nice about now. LOL.

Rebelrose


Excellent post. Very well put.
 
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Dvrmte said:
Excellent post. Very well put.
If well put means riddled with falsehoods, like every pro-secession and anti-American (I cannot comfortably use the word "Northern" for "the rest of the country" except when we're talking about latitude) Confederate supporting arguement since 1860, I couldn't agree more.

The fact there are books that support the false history of the South attempting peaceful seccession and how slavery was only an issue to radical hotheads and people who had no connection to what the average person was concerned is about the clearest proof that can be offered that "history is written by the winners" is at best exagerated and at worst flat out wrong.

It would be nice if the Confederates were fighting for "the Union as established by our forefathers", but there are a lot of things that would be nice to believe that just aren't true.

One can say a lot of nice things about the Confederates - Lee was a gentleman, Jackson was genuinely pious, Stuart was good looking - but those don't excuse their loyalties, or rather their disloyalty.
 
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