Monday, April 25, 2005

Is The Civil War Completely Over Yet?

Some of you laugh to scorn the idea of bloodshed as the result of secession, but let me tell you what is coming....Your fathers and husbands, your sons and brothers, will be herded at the point of the bayonet....You may after the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, as a bare possibility, win Southern independence...but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of state rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction...they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.
-Sam Houston, Governor of Texas, 1861, speaking against Texas joining the Confederacy

Prophetic words. He was very soon removed from office after the Texas legislature overwhelmingly voted to secede, and Houston refused to pledge loyalty to the Confederacy. I don't know about the "climate" angle, but other than that it seemed to go as he predicted. While the southern generals certainly were much better than the northern generals, at least in the first half of the war, the Union Army was always far larger. After the Battle of Antietam in 1862, which was basically a draw with the Union holding the field, but where General Lee lost 10,000 men, it was hard to recover. It was a quarter of his force at the time. There was still a lot of fight left in them and a lot of northern battle tactic ineptitude prolonged the war, but the losses in the western states and along the Mississippi River eventually took their toll on the Confederate effort as a whole. The biggest threat to the Union side was that Europe was considering coming in on the side of the south because they needed cotton. That threat went away with the Emancipation Proclamation. Europe had always sort of tolerated slavery because it was convenient to their ends of getting cotton, but once the war became more about slavery than it was in the beginning as a more purely states-rights issue, Britain and France backed off, not wanting to back the pro-slavery side.

Anyway, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been watching Ken Burns' "The Civil War" every time I work out recently, and it's quite fascinating. It's interesting that as I watch it, I actually "root" for the Union in my mind, as if it were happening now and that I could somehow will them to victory. The south really did fight brilliantly at many junctures, but it just wasn't enough. I have a lot of admiration for both sides in terms of bravery and selflessness. I think it was very well captured in the documentary.

I sometimes am curious about why some people have the Confederate flag on their cars or pickup trucks. I know that sometimes it's a matter of heritage and that perhaps they had ancestors in the war on the southern side. I know it's rarely done as a symbol of hate, because certainly the southerners didn't see it that way at the time. What I am curious about is what the others that display that flag are stating by displaying it. Is it a statement of state's rights? Is it more like a "don't tread on me" kind of statement? I never ask because I don't know anyone that displays it, and the issue can be so passionate that I don't want to ask a stranger a potentially angering question. Perhaps some of my readers have ideas on it? I know some of you are from the deep south. Maybe you know?


nicnerd said...

Hollywood teached history... Oh good grief. You say the end of the war brought more of a focus on abolishing slavery. I disagree. The very definition "civil war" is techincally inaccurate. A civil war is when two or more internal faction fight to take over a government. The Confederate States never expressed an interest in the northern territory, they simply did not wish to be a part of it. I know you scoff at those who would call it, "the war of northern agression" but it is really not too far from the truth. TO be honest it is really no different than the revolutionary war in that the South simply wanted their independence.

President LIncoln said, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so." He also uttered the following:

"I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races [applause]: that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."
-- Reply by Abraham Lincoln to Stephen A. Douglas in the first joint debate, Ottowa, IL; 21 Aug 1858

To answer your question about the stars and bars, I think it is a matter of pride in heritage. I was raised in the south and I have visited northern states extensively. In my observation (and these are wildly unscientific) the focus on the family and religion is deeper in the south, the focus on career is more of a driving factor in the north. Persoanlly I think it is a nod to preferrable lifestyle. In many ways the south still is another country. When I go to a southern city on travel, I feel warm and welcome, when I go to the north I feel hurried and inpersonal. I was shocked when I came to the DC area and noticed that people very rarely smile and it is quite uncommon for anyone to say hello to a stranger. This is just my opinion probably, but you asked.

I do think that you watch too much television though. :-)

Rightwingsparkle said...

Growing up in the deep south I saw the flag a lot, I knew that it was a part of the civil war, but I don't think my generation ever connected it to anything racial in the modern world. The flag was our symbol at Ole Miss. I had black friends who went there and never mentioned it. After I graduated there was big deal made out of it and they took it away, but it caused alot hurt pride and feelings. I honestly don't think any white person I knew used it as a symbol against blacks in any way. It was just a southern thing.

I think making a big deal out of it MADE it a racial thing and that was too bad.

Not there aren't some rednecks out there who abuse it. There are. I just didn't know them.

Erik Grow said...

Nicnerd, to call Ken Burns "part of Hollywood" made me almost laugh out loud! He was funded by GM to make that documentary. I knew that Lincoln was not interested in freeing all slaves at first. I alluded to that. That came later. That was well-covered in the documentary as well, as well as that quote you put there from 1858, a few years before the war started. If you saw it, you would know they went into the states rights issues and all of that.

As for the cultural differences, weren't you on military bases more when you were in the south? I have heard most bases have kind of an extended family sort of feel anyway, don't they? Also, northerners feel family is very important too, but you are correct about not talking to strangers I think in general. I do think a lot of that has to do with city and small town differences though. When you see thousands of strangers a day, how many can you say hello to? I haven't spent much time in the south, south of northern VA anyway, and it's a different lifestyle. The hellos from strangers seems odd to me sometimes, but I get used to it, and it's nice sometimes. If that makes me a Yankee, count me in with the Yankees. I am from New York after all.

Two Dogs said...

Of course I have an opinion here. I am in RWS's hometown and we have had serious debate in Jackson regarding the Battle flag and the Mississippi state flag. It seems that 75% of Mississippians wanted to keep the State flag the last time we had it on the ballot.

That said, the teaching of the "Civil War" in our history classes brings another reason to abolish government schools to the argument. It seems that teachers these days like to argue the slavery issue to the hilt because for the most part, teachers are stupid. (it's a generalization)

The flag represents a bad thing to a few people that have no understanding of that particular time of our country's history. Personally, I couldn't care less. If some folks are upset about it, let them eat cake.

Erik Grow said...

Was it not true though that slavery was made more the issue after the war started, in late 1862? I realize that it was not the issue in the beginning. Sure, it was about state's rights, but wasn't slavery the ultimate in state's rights issues? Can you think of anything more divisive that would have made the north feel that it was worth it to stop?

Two Dogs said...

Okay, Erik, y'all won before. Let's play again. Think that outcome would be the same?

The only thing that I know is that the war started in 1861, the reasons that occurred after the war started were irrelevent.

Erik Grow said...

Well, I do know that if the south had won, slavery would have been around for longer, and that alone would have been worth the effort, whether the effort was actually *for* that or not. Also, the whole thing about the south wanting to just be peaceful is funny. Why take Fort Sumter then? They thought the government was just going to hand over all of their assets that happened to be in the south at the time they seceded then?

nicnerd said...

Why take Fort Sumter then?

Well see, allowing another country to operate a military base on you soil is genrally poor military strategy. Particularly, when you just disengaged from the afore metnioned country's "union".