Civil War: About Race or Something Else?

We are inundated in today’s U.S. about the racial divide that has existed for several hundred years. It is amazing to me that with our living in the greatest country in world history, arguably the most innovative technology in existence (with the exception of maybe China), and without question the best economy on Earth today, we do NOT tackle the problems that go hand in hand with racial divide and racism to finally put this puppy to bed. The most frustrating part of that? “IF” we honestly did address the issues from all sides, Americans could resolve ALL of those differences. But we don’t — and we never have.

Just so you remember, here are a few notes about the Civil War:

The war began when the Confederates bombarded Union soldiers at Fort Sumter, South Carolina on April 12, 1861.  The war ended in Spring, 1865.  Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.  The last battle was fought at Palmito Ranch, Texas, on May 13, 1865.

At the beginning of the war, the Northern states had a combined population of 22 million people. The Southern states had a combined population of about 9 million. This disparity was reflected in the size of the armies in the field. The Union forces outnumbered the Confederates roughly two to one. The “North,” or Union forces, numbered approximately 2.1 million while the “South,” or Confederate forces, numbered approximately  1.08 million.

Approximately 620,000 soldiers died from combat, accident, starvation, and disease during the Civil War. This number comes from an 1889 study of the war performed by William F. Fox and Thomas Leonard Livermore. Both men fought for the Union. Their estimate is derived from an exhaustive study of the combat and casualty records generated by the armies over five years of fighting.  A recent study puts the number of dead as high as 850,000.

620,000 soldiers died in the Civil War. 644,000 Americans died in all OTHER wars combined. It wasn’t until Vietnam American military war death total numbers passed those lost solely in the Civil War. Needless to say, it was a horror to this nation then and still is. And many Americans still struggle with its aftermath. Those struggles stretch across the entire landscape of the United States and touch every sector of our lives.

The War impacted every American and even those who lived here without citizenship.  With the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, African-Americans – both free and runaway slaves – came forward to volunteer for the Union cause in substantial numbers. Beginning in October, approximately 180,000 African-Americans, comprising 163 units, served in the U.S. Army, and 18,000 in the Navy. That month, the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers repulsed a Confederate attack at Island Mound, Missouri. Men of the U.S.C.T. (United States Colored Troops) units went on to distinguish themselves on battlefields east and west – at Port Hudson, Louisiana; Honey Springs, Oklahoma; Fort Wagner, South Carolina; New Market Heights, Virginia. African Americans constituted 10% of the entire Union Army by the end of the war, and nearly 40,000 died over the course of the war.

Slaves and free blacks were present in the Confederate lines as hand servants and manual laborers. On March 13, 1865, the Confederate Congress passed a law to allow black men to serve in combat roles, with the provision “that nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize a change in the relation which said slaves shall bear toward their owners,” i.e. that black soldiers would still be slaves. On March 14, 1865, the Confederate military issued General Orders No. 14, which provided for the raising of black combat regiments, but there is no official military documentation that indicates these orders were carried out or that any black soldiers were ever properly enlisted in the Confederate army. There are a few photographs of blacks in Confederate uniforms, but these appear to be hoaxes.

So What Started “The War Between the States?”

While many still debate the ultimate causes of the Civil War, Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson writes that “The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln won the election in 1860 as the first Republican president on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, seven slave states in the deep South seceded and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. The incoming Lincoln administration and most of the Northern people refused to recognize the legitimacy of secession. They feared that it would discredit democracy and create a fatal precedent that would eventually fragment the no-longer United States into several small, squabbling countries.”

The burning issue that led to the disruption of the union was the debate over the future of slavery. That dispute led to secession, and secession brought about a war in which the Northern and Western states and territories fought to preserve the Union, and the South fought to establish Southern independence as a new confederation of states under its own constitution.

The agricultural South utilized slaves to tend to its large plantations and perform other duties. On the eve of the Civil War, some 4 million Africans and their descendants toiled as slave laborers in the South. Slavery was interwoven into the Southern economy even though only a relatively small portion of the population actually owned slaves. Slaves could be rented or traded or sold to pay debts. Ownership of more than a handful of slaves bestowed respect and contributed to social position, and slaves, as the property of individuals and businesses, represented the largest portion of the region’s personal and corporate wealth, as cotton and land prices declined and the price of slaves soared.

The states of the North, meanwhile, one by one had gradually abolished slavery. A steady flow of immigrants, especially from Ireland and Germany during the potato famine of the 1840s and 1850s, insured the North a ready pool of laborers, many of whom could be hired at low wages, diminishing the need to cling to the institution of slavery.

States quickly jumped into the fray as well, but not so much about slavery. Seldom discussed in Civil War conversations are the “State issues” of the day. State issues arose from State rights as compared to those of the federal government. Remember: many American settlers fled from Europe less than a century before. They fled to America in large part to get out from under the heavy hand of a government that controlled just about every aspect of their lives. The framers of the Constitution made it clear with the First Ten Amendments — known better as “The Bill of Rights” — that the ONLY rights held by the federal government were those that were specifically given to them by the States. Jefferson and Company were petrified that any United States federal government would as quickly as possible seize control of Americans throughout the New World. They were committed to prevent that from happening. Many leaders in that evolving nation feared the power that the centralized government in the U.S. was spreading itself into. Their fear of a too powerful federal government was a large contributing factor to the Civil War. The southern States were impacted in greater fashion because of slavery.

But were these concerns driven by disdain or hatred for Africans? Was the racial divide that is so powerful today in America a force in the attack on Fort Sumter? And was that racial chasm initiated by hatred for diversity, ethnic origin, religion, and skin color?

To the editorial staff of TruthNewsNetwork, honestly ALL of the above contributed to the deadliest war in U.S. history. Just imagine how much more devastation Americans would have sustained if the armies of the Union and Confederacy had access to weapons as do our current military members!

The “Rest of the Story”

Throughout human history whenever two countries or two factions within a country or MULTIPLE factions determine their differences substantiate going to war, seldom does this happen with just one specific initiating factor. Certainly, slavery was a HUGE factor in the Civil War. Historians have on the most part ignored this in discussions about the reason or reasons for the Civil War — until the 1990s. Then things changed a bit.

One major universal factor in historical wars was almost always economics. Let’s face it: dollars and cents or money in some other form are the energy that drives the growth of all nations in many different ways. The economy in the United States in the run-up to the Civil War was in transition. But until the 1990s, historians pretty much ignored the role that American economics might have played in starting the Civil War. The efforts to explain economic growth and the timing of the United States’ “take-off” into industrialization in the decades leading up to the 1860s, together with extensive research into the “economics” of the slave system of the South and the impact of emancipation, brought economic questions dealing with the Civil War to the front of the line in “causes of the War” discussions.

No one seriously doubts that the enormous economic stake the South had in its slave labor force was a major factor in the disputes that erupted in the middle of the nineteenth century. Remember this: northern states were NOT exempt from slavery. They sooner than southern states took action to move away from slavery, but slavery was not new to those settlers. Slaves and slavery made a huge impact on Americans socially AND economically. And “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Throughout World history, many wars have been fought and millions have died in the name of $$$$.

Historians in the early 1990s took the cue and launched into an analysis of the economic impact of slavery in the South. Here are some of their findings:

  • In 1805 there were just over one million slaves worth about $300 million; fifty-five years later there were four million slaves worth close to $3 billion. In the 11 states that eventually formed the Confederacy, four out of ten people were slaves in 1860, and these people accounted for more than half the agricultural labor in those states.
  • In the cotton regions, the importance of slave labor was even greater. The value of capital invested in slaves roughly equaled the total value of all farmland and farm buildings in the South. Though the value of slaves fluctuated from year to year, there was no prolonged period during which the value of the slaves owned in the United States did not increase markedly.
  • It is hardly surprising that Southern slaveowners in 1860 were optimistic about the economic future of their region. They were, after all, in the middle of an unparalleled rise in the value of their slave assets.
  • A historical economist named Gerald Gunderson unearthed some amazing facts regarding the economics of slavery in the South. In the seven states where most of the cotton was grown, almost one-half the population were slaves, and they accounted for 31 percent of white people’s income; for all 11 Confederate States, slaves represented 38 percent of the population and contributed 23 percent of whites’ income. That explained why Southerners — even those who did not own slaves — viewed any attempt by the federal government to limit the rights of slaveowners over their property as a potentially catastrophic threat to their entire economic system.
  • “Cotton is King” was heard all over the South, but also in the Northern States. The economic impact of cotton exploded in every sector of the U.S. The export of cotton exploded. By the 1850s the large majority of cotton produced in America was shipped to and sold in Great Britain and Europe. The Northern States benefited greatly as cotton drove the economic opportunities in the textile industry and other sectors in the Industrial Revolution. Slaves in the South primarily planted, developed, and harvested cotton that northern textile mills turned much of it into cotton products. The remainder primarily went to Great Brittain or Europe.
  • With so much to lose on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, economic logic suggests that a peaceful solution to the slave issue would have made far more sense than a bloody war. Yet no solution emerged.

Summary

There is no doubt that slavery was the match that lit the fire that consumed the lives of 600,000+ in the Civil War. But was racial animus the cause? Critical thinkers disagree. (Of course they do! They disagree on everything) Those “experts” are actually split right down the middle on that issue. But one thing is certain: money played a significant role. Don’t get me wrong: race did too. But it is time to take a step back and analyze the total story from every side. If one does so, finding that economic factors and the way they played in the U.S. during this piece of the Industrial Revolution probably played an equal role in the Civil War as did slavery. How so?

Southerners did not want to give up their revenue generating platform! Abrahan Lincoln and Republicans were NOT against the wonderful economic achievements directly and indirectly derived from the cotton industry. They were opposed to the ownership of humans by other humans. And, quite honestly, slavery has been the principal contributor to the racial fires that still to this day burn brightly in America.

Is there a way to a resolution on these disagreements?

The discussions of reparations keep coming up again and again and are once again on the minds of Americans, thanks to Democrat 2020 presidential candidates already on the campaign trail. Whether or not reparations are “owed,” are necessary, or even workable is a hypothetical conversation we will NOT undertake at TruthNewsNetwork. It’s tough enough to analyze factual data to reach factual conclusions. Without that data, a reparations conversation is nothing more than more fuel to this raging fire of racial tension and divide.

Unfortunately, the political agenda has for 150+ years kept racism around as a convenient tool to use whenever politically appropriate. Doing so is a blight on the political landscape of the U.S. But human nature has always prevailed in this depraved pursuit of a division.

And it’s intentional. Sadly, there are those who surreptitiously find ways to insert racial animus in every political conversation. Their objective for doing so? Division. One would think that after so many years of watching the cyclical rise and fall public outcry against racial issues, America’s political leaders would diligently determine to finally smoke the “peace pipe” of unity and find an effective process to bring Americans back together. Obviously, that has NOT happened. And sadly, I cannot see that happening in the current political atmosphere.

But there’s hope: hope in the fact that this nation is really “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The critical word of that sentence is “all.”

Who can be the tie that binds? Who can tamp down the massive fires of racism that burn ever so brightly from the West to the East?

I have no idea who that might be. But what I know for absolute certainty is that God opened the door to this nation, has led through a couple of centuries groups of people in leadership in the right direction for the people of the United States, and that He will continue moving us down that path. We’ve made mistakes. But getting and giving forgiveness for those mistakes and making route adjustments is what being human beings that interact with each other is all about.

We’ll get there. Boy, I hope it will happen in my lifetime!

Here’s one factor that will play heavily into the timing of total racial reconciliation in America: when we EACH are willing to say to each other, “Just because I think something is right doesn’t automatically make it right. And just because I think something is wrong doesn’t automatically make it wrong.”

You’ve heard that multiple times in our stories. That is a principle that honest Americans must grasp before we will ever achieve racial unity.

I’m positive: I’m certain we can do it!

“Anything worth having is worth hurting for.”

If hurting is necessary for racial harmony, I think Americans have hurt just about enough now!

Let’s take a hint from Larry the Cable Guy, and “Get ‘er Done!”

 

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