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Old 03-01-2015, 02:31 PM   #1
Play4Keeps
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Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

So yeah I'm canadian and don't know all that much about the civil war. From what I understand is that abraham lincoln was against slavery and when he became president he was out to abolish it and also something to due with higher tariffs on the south. And the south was fighting for their rights and funded by the rich slave owners who saw this as a threat to their economic interests. Feel free to add anything in here.

My question is: What were the soldiers in the north who were enlisting to fight the war told? Where they told that they were fighting to free slaves? equal rights ect?
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Old 03-01-2015, 09:43 PM   #2
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

Many who fought in the Civil War (both sides) were volunteers. If you want to know what the everyday solders thought about the war, then you should read their letters home or dairies or respectable historical research involving such.

What men are told by authorities and the press and what they actually think they are fighting for is often two different things; or at least not so clear cut, in addition to there being a herd of reasons and justifications.

You can suppose that many from the North thought the fight was to preserve the Union. That at least is a starting point. You can call this 'Lincoln's War Reason'.
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Old 03-01-2015, 09:55 PM   #3
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

say a black person was to say "whites enslaved us and we're emotionally scarred" would it be feasible to say that they also died to free them or no?
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Old 03-02-2015, 02:24 AM   #4
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

fought to preserve the Union dog
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Old 03-02-2015, 06:14 PM   #5
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

By the election of 1860, the political parties of the USA were starkly divided among regional lines. Lincoln became President without carrying a single slave state. Republicans also controlled the House and Senate. It wasn't the case that Lincoln or the Republican party intended to end slavery (they didn't) so much as the slave powers lost a lot their political leverage in 1860. Within the next several months, most of the slave states banded together and declared independence. The North fought to preserve the Union. You could even argue that they fought to preserve a fledgling democracy. I mean, you can't just call it quits after losing a fair election in a democracy, right?
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Old 03-03-2015, 07:49 AM   #6
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

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Originally Posted by Play4Keeps View Post
say a black person was to say "whites enslaved us and we're emotionally scarred" would it be feasible to say that they also died to free them or no?
didnt take long to show your true colors here
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Old 03-03-2015, 10:19 AM   #7
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

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didnt take long to show your true colors here
what are you talking about lol
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Old 03-03-2015, 12:38 PM   #8
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

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Originally Posted by Play4Keeps View Post
From what I understand is that abraham lincoln was against slavery
Yes. The Republican Party was a broadly anti-slavery party. Most were not abolitionists (there's a good argument to be had that Lincoln wasn't one until he signed the Emancipation Proclamation), but they were committed to halting the expansion of slavery, which had encroached on areas previously considered off-limits through the 1850s through a variety of legislative (Compromise of 1850, Kansas-Nebraska Act) and judicial (Dred Scott) initiatives.

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and when he became president he was out to abolish it
No. Lincoln was not an abolitionist. Most abolitionists disliked him, and the most radical abolitionists disdained the political process in general.

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and also something to due with higher tariffs on the south.
Incorrect, but this misperception lives on due to the influence of neo-Confederate scholars. Tariffs were lower in 1860 than they had been previously. The tariff was not a major issue in the 1860 election. None of the secession documents list the tariff as a major reason for rebellion. The "tariffs too high!" rationale wasn't adopted until after the Civil War.

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And the south was fighting for their rights
...to own human beings. Yes.

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and funded by the rich slave owners who saw this as a threat to their economic interests. Feel free to add anything in here.
And entire social fabric, which was founded on white supremacy, and was instrumental in maintaining their hegemony over not just slaves, but free blacks and poor whites as well. And it was not just the existence of slavery, but its expansion they demanded (into the Southwest, the Caribbean, etc).

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My question is: What were the soldiers in the north who were enlisting to fight the war told? Where they told that they were fighting to free slaves? equal rights ect?
Before late 1862, they would not have been told they were fighting to free the slaves. After the Emancipation Proclamation, the war turned explicitly against slavery, and enlistments actually went up, not least of which was due to the enrollment of free black soldiers. Prior to late 1862, the primary rationale for northern soldiers was the preservation of the Union and the Constitution, which the South had put under threat by seizing federal property and engaging in armed insurrection. That remained the official rationale of the Lincoln administration: putting down the insurrection of armed rebels, not an actual war against a foreign power (though they had to act, strategically, as though they were engaged in that type of war, of course).

Soldiers fought for all sorts of reasons, though. Personal ambition, the chance for adventure, the prospect of steady pay, peer pressure, ideological commitment, nationalism, etc. It's not as simple as boiling it down to the leaders' rationales.
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Old 03-04-2015, 11:00 AM   #9
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

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what are you talking about lol
I could be way off here, but it seems clear to me that you made this thread so you could score a talking point in some sort of debate about racism and "white guilt" rather than to actually learn about the motivations behind the Civil War. A four-year war fought for a variety of motivations does not excuse centuries of forced enslavement, followed by centuries of institutionalized racism.

Turn Prophet has done a fine job explaining many of the factors that went into the war.
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Old 03-05-2015, 03:57 AM   #10
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

Hi Everyone:

I think it's clear that there were a number of reasons that the North fought the Civil War and that these reasons evolved and changed as the war went on. But at the beginning of the war, based on my reading, there are two reasons that stood out: "preserve the union" and "glory."

Do not under estimate this second reason. Again from my reading, it almost seems like for many volunteer soldiers at the start of the war, what was to come was more like a big game than a serious affair, and they wanted to be at the center of it and get the glory.

Of course, all that changed at Shiloh and other places.

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 03-11-2015, 12:44 PM   #11
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

Before 1860 take a look at economic issues and the policies of each individual state. Up to the Civil War the national economy was very weak (no national banking system)compared to state economies. Plus the way taxes were collected for a federal government where still being worked out. Also take a look at the 3/5 clause from the Articles of Confederation. In addition one could look up the number of free blacks that owned slaves and apart of the succession.
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Old 04-10-2015, 08:24 AM   #12
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

There's a great lecture series by a guy iirc called David Blight or maybe Bight, possible from Yale, on the civil war and reconstruction, that's available on iTunes university. I don't recall if he talks explicitly about what the northern soldiers as individuals were fighting for, but it's really rich on the complex nexus of issues at war in the civil war - different economic models and ideologies, the role of westward expansion as a destabilising factor and so on.
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Old 04-10-2015, 12:12 PM   #13
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

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Originally Posted by kokiri View Post
There's a great lecture series by a guy iirc called David Blight or maybe Bight, possible from Yale, on the civil war and reconstruction, that's available on iTunes university. I don't recall if he talks explicitly about what the northern soldiers as individuals were fighting for, but it's really rich on the complex nexus of issues at war in the civil war - different economic models and ideologies, the role of westward expansion as a destabilising factor and so on.
Great course. Eric Foner, probably the best Reconstruction historian of the last three decades, also has a free MOOC on EdX that covers the period before, during, and after the Civil War.
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Old 04-13-2015, 07:53 PM   #14
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

PBS is presenting a civil war series. See the link below. I have watched two of the episodes (out of five) so far and it seems very well done and worthwhile. Gives personal meaning to war by quoting from soldiers letters to wife's and home etc., from both sides of the war.

Civil War, The Untold Story:

http://www.historynet.com/civil-war-...ies-on-pbs.htm

From above link:

********************

The overarching "untold" aspect of series is that it covers the Western Theater of Operations. One of the commentators, Amy Murrell Taylor, associate professor of history at the University of Kentucky, states, "You could argue (the war) was won in the West … To understand how the war affected people you must understand what happened in the West."

Eric A. Jacobson, historian, Battle of Franklin Trust, points out that the Mississippi Valley was the most important economic route through America; Union leaders realized victory required taking the war beyond the Appalachians. For most of the war's four years, Union successes in the West were the only good news sustaining Northern morale. One of the most telling maps comes in the fourth episode, showing the location of the armies in Virginia in 1864, still fighting over the same ground they were contesting at the beginning of the war, while the Western Theater shows Union forces there had advanced hundreds of miles. Without the victories of the Western Theater, it is doubtful Lincoln could have kept sufficient support for the war.

This theme is a welcome change of pace from documentaries' well-trod ground of the Virginia-Maryland-Pennsylvania theater of operations. Each of the major eastern battles is also mentioned within the chronology of the series in order to give context, but they are summarized quickly. ......................

............As stated earlier, Civil War: The Untold Story is very well done. The acting is generally credible, the battle scenes believable, the stories of civilians, both white and black, are informative. Even history buffs who are well informed about the war in the Western Theater will learn some new things. And, as a friend who watched the first episode with me said, "They pulled out all the stops for the cinematography."

********************************

Last edited by Zeno; 04-14-2015 at 10:07 AM. Reason: Typos, added info
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Old 04-18-2015, 01:48 AM   #15
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

Pure economics. The north realized how much they were going to lose by losing the south. Now it is considered mainly about slavery. If the south had freed the slaves in the beginning of the war, they would have won the war. But the politicians had to keep the 1% happy. Seems like nothing changes in that regard.
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Old 04-18-2015, 02:23 PM   #16
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Re: Civil war: what did the north believe it was fighting for?

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Pure economics. The north realized how much they were going to lose by losing the south. Now it is considered mainly about slavery.
You say that as though the two are mutually exclusive. It's not now considered mainly about slavery. The Confederates were quite explicit about this.

"The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the 'rock upon which the old Union would split.' He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away... Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it—when the 'storm came and the wind blew, it fell.'

"Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition."


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If the south had freed the slaves in the beginning of the war, they would have won the war. But the politicians had to keep the 1% happy. Seems like nothing changes in that regard.
If the South had freed the slaves, there would have been no war. Read the secessionist documents.
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