It is often that one hears the numerous arguments for why Southern soldiers fought in the Civil War. Once in a while, one might even hear explanations for the Union soldiers’ reasons to fight. In truth, Union soldiers share the same ambiguity in reasons for going to war as their Confederate counterparts. Reasons the Northern man fought include, but are certainly not limited to, preserving the Union, to “see the elephant,” display courage, a communal effort, and perhaps because of prior U.S. military service. Union Soldiers fighting for a connection to slavery, rather it be preservation or abolitionism, made up an extreme minority of the Northern force. To say that Union Soldiers fought the Civil War to “end” slavery, is misleading. Keep in mind however that it really does not matter what ideology Northern soldiers adhered to in the broad context of the war. In the end, these soldiers represented merely the cutting edge of the instrument of government policy. This is something that David Tatum agrees to in his post about why Union soldiers fought. The problem with his interpretation is not in his realization that soldiers are merely a part of the proverbial machine, but on what he believes is the government’s policy they wish to extend.
Dav’s argument follows the normal narrative mentioned before. But then he engages in counter factual posing an interesting argument.
Yankees that claim that the South was primarily fighting for the right to continue slavery !
OK just for the sake of argument let’s say it’s true, That by a soldier joining the armed forces he was fighting to maintain slavery . But if we accept this we must also look at what the North was fighting for.
Now the Yankee’s will tell ya it was to preserve the Union and later the focus changed to freeing the slaves. Then they will throw in Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation
OOOOO-K, I’ve heard it all before. But lets look at it from the Yankees perspective and apply the logic evenly.
If the Confederates were fighting to preserve slavery, so were the Yankees!
The Yanks were fighting to preserve a Union that by law included slavery. So by fighting to save the union they were at the same time fighting to save slavery which was a part of the Union.
Even after the Emancipation Proclamation the yanks were fighting to preserve a Union that included slavery ! Lincoln stated- “Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.
So slavery was still an accepted practice in the Union even after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.
So the Yankees were still fighting to preserve a Union that included slavery.
As long as we all play by the same rules ya gotta accept the facts !
David seems to be under the impression that the Union fought to preserve slavery, because slavery existed, by law, in the U.S. at the time. Therefore, preservation of the Union means preservation of slavery. Apart from engaging in the logical fallacy of tu quoque, or the “you too” argument, David completely overlooks the North’s plainly stated policy. In order to tease out the North’s policy, we must make certain realizations about war and its function. First, the North (Union) did in fact fight in the Civil War. Second, war, as dictated by Clausewitz, is merely a continuation of policy. It is a instrument for that continuation. Third, the North used this instrument to carry out their policy. Finally, the North’s policy was primarily to preserve the Union, and later adopted a secondary policy of ending slavery, but only as long as it served the primary policy. Numerous primary documents dictate these conclusions:
1860 State of the Union Address – President James Buchanon (Dec. 3, 1860) – “…..Such a principle [secession] is wholly inconsistent with the history as well as the character of the Federal Constitution….” Buchanon insisted that secession was not constitutional, nor was it ever after the ratification of the Constitution. Of course, he also believed the Government could not stop it. His indecisiveness contributed to his failures as a President. But the policy of preservation continued on.
First Inaugural Address – Abraham Lincoln (Mar. 4, 1861) – “….It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances…..” Lincoln demonstrates from his inaugural that the government’s position will maintain secession as an illegal act. When the South escalates the level of violence in their policy by firing on Fort Sumter, Lincoln in turn chooses to escalate the North’s instrument of policy to one of war.
Lincoln’s Proclamation – Abraham Lincoln (Apr. 15, 1861) – “…I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government; and to redress wrongs already long enough endured…..” Lincoln’s proclamation is a government document. It calls for the concepts of the government to be preserved and protected. Lincoln, in this document, seeks this policy through the build up of military personnel asking Americans to rally behind his policy.
Letter to Horace Greely – Abraham Lincoln (Aug. 22, 1862) – ‘…I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save teh Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery…” In this letter to New York Times Tribune Editor Horace Greely, Lincoln again reiterates his policy as one preserving the Union and the laws inherited by the Constitution. He is adamant in his position so much so that he plainly explains how preservation of the Union stood paramount in the struggle over other issues such as slavery’s preservation and abolition. Of course, as Horace Greely pointed out years later, Lincoln’s continuous insistence on his cause having to do with preservation and not emancipation, might have been Lincoln’s attempt to prepare people for his changing position on slavery. Lincoln already completed a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation not long before his letter to Greely. This could be a way for Abe to highlight his primary purpose, but also demonstrate that emancipation was going to be used in war policy.
Notice that throughout the early years of the war, the Union maintained a policy of preservation. Not once is it mentioned that U.S. policy hinged on the preservation of slavery. In David’s twisted logic, he believes that simply because something existed within the Union, that means the Union fought to preserve it. By that same logic, we can also deduce that the Union fought to preserve coffee or the union blue wool that each soldier wore during the war. With that logic we can also conclude that the South fought for jean wool and industry….simply because they existed in the south. I do not think it is hard to see where David’s logic runs afoul. Especially given that Lincoln used the institution in a war like policy, changing with his own views over time, always subsidiary to the number one task of preserving the Union. In the long run, applying such twisted logic serves only to delude a situation and cancel out motivating factors of policy.