American Civil War
|What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!|
|Don't believe us?|
“”BURN MOTHERFUCKER BURN
|—General William Techumseh Sherman to Georgia. Quite possibly the greatest act of schadenfreude in American history.|
The American Civil War (alternatively known as the "War of Secession," "The War Between the States," and "The War of Northern Aggression") was a war fought between the Northern and Southern parts of the United States from 1861 to 1865.
After South Carolina received word of the election of Abraham Lincoln, it issued its declaration of independence from the Union, and a further six states followed before Lincoln took office. By 1862, eleven southern states had seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. The four slave-owning states with a population that was less than 25% slave (Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware) did not secede, and remained loyal to the Union. On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops bombarded the Union's Fort Sumter, effectively beginning the war.
 Causes of the war
The causes of the American Civil War have been extensively debated since the war's end in 1865, commonly by people trying their best to claim that the causes of secession were anything other than those the Confederates were claiming at the time.
“”Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
|— Declaration of the Causes of Secession for Mississippi sentences 2-6 |
An area of historical debate is found around whether or not the war was preventable. Some historians argue that the differences were too great between the two regions to be resolved by any other means than war; some believe that the war was avoidable, but fire-eaters in the South and extreme abolitionists in the North exacerbated the conflict. Still others think that the war should be blamed on "bumbling politicians," incapable of such compromises as "great" politicians like Daniel Webster and John Calhoun had accomplished.
Historians are divided on the extent to which economic issues, like the conflict over the tariff, and political issues, such as the debate between the "compact" versus "contract" theories of government, factored into split. There's even a school of historiography that holds that on the eve of the war, the North and South were not just different economic regions, but were two distinct civilizations, both trying to exist in one government.
The institution of slavery is at the core of the origins of the war. However, the historical view that the North and South fought the war over the moral issue of slavery has been disputed. Instead, slavery as a cause manifests itself in different ways, for example, the expansion of slavery into the territories, which the North opposed more for economic reasons than moral reasons. In addition, the protectionist tariffs that the North wanted on certain goods happened to be on items like cotton, which were grown largely in the South on plantations.
Today, many neo-Confederates deny that the issue of slavery was the primary motivation for the war, calling it the "War of Northern Aggression" or similar names to try and frame it as an issue of the federal government encroaching on states' rights. It is also important to mention that it is not just the system of slavery that the Confederate States were interested in protecting, but also the status of blacks in the social hierarchy as being lower than whites. There were additional fears of miscegenation on both sides, but the South was especially worried that the policies of the north would eventually lead to race mixing.
A huge source of evidence for the importance of not just slavery as the central cause, but the position of black individuals in society itself, can be found in contemporary documents. The various Declarations of Causes of Secession heavily reference slavery and the position of blacks as inferior as causes of secession, with almost no references to the elusive concept of "states' rights" that aren't explicitly tied to these issues. Further evidence of this claim can be found in the words of Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy in 1861, who in his Cornerstone Speech said,
“”Our new government [...] its foundations are laid, its corner- stone 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. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
 Howard Zinn's perspective
The idea that slavery was not the primary driving force behind the war is not unique to neo-Confederates; it was also advanced by Howard Zinn in his A People's History of the United States, as part of his argument that the effect of the Civil War was to replace chattel slavery with wage slavery.
Zinn, like the neo-Confederates, argued that the war was one of Northern aggression and had the aim of removing the antebellum Southern elite; namely, that when industrial interests in the North wanted to industrialize the South, the slave-holding elite resisted by causing mass secessions from the Union, after which "Lincoln initiated hostilities" against them.
Zinn further argued that slavery was used only as a rhetorical fig-leaf to cover this agenda, with the Union only taking action against slavery when their hand was forced: "It was only as the war grew more bitter, the casualties mounted, desperation to win heightened, and the criticism of the abolitionists threatened to unravel the tattered coalition behind Lincoln that he began to act against slavery."
This can immediately be countered by simply reading Lincoln's own words: he was already having anti-slavery sentiments as early as the 1830s and he wasn't particularly enamoured with "capitalists" that "fleeced the people."
 States Rights
A commonly cited cause of secession and the American Civil War is "States Rights". This is normally framed as the Confederate states being in favour of states rights, however when the declarations of secession are looked at only two matters directly relevant to states rights are mentioned as grievances. The first is the wp:Fugitive Slave Law that allowed black people to be kidnapped from a free state and returned to their "owners" in a slave state whatever the law of the individual state said. The second was the Dred Scott decision which made it impossible for any state to legally abolish slavery. In both these cases the South was complaining that states shouldn't have certain rights. Also a comparison between the Consitution of the Confederacy and the Constitution of the United States shows that the substantive changes made in the Confederate constitution took rights away from the states; the right to decide who had the vote, the right to set import tariffs to protect industries, the right to not have the government impose a tariff on one state in specific. That said it did grant states immunity from being sued by foreigners.
The American Civil War turned out to be one of the most bloody wars the world had ever seen. New technology was teamed up with old tactics, leading to a greatly increased casualty rate. Despite the greater lethality of the weapons involved, particularly the artillery (aided by the widespread availability of long-range rifles), most battles were still fought by lines of men facing each other across a field.
The American Civil War would also prove to be the last American war in which horse-mounted cavalry played a significant role. The Southern cavalry in particular were rather effective skirmishers, and would often attempt to disrupt supply lines for the North.
In the end, due to both greater industrial power and better political leadership, the North managed to grind down the Southern forces. The North, towards the end of the war, had installed generals who understood the nature of total war, exemplified by Sherman's "March to the Sea."
Part of the settlement was that the South had to give up slavery and accept military occupation for a length of time. By the end of the war, due to both the hardships of the war and some of the scorched earth tactics practiced by the Northern military, many in the South were willing to accept these conditions, and Reconstruction began.
 See also
- ↑ Facebook History of the World
- ↑ Data from the 1860 Census
- ↑ [http://sunsite.utk.edu/civil-war/reasons.html#Declaration of Causes of Seceding States for Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas]
- ↑ See also the mythos of the black brute.
- ↑ Declaration of Causes of Seceding States
- ↑ TeachingAmericanHistory.org: Cornerstone Speech
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 A People's History of the United States, 2nd ed., vol. II, p.15.
- ↑ Age 28
- ↑ Speech in the Illinois Legislature Concerning the State Bank
- ↑ Side by side comparison of the Confederate Constitution with that of the United States of America
- ↑ It is often said that more Americans died in the Civil War than all other American wars put together. See the Wikipedia page United States military casualties of war for the detailed numbers.