Another Poll For Class

Here is another poll I need to conduct for history class.  Your help is greatly appreciated.

After asking three people the following questions, post your reaction to their responses, as well as your own:
(1) In your opinion, what caused the American Civil War, and what were the main results of this war?
(2) What were Union soldiers fighting for?
(3) What were Confederate soldiers fighting for?
(4) In what ways are we still fighting the Civil War? What issues from that period of time are still unresolved?

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4 Comments on “Another Poll For Class”

  1. […] “In your opinion, what caused the American Civil War, and what were the main results of this w… […]

  2. Glen Dean Says:

    (1) Many things led up to the war, but the south’s secession is the direct cause. Obviously, the war ended slavery but it also ended the concept of federalism.

    (2) Most of the union soldiers were fighting to preserve the union. They certainly were not fighting to free any slaves.

    (3) The confederate soldiers were fighting for their independence. They saw their fight as something similar to the American revolution.

    (4) There will always be an argument between the power of the federal government versus the power and rights of the individual states.

  3. Glen Dean Says:

    Btw, I just read your bio. I grew up just down the road from you in Munford, Alabama. I also went to Jacksonville State.

  4. bridgett Says:

    1a) Many things led to the war. Many individual states, among them Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, and Missssippi, explicitly stated in their articles of secession that they were exiting the Union to preserve the right to hold slaves. The war commenced to bring these southern states back into the Union, but Union war goals changed as the war progressed and eventually encompassed the emancipation of slaves as a means to break the Confederate economy and destabilize the Confederate homefront.

    1b) The war accomplished a number of things, some intentional and some accidental. It created the conditions whereby the enslaved could make themselves central to the resolution of the conflict — by becoming contraband, by insisting on their willingness and ability to fight, and by forcing a reimagining of the relationship between property, personhood, and citizenship. It changed the basic understanding of labor relations for free workers everywhere, not just in the South. It changed family law, gender relations, suffrage, the national economy. The needs of wartime production shaped the industrial development of the nation and the diplomatic landscape that emerged during the war largely stayed that way for another thirty years or so. It resulted in three long-overdue Amendments to the Constitutions as well as reawakened the idea that amending the Constitution was a viable and necessary part of American politics. By ending slavery in an extra-constitutional way (as an end result of a war), it broke a constitutional impasse that would have guaranteed that slavery was unlikely to be ended in a constitutional way. The resulting agreement among white combatants over what the war “meant” (honor of the combatants, love of a “way of life,” about politics rather than slavery) made it possible for a national culture of white supremacy to develop that would mask the centrality of slavery to the war’s causes, shifting aims, and resolution.

    2) Depends on when in the war you’re talking about and which Union soldiers. Many northern soldiers initially fought for the preservation of the union. As the war rolled along and they actually began to have more contact with African-Americans, some changed their minds and became more mobilized to end slavery. The most recent work argues that the majority fought because they didn’t want to be perceived as cowards and because they felt a commitment to other men with whom they enlisted. Contraband freedmen who joined, however, were fighting for their own liberty and the civic inclusion that they felt would be extended if they showed themselves to be fit soldiers.

    3) Depends on when in the war you’re talking and which Confederate soldiers. Most of them did NOT own slaves and would have probably euphemistically said something about defending their homes against Northern invasion and “way of life”. However, they weren’t stupid. Their way of life — their economy, their system of property, their control over their wives and kids under the law, their place within the social order — did depend on slavery. I believe that Glen is right in that they saw their fight as an extension of the American Revolution, insofar as they believed that the Revolution had carried within it an elevation of the rights of white men (no matter how poor) over everyone else. They also believed in the right of states to move freely in and out of the Union. Finally, I’d say the same kinds of manliness pressures that affected Union soldiers (wanting to be seen as brave by their womenfolk, love of their comrades in arms) also kept them in the field, though a historian like Drew Faust argues that as women’s morale eroded, the women pressured men to reconceive where their duty really was. By the end of the war, desertion was a huge problem for the Confederacy, huge enough that the Confederate government seriously entertained using black soldiers.

    4) Good lord. This is too big a question. I think that we’re still unwilling to discuss or do anything about structural inequality — not just racial inequality, but the poor integration of the rural south as a whole into the national economy (thinking here of Appalachia in general). I think that there’s a lot of painful regional stereotypes that feed hate and they aren’t very far under the surface, especially not in mainstream media representations of the South. As a nation, we’ve been unwilling to be honest about the very complex nature of the war’s causes, cast of characters, and consequences, as though it couldn’t be about a whole lot of things and involve a tremendous number of different stories simultaneously. And then there’s the stuff about trying to use the symbols of the past (like the battleflag) to make enduring statements about a region’s politics (which are necessarily statements about race, given the symbol the activists have chosen to use) — it again is trying to divorce the issue of political capital/declarations of independence from racial privilege. But man…what a huge question….

    Hope this helps.

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