Let’s fleetingly debate the beginning of one of America’s bloodiest of all wars – Our American Civil War. The war did not just materialize out of thin air, but undeniable events progressively led up to the internal conflict. I believe there were explicit milestones established within the preceding decades, which ultimately interposed the Civil War. Most historians will accredit the Civil War to the decades of division, which climaxed into a series of confrontations founded upon the moral and legal ethics of slavery. Shadowing the years after the Louisiana Purchase, our Congress was tasked to inaugurate guidelines for the expansion of slavery into any new territories on the western side of the country. With the influx of Missouri’s application for statehood (pro-slavery) we perceive a new spark of debates opening up. It was not so much the moral disputes posed by the institution of slavery, but I contend it was more of a power struggle. Missouri’s entry as a slave state would bestow the slave state faction in congress a larger majority than the north had.
With the advancement of the Missouri Compromise, the state was indorsed entry as a slave state, while in an effort to balance the congress, Maine was welcomed as a free state. An imaginary line was fashioned through the western territories at the 36⁰30 parallel, which fundamentally divided the north and south as those states that were free and those which were slave supporting. In my opinion, it would take a clueless legislator to deem that an imaginary line could bond a triumphant agreement between the two factions. To me, this was merely adding fuel to the fire and ultimately forcing the hands of the northern and southern states to wage an inevitable war to seek a permanent resolution.
Nat Turner was a slave and it appears that Mr. Turner had interpreted two solar eclipses as his formal instructions from God to initiate his rebellion. This rebellion spread through several plantations in Virginia instigating the slaves to do battle in the name of freedom. It seems that Turner’s eclipses, failed to reveal to him that he and seventy of his cohorts would be executed for their actions, judged criminal elements in the deaths of sixty white people. It took the deployment of the Virginia militia to suppress the rebellion. In an effort to prevent future actions by the slaves, the Virginia lawmakers reduced the few civil rights which the slaves had at the time. Education was banned for slaves and the right to assemble was limited.
Next we encounter the Compromise of 1850, where slavery was prevented within any of the expanded territories, while also providing support for the Fugitive Slave Act. This agreement again, only temporarily postponed the hostilities between the North and South, as it also failed to address the prime issues. In fact, it tended to reinforce, the disparity which was dividing the nation more and more.
At the same time, we see Harriet Beecher Stowe’s fictional account of slave life being disturbed in both the north and the south. Uncle Tom’s Cabin created a vast amount of controversy, as many readers from the north viewed the novel with horror, as they comprehended slavery for the first time, while the southerners protested that the book was spreading untrue statements. Here we go folks with another bit of trivia, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was considered the second best selling book at the time, second in sales to only the Bible.
As an all-out Civil War was being held at bay by a bare thread, the Dred Scott vs. Sanford decision enters the scene. Here we encounter the unusual situation where a slave is suing for his freedom in a court of law, with the case eventually making its way to the Supreme Court. Our American Civil War can be concluded that it was unfortunately the results of events from the two previous decades prior to the first shot being fired at Fort Sumter.
There has been an assortment of fictional novels concerning an alternate history where the south had won the war instead of losing it. Such novels include several by Harry Turtledove such as “The Guns of the South” and “How Few Remain”. In the novel, “The Guns of the South”, Turtledove provided us with an alternate ending to the American Civil War. The tale commences with a group of time-travelers who contributes modern AK-47s to Robert E. Lee’s military, which ultimately lead to Southern victory.
In 1864 we find the Confederacy losing against the superior forces of the Union. The tale relates that gentlemen speaking with strange accents approach Lee at his headquarters in Northern Virginia, and showed him a demonstration of a rifle, which is far superior to anything at that time. They offer to supply the Confederate soldiers with these AK-47 rifles. The team ultimately confides in Lee, and reveals that they are from the year 2014. They claim that white supremacy has failed to endure in their modern era. They explain to Lee how the blacks in the future outnumber the whites. Lee is told that Abraham Lincoln becomes a tyrant during his second term and passed laws to ensure the blacks will become the dominant faction in the country. With the stranger’s weapons in hand, the Army of Ulysses S. Grant is forced out of Virginia and the Confederates even manage to capture Washington, D.C. thus ends the Civil War. The book was interesting, however; I was totally disappointed in the ending. But it is not my intent to ruin the book for others enjoyment, but you may wish to read it.
In contrast, coming back to reality, I do not feel that a victory on the side of the Confederate Armies would have endured. Had the Confederacy successfully gained its independence, it would have launched a successive chain of events where additional states would initiate squabbling about some minor detail which would influence them to quit the union as well. Sort of a monkey see monkey do type of procedure. Such thoughts bring about a myriad of conceivable changes to not only America’s history, but world history as well. This is truly the ultimate, “what if scenario” for Civil War fans. Being a fan myself, I have often examined this very question. More than likely, the practice of slavery would have eventually perished as a consequence of the world opinion, similar to the way it did in South Africa years ago.
There were many opportunities exhibited during the war for this turn of events to have been achieved. The northern soldiers were severely discouraged multiple times during the conflict. Had Lee not been so hasty during the battle of Gettysburg, he might have placed a wedge between Lincoln and his reelection campaign. If this were to take place, it is likely that McClellan may very well have given up and sued for peace.
The South was very successful as a thriving agricultural nation. The wounds stemming from the war would have substantially healed and negotiations between the north and the south would have eventually normalized. The preliminary years following the controversial war would have been exceptionally turbulent for the south, as no nation can endure on agriculture resources alone. Manufacturing and retail would emphatically be an added benefit to secure success. I also embrace the concept that the south would have been ripe for attacks by foreign nations. At the onset of the war, the entire South had seceded and openly declared war against the central government in power. These states were well armed and had heavy bankrolls compliments of Britain. If you take a tour of West Point, and visit an area called Trophy Point, you will notice a row of cannons dating back to the Civil War. Inscriptions stamped on the barrels of each cannon state, “Made in Birmingham” or “Made in Manchester.” These were British fabricated cannons captured from the Confederate Army. It would seem likely that if the south had won, nations such as Britain would once again attempt to obtain land in North America. We could sit here indefinitely and argue the merits of what “might have been,” however in either case the years would not prove kind to the southern states. In direct response to the question, I believe they may have made it, but it would have been extremely difficult and dangerous at best.
Wars are very strange creations. They frequently commence as a result of one factor and end due to another. Wars in our history books, have often been fought for far more than what may initially emerge on the surface. Since it is difficult to actively recruit people to champion an unpopular cause of the ruling elite leaders, the parties within the war necessitated to devise an acceptable cover story to get the conflict motivated.
From our nations humble beginning, the north and the south followed the path of different drums. The northern climate and the mediocre soil conditions favored much smaller farms, as opposed to huge plantations. Industry was reluctantly becoming commonplace in the north due to the wealth of raw materials, and the creation of substantial population areas, which afforded the manpower. The first half of the 1800s showed a sweeping decline in farm labor, as it was becoming more financially rewarding for young men to peruse careers in industry forsaking the traditional family farm. The small farms of the north envisioned no need for slavery, as most were family owned, and small enough to operate by the family unit itself. More of the northern populations were involved in business, education, or medicine. Most engineers were more likely to be from the north rather than the south, thus contributing more to the industrialization process taking place. In contrast, the south had no large factory structure, but relied upon the plantation as their central feature. The fertile soil in the south was ideal for large farm complexes, and the warm weather sustained fruitful planting. Crops such as tobacco or cotton flourished in the southern conditions. With the success of their agricultural efforts, there were very few southern citizens who foresaw a requisite for industrial development. By 1860, the South’s slavery issues were tied closely to the area’s economy.
The Civil War has painted a horrible, but realistic portrait within the imagination of all Americans. We must salute the gallantry and heroism of those brave men on both sides, who fought for what they deemed the good life. It is sad that so much carnage and destruction was left in its wake. Far too often conversations tend to focus upon the specific battles which transpired during the war and not on the prime reasons for it taking place. The two prime arguments have been catalogued as disagreement over slavery and that of states’ rights verses federal rule. With that said, I contend the disputes were more intense than just slavery. The 1860 election prior to the Civil War split the Democratic Party, dividing the north segment from that of the south. This split was the outcome derived from the concern over the federal government guaranteeing that slavery would or would not prevail in any of the newly admitted states. This gave the Republicans the opportunity to seize the power of the nation. Even though the Democrats had caused this split, and eventually achieved the election of Lincoln, they were upset at the possible outcome.
The claim that our Civil War was fought mostly to free the slaves in the south is not entirely true. This was a war fought not so much between the various states, but noticeably between economic factions of the country. The plantation slave owners were defeated at the hands of the factory industrial slavers. No one wins in war and while most Southerners may entertain feelings of guilt, we unearth the fact that Northerners felt that they did the nation a huge favor, whereas we discern the truth to be that the war was a mutual slaughter, which wasted 630,000 American lives. The end of slavery resulted in the destruction of the old agrarian south at the hands of the growing industrial complex from the north. It was essentially a battle to see who would rule America.
The economic foundation involving the economy of the South was slavery, since labor was scarce. Since the southern plantation owners could not cost effectively hire people to labor on their plantation, slavery was the economic alternative. We can debate that the North fought to end this brutal practice, however, one must primarily inquire why the north wished to end slavery. Was it exactingly from a moral obligation to their fellow men, or perhaps there was an economic justification for the North’s actions? Did all the non-slave owning southern men suddenly become soldiers to defend slavery, or was it based upon the accepted propaganda being distributed? Since the balance of the country’s economic power was beginning to shift from the south to the north as a result of industrialization, it is possible that slavery was a doomed concept as it was. This leaves us with the notion that the whole concept of the Civil War was about commerce. It seems like the anti-slavery supporters were becoming an annoyance to President Lincoln, so he decided to act. Since the north could not compete with the southern trading amongst foreign nations, a system of tariffs was placed into play. Once the tariffs were in effect, the northern manufacturers began to flourish and our industrial nation was finally launched. Tariffs were the best method of ending slavery, but if pushed too far it could result in civil disobedience.
The Southern states were primarily agricultural while the states farther north were in the initial stages of industrialization. The South did not desire any part of the industrialization process for the lifestyle in the south was directly in contrast to the large cities with their industrial workers. So, we can clearly see that it was a case of the northern industrial barons swallowing the southern plantation owners as each had their own conditions to tend with, however the issue of slavery actually bit into both cultures.