American Civil War
The American Civil War (ACW), also known as the War of the Rebellion, the Great Rebellion, and several other names, was a civil war that was fought in the United States of America from 1861 to 1865. Fearing that the future of slavery was in jeopardy, eleven slave-holding U.S. states located in the southern United States declared their secession from the country and formed the Confederate States, also known as "the Confederacy", sparking war. Led by Jefferson Davis, they fought against the United States, also known as "the Union", led by Abraham Lincoln, which consisted of every free U.S. state as well as five slave-holding states, known as "border states". In 1865, after four years of heavy fighting, the Confederacy surrendered, and slavery was abolished in the United States.
- 1 The secession crisis (1860-1861)
- 2 The Confederacy attacks Fort Sumter (12 April 1861)
- 3 The Confederacy responds to starting the Civil War
- 4 War aims
- 5 The First Major Battle: Bull Run (July 21, 1861)
- 6 The Peninsula Campaign (April-July 1862)
- 7 The Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia (December 13, 1862)
- 8 The Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (July 1863)
- 9 The Siege of Vicksburg (June-July 1863)
- 10 The Eastern Front (1863-1865)
- 11 Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House (9 April 1865)
- 12 The war on the home front
- 13 The war and slavery
- 14 African Americans recruited for the U.S. Army
- 15 Quotes in fiction
- 16 External links
The secession crisis (1860-1861)
- At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? — Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! — All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
- For, whether we will or not, the question of Slavery is the question, the all absorbing topic of the day. It is true that all of us, and by that I mean, not the Republican party alone, but the whole American people, here and elsewhere, all of us wish this question settled, wish it out of the way. It stands in the way, and prevents the adjustment, and the giving of necessary attention to other questions of national house-keeping. The people of the whole nation agree that this question ought to be settled, and yet it is not settled. And the reason is that they are not yet agreed how it shall be settled. All wish it done, but some wish one way and some another, and some a third, or fourth, or fifth; different bodies are pulling in different directions, and none of them having a decided majority, are able to accomplish the common object.
- 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 the 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.
- We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
- The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party, while it attracts to itself by its creed, the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government; anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose.
- If we cannot justify the South in the act of Secession, we will go down in History solely as a brave, impulsive but rash people who attempted in an illegal manner to overthrow the Union of our Country.
- We have much to say in vindication of our conduct, but this we must leave to history. The bloody conflict between brothers, is closed, and we 'come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.' The South had $2,000,000,000 invested in Slaves. It was very natural, that they should desire to protect, and not lose this amount of property. Their action in this effort, resulted in War. There was no desire to dissolve the Union, but to protect this property. The issue was made and it is decided.
- Our plain view of the war is simply this. For a long series of years the people of the North differed with those of the South upon the question of slavery and the relations between the states and Federal government. All peaceable means of adjustment were resorted to and failed to reconcile us. At last the controversy was referred to that tribunal from whose decision there is no appeal–to the tribunal of war,–the arbitrament of the sword.
- It is a revolution; a revolution of the most intense character; in which belief in the justice, prudence, and wisdom of secession is blended with the keenest sense of wrong and outrage, and it can no more be checked by human effort for the time than a prairie fire by a gardener’s watering pot.
- Let us, then, bestow a few thoughts upon what the 'Abolition of Slavery' means. In the first place, it means the annihilation and end of all negro labor, agricultural especially, over the whole South. It means a loss to the planters of the South of, at least, FOUR BILLION dollars, by having this labor taken from them; and a loss, in addition, of FIVE BILLION dollars more, in lands, mills, machinery, and other great interests, which will be rendered valueless by the want of slave labor to cultivate the lands, and the loss of the crops which give to those interests life and prosperity. It means, again, the turning loose upon the turning loose upon society, without the salutary restraints to which they are now accustomed, more than four millions of a very poor and ignorant population, to ramble in idleness over the country until their wants should drive most of them, first to petty thefts, and afterwards to the bolder crimes of robbery and murder. ...
- John Townsend, as quoted in The Doom of Slavery in the Union: It's Safety Out of It (29 October 1860), also quoted in "Why Non-Slaveholding Southeners Fought" (25 January 2011), by Gordon Rhea, Civil War Trust.
- But the abolition of slavery means, further, that the negro is not only to be made free, but equal also to his former master, in political and civil rights; and , as far as it can be done, in social privileges. The planter and his family are not only to be reduced to poverty and want, by the robbery of his property, but to complete the refinement of the indignity, they are to be degraded to the level of an inferior race, be jostled by them in their paths, and intruded upon, and insulted over by rude and vulgar upstarts. Who can describe the loathsomeness of such an intercourse;—the constrained intercourse between refinement reduced to poverty, and swaggering vulgarity suddenly elevated to a position which it is not prepared for? It has hereto fore resulted in a war between the races, and the extermination of one or the other; or it has become so intolerable, that expatriation has been preferred as an evil more easily to be borne.
- John Townsend, as quoted in The Doom of Slavery in the Union: It's Safety Out of It (29 October 1860), also quoted in "Why Non-Slaveholding Southeners Fought" (25 January 2011), by Gordon Rhea, Civil War Trust.
- It will be to the non-slaveholder, equally with the largest slaveholder, the obliteration of caste and the deprivation of important privileges.
- The color of the white man is now, in the South, a title of nobility in his relations as to the negro.
- In the Southern slaveholding States, where menial and degrading offices are turned over to be per formed exclusively by the Negro slave, the status and color of the black race becomes the badge of inferiority, and the poorest non-slaveholder may rejoice with the richest of his brethren of the white race, in the distinction of his color. He may be poor, it is true; but there is no point upon which he is so justly proud and sensitive as his privilege of caste; and there is nothing which he would resent with more fierce indignation than the attempt of the Abolitionist to emancipate the slaves and elevate the Negroes to an equality with himself and his family.
- I have never doubted what Virginia would do when the alternatives present themselves to her intelligent and gallant people, to choose between an association with her sisters and the dominion of a people, who have chosen their leader upon the single idea that the African is equal to the Anglo-Saxon, and with the purpose of placing our slaves on equality with ourselves and our friends of every condition! and if we of South Carolina have aided in your deliverance from tyranny and degradation, as you suppose, it will only the more assure us that we have performed our duty to ourselves and our sisters in taking the first decided step to preserve an inheritance left us by an ancestry whose spirit would forbid its being tarnished by assassins. We, of South Carolina, hope soon to greet you in a Southern Confederacy, where white men shall rule our destinies, and from which we may transmit to our posterity the rights, privileges, and honor left us by our ancestors.
- John McQueen, Correspondence to T. T. Cropper and J. R. Crenshaw (24 December 1860), Washington, D.C., as quoted in "Why Non-Slaveholding Southeners Fought" (25 January 2011), by Gordon Rhea, Civil War Trust.
- It is totally unnecessary for the gentleman to remind me of my coming from a slaveholding state. I know whence I came, and I know my duty, and I am ready to submit to any responsibility which belongs to me as a senator from a slaveholding state. I have heard something said on this and a former occasion about allegiance to the south. I know no south, no north, no east, no west, to which I owe any allegiance. I owe allegiance to two sovereignty, and only two. One is the sovereignty of this Union, and the other is the sovereignty of the state of Kentucky. My allegiance is to this Union and to my state; but if gentlemen suppose they can exact from me an acknowledgement of allegiance to any ideal or future contemplated confederacy of the south, I here declare that I owe no allegiance to it; nor will I, for one, come under any such allegiance if I can avoid it.
- Henry Clay, speech in the Senate (14 February 1850), in response to a speech by Senator Henry S. Foote of Mississippi, who had 'lectured' Clay on the allegiance which he owed to the southern U.S. as a senator from a southern U.S. state. From The Life, Correspondence, and Speeches of Henry Clay (Vol. 3); ed. Calvin Colton: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1857.
- Whatever is calculated to weaken or impair the strength of [the] Union,—whether originating at the North or the South,—whether arising from the incendiary violence of abolitionists, or from the coalition of nullifiers, will never meet with my unqualified approval.
- Sam Houston, as quoted in Sam Houston (2004), by James Haley, University of Oklahoma Press.
- Fellow citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies, I refuse to take this oath. I deny the power of this Convention to speak for Texas....I protest....against all the acts and doings of this convention and I declare them null and void
- Sam Houston, as quoted in Sam Houston (2004), by James Haley, University of Oklahoma Press, pp. 390–91.
- Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.
- Sam Houston, as quoted in Sam Houston (2004), by James Haley, University of Oklahoma Press, p. 397.
- What was the reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secession? This reason may be summed up in one single proposition. It was a conviction, a deep conviction on the part of Georgia, that a separation from the North-was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery.
- If things are allowed to go on as they are, it is certain that slavery is to be abolished. By the time the north shall have attained the power, the black race will be in a large majority, and then we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything. Is it to be supposed that the white race will stand for that? It is not a supposable case. Although not half so numerous, we may readily assume that war will break out everywhere like hidden fire from the earth, and it is probable that the white race, being superior in every respect, may push the other back. They will then call upon the authorities at Washington, to aid them in putting down servile insurrection, and they will send a standing army down upon us, and the volunteers and Wide-Awakes will come in thousands, and we will be overpowered and our men will be compelled to wander like vagabonds all over the earth; and as for our women, the horrors of their state we cannot contemplate in imagination. That is the fate which Abolition will bring upon the white race. But that is not all of the Abolition war. We will be completely exterminated, and the land will be left in the possession of the blacks, and then it will go back to a wilderness and become another Africa or Saint Domingo.
- Join the north and what will become of you? They will hate you and your institutions as much as they do now, and treat you accordingly. Suppose they elevate Charles Sumner to the presidency? Suppose they elevate Fred Douglass, your escaped slave, to the presidency? What would be your position in such an event? I say give me pestilence and famine sooner than that.
- We know that if Mexico is acquired, the South will demand it for slavery and the North for free institutions. We must forego, for the present, new conquests, unless the love of acquisition is stronger than the love of domestic peace.
Suppose it to be conceded that the Constitution should be amended, what amendment will satisfy the South? Nothing less than the protection of slavery in the territories. But our people have pronounced against it. All who voted for Mr. Lincoln or Mr. Douglas — over 3,300,000 citizens — voted against this claim. Less than 1 million voted for it. Should the great majority yield to a meager minority, especially under threats of disunion? This minority demand that slavery be protected by the Constitution. Our fathers would not allow the word 'slave' or 'slavery' in the Constitution, when all the states but one were slaveholding. Shall we introduce these words when a majority of the states are free and when the progress of civilization has arrayed the world against slavery? If the love of peace, and ease, and office should tempt politicians and merchants to do it, the people will rebel. I assure you, whatever may be the consequence, they will not yield their moral convictions by strengthening the influence of slavery in this country.
Recent events have only deepened this feeling. The struggle to establish slavery in Kansas; the frequent murders and mobbings, in the South, of Northern citizens; the present turbulence and violence of Southern society; the manifest fear of freedom of speech and of the press; the danger of insurrection; and now the attempt to subvert the government rather than submit to a constitutional election — these events — disguise it as you may, have aroused a counterirritation in the North that will not allow its representatives to yield, merely for peace, more than is prescribed by the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Every guarantee of this instrument ought to be faithfully and religiously observed. But when it is proposed to change it, to secure new guarantees to slavery, to extend and protect it, you awake and arouse the antislavery feeling of the North to war against slavery everywhere....
Without disrespect to South Carolina, it would be easy to show that Shay's Rebellion and the Whiskey Insurrection involved the government in greater danger than the solitary secession of South Carolina. But the movement becomes imposing when we are assured that several powerful states will very soon follow in the lead of South Carolina; and when we know that other states, still more powerful, sympathize with the seceding states, to the extent of opposing, and perhaps resisting, the execution of the laws [of the United States] in the seceding states....
Disunion is war! God knows, I do not threaten it, for I seek to prevent it in every way possible. I speak but the logic of facts, which we should not conceal from each other....
If war results, what a war it will be! Contemplate the North and South in hostile array against each other. If these sections do not know each other now, they will then.
We are a nation of military men, naturally turbulent because we are free, accustomed to arms, ingenious, energetic, brave, and strong. The same qualities that have enabled a single generation of men to develop the resources of a continent would enable us to destroy more rapidly than we have constructed....
How can we avert a calamity at which humanity and civilization shudder? I know no way but to cling to the government framed by our fathers, to administer it in a spirit of kindness but, in all cases, without partiality to enforce the laws.... Let us cling to each other in the hope that our differences will pass away, as they often have in times past. For the sake of peace, for the love of civil liberty, for the honor of our name, our race, our religion, let us preserve the Union, loving it better as the clouds grow darker. I am willing to unite with any man... who is willing to rely on the Constitution as it is for his rights, and who is willing to maintain and defend the Union under all circumstances, against all enemies, at home or abroad.
- Rep. John Sherman (Republican-Ohio), letter to Philadelphians (December 22, 1860). He sent a copy to his brother, William Tecumseh Sherman, who would later command the Union armies in the West.
- We prefer, however, our system of industry, by which labor and capital are identified in interest, and capital, therefore, protects labor–by which our population doubles every twenty years–by which starvation is unknown, and abundance crowns the land–by which order is preserved by unpaid police, and the most fertile regions of the world, where the white man cannot labor, are brought into usefulness by the labor of the African, and the whole world is blessed by our own productions. All we demand of other peoples is, to be let alone, to work out our own high destinies. United together, and we must be the most independent, as we are the most important among the nations of the world. United together, and we require no other instrument to conquer peace, than our beneficent productions. United together, and we must be a great, free and prosperous people, whose renown must spread throughout the civilized world, and pass down, we trust, to the remotest ages. We ask you to join us, in forming a Confederacy of Slaveholding States.
- If the confederacy is broken up, the government is dissolved, and it behooves every distinct community, as well as every individual, to take care of themselves.
When disunion has become a fixed and certain act, why may not New York disrupt the bands which bind her to a venal and corrupt master.... Amid the gloom which the present and prospective condition of things must cast over the country, New York, as a free city, may shed only light and hope of a future reconstruction of our once blessed confederacy.
- New York City Mayor Fernando Wood, address to the City Council, recommending that, with the Southern states seceding from the United States, New York City should become an independent city-state (1861).
- They appealed to the Constitution, they appealed to justice, they appealed to fraternity, until the Constitution, justice, and fraternity were no longer listened to in the legislative halls of their country, and then, sir, they prepared for the arbitrament of the sword; and now you see the glittering bayonet, and you hear the tramp of armed men from your capital to the Rio Grande.
- Senator Robert Toombs, remarks on the secessionists in the United States Senate (January 7, 1861); reported in the Congressional Globe, vol. 38, p. 267.
- Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern states that, by the accession of a Republican administration, their property and peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension....
I hold that, in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the Union of these states is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law (constitution) for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our national Constitution, and the Union will endure forever....
Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority, held in restraint by the constitutional checks and limitations... is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism....
No State upon its mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union.... There needs to be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless it be forded upon the national authority....
In your hands, my dissatisfied countrymen, and not in mine is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without yourselves being the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the government, while I have the most solemn one to 'preserve, protect, and defend' it.
- President Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address (1861).
- On! ye patriots to the battle. Hear Fort Moultrie's canon rattle. Then away, then away, then away to the fight! Go meet those Southern Traitors with iron will and should your courage falter boys, remember Bunker Hill. Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! The stars and stripes forever! Hurrah! Hurrah! Our Union shall not sever! As our fathers crushed oppression deal with those who breathe Secession. Then away, then away, then away to the fight. Though Beauregard and Wigfall. Their swords may whet. Just tell them Major Anderson. Has not surrendered yet. Hurrah! Hurrah! Our Union shall not sever! Is Virginia, too, seceeding? Washington's remains unheeding? Then away, then away, then away to the fight. Unfold our country's banner. In triumph there and let the rebels desecrate that banner if they dare. Hurrah! Hurrah! Our Union shall not sever! Volunteers, be up and doing. Still the good old path pursuing. Then away, then away, then away to the fight. Your sires, who fought before you have led the way. Then follow in their footsteps and be as brave as they. Hurrah! Hurrah! Our Union shall not sever! On! ye patriots to the battle. Hear Fort Moultrie's cannon rattle then away, then away, then away to the fight. The star that lights our Union shall never set! Though fierce may be the conflict we'll gain the victory yet. Hurrah! Hurrah! Our Union shall not sever!
- Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.
- One-sixth, and a little more, of the population of the United States are slaves, looked upon as property, as nothing but property. The cash value of these slaves, at a moderate estimate, is $2,000,000,000. This amount of property value has a vast influence on the minds of its owners, very naturally. The same amount of property would have an equal influence upon us if owned in the north. Human nature is the same, people at the south are the same as those at the north, barring the difference in circumstances. Public opinion is founded, to a great extent, on a property basis. What lessons the value of property is opposed, what enhances its value is favored. Public opinion at the south regards slaves as property and insists upon treating them like other property.
- On the other hand, the free states carry on their government on the principle of the equality of men. We think slavery is morally wrong, and a direct violation of that principle. We all think it wrong. It is clearly proved, I think, by natural theology, apart from revelation. Every man, black, white or yellow, has a mouth to be fed and two hands with which to feed it, and that bread should be allowed to go to that mouth without controversy.
- South Carolina cites, loosely, but with substantial accuracy, some of the language of the original Declaration. That Declaration does say that it is the right of the people to abolish any form of government that becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established. But South Carolina does not repeat the preceding language in the earlier document: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal'.
- Harry V. Jaffa, as quoted in A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War (2000), Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, p. 231.
- Since I joined the Libertarian Party, I have encountered many people prepared to defend the right of the Confederate States to secede from the Union. Similar arguments have even been made by the economist Walter Williams in his newspaper columns, even though he himself is black and, one might imagine, would particularly appreciate the liberation of the slaves by the Union Army.
- I do not believe that we can treat government as a Contract at Will, something that can be unilaterally terminated for good cause, bad cause, or no cause. To dissolve the bonds of government, as the Declaration of Independence says, is not something undertaken lightly. We expect such action to be for Cause, with the Declaration itself detailing the sorts of things that would discredit the legitimacy of a government. Unfortunately, the Cause of the Southern States was, as Ulysses S. Grant said, 'one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse'. I have lost all patience with modern apologists for Confederate secession, despite their often bona fides and libertarian credentials–the principle is vicious in implication and anarchist in effect.
- So exactly what 'Evils' were being suffered by the Southern States that moved them to leave the Union? Well, the threat of the Abolition of Slavery. As Ulysses S. Grant said, this in fact was 'one of the worst causes ever'. The evils were being practiced by the Slave States, not suffered by them; and they wished to leave the Union in order to continue practicing their evils without opposition. This being the case, the libertarian arguments in relation to Southern Secession try to ignore slavery in favor of other motives, like protective tariffs, for secession. I have examined this sort of thing elsewhere. The idea is bogus, and has been well refuted by a recent book, What This Cruel War Was Over, Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War, by Chandra Manning. Everyone, at the time, knew that the War was about slavery. I did not know there even were Regimental newspapers in the Civil War armies, but there were; and Manning has found that in speaking of the reasons for the War, they speak of slavery, not tariffs, as do private letters, newspapers, etc. And, of course, Lincoln would not have won the election in 1860 if the Democratic Party had not split in three parts and run three candidates, Northern, Southern Unionist, and Southern Secessionist. The split was over slavery, as the Whig Party had split, not over tariffs.
- The decision came from what seemed to many white Virginians the unavoidable logic of the situation: Virginia was a slave state; the Republicans had announced their intention of limiting slavery; slavery was protected by the sovereignty of the state.
- Edward L. Ayers, as quoted in In the Presence of Mine Enemies: The Civil War in the Heart of America 1859-1863 (2003), p. 141.
- In fact, the state rights defense of secession in 1860-1861 did not really appear in force until after 1865 as builders of the Lost Cause myth sought to distance themselves from slavery.
- William C. Davis, as quoted in The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy (1996), Kansas: University Press of Kansas, p. 180.
- Woods writes 'that the slavery debate masked the real issue: the struggle over power and domination', p. 48. Talk about a distinction without a difference. It is akin to stating that the demands of sugar lobbyists for protective quotas mask their real worry: political influence. Yes, slaveholders constituted a special interest that sought political power. Why? To protect slavery.
- In sum, the commissioners described one apocalyptic vision after another, emancipation, race war, miscegenation. The collapse of white supremacy would be so cataclysmic that no self-respecting Southerner could fail to rally to the secessionist cause, they argued. Secession was necessary to preserve the purity and survival of the white race. This was the unvarnished, near universal message of southern political leaders to their constituencies.
- In fact, the state rights defense of secession in 1860-1861 did not really appear in force until after 1865 as builders of the Lost Cause myth sought to distance themselves from slavery.
- William C. Davis, as quoted in The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy (1996), Kansas: University Press of Kansas, p. 180.
- Legalistic Southerners tried to view the Constitution as a contract. Unfortunately, that viewpoint breaks down when viewed as a lawyer views a contract. There are very few ways to legally break a contract unilaterally.
- William C. Davis, as quoted in The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy (1996), University Press of Kansas, p. 186.
- The Deep South States seceded because an Abolitionist President was intolerable to them, regardless of Lincoln's promises to leave slavery untouched in the current slave States. They didn't trust him.
- In such a situation, where a wrong is inflicted and justice denied, South Carolina had a right to either violent or non-violent resistance. Secession would be a form of violent resistance, and so justified. However, in 1860 South Carolina was not afraid of injustice, but of justice. Despite what some now say, it was not the continuing problem of tariffs that pushed the 'fire-eaters' over the edge. It was the 'Black Republicans'. While persons have the right to exercise their rights, like voluntary association, for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reasons, no one has the right to any action whose purpose is to perpetuate crime and escape from justice. Southern slave owners, although we may say, as Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman actually did, that they were acting in good faith, nevertheless were engaged in one of the most vile businesses of human history. Even worse, they were justifying it with a pure racism that served to all but completely dehumanize their African bondsmen. This became one of the worst poisons in American history. It had already infected Constitutional Law through the Dred Scott decision, which held that no black person was a citizen of the United States or had any rights that need be recognized by white people. This monstrous doctrine did not end with the Civil War. Even when the slaves were free, and their rights enshrined in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, the Southern die-hards, given a free hand by the withdrawal of Federal forces in 1877, created regimes of Jim Crow and Segregation that disenfranchised, terrorized, and oppressed black people for another century.
- There was little hope that a separate Northern Republic would have been all that helpful in ending slavery in the South. If the Southern States were allowed to secede, the United States would not then necessarily have become an active agent in fomenting slavery rebellions. That would not have been diplomatic or friendly to a sovereign neighbor, and the prospect of some nearby state becoming another Haiti would have been agreeable to few. Similarly, the availability of the North as a refuge for runaway slaves is wishful thinking. In modern terms, most Northern opinion, even much Abolitionist opinion, which also was nowhere near a majority in the North before the war, was blatantly racist. Few wanted to see an influx of free blacks into the North. There were many places where that already was not tolerated, and such practices would harden in the future when there actually was a large influx of blacks into the North after the turn of the century, fleeing Segregation, lynchings, etc. Many of those long opposed to slavery, including Abraham Lincoln himself, wanted and expected that freed slaves would go back to Africa, and they had no intention of receiving free blacks into American society on terms of citizenship and equal rights. The Civil War itself changed some of that, but it does not do to forget what attitudes there were prior to that transformation–and how the Civil War itself was instrumental in some of the positive changes, as with Lincoln abandoning the 'back to Africa' program. Another problem with the 'natural abolition' argument is its questionable morality. Even if the South had abolished slavery by 1888, like Brazil, that would have left a whole further generation of people to grow up in slavery. Usually, if we see someone being assaulted or robbed or raped, and we are able to protect them from the attacker, it is our moral duty to intervene. We do not comfort ourselves that in time the attack will 'naturally' end, and so everything will be all right. No, everything will not be all right. Every moment of the attack is more harm and more of a wrong done. It is our duty, if we are able to do so, to come to the aid of the victim immediately.
- If the secession of the Southern States could not reasonably be expected to create conditions that would very soon end slavery, we must then admit the immorality of allowing it. It is simple enough to assert in abstraction that southern states had a right to secede, and that is that, as though slavery was not even an issue; but if a crime is being committed, it is our duty to stop it. Also, even if we concede that slave holders were acting in good faith, based on centuries of tradition, and were not morally culpable, it is still obvious that no burglar, even if acting in good faith, should be allowed to leave the premises of the burglary with goods that are not his just because an innocent person would ordinarily have the right not to be detained where they did not want to be. The extra factor is the possession of goods that are someone else's property. The 'good faith' burglar may be innocent of crime, but we will require him to part with the improperly acquired property. Were slave owners then to be allowed to leave a judicial regime in free possession of goods, persons, that are not theirs and could well be judged stolen? If slavery was one of the greatest evils that human beings ever inflicted upon each other, is that a factor that can simply be overridden and ignored in relation to freedom of association and the political 'consent of the governed'? Indeed, that is to recognize the same freedom in the slave owners that is simultaneously denied in the slaves. This is a paradoxical form of moral discrimination, to say the least. If our moral duty is to come to the aid of victims of criminal assault, if we are able to do so, then the moral duty of northerners was to come to the aid immediately of enslaved human beings in the south, just as John Brown and Frederick Douglass originally thought. But if it was the duty of true abolitionists to take up arms, it would be perverse not to do so just because the political rationale at large was otherwise somewhat morally confused. Thus, even if other northerners fought to 'save the Union' rather than to free the slaves, that could have been accepted, as it was by Douglass, as sufficient for the commission of the proper purpose.
- Hummel seems to take Lincoln at his word that he would free no slaves in order to save the Union. However, no 'Fire Eaters' in the south believed that kind of thing for a minute; and it is their suspicion that drove events. South Carolina and the original seven Confederate States left the Union in order to preserve slavery, pure and simple. They would not live under a regime dominated by a Party dedicated to ending slavery, just as earlier abolitionists did not want to live under a regime, though they did anyway, that tolerated slavery. The border states that subsequently seceded, like Virginia and Tennessee, did so more on the constitutional principle that force should not be used to prevent secession–though even that principle, curiously, only appealed to slave states with a sufficiently dominant slave holder political faction. Since Lincoln subsequently issued the Emancipation Proclamation at very nearly the first political opportunity to do so, we might suspect too that he was more than willing to 'save the Union' as a means to freeing the slaves.
- Jefferson saw the future well enough to know where trouble would come from. Thus, not only were there deficiencies in the Constitution, but it was clear to him that something would have to be done about slavery or there would be hell to pay. And there was. Jefferson today is easily faulted for racism and for not freeing his own slaves, but the Civil War would not have surprised him: He already saw it coming in 1820.
- Kelley L. Ross, as quoted in The Great Republic: Presidents and States of the United States (2012).
- While one or more of these interpretations remain popular among the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other Southern heritage groups, few professional historians now subscribe to them. Of all these interpretations, the states' rights argument is perhaps the weakest. It fails to ask the question, states' rights for what purpose? States' rights, or sovereignty, was always more a means than an end, an instrument to achieve a certain goal more than a principle.
- James M. McPherson, as quoted in This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War (2007). Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 3-9.
- The era of the Revolution was when the Northern states did begin to end slavery. Vermont ended slavery outright in 1777, Massachusetts in 1780, and New Hampshire in 1783. The other Northern states started a phase-out, like Jefferson contemplated for Virginia: Pennsylvania in 1780, Connecticut and Rhode Island in 1784, New York in 1799, and New Jersey in 1805. New York's phase-out was complete by 1818. Since Jefferson hoped that the process might simply continue in the South, he was alarmed by the Missouri Compromise in 1820–'a firebell in the night'–because it signaled the permanent division and hardening of the country into slave and free and the end of the gradual process that had worked in the North. Jefferson's fear about the polarization of the county and his consequent opposition to the Missouri Compromise is now sometimes given, by historians who delight in trashing the heroes of American history, a distorted representation as an advocacy of the expansion of slavery.
- Secession was required to preserve slavery. Why should non-slaveholders care? Because slavery was the will of God, and those who opposed the institution–the abolitionists–were by definition anti-God. More to the point, secession was necessary to preserve white supremacy, to avoid a race war, and to prevent racial amalgamation. For Southerners to remain in the Union, be they slave-owners or non-slave-owners, meant losing their property, their social standing, and the 'sacred purity of our daughters'. Tariffs appear nowhere in these sermons and speeches, and 'states' rights' are mentioned only in the context of the rights of states to decide whether some of their inhabitants can own other humans. The central message was to play on the fear of African barbarians at the gate. The preachers and politicians delivered on their promise. The Confederate States were established explicitly to preserve and expand the institution of slavery. Alexander Stephens, the Confederacy's vice president, said so himself in 1861, in unambiguous terms.
- While the rest of the western world followed an historic trajectory dedicated to abolishing slavery and bringing an expanded meaning to the concepts of human rights and participatory democracy, the south marched off in an opposite direction. The Confederacy was a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are not created equal, and that the government's job is to preserve and ensure that inequality.
The Confederacy attacks Fort Sumter (12 April 1861)
- Fort Sumter has been on fire. [Union Army Major] Anderson [the commanding officer of Fort Sumter] has not yet silenced any of our guns.... But the sound of these guns makes regular meals impossible.
- Diary of Mary Boykin Chesnut, a resident of Charleston, South Carolina (1861).
- Showers of [cannon] balls... and shells... poured into the fort in one incessant stream, causing great flakes of masonry to fall in all directions. When the immense mortar shells, after sailing high in he air, came down in a vertical direction and buried themselves in the parade ground, their explosion shook the fort like an earthquake.
- Major Abner Doubleday (1861). Doubleday was second-in-command at Fort Sumter and briefly commanded Union troops at Gettysburg in July 1863. He was later credited with establishing the rules of baseball.
- As soon as slavery fired upon the flag it was felt, we all felt, even those who did not object to slaves, that slavery must be destroyed. We felt that it was a stain to the Union that men should be bought and sold like cattle.
- Before that day, the flag had served mostly as a military ensign or a convenient marking of American territory...and displayed on special occasions like the Fourth of July. But in the weeks after Major Anderson's surprising stand, it became something different. Suddenly the Stars and Stripes flew...from houses, from storefronts, from churches; above the village greens and college quads....[T]hat old flag meant something new. The abstraction of the Union cause was transfigured into a physical thing: strips of cloth that millions of people would fight for, and many thousands die for.
The Union responds to Fort Sumter being attacked
- Monday dawned, April 15. Who that saw that day will ever forget it! For now... there rang out the voice of Abraham Lincoln calling for seventy-five thousand volunteers for three months. They were for the protection of Washington and the property of the government... This proclamation was like the first peal of a surcharged thunder-cloud, clearing the murky air. The... whole North arose as one man.
Hastily formed companies marched to camps of rendezvous, the sunlight flashing from gun-barrel and bayonet.... Merchants and clerks rushed out from stores, bareheaded, saluting them as they passed. Windows were flung up; and women leaned out into the rain, waving flags and handkerchiefs. Horsde-cars and omnibuses halted for the passage of the soldiers, and cheer upon cheer leaped forth from thronged doors and windows....
I have never seen anything like this before. I had never dreamed that New England... could be fired with so warlike a spirit.
- Mary Ashton Livermore, observing the mustering of troops in Boston (1861).
- We, on our side, are praying to [God] to give us victory, because we believe we are right; but those on the other side pray to Him, look for victory, believing they are right. What must He think of us?
- Abraham Lincoln, (1861).
- Forward to Richmond!
- Demand of the New York Tribune that the Union attack the Confederacy (1861).
- We shall crush out this rebellion as an elephant would trample on a mouse.
- Overeager Unionist supporter at the start of the Civil War (1861).
- War is the remedy our enemies have chosen. Other simple remedies were within their choice. Yon know it and they know it, but they wanted war, and I say let us give them all they want; not a word of argument, not a sign of let up, no cave in till we are whipped or they are.
- The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.
The Confederacy responds to starting the Civil War
- If Virginia stands by the old Union, so will I. But if she secedes,... then I will follow my native state with my sword and, if need be, with my life.
- U.S. Army Colonel Robert E. Lee, before Virginia joined the Confederacy (1861).
- With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling and loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State — with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be used — I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword.
- Robert E. Lee of Virginia, Colonel, U.S. Army, on resigning his commission (1861). He was soon appointed to the Virginia Militia and later headed the Confederate Army.
- Just throw three or four shells among these blue-bellied Yankees and they'll scatter like sheep.
- Anonymous overconfident Confederate supporter (1861).
- One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.
- Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes.
- If the Republicans, who think slavery is wrong, get possession of the general government, we may not root out the evil at once, but may at least prevent its extension. If I find a venomous snake lying on the open prairie, I seize the first stick and kill him at once. But if that snake is in bed with my children, I must be more cautious. I shall, in striking the snake, also strike the children, or arouse the reptile to bite the children. Slavery is the venomous snake in bed with the children. But if the question is whether to kill it on the prairie or put it in bed with other children, I think we'd kill it!
- You think slavery is right and should be extended; while we think slavery is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us.
- There have been men who have proposed to me to return to slavery the black warriors of Port Hudson and Olustee to their masters to conciliate the south. I should be damned in time and in eternity for so doing. The world shall know that I will keep my faith to friends and enemies, come what will. My enemies say I am now carrying on this war for the sole purpose of abolition. It is and will be carried on so long as I am president for the sole purpose of restoring the Union. But no human power can subdue this rebellion without using the emancipation lever as I have done.
- Abraham Lincoln, as quoted in interview with Alexander W. Randall and Joseph T. Mills (19 August 1864).
- Many in the South once believed that slavery was a moral and political evil. That folly and delusion are gone. We see it now in its true light, and regard it as the most safe and stable basis for free institutions in the world.
- John C. Calhoun, regarding slavery (1838), as quoted in Time-Life Books The Civil War, vol. 1 (Brother Against Brother), Time Inc, New York (1983).
- You cannot make soldiers of slaves, or slaves of soldiers. The day you make a soldier of them is the beginning of the end of the Revolution. And if slaves seem good soldiers, then our whole theory of slavery is wrong.
- Howell Cobb, regarding suggestions that the Confederates turn their slaves into soldiers (1865). As quoted in Encyclopædia Britannica (1911), Hugh Chisholm, editor, 11th ed., Cambridge University Press.
- We seek no conquest. All we ask is to be left alone.
- Confederate President Jefferson Davis, on the war aims of the Confederacy (1861).
- As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.
- As a national emblem, it is significant of our higher cause, the cause of a superior race, and a higher civilization contending against ignorance, infidelity, and barbarism. Another merit in the new flag is, that it bears no resemblance to the now infamous banner of the Yankee vandals.
- By the time of the Gettysburg Address, in November 1863, the North was fighting for a 'new birth of freedom' to transform the Constitution written by the founding fathers, under which the United States had become the world's largest slaveholding country, into a charter of emancipation for a republic where, as the northern version of 'The Battle Cry of Freedom' put it, 'Not a man shall be a slave'.
- We recognize the fact of the inferiority stamped upon that race of men by the Creator, and from the cradle to the grave, our Government, as a civil institution, marks that inferiority.
- I have ever held the South was right. The very nomination of Abraham Lincoln, four years ago, spoke plainly war upon Southern rights and institutions... And looking upon African Slavery from the same stand-point held by the noble framers of our constitution, I for one, have ever considered it one of the greatest blessings (both for themselves and us,) that God has ever bestowed upon a favored nation… I have also studied hard to discover upon what grounds the right of a State to secede has been denied, when our very name, United States, and the Declaration of Independence, both provide for secession!
- That means nigger citizenship. Now, by God, I will put him through. That will be the last speech he will ever make.
- John Wilkes Booth, to Lewis Powell after Lincoln last public address (11 April 1865), as quoted in Blood on the Moon (2002), by Edward Steers, Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, p. 91. Also mentioned in Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer (2006), by James Swanson, Harper Collins.
- The soldiers knew that they were there to free slaves, and up to 25,000 freedmen ended up following the Army. That wasn't too good, since the Army itself was living off the land, and some of the blacks starved when they couldn't get enough themselves. But they knew who was for them.
- Hurrah! Hurrah! We bring the jubilee! Hurrah! Hurrah! The flag that makes you free!
- So we made a thoroughfare for freedom and her train, sixty miles in latitude, three hundred to the main. Treason fled before us, for resistance was in vain, while we were marching through Georgia.
- Yes and there were Union men who wept with joyful tears, when they saw the honored flag they had not seen for years. Hardly could they be restrained from breaking forth in cheers, while we were marching through Georgia.
- Come all you true friends of the nation, attend to humanity's call! Oh aid of the slaves' liberation and roll on the liberty ball. We'll finish the temple of freedom, and make it capacious within. That all who seek shelter may find it, whatever the hue of their skin. Success to the old fashioned doctrine, that men are created all free, and down with the power of the despot, wherever his stronghold may be. They'll find what, by felling and mauling, our rail-maker statesman can do. For the people are everywhere calling, for Lincoln and Liberty too.
- We need to understand what the Confederacy stood for. It's all been romanticized. The whole thing was based on white supremacy, but we're in a state of denial. We've got to take on the Confederacy.
- Tom Turnipseed, as quoted in Lies Across America: What American Historic Sites Get Wrong (1999), by James W. Loewen, p. 239-240
- The south went to war on account of slavery. South Carolina went to war, as she said in her secession proclamation, because slavery would not be secure under Lincoln. South Carolina ought to know what was the cause for her seceding. The truth is the modern Virginians departed from the teachings of the Father's.
- I am not ashamed of having fought on the side of slavery, a soldier fights for his country, right or wrong, he is not responsible for the political merits of the course he fights in. The South was my country.
- Did Lincoln 'initiate force' by invading the South? Well, strictly speaking, no, since the War began with the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter. Lincoln deliberately waited until the Confederates began the shooting. Now, it can be argued that the Confederate action was justified, because Lincoln had refused to turn over the Fort, which was, after secession, the property of South Carolina and so was being held as stolen property, which South Carolina had the right to take by force. This argument, however, raises the question of whether the slave owners of the South had a right to hold African human beings as property. If they did not, then any person of good will would have the right, indeed the duty in the right circumstances, to free those human beings. If the 'initiation of force' was supposed to be Lincoln holding the stolen property of Fort Sumter, the force had already been initiated, and renewed on a daily basis, on a far more massive and egregious scale, by all the slave owners of the South and everyone who aided and abetted their crimes. Lincoln said that he just wanted to preserve the Union, not free the slaves, but Southerners didn't believe that, which is why they seceded, and, surprise, surprise, the War ended up freeing the slaves after all. Lincoln got the Thirteenth Amendment passed by Congress in December 1864 and subsequently told the Confederates that he would consider any conditions of surrender they might propose, on the non-negotiable basis of both reunion and emancipation. Lincoln was even willing to compensate slave owners, however unwilling other Northerners were, but the Confederates would never consider the pre-conditions.
- Did the Southerners, in general, have a right to secede, on the basis of moral self-determination? Yes, but this is an unreal argument, because Southerners never would have considered secession if they had not thought it necessary to preserve slavery.
- To the old Union they had said that the Federal power had no authority to interfere with slavery issues in a state. To their new nation they would declare that the state had no power to interfere with a federal protection of slavery. Of all the many testimonials to the fact that slavery, and not states rights, really lay at the heart of their movement, this was the most eloquent of all.
- William C. Davis, as quoted in Look Away!: A History of the Confederate States of America (2002), p. 97-98.
- If it wasn't about slavery, then I don’t know what else it was about.
- One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.
- It is of no surprise, then, that anti-slavery sentiment was a large factor in the development of the War. As well as preserving the Union, many soldiers enlisted in response to slave-power and slavery itself.
- But for a great many of the most powerful southerners the idea of arming and freeing the slaves was repugnant because the protection of slavery had been and still remained the central core of Confederate purpose.
- Paul D. Escott, as quoted in After Secession: Jefferson Davis and the Failure of Confederate Nationalism (1992), p. 254.
- Slavery was the basis of the planter class's wealth, power, and position in society. The South's leading men had built their world upon slavery and the idea of voluntarily destroying that world, even in the ultimate crisis, was almost unthinkable to them.
- Paul D. Escott, as quoted in After Secession: Jefferson Davis and the Failure of Confederate Nationalism (1992), p. 254.
- White Southerners founded the Confederacy on the ideology of white supremacy. Confederate soldiers on their way to Antietam and Gettysburg, their two main forays into Union states, put this ideology into practice: they seized scores of free black people in Maryland and Pennsylvania and sold them south into slavery. Confederates maltreated black Union troops when they captured them.
- James W. Loewen, as quoted in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (2008), p. 193.
- There had to be an end of slavery. Then we were fighting an enemy with whom we could not make a peace. We had to destroy him. No convention, no treaty was possible – only destruction.
- It was very much discussed whether the South would carry out its threat to secede and set up a separate government, the corner-stone of which should be, protection to the 'Divine' institution of slavery.
- The cause of the great War of the Rebellion against the United States will have to be attributed to slavery. For some years before the war began it was a trite saying among some politicians that 'A state half slave and half free cannot exist.' All must become slave or all free, or the state will go down. I took no part myself in any such view of the case at the time, but since the war is over, reviewing the whole question, I have come to the conclusion that the saying is quite true.
- Without slavery the rebellion could never have existed; without slavery it could not continue.
- The Rebels sing the 'Bonnie Blue Flag', but we the 'Stripes and Stars', our Union flag we love so true, will conquer their stars and bars, their secesh airs, their Maryland, their contrabands of war. Our cause is right; the flag for the fight, is the one with the thirty-four stars. Hurrah, hurrah! For equal rights, hurrah! Hurrah for the dear old flag with every stripe and star.
- We are a band of Patriots who each leave home and friend, our noble Constitution and our Banner to defend, our Capitol was threatened, and the cry rose near and far, to protect our Country's glorious Flag that glitters with many a star.
- We're in the right, and will prevail, the Stars and Stripes must fly! The 'Bonnie Blue Flag' will be hauled down and every traitor die, freedom and peace enjoyed by all, as never was known before, our Spangled Banner wave on high, with stars just thirty-four!
- Woh-who-ey! Who-ey!
- The "Rebel Yell" shouted by Confederate troops in the attack (1861).
- There is nothing like it on this side of the infernal region. The peculiar corkscrew sensation that it sends down your backbone under these circumstances can never be told. You have to feel it.
- A Union soldier, on the Rebel Yell (1861).
- Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. There is Jackson standing like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians.
- Confederate Gen. Bernard Elliott Bee at the First Battle of Bull Run, in a comment that gave Gen. Thomas Jonathan Jackson the nickname "Stonewall" (1861).
- Soon the slopes... were swarming with our retreating and disorganized forces, while riderless horses and artillery [horse] teams ran furiously through the flying crowd. All further efforts were futile. The words, gestures, and threats of our officers were thrown away upon men who had lost all presence of mind, and only longed for absence of body [from the field of battle].
- Union Colonel Andrew Porter, on the rout of the initially-overconfident Federal troops that ended the Battle of Bull Run (1861).
- It is best for the country and for mankind that we make peace with the rebels, and on their own terms...
- Advice for President Lincoln from Horace Greeley, publisher of the New York Tribune, following the Union defeat at Bull Run (1861).
The Peninsula Campaign (April-July 1862)
- My dear McClellan: If you don't want to use the army, I would like to borrow it for a while. Yours respectfully, A. Lincoln.
- Pres. Lincoln, unsent letter to Gen. George McClellan, the inactive commander of the Union Army of the Potomac (1862).
- I was left alone on horseback, with my men dropping around me.... My field [staff] officers... were all dead. Every horse ridden into the fight, my own among them, was dead. Fully one half of my line officers and half my men were dead or wounded.
- Confederate Army Colonel John B. Gordon, after the Battle of Seven Pines (May 31, 1862).
The Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia (December 13, 1862)
- A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it.
- General E.P. Alexander, Lee's engineer and superintendent of artillery, before the Union attack on Fredericksburg (1862); reported in Bim Sherman, The Century (1886), p. 617.
- Gone were the proud hopes, the high aspirations that swelled our bosoms a few days ago.... [The army] has strong limbs to march and meet the foe, stout arms to strike heavy blows, brave hearts to dare — but the brains, the brains! Have we no brains to use the arms and limbs and eager hearts with cunning?
- Union Army private William Lusk, letter home after the Union defeat at Fredericksburg, blaming Gen. Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Union Army of the Potomac. The Federal attacks against high ground south of the Rappahannock River, strongly held by the Confederates, cost it 12,000 casualties (1862).
The Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (July 1863)
- The enemy seemed to have gathered all their energies for their final assault. We had gotten our thin line into as good a shape as possible, when a strong force emerged from the scrub wood in the valley, as well as I could judge, in two lines in echelon by the right, and, opening a heavy fire, the first line came on as if they meant to sweep everything before them. We opened on them as well as we could with our scanty ammunition snatched from the field.
It did not seem possible to withstand another shock like this now coming on. Our loss had been severe. One-half of my left wing had fallen, and a third of my regiment lay just behind us, dead or badly wounded. At this moment my anxietv was increased by a great rbar of musketry in my rear, on the farther or northerly slope of Little Round Top, apparently on the flank of the regular brigade, which was in support or Hazlett's battery on the crest behind us. The bullets from this attack struck into my left rear, and I feared that the enemy might have nearly surrounded the Little Round Top, and only a desperate chance was left for us. My ammunition was soon exhausted. My men were firing their last shot and getting ready to "club" their muskets.
It was imperative to strike before we were struck by this overwhelming force in a hand-to-hand fight, which we could not probably have withstood or survived. At that crisis, I ordered the bayonet. The word was enough. It ran like fire along the line, from man to man; and rose into a shout, with which they sprang forward upon the enemy, now not 30 yards away. The effect was surprising; many of the enemy's first line threw down their arms and surrendered. An officer fired his pistol at my head with one hand, while he handed me his sword with the other. Holding fast by our right, and swinging forward our left, we made an extended " right wheel," before which the enemy's second line broke and fell back, fighting from tree to tree, many being captured, until we had swept the valley and cleared the front of nearly our entire brigade.
- Our army held the war in the hollow of their hand and they would not close it.
- President Abraham Lincoln, regretting the failure of Union Army commanders to destroy the Confederate Army before it could recross the Potomac and retreat into the safety of Northern Virginia (1863).
- General, I have been a soldier all my life. I have been with soldiers engaged in fights by couples, by squads, companies, regiments, divisions, and armies, and should know, as well as any one, what soldiers can do. It is my opinion that no fifteen thousand men ever arranged for battle can take that position.
- James Longstreet, as quoted in General James Longstreet: The Confederacy's Most Controversial Soldier: A Biography (1993), by Jeffry D. Wert, New York: Simon & Schuster,p. 283.
- We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
- Between 1890 and about 1970, northerners found it less embarrassing to let Dixie tell the story of the cause it lost than to reminisce about the cause they had abandoned. The Civil War had been about something other than states' rights after all. It began as a war to force or prevent the breakup of the United States. As it ground on it became a struggle to end slavery. At Gettysburg in the fall of 1863, Abraham Lincoln was already proclaiming 'a new birth of freedom', black freedom. Conversely, on their way to and from Gettysburg, Lee's troops seized scores of free black people in Maryland and Pennsylvania and sent them south into slavery. This was in keeping with Confederate national policy, which virtually re-enslaved free people of color into work gangs on earthworks throughout the south.
- James W. Loewen, as quoted in Lies Across America: What American Historic Sites Get Wrong (2007), p. 350.
The Siege of Vicksburg (June-July 1863)
- If you can't feed us, you had better surrender, horrible as the idea is, than suffer this noble army to disgrace themselves by desertion.
- A Confederate soldier besieged at Vicksburg to the Confederate commander (1863).
The Eastern Front (1863-1865)
- I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.
- Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, during the campaign in Virginia (May 11, 1864), commanding Union forces, on his intention to keep up offensive operations in Virginia, in contrast with his predecessors.
- This is not war, this is murder.
- Confederate general after viewing Union dead in the Battle of Cold Harbor (June 3, 1864).
- We have met a man this time, who either does not know when he is whipped, or who cares not if he loses his whole army.
- Southern officer, reflecting on Grant, the new Northern commander (1864).
- Leave nothing to invite the enemy to return.... Let the valley be left so that crows flying over it will have to carry their rations long with them.
- Federal Commander Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, instructions for Gen. Philip Sheridan for his invasion of the Shenandoah Valley in northwestern Virginia (1864).
- If [Georgians] raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war, and not popularity-seeking. If they want peace, they and their relatives must stop the war.
- Gen. William T. Sherman (1864), whose Western Army invaded Georgia and waged total war against the Confederacy, destroying cities and property along a band 60 miles wide during his march to the seacoast at Savannah (September-December 1864).
- I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah.
- General Sherman to President Lincoln (December 22, 1864), following his capture of the seacoast city of Savannah, Georgia.
Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House (9 April 1865)
- The momentous meaning of this occasion impressed me deeply. I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;—was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured? Instructions had been given; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier's salutation, from the "order arms" to the old "carry"—the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual, honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!
- Let all the men who claim to own a horse or mule [with the Confederate Army] take the animals home with them to work their little farms.
- Grant to Lee at Appomattox (1865).
- I am glad to see one real American here.
- We are all Americans.
- This will do much toward conciliating our people.
- Lee to Grant, on the latter permitting Confederate troops take their horses home to be farm animals (1865).
- At a little before 4 o'clock General Lee shook hands with General Grant... and with Colonel Marshall left the room.... Lee gazed sadly in the direction of the valley beyond where his army lay — now an army of prisoners....
All [Union officers present] appreciated the sadness that overwhelmed him, and he had the personal sympathy of everyone who beheld him at this supreme moment of trial....
General Grant... saluted him by raising his hat. He was followed in this act of courtesy by all our officers present; Lee raised his hat respectfully and rode off to break the sad news to the brave fellows whom he had so long commanded....
The news of the surrender had reached the Union lines, and the firing of salutes began at several points, but the general sent orders at once to have them stopped, and used these words...: 'The war is over, the Rebels are our countrymen again, and the best sign of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations in the field.'
- Gen. Horace Porter, account of the Confederate Surrender at Appomattox Court House (April 9, 1865).
- I have done for you all that it was in my power to do. You have done all your duty. Leave the result to God. Go to your homes and resume your occupations. Obey the laws and become as good citizens as you were soldiers.
- General Robert E. Lee to the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia, following the surrender (1865).
- I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained.
- Robert E. Lee, statement to John Leyburn (1 May 1870), as quoted in R. E. Lee : A Biography (1934) by Douglas Southall Freeman.
- Here Sunday, April, 9th, 1865, after four years of heroic struggle in defense of the principles believed to be fundamental to the existence of our government, Lee surrendered 9,000 men, the remnant of an army still unconquered in spirit, to 118,000 men under Grant.
- Inscription on granite memorial marking site of the original Appomattox Court House, where the Civil War ended, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Virginia. Author unknown. Reported in Mary Louise Gills, It Happened at Appomattox (1948), p. 21. When the building burned several decades after the war, the county seat was moved to a new location three miles away.
- This is the last disgusting death-rattle of a corrupt and outworn system which is a blot on the history of this people. Since the Civil War, in which the Southern States were conquered, against all historical logic and sound sense, the American people have been in a condition of political and popular decay. In that war, it was not the Southern States, but the American people themselves who were conquered. In this spurious blossoming of economic progress and power politics, America has ever since been drawn deeper into the mire of progressive self-destruction. The beginnings of a great new social order based on the principle of slavery and inequality were destroyed by that war, and with them also the embryo of a future truly great America that would not have been ruled by a corrupt caste of tradesmen, but by a real Herren-class that would have swept away all the falsities of liberty and equality.
- What actually happened had terrible consequences. One was the great slaughter of the war itself. More than 600,000 men died in the Civil War, about equal to all the dead of all other American wars put together, some 400,000 for World War II, 100,000 for World War I, and around 50,000 for both Korea and Vietnam, at a time when the population of the country was little more than 30,000,000. Thus, more than 1% of the entire population of the United States died, rising to as much as 25% of adult white males in some Southern states. This was an appalling toll, vivid and tangible at the scenes of the worst slaughter, like Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, etc., where bodies carpeted the ground. Considering that around 400,000 slaves were originally brought into the American Colonies in the first place, the words of Lincoln's Second Inaugural, that perhaps all the blood drawn by the lash would need to be repaid in blood drawn by the sword, accurately described the magnitude of the retribution. Another evil consequence was for the freed slaves themselves. Once Union occupation forces were withdrawn from the South in 1877, free slaves were at the mercy of the bitter white majority. What followed was a century of Jim Crow laws and Segregation, enforced with judicial and extra-judicial terrorism, a regime of lynchings, the Ku Klux Klan, and all but legally enforced poverty. Since the slaves had not freed themselves, they were little inclined or equipped to do what would have been necessary to maintain a truly free status. After a decade and a half of War and Reconstruction, the North was no longer interested, and could not politically maintain, an indefinite military presence in the South to enforce things like the 14th and 15th Amendments. As Segregation Laws were increasingly put in the place in the 1890s, during a period of the worst lynchings, 230 in 1892, the Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, in effect gave federal judicial approval to the Segregation regime. After that, there was little hope of change until after World War II.
- There was no simple and decisive 'solution' to the evil of slavery, in that the means of abolishing slavery that actually became historically available involved an exchange for hideous war dead, segregation, the promotion of federal power, and other evils. To the extent that slavery as such was decisively discredited in human history, the price may or may not have been worth it, but the price was paid and a certain decisive result was achieved. Even so, ironically, the United States is nevertheless routinely despised for having allowed slavery in the first place! And some 'civil rights' groups still demand 'reparations' for the loss of property, income, and freedom suffered by African slaves! America and Britain in particular are thus damned for an institution that they did not create, even though they both ended it, even while someone like Louis Farrakhan seeks refuge in Islam, which created the African slave trade in the first place, never condemned or abolished slavery, and which in some places still tolerates it. This is moral perversity elevated to new heights. Which is not to condemn Islam, any more than America or Britain, but just those hypocrites who don't know or don't care that Islamic Law, which in principle is flexible enough, may not have quite caught up with the 20th Century, or, in some cases, the 19th. After the price that America paid for the 13th Amendment, she only deserves honor, not contempt. Furthermore, do we need to say that the motivation to Save the Union was unworthy in itself? No union founded on injustice would deserve to be preserved, but the only injustice of the original Union recognized by most abolitionists was the injustice of slavery itself.
- Leaders of such a catastrophe must account for themselves. Justification is necessary. Those who followed their leaders into the catastrophe required similar rationalization. Clement A. Evans, a Georgia veteran who at one time commanded the United Confederate Veterans organization, said this: 'If we cannot justify the South in the act of Secession, we will go down in History solely as a brave, impulsive but rash people who attempted in an illegal manner to overthrow the Union of our Country.'
- The social and economic system based on chattel slavery that the seceding states had sought to protect lay in ruins. The inviolability of the Union, most of the loyal citizenry’s pre-eminent concern throughout the conflict, was confirmed on the battlefield. In the longer term, preservation of the Union made possible the American economic and political colossus of the next century.
- I yield to no one precedence in love for the South. But because I love the South, I rejoice in the failure of the Confederacy.
- The war in fact ended, but the regime of slavery was subsequently continued by other means in the Southern States. The primary sinner, then, was not Lincoln but the slavers and their racist Segregationist successors.
- Kelley L. Ross, as quoted in The Great Republic: Presidents and States of the United States (2012).
- Much as the Civil War damaged Constitutional government, this pales in comparison to the degree to which racist Segregationists discredited the Tenth Amendment by constantly invoking Federalism and States' Rights in order to justify their crimes and brutality against black people. By the 1960s, it was impossible to mention the Tenth Amendment without sounding like one of them. As with slavery itself, they were using what sounded like noble principles to hide the most appalling and disgraceful beliefs, attitudes, and actions.
- Meanwhile, as Southerners forget the Civil War and become more sensible of Segregation as the ugly business that it was, the basis of their regional hostility fades. Northerners may still be 'Yankees', but meant in a humorous or ironic sense.
- Kelley L. Ross, as quoted in The Great Republic: Presidents and States of the United States (2012).
- So where does this leave us? Unlike present-day South Africa, the South had no truth-and-reconciliation commission. Our ancestors did not have to come to grips with their own history at a time when honesty might have carried the day. Instead, we are left with the post-war fantastical tall-tales of men like Stephens and Davis that race and slavery had nothing to do with the South’s drive for independence, tall tales that have become grist for the mill of neo-confederates and their present day partisans. Those tall-tales and after-the-fact justifications, however, can survive only if we ignore what the South’s leaders actually said as they urged their countrymen to action. Those words are preserved in repositories such as the Charleston Library Society. They are here for the world to read. So long as libraries across the country preserve these original speeches, pamphlets, and sermons, the message remains loud and clear: You can run from the truth, but you cannot hide from it.
- It is no accident that Confederate symbols have been the mainstay of white supremacist organizations, from the Ku Klux Klan to the skinheads. They did not appropriate the Confederate battle flag simply because it was pretty. They picked it because it was the flag of a nation dedicated to their ideals: 'that the negro is not equal to the white man.' The Confederate flag, we are told, represents heritage, not hate. But why should we celebrate a heritage grounded in hate, a heritage whose self-avowed reason for existence was the exploitation and debasement of a sizeable segment of its population? As a Southerner, a historian, and a descendant of former slave-owners, I sincerely hope that we use the opportunity of the Sesquicentennial to open a frank and civil dialogue about what happened 150 years ago. Our ancestors were unapologetic about why they wanted to secede; it is up to us to take them at their word and to dispassionately form our own judgments about their actions. It is time for Southerners to squarely face this era in our history so that we can finally understand it for what it was and move on.
The war on the home front
- The war has stimulated the genius of our people and directed it to the service of our country. Sixty-six new inventions relating to engines, implements, and articles of warfare have been illustrated in our columns....
Other departments of industry have also been well represented. Our inventors have not devoted themselves exclusively to the invention of destructive implements; they have also cultivated the arts of peace.
- Scientific American magazine, year-end summary for 1861.
- We have reproached the South for arbitrary conduct in coercing their people; at last we find we must imitate their example. We have denounced their tyranny for filling their armies with conscripts, and now we must follow their example. We have denounced their tyranny in suppressing freedom of speech and the press, and here, too, in time, we must follow their example. The longer it is deferred the worse it becomes.
I say with the press unfettered as now we are defeated to the end of time. 'Tis folly to say the people must have news.
- Letter from Union Gen. William T. Sherman to his brother John Sherman (1863).
- Songs such as 'Nigger Doodle Dandy' reflect the racist tone of the Democrats' presidential campaign in 1864. How did Republicans counter? In part, they sought white votes by being anti-racist. The Republican campaign, boosted by military victories in the fall of 1864, proved effective. The Democrats' overt appeals to racism failed, and anti-racist Republicans triumphed almost everywhere. One New York Republican wrote 'The change of opinion on this slavery question ... is a great and historic fact. Who could have predicted ... this great and blessed revolution?' People around the world supported the Union because of its ideology.
- James W. Loewen, as quoted in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (2007), New York: New Press, p. 192.
Prisoners of war
- We cannot treat negroes taken in arms as prisoners of war without a destruction of the social system for which we contend.
- The affair at Fort Pillow was simply an orgy of death, a mass lynching to satisfy the basest of conduct – intentional murder – for the vilest of reasons – racism and personal enmity.
- Richard Fuchs, as quoted in An Unerring Fire: The Massacre At Fort Pillow (2002), Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, p. 14.
- Whether the massacre was premeditated or spontaneous does not address the more fundamental question of whether a massacre took place. It certainly did, in every dictionary sense of the word.
- Andrew Ward, as quoted in River Run Red: The Fort Pillow Massacre in the American Civil War (2005) New York: Viking Adult, p. 227.
- The new paradigm in social attitudes and the fuller use of available evidence has favored a massacre interpretation. Debate over the memory of this incident formed a part of sectional and racial conflicts for many years after the war, but the reinterpretation of the event during the last thirty years offers some hope that society can move beyond past intolerance.
- John Cimprich, Fort Pillow: A Civil War Massacre and Public Memory (2005), Louisiana State University Press, pp. 123–124.
- He did not say a monument to what, but he meant, I am sure, to leave it as a monument to the loyalty of our soldiers, who would bear all the horrors of Libby sooner than desert their flag and cause.
- David Dixon Porter, as quoted in Incidents and Anecdotes of the Civil War (1885), p. 229.
Unionism in the Confederacy
- The Confederate experience is dotted with episodes that are not particularly admirable.
- William C. Davis, as quoted in The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy (1996), Kansas: University Press of Kansas, p. 178.
- I think it was just talk. That infuriates some people; they want me to tell them these were horrible traitors that deserved to be killed. But traitors to what? They were actually loyal to the country they had been raised in all their lives. But it is not the first time and it's not the last time. We see it today. Under pressure people can do very unreasonable things. When you bring something like this to light, smelling to high heaven, it undermines the idea of a united South. To me, it makes it a more human story because we always divide. It's what we do; it's what we are. It's the nature of a democracy. Sometimes we handle it well, and sometimes we don't handle it well at all. That upsets people; they don't want to hear that Great-Great-Grandpa made a mistake.
- Richard B. McCaslin, as quoted in "After 150 years, a dark chapter of Gainesville's past still stirs passions" (7 October 2012), Star-Telegram.
- The Southern States had actually been censoring mail before the War to suppress even private discussion of Abolitionism, and during the War, not only was the South the first to institute conscription, but Southern civilian Unionists, in several instances, were massacred by Confederate forces.
- Kelley L. Ross, as quoted in The Great Republic: Presidents and States of the United States (2012).
Anti-war movement in the Union
- How are you my Abe? Is the list nearly filled
Of the sick men and dying of wounded and killed
Of widows and tears, or orphans unfed
Of poor honest white men struggling for bread?
'Dear Devil,' quoth Abe, 'I'm doing my best
To promote the interest of you and the rest.
- "Abe's Visitor," a poem published in a Democrat newspaper in Pennsylvania.
- I will not consent to put the entire purse of the country and the sword of the country into the hands of the executive, giving him despotic and dictatorial power to carry out an object which I avow before my countrymen is the destruction of their liberties and the overthrow of the Union of these states....
The charge has been made against us — all who are opposed to the policy of this administration and opposed to this war — that we are for 'peace on any terms.' It is false.... I am for peace, and would be, even if the Union could not be restored... because without peace, permitting this administration for two years to exercise its tremendous powers, the war still existing, you will not have one remnant of civil liberty left among yourselves. The exercise of these tremendous powers, the apology for which is the existence of this war, is utterly incompatible with the stability of the Constitution and of constitutional liberty.
- Rep. Clement L. Vallandingham (D-Ohio), leader of the “Copperhead" antiwar Democrats, in a speech to the Democrat Union Association of New York (1863).
The war and slavery
- The General Assembly shall have no power to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves.
- Section 1, Article XV, Constitution of the State of Florida (10 January 1861)
- No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.
- p. 10, section 9, Constitution of the Confederate States of America (11 March 1861)
- The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states, and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any state of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property: and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.
- Article IV, Section 9, Constitution of the Confederate States of America (11 March 1861)
- African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. 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. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place.
- The anti-slavery party contend that slavery is wrong in itself, and the Government is a consolidated national democracy. We of the South contend that slavery is right, and that this is a confederate Republic of sovereign States.
- Laurence M. Keitt, as quoted in "Congressman from South Carolina, in a speech to the House" (25 January 1860), The Congressional Globe.
- I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land can never be purged away but with blood. I had as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed, it might be done.
- John Brown, as quoted in a note that he had at his execution (2 December 1859), most sources say it was handed to the guard, but some dispute that and claim it was handed to a reporter accompaning him; as quoted in John Brown and his Men (1894) by Richard Josiah Hinton.
- Although they may be poor, not a man shall be a slave.
- On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is not one... intelligent champion of the Union cause who does not feel... that the rebellion, if crushed tomorrow, would be renewed if slavery were left in full vigor... and that every hour of deference to slavery is an hour of added and deepened peril to the Union.
- Horace Greeley, Open Letter to Pres. Lincoln (1862).
- If there be those who would not save the 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. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views. I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.
- We the colored citizens of Queens County, N.Y., having met in mass meeting... take the present opportunity to express our opinions most respectfully and freely....
Why not declare slavery abolished and favor our peaceful colonization in the Rebel states, or some portion of them?... We would cheerfully return there and give our most willing aid to deliver our loyal colored brethren and other Unionists from the tyranny of rebels to our government."
- Petition of the Colored Citizens of Queens County (1862).
- Away down south in the land of traitors, rattlesnakes and alligators, right away, come away, right away, come away. Where cotton's king and men are chattels, Union boys will win the battles. Right away, come away, right away, come away. Then we'll all go down to Dixie, away, away! Each Dixie boy must understand that he must mind his Uncle Sam. Away, away, and we'll all go down to Dixie.
- In reference to you, colored people, let me say God has made you free. Although you have been deprived of your God-given rights by your so-called masters, you are now as free as I am, and if those that claim to be your superiors do not know that you are free, take the sword and bayonet and teach them that you are; for God created all men free, giving to each the same rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
- The south went to war on account of slavery. South Carolina went to war, as she said in her Secession proclamation, because slavery would not be secure under Lincoln.
- The argument that slavery would 'naturally' have been abolished in the course of time in the South, as it was peacefully abolished in Brazil by 1888, creates a couple of problems. One is that the South was not Brazil. Brazilian society included much more intermarriage and much less in the way of stark black/white racism than in the South. Even though slavery in Brazil probably had been much more brutal than in the United States, the Catholic Church at the same time had always strongly affirmed the equal humanity of the slaves, and recognized slave marriages. In the South, on the other hand, the humanity of the slaves received little recognition from the law, slave marriages had no legal standing, as in Roman slave law, and the religion of most slave holders was perfectly willing to degrade the descendants of Ham to intrinsic inferiority. That take on the Old Testament, together with Aristotle's idea of 'natural slaves', fostered agreeable rationalizations for slavery and racism. Thus, the social and intellectual dynamic in the South does not compare with Brazil. At the same time, we must ask whether the abolition of slavery in Brazil was a consequence of the kind of precedent set by the American Civil War. If the war had not occurred, and slavery had continued in the South, abolishing slavery in Brazil might have seemed much less like the thing to do, especially if the Confederacy had decided to reopen the slave trade with Africa, which had previously ended because of the agreement of powers like Britain and the United States. It is now often forgotten, or ignored, that Africans were still perfectly willing to sell slaves and actually protested when Britain and others began to suppress the slave trade.
- The piety of Southerners cannot be disputed, but as Gandhi said of the Boers, it is not clear that they had ever read the New Testament. Even in terms of Old Testament imagery, however, they were at a disadvantage. No Southern song could be as moving and poignant as 'Go Down Moses'. The second verse of that song says: 'Thus saith the LORD, bold Moses said, let my people go; If not I'll smite your first-born dead, let my people go.' This is not unlike what the Civil War did to the South; but even a century later, most Southerners still did not think of black people as their brothers. Beaten but not chastened, they never did see General Sherman as the Wrath of God.
- Was slavery invented in America? No. Slavery had always existed everywhere. The slave trade in West Africa had not even been started by Europeans, but by Arabs. Instead of slaves being exported north across the Sahara, as they had been for centuries, Europeans bought them from the south and exported them across the Atlantic. Was slavery widely recognized as a wrong at the time of the American revolution? No. As we see in the statement of the Sultan of Morocco in 1842, it had not been prohibited by the 'Laws of any Sect'. Slavery was legal under Roman Law, Islamic Law, and, in general, in the Bible. The idea that slavery was wrong originated in the Enlightenment ideology of the American Revolution itself, with about half of the American colonies abolishing slavery during that era, and the Constitution anticipated the abolition of the slave trade in 1808. Support for slavery, of course, continued, not the least among African rulers who sold slaves, but also among slave owners who mostly had history, religion, custom, and law on their side. Did America just never do anything about slavery as time went on? No. The controversy, argued with fury and recrimination, dominated the early years of American politics, resulting in a terrible Civil War in which more than 600,000 Americans died.
- How can slavery be the 'original sin' of a country that not only conceived the ideal that slavery was wrong but then, at monumental cost in lives and fortune, got rid of it? There is a serious perversity to such a charge, as though the evil of slavery had always been evident and recognized, or as though America, or the Constitution in particular, had invented or revived the institution, with stubborn complacency in the face of universal protest. Nothing of the sort was the case.
- Ideas made the opposite impact in the Confederacy. Ideological contradictions afflicted the slave system even before the war began. John Brown knew the masters secretly feared their slaves might revolt, even as they assured abolitionists that slaves really liked slavery. One reason his Harpers Ferry raid prompted such an outcry in the South was that slave owners feared their slaves might join him. Yet their condemnations of Brown and the 'Black Republicans' who financed him did not persuade Northern moderates but only pushed them toward the abolitionist camp. After all, if Brown was truly dangerous, as slave owners claimed, then slavery was truly unjust. Happy slaves would never revolt.
- James W. Loewen, as quoted in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (2008), p. 193.
African Americans recruited for the U.S. Army
- I have given the subject of arming the negro my hearty support. This, with the emancipation of the negro, is the heaviest blow yet given the Confederacy. The South rave a great deal about it and profess to be very angry.
- A great many have the idea that the entire negro race are vastly their inferiors; a few weeks of calm unprejudiced life here would disabuse them I think. I have a more elevated opinion of their abilities than I ever had before. I know that many of them are vastly the superiors of those, many of those, who would condemn them to a life of brutal degradation.
- The copperheads of the North need not complain of them being placed on an equal footing with the white soldiers, since the white soldier himself does not complain. After a man has fought two years, he is willing that any thing shall fight for the purpose of ending the war. We have become too familiar with hardships to refuse to see men fight merely because their color is black.
- Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters 'U.S.'; let him get an edge on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.
- Frederick Douglass, whose sons Charles and Lewis served in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (1862).
- I am anxious to get as many of these negro regiments as possible, and to have them full, and completely equipped. I am particularly desirous of organizing a regiment of heavy artillery from the negroes, to garrison this place, and shall do so as soon as possible.
- The negro troops are easier to preserve discipline among than our white troops, and I doubt not will prove equally good for garrison duty. All that have been tried have fought bravely. I feel no inclination to retaliate for the offences of irresponsible persons; but if it is the policy of any General intrusted with the command of troops to show no quarter, or to punish with death prisoners taken in battle, I will accept the issue. It may be you propose a different line of policy towards black troops, and officers commanding them, to that practiced towards white troops. So, I can assure you that these colored troops are regularly mustered into the service of the United States. The Government, and all officers under the Government, are bound to give the same protection to these troops that they do to any other troops.
- I feel no inclination to retaliate for the offences of irresponsible persons; but if it is the policy of any General intrusted with the command of troops to show no quarter, or to punish with death prisoners taken in battle, I will accept the issue. It may be you propose a different line of policy towards black troops, and officers commanding them, to that practiced towards white troops. So, I can assure you that these colored troops are regularly mustered into the service of the United States. The Government, and all officers under the Government, are bound to give the same protection to these troops that they do to any other troops.
- That is, by arming the negro we have added a powerful ally. They will make good soldiers and taking them from the enemy weaken him in the same proportion they strengthen us.
- Many persons believed, or pretended to believe, and confidently asserted, that freed slaves would not make good soldiers; they would lack courage, and could not be subjected to military discipline. Facts have shown how groundless were these apprehensions. The slave has proved his manhood, and his capacity as an infantry soldier, at Milliken's Bend, at the assault upon Port Hudson, and the storming of Fort Wagner. The apt qualifications of the colored man for artillery service have long been known and recognized by the naval service.
- Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, letter to Abraham Lincoln (5 December 1863), as quoted in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union (1899), by the United States Department of War, p. 1,132.
- We congratulate the American people upon your reelection by a large majority. If resistance to the slave power was the reserved watchword of your first administration, the triumphant war cry of your reelection is 'Death to slavery.'
From the commencement of the titanic American strife, the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class....
The workingmen of Europe feel sure that as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American antislavery war will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded so of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.
- Letter of the Communist International to President Lincoln (1864).
- Powerful racial prejudices? That was not true of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, or Norwood P. Hallowell, or George T. Garrison, or many other abolitionists and sons of abolitionists who became officers in black regiments. Indeed, the contrary was true. They had spent much of their lives fighting the race prejudice endemic in American society, sometimes at the risk of their careers and even their lives. That is why they jumped at the chance of help launch an experiment with black soldiers which they hoped would help African Americans achieve freedom and postwar civil equality.
- James M. McPherson, as quoted in Drawn by the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War, p. 91.
Quotes in fiction
Shenandoah is a film that place in Virginia during the American Civil War. Charlie Anderson is single father and a farmer who has no slaves and who wishes to keep himself and his family out of the war.
- Jacob Anderson: They come closer everyday, pa.
- Charlie Anderson: They on our land?
- Jacob Anderson: No, sir.
- Charlie Anderson: Well, then, it doesn't concern us.
- Charlie Anderson: My corn I take serious because it's my corn, and my potatoes and my tomatoes and fences I take note of because they're mine. But this war is not mine and I take no note of it!
- Charlie Anderson: I've got five hundred acres of good, rich dirt, here, and as long as the rains come and the sun shines, it'll grow anything I have a mind to plant. And we pulled every stump, and we cleared every field, and we done it ourselves without the sweat of one slave.
- Johnson: So?
- Charlie Anderson: "So"!? So, can you give me one good reason why I should send my family, that took me a lifetime to raise, down that road like a bunch of damn fools to do somebody else's fighting?
- Johnson: Virginia needs all of her sons, Mr. Anderson.
- Charlie Anderson: That might me so, Johnson, but these are my sons! They don't belong to the state. When they were babies, I never saw the state coming around with a spare tit! We never asked anything of the state, and never expected anything. We do our own living and thanks to no man for the right. But seeing as how you're so worried about it, I'll tell ya: If any of my boys thinks this war's right, and wants to join in, he's free to do it. You all hear that!? Did you hear it!? You wanna dress up like these fellas, go ahead; here's your chance.
(None of Anderson's sons volunteer. The soldier realises he has lost this battle.)
- Charlie Anderson: What d'you do with dead soldiers?
- Sam: [who has just learned he's being called to service] I'll hav'ta leave ya; you know that, don't you? Do you understand?
- Jennie: Do you?
- Charlie Anderson: [after Boy Anderson is abducted by Union soldiers] Now it concerns us.
- Charlie Anderson: I'm not going to kill you. I want you to live. I want you to live to be an old man, and I want you to have many, many, many children, and I want you to feel about your children then the way I feel about mine now. And someday, when a man comes along and kills one of 'em, I want you to remember! Okay? I want you to remember.
- Charlie Anderson: There's nothing much I can tell you about this war. It's like all wars, I suppose. The undertakers are winning it. Oh, the politicians will talk a lot about the "glory" of it, and the old men'll talk about the "need" of it—the soldiers, they just want to go home.
- Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you'll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we're here for something new. This has not happened much, in the history of the world: We are an army out to set other men free. America should be free ground - all of it. Not divided by a line between slave state and free, all the way from here to the Pacific Ocean. No man has to bow. No man born to royalty. Here, we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was. Here, you can be something. Here, is the place to build a home. But it's not the land. There's always more land. It's the idea that we all have value - you and me. What we're fighting for, in the end, we're fighting for each other.
- Thomas D. Chamberlain: I don't mean no disrespect to you fighting men, but sometimes I can't help but figure. Why you fighting this war?
- Confederate prisoner: Why are you?
- Thomas D. Chamberlain: To free the slaves, of course. And preserve the Union.
Gods and Generals (2003)
- Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: War is a scourge, but so is slavery. It is the systematic coercion of one group of men over another. It has been around since the book of Genesis. It exists in every corner of the world, but that is no excuse for us to tolerate it here when we find it right in front of our very eyes in our own country. As God as my witness, there is no one I hold in my heart dearer than you. But if your life, or mine, is part of the price to end this curse and free the Negro, then let God's work be done.