Monday, June 09, 2014

Dressing up like a rebel is not enough. You need to do your homework.


What’s with Confederate reenactors and the matter-of-fact denial of slavery’s central role in bringing about the American Civil War? Not a month goes by, it seems, without a news item quoting a reenactor expounding along those lines. Incredibly, they don’t settle for simply diminishing the role of slavery, as some apologists are wont to do. No, frequently they’ll proclaim that the war had nothing to do with slavery whatsoever.

It’s astonishing, and sad, that 150 years after the war, with all of the resources at our disposal, all of the painstakingly researched histories of that era, all of the primary source material that is increasingly being digitized and made accessible, we still have people putting forth this long-discredited, neo-Confederate fantasy.

Like the modern day holocaust denier, one must make a determined and willful effort to ignore or discount a great mountain of evidence to arrive at such a misguided conclusion. Even blinders allow a horse to see what’s in front of it, but the slavery-as-cause denier rejects even that.
 
It’s one thing to tell a reporter, as this reenactor did in Florida recently, "If people know their history, the Civil War has nothing to do with slavery." Discriminating readers can dismiss this nonsense as effortlessly as we dismiss “birthers.” But taking this alternate history into a classroom should not be so easily dismissed. It is an affront to education, and should be refuted.

Most recently I encountered an article about a Confederate reenactor who gave a brief “lecture” to a class of 8th graders in a Santa Clara, California middle school. I knew instinctively as soon as I saw the photo of the gray-clad rebel in a classroom that the article would put forth the great Lost Cause lie. And sure enough, it did.

Said the reenactor: “Most kids say the reason the Civil War happened was because of slavery, and I tell them it wasn’t. The war was about 11 states that wanted to leave the union, and it was about the attack on Fort Sumter.”

Never mind that the lawful governments of two of those states did not vote to leave the union. Never mind that the reason the other slave states wanted to leave the Union was that they saw it as the only way to preserve and perpetuate slavery.

How do we know this? We know this because the secessionists themselves told us that.

Confederates of the day made no bones about this. They were forthright and unabashed about their motivations. Strange then, that people who today dress up like pretend Confederates have come up with an interpretation contrary to that of the secessionists themselves.

I defy any one of them to sit down and read Charles Dew’s, Apostles of Disunion. The first states to secede sent ambassadors to the other slave states to try to convince them to secede. Here we have Southerners speaking to each other in their own words. Their unmistakable message is that the only “state right” under consideration was the right to maintain and perpetuate slavery.

Professor David W. Blight, in his essay, “One Rebel State Never Surrendered: Denial — Confederates’ Own Words Condemn Their Cause,” wrote:
“The best way to understand why secession and war came in 1860-61 is to look at what white Southerners themselves said they were doing. How did the leaders of secession explain the origins of the war?
South Carolina's "Declaration of Causes" justifying secession included the claim that the Republican Party would "take possession of the government the South shall be excluded from the common territory and a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States."
Texas secessionists proclaimed their greatest fear in the crisis as "the abolition of slavery" and "the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races."

In Mississippi, secessionist delegates unanimously announced that their "position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery." The Mississippians declared that they "must either submit to degradation and the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union."

Georgians agreed, accusing "abolitionists and their allies in the Northern states" of "efforts to subvert our institutions, and to incite insurrection and servile war among us."
Blight also quoted John Mosby, the legendary “Gray Ghost,” who said after the war, “"I always understood that we went to war on account of the thing we quarreled with the North about. I never heard of any other cause of quarrel than slavery."

That pretty well sums it up.


13 comments:

James F. Epperson said...

I've never understood why so man re-enactors are so fundamentally ignorant of the history of the war.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Woodbury,

Several other readers misinterpreted my Civil War presentation based on the article in the Santa Clara Weekly. This is what I wrote to them:

Great to hear from you! I need to defend myself in light of the recent Santa Clara Weekly article. Of course the Civil War is about slavery; however, the Union attitude toward slavery evolved throughout the war. The origins can be blamed in part on what was not addressed in the United States Constitution and the cotton gin. Lincoln's first consideration was to preserve the union with or without slavery. His attitude also evolved, read Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

I tell 8th graders that the war was about secession and Fort Sumter to get them thinking about this changing attitude. As a Civil War reenactor I represent the attitude of an Irishman in the 69th New York. We did not care about the slavery issue, we were competing for the same jobs as blacks at the time. What we did care about was union. We also wanted to learn military tactics so that we could kick the British out of Ireland. We needed the $300 bounty to send back to loved ones in Ireland and so on. The motivation of Civil War soldiers was varied and complicated.

The Civil War from the Union point of view was first about union (secession, attack on Fort Sumter) then about freeing the slaves in the states which opposed the United States (Emancipation Proclamation) then freeing the slaves throughout the country (16th Amendment).

In Battle Cry of freedom, James McPherson does not describe the Civil War battles until he writes about 300 pages of background, events and attitudes leading to the war. My intent was to have students think about those reasons.

Spencer Hinkle
Show message history

dw said...

Dear Mr. Hinkle,

Thanks for taking the time to expand on your thoughts about the causes of the Civil War beyond what little was quoted in the newspaper. You make many good points here, and we may be coming at some of the same distinctions from different directions.

It’s true that the Union’s attitudes and policies regarding slavery evolved with the war, and the reasons that motivated individual soldiers to fight were diverse and often unrelated to slavery. That said, I think it’s still very misleading to tell 8th-graders that the reason the Civil War happened wasn’t slavery, but rather because certain states wanted to leave the Union. We can’t begin to study or understand secession without first examining how the country came to be divided between free soil and slave soil. Secession was a chapter in the story of slavery, not something that existed in isolation from it.

The threat to slavery – particularly the prospect of restricting its westward expansion – is the very underpinning of secession. And secession underpinned the war. So rather than telling the schoolchildren that it wasn’t about slavery, in my opinion it would be more accurate to say that soldiers North and South were fighting over slavery whether they knew it or not. That premise would not preclude you from going on to engage students in the myriad complexities of that era.

South Carolina seceded specifically because of the election of a man they considered hostile to slavery. Ultimately, all of the Confederate states signed on for the purpose of preserving slavery – the only “state right” in jeopardy. To underscore this, the Confederacy explicitly put protection of slavery into their new constitution.

If a nation is formed for the preservation of slavery, and puts armies in the field to ensure independence for itself, then the ensuing conflict is a war over slavery no matter how an individual soldier articulates it, and no matter what the initial war aims of the enemy who seeks to deny that independence.

Lincoln summed it up nicely in his December, 1860 letter to Alexander Stephens: “You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us.”

You may argue that it was Lincoln’s desire to preserve the Union that started the war, not slavery per se. But absent the sectional argument over slavery, Lincoln wouldn’t have had cause to preserve the Union.

Anonymous said...

1. "The threat to slavery – particularly the prospect of restricting its westward expansion – is the very underpinning of secession."

That was not the underpinning of the secession of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Moreover, those four states had half of the white population of the Confederacy. They seceded because of Lincoln's decision to invade the cotton states.

2. "I think it’s still very misleading to tell 8th-graders that the reason the Civil War happened wasn’t slavery."

It is also misleading to tell them that Northerners were motivated to fight because the wanted to free the slaves. If that were true, Lincoln could have proposed peace terms stipulating that he would remove Union armies from the Southern states if they would *merely* free their slaves. Instead he *insisted* that there would be no peace without *mandatory* reunification.

3. "Ultimately, all of the Confederate states signed on for the purpose of preserving slavery – the only “state right” in jeopardy."

Not true. As noted if the four states of the upper south had felt that way they would have joined the Confederacy before Lincoln's call for invading troops.

Moreover, slavery was not the only states right that the cotton states wanted to protect. With minor exceptions the Confederate constitution made it very difficult for the central government to fund public works as they were regarded a responsibility of the states individually. Southerners had witnessed most of the federal public works spending being devoted to the interest of Northerners and they had enough of that.

dw said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for commenting. Taking your numbered points in order:

Point Number 1: The fact that Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas waited a little longer before joining the league of slave states leaving the Union does not diminish the overwhelming centrality of the slavery issue as the underpinning of secession. The Virginia convention had been debating it for months. Lincoln’s call for troops was the act that tipped the scales (for a portion of the white, male populace), but except for the slavery issue, Virginia wouldn’t have even been on the fence. When push came to shove, Virginia joined her sister slave states to protect their common interests.

Point Number 2: Yes, it would be misleading to tell schoolchildren that Northerners, in general, were motivated to fight because they wanted to free the slaves, particularly at the outset. Of course, many were, in fact, motivated by that, and many more came to be over the course of the war. Contrast that with the absolute falsity of telling schoolchildren the war wasn’t about slavery, as in the newspaper quote here.

Point Number 3: It’s an astonishingly weak argument to say Virginia, for example, would have seceded right away if it were only about slavery. There was much at stake in the question of secession, and Virginia’s decision was a difficult one for many reasons (she had the most diverse interests of any slave state, and perhaps the most to lose if things didn’t work out in the new confederacy). Consider that within weeks of South Carolina’s secession, Virginia Governor Letcher proposed six conditions that could alleviate the escalating secession crisis — six conditions the North should meet to defuse the situation. All six conditions refer to slavery: http://civilwarcauses.org/letcher.htm

It’s true — the only state right in jeopardy was the right to preserve slavery, and the presumed right to expand it into the territories. Read Alexander Stephens speech to the Georgia legislature. In point-by-point, he makes clear that Georgia’s rights were protected by the U.S. Constitution, and that inside the Union, Georgia was wildly prosperous. Again, absent slavery, there was no reason to secede.

-- David

Anonymous said...

1. "The fact that Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas waited a little longer before joining the league of slave states leaving the Union does not diminish the overwhelming centrality of the slavery issue as the underpinning of secession."

The upper south seceded only after the North decided to coerce the cotton states to remain in the Union. They did so because they believed the Union was voluntary.

2. "Yes, it would be misleading to tell schoolchildren that Northerners, in general, were motivated to fight because they wanted to free the slaves, particularly at the outset. Of course, many were, in fact, motivated by that, and many more came to be over the course of the war."

At the outset of the war abolitionists were a small minority in the North. Prior to the war leading abolitionists *advocated* peaceful separation from the Union because they considered the Constitution a covenant with the Devil.

Emancipation was a war measure in the North and it became one in the South as well. Lee, Davis, Benjamin, and many southern leaders put independence ahead of slavery as a war aim. That is why salves who joined the Confederate armies as soldiers were granted freedom and Davis stipulated that no slave could join the army unless accompanied by manumission papers.

It is a lie to tell school children that Northerners adopted Emancipation as intrinsic moral virtue instead of a war necessity. It is a conspiracy of silence to fail to tell them that the South did much the same by placing independence ahead of slavery as a war measure.

3. Your comments fail to consider why the North fought. You focus only upon what some southerners said about slavery.

The fact that Lincoln never proposed peace terms that would remove the Union armies from southern states *merely* if the Confederacy freed its slaves is proof that the North did not fight to free the slaves. Instead Lincoln *insisted* that there could be no peace unless the southern states rejoined the Union.

Northerners required the southern states to rejoin the Union in order to promote their own economic dominance. They were successful. That is why the South remained poverty stricken for more than a century after the war. The South was an exploited internal colony.

After the war there was little economic aid to the South beyond investment in the Freedman's Bureau. Federal public works expenditures were overwhelmingly in the North and West. In contrast, the USA provided massive economic aid to the defeated Japanese and Germans after World War. It gave the South nothing except more taxes.

The South was uniquely taxed. There were separate taxes on the production and transportation of cotton. Yet there was no tax on the production or transportation of any commodities grown in the Northern states.

After the war the southern states witnessed that a sizable majority of their federal taxes were used to pay two items of no benefit to the region: (1) interest on the Federal debt incurred during the war and (2) pensions to former Union soldiers.

4. It is a lie to tell school children that southern motivations to fight and to secede were identical. The decision to secede was one thing whereas a decision to fight was another.

Two-thirds of southern families did not own slaves. A majority of southern generals were not personally slaveholders.

The typical southerner took up arms because his home was invaded. Northerners in Ohio and Pennsylvania had the same reaction when Confederate armies moved into Maryland and Kentucky in the late summer of 1862.

It is a lie to tell school children that only Northerners could be motivated to fight because of an instinct to protect their homeland.

5. It is a lie to tell schoolchildren that the only important difference between the Confederate Constitution and the USA one was the protection of slavery. The Confederate Constitution prohibited the central government from adopting (1) protective tariffs, (2) subsidies, and (3) public works expenditures.

dw said...


Anonymous wrote:
>>Emancipation was a war measure in the North and it became one in the South as well. Lee, Davis, Benjamin, and many southern leaders put independence ahead of slavery as a war aim. That is why salves who joined the Confederate armies as soldiers were granted freedom and Davis stipulated that no slave could join the army unless accompanied by manumission papers.<<

Not true. Though Lee advocated emancipation in return for service, the CS Congress refused. The law read, “nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize a change in the relation which the said slaves shall bear toward their owners, except by consent of the owners and of the States in which they may reside, and in pursuance of the laws thereof.”[ http://www.freedmen.umd.edu/csenlist.htm] Without slavery, independence was pointless.

In January, 1865, when the subject was being debated, Howell Cobb summed up the typical Southern position on the notion: “The day you make soldiers of them is the beginning of the end of the revolution. If slaves make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong. . .”

The fact that the CSA could not bring itself to consider recruiting slaves until a few weeks before Appomattox (and even then, not guarantee their freedom), puts the lie to the idea that they favored independence over slavery. Giving up the slaves would defeat the whole purpose.

>>It is a conspiracy of silence to fail to tell them that the South did much the same by placing independence ahead of slavery as a war measure.<<

Again, just the opposite is true. The CSA was willing to go down in defeat rather than free a slave. Only at the 11th hour did they finally resort to the idea of recruiting slaves, out of sheer desperation, and even then they weren’t willing to guarantee freedom.

>>Your comments fail to consider why the North fought. You focus only upon what some southerners said about slavery.<<

The whole point of the discussion hinged on the reenactor who said the war was not about slavery. In response, I highlighted the fact that the secessionists themselves said it was about slavery.

>>After the war there was little economic aid to the South beyond investment in the Freedman's Bureau. Federal public works expenditures were overwhelmingly in the North and West. In contrast, the USA provided massive economic aid to the defeated Japanese and Germans after World War. It gave the South nothing except more taxes.<<

How ironic that today the states of the old Confederacy enjoy far more in federal expenditures than they send to Washington in the form of taxes. Yankee states like New York and Massachusetts are footing the bill for those independence-minded free-loaders.
>>Two-thirds of southern families did not own slaves. A majority of southern generals were not personally slaveholders.<<

So? Slave interests dominated statehouses, and the state secession conventions. Slave interests engineered secession, and earnestly advocated war to protect those interests. And when war came, the slave owners who ruled the CSA found it necessary to introduce conscription (another “first”) to gain independence for the only nation in the history of the world (as VP Stephens put it) founded with slavery as its cornerstone.

>>It is a lie to tell school children that only Northerners could be motivated to fight because of an instinct to protect their homeland.<<

Who tells school children that? Can you give some examples?

>>It is a lie to tell schoolchildren that the only important difference between the Confederate Constitution and the USA one was the protection of slavery.<<

The CSA constitution was nearly a carbon copy of the US constitution, but for a few notable differences (single, six-year term for the executive, line-item veto). Most notable was the fact that it forbade states from outlawing slavery whether they wanted to or not. So much for “states rights.”

Anonymous said...

1. "Not true. Though Lee advocated emancipation in return for service, the CS Congress refused."

Jefferson Davis overrode Congress. As explained, he stipulated by executive order that any slave admitted into the Confederate army *must* be accompanied by manumission papers.

2. "The CSA was willing to go down in defeat rather than free a slave. Only at the 11th hour did they finally resort to the idea of recruiting slaves…"

Not true. The Jones war clerk diary documents that Confederate officers responded enthusiastically to African-American recruitment. One could only be certain it was the 11th hour in retrospect.

Davis himself told peace emissaries Jaques and Gilmore in July 1864 that the Confederacy was fighting for independence not slavery. It was not an after-the-war notion as so often told to school children.

3. "How ironic that today the states of the old Confederacy enjoy far more in federal expenditures than they send to Washington in the form of taxes."

There are a couple of reasons. One is that there are a greater of percentage of retirees in the South. Another is that there is still more poverty in the South and your point - as I have seen it reported - applies to *income* taxes.

Furthermore, there is a racist element to the observation. States like Mississippi have a significantly greater percentage of African-Americans, which is a characteristically a lower income group.

Finally, I ask that you document your claim taking into account *all* Federal taxes, as opposed to merely income taxes.

4. "The whole point of the discussion hinged on the reenactor who said the war was not about slavery. In response, I highlighted the fact that the secessionists themselves said it was about slavery."

Not all. As noted, the four upper South states refused to secede when the cotton states did. They did not merely wait around with some evil intent to do so without provocation as you implied. They *stayed* with the Union until Northerns insisted upon coercion.

When the cotton states seceded they were perfectly willing to leave in peace. Jefferson Davis explained, "All we ask is to be let alone." But the North would not leave them alone. It insisted upon coercion. The upper South repeatedly warned against coercion.

Additionally, you continue to equate secession motive with the reasons of why the typical Rebel solder fought. He fought to repel invaders, much like the Ohioans and Pennsylvanians joined up to repel the 1862 Rebel army advances into Kentucky and Maryland.

5. As the London Times recognized, "The contest is really for empire on the side of the North…"

For a century after 1865 the South would have been better off as a part of the British Commonwealth. The USA maintain high protective tariffs until World War I. As a member of the Commonwealth the South could have purchased better manufactured items at lower cost from the British. Moreover, it would not have to see over 50% of the Federal taxes paid essentially used as reparations to repay Federal war debt and Union soldier pensions.

With its low wage sharecropper economy, the South was an internal colony exploited by the North much like Belgium exploited the Belgian Congo.

dw said...

>>Jefferson Davis overrode Congress. As explained, he stipulated by executive order that any slave admitted into the Confederate army *must* be accompanied by manumission papers.<<

Congress refused to make emancipation part of the legislation, and Davis did not override Congress. He waited till Congress adjourned and then he added his own provision without Congress’s knowledge. How that would have played out when they reconvened, we’ll never know. Only two companies were formed in Virginia, and none in the other Confederate states. They did not see action, and there’s no evidence that they were given their freedom (until freed by a black Union cavalry regiment).

>>Davis himself told peace emissaries Jaques and Gilmore in July 1864 that the Confederacy was fighting for independence not slavery. It was not an after-the-war notion as so often told to school children.<<

Of course he did. He was trying to gain recognition from England and France, who, unfortunately for the Confederacy, had indicated they would not support a war to uphold slavery. In late 1864/early 1865, he also authorized an emissary to overtly offer emancipation in return for recognition, even though he knew only Congress could make that happen, and that Congress was hostile to the idea. So clearly Davis was willing to deceive the European powers for political gain.

>>There are a couple of reasons. One is that there are a greater of percentage of retirees in the South. Another is that there is still more poverty in the South and your point - as I have seen it reported - applies to *income* taxes.<<

Right, federal income taxes.

>>Furthermore, there is a racist element to the observation. States like Mississippi have a significantly greater percentage of African-Americans, which is a characteristically a lower income group.<<

Racist? One of the states that benefits more than Mississippi is North Dakota (agricultural subsidies), and only about 1.5 percent of the population is black. Maryland’s black population (30 percent) is not significantly different than Mississippi’s (37 percent), yet Maryland is on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to the federal spending to revenue ratio.

>>Not all. As noted, the four upper South states refused to secede when the cotton states did. They did not merely wait around with some evil intent to do so without provocation as you implied.<<

I made no implication about “evil intent.” I merely pointed out that they were debating secession during that time, and the threat to slavery was central to those debates.

>>When the cotton states seceded they were perfectly willing to leave in peace. Jefferson Davis explained, "All we ask is to be let alone."<<

Right. In point of fact, the seceded states engaged in any number of acts of war prior to firing on Fort Sumter (the sovereign property of the United States, ceded to the United States by the legislature of South Carolina). They seized shipyards, arsenals, installations, and in one instance, a federal garrison – all before Lincoln lifted a finger (in some cases, before he was inaugurated).

Anonymous said...

1. You essentially said [Davis did not override Congress on the matter of emancipation for Black Confederate soldiers.]

Pragmatically speaking he did. Once his stipulation that Blacks would only be accepted into the army if accompanied by manumission papers was put into practice, there could be no turning back.

2. You essentially said [Davis lied when he said the Confederacy was fighting for independence and not slavery.]

An objective historian cannot chose to take Southern leaders at their word when such words support the historian's dogma and dismiss statements by Confederate leaders as lies when they fail to conform to that dogma.

Nonetheless, Lincoln did not believe Davis was lying.

Once Jaquess and Gilmore returned, Lincoln told his secretaries that they must publicize the fact that Davis considered independence to be the Confederacy's chief objective because the Democrats were considering a presidential election platform that would require reunion - and not emancipation - as the prime condition for peace.

3. The exclusion of payroll taxes greatly distorts the calculation of a ratio of Federal monies transferred into a state versus the Federal taxes paid by that state, when the incomes in the applicable state are low. Such is the situation in the South.

According to Wikipedia, payroll taxes are about equal to income taxes as a Federal revenue source. Excluding payroll taxes invalidates the ratio for poor states. Five of the former 11 Confederate states are within the bottom 20% of states ranked by per capita income. Nine are in the bottom 40%. The average ranking is 36th, and it is 39th if Virginia is removed owing to high Federal government salaries.

4. It is a lie to tell children that the typical Rebel soldier fought to preserve slavery. That is the implication when they are told that the war was "about" slavery. *Secession* of the cotton states (not the upper south) was about slavery, but the average Rebel soldier fought to repel invaders.

Historian William C. Davis wrote, "The widespread Northern myth that the Confederates went to the battlefield to perpetuate slavery is just that, a myth. Their letters and diaries in the tens of thousands reveal, again and again, that they fought and died because their southern homeland was invaded…" (The Cause Lost, University of Kansas Press, 1996 page. 183)

6. Although Maryland has a 30% Black population it also has an artificially inflated per capita income because of the high Federal salaries in the region. Maryland ranks #2 in per capita income owing to its proximity to Washington, DC just as Virginia ranks #5. As noted, the Southern sates (absent Va) rank an average of 39th.

dw said...

>>Pragmatically speaking he did. Once his stipulation that Blacks would only be accepted into the army if accompanied by manumission papers was put into practice, there could be no turning back.<<

What documentation can you point me to that indicates the two companies of recruited slaves in Richmond were freed upon enlistment? That information would be helpful.

>> You essentially said [Davis lied when he said the Confederacy was fighting for independence and not slavery.] An objective historian cannot chose to take Southern leaders at their word when such words support the historian's dogma and dismiss statements by Confederate leaders as lies when they fail to conform to that dogma.<<

What is an objective historian to make of the fact that Davis opposed emancipation throughout the war, but with the Confederacy on the verge of collapse, privately offered emancipation in return for European recognition, only to subsequently pretend the offer had never been made as he argued once again against emancipation?

>>. . .Lincoln told his secretaries that they must publicize the fact that Davis considered independence to be the Confederacy's chief objective because the Democrats were considering a presidential election platform that would require reunion - and not emancipation - as the prime condition for peace.<<

Lincoln’s political calculations tell us nothing at all about what he thought Davis’s motivations were for fighting the war.

>>It is a lie to tell children that the typical Rebel soldier fought to preserve slavery. That is the implication when they are told that the war was "about" slavery. *Secession* of the cotton states (not the upper south) was about slavery, but the average Rebel soldier fought to repel invaders.<<

Your imagined “implication” is not a rational reason to tell children the war was not about slavery. How would purposefully misleading them enhance their understanding of that era? And who, exactly, is telling children that “the typical Rebel soldier fought to preserve slavery”? Could you give me some examples of that? Maybe identify a textbook or two?

Anonymous said...

1. "What documentation can you point me to that indicates the two companies of recruited slaves in Richmond were freed upon enlistment?"

General Order 14 requiring that salves accepted into the Confederate Army be accompanied by manumission papers was issued on March 23, 1865. I believe the two companies you reference were organized prior to that.

Do you have any documentation that the provisions of General Order 14 were ignored?

2."What is an objective historian to make of the fact that Davis opposed emancipation throughout the war…?"

He didn't. It was pretty clear in his early November 1864 address to Congress that he was prepared to use African-American's as Rebel soldiers.

More importantly, your question reflects a dogma that only Lincoln (and Northerners) are permitted to change their minds about emancipation. Before his September 1862 preliminary Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln twice required Generals Fremont and Hunter to cease their unilateral emancipations.

An objective historian will recognize that Davis and the Confederates get to change their minds too, particularly as a war-induced necessity.

3. "Lincoln’s political calculations tell us nothing at all about what he thought Davis’s motivations were for fighting the war."

Since Lincoln felt it was important to publicize the fact that Davis told Jaquess and Gilmore that the prime goal of the Confederacy was independence, the burden of proof that Lincoln believed Davis to by lying is on the historian adopting that viewpoint.

Do you have any documentation that Lincoln concluded Davis was lying?

4. "Your imagined “implication” is not a rational reason to tell children the war was not about slavery."

First, it is axiomatic that war is about fighting. Telling school children that the war was about slavery (and nothing else) *necessarily" implies that the typical Rebel soldier fought chiefly to enforce slavery. Averring that there is no such implication is obvious sophistry.

As professor Davis documented, the typical Rebel fought to chielfly repel invasion, not to protect slavery.

Second, an example of a step toward that slippery slope is in your own post.

"Never mind that the lawful governments of two of those states did not vote to leave the union. Never mind that the reason the other slave states wanted to leave the Union was that they saw it as the only way to preserve and perpetuate slavery."

As noted, the four upper South states did *not* secede when the gulf states did. They did *not* believe it was the only way that slavery could remain in the states where it was legal -- and neither did Lincoln (unless you assume he was lying.) To tell school children otherwise is…untruthful.

dw said...

>>General Order 14 requiring that salves accepted into the Confederate Army be accompanied by manumission papers was issued on March 23, 1865. I believe the two companies you reference were organized prior to that.<<

The order does not require that the slaves have manumission papers. You’re overreaching. The language is ambiguous: “No slave will be accepted as a recruit unless with his own consent and with the approbation of his master by a written instrument conferring, as far as he may, the rights of a freedman, and which will be filed with the superintendent.” The rights of a freedman, “as far as he may,” does not translate to “manumission."

Since the order continues to refer to these men as “slaves” post-enlistment, and since the order also explicitly states that “nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize a change in the relation which the said slaves shall bear toward their owners, except by consent of the owners and of the States in which they may reside,” their status is unclear.

>>He didn't. It was pretty clear in his early November 1864 address to Congress that he was prepared to use African American's as Rebel soldiers.<<

November of 1864 is “throughout the war.” Professor Davis, in his bio of Jefferson Davis, makes the same point about Davis not wanting to recruit slaves until the war was all but lost: “Davis had resisted the notion throughout the war, thinking it at first unnecessary and later impractical, not to mention the fact that it tended to undermine the institution of slavery itself, the very foundation of their cause.” (“Jefferson Davis, The Man and His Hour,” p. 597.) It’s understood that Jeff Davis no longer opposed it once he began advocating it.

>>First, it is axiomatic that war is about fighting. Telling school children that the war was about slavery (and nothing else) *necessarily" implies that the typical Rebel soldier fought chiefly to enforce slavery. Averring that there is no such implication is obvious sophistry.<<

Another straw man. I did not write, or intimate, that school children should be told the war was about “nothing else” but slavery. In fact, I’ve stated that individuals fought for any number of reasons. For instance, we know that an ever-growing percentage of CS soldiers fought because they were conscripted.

>>As professor Davis documented, the typical Rebel fought to chielfly repel invasion, not to protect slavery.<<

And yet, since the principal object of independence was to preserve slavery, the typical Rebel was fighting for slavery whether he knew it or not. William C. Davis said it best – for the states that comprised the Confederacy, slavery was the “very foundation of their cause.”

Of course, many Rebel soldiers identified slavery as a motivating factor. See McPherson’s “For Cause and Comrades” for some examples.

>>As noted, the four upper South states did *not* secede when the gulf states did. They did *not* believe it was the only way that slavery could remain in the states where it was legal -- and neither did Lincoln (unless you assume he was lying.) To tell school children otherwise is…untruthful.<<

When the upper South states seceded, it was because they had common cause with the other slave states, and it was time to pick sides. In a confederacy, they could protect and preserve the institution, as well as expand it into Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. For school children to associate slavery with the Civil War is natural, and perfectly accurate. To tell school children that the war was not about slavery is a gross disservice, and distortion. Hopefully, interested students will begin to look into the subject in more depth, and in time their understanding of the war will necessarily broaden.

But if they don’t look into it in more depth, to come away from the classroom thinking that slavery was merely incidental to the war is to come away from the classroom more ignorant about it than they were when they went in.