An Essay on the American Civil War
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Civil War Essay
The Killer Angels, By Micheal Shaara tells the story of one of the bloodiest battles during the Civil War: The Battle of Gettysburg. The Battle of Gettysburg was fought for three days July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This battle is considered to be the turning point of the war, whichever side was to win this battle would overall win the whole war. The Battle of Gettysburg was not only the most significant of the civil was it was the battle with most casualties in the American Civil War. One of the biggest questions about the Civil War is why the men of both sides fought. The answer is not as simple as many might think. Most people, before reading this book probably thought the South fought the war only because they wanted to keep their slaves. This was only the case for a few Southerners, contrary to popular belief only a small percentage of people in the south owned slaves. Each side, the North and the South had their own reasons, but both also had one similar cause in common for fighting in the Civil War. In the beginning cause for the South was more about for the right to secede, and the North was about preserving the Union. But as the war went on, the causes to fight changed. The North then added that they were fighting to free the slaves, and the South fought to keep their constitutional rights to owning a slave.
The South fought for their constitutional rights as a separate nation. These ideals definitely molded the way the war was fought by the South. The Confederate states seceded from the union over the issue of states’ rights and the power of state governments to totally rule over its land and decide its own issues. The South felt as if they were being controlled by the Northern government, which to felt like a foreign government. “You've gotta tell them that what we're fighting for here is the - is the freedom from what we consider to be the rule of a foreign power! I mean, that's all we want. That's what this war is all about.” This quote that was said by Armistead, expresses how the South felt about the North. The South was clearly angry because the North, where the Federal Government was located did not know what was necessary to help the South prosper. This also shows that the war was not only about slavery.
The Confederates were mostly protecting their families and property from destruction, shown mainly in the later stages of war. To go along with that, many Confederate soldiers expressed the fear of being controlled by the North. This reaction, along with wanting self-government, seemed to be the main reason that kept the Confederate’s spirits high throughout most of the war, even in spite of the Union’s military advantages. Many Southerners believing that they would have their own nation also lead to their high spirits. They were attempting to establish a new nation and were put down by Lincoln. Lincoln claimed that secession was illegal, and did not want to allow the southern states to secede. “Now you suppose that we all join a club, a gentlemen's club. And then, well, after a time, several of the members began to, uh... began to *intrude* themselves into our private lives, our home lives. Began tellin' us what we could do, what we couldn't do. Well, then, wouldn't any one of us have the right to resign?” This quote from the book expresses how the South felt about not being allowed to secede.
The Northerner’s reason to fight in the Civil War was to preserve and restore the union. The Union believed that the Southern States did not have the right to leave the Union because they were a part of America. When interpreting of theConstitution, there were two different iadeals on the role of the federal government. Federalists believed that the federal government and the executive branch needed to maintain their power for the Union to survive. The anti-federalists believed that states should keep much of their authority and power within the new nation. Preserving the union was not a very popular cause in The Killer Angels and in the actual Civil War. This was mostly because majority of men didn’t want to fight for a cause that didn’t have a lot of emotional connection behind it. That is why preserving the Union was not mentioned much though out the book as much as freeing the slaves. “I don't really understand it. Never have. The more I think on it the more it horrifies me. How can they look in the eyes of a man and make a slave of him and then quote the Bible? But then right after that, after I left the room, the other one came to see me, the professor. I could see he was concerned, and I respected him, and he apologized for having offended me in my own home."(177). Through this quote one can see just how important the cause for abolishing slavery was to the Northern army. They felt it was their duty to stop the oppression of blacks, in order to restore the country as a whole.
As the Civil War went on, it soon became obvious to most that the Union could not be restored unless slavery, the cause of the conflict was abolished. With that, the objective for the war had been changed. The issue of slavery now mattered to Union Soldiers, especially after Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. This officially freed slaves that were being held in Confederate-controlled areas. Many people in the North opposed the emancipation, but during the second half of the war, many people began to change their minds when they realized that emancipation could affect Union morale in a positive way by supporting it, Instead of just fighting for the idea of “saving the Union”, the soldiers were now fighting for the cause of liberty as well.
“This was the first place on earth where the man mattered more than the state. True freedom had begun here and it would spread eventually over all the earth. But it had begun here. The fact of slavery upon this incredibly beautiful new clean earth was appalling, but more even than that was the horror of old Europe, the curse of nobility, which the South was transplanting to new soil. They were forming a new aristocracy, a new breed of glittering men, and Chamberlain had come to crush it. But he was fighting for the dignity of man and I that way he was fighting for himself. If men were equal in America, all the former Poles and English and Czechs and blacks, then they were equal everywhere, and there was really no such thing as foreigner; there were only free men and slaves. And so it was not even patriotism but a new faith. The Frenchman may fight for France, but the American fights for mankind, for freedom; for the people, not the land." (27)
The cause of liberty, as defined by both sides, figured highly in the reasoning of many soldiers. Those of the North felt they were fighting to not only preserve the Union but to keep alive the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution. Lastly, and perhaps more pronounced as the War dragged on, the soldiers of both sides fought for each other.
" Many of us volunteered to fight for the Union. Some came mainly because we were bored at home and this looked like it might be fun. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many came because it was the right thing to do. 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, power, 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, 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. (32)
The Civil War gave back America's title as "a country that fights for freedom," a title that America previously claimed to be in its constitution. The Civil War proved that the USA was a country of freedom-fighters. The major similarity between the two sides that appears in the book is how that both sides believed that they were fighting to preserve the rights of others. Soldiers on both sides believed that they were fighting for the same basic idea of liberty, but they interpreted it in completely different ways. People in the Union believed that the preservation of the U. S. government was most important, with natural rights of humans coming second. The Confederates, believed that the government was more a part of the problem than the solution, and that the solution (for the confederates) was to rebel. In their eyes they saw the North as tyrannical and controlling. Both sides also turned to nationalistic and patriotic ideas. The nationalism of the Union soldiers was more evident, because Lincoln from the very beginning of the war had been fighting to preserve the Union.
With the help of reading The Killer Angels, one will certainly grasp the essence of the Civil War and why it was fought. Both sides knew what they were fighting for and believed their causes were worthy of losing men. While both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves and the restoration of the union, while Southerners focused on defending their right to self-govern. In the end, the one significant similarity the North and the South had was that they were Americans fighting for their liberties and what they believed in.
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