Why Confederate and Union soldiers fought

The American civil war (1861-1865) was idealistic since the combatants were driven particularly by principles rather than comrade power. “A large number of those men in blue and gray were intensely aware of the issues at stake and passionately concerned about them.”[1] The war was as a result of the unrest between the federal government and eleven Southern states that wanted to split from the United States (Union). The main issue at hand was slavery, the rights of the states and conflicts over trade and tariffs.

The North was against slavery and this intimidated the Southern economy since it was founded on slaves who labored in plantations. The victory of Abraham Lincoln, a Republican in 1860 saw secession of the South who claimed that they had a right to possess slaves. This saw creation of the Confederate States of America or the Confederacy in the South under the leadership of Jefferson Davis. The North became the Union under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln who was the president.

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The North was more populated and more economically stable due to growth in transport and industrial sectors as compared to the south. According to McPherson, “Confederates fought for independence, for their property and way of life, for their survival as a nation”[2] while the Yankees fought early in the war to preserve the Union “against the threat of `dissolution, anarchy, and ruin.[3]‘”

The confederacy wanted to secede from the United States which was for antislavery. Consequently, the Union’s nationalism took secession as an affirmation of treason. As a result, the civil war was initiated on 12th April, 1861 at Fort Sumter, Charleston, S.C. when the Confederate attacked the U. S military[4].

Lincoln commanded the army to volunteer and seize the federal possession where further secessions were announced by the confederacy. This triggered the military forces from both sides to join the war where thirty thousand Union soldiers moved to Richmond, Virginia a confederate capital. However, they faced resistant from confederate troops where they moved to Washington D.C.

This was a mark of defeat for the Union and five hundred thousand troops were recruited to the war as Lincoln declared Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, whose aim was to abolish slavery in the South during the war without any international intervention. The period was characterized by bloody warfare over four years where the confederacy defeat meant the end of slavery in every state in America. The Union became more powerful as the federal government, able to accomplish various tasks in the Reconstruction period.

Union and Confederate soldiers’ view the issue of slavery

Slavery was initially viewed as risky to republicans because of slave power. Wealthy whites who processed slaves took advantage of their political power over the government’s leadership, Supreme Court as well as the Congress which was intimidating to the occupants of the north.

However, this changed over time as the soldiers of the Union and the Confederacy viewed slavery as the cause of sectionalism. This was reflected where the Northern economy, social setups and political norms differed significantly from those of the south. The North had abolished the issue of slavery and therefore, it had become more industrialized, improved its infrastructure to become more urbanized with a high population and many resources.[5]

Conversely, the South strongly upheld the slaves to labor in plantations as well as in the White’s farms. Therefore, the South incorporated fresh farms in the southwest states ranging from Alabama up to and including Texas. As a result, the south was rural and ragged behind in industrialization. Due to this fact, abolition of slaves in the Southern states whose economy relied heavily on slavery was a nail in the coffin.

This triggered hostility in the confederacy troops who claimed that it was the South’s rights to possess slaves. This was however rejected by the North whose aim was to curb further extension of slavery. The whites were moving towards the north in large numbers and wished to carry their slaves with them. However, the north resisted this and pointed out that slaves property could not be allowed in Free states since this was against their mission of stopping father extension of slavery.

Soldiers’ utilization of American Revolution ideas in war

The military employed railroads, steamships, and strong weapons and telegraphs during the war. The civil war was a war of complex ideals which could be tracked at the period of colonization. The confederate and union soldiers were driven mostly by principle ie slavery in which the south considered it p[art and parcel of their lifestyle.

Conversely, the northern were critical on morality as well as pragmatism to curb slavery hence, maintain the Union. Slavery had established in 1619 in Virginia where during the American Revolution, many Northern States rejected the issue while Southern states still used slaves in their plantations. Preceding the civil war, there were several conflicts arising as a result of the issue of slavery. For instance, this issue triggered debates such as the Compromise of 1820 and that of 1850.

As a result, the nineteenth century was characterized by conflicts between the North and the South where the north wanted to abolish slavery while the South aimed at defending it. As long as the South were in power of the federal government, they were safe about retaining slavery within their borders. Many presidents emerged from the South and this helped them achieve control over the senate.

New states were joining the Union and this followed that compromises had to be met so as to balance the Free and Slave States. However, the balance was eventually set off when Free states exceeded the slave states. All the same according to McPherson, the civil war marked a fight back for 1776 heritage established by the Founding Fathers where the Southerners pursued liberty from an oppressive government as opposed to the Northerners’ view that for republicans to thrive, secession had to be illegitimated.

Declaration of Independence was meant to maintain a democratic America either through secession or being in the Union.[6] This could be the case since the soldiers from both sides were learned and experienced in pursuing a frontline idealism as indicated through their diaries and letters they wrote in their course of the war.

Reason for the lack of political solution to the issue of slavery

The politicians eventually were unable to precisely achieve a political solution to the issue of slavery because over time, slaves were included in the army. Also the combatants became patriotic and tended to embrace the character of “duty, honor and country.”[7] The Confederacy only had to defend their values whereas the North had to actively capture southern territories for them to acquire victory.

Lincoln utilized the Emancipation proclamation for union’s advantage which rejected international intervention that the confederate would have utilized to destroy the blockade. The war only destroyed the southern economy where slaves were inevitably held useless as the Northern economy became stronger. The slaves were used by the union in the war for its benefit over the Confederate, which could not engage slaves in the war.

However, political disagreements on abolishment of slavery and curbing secession became problematic after the war. Mere victory was not enough since the confederacy was to become incorporated in the union without having to include their pro-slavery elements. Therefore, after the war, the federal government had to use the Emancipation Proclamation and pass the Thirteenth Amendment which would give freedom to the slaves in the Confederacy and Border States respectively.

Change of reasons for fighting the war over time

Over time, although the soldiers’ motive for fighting changed, the general motives for fighting the war drifted from “liberty and republicanism.”[8] This was through abolition of slavery as a right for in the southern states to other reasons, which focused on soldiers and economic purposes.

They embraced aspects of liberty still in pursuing the issue of slavery. Initially, the Anaconda plan for instance was drafted by Winfield Scott and aimed for the North to war with minimal deaths and casualties. Thus he proposed a Union blockade on major ports to collapse the South’s economy through scarcity of basic supplies, which affected the living standards of Southern citizens including slaves who lacked essential commodities such as food[9].

The Confederate navy had to act as they attacked the Union navy although they lost since they did not have the technology for creating strong warships. As war continued, the declaration of the Emancipation Proclamation encouraged ex-slaves who had escaped to engage in war to safeguard the Union which was facing a shortage of soldiers while the South were looking for other means of reinforcing its military forces.

Bibliography

McPherson, James. What they fought for, 1861-1865, Baton Rouge: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1995.

James McPherson, What they fought for, 1861-1865 (New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1995), 4
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