Well, now that the dust has settled a bit from the last topic, I think that I would like to look into the topic of the so-called "Civil" War and start a well-rounded discussion of this subject matter.
This is a subject that, to this very day, still stirs controversy among many people-especially those who have never really studied the root causes of the conflict and the time period in which it took place, but are nonetheless absolutely certain that they know not only how, but why it occurred. I mean, come on now! EVERYONE knows that the South started the war because they did not want to give up their slaves. EVERYONE knows that "honest ol' Abe" was a poor, home-spun "self-made man" whose concern for his fellow man was the driving force behind all of his actions. EVERYONE knows that the North did not want to fight a war, but were forced into it because Ft. Sumner was brutally attacked. EVERYONE knows that the North was fighting to free the slaves. EVERYONE knows that slaves were brutalized and tortured, families were broken up because of being sold off, and that the lives of slaves were no better, and often quite worse, than animals.
So what is the controversy? Well, there are several old, but incredibly smart, sayings that we should start off with, before we go ANY farther.
Absolutely! Do you believe everything that you are told, just because the person who happens to be telling you is authoritaritive? Do they have to be telling you the truth, just because they are a police or federal officer, judge, boss, or somebody with a shiny badge and an attitude?
How about because they write textbooks? Has it ever occurred to you to question the so-called "facts" that are found in the books that our children use in schools? Where do these facts come from? Who is responsible for making sure that they are accurate and not just something that "everyone" knows?
So, the first thing you have to do is to question authority. Which leads us into the second old saying!
The Winners Write The History Books
That is correct. You will never find a true and accurate account of history that was written by the winner of a conflict. Of course, you will also probably never find an accurate and true account written by the loser, either! But for a better understanding of history, you have to look at all sides, and not just the winning one. And in a situation such as this one, you may never find a complete answer.
So, do your research from all angles. Primary, secondary, and tertiary. Do not confine yourself to merely the accounts given by the North and the South, but look into the accounts given by the other players in the game, as well.
And finally, the last.
Knowledge Is Power
That says it all, I should think. The powerful feeling that comes from the ability to successfully defend your position or your opinion is heady stuff indeed! But better than that it the knowledge that misinformation is being corrected, that old disputes can be looked at with a fresh eye, and that troublesome and divisive issues can be looked at and discussed calmly and rationally.
With that being said, it is also understood that people will have their opinions regardless of what "evidence" might be presented to the contrary, and that nothing that is said here is designed to make you change those opinions.
As always, all I would like to ask for is that you think, that you open your mind as well as your eyes, that you are willing to see that there might be another answer or that the commonly-held "right" answer may not always be so. It is up to you, of course. Some opinions will not be changed no matter how many facts you throw at it, for the simple reason that truth can be distasteful. Or inconvenient. Or ugly.
Just think about it.
For my part, the War of Northern Aggression is an old family friend. My family is from the South, having originally been given a grant of land in what was known back then as "out west" (Kentucky) and in exchange for "services rendered and in lieu of payment" during the first American Revolution. Our land would end up being close to what would eventually become the Kentucky-Tennessee border, and we spread out west and south from there, ending up in Kansas and Missouri around 1835. Various members of the family fought on the side of the Confederacy, or sold weapons to both sides, and by the time of the Reconstruction we had spread all the way to the coast, according to the records I could find. My ancestor fought honorably, were wounded several times, captured, exchanged, wounded again, captured again, exchanged again, and finally gave his parole-although family history has it that he would not swear the oath-at which time he returned to the homestead and lived out the remainder of his life. I am very proud of my Southern heritage and of the service that not only this particular ancestor has given to this country, but of that which we have all given. To the best of my knowledge, there has been a member of my family involved in some way in every conflict that this country has ever engaged in, starting from the time of the first Revolution. Although, unlike Leutenant Dan's family (Forrest Gump), we haven't all died there! lol!
So, now for some questions!
Did my ancestors/family keep slaves? Yes, they did. When you are trying to farm a section of land using basically hand tools and horses, manual labor is a vital necessity.
Did my family beat and torture their slaves? Of course not. While I am not saying that such activity did not exist, such accounts were mostly propaganda that was designed to "fire up the unwashed masses" (those who were educated knew better) or are the invention of Hollywood used to boost movie sales. Family historical records indicate that my ancestor worked side-by-side with their slaves on a daily basis, ate the same food, and occasionally, lived in the same house. To a family who were middle-class farmer/ranchers, a slave represented a considerable investment of capital and, contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, was not something that you could just run down to the corner and pick up. It was an expense that had to be calculated for a considerable amount of time before being made, as well as for the potential lifetime of the slave. So, to put it in more modern terms, if your $300,000.00 combine was out in the field and all of a sudden stopped working, would you pull out your pistol and shoot the radiator full of holes? Of course not, and neither would you severely injure a man that you paid a lot of money for and were expecting to get work out of. It's called economics, and strangely enough, is a major cause of this conflict.
Did they rape the female slaves? Probably not. There is no record of mixed-birth children from that time period in our family. Not to mention the fact that it would not be an especially smart idea to bone some dudes wife and then hand him a shovel and turn your back on him the next day at work! Plus, a lot of these guys were originally warriors who were captured in battle by other tribes and then sold to whitey. Maybe they are a little older and slower now, but they were fucking warriors with spears and shit. Besides, given human nature and the way it operates, I would imagine that rape would not always be necessary! Did rape happen? Of course it did, and one would be a fool to say otherwise. Regardless of the time period, when you have a situation in which a powerful man has control over a woman, rape will occur. See the Crusades for a perfect example.
Were the slaves discriminated against and treated unfairly? Well, that depends. If you are a slave, then of course the answer would be yes. If you were an abolutionist, then the answer would be yes. For everyone else, not so much. But when looked at in the context of the times, they were treated much better than in any previous time. You have to remember, up until very recently, slavery was a legal, accepted and approved of fact of life in the entire world. And it still is, in many places. There was nothing "wrong" or "evil" about it. Quite often, and in many places around the world, a mans wealth was measured in slaves, and slavery was "codified", with rules laid out concerning the rights and treatment of slaves. In fact, there were many places around the world in which to be the slave of a particular individual was accounted as a great honor, and was actively sought after.
Do I think slavery is right? No. not now, not ever. It is not the mark of a civilized man to involuntarily deprive another man of their liberty. The key here is involuntary. Should you be able to sell yourself into slavery? Yes, if you are capable of making that decision on your own. But to sell another? That is disgusting to me.
Do I condemn my ancestors for their acts or feel guilt because my family was involved in slavery? Absolutely not. I am not qualified to sit in judgement over the acts of someone who was acting in concert with the times. What happened, happened. Besides, it all worked out quite well for everyone involved, which is a part of the story I will get into later.
I'll be back to work on this a little more later on, so keep coming back! OK, I'm back again! A bit longer break than I had anticipated, but better late than never, as the old saying goes. So, before I left last time, I had alluded to the fact that "the story worked out well for everyone involved", and I thought I would expand on that just a little more.
Now, I can already tell that I will be all over the map with this topic! I had in mind a nice conversation, with point and counter-point being discussed, and I veered sharply right out of the gate and never got it back on track. So, I am just going to talk a little, make some points, start a conversation, and see where that takes us. With that in mind, let me start by telling you a story which, according to family documents, is true.
The War of Northern Aggression had started, and men, women, and even children were answering the call to arms. At that time, the main branch of the family lived on the original homestead in Kentucky, near the Tennessee border. Now, Kentucky was pro-confederacy, but ended up remaining in the Union, so if you wanted to join the Southern cause, you had to travel to Tennessee to do so. Accordingly, the two oldest boy secured their fathers blessing, saddled up their horses and took their weapons over to Camp Boone Tennessee, whereupon they signed up on July 13th, 1861.
Now, the army back then was a strange beast indeed! You brought your own weapons, horses, gear, and whatever else you thought you might need. Everything else was supplied by the state which raised the troops. Because my ancestor and his brother both showed up with horses, they were immediately offered a position in the cavalry. They ended up serving as mounted infantry in the Kentucky Volunteers, Confederate States Army-3rd Kentucky, 2nd Regiment, Company D. Also known as the "Orphan Brigade", they were formed when, as mentioned above, the state was expected to supply its own troops in the field, however, because Kentucky was nominally a Union state, her Confederate sons had to go without the little extras sent from home that made life in the field more bearable. Things like mail, care packages of food and toiletries, clothes appropriate to the weather, and whatnot. Because they did not get these things, they were "orphaned"-thus The Orphan Brigade. It had no effect on their fighting ability, of course. They found more than their share of glory and honor on the field of battle.
Skipping ahead a little, it is now early 1863. The Union Army is in town and, as always, they have a call out for volunteers. And as you might imagine, they were not having a great deal of success! If there were any men of fighting age that could be spared, they surely would not be volunteering for the yanks, and after being told this on several occasions, the union officer in charge of recruitment was apparently not in the best of moods. They rode up to the house, and the "old man" met them there at the porch. The union officer explained that they were there to make sure that his sons would take advantage of this great opportunity they were being given, which was to punish the rebels. The old man said that his boys had already taken advantage of that opportunity, and that they were out killing yankees at that very moment.
The officer promptly had the old man dragged down off of the porch and hung from the tree in the front of the house, in front of his wife, the remaining children, and, of course, the slaves, set the place on fire, and rode off. According to family records, a short time after he left, the male slaves approached the missus and requested the use of the masters weapons. They rode after the union officer and his small party, and after catching up with them, turned them into "good" yankees, and then returned home. The missus was so taken with gratitude that she gave them their freedom, along with the deed to half of the homestead.
When I first read this, I was looking through a family history that my uncle had put together, and it traced our family all the way back to the 1600's in Ireland. I ran across this part and thought "Yeah, right! this sounds like bullshit.", so I checked it out a little more.
It seems that, to this day, some part of our family holds title to 320 acres and the families of Franklin and Clinton hold title to the other 320 acres. When they were granted their freedom, they took for their surnames the middle names of the two brothers. Our families are buried side-by-side in the family cemetary, and to this day, it would seem, maintain close ties. In addition, records would also seem to indicate that members of their families and members of mine have repeatedly entered the military and served together, as well.
OK, I end up leaving to take a break, and when I finally get back to this, whatever train of thought I was following is completely gone, and I basically end up starting all over again! This has gone in a direction FAR different than I had envisioned when I first started-I had absolutely no intention of discussing either myself or my family, other than as a minor side-bar, perhaps. And yet, practically the entire thread has been about that so far. I want to try and get back to the original premise, if possible, so with that in mind, lets try again!
One of the things that everyone "knows" is that the war started at Ft Sumner South Carolina, with the Confederate bombardment being the opening shot fired in 1861. However, I submit that the war started well before that, with the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. And there are some who would argue that it began even earlier than that! In fact, here is a list of events which could be said to have been a cause of this "un-civil" war:
* The Northwest Ordinance
* Kentucky and Virgina Resolutions
* Missouri Compromise
* Tariff of 1828
* Nullification Crisis
* Nat Turner's slave rebellion
* The Amistad
* Prigg Vs Pennsylvania
* Texas Annexation
* Mexican-American War
* Wilmot Provisio
* Ostend Manifesto
* Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
* Compromise of 1850
* Uncle Tom's Cabin
* Kansas-Nebraska Act
* Bleeding Kansas
* Sumner-Brooks Affair
* Dred Scott vs Sandford
* The Impending Crisis of the South
* Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry
* 1860 Presidential Election
* Secession of the Southern States
* Star of the West
* Corwin Amendment
* Battle of Ft Sumter
As you can see, the reasons for this war are many and varied, and they stretch back for many years and even decades, so it would be the height of foolishness to pick one out and say "THIS is the reason! THIS is why we tore ourselves apart for not only the years covered by the war itself, but for the many years afterwards, as well." And I am certain that there are other factors that I have not listed here, in addition to the ones that I have.
So, if we have established the fact that the war did NOT, in fact, actually start in 1861, in addition to the fact that it was about matters far more complex than we have always been led to believe, what else might there be out there that everyone "knows" to be true, and yet the facts might indicate otherwise?