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Civil War and Slavery - A Viewpoint and Rant

Updated on October 17, 2014
Nick Burchett profile image

Nick is a US Army veteran, husband and father of three, and has a BA in History. He is a Civil War aficionado and also enjoys genealogy.

Lincoln ins considered "The Great Emancipator" for his abolition of slavery
Lincoln ins considered "The Great Emancipator" for his abolition of slavery

I have this propensity to read news articles that relate modern events and ideals to the Civil War. I like reading about the Civil War and these commentaries/articles/rants, etc always tend to catch my attention. I know as soon as I start reading where most of them are headed - down the road of liberalism. Very rarely do I read one of these and come away thinking, "wow, that guy actually gets it and made some sense". Very rarely to the point of never. Now, I am not saying I claim to have all the answers and that I am by any means this great expert on the Civil War let alone one with a totally firm grip on the human psyche. But I think I have enough understanding of the events of the Civil War to have the liberty of airing my viewpoint with the understanding I am not just some yahoo, Christian right-winger.

So, here comes the rant. Why is it that almost every single time, and article written about the south, the Confederacy, the Confederate flag, and slavery it always ends up with the association of the KKK, Nazis and the Aryan nation? I have read a few articles this week and all them end up with uneducated blather from the authors and commenter’s that are so far from the truth, and even contradict themselves, that one has to wonder how far we have come where historical inaccuracies have become truth.

One article, the author (a black man - and I don't say that in a racial way - I don't believe in the whole "hyphenated American" nonsense - that is a whole other rant) spouted inaccuracies left and right (using southern bands such as TheAllman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd as catalysts for the white cause even though they had black members (which he said Skynyrd did had, which they didn't) and claiming that

"the history of the Confederate flag, knowing that it was created, specifically, to symbolize a nation founded on the precepts of white supremacy and "African slavery," knowing that the pursuit of the Confederate cause ended with the murder of Abraham Lincoln, knowing that after the Civil War, the flag morphed from battle standard of white supremacy, to battle standard of white terrorism. "

What?? Is he serious? This is the standard fare spouted not only by black Americans, but white Americans alike who apparently either slept through US history, or (and I tend to believe this is really the reason) were fed the inaccuracies of a sanitized, guilt ridden, single minded view of the facts of our history.

1920 reunion of William Quantrill's guerrilla's
1920 reunion of William Quantrill's guerrilla's | Source

Then there is another article I read, and while the article itself referred to a man who is trying to start a youth club called Black Flag (referring to the flag flown by southern sympathizer, William Quantrill and his band of raiders during the Civil War) and apparently at one time was a member of the Aryan Nation but claims to no longer be affiliated with them and there is an uproar in the town, the article had a comment made that again, in my mind shows the complete ignorance of our citizens on our countries past. The commenter stated,

"Here is another example of that Confederate pride gone waaaayyyy wrong. Confederate/Aryan/Neo/Black Separatist/Hate Group anything is wrong and I applaud the good folks of this small little town for standing up and saying just that! The shame is, Mr. Juba has friends and will be able to take his hate to another spot and there will be others who gather yearning to hear how the South will rise again. "

Again, what? Our guilt ridden society made the association of Confederate pride and all those hate groups what is perceived today. A little history lesson for this person: the Confederacy was NOT a hate group and the South "rising again" has nothing to do with hate groups. What many people fail to realize is that the majority, yes, I said majority, of northerners outside of abolitionists viewed blacks as inferiors and did not want them on equal grounds as whites. Hate abounded on both sides and it had nothing to do with locale. It had all to do with society of the 19th century, the Constitution (right or wrong, slavery was quite legal), and fear of change.

Confederate cemetery with unknown soldier at the Appomattox Courthouse National Historical Park
Confederate cemetery with unknown soldier at the Appomattox Courthouse National Historical Park | Source

OK, so, a little break here to explain a few things. First, I am not a racist. I do not advocate, support or condone groups such as the KKK, Aryan Nation, etc. I believe that they equally distort the history of this country and are just as much to blame as the ignorance of our citizens is for distorting the facts of this period.

Secondly, I think that our American history is so overlooked in the educational system that this ignorance is not entirely our fellow citizen’s fault. They are taught basic points, details and alternate viewpoints are overlooked, and they are taught with a modern viewpoint as opposed to a historical viewpoint. They are left to postulate rather than comprehend. And lastly, I am not a Neo-Confederate, southern sympathizer, etc. Not one of my ancestors fought for the south (at least that I have been able to find so far, and I have found three). I do however believe that both sides had equal blame, both sides were neither right nor wrong, both sides had legitimately fought for their belief system, and that slavery, was most certainly a major and significant cause of the Civil War, but was not THE cause and various other factors, yes even states rights, were contributors and cannot be overlooked.

So, back to my rant... What I see is that many times, people look at the current situations and compare them to events of the past. That is not the where the problem lies. The problem is that these same people look at the events of the past with eyes of today and then base their prejudices and opinions in that manner. They don't look at the past with eyes of the past. They don't understand that a white southern planter, whose father was probably a farmer and owned slaves, who grew up never knowing any other way of life - a very legal way of life, protected under the Constitution - didn't have the hindsight and history we have to look back and realize the evils of slavery. It was just a part of his life and he was all of a sudden being forced to give up his way of life, his income, his comfort and his Constitutional rights to some unknown specter of the future. You and I know the evils of slavery. We have the luxury of our history - if we pay attention to it. To understand our past and ultimately our future, we HAVE to look at events within the confines of the era, people and culture that they existed. Easier said than done. It's very difficult, if not nigh near impossible to separate our opinions and personal viewpoints from the historical data. I would go so far as to say we have to insert some of ourselves into the historical equation, lest it become some sort of impersonal statistic.

George Santayana said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". I would even go so far as to humbly insert, "Those who cannot remember or examine and evaluate the past are condemned to repeat it".


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    • Nick Burchett profile image

      Nick Burchett 4 years ago from IL, MO & KS

      Thanks for your comment. I would disagree that the war would have been averted had slavery been done away with earlier on in the growth of our nation. The differences went well beyond slavery between the aricultural South and the industrial North. Their entire way of living seemed to clash with each other from the very start.

      You really have to look at the entire war. Not just the fighting that took place in the East and South. The West is a prime example of fighting for something other than slavery. Native Americans who fought were not fighting over slavery. Poor Irish and German immigrants were not fighting over slavery.

      I'm not saying the South was right or that the North was wrong. I'm saying that the undertones to this conflict were the result of much deeper inner turmoil than slavery and to pidgeonhole a group, people our society by the actions of a portion of it does not give an accurate portrayal of what people fought for and were willing to die for.

      I think some on both sides fought for and against slavery but it appears that most fought for ideals and culture.

      Thanks again for the comment!

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 4 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Mr. Burchett you've written another great article. However, I strongly disagree with your premise that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War. If slavery had been outlawed earlier in the Republic or had a process been underway of slowly of dismantling the slavery infrastructure in the manner the Brits did throughout their empire, the War would not have happened. To me, there's no arguing that point.

      Obviously I'm a Northerner whose family has been here for generations and a GOP voter, but I'm still uncomfortable with the Confederate Flag. It's the symbol of a group of people who took up arms against the United States which ultimately ended with the death of the President. A thought-provoking piece; keep up the good work.