Friday, June 11, 2004

The Unrepentant Yankee

I was browsing around the The Claremont Institute, and came across some articles of interest having to do with the American Civil War.

In an article titled Dividing the House, Tom Krannawitter marks the 150th Anniversary of the Kansas-Nebraska Act:

"Not as well known, much less remembered, is the Kansas-Nebraska Act, signed into law 150 years ago, on May 30, 1854, by President Franklin Pierce. Historian David Potter has commented that no event has "swung American history away from its charted course so suddenly or so sharply as the Kansas-Nebraska Act." The Kansas-Nebraska Act brought anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces into a thundering political clash, paving the road for Abraham Lincoln's presidency, and seeding the ominous clouds of civil war.

To know the story of the Kansas-Nebraska Act is to better understand the problem of race in America and the difficult struggle for equal civil rights. The history of the Kansas-Nebraska Act teaches us what is most important in America. We are reminded of the promises and challenges of the American experiment in freedom, and we see why the noble aims of Brown v. Board have not yet been achieved."

Those still enamored with the "Lost Cause" mythology will take excerpt to Krannawitter's comments on the reason for succession:

"Immediately after Lincoln's election in November of 1860, southerners began a movement for secession from the Union. In Apostles of Disunion, historian Charles Dew reviews the speeches of "secession commissioners" as they traveled throughout the South during the secession winter of 1860-61, trying to persuade fellow southerners to leave the union. In this critical moment, with nothing less than the future of the United States and constitutional government at stake, the arguments advanced to justify secession had little to do with states' rights or the old squabbles over tariffs and banks. The turning of the tide toward disunion and civil war rested squarely on the question of race and slavery, and the moving force within the South was a powerful fear that blacks would come to be viewed as the equals of whites."

Mackubin Thomas Owens' article The 'Lost Cause' In Retreat has the audacity to question some of the accepted cultural icons of the Civil War.

"Yet, an increasing number of historians have come to reject the Lost Cause argument that Virginia was the decisive theater of the war. The key to Union victory, they hold, was the West. Here Union armies used the Tennessee River as the main line of operations, penetrating deep into the Confederate heartland early in the war. By the end of 1862, they controlled all of the Mississippi River except the stretch between Vicksburg and Port Hudson. This fell in the summer of 1863. Union armies in the West then penetrated the Appalachian barrier at Chattanooga, opening the way to Atlanta, the fall of which ultimately doomed the Confederacy. They inflicted defeat after defeat on the main Confederate army in the West, the Army of Tennessee (not to be confused with the Union Army of the Tennessee), and captured vast tracts of territory that were essential to the confederacy survival."

In another part of this article Owens gets into the comparison of R. E. Lee and U. S. Grant. Some of the popular assumptions regarding these two major players in the conflict are not as cast in stone as some would think. My "Lost Cause" friends will have to pardon me as I still remain the unrepentant Yankee. And for the rest of you, there is another side of the story of "The Lost Cause" you would do well to be familiar with.

~ The Billy Goat ~


Anonymous said...

Could you post in only a couple sentences what the "Lost Cause" theory entails?

- Topher

Anonymous said...


Here is a short answer. I'll do a formal post and biblography on the blog.

"There are two parts to this (lost cause) interpretation (of the Civil War). The first is political, insisting that the cause of the war was not slavery but the oppressive power of the central government, which longed to tyrannize over the Southern states. The South desired merely to exercise its constitutional right to secede, but was thwarted by a power-hungry Lincoln. The second part is military: the noblest soldier of the war was Robert E. Lee. For three years, he and his army proved the backbone of the Confederate cause, fighting in Virginia, the most important theater of the war. But though his adversaries were far less skillful, they were able to bring to bear superior resources, ultimately overwhelming the Confederacy."

~ The Billy Goat ~