By the 1850s, the northern and southern United States had different views over the issues of states’ rights versus federal authority, westward expansion and slavery. There were also fundamental economic differences between the North and the South. Manufacturing and industry were well established in the North with agriculture mostly on small family farms. While the South had many small family farms, much of the South’s economy was based on a system of large-scale farming which depended on slaves to grow certain crops, especially cotton and tobacco. Most of the politicians were plantation owners.
The abolitionist movement in the North and northern opposition to slavery’s extension into the new western states created concern in the slaveholding south about the future of slavery, the backbone of their economy.
These tensions exploded into the American Civil War (1861-65). After Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, seven southern states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas) seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.). Four more states quickly joined them. The War Between the States was also known as the Civil War or, in the south, the War of Northern Aggression. By the time the C.S.A. surrendered in 1865, the Civil War was the costliest war ever fought on American soil. About 620,000 of 2.4 million soldiers were killed, with millions more injured. The population and territory of the South were devastated taking decades to recover.
I’ve done extensive research to find ancestors who were involved in the Civil War. These eight men are all I have found, so far. Others may well have served.
I’ve found no information showing that these eight men were slave owners. All of them, North and South, were small farmers working hard to raise food to feed their large families with enough cash money left to pay taxes, service their debts and pay for any other necessities they had to buy. It appears our Civil War soldiers were drafted, joined because they had to or for the hope of land grants or the payment of cash, a rare commodity in these rural areas and small towns.
Until I started my research, I had not heard any of these ancestors’ stories. Though as a youngster growing up in southern Oklahoma, an area still known as “Little Dixie”, I was almost an adult before I knew damYankee was two words. These stories help explain family memories of the hardships of the “War of Northern Aggression”, still felt close to the bone one hundred years after the war ended.
“War is not the fine adventure it is represented to be by novelists and historians, but a dirty bloody mess,unworthy of people who claim to be civilized.” – George A. Gibbs, Private, 18th Mississippi Infantry.
“Will God forgive men for such work is a question I often ask myself, but I receive a silent reply and utter my own prayer for the safety of my poor soul and my country.” Hamlin A. Coe, Sergeant, 19th Michigan Infantry.
Both quotes above are not from our family history, but from other Civil War soldiers, quoted from “A People’s History of The Civil War – Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom,” by David Williams, 2005. This book is a startling contrast to other books on the Civil War, focusing not on the generals and battle details, but on the soldiers. The stories in this book about treatment of the soldiers are so bleak, even though I am an avid reader, I can read only a few pages at a time. Off quoted in the book – “The Civil War was a rich man’s war, but a poor man’s battle.”
I look forward to further study of our ancestors Civil War records.