In the aftermath of last summer’s shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, there have been calls for the complete purge of the Confederate flag, or anything to do with the Confederacy for that matter. And the latest battle in this fight took place in Louisville, Kentucky, where a statue of a Confederate soldier was removed from the University of Louisville campus.
Some people equate any symbol of the Confederacy as being associated with slavery and racism, but that is not the case. Southerners were no more racist than their Northern neighbors during the Civil War. Robert E. Lee freed the few slaves that he owned, as did his Union counterpart Ulysses S. Grant.
According to The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War by H.W. Crocker III, some Northerners (such as George McClellan and William Tecumseh Sherman) hated abolitionists, which proves there were pro-slavery individuals among the Northern states. Meanwhile, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson founded a school for slaves and taught them how to read (an unpopular concept among some Southerners at the time). In addition, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis expected slavery to fade away, something the Founding Fathers had also anticipated.
Slavery is a despicable institution, something noted in Clint Johnson’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to the South (and Why It Will Rise Again). Slavery had been around since Ancient Times and it wasn’t limited to the South (although it became less popular in the North). Europe had done away with slavery during the 1800s, especially in Britain.
As I mentioned in a previous article, the African slave trade was not limited to the West. There was the Trans-Sahara slave trade, as well as the Indian Ocean slave trade. In fact, the Muslim world enslaved more Africans than the West, not to mention the fact that their slaves faced harsher conditions (e.g. the male slaves being castrated). I should add that slavery still exists in the Muslim world.
Of course, the Civil War was not about just slavery. States’ rights was also a factor, particularly the issue of secession. Contrary to what some people say, secession was not illegal, even if it was unpopular with some individuals. In addition, secession was nothing new. The New England states considered secession during the War of 1812, because the war was unpopular there. And states’ rights is not limited to secession. Nullification was another issue, e.g. the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, the Nullification Crisis. In fact, states’ rights are guaranteed by the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution (contrary to popular belief).
In conclusion, there were bad apples on both sides during the Civil War. But let’s not demonize those who fought for the Confederacy. Doing so would have a negative impact when it comes to discussing the Civil War, whether it be reenactments or teaching our children about it.