Beyond Silent Sam: What the Civil War was really about

Regarding the Silent Sam controversy, there is more to the issue than meets the eye. Those who remember the movie “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” will recall the letter British Queen Victoria wrote to Albert Pike. Pike was a slave-owning Confederate brigadier-general, whose statue sits in the middle of our nation’s capital city today.

Why aren’t those who destroyed Silent Sam marching to Washington in protest of the Pike statue? Rarely are we told what the Civil War was really about. Powerful people in Britain did not like American independence, and in March 1809, a British emissary, John Henry, in Boston wrote a letter saying they wanted to find an issue that would divide the North and the South here (e.g., abolition of slavery).

On Aug. 22, 1862, President Lincoln wrote a letter to William Lloyd Garrison, the editor of the Abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, In it, Lincoln said: “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it.” Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued on Jan. 1, 1863, partly because of his fear of foreign intervention in the Civil War. Most people believe the EP freed all slaves, but it did not. It only freed slaves in the South, while the evil of slavery continued in the North for economic reasons until the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in December 1865.

It is also a mistake to say Confederate soldiers fought to keep their own slaves, because 93 percent of Southerners owned no slaves! Only the small planter class (as in “Gone With the wind”) owned slaves.

So why were Confederate soldiers fighting? They called themselves Confederates because they wanted to return to our Articles of Confederation, under which we lived before the Constitution. Why? Because our Constitution was rejected when first presented to the people until a Bill of Rights was added, including freedom of the press and the 10th Amendment which included states’ rights. Lincoln did not care about any of that, nor habeas corpus which was guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. He had four local newspaper editors jailed for disagreeing with him on the CW — so much for freedom of the press!

Who then is responsible for the war? It was mostly influential, wealthy Northerners and British as revealed by Lincoln’s Minister of Vienna John Lothrop Motley in his 1861 book, “Causes of the American Civil War,” in which he revealed the conspirators wanted to separate the 11 deep South states from the Union, and “establish a great Gulf (of Mexico) empire, including Mexico, Central America, Cuba and other islands, with unlimited cotton fields and unlimited negroes. This is the golden vision in pursuit of which the great Republic has been sacrificed, the beneficent Constitution subverted.”

Still, you say, the carnage of the Civil War was worth it because the North defeated the South and the slaves were freed. But this idea of the virtuous North against the racist South is nonsense! Why? Because in the 1800s, nearly everyone North and South were racists! There was a general feeling among all whites that Anglo-Saxons were superior not only to Blacks but also to Hispanics, Asian, Native Americans, etc. This found expression throughout the U.S. in the late 1800s in Social Darwinism.

And as to the “virtuous” North in the Civil War, that is also nonsense.

First, in 1864 Lincoln appointed the drunkard Gen. Grant to take over the war effort, and Grant did not really care about how many of his own soldiers were slaughtered. The North lost 359,000 soldiers’ lives compared to only 258,000 Confederate soldiers killed. And Grant appointed the conduct of the war to butchers like Generals Sherman and Sheridan, who destroyed much in their path of destruction through the South (e.g., from Atlanta toward Savannah, and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia). Northern generals also allowed many of their soldiers to gang rape Southern women with impunity. Look in the Raleigh Museum at the diary of a Southern woman in Raleigh during the Civil War, who describes how her neighbor is thinking of killing herself rather than be gang raped by “virtuous” Union soldiers. And the woman herself described how she and her daughters saw a “sea of Union soldiers faces” looking up at their second floor window as the soldiers started to climb the outside walls intending to gang rape them!

If you want to remove Confederate statues to historical exhibit areas, do it peacefully and through due process. Don’t do it violently and ignorant of the real reasons the Civil War was fought.

Dennis Cuddy, Ph.D. is a former American History instructor at UNC, and in 1973 presented the first book to their African-American Studies Curriculum on behalf of his mother.

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