Dissent over slavery had been an issue between the North and the South virtually since the beginning of the Union; slavery was banned in the Northwest Territory in 1787, and by 1804 all the Northern states had passed laws abolishing slavery. Nationwide, the importation of slaves (almost exclusively Black persons from Africa) had been banned in 1808, a bill promoted by President Jefferson. Abolitionists had assumed that banning the slave trade would lead to gradual emancipation; and so it did in England in the 1830s, but not so in America. Despite compromises in 1820 and 1850, the slavery issue in America exploded in the 1850s ostensibly over its expansion into the newly-created Western territories, but in reality over the well-grounded fear the country was heading towards abolition, as was the entire world.
|poster for slave purchase, 1853 Lexington, KY.|
South Carolina spearheaded an immediate secession movement upon the news of the election results, calling Lincoln's election a "hostile act" on November 9. 1860. Their declaration of secession on December 20, 1860, was followed by those of six other states prior to Lincoln's inauguration on March 4, 1861: Mississippi, Florida and Alabama in early January and then Georgia, Louisiana and Texas by early February. The remaining eight of the fifteen slave states rejected pleas to join the Confederate States of America.
Economic and political issues (tariffs and the size/power of federal government) were secondary issues for secession; the main issue for the Southern states was slavery. Over a third of the Southern population were African-Americans (3.5 million out of 9.1 million) compared to 2% of the Northern population (.4 milion out of 21.7 million). The Southern plantation way of life was built on slavery. The South wanted mandatory slavery in the new American territories; they did not want to allow these territories to decide for themselves to allow or not allow slavery (as the South was certain they would vote anti-slavery). The real fear of the South was that they would be so outnumbered in the Federal Congress and the Senate, that slavery might be declared illegal nation-wide, despite promises to the contrary. Additionally, they were offended that a majority of the country was now judging them so harshly, telling them that their way of life and views on race were immoral. The secession documents confirm this; for instance, one of the first sentences of Mississippi's declaration was "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery."
The fact that slavery was the chief issue is confirmed by the last minute compromises suggested to avert war in the winter of 1860-1861, none of which mentioned economic policies. The three major attempts at compromise, the Crittenden Compromise, the Corwin Amendment and the Washington Peace Conference, addressed only the slavery-related issues of fugitive slave laws, personal liberty laws, slavery in the territories and interference with slavery within the existing slave states. Substantiating this is the fact that the Confederate constitution was copied from the U. S. Constitution, except for its provisions to protect slavery as part of a national slave code (while confirming a continued ban on the importation of slaves). As Lincoln stated in his first (March 4, 1861) inaugural address, "... One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute. ..."
Southern concerns over the abolishment of slavery ("emancipation" and "abolition") included not only economic loss but also fears of racial equality; as Texas described it in its secession document, "the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states". 95% of African-Americans lived in the South, comprising one-third of the population there; in the North, African-Americans were only 2% of the population, chiefly in larger cities like New York and Philadelphia. Consequently, fears of eventual emancipation and its consequences were much greater in the South than in the North, and rightly so; Southerners were correct: Northerners could not understand how different it was in the South. However, the real impasse between the North and the South was the difference in democratic ideology and the fact that the South would not consider the abolition of slavery then or ever; the South felt that slavery was "beneficial to both bond and free" (Texas secession document) and described "the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color -- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law." Clearly the Southern secessionists had no intention to work towards emancipation, and wanted more than just allowing slavery -- they wanted acceptance of their inequality doctrine and an expansion of slavery; it was a matter of Southern honor.
|1861 map of the United States|
The majority populace opinion for cooperation and not secession throughout the South is antithetical to the claim that the war was over states' rights. Not only did the convention delegates not wish to follow the desires of the constituencies within their own states, they also did not want to allow self-determination on the issue of slavery for the new western states. The vote for secession was not only a vote for slavery and against states' rights, but also a vote for the rule of a minority and againt a rule by democracy. It is clear from the map that the yellow Southern states would become a distinct minority of the country as the grey terrtories achieved statehood, dramatically reducing the South's proportionate national influence.
Support for secession was strongly correlated to the number of plantations and the size of the slave population in the region. States of the Deep South, which had the greatest concentration of plantations and highest African-American populations, were the first to secede. The upper South slave states of Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee had fewer plantations and a lower percentage of African-Americans and rejected secession until the Fort Sumter crisis forced them to choose sides. Border states had still fewer plantations and smaller African-American populations, and never seceded -- West Virginia (which seceeded from Virginia over the issue of secession), Maryland, Delaware, Missouri and Kentucky. (See census data in footnote below for details.)
Generally speaking, the desire for secession split along class lines. Slaveholders were united in their hostility to the Government. The middle and lower classes were not only opposed to secession, but also to slavery itself. (References: "Bitterly Divided: The South's Inner Civil War," by David Williams, 2008; "The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy," by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer, 2009; "The South Vs. The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War," by William Freehling, 2001; "Lincoln's Loyalists: Union Soldiers From the Confederacy" by Richard Nelson Current, 1972).
The North was not characterized by universality either. There were "Copperheads" (Southern sympathizers in the MidWest) and Peace Democrats, whose ideas ranged from the South having the right to secede to simply wanting more efforts at compromise. Especially in the border states, there were soldiers, officers and supplies for both sides. For example, Missouri had its star on both flags, had separate governments representing each side, and endured a neighbor-against-neighbor intrastate war within the larger national war. Kentucky also had a bloody partisan war. Only Virginia and Tennessee exceeded Missouri in the number of clashes within the state boundaries.
|April 12, 1861 attack on Ft. Sumter - painting|
|July 1-3, 1863 battle at Gettysburg - painting|
|1861-1863 CSA national flag on left (with 7, 9, 11, 13 stars), 1863-1865 national flag on the right. Neither was used much in battle -- the first one looked too similar to the American flag and the second one looked too much like a white flag of surrender especially when at rest.|
|July 1-3, 1863 battle at Gettysburg - painting|
|July 1863 some of the 50,000 dead after the battle at Gettysburg - photograph|
|map of the major battles|
|1864 Electoral map: Lincoln wins re-election; most Southern states did not vote|
Over 10,000 military engagements took place during the four-year war, 40% of them in Virginia and Tennessee.
It is probably safe to say that the average Southern soldier felt he was protecting his way of life, while the average Northern soldier felt he was protecting the Union. In other words, the Northern soldier echoed the sentiments of Abraham Lincoln, that if a state can secede at will, republican government by majority rule would come to an end -- the grand democratic experiment (America) would be a failure.
The South assumed its superior exports (especially cotton) afforded it the money to win the war. But the North had 2½ times more railroad length, 9 times more manufacturing, and 30 times more firearm production, and with four times the (free) population of the South was more able to amass troops. Most scholars emphasize that the Union held an insurmountable long-term advantage over the Confederacy in terms of industrial strength and population. Perhaps the Confederacy's best hope was military intervention into the war by Britain and France against the Union. But public opinion against slavery created a political liability for European politicians, especially in Britain where slavery had been abolished in 1834. And what the South had not anticipated was that Britain and France had cotton surpluses in the early 1860s, but poor weather had decimated their food crops; they needed the corn of the North rather than the cotton of the South. No country in the world recognized the validity of the Confederacy.
The North experienced a severe recession at the start of the war, with 6,000 banks failing, and Southerners defaulting on $300 million in debts owed to the North. However, by the fall of 1862 the Northern states were experiencing a wartime boom. As the war dragged on for four years, the hardships in the South were greater than the hardships in the North. Since most of the battles took place in the South, it experienced more destruction than the North. The Northern blockade stopped 95% of the South's international (cotton) trade. Since the South had only one-fourth the (free) population as the North, the military required a much larger share of its farming population. Food riots began to break out as early as 1862 in Richmond, Atlanta, Mobile, Galveston, Valdosta, Ga, Marietta, Ga, High Point, NC and Salisbury, NC and other urban areas. Although desertions occurred in both the Union and Confederate troops, as their families' suffering increased so did desertions from the Confederate Army, soaring so much that in April 1862, the Confederate Congress passed the first conscription law in American history. The law reflected the South's class divide as it provided for exemptions for those who paid a fee or hired a substitute, and it also excluded anyone who owned twenty or more slaves. Thus, starting in the second year of hostilities, there more and more came to be a common Southern soldier lament that it was "a rich man's war but a poor man's fight."
The problem of desertion became a catastrophe for the Confederacy after the Union won Vicksburg in July 1863. When Confederate general Pemberton surrendered the river strong-hold and his 30,000 men, Union commander Ulysses Grant slyly decided to parole all 30,000 prisoners and let them find their own way home. He had (rightly) hoped that the soldiers' disallusionment with the war would be a huge boon for the North. But war raged on for almost two more years.
President Lincoln concentrated on both the military and political dimensions of the war effort, seeking to reunify the nation. He vigorously exercised unprecedented war powers, including the arrest and detention without trial of thousands of suspected secessionists. He issued his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and promoted the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery (1864-1865).
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: November 19, 1863 (four months after the battle on July 1-3):
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Abraham Lincoln was re-elected president on November 8, 1864, defeating Democrat George B. McClellan (former commander of the Union army). Lincoln carried all but three states with 55% of the popular vote and 212 of 233 electoral votes (so he would have won even counting the South's 100+ electoral votes). "I earnestly believe that the consequences of this day's work will be to the lasting advantage, if not the very salvation, of the country," Lincoln told supporters. His inauguration was March 4, 1865.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865, marking the end of Confederate hopes; the remaining armies soon capitulated. Union General Ulysses Grant, in an untraditional sign of respect with anticipation of peacefully restoring Confederate states to the Union, permitted Lee to keep his sword and his horse, Traveller. Lee rejected as folly the starting of a guerrilla campaign against the Yankees and called for reconciliation between the North and the South. Just five days later, on April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a Southern sympathizer. He was the first, but not last, American president to be assassinated.
|Northern Union army soldier survivor upon his release from Georgia's Andersonville prison in May, 1865|
Reconstruction began during the war (and continued to 1877) in an effort to solve the issues caused by reunion, specifically the legal status of the 11 breakaway states, the Confederate leadership, and the freedmen. Northern leaders during the war agreed that victory would require more than the end of fighting -- it had to encompass the two war goals: secession had to be repudiated and all forms of slavery had to be eliminated. Robert E. Lee supported President Andrew Johnson's program of Reconstruction and intersectional friendship, while opposing the Radical Republican proposals to give freed slaves the vote and take the vote away from ex-Confederates. (The 15th amendment to the Constitution codified the rights of African-Americans to vote in 1870; former Confederate leaders did lose the right to vote temporarily.)
Having grown up in the dichotomy of being a "Northerner" (living in the District of Columbia) in the "South" (which is south of the Mason-Dixon Line), it is not a surprise that I have conflicting opinions, and it has taken me time to put the war in perspective.
I am incensed by the continuing claims that the war was not over the issue of slavery -- that is exactly what it was over, as proved by the secession documents.
I am incensed that the South still calls it the War of Northern Aggression -- the political climate had been characterized by years of compromise; the Southern states seceeded at the prospect that a "Northern" president might result in less compromise; additionally, the South started the initial military aggression at Fort Sumter and elsewhere (e.g., Louisiana) against federal property.
Finally I am incensed that the South still claims the war was over "states' rights" -- the South did not want to allow the right of self-determination to the Western states; moreover, it is stunning to me to recently discover that the Southern slave-owners did not want to allow self-determination within their own states; even when popular opinion was anti-secession, the slave-owners conspired to have pro-secession convention delegates who would vote for secession against the wishes of the majority of the constituency.
Finally, I am appalled that the very men who forced secession and the war, then went on to arrange it so they and their sons would not have to fight in the war, or even pay for it -- as the ultimate hypocrisy, many of these plantation owners would not even convert their crops from cotton to food to help the starving soldiers and their starving families.
While individuals on both sides should be celebrated -- mothers who suffered deprivation and loss, soldiers who fought bravely and suffered debilitating injuries and death, generals who exhibited strategic excellence and leadership -- the War as a whole should not be remembered proudly by either side but instead be viewed as a collossal waste of human and monetary resources that could have been put to so many better uses. And it should be remembered for how a few men with power could effect a course of history that they desired, against the desires and welfare of the majority; this was not a Southern fight for freedom, but a fight of the plantation-owners to keep political power. The abolition of slavery was inevitable; how tragic the secessionist plantation owners chose this scenario; they should go down in history not only for their hubris and hypocrisy, but also for their cowardice.
- - - Donna Hay, April 12, 2011, upon the 150th anniversary of the first shot of the War.
How sad we cannot learn from the past, but instead glorify our revisionist rendition of it; that we have gala secession anniversary celebrations in 2011 (with no mention of slavery, of course) seems as misguided to me as the KKK meeting I saw in Durham,NC in 1970. When will we learn that war is not the answer? When will we learn how not only to live with our differences but to rejoice in them? How can we create a culture of compassion instead of a culture of hatred?
Hay ancestor involvement in the Civil War. Most of the families of my eight great-grandparents had involvement in the Civil War. However, due to age or residence, none of the four male great-grandfathers actually served in the War; only relatives served. All the relatives, in NY, DC, IL, IN, MO, served for the Union; this was a revelation to me in the 21st century, as I had assumed that since I had ancestors from Southern states (VA, KY and NC) as well, I would have ancestors on both sides of the battle. Obviously, some more distant relatives did serve for the Confederacy.
|Dr. George Stiebeling, ~1862 at age ~32, Union surgeon|
|photo found on internet titled "Gregory brothers in the Civil War" -- unknown if relatives|
Elizabeth Stiebeling was born in Germany in 1860. However, her brother Hermann Stiebeling had immigrated in 1854 at age 14. He enlisted in the cavalry in 1858 at age 18 in New York, and subsequently enlisted in Washington, DC for the Union, serving on special duty as a dispatch carrier at the Headquarters Army of the Potomac under General McClellan, in the early spring of 1862, while encamped before the battle at Yorktown. Elizabeth was very close to this brother, with whom she lived for several years before her marriage. Elizabeth's uncle, Dr. George Stiebeling, enlisted in New York for the Union as a Surgeon in 1861 at age 31 (picture at right). Elizabeth's other siblings emigrated after the end of the war, landing in July 1865, and Elizabeth and her father in 1869. There may have been Rueb relatives of Elizabeth's mother in America, but they have not been located.
DC: 1860 census statistics: population 75,080 -- 19% African-American, 4% slaves
NY: 1860 census statistics: population 3,880,735 -- 1% African-American, 0% slaves
Hay Ancestor: Bischoff
Charles Bischoff, born in Germany in 1845, did not emigrate until after the War in 1872. He is not known to have any relatives in America.
Hay Ancestor: Howsmon
Mary Emily Howsmon was born in IL in 1849. Her two oldest brothers, Jehiel (born 1841) and William (born 1842) served for the Union. Jehiel's obituary states: "At 21 he enlisted in the 94th Illinois Volunteers Colonel McNulta's regiment, and served in all the regiment's engagements up to the time he was mustered out of service in 1866 with the rank of second lieutenant. He was at the siege of Vicksburg and Mobile and also Prairie Grove." Both Jehiel and William served as Chaplain in the Union Army. Her brother Isaac Cook (born 1846) watched the Lincoln-Douglass debates in 1858! Her cousin Charles Howsmon (born ~1847) died during the Civil War; although mustered out of his Ohio regiment in 1865 in Victoria,TX, he was never heard of again. Interestingly, through her maternal Gregory side, Mary Emily was (unknown to her) very distantly related to 13th president Millard Filmore.
IL: 1860 census statistics: population 1,711,951 -- 0% African-American, 0% slaves
Hay ancestor: Hay
Oliver Perry Hay, the oldest child, was too young to serve, being born in 1846; his father was too old, with too many children. The family sentiment was clearly pro-Union as disclosed in his daughter Fannie's diary entry for: "July 21, 1929. The three of us [Fannie and her parents Mary Emily Howsmon Hay and Oliver Perry Hay] drove this afternoon to the Bull Run battlefield, a lovely cool day and a fine ride. It proved to be, according to the monument on the old bridge across Bull Run, the 68th anniversary of the first battle. Papa remembers that the day after this battle he, a boy of 15, went with his mother to Boyd's Grove and heard of the rout of the Northern forces. He remembers his mother's expressions of fear that the Northern cause was lost. He also remembers the stories that the Confederates drank from the skulls of the slain Northerners!" The Hay relatives from Indiana served for the Union: Isabel Hay Davidson's grandson Tyrus Tolbert (enlisted as a Sergeant in 1861 and killed in 1862 in Perryville, KY), as did the Crawford relatives such as Oliver Perry Hay's aunt Maria Crawford's husband Thomas Cavin (who died in the war in 1860?). His maternal Maiden relatives from western North Carolina mostly moved to other states such as Indiana and also served in the Union, such as Winfield Scott Beck who died in the war. I have not found evidence that Oliver Perry Hay's closer Hay uncles served. It is expected that at least some of the more distant relatives who moved further South joined the Confederacy.
IN: 1860 census statistics: population 1,350,428 -- 1% African-American, 0% slaves
IL: 1860 census statistics: population 1,711,951 -- 0% African-American, 0% slaves
Dankenbring ancestor: Krieger
Elizabeth Krieger was born 1852 in Germany and emigrated after the war in 1868. Although her uncles Henry and John Naumann had emigrated in the 1850s, it does not appear that either volunteered in Iowa for service in the Civil War.
IA: 1860 census statistics: population 674,813 -- 0% African-American, 0% slaves
Dankenbring ancestors: Widmann
William Widmann was born 1850 in Germany and emigrated after the war in 1867. Although one uncle did emigrate in 1854, his children were too young to serve and he was too old with five children.
|Wanted posters: Missouri bushwackers "Bloody Bill" Anderson and William Quantrill|
Maria Dickenhorst was born in Germany in Germany in 1847 but emigrated before the war in 1851 to one of the Border states -- Missouri. Her younger brother was too young to serve, and her father had died in 1857 before the War. However, the Civil War had a strong impact on her family; indeed it was a major force in the lives of all the residents of Western Missouri in the 1860s. Lafayette county had 31% of its population in human bondage -- over 6,000 people. The Missouri German community was uniformly opposed to slavery, and when the war came in 1861, the young male German immigrants signed up in an independent company of pro-Union Home Guards, but not including Maria's uncle Fred who at 47 was probably considered too old. But Fred did serve to attempt to guard the community against bushwhacker attacks by Southern partisans, who were actually opportunist guerillas, who not only confiscated person property at whim, but also executed their prisoners taken out of the homes even during baby baptisms. The poorer the war went for the South, the more the maurauding band of guerillas, led by Quantrill and Poole, went on killing and burning sprees in the German community, including the execution of Fred Dickenhorst in 1864.
MO: 1860 census statistics: population 1,182,012 -- 10% African-American, 10% slaves
Dankenbring ancestor: Dankenbring
The Dankenbring family also lived in Lafayette county and was impacted by the Bushwhackers. August Dankenbring was born 1846 in Germany, and emigrated in 1848. His two older half-brothers, Henry and Fred, served in the 71st EMM under Capt. Ehlers, both enlisting on August 9, 1862 -- the pro-Union home guard.
MO: 1860 census statistics: population 1,182,012 -- 10% African-American, 10% slaves
It should be noted that Germans as well as other recent immigrants were known for their pro-Union sympathies. They had made the arduous decision and trip to become Americans, whole-heartedly embracing freedom and democracy, and as a whole despised slavery. One example is the "Naked Truth Memorial" in St. Louis, MO, dedicated to three prominent German-Americans who were associated with St. Louis German newspaper -- the Anzieger des Westens became known for its editorial opposition to the institution of slavery since the 1830s. There is only one monument to the Union on what was formerly Confederate soil -- to commemorate the "Nueces Massacre" of August 1862 where German families were killed by Confederates at the banks of the Nueces River as they tried to flee to Mexico to avoid the draft in Texas, due to their anti-secession and anti-slavery opposition.
Sources and Detail Information
|Map of Emancipation dates (North) and slave census rates (South)|
|The Belmont Mansion in Nashville,TN, built in 1850 by Joseph & Adelicia Acklen (she inherited 7 plantations and 659 slaves in LA from her first husband, slave-trader and planter Isaac Franklin)|
The legality of slavery in Texas was unique and particularly interesting -- in 1830 Mexican president Anastasio Bustamante ordered the abolition of slavery in Mexican Texas, 17 years after slavery was abolished in Mexico; six years later in 1836 the Republic of Texas was created and specifically made slavery legal again. Internationally, in the 1800s slave trade was widely abolished and slavery abolished in last of the northern states and many European countries. In the 1810s slavery was abolished in Mexico, Canada, more European countries, and several South American countries. The American 1820 compromise outlawed slavery north of the 36°30' line. In the 1820s-1860s more and more countries worldwide abolished slavery; in general before the Civil War most European and North American countries and South American countries had abolished slavery, while Asian and African countries mostly abolished slavery after the American Civil War. For persepective, there were 12.5 million Africans shipped to the New World as slaves in 1525-1866, 10.7 million survived the trip, and less than 4% were shipped to America -- the majority went to South America, almost half (45%) to Brazil alone (source); Brazil did not totally abolish slavery until 1888.
In 1806 President Thomas Jefferson, desirous of criminalizing the international slave trade, asked Congress to "withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights. . . which the morality, the reputation, and the best of our country have long been eager to proscribe."
In 1860, the 19 largest slave-owners had 491-1130 slaves, and their plantations were located in SC (9), LA (4), MS (3), AL (1), AR (1) and GA (1) (links are to census pages - 1860 except where noted) -- JOSHUA J. WARD (dec'd) of Georgetown,SC holding 1,130 slaves (1850 family; slaves) (rice plantation); STEPHEN DUNCAN of Issaquena,MS holding 858 slaves (family; slaves); J. BURNESIDE of Ascension,LA holding 753 slaves (family; slaves)(sugar); MEREDITH CALHOUN of Rapides,LA holding 709 slaves (family; slaves); WM. AIKEN of Colleton,SC holding 700 slaves (family; slaves); JOHN L. MANNING of Ascension,LA holding 670 slaves (family in SC!; slaves); JOS. A. S. ACKLEN of West Feliciana,LA holding 659 slaves (family in TN!; slaves) (7 LA cotton plantations owned by wife of Isaac Franklin) (after Joseph's death in 1863 at the plantation, she and the children went to Europe where she was presented to the court of Emperor Napoleon!); R. F. W. ALLSTON of Georgetown,SC holding 631 slaves (family; slaves); JOSEPH BLAKE of Beaufort,SC holding 575 slaves (family?; slaves) (rice); JNO. ROBINSON of Madison,MS holding 550 slaves (family; slaves)(cotton); JERE [Jeremiah] H. BROWN of Sumter,AL holding 540 slaves (family; slaves)("Loudon"); ARTHUR BLAKE of Charleston,SC holding 538 slaves (family; slaves) (rice); JNO. I. [John Izard] MIDDLETON of Beaufort,SC holding 530 slaves (family p.2; slaves) (rice); ELISHA WORTHINGTON of Chicot,AR holding 529 slaves (family; slaves) ("Sunnyside"); DANIEL BLAKE of Colleton,SC holding 527 slaves (family; slaves); J. C. JENKINS (dec'd) of Wilkinson,MS holding 523 slaves (1850 census: family, slaves; 1860 census: slaves); J. HARLESTON READ of Georgetown,SC holding 511 slaves (family; slaves); JNO. BUTLER (estate of; he died 1847) of McIntosh,GA holding 505 slaves (1850 census: family; 1860 census: slaves); and CHARLES HEYWARD of Colleton,SC holding 491 slaves (family; slaves).
However, this list can be misleading and is difficult to recreate from the census data itself. The census was taken county-by-county, and lists each plantation separately -- so the slave-holdings from multiple counties and multiple plantations must be added together to get a true idea of the holdings of the single plantation owner. Plus, the list does not reflect that some of the plantations are larger than they appear, and the census separates the holdings of relatives on a single plantation. As William Dusinberre ("Them Dark Days") points out, it also does not reflect how the slaveholdings in especially SC became increasingly concentrated in a small group of great planting families -- how being master of 200 slaves was thought to be huge in 1790 but by 1860 while it was still huge for a cotton plantation, it was small for the rice planters. He has recomputed the census data to have 12 rice plantations with over 500 slaves, adding Arthur Heyward, W. H. Heyward and Walter Blake as owners of over 600 slaves. As Dusinberre states "Fortunes were still to be made -- or squandered -- from rice, as Robert Allston, Charles Manigault, Pierce Butler, and scores of other great planters were keenly aware; and with extraordinary unanimity they pursued the secessionist course which they reckoned best adapted to securing their massive capital investments in slaves and in embanked, richly developed, malarial swampland."
I was struck that on the census forms, the slaves were apparently included in the "personal property" figures for their owners, and how the census schedules listed no names, not even first names, for the slaves.
Is it any wonder with so much personal money -- literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in 1860 dollars -- tied up in slavery, the plantation owners wished to secede from the Union to protect their investment and their fortunes? The shipping of slaves overseas from Africa to America had been outlawed in 1808, largely through the efforts of Quakers and Evangelicals, and it had been assumed that this would lead to a gradual end to slavery. Under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson, the state of Virginia in 1778 became a leader in ending the international slave trade; it freed all slaves brought in after its passage and imposed heavy fines on violators. The United States Congress passed the Slave Trade Act of 1794, which prohibited the building or outfitting of ships in the U.S. for use in the slave trade. In 1807 Congress, acting on the request of President Jefferson, outlawed the importation of slaves beginning on January 1, 1808. The CSA constitution of 1861 also banned slave importation. However, it is unclear to me if this didn't exascerbate the problem in some ways, making slaves more valuable, and their owners then less ameliorative to emancipation. Why wouldn't the Plantation owners consider the precedent set by England in Trinidad? The British Emancipation Bill of 1833, abolished slavery but compensated the planters, and the slaves were required to work on the plantation for six years; although there were peaceful protests, emanciplation was legally granted ahead of schedule in 1838. There were peaceful alternatives to war.
Economically, the plantations could have afforded modest salaries to their workers -- for instance, in 1863 Adelicia Acklen arranged to sell 3,000 bales of cotton to England for $960,000; at $20/month (the going rate for manufacturing labor), the total labor cost for 659 slaves would have been $158,169 annually or 16% of her gross (and there are room and board savings too, and this does not exclude the children who did not work). The bottom line is that the plantation owners could have afforded emancipation economically, they just were afraid of it socially and politically -- it was a serious threat to their power, especially in SC and MS where Whites would be out-voted by African-Americans. It is not coincidental that the Civil War started in South Carolina.
But, that said, the plantation owners cannot all be easily dismissed as a unified group bent on preserving slavery and their power and money either. Even just a quick perusal of the 19 largest plantation owners in 1860 has the range of secessionists to anti-secessionists, rabid-pro-slavetraders to those considering abolition, bigots to those who "marry" slaves -- underscoring the complexity of the slavery issue, and the futility of the war. In retrospect, would not the vast majority of the pro-secessionists have chosen a compromise route that would have eased into abolition over time without so much bloodshed and so much destruction? Perhaps the true tragedy is that they probably would not, and that is a lesson we still have not learned today. -- Donna Hay, 2011
|Escaped LA former slave revealing scars on his back from savage whipping - photo taken ~1863 courtesy of Life magazine|
Today, the white-washing of history continues. The Georgia SCV (Sons of Confederate Veterans) made a series of commercials about the "Southern version of the causes of the Civil War," and wished to have these aired on the History Channel, but were declined. The summary of these commercials, quoted from their website: "The year 2011 will mark the 150th anniversary of the War for Southern Independence; and the Sons of Confederate Veterans encourage you to celebrate this noble time in our history when men and women of the South stood courageously for liberty, even in the face of insurmountable odds. Not a "civil war" fought to take over the united States, as it is called in history books today, this was a war in which Southerners fought to defend their homes and families against an aggressive invasion by federal troops. The South peacefully seceded, just like our Founding Fathers did in 1776 with England; and all we wanted was to be left alone to govern ourselves. But the north and Abraham Lincoln would not allow the South to peacefully leave because of the taxes and tariffs the South paid. So the South fought for her liberty... and fought valiantly. Men like Jackson, Forrest and Lee. Outnumbered in some battles 5 to 1. Don't let others do your thinking for you. Don't allow them to rob you of your heritage while they celebrate their own. Be proud of your Southern history and heritage." (To view the entire video, click on "150th Anniversary" video at the lower right on the Georgia SCV website.)
I concur that no one should let anyone do their thinking for them; everyone should read original documents to determine truth from fiction. ...to recognize that the 1776 secession from England was anything but peaceful. ...to research the similarities and differences between the taxes and tariffs in the 1770s versus the 1860s, to appreciate the difference between taxation without representation and dissatisfaction with levels of tariffs/taxation. ...and mostly, to read period pieces on the attempted compromises and the rhetoric of the 1850s, as well as the secession documents, to see that the war was completely about slavery and emancipation, and that even within the South there was not agreement over secession. The name of the conflict does reflect a major issue (is secession possible, and if so, under what circumstances, e.g. popular consent?); the calling of the conflict a war of Northern aggression is not an issue (the South fired upon federal property expecting no defense?). Notice that even "Southern" presidents like slave-owning Zachary Taylor said he would use force against Southern secessionists; all the people who advocated the attack on Fort Sumter assumed it would lead to armed conflict; it is disingenuous at best to blame the North for the South's military initiative. It is way past time for all Americans to repudiate the evils of slavery while respecting the sacrifice of so many, Black and White, free and slave, male and female, rich and poor, North and South. It is time to go forward and not back, seeking avenues of effective communication and compromise instead of glorifying dissention. -- DLH 2011
On the other hand, I could not better summarize the myths about the Civil War than did the Chicora Foundation in Columbia, SC -- http://www.chicora.org/myth-conceptions.html, a non-profit heritage preservation organization founded in 1983.
Research conducted from documents posted on the internet -- original secession documents, poll results as posted on the State websites, census data, etc. I also used websites that specified their references. Where possible, original documents were copied and linked.
As an aside, do note that the Georgia SCV summary uniformly capitalizes "South" and does not capitalize "north" or "united," and does not refer to Abraham Lincoln as "president." Specifically, I have never seen United States spelled as united States. I interpret this as a subtle indication of their lack of respect for the North and the country as a unified whole. It is time to stop the vilifying rhetoric -- does the North call the war the "War of Southern Treason" or "The Slave-holders' Revolt"? Even Robert E. Lee and Jeff Davis espoused reunification; it is time to end the war.