It is a sad fact, but in the collective memory of most Americans, the American Civil War or the War Between the States was fought to free the slaves. This misconception couldn’t be further from the truth.
Rightly or wrongly, the North and the South had distinctively different cultures and ways of life. The South was primarily an agricultural society where its wealth was derived from the plantation and its implementation of slavery for the manual labor it required. The North had an industrial economy. Although “slavery” might be the single most appropriate word to describe the reasons for the war, in simple terms the South did not want the North sticking its nose in Southern business and telling it how it should manage its economy.
The secession of the South from the Union and the ultimate formation of the Confederate States of America was first and foremost an issue of states’ rights. In our enlightened day and age we know that slavery is an abomination and simply wrong, but based on the available knowledge and understanding of that time period, the South felt it had every right to dictate its own way of managing things. The Southern states seceded from the Union because they didn’t want some other “moral majority” dictating to them their way of life. The war came about because one side wanted to create and control its own destiny and the other side said the Union was more important.
From study, research and reading, I strongly believe the Confederate States of America produced many of the most outstanding military leaders and generals of that time. Although many in the Confederate military were indeed slaveholders, their loyalty to the Confederacy was largely a result of loyalty to their own state and not necessarily to the idea of slavery itself. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were some of the greatest military leaders of their time, and if the Confederacy had not run out of resources (men included), the Confederacy could very easily have prevailed in the conflict. The history is there. The Union experienced very little success until well past the midpoint of the war because of poor leadership and military strategy. With some successful strategy and a lot of attrition on the part of the South, the Union eventually won the conflict.
It wasn’t until much later in the progress of the war that Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, not to justify slavery as a…