Stuff You Don’t Really Want To Know (But For Some Reason Have To) About the Many Causes of the Civil War
Three Big Things:
This one’s a little longer than I normally like – a fact which isn’t exactly helped by adding 54 words up front to tell you so. I wanted to wrap this one up, but couldn’t bring myself to cut more than I already have. For the #11FF actually plowing through these with me, my apologies
Lincoln points to the year of the Declaration of Independence – the ‘birth’ of our nation and a written statement not only of rebellion, but of ideals. The Constitution has rules about running for the Senate and requiring the various states to play nicely together; the Declaration proclaims all men were created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. The Constitution is functional, but birthed in compromise and politics. The Declaration is idealistic and uninterested in practicalities – it glows and pretty music plays whenever we close our eyes and call its name three times.
The Battle of Gettysburg was a three-day conflagration resulting from Robert E. Lee’s second and final attempt to bring the Civil War into the North, in hopes citizens therein would tire of the fighting and tell their elected leaders – Lincoln in particular – to knock it off.
After Lincoln’s election in 1860, a number of Southern states – starting, of course, with South Carolina – began seceding from the Union. Or trying, at least – depending on who you asked. Soldiers and others who happened to find themselves in the South but remained loyal to the Union began finding their way north in anticipation of the coming conflict.
This meant by and large than any arms or other military property in the seceding states defaulted to the control of those siding with the South – them being the only ones left and all.
South Carolina and the other seceding states were upset that the North allowed so much discussion of things which threatened their way of life and went against their beliefs. They listed as one of their central reasons for trying to break the country their collective outrage that other states weren’t doing enough to stifle debate.
Their little white feelings were hurt and their dominant role in the world inconvenienced. Poor things.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…
The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity…
(“The Second Coming”, W.B. Yeats)
Often our memories help us out by actually altering the facts recalled in order to better fit the experience we had, good or bad. Great moments get better, bad moments get worse, embarrassing experiences grow more extreme, and our stories evolve each time we tell them.
And sometimes we just lie. But even those can offer interesting insights, once pondered.
These strange, not-entirely-factual accounts often illuminate important aspects of key events, or of ourselves processing these events, which are lost in the mere facts. Of course we must correct the inaccuracies - but first, let's look at why they resonate in the first place. What can we learn from some of history's most persistent nonsense?