Lincoln’s Luck and Southern Denial

The last chapter of Inhuman Bondage focused on the sequence of events during the Civil War, the build up to the Emancipation Proclamation, the immediate aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the state of the country after the war.
A major theme of this week’s reading that grabbed my attention was the state of denial that the South entered following their defeat to the North. Davis describes how the Southern people entered into a “dreamland of denial” where they held onto their “wartime triumphs and heroism” and claimed that the Union’s victory was not because of its military strength but because of a larger army and greater pool of resources (303). Davis also compares the post-Civil War South to the state of France in 1870 and Germany in 1918 because the South clung to the belief that their borders and territories would remain intact. More importantly, the war-ravaged South assumed that it would recover from the destruction it had experienced and “resume their former place in the Union as equal partners (with the North)” (303). Overall, Davis does an exceptional job illustrating the angst and frustration that plagued the South but he takes it one step further when he says that those hard feelings motivated the South to establish a land of white supremacy in the future.
An additional aspect of the reading that I found particularly interesting was how Davis shared his final thoughts on the emancipation of the slaves and Lincoln’s reelection. Davis said that “In retrospect…Lincoln and his commitment to slave emancipation were saved by a stunning military victory and a massive soldier vote for the Republicans” (321). To me, Davis essentially said that Lincoln was indeed very committed to a Union victory, an emancipation of the slaves, and continuing to be the President. However, I also interpret Davis’s comments to mean that Lincoln was only able to accomplish such feats with the help of Ulysses S. Grant, the tremendous support of the Union army, and some flat out luck. To an extent, I agree with Davis’s comments. President Lincoln and the Union army were quite close to losing the war, the election, and the country but were ultimately able to win thanks to some good fortune.
Lastly, I would like to address the actions of the North following their victory in the Civil War. As EVFARESE said, the North did show significant mercy on the South by allowing them to recover from the damage that they endured from the war. The Union could have easily decided to deliver a knock-out blow to the South and completely destroy the possibility of another threat. However, the North enabled the South to recuperate from the conflict and begin the lengthy process of reconstruction.

The re-birth of a nation

In the final chapter of Inhuman Bondage, Davis discusses the end of the civil war, and the many multitudes of changes which come out of its conclusion. He addresses the ending of the Civil War as a re-birth of America, and the various economic, social, and political changes which were born of this this event. He first discusses the birth of the free Black male, who came riding into Richmond on Horseback with Lincoln to emancipate more slaves. Although this is unquestionably a positive social change, the romanticized language of Davis may stretch the truth as to how the heroic emancipation actually took place. By talking about his immanent death, Davis’s language portrays Lincoln as a selfless, Christlike figure, despite davis’s statement that he does not mean to do this. Davis addresses the social changes which came out of this horrific war, which is shown records of New-Engenders that believed that destructive war was only the first step in purifying the country from non-Godly things. Its getting real crusadish up in here.

speaking of war….

as JUHILL pointed out, this was an especially bad one. The Civil war is depicted by Davis as the birth of the modern, mechanical war, where not only soldiers but Gatling guns, more aerodynamic and heavier bullets, trains, telecommunications, and medical advances both prolonged the war and made it even more bloody and gruesome.

Overall, for a man doing a case study on Slavery, Davis’s view on the end of the Civil War can be considered well rounded, addressing not only the emancipation of slaves, but also many only social and political factors which would push forward civil rights in America for the coming years.

The Civil War: An array of perspectives

The Civil War is one of those events in American history that still sparks controversy even today. The events that took place, or the reasons for which they took place, are seen through various lenses and perspectives leading to the blame being placed on either the North or South. This blame is something that was prominent at the time of the Civil War and that blame remains even today. One could argue that it was the North’s fault for the oppression of the South, or on the contrary one could blame the South for seceding illegally or in a manner deemed as unconstitutional. Yet, the fact of the matter is that the War did occur and a prominent influence to the War was the institution of slavery.
Lincoln was the president at the time and as it mentions in the reading for Inhuman Bondage, “Lincoln never wavered in his conviction that slavery was a great and moral political evil” (Davis 307). Therefore, Lincoln saw it fit to free the slaves through a means of emancipation. This process was not an easy one for Lincoln, due to the repercussions and unforeseen consequences that could arise. Yet, something to help smooth over Lincoln’s decision was that it would give the Union an advantage in the War in break the backbone of the South. This piece, or document, was something seen as revolutionary as mentioned in Davis especially the biggest revolutionary pronouncement by any president.
The War can be called a number of things as discussed in class earlier today, and the revolutionary pronouncement alludes to the naming of the War as the second revolutionary war. This is a name among many all of which have connotations based off of the perspectives that are viewing the War. As MALANDINI mentions in their post there is an issue with “renaming” War, and that is because it is difficult to find a term that satisfies both parties, the North or the South. The Civil War is the term settled upon, but this does not stop many from viewing it as a War of Northern Aggression or a War of the States or even a War of Secession.
There are many historical events that took place that can lead one to see the War in whatever light they please, especially when digesting these events through a biased lens. Just as there is a difficulty in “renaming” the War there were and there are today difficulties in truly understanding the reasons or motives for the Civil War and the events that ensued.

War for slavery

A major portion of the last chapter in Inhuman Bondage was the actual civil war and how it was handled. The thing that the book speaks on, that is not surprising to me at all, is how a large number of African Americans took part in the fight for the Union side. Another unsurprising note added into the chapter is how they spoke on the African American reactions. Inhuman Bondage talks about how people kneeled at Abraham Lincoln’s feet and he had to tell them “don’t kneel to me.  This is not right. You must kneel to God only, and thank Him for the liberty you will enjoy hereafter.” (298)

A major part that I had never realized until I read this chapter was the monetary importance that slavery carried. Slavery would have been worth almost 80% of the Gross National Product at that time. The slaves worth was more than the national railroads and business investments. To put that much money into the institution of slavery is seemingly impossible, but it also clears the reason that the South was so big on fighting for slavery. With this much invested into an idea that took a major part in funding the economy, it makes sense that the south was willing to go to complete separation and war with the north to continue with their ways.

Another portion of this chapter that I feel should be emphasized is how they describe the actual war. As always, the book speaks on how the Civil war was the deadliest war for Americans, but it also points out the new tactics that were the cause of such violence. The Civil war was the first time we saw trench warfare, booby traps, rapid-firing Gatling guns, and self-igniting shells. (301) The Union completely destroyed confederate lands in order to win the war and devastate those from the south. I feel it is this warfare that leads to the vocabulary spoken about in SaFunderburgs post from this week.

The Bruised Ego of the South

This final chapter of Inhuman Bondage went along very well with Tuesday’s reading and our class discussion. I found Davis’ treatment of the issue of Southern pride stimulating to read. I appreciated his frankness of the South’s postwar state of denial. It was interesting that he compared the defeated South to France in 1870 and Germany in 1918 due to their emphasis on wartime victories and heroism while declaring the North’s victory relatively unimportant (303).

Matt Landini’s post (http://sites.davidson.edu/his141/the-war-of-northern-aggression-victimizing-the-challengers/) articulated some great points about the problem of Southern preoccupation of retaining a sense of pride after the Civil War. Matt mentioned that “it is surprising that we continually whitewash history, rather than accepting past mistakes” (referring to the South).

I believe that this “whitewashing” in the aftermath of the South’s defeat was largely a result of the post-war goal of achieving hasty reunion while avoiding the issue of race. Of course, this approach was taken with good intentions of returning to “normal” as quickly as possible while avoiding hostility between the North and South. However, this approach “required repression from memory of the revolutionary realities of the war” (300). As such, not much time or energy was spent on ideological reflection after the war, and more time was spent on nursing the South’s bruised ego. So, as soon after the war was over with, its racial aspects were swept under the rug and the topic of emancipation was all but unmentionable (300). This might be a questionable cause and effect relationship to consider, but I wonder whether the remnants of racism present in the South today are a result of this lack of discourse concerning slavery after the Civil War. It’s pretty interesting to wonder if more current race relations would be different had the South been urged to deal with its defeat more constructively immediately after the war.

Going back to Matt’s post and his mention of Southern pride and their refusal to accept their past mistakes, I think it’s important to realize that the South didn’t feel as though they’d made a mistake by clinging to their slave system. The Union’s victory did nothing to prove to the South that slavery was wrong, it just imposed “the necessity of slave ‘emancipation’” (303). In essence, forced emancipation proved that they would have to implement their virulent racism in a new way, which they ended up successfully accomplishing with the passing of the Black Codes (303). Although Jefferson Davis and others had claimed slavery to be merely an incident and not the cause of the civil war, Jefferson Davis’ overt lamentations about emancipation being the greatest crime of the century suggest otherwise (304). In the end it became clear to leaders on both sides that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War.

The “Apocalyptic Success” of the Civil War

I found the most compelling aspect of the final chapter of “Inhuman Bondage” to be the vocabulary Davis used to describe the rationale behind both the Union’s and the Confederate’s wartime decisions. Davis successfully indicated the dangerous rhetoric used during the Civil War while simultaneously eliciting modern comparisons. For example, on page 302 Davis states, “Northerners repeatedly heard the argument that the war offered a transcendent opportunity for purification…” Furthermore, he quotes a Northerner named Josephine Shaw Lowell saying that “this war will purify the country” (302). Although we as readers can be confident that Davis is obviously not a proponent of slavery, this highlighting of dangerous, somewhat propaganda-reminiscent vocabulary used especially by the North may suggest that Davis is attempting to give a fuller picture of the logic of the Civil War rather than just political differences or pro-slavery versus anti-slavery. Davis clearly prefers to view the Civil War from an international perspective (perhaps to be less biased). As Matt said in his post, “the issue of “who” initiated conflict is also of some concern”–this preference is evidenced in that Davis questions all involved in the war, from Lincoln to confederate soldiers. He asks, “Why was it that a democratic nation that prided itself on rational moderation, peace, common sense, expediency, and compromise became the scene of the world’s first “modern” war, pursued by the North until its armies achieved unconditional victory, totally crushing the South?” (300). Again, we as readers have no reason to question that Davis didn’t support abolition, but it is clear that he is only sympathetic to the logical decision, and not the unnecessary psychological and physical destruction that occurred–no matter which side initiated it.

“The War of Northern Aggression” – Victimizing the Challengers

Today’s class discussion sparked several interesting dialogues, which I think warrant further debate. Hopefully the blog will help spur continued discourse.

First and foremost I’d like to address the issue of “renaming” the Civil War. As a northerner, I have never encountered, or even considered the need for, alternative names for the Civil War. Thus, as it would appear, the need to rename the conflict stems largely from lingering southern anxieties about what motivated secession. While many affirm that the Civil War was primarily an economic conflict, the dissent concerning slavery and blatant, unfettered racism is undeniable.

There seems to be a stigma in the South to retain a sense of pride for one’s ancestors and heritage. While such sentiments are honorable and often warranted, it is surprising that we continually whitewash history, rather than accepting past mistakes. I understand that this opinion is controversial – I intend it to be – but history cannot be represented accurately until we detach ourselves from previous biases that, by and large, were wholly misinformed.

That being said, many argued in class that southerners should not be reprimanded for protecting their economic livelihood. In fact, Evan observed in his recent blog post that southerners could not come to terms with the end of the war because of emancipation’s economic impact. While there is some validity to such thought, I would argue that southern industrialization was inevitable. In fact, one could even make the case (and many have) that the idea of “holding onto southern tradition” was unsustainable and would have floundered regardless of the war.

Finally, the issue of “who” initiated conflict is also of some concern. While there is certainly fault to be had on both sides, the act of determining blame is largely unnecessary if we are to accurately represent history. Lincoln stimulated conflict by supporting troops, while southerners fired the first shots – such discourse is arbitrary save for establishing a concrete timeline. That being said, the question of whether or not secession is unconstitutional is of some interest. Because there is no method for seceding from the Union – as intended by the Founders – any extrapolation or deviation from established processes is unconstitutional. Although this idea goes against my belief that the Constitution is a living, changing document, such a radical break clearly exemplifies unconstitutionality.

As evidenced by class discussion, the repercussions of the Civil War  are still felt today. Not unexpectedly, the most violent conflict  in the U.S. still fuels passions – and will continue to for generations.

After the Civil War

The end of the Civil War brought about a new type of America. Although the war was still fresh in everyone’s minds, citizens, particularly of the North, tried to look past that and rebuild their country. It is important to note that many people in the South were unhappy with the way the war ended and thus still did not full support the United States. JANEWTON notes how Davis mentions that t the country came to terms with the end of the civil war. While this may be the case in the North and in the middle states, most members of the deep South most likely felt otherwise. Imagine having your entire livelihood taken away from you, your main source of income gone. For many in the South the ending of the war and the emancipation of enslaved people was not something they could come to terms with. In my studies in previous years I learned how guerrilla warfare continued in states like Missouri and Kansas, where there were both Confederate and Union sympathizers. Most of these altercations were instigated by angry ex-Confederates so I think to say that the entire nation was at peace with the end of the war would be misguided.

I do think however that the end of the war went better than it could have. Despite some angry southerners, people seemed to to adjust well to this new slaveless nation. Additionally, and rightfully so, President Lincoln came out looking like a hero to all people of the North and formerly enslaved people. The South was also in slightly better spirits after the war because the North was somewhat merciful in their victory. As a clever way to appease some southerners, the North allowed the South to rebuild and create sort of a new identity. This worked to keep relations between the two regions peaceful. This sort of liberty and trust that the North afforded the South after the war was responsible for keeping the South content and as a result could be a reason why the South did not act against the Union again.

The Last Post

Chapter 15 of David Davis’ Inhuman Bondage was a fitting ending for the course. Beginning with colonization and continuing all the way to the end of the syllabus, the content of this course seemed to largely revolve around the economic and moral implications of slavery. In the colonial days, slavery and indentured servants were imperative to the success of early settlements, but as time progressed, the issue of human bondage became more problematic, leading to the immense differences between free northern states and southern slave states. Davis (and ROMANGONE’s blog post) describes the Civil War as a revolutionary change in American society, with the emancipation of slavery dramatically altering the entire infrastructure of the south. Davis’ remarks on the size of the slave industry also shocked me. He stated that the “slaves’ value came to an estimated $3.5 billion in 1860 dollars … about $68.4 billion in 2003 dollars” (Davis, 298) and that “as a share of today’s gross national product, the slaves’ value would come to an estimated $9.7 trillion” (Davis, 298). The abrupt elimination of this massive economic system can only be described as one word: revolutionary.

The advent of the Civil War clearly marked the beginning of a new era of America, both culturally and politically, but also marked the beginning of a new era of warfare. Davis remarks that the Civil War was the “first [time] trench warfare and ultimately the first booby traps, the first rapid-firing Gatling guns and also self-igniting shells that showered soldiers with pieces of deadly shrapnel” (Davis, 301) were used in battle. All of these inventions were far removed from the bayonet and horse warfare of previous conflicts and eventually became the signifier of future total wars. The numbers during the conflict also reflect that of a total war, with “mobilized armed forces of about 2.1 million” (Davis, 300) with 620,000 military deaths, 260,000 of which were confederate soldiers (Davis, 300). In history class in high school, I was taught that World War I was the first total war, but after evaluating the Civil War, I believe a case can be made that the Civil War was in fact the first total war due to the number of deaths and advanced methods of fighting.

When Davis talks about the “Blue and Gray veterans l[eading] the way in focusing public attention on the minute details of each battle” (Davis, 305), I am reminded of the veterans I have met and the impact warfare had on their lives, as they too are able to recite in great detail the specific details of the conflicts they were engaged in. I am also reminded of my southern friends I have met at Davidson, and how all of them seem to have a “Civil War story.” Clearly the impact of the Civil War still holds an immense presence over American culture today.

Effects of the Civil War

In Chapter 15 of Inhuman Bondage, David Davis writes about the Civil War and describes the lasting impact it had on the United States. The most interesting aspect of Davis’ writing in this chapter, was to me, how the country came to terms with the war after it was over. With the North winning, slavery was effectively finished in the U.S. and President Lincoln was heralded as a hero. Davis gives an example of an African American man kneeling to the President during an instance of slaves being freed. Lincoln responded by telling the man “don’t kneel to me”(298). This is the type of characterization of Lincoln that I have come to expect. He is often portrayed as a beacon of moral superiority and hero of sorts. Davis writing in this section is consistent with that narrative.  Another interesting aspect of the chapter was how the North was able to keep the Civil War deemed a “good war” (299) by not decimating the south after it was over. This is in part because it was necessary in keeping the country together. Robbie Mangone discusses this more in his blog post (http://sites.davidson.edu/his141/a-necessary-evil/). In addition, Davis says that another reason it was deemed a good war is that the North didn’t unleash “full vengeance” on the states that had seceded and kept blacks from taking over parts of the south. He also goes on to explain that the North allowed the south to essentially recreate their own identity after the war was over which was huge in keeping tensions between the North and South at a minimum. This is something I hadn’t ever considered before. After a war of that magnitude, it is safe to assume that the South had deep-seated feelings of resentment and hatred for the North. Northerners had to act delicately in order to restore the country to where it needed to be. It was tremendously important that they handled the situation this way and I like that Davis included this in his writing.

Another important point Davis brings up in his writing is the shrewdness of President Lincoln during the war. He describes the President as “keenly aware” (309) of how delicate the issue of slavery still was during the war. The President was sure to act carefully and made sure that his Emancipation Proclamation did not include slaves from Union states like Maryland. This turned out to be a brilliant tactical move, helping the North assure victory. I think Davis did a very nice job throughout the chapter of characterizing the President, describing his impact on the outcome of the war and explaining exactly how significant this war was on the development of the country.