The Lost Meaning

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In Davis’ coverage of the Civil War and its aftermath, the shift away from acknowledging slavery as the causation of the war struck me the most.  At the outset, the war undoubtably resulted from the South reacting to preserve its lucrative institution.  In the years following, southerners abandoned this and focused on the alleged peaceful, harmonious antebellum South.   Davis’ claim that, “slavery was ‘in no wise the cause of the conflict, but only an incident'” (Davis 304), revealed the ridiculous reversal of Southerners following the war.  Sadly, racism allowed for this rhetoric to persist, and Americans “struggled to preserve the revolutionary or ’emancipationist’ meaning of the Civil War” (305).

Davis began by describing incredible elation of the freed slaves and followed that by detailing the unfortunate lack of consideration they experienced after the war.  This framework really drove home how Americans suppressed a lot of the revolutionary aspects of the war.  JANEWTON wrote, “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” (  While the North’s forgivingness aided the peaceful reconciliation between the sections, its “willingness to give Southern whites a free hand in defining and presiding over all racial policies” (Davis 300), substantially reduced blacks’ roles in society for decades.

When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, he made the war one against slavery and racial inequality.  Unfortunately, this meaning lost influence during the years following the war.  Racism permeated the entire country, and the majority of whites were unready to coexist with such a large population of free blacks.  Nonetheless, I found it remarkable that such strong tensions and hatred existed in this country for so long after such a revolutionary war.