The American Civil War: Background

Figure 1.--This Ambrotype shows an unidentified southern boy, we think anout 1861. He is not wearing a uniform and is too young to be even a drummer boy. The kepi shows his. or more accurately, his parents support for a their new nation. He of course could not comprehend the powerful forces swirling around him. The South by 1860 had become a separate nation. Although they shared a common history with the North, the ethos and economic system ws very different. It only remained to demonstrate their independence on the battlefield. The new Confderacy did not want a war. They wanted to separate peacefully. President Buchanhan eas porepared to accept this and allowed Condefderate militias to seize arms depots and Federal forts throughout the South. Presiudent Lincoln was not going to allow this to happen. Source: Steve Young Jr., Coast to Coast Antiques.

The United States by 1860 had developed into two destinct regions, essentially separate countries. The North and South had complimentary, but very different economies. Southern plantations supplied Northern textile mills. While complmentary, the economic systems were very different. The northern states were becoming increasinly important manufacturing and commercial centers supporing small, family-owned farms. Most northern states had abolished slavery. The southern states were primarily agricultural dominated by large plantations worked by African slaves. Most southeners did not own slaves, but the planter class dominated the economy and state governments. The forced labor of slavery was deeply inbedded in the economic, social, and political system of the south. [Levine] The economic issues could possibly have been resolved through political, constititional processes. It would have been difficult, but within the realm of possibility. Slavery was, however, the basis of the economy for the planter class and the emotional debate surrounding slavery by 1860 had risen to the level that regional tensions exploded. Abolitionists had for several decades been stoking the fires. They could describe the evils of slavery. They could not, however, end slsvery in the South. Southerners had begun to think of themselves as a distinct nation. Underminining the economic foundation of the planter class was a difficult enough issue, but abolitionists questioning their morality and values meant that rational discussion became impossible. This and fear of a large emancipated black population has essentilly created two nations. Here the head-strong southern planters made a serious miscalculation. Slavery was inshrined in the Federal Constitution. And given the strength of the Southern voting block in the Congress, slavery could not have been abolished or altered without their consent as long as they remained in the Union.


Levine, Bruce. The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil war and the Social Revolution that Transformed the South (2012).


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Created: 9:37 AM 12/9/2014
Last updated: 5:35 PM 4/7/2016