As a Yankee who has lived in the South most of his life, I’ve had to unlearn some lessons about the Civil War. That war, which cost us more in blood than any other (~625,000 dead), may have been avoidable.
May have been, but was not. Some may say, “if only those hot heads in South Carolina had held their fire…” Sorry, would have merely postponed the conflict. The differences were simply too grave: the industrializing North, the agrarian South. Expansion of the nation westward, with bloody conflicts about slavery already in the past.
New York schools taught that the War was all and only about slavery. That the Union was righteous, its cause pure. And the Confederacy was evil, pure and simple. I’ve since learned the truth was somewhat different. No, I’m not a “neo-Confederate.” Nor do I pine for those antebellum times, when we whites could sip our mint juleps on the veranda while the happy-go-lucky slaves tended the cotton. Right.
The Civil War was about the usurpation of state’s rights; about imposition of abolitionist principles on an unwilling populace; about an over-reaching federal government. And, yes, of course it was also about slavery. It is foolish to insist that the War was only about one thing; the truth is more complex.
As for the Civil War itself, the South had the better generals and soldiers. Just not enough of them to win. Nor the industrial capacity to win what became the prototype of future wars. The South had spirit; had The Cause. The North had righteousness. And, of course, Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman helped immeasurably.
One unfortunate outcome of the Civil War was that it allowed the triumphant Federals to make vassals of the States. Before the War, one would say “The United States are…” Afterward, it became “The United States is…” A non-trivial change in outlook. A change reflected in a central government that has now given us social welfare and is close to destroying our essential American spirit.