*** American Civil War Revisionist History

American Civil War: Revisionist Views

Civil War officer boy servants
Figure 1.--Here we see an unidentified Civil War officer, we think a Federal general. Perhaps someone will eventually be able to identify him. All we know about the photograph is that it was done on a glass plate (Civil War era technology) and taken somewhere in Virginia. From the uniform and the boy's clothing, the photograph was cearly taken during or right after the War. Notice the boy in the back. As the photograph was taken in Virginia, he would have been a slave until the arrival of the Fderal troops. Notce how well dressed he is, better than many if not most white boys at the time. He presumably was the general's personal servant. Serious historianns no longer doubt the centrality of slavery in the Civil War. Other issues continue to be argued concerning the War.

Some revisionist historians in the United States claim that the Lincoln and the North were in error in fighting the Civil War to preserve the Union. It is a fair question to ask considering the immense cost in blood of fighting the War. Some of the background of this thesis is the debunked Lost Cause thesis. But a new generation of historians has taken the place of the Lost Cause historians. Some would like to reduce President Lincoln's lofty place in the American pantheon. This is part of a more generalized effort to question the nobility of the American Republic and the great good it has done around the world. Revisionist historians vary, but one of the the central thesis is that slavery was a dieing institution. Some say that the South would have freed the slaves within a generation and then would have come back into the Union. Much of this is speculative. One aspect that is not speculative is that slavery was a dieing institution. This is simply not true. Slaves were building immense fortunes for the Southern planter class and important for the northern economy as well. As to the supposition that the South would have abolished slavery and come back into the Union, there is is no real evidence to suggest this. The abolitionist Movement had so poisoned Southern attitudes toward the Union that this seems very unlikely. It is possible that the South would have emancipated slaves, but it is likely that it would have been years after the War, a gradual process, and certainly without granting the emancipated slaves full citizenship. Those that believe that slavery was just not possible in the modern world should consider that the Southern states severely repressed Black American\s into the 1960s until forced to change by the Federal Government. We certainly in 1860 see no movement toward abolition in the South. The subject could not even be discussed. Southern officials acted to prevent abolitionist literature from even entering southern states. And abolition was only part of the issue. Even in the North abolition had not brought citizenship. This only came with the War and the 14th and 15th amendments. Neither would have been possible without the War. Rather than the South coming back into the Union, it is quite feasible with the precedent established that other states would have succeeded. In fact it is quite possible that some Southern states may have considered from the Confederacy itself. And fast forward to the 1930s. It is conceivable that a race obsessed South would have made common cause with the NAZIs. The potential consequences are terrifying. A thesis of the revisionist historians is the charge that Lincoln was a racist. This is often presented in a unsophisticated way. Using modern standards it is probably true that virtually every white American was a racist or for that matter Europeans. This included the thousands of Federal soldiers that gave their lives to preserve the Union and free the slaves. The two became inseparable. Critics point to the fact that Lincoln did not move quickly to emancipate the slaves. This charge is simply poor scholarship. If Lincoln had done this, he would have lost the Border States, many northern supporters, and likely the Civil War. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation as soon as it was possible, but he went far further than a presidential order of emancipation which could easily be cancelled by the next president or the Supreme Court, the same Court that issued the Dread Scott decesion. He began work on the 13th Amendment that made former slaves full citizens in a way beyond the possibility of political or judicial alteration.

CIH -- Civil War

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main American Civil War page]
[Return to the Main U.S. slavery history page]
[Biographies] [Campaign] [Causes] [Emancipation] [Families and youth] [Fiscal policy] [Formations and units] [Law] [Railroads] [Slavery] [Soldiers] [Uniforms] [Weaponry]
[Lost Cause] [Civil Rights movement]
[Return to CIH Home page]

Created: 12:18 AM 9/27/2012
Spell checked: 4:51 PM 5/25/2014
Last updated: 4:51 PM 5/25/2014