War Between The States

Posted in Georgia History, History, Library of Congress, War by chamblee54 on December 29, 2015

It is a truism that history is written by the winner of the war. This seems to apply to the naming of a horrific armed struggle in North America between 1861 and 1865. The most common name is Civil War. To many in the South, it is the War Between The States. To PG, WBTS is a better name.

In fifth grade, PG had to write an essay about the Battle of Atlanta. The essay was a device for teaching grammar. The contest was sponsored by the Daughters of the Confederacy . The phrase “Civil War” was not permitted. The acceepted name for this conflict was War Between the States.

The conflict started as soon as the colonies became independent from Great Britain. The South was an agrarian society, with slaves to work the fields. The north was becoming an industrial society, with a need for an independent work force. The north wanted high tariffs to protect her industries, while the south wanted to sell it’s cotton to Europe. Many were suprised that the Union lasted as long as it did.

Slavery was an important issue. The south wanted to keep “the peculiar institution,” while many in the north were horrified. There were economic reasons to keep slavery. Numerous compromises over the years kept the Union intact. This ties in with a central dilemma of the american experience … how much power to give to the states, and how much power to give to the federal government.

In 1861, eleven states left the United States of America. These eleven states formed a Confederacy, of more or less independent states. Between 1861 and 1865, the Confederate States of America fought a brutal war with the the United States of America. Very little about the conflict was civil.

PART TWO There was an armed conflict in North America between 1861 and 1865. The most popular name today is Civil War. According to the always helpful wikipedia Civil War was used during the conflict, but was not the only name. Other names include the War of the Rebellion, the War for the Union, the War for Southern Independence, and Mr. Lincoln’s War.

Evidently, the phrase War Between the States became popular after the conflict. This article from the North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission makes a case for WBTS. This phrase is more dignified than other southern oriented expressions like “War of Northern Aggression” or “The recent unpleasantness,” although not as much fun.

There was a debate in the US Senate, in 1907, over what should be the “official” name of the conflict. In a commentary on this debate, it is noted: ” I am struck by the reconciliationist tone of both excerpts. Compared with the intensity of the debate in certain camps today (2005) it is interesting to note that the senators who took part in this discussion back in 1907 did not see this question as decisive. Given that many were veterans they seemed content to concentrate on their shared experiences … In the background of the debate was the lingering issue of how to understand the relationship between the states and the federal government at the time of secession and at the beginning of Reconstruction. Our tendency today to refer to the war as the ‘Civil War’ is a reflection of the widespread belief that secession is illegal or at least not worth serious consideration.”

Pictures, of Union soldiers, are from The Library of Congress. This is a repost.

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