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Civil War Midterm

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Michael Ball



While there are many facts and fallacies about the Civil War and the years following that the majority of scholars can agree upon, there is and always has been several points of contention that spark serious and never-ending debates. The disagreements began during the civil war where so many different subjects and topics came into question and were then put in the spotlight. Some of the topics that were debated about while they were happening had to do with what the nature of the war and how it should be fought and what should be done, if anything about slavery. People on both sides of this conflict disagreed on how the war should be fought, and where the line should be drawn when it came to civilians and their property. When it comes to the continuing debates today, many of them circle around the consequences that stemmed from the outcome of the Civil War and the decisions that were made during and afterwards. When it comes to what the Civil War meant to this nation and the people that call it home, several different topics come into the light here. These topics range from the freeing of the slaves to how they were treated after emancipation, to the incredible number of people that had died as a result of the war, to the rebuilding of a nation. In this paper I will discuss and touch upon both sides of these and more arguments and topics, trying to show the differing opinions and what they may be based on.

It seems that there is no one single cause that led to the outburst of the war, but more like several reasons that had been building up for years. The origins or the Civil War is still a hotly debated topic by historians. Some historians point to the fight over state's rights as the main cause of the war, others believe the main point of contention had to do with slavery both in the south but also in the territories, while others put the changing political scene and the election of 1860 at the top of the list. If you look at these individual topics I believe it is quite easy to see that they all interconnect and affect the other topics. This is why I believe that looking for just one cause of the Civil War is a futile effort, and that you need to look at how they interacted with each other to get the full picture. For those that point to the fight over state's rights as the main point of contention, I ask them to look at what the states were fighting for. They were fighting for the idea of state sovereignty, whether it was the right to choose to secede from the Union or it was the right to choose whether or not to allow slavery within their borders. The states' rights issue was different for each side of the war, where the South saw the protection of these rights as the reason to secede; the North saw the southern states secession as the reason to go to war (Stout). Meaning that while the North may not have disagreed enough to go to war over the states' rights fight, the actions that the southern states took because of this topic was enough to cause the bloodiest war in American history. Another hot topic of the day was the changing political power and landscape. From its start in the 1850's with the gradual shift in power to the more populated north, to the election of Lincoln in 1860. The southern people, especially the aristocracy of the day, the plantation owners, viewed the election of Lincoln as the single-most dangerous threat against their way of life. This viewpoint of Lincoln may have been skewed though because he never spoke of any desire to end slavery and even seemed a little reluctant to emancipate the slaves during the war. Even so the south was ready to fight to protect their style of life, and their heritage.

As the war dragged on and each side continued to suffer more and more loses, as the morale of the soldiers dropped, and as the commanders became more hardened by warfare the line was crossed more and more often with how the civilians were treated in the war. At the beginning of the conflict both sides seem to have understood that civilians and their personal property were off limits and should be separate from the fighting. As each side suffered more losses and as the desire grew to end the war at any means, the civilian population was often put into or brought into harm's way. The North used the idea of total warfare in an attempt to bring an end to the war sooner. Total war would mean that cities would be burned once they were taken over, women could be held culpable for their actions if they attacked the Northern troops in any way, and the burning



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