A House Still Divided
Stephanie McCurry’s contention in our December 2010 cover story, “The Confederacy: America’s Worst Idea,” that the Southern government collapsed under the weight of its own moral and political contradictions prompted sharply divergent reactions from readers. “Her ideas are reminiscent of the Northern propaganda rags printed during the war,” argued a reader who uses the moniker “Battalion.” “The slave owners and their government were amoral and evil beings,” countered Michael Vrain of Luebbering, Mo. Other readers found plenty of blame to go around.
Two wrongs don’t make a right, and in this case, both the Union and the Confederacy were wrong.
Kansas City, Mo.
So many people insist on viewing the American Civil War (or any war, for that matter) from a good-guys-won perspective. It’s a sure way to obscure at least half the facts and distort the meaning of the rest. As long as Billy Yank is a hero and Johnny Reb a villain (or vice versa), the war is still going on in the hearts and minds of partisan researchers and history buffs. And in my opinion, the war can never be truly understood until it finally ends.
McCurry offers a good analysis of resistance of women and slaves to the Confederacy. But no mention was made of the approximately 100,000 white males from the 11 officially seceded states who fought for the Union. Or the approximately 250,000 white males from the border slave states who also fought for the Union. These men were a loss to the Confederacy, and a gain to the Union. They represented the discontent, or outright hostility, toward the Confederate States of America that was manifest in parts of the South, especially in the Appalachian and the Ozark mountains.
Of course the War of the Rebellion was bad. The country is still suffering from that event. Yes, it freed the slaves. What was gained in the 150 years since that war? The Southern states were decimated by vengeful Union armies. The then-known rules of war were thrown away. The Southern states were an economic wreck. Possibly still are. Just look at the latest census data. The former Confederate states, the South, lead the poverty list. One might think the newly freed slaves could leave the area for greener pastures up North. But no, this was not possible either. Read the Northern papers of the 1860s and 1870s. They are full of reports of freed slaves being turned away by farmers and tradesmen.