Setting the record straight

Who’s her daddy?

I became interested in Nancy Hart after your recent article, “The Teenage Terrorist of Roane County” (March 2011), and did an Internet search to learn more. The Web site contains a genealogy section with research on Nancy Hart. It states that Nancy’s parents were John and Rebecca Bolling Hart, not Stephen and Mary Hart, as has been written so many times. There are many cases where information on family is hard to determine with just circumstantial evidence, but I believe after viewing this site, you will see that creator Kathy Clifton did her homework.

George Long

French Creek, W.Va.

From the horse’s mouth

I respectfully, but strongly, disagree with Mr. Mozley’s letter in the March 2011 issue concerning his opinion that the “Confederate States of America did not fight the war to preserve slavery.” As Winston Groom pointed out most compellingly in that same issue, “Southerners saw the Republican victory…as an immediate and direct threat to the South’s ‘peculiar institution.’ ” But lest Mr. Mozley attributes this to a Union-biased Mr. Groom, the words of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens speak even more forcefully: The new Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery…is his natural and moral condition.” That says it all.

Denise Hays

Davenport, Iowa

Pride without prejudice

As we observe the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the debate surrounding the cause (or causes) of the war continues to generate controversy. This controversy is not so much a matter of debate as it is a need for Southerners with deep roots to supposedly correct perceived misconceptions, most notably that the war was not about slavery, or that the South did not fight to maintain slavery.

As a South Carolinian, I harbor a particular fascination with two documents critical to understanding the causes of the war: Senator John C. Calhoun’s speech opposing the Compromise of 1850 and South Carolina’s Declaration of Secession in December 1860. The dying Calhoun clearly warned the U.S. Senate that if the Northern states continued to tolerate abolitionism and failed to support the rights of slaveholders, the country could not remain whole. His predictions are echoed in the Declaration of Secession, which asserted under no uncertain terms that the Northern threat against slavery continued. Furthermore, it cited the election of Abraham Lincoln as the height of sectional agitation.

Slavery and the sectional dilemma were widely discussed in Southern newspapers in the 1850s. The defenders of slavery were neither reluctant nor embarrassed to state their case in the most direct manner. Their words and actions were well recorded in their own time.

Not all Southern soldiers fought a conscious battle to maintain slavery. Indeed, many had neither the desire nor the means to own slaves. Slavery, however, was held up as both a right and a necessity by its advocates, and history clearly shows that it was the predominant issue that stood in way of national unity.

If we want to make the most of the sesquicentennial, we should strive to accept the complex nature of the war and acknowledge the role of slavery as a principal issue. I remain an avid student of the Civil War and a proud Southerner. Acknowledging the past has not diminished either identity.

Randall C. Blackerby

Fountain Inn, S.C.


Originally published in the May 2011 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.