150th Anniversary of our Civil War

April 2011 150th Anniversary of our Civil War by Mike Hillman

This week marked the 150th Anniversary when the forces from the Confederate States of America fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. It was the beginning of our most sanguinary conflict in our nation’s history, and The American Civil War cost the lives of six hundred thousand soldiers before the issue that started the conflict was decided.

I was surprised to learn that when surveys were conducted with young people around the country asking what was the cause of the war, that the majority of those surveyed sited States Rights as the primary cause of the conflict. According to most of the history I have personally read and the opinion of most Civil War Historians the reason the Southern States left the Union was fears that laws would soon be passed in Congress which either would allow new states entering the Union to choose to ban or allow slavery, and they couldn’t let that happen, because the South wanted to keep slave states and slave states in balance, and in1861 the balance was tipping towards free states.

From the first time American delegates gathered after our Revolutionary War to decide how we would govern ourselves, the institution of slavery had been practiced here for almost two hundred years. Many states were in favor of the abolition of slavery from the first, but in order for the Southern States to sign The Constitution a compromise was needed regarding American Slavery where one in six Americans were owned by another American. The compromise in our Constitution called for an end to International Slavery in the early 1800’s, and it was hoped that the institution would just die out in America after that, because slavery wasn’t very efficient.

In order to count all the black slaves in America, it was decided that black people couldn’t be counted as an equal to white men, so our Constitution recognized a slave as 3/5 of a person. That was how we learned how many slaves there were in America. We count our people every ten years, because our Republic is based on populations. Some states have more people living there, and they get more votes in The House of Representatives, then smaller states do, but every state has two senators.

Slavery was starting to fade out in America when Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin, which was an engine that cleaned cotton fast and cheap. All of a sudden the American South relied on cotton as a staple crop, and people were needed to pick the cotton balls. After that the southern states wouldn’t think of getting rid of their slaves. It would take a horrible civil war to do that. The next four years America will look back at the Civil War, and how it changed with the passage of 150 years.

From before the first shot was fired, Abraham Lincoln wanted to make sure it was Jefferson Davis who was forced to fire the first shot. From the outset, Abe Lincoln wanted to make it clear that the American Government didn’t want to begin a civil war, but the Confederate States thought it was only a matter of time before the country banned the institution of slavery, because the balance of free states to slave states was growing more and more in favor of free states where many people thought that slavery was an abomination.

Leaving the Union was the only way the South felt they could keep their slaves, so in April of 1861 shots were fired on Fort Sumter when a Union relief column was set to restock the Fort Sumter with food and other basic needs. Jeff Davis couldn’t allow that to happen, so he gave the order to fire on Fort Sumter and force it to surrender. Lincoln had what he wanted which was basically a good excurse to fight a Civil War to save the Union as he was sworn to do when he took his oat of office.

When the press asked Lincoln why he was calling for troops to put down the rebellion, he was able to point out that up until now, his government was trying to convince the Southern States to come back and talk in order to rectify their differences, but now that the Confederate States were making war on the legal government, Lincoln had an obligation to protect and defend government property. Fort Sumter was government property and when the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, they started a Civil War. Like every president before him, Lincoln swore to protect and defend the Constitution of The United States. It was something for which Lincoln ended giving his last full measure of devotion. Later on in the war, Lincoln would take the first steps to abolish the institution of slavery in the United States, but in 1861 Abraham Lincoln made it perfectly clear that his reason for going to war was to preserve the Union and nothing more than that. Two years later, when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, The Civil War would take on more black and white quality when things were better defined; one half of our country would fight to keep slavery while the other half would fight harder to banish the institution of slavery in the United States, and keep the Confederate States in the Union.

I think Abraham Lincoln would be surprised and pleased to see that not only can black people and women vote in our elections, but we now have a black American serving as our current president. In Lincoln’s opinion, he didn’t think we would get along well as blacks and whites, for at least two hundred years. That was 150 years ago, so maybe we are a little farther along then we give ourselves credit for, but it is well to remember that it took the lives of over six hundred thousand soldiers to decide the issue, and to bring us to this point where we are still as Lincoln said: The Last Best Hope for the World.

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