A Southern View of History: The War for Southern Independence


The summary section briefly reviews major themes that run through this curriculum.

Objective: To be able to define, in summary fashion, major reasons that the South seceded, felt the need to defended their homes, suffered through reconstruction, and continue to endure regional, social, historical and cultural hatred and prejudice. To be able to enumerate why Southern descendants feel the need to tell their side of the story and to honor and remember our ancestors.

A. Why The Southerner Fought

As Confederate General Robert E. Lee once said: “Every one should do all in his power to collect and disseminate the truth, in the hope it may find a place in history and descend to posterity. History is not the relation of campaigns, and battles, and generals or other individuals, but that which shows the principles for which the South contended and which justified her struggle for those principles.”

The causes of the War Between the States are too complex for a short, quick, easy answer. The instant society in which we live wants instant answers, so slavery is often touted as the cause of the war and of course the North was good and the South was and continues to be bad. It is however, historically inaccurate to say that the war was fought to free the slaves. The evidence is entirely against that interpretation. Charles Adams summarized the real situation: “Wars are not really fought to free some unfortunate minority not directly involved in the conflict. People who want freedom have to fight for it themselves.”

Too often 21st century thinking is used to judge issues of the 19th century. One would be hard pressed in this day to support or condone slavery in any era, however feelings and thoughts were very different in the 1800’s. As an example, of the leaders of that period Abraham Lincoln wrote to Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia on 22 December 1860, just 2 days after South Carolina seceded, “ Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would, directly or indirectly, interfere with their slaves, or with them about their slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears.” Later at his inaugural address in March 1861 Lincoln said: “I declare that I have no intention, directly or indirectly, to interfere with slavery in the states where it exists.”

In 1862, after a year of fighting, several Republican senators urged Lincoln to take action to free the slaves. His response was: “Gentlemen, I can’t do it, But I’ll tell you what I can do, I can resign in favor of Mr. Hamlin. Perhaps Mr. Hamliln could do it.” Lincoln himself stated many times that the war was to preserve the Union, not to free the slaves. Freeing the slaves only became an issue when Lincoln decided to use it as a war measure, such as freeing slaves to deprive the South of a valuable asset that was helping the South in it’s war effort. It was not until 1863 when the war was going poorly for the North and Northern sentiment was pressuring Lincoln for peace, that the issue of freeing the slaves moved to the forefront and continues to hold the attention of most historians today.

The Old South’s conservative nature is often misinterpreted by liberals and shallow historians as racial hatred, but in reality it was only their tendency to oppose social change no matter what it concerned, from the topic of race, the style of dress, to manners at the dinner table. Their main fault was not racism, but perhaps was simply being conservative and traditional. You might remember that laws were passed and enforced in the Northern and Western states that were racist in nature, basically making it illegal for freed blacks to live or even travel through their county or state. The feelings in most of the country, North and South, and even most of the world, before, during and immediately after the war was that the Negro was an inferior race. Today we know that to be racist and unchristian in nature, but in their time, this was the common held belief.

The Republicans had won the White House, and substantial majorities in the House and the Senate in the 1860 elections. Remember Lincoln’s ticket was not even on the ballot in the Southern states. No Southern voted for a man, Lincoln, who would rise to be the national leader. When that message sank in, Southern states began seceding from the Union. A Union that showed no favor to them. A Union that had taken up a colonial mentality against Southern life and commerce.

In 1860 there were 15 slave states and 18 free states. Had the number of slave states remained constant, 27 more free states would have had to be admitted into the Union, for a total of 60 states, before an abolition amendment could be ratified. That was not likely to occur anytime soon.

If slavery was the main issue, the Southern legislators knew full well that the only truly safe way to protect the institution of slavery would be for the Southern states to remain in the Union and simply refuse to ratify any proposed constitutional amendment to emancipate the slaves. Slavery was specifically protected by the Constitution, and that protection could be removed only by an amendment ratified by three-quarters of the states.

The question of expansion of slavery into the territories was one of the catalysts that help ignited the war, but this does not mean that the North wanted to free the slaves. The truth is far from it. The North wanted slaves to stay where they were, along with their owners, and continue to form the basis for a cash machine that would perpetually generate tax revenue for the benefit of Northern interests. The money for all those bridges, railroads, and other infrastructures that were fueling Northern manufacturing interests had to come from somewhere. Tariffs on goods needed by the South for their agrarian society were the main source of that capital. For over 70 years, from the writing of the Constitution in 1787 until 1860, Northern interests had been quite content to live with slavery in the South. It was only when Southerners sought to change the equation by expanding along with the rest of the country that slavery became an issue for them.

As late as 1864, CSA President Davis offered to free the slaves if Britain would recognize the Confederate States. In that same year, Lincoln offered to leave slavery intact, if the South would simply stop fighting and rejoin the Union. These two events do not match with the simplistic idea that the North fought to abolish slavery and the South fought to retain it. The South is accused of fighting to preserve slavery. The South, clearly, was not fighting to preserve slavery with only approximately 7% of Southerners ever owned slaves. While certainly this may have been an issue to some, the other 93% of the population must have had further motivation.

The South fought to preserve the Union as it had been created by their forefathers and when the Northern interest so warped the US Constitution, the only honorable thing left for Southern political leaders was to leave the US and form its own Confederation. A confederation that would be truer to the Constitution as perceived by our forefathers. The Northern states’ politicians were aggressively attempting to implement a monarchial form of government, which was precisely what the early colonists had fought against in the American Revolution. Also, the Northern states were taking advantage of their superior numbers in the federal government and were using their advantage to implement unfair tariffs against the South. Enormous amounts of money were taken from the South and funneled into the Northern states. Just like conflicts of today, there may be a banner headline of sensationalism to stir the people, but behind the scene it is usually about money, economics, control and power.

The Union was formed by independent, sovereign states and they were united, first, under the Articles of Confederation, then, again, united under the Constitution. The Southern soldier fought to protect his home, State and Nation from the invading United States Army. He fought in honor of his forefathers who had fought against British tyranny. His cause was as just or possibly even more just than that of his forefathers.

The South fought, simply, for their independence, as the United States federal government of the Northern states refused to allow the South to leave peacefully. Had the U.S. not invaded the South, there would have been no war. The South was right in their cause as they abided by the contents of the document that created the Union, the Constitution. The South did not want to take over the government and run the states, rather they wanted their fair say in issues that concerned the home rule, the state.

As an example, in a divorce proceeding, would anyone listen only to one side, totally ignoring the other, even though the first claimed to be fair in representing the other’s side? That is exactly what has happened to the Southern people. The United States acted like most empires do when a portion of the population declares itself free. England invaded American when we as 13 colonies declared ourselves free and independent in 1776. The Romans had the same before and the list is nearly as long as history itself, of one power dominating and overrunning a free people. The southern people declaring independence lost and have been paying the price ever since.

The name “civil war” implies that two, or more, groups of people within a country take up arms against each other in a struggle for the government. This was not what took place in the South between 1861 and 1865. It was an invasion of one nation into another independent, sovereign nation. There was never any intent to break away then attack the Northern states in order to “take control of the Washington City, (Federal) government.” The Confederate States of America did not want war with the United States. But when attacked, Southern men stood to defend their home. Time and time again the Confederate States sent delegates to Washington to speak with the Lincoln government, trying to stop the war, to allow for the exchange and even outright release of prisoners, even to allow Northern food, medicine, clothing and doctors to come South to aid the Union Soldier. Each and every attempt was either denied, chastised or ignored. Peace was not the purpose of the North’s fight, it was subjugation, even in the cost of lives of his captured troops.

The Confederacy made several attempts to maintain their link to the original United States, formed from the colonies. The First National Flag of the Confederacy was very similar to the U.S. flag and this similarity was intentional. Rather than it having 13 stripes upon it, it carried 3 broad stripes, or “bars,” as the flag was called the “Stars and Bars.” The struggle is properly called “The War For Southern Independence,” as that is the most correct description of the reasoning behind the war.

The history about the War Between The States was fought by Southern patriots from all ethnic backgrounds and religions, rich and poor, free and slave. They fought to protect their home and family from a hostile foreign invader (the Federal Yankee government). In general we all have been taught the misrepresentations, outright lies, and falsehoods about the war and the Southern Confederacy. Generations of American school children have been taught a version of the War of Northern Aggression that only shows one side. The way most history books deal with the South before 1865 is slanted and present many false presumptions. Liberals and black activists that spread emotional lies about the war and about the South often go so far as to equate the Confederate battle flag with “Nazi swastika,” and calling our ancestors “traitors” and Nazi concentration camp guards. The news media seems to relish these kinds of attacks on our heritage. Liberals and historical revisionists who attack the legitimacy of the Confederacy and its cause and thus the right of the traditional Southerners to exist as a people with a culture and a heritage, usually base their attacks upon false assumptions. These attacks can be easily disarmed by a thinking citizen. Some of the premier “MYTHS” which we have tried to debunk in this course include:

1. The nearly every white Southerner in the antebellum Southerners had slaves and treated them cruelly.
2. The Southern states attempted to leave the Union only to protect slavery and thus fought the war primarily to protect the institution of slavery
3. The Southern states could not lawfully secede from the Union; therefore they were in rebellion against the Union.
4. The Southern states started the War of Rebellion, and fought a “Civil War” with the intent to overthrow the Federal government in Washington D.C.
5. The sorely-beset Union fought the war to free the slaves.
6. Reconstruction benefited the South.
7. Reconstruction ended before the turn of the century.
8. Confederate soldiers were traitors.
9. Confederate symbols are evil and have no place in society today.
10. Southern history has no place in our society and schools
11. The North was all good and the South was all bad.

The most obvious myth is that of the “great and good” North marching into the “cruel and evil” South for the sole purpose of freeing the slaves. There are many quotes from Northern leaders (Lincoln, Grant, Sherman and others) that show clearly that the main purpose of the North was not the eradication of slavery, but subjugation of the southern people. If you study these common accepted myths, you will easily find them to be false and spread accidentally by ignorance or deliberately with contempt towards the southern people. Isn’t that what the liberals call ignorance and intolerance towards a people?

We now know that some of the historically false reasons given for fighting this war, but what are the real reasons they fought? An honest answer is that there may have been as many different reasons for fighting this war as there were soldiers in the Confederate Army. The politically correct revisionist historians would like to state the Confederate soldiers were fighting to protect and preserve slavery. It seems an odd statement since less than 10% of those men were actual slave holders. Some common answers that appear over and over from the Confederates were that they were fighting to establish their own government, just as their forefathers did in the first American war for Independence in 1776. Just like in 1776, years of oppression and many complex and interwoven issues produced the feeling in the Southern population to secede and then later to take up arms to defend their land. Some were fighting to repel the invasion of the Federal Army and in essence fighting to protect their home and families. Since the constitution did not authorize the Federal government to make war on a state, yet the Federal military presence was definitely a threat to the Confederate states and the people within, taking up arms for defense of their land seems a logical reason for fighting. Some said that “They (Yankees) are on our land, and they are telling us what to do.” Truth, understanding, tolerance is a two way street. There are two sides to every story, two sides to a conflict. You have seen the Northern version of this era for years. This has been our Southern perspective “the other side of the coin”. It is now up to you to study the issues and decide for yourselves.

B. Why We Should Remember Them Today

26 April 1903—75 Colquitt County Confederate Veterans are pictured here gathering on the Courthouse steps to receive their Southern Cross of Honor from the Moultrie Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. 22 additional medals were presented later that year.

We should never allow the memories of the Confederate soldier to vanish. The Confederate soldier stood for freedom from oppressive government and they believed in self determination and local control of their lives. The 19th century Southerner has carried the burden of ridicule since 1865 that ridicule and now hatred exists even today. There are efforts all over the country to abolish the symbols of the independent nation known as the Confederate States of America. A war of misinformation rages as falsehoods on the history of the South are presented in our schools, in our culture and are perpetuated throughout our national media. Our ancestors deserve to be held in our memory in honor of the sacrifices they made. We should not judge them for actions or thoughts of social, political, economic or scientific knowledge based on today’s available knowledge. Rather a scholarly, unprejudicical look back to their era of knowledge is the proper context to view their actions. Didn’t they really want little more than to be free to decide their own way of life in their own county and state? We should hold them as an example because of their determination to stand up for their cause of independence and self determination. We as the descendants of those Confederate Veterans must abide by the charge.

C. The Charge of the Sons of Confederate Veterans

The citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America. The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight the Second American Revolution. The tenacity with which Confederate soldiers fought underscored their belief in the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. These attributes are the underpinning of our democratic society and represent the foundation on which this nation was built. Today, the Sons of Confederate Veterans are preserving the history and legacy of these heroes, so future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause.

The SCV is the direct heir of the United Confederate Veterans, and the oldest hereditary organization for male descendants of Confederate soldiers. Organized at Richmond, Virginia in 1896, the SCV continues to serve as a historical, patriotic, and non-political organization dedicated to insuring that a true history of the 1861-1865 period is preserved.

The SCV has a network of genealogists to assist you in tracing you ancestor’s Confederate service. The SCV has ongoing programs at the local, state, and national levels, which offer members a wide range of activities. Preservation work, marking Confederate soldier’s graves, historical re-enactments, scholarly publications, and regular meetings to discuss the military and political history of the War Between the States are only a few of the activities sponsored by local units, called camps.

All state organization, known as Divisions, hold annual conventions, and many publish regular newsletters to the membership dealing with statewide issues. Each Division has a corps of officers elected by the membership who coordinate the work of camps and the national organization.

Nationally, the SCV is governed by its members acting through delegates to the annual convention. The General Executive Council, composed of elected and appointed officers, conducts the organization’s business between conventions. The administrative work of the SCV is conducted at the national headquarters, ‘Elm Springs,’ a restored ante-bellum home at Columbia, Tennessee.

In addition to the privilege of belonging to an organization devoted exclusively to commemorating and honoring Confederate soldiers, members are eligible for other benefits. Every member receives The Confederate Veteran, the bi-monthly national magazine that contains in-depth articles on the war along news affecting Southern heritage. The programs of the SCV range from assistance to undergraduate students through the General Stand Watie Scholarship to medical research grants given through the Brooks Fund. National historical symposiums, reprinting of rare books, and the erection of monuments are just a few of the other projects endorsed by the SCV.

The SCV works in conjunction with other historical groups to preserve Confederate history. However, it is not affiliated with any other group other than the Military Order of the Stars and Bars, composed of male descendants of the Southern Officers Corps. The SCV rejects any group whose actions tarnish or distort the image of the Confederate soldier or his reasons for fighting.

If you are interested in perpetuating the ideals that motivated your Confederate ancestor, the SCV needs you. The memory and reputation of the Confederate soldier, as well as the motives for his suffering and sacrifice, are being consciously distorted by some in an attempt to alter history. Unless the descendants of Southern soldiers resist those efforts, a unique part of our nations’ cultural heritage will cease to exist.

The mission of the SCV is best said with the Charge to the Sons of Confederate Veterans given by Lt. General Stephen Dill Lee, CSA, Commander General, United Confederate Veterans, 1906:

“To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we submit the vindication of the Cause for which we fought; to your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles he loved and which made him glorious and which you also cherish. Remember it is your duty to see that the true history of the South is presented to future generations”.

Pledge of the Sons of Confederate Veterans

We Sons of Confederate Veterans pledge ourselves to perpetuate the memory of our Confederate ancestors, who by their sacrifices established the Confederate States of America and fought to preserve their declared independence.

Part 16 Questions

In short essay format give and support an opinion for at least four of these questions:

1. Why do you think the Southern-Confederate solider fought?

2. What is the function of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in this day and age?

3. Is the SCV and Southern history about heritage or hate?

4. Why is the SCV trying to bring out lost, hidden or suppressed facts regarding the war?

5. What has happened to the memory of the Confederate solider today?

6. What does the Confederate Battle Flag symbolize to you?

7. Should the Confederate soldier be remembered or should he be forgotten and we move on?

8. What was the biggest myth that was debunked for you in this course about Southern and Confederate history?