Monday, August 27, 2012

The Responsibility for War

The Responsibility for War
It is said that the war against the American South began when the Star of the West left its dock at New York, laden with troops and supplies to reinforce the Fort Sumter garrison.  The land and fort was originally ceded to the US government to protect Charleston from hostile forces, with its artillery aimed toward the sea.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
The Responsibility for War:
"The view that the South was to blame for the war has been challenged by [historian] Charles Ramsdell, who maintained that the real cause of hostilities was Lincoln's sending relief expedition to Fort Sumter. Lincoln had done so, said Ramsdell, in the full expectation that war would result, because only be provoking the Confederates into firing the first shot could he hope to unify the Radical and Conservative wings of his [Republican] party and attract Northern Democrats to the cause of preserving the Union by force.
A new dimension was added to the subject by Kenneth Stampp, who carefully analyzed what the North feared it would lose be acquiescing in an independent Confederacy, and how those fears were translated into powerful political pressure on Lincoln to do something decisive.
He conceded that Lincoln….was willing to accept war rather than Southern Independence. As for the North in general, Stampp concluded:
"Yankees went to war animated by the high ideals of the nineteenth century middle classes, but they waged their war in the usual spirit of vengeance….But what the Yankees achieved – for their generation at least – was a triumph not of middle-class ideals but of middle-class vices.  The most striking products of their crusade were the shoddy aristocracy of the North and the ragged children of the South. Among the masses of Americans there were no victors, only the vanquished." 
(North Against South, The American Illiad, 1848-1877, Ludwell H. Johnson, Foundation for American Education, 1993, pp. 279-280)