POPULAR MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE CIVIL WAR,

By Dr. Ambrose Hinge, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor of History at Duck Hollow University.

Misunderstandings and misconceptions are distressingly prevalent in discussions of the Civil War. I have been given space only to clear up a few of them, but my upcoming book, The “Civil” War Was Really Quite Rude, is recommended to any readers who wish to delve further into this dark period in our history.

Misconception: The Civil War was fought to free the slaves.

Fact: The governments of the seceding states, which fired the first shots in the conflict, explicitly intended to prevent the slaves from being freed. This is a matter of public record.

Misconception: The Southerners fought to protect states’ rights.

Fact: The Southerners’ most frequent accusation against the North was that individual Northern states had passed laws that prevented the effective enforcement of the federal Fugitive Slave Act.

Misconception: The Civil War was very romantic.

Fact: It has been historically documented that, far from being the stuff of romance, the Civil War was dirty and dangerous, and several people were actually hurt.

Misconception: The Civil War was unavoidable in the conditions of the time.

Fact: It has been conclusively demonstrated that both sides could have avoided the war altogether by not shooting at each other.

Misconception: Brother fought brother on the battlefields of the Civil War.

Fact: In fewer than 0.1% of cases were siblings divided in their allegiance, making it statistically very improbable that one brother would encounter another fighting on the opposite side in any given battle.

Misconception: Southerners fought for a worthy and noble “Lost Cause.”

Fact: The so-called “Lost Cause” was actually found under Jefferson Davis’ desk when Union troops entered Richmond in 1865. He had been using it to prop up one of the legs. It had therefore never really been lost at all.

Misconception: The Civil War succeeded in freeing the slaves.

Fact: Most adult Americans spend eight or more hours a day at the mercy of the arbitrary whims of an employer.

Comments

  1. Clearly inspired by this recent piece of academic hand-wringing:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/150-years-of-misunderstanding-the-civil-war/277022/

    In other news, Christopher Columbus neither discovered America (the Vikings, Polynesians, and of course Amerindians beat him to the punch by some years) nor proved the world was round (rather, he fudged his numbers to make it seem smaller than it actually was, as most of his prospective employers pointed out when turning down his mad scheme). Anti-Vietnam protestors were not brave idealists stopping an unjust war, they were naive idiots enabling genocide (which, sadly, probably equally aptly describes the generals leading the war). Nero neither fiddled while Rome burned nor threw Christians to the lions.

    Sometimes the details and complexities of history as taught at the college level are a bit different than the oversimplified versions taught in third grade social studies classes. Very few wars end up worth the cost paid in lives and treasure, even by the winning side, and the losing side rarely enjoys their depiction in histories written by the winners.

  2. Clay Potts says:

    Misconception: The Mason-Dixon Line’s only significance during the Civil War was as the official unofficial dividing line between the North and South.

    Truth: The Mason-Dixon Line WAS the cause of the Civil War and actually began as a contractual dispute between Charles Mason, famed glass maker best known for the iconic Mason Canning Jar and Jeremiah Dixon, paper manufacturer and major supplier of paper labels, and holder of the coveted Mason Jar account. After three successive years of price increases which drove the per label price to just under one cent, frustrated and appalled Mason cancelled the label contract by literally and figuratively drawing a line in the sand down the center of the unpaved alleyway separating Mason Glassworks and Dixon Paper Mill, forbidding Dixon to drive over the line at risk being ticketed by the Pennsylvania State Police for driving a mule without proper emission inspections, thus forcing Dixon to remove the left mule and left wheels from his paper delivery wagon.

    The resulting Civil War which ensued ended in 1864 after four long years of fighting. However, the dispute between Mason and Dixon has endured to present day and never again have the two companies done business with each other. Mason, stubborn to a fault, devised a method of embossing his product name directly into the glass of his jars at an added cost of two cents per jar, and Dixon went on to supply the nation with tiny paper bathroom drinking cups.

  3. Captain DaFt says:

    Actually, far from being abolished, slavery is the cornerstone of American economy.
    From wikipedia:
    Since at least Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward – 17 U.S. 518 (1819), the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized corporations as having the same rights as natural persons to contract and to enforce contracts. In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad – 118 U.S. 394 (1886), the reporter noted in the headnote to the opinion that the Chief Justice began oral argument by stating, “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.”[1] While the headnote is not part of the Court’s opinion and thus not precedent, two years later, in Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania – 125 U.S. 181 (1888), the Court clearly affirmed the doctrine, holding, “Under the designation of ‘person’ there is no doubt that a private corporation is included [in the Fourteenth Amendment]. Such corporations are merely associations of individuals united for a special purpose and permitted to do business under a particular name.

    Thus:
    Slavery: one person owns another.
    Corporations: owned by stockholders
    legal status of corporations: Same rights as natural persons.

    Therefore: Stockholders are slave owners.

    I would advise my fellow readers to contact your government representatives and demand that corporations be freed and all stockholders be imprisoned as the felons they are.

  4. Mary says:

    Nevertheless, there are recorded cases where after the battle, brothers from opposing sides met.

    Statistically improbable things happen every day. If they didn’t, it would be more statistically improbable than any of them.

  5. Zach Eikov says:

    This is possibly the stupidest thing I have ever read. None of it makes sense and much of it is just wrong.

  6. Eamonn says:

    Zach Eikov: Perhaps the Concise Oxford English Dictionary can help.

    parody
    n. (pl. parodies)
    1 an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.

  7. “This is possibly the stupidest thing I have ever read.”

    Is this sentence self-referential? Not this one. That one! That other one! Ah, hell, you know what I mean . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  8. Don says:

    A successful joke requires three people: one to tell the joke, one to laugh, and one to say “I don’t get it.”

  9. RepubAnon says:

    I must disagree with this statement: “Misconception: Brother fought brother on the battlefields of the Civil War.”

    In fact, brothers fight each other on a regular basis – the battles during the Civil War probably kept them from fighting each other by forcing them to fight strangers, instead.

  10. wtf says:

    Duck Hollow University????

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