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.