Confederate Civil War soldiers & slaves

Where there any other reasons for the US Civil war besides slavery?

If not, what were the soldiers in the South fighting for, since they were most likely to poor to have slaves anyway?

The cause of the war was unquestionably the slavery issue. Preservation of slavery was the primary reason the Southern states seceded from the Union.

On the other hand, individual soldiers (most of whom owned no slaves) often considered their service an act of duty to their state. From their perspective, they were defending their state from invasion by a hostile force.

Besides, they might have benefitted from a slaveholding economy without being slaveholders themselves. If nothing else, the existence of slavery may tend to increase the price of free labour.

Actually, it can be argued that the existance of slavery tends to decrease the price of free labor, because jobs that would otherwise be taken by free men are taken by slaves, and entire classes of work were seen as “slave work”. In fact, a disturbing trend that was starting to show up before the civil war was that of slave craftsmen. More and more slaves were being trained as blacksmiths and cobblers, and other skilled labor. If that trend continued, a lot of people could have been ruined.

Thought undoubtedly slavery was the major cause of the Civil War, the South wasn’t just fighting to preserve slavery; they were fighting to preserve the right of a state to make its own laws. The South considered themselves akin to the colonists in the American revolution – breaking away from a tyrannical government that was ignoring their wishes.

That’s why the average Southerner enlisted: they didn’t like the idea of the Federal government telling them what to do. The reasoning was that if they force us to eliminate slavery, they will eventually take all our other rights.

Even southerners who opposed slavery didn’t like the idea of Washington eliminating it; they wanted to eliminate it state by state, the way it was in the North.

Southern states succeeded for a variety of reasons. Some (e.g, South Carolina) left because they were afraid the North would free the slaves. Others (Virginia) left because the Federal government was raising troops to attack other Americans.* Lincoln made it clear that elimination of slavery was of secondary importance to the goal of preserving the Union.

*If Lincoln had handled things more deftly, Virginia might have stayed, and Robert E. Lee would have lead Federal troops. But Lincoln made a lot of blunders in the early days of the war and, except for one thing (the shelling of Ft. Sumter), Jefferson Davis did everything right. However, Lincoln was a quick study and consistently made the right decisions once he got going, whereas Davis kept making the wrong ones and refused to accept changes in the situation.

To say that the American Civil War was due solely to slavery is overly simplistic; there were plenty of other contributing factors. The slavery issue was certainly the most important and most widely-debated, though.

I think any military action by the U.S. government would have led to Virginia and North Carolina leaving, and I don’t think anything short of military force would have gotten the seceeded states back into the Union. Lincoln was stuck with a devil’s bargain: either use force, which would drive out the border states, or attempt to negotiate, which would legitimize the confederacy and probably lead to its independence.

The election of Abraham Lincoln was the cause of the Civil War. Slavery needn’t enter into the question, really.

The Republican party was opposed to the spread of slavery to the western territories, but they weren’t necessarily abolitionist. Many Republicans thought slavery should be allowed to die a quiet death death of old age, something like how it finally ended in Brazil in 1888. Lincoln himself was far from abolitionist, and said many times that he would not work to abolish slavery as president. His fanatical unionism would have utterly stopped him from abolishing slavery even had he wanted to- it would have split the US in two.

The Southerners’ main problem with the Republicans was that they were a Northern party, and made no pretense about representing the South. Democrats were all over the nation, but Republicans would only be found in the North. Lincoln wasn’t even on the ballot in many Southern states. The Republicans chose to be Northern because of the failure of the Whig party, which tried to be both against the spread of slavery and national. Didn’t work.

So, look at this from the perspective of the Southerners: a man had just been elected president who was a member of a Northern party with (virtually) no Southern members and no real interest in what the South wanted or their problems. Basically, to the South it seemed like the North was saying, “We don’t need your votes to rule over you! Deal with THAT!”

You can see how they were slightly peeved at this perceived insult.

That’s my theory, anyway.

As noted, the issue was not slavery per se, but that slavery was within the purvue of the states to regulate as they saw fit. “States Rights” was, and is, a difficult issue within the US system of government. It is unfortunate that the issue came to a real head over slavery and not something more morally defensible. Among other things, it leaves us with “States Rights” often used as a code word for “Racism”, rather than meaning what it says.

It was inevitable though - the divisions concerning slavery were there in 1787, and the founding fathers basically chose to punt on it, drafting a few compromises just so they could get both sides to shut up and agree on a constitution. They were probably right - had they tried to do something decisive about slavery at that point, they would never have managed to hammer out an agreement.

In addition to Southerners who opposed slavery but also opposed the idea that it would be outlawed at the Federal level, you can make a case that the plantation economy of the South would have HAD to change eventually. It is possible that, had there been no Civil War, slavery could have been outlawed by the turn of the 20th century, probably in most of the states at first, then by Federal mandate, and nobody would have protested. It was simply becoming uneconomic in those states that used it heavily, and eventually, the moral points to be gained by doing away with it would have outweighed the economic benefits of continuing the system.

Well, the southeners said they supported states rights, but the same people who argued the strongest for secession had, a few years before, applauded Dred Scott v. Sanford, which limited states rights, and the candidate in the 1860 election who was the strongest supporter of states rights in regards to slavery, Stephen Douglas, didn’t do very well in the south. The secesh were pro-states rights when the federal government talked about limiting slavery, but against states rights when the states tried to limit slavery.