Greetings Cosmic Americans!
Just a short note today to illustrate something that I believe is worthy of further discussion. Most of us can agree with President Lincoln...that slavery was somehow the cause of the war. One of my former professors said it best when he wrote on the blackboard on the first day of Civil War class: "It was slavery - stupid."
But with all the talk about slavery - both the reasonable informed discussions and the back and forth bang-your-head-against-the-wall (usually pointless) arguments with neo-Confederates, one thing sometimes slips beneath the radar.
The overwhelming number of northern soldiers enlisted to fight for the preservation of Union. The destruction of slavery did not, for the most part, compel them to take up arms. During the war, many saw the demise of the institution as a great way to undermine the Rebels' war effort...and after the war, Union veterans' sense of moralizing self-righteousness in regard to their participation in emancipation went a long way to show the world that theirs had been the noblest of efforts.
Perhaps the notion of Union is far to abstract for 21st century folks to really grasp. Even historian Barbara Fields has suggested that 19th century soldiers did not consider Union worth fighting and dying for - implying that emancipation was the only truly noble cause. Sure, emancipation was a noble cause indeed...and many came to see it that way. But it was Union that stirred patriots' hearts in 1861.