The War Between the Union and the Confederacy and its Lost Opportunities
by William C. Oates, 1905
For a look at the Oates Chamberlain disagreement over Gettysburg see the notes on Oates Letters
Page 498 Oates discusses the reasons for secession and why Southerners fought in the war.
Obviously the reason was slavery, but why did the non slave holding class fight so hard for slavery? Oates gives the answer.
The brave men who filled the ranks of Confederate armies volunteered to fight for home rule local self-government,
for separate national independence with the institution of slavery as an important incident of the struggle.
There were many whose motive in seceding and fighting for the Confederacy was to perpetuate the institution of slavery as a means of wealth.
The chief advocates and agitators of secession were largely the latter class, but a great majority of the soldiers in the ranks the men who handled the muskets and did the killing were not of that class.
For slavery alone, or the money value of the slaves, two thirds, and probably three fourths of the Confederate soldiers would not have risked their lives and fought as they did. Many intelligent people in the North do not understand, to this day, what motive impelled the men of the South to fight with such persistency as they did. In the spring of 1904, when a guest at my house, Gen. John C. Black, the Commander of the Army of the Republic, a very intelligent man, who was a brave officer in the Union Army during the war, and my personal friend, said to me that he had never been able to understand how it was that the slave owners induced the men who did not own slaves to fight so persistently and doggedly for the maintenance of that institution. His impression, and that of most Union men in the North, was that slavery was the whole matter of contention. Besides their other grievances, the apprehension those poor men had of the consequences of the emancipation of four million of negro slaves in their midst, and they to be given the franchise and elevated to political and social equality with the whites, was horrifying to their proud spirits, and those who never owned a slave fought for slavery to avoid such direful consequences. Southern pride was offended and the blood made to boil at tile idea of enforced equality of an inferior race. It was complimentary to them that they had the intelligence to foresee that with universal emancipation would come a rivalry with them in industries, unpleasant contact, mixed schools negro officeholders, indignities, miscegenation, and general demoralization. When the Union armies triumphed and the Confederacy was destroyed the negroes were freed and enfranchised, and directed by a horde of plundering carpet baggers and native scalawags, general bankruptcy came and general ruin threatened all the homes in the South. It was a realization of the grave apprehensions of the poor white men in the Confederate ranks. The apprehension of what might result from even a gradual emancipation was the one question which, more than the loss of their value, retarded Congress from passing a law to make soldiers of the negro men. This state of affairs in the South after the war gave rise to the Kuklux Klan,
and stimulated lynching and active opposition to the rights of the negro to vote or hold office.