Monday, June 2, 2014

Independence or slavery?

There are those, even today, who argue that the War of the Rebellion wasn't about slavery but, rather, about Southern rights, about the rights of states versus centralization. Included in Mackubin Thomas Owens's account of "The Campaign for Atlanta" is this, adding evidence, if any more were needed, that that was not the case:
.... Patrick Cleburne, the “Stonewall of the West,” [was] arguably the best Confederate general outside Virginia. An Irish immigrant to the South who had served in the British Army, Cleburne had performed magnificently in all the actions in which he was engaged. Most notably, it was Cleburne and his division that repulsed the main attack by Sherman at Chattanooga. It was said that Yankees dreaded seeing the blue flag of his division across the battlefield. ....

By late 1863, it had become obvious to Cleburne that the Confederacy was losing the war because of limitations of manpower and resources. Also by this time, the Union was enlisting black soldiers. So in 1864 he addressed the leadership of the Army of Tennessee, calling for emancipating slaves and enlisting them in the Confederate Army to secure Southern independence. The question, he said, was essentially this: Which does the South desire more — independence or slavery?

His proposal was met with stunned silence. Those present agreed that it would go no further, but word leaked out. Members of the government were made aware of the letter he wrote outlining the proposal:
Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late. ...It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision. ...It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties.
General Howell Cobb of Georgia provided the official position of the Confederacy: “The day you make soldiers of [slaves] is the beginning of the end of the revolution. If slaves will make good soldiers, our whole theory of slavery is wrong.” Cleburne’s proposal effectively killed his prospects for further promotion. .... [more]