The Only Thing That Could Save the North Was War

The Only Thing That Could Save the North Was War

by Gene Kizer, Jr.

Major Robert Anderson, Union commander inside Fort Sumter, emphatically blames Lincoln for starting the war Lincoln had to have to save the North.

(This post is Chapter Seven of my book, Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, The Irrefutable Argument., available on this website)

Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, The Irrefutable Argument. by Gene Kizer, Jr. - front cover - slavery not the cause of the Civil War

Lincoln needed to start the war as fast as he could before Southerners completed trade and military alliances with England and other European countries, which they had been pursuing with great enthusiasm for months. With every second that went by, the South got stronger and the North got weaker. Lincoln knew there was no advantage, whatsoever, to waiting.

He also worried greatly about free states joining the South. The Confederate Constitution allowed it. Slavery was not required. Slavery was up to an individual state, and Southerners anticipated that many free states with economic ties to the South, especially along the Mississippi and in the West, would join the Confederacy.

The Boston Transcript saw what was happening and realized that the protection to slavery that the North was quite willing to give was not what the South wanted:

[T]he mask has been thrown off and it is apparent that the people of the principal seceding states are now for commercial independence. They dream that the centres of traffic can be changed from Northern to Southern ports. The merchants of New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah are possessed of the idea that New York, Boston, and Philadelphia may be shorn, in the future, of their mercantile greatness, by a revenue system verging on free trade.i

The South wanted to be INDEPENDENT just as the Colonists had wanted to be independent in 1776. The South wanted freedom and self-government. It was tired of the confiscation of its hard-earned money by the North and the federal government. It was tired of 10 years of Northern hatred and terrorism.

Northern panic and Southern jubilation grew steadily until they reached a crescendo on April 12, 1861, and the orchestra wore gray in the forts and batteries encircling Charleston Harbor, and it wore blue inside Fort Sumter, led by Union Major Robert Anderson.

Anderson saw the events of the day clearly and put the blame squarely on Abraham Lincoln for starting the war that Lincoln had to have to save the Union and the North. Lincoln and Secretary of War Simon Cameron wrote to Anderson and informed him that warships and a military mission to reinforce him were en route.

Anderson and the Southerners in Charleston were standing face to face, each with a cocked gun on a hair-trigger aimed at the other's head. It had been this way for weeks, but Lincoln couldn't wait any longer. He was anxious to get a blockade set up around the ports of the South that would slow the European rush to military and trade treaties with the South. This was a critical thing for Lincoln or suddenly it would have been like the French in the American Revolution who came to the aid of the Colonists and helped mightily to secure American independence.

Once Lincoln got the war started, he could throw up his blockade and force Europeans to take a wait-and-see attitude.

Lincoln knew that sending his warships and soldiers to Charleston during the most critical hour in American history would start the war. That's why it was well publicized nationally, so everybody could get ready. He hoped the Confederates would fire first. Everything he did was designed to get that result. See Charles W. Ramsdell's famous treatise, "Lincoln and Fort Sumter,"ii Part III of this book, for proof that Lincoln started the war.

Anderson was at ground zero on April 12, 1861 and could judge both sides and pass judgment on who started the war, and he clearly blames Lincoln. This is what he writes in his response to Lincoln and Cameron:

. . . a movement made now when the South has been erroneously informed that none such will be attempted, would produce most disastrous results throughout our country. . . . We shall strive to do our duty, though I frankly say that my heart is not in the war which I see is to be thus commenced. . . . (Bold emphasis added.)

Anderson sees that the war "is to be thus commenced" by Abraham Lincoln, who had to hurry up and get it started or soon the South with European trade and military alliances would be unbeatable.

Northern greed, hatred and terrorism drove the South out of the Union and cost the North its huge captive manufacturing market in the South. It also cost the North unfettered access to bountiful Southern commodities needed in manufacturing.

More Northern greed in the form of the Morrill Tariff threatened to destroy the Northern shipping industry and send Northern ship captains South where protective tariffs were unconstitutional. The Morrill Tariff guaranteed that the Northern economy would not recover.

Northern leaders knew that they were headed for an unimaginable disaster and at the same time would have to face the South as a major competitor owning most of the trade of the United States, strongly backed militarily and financially by Europe, and with control of the most demanded commodity on the planet: cotton.

Abraham Lincoln, the first sectional president in American history, was president of the North and the North was clamoring for war. There was gloom, despair and extreme agitation in the North. Hundreds of thousands were unemployed, angry, in the street. The "clangor of arms" had been heard. Every day that went by the South got stronger and the North got weaker. There was no advantage whatsoever to waiting a second longer, so, after agonizing for weeks, Lincoln saw a way to get the war started without appearing to be the aggressor, and he took it. This was the view of several Northern newspapers as Charles W. Ramsdell points out in Part III in "Lincoln and Fort Sumter."

The threatened annihilation of the Northern economy and the rise of the South are what drove all actions in that fateful spring of 1861. Certainly not any mythical desire on the part of the North to end slavery.

The North's choices had been clear: descend into economic hell and mob rule, or fight.

If they fought, because of their overwhelming advantages at that point in history (4 to 1 in native manpower plus unlimited immigration - 25% of the Yankee army ended up being immigrants while close to 100% of the Confederate army were native-born Southerners - perhaps 200 to 1 in weapon manufacturing, an army, navy, etc.), they knew they had an excellent chance of winning everything and gaining total control of the country.

If they didn't fight, the South would surely ascend to predominance.

Of course they were going to fight and use their advantages before they lost them.

Lincoln figured the North would win easily but First Manassas proved him wrong, thus we had the bloodiest war in American history with 800,000 deaths and over a million wounded. The South was invaded and destroyed but fought until it was utterly exhausted before it was all over. It had nothing left to give or the war would certainly have continued on.

It was World War II, seventy-five years later, before the South began to recover from the destruction, but it is a certainty that if 1861 rolled around again and Southerners had the opportunity to fight for independence, they would. To the South, 1861 was 1776 all over. They believed the Founding Fathers had bequeathed to them by the Declaration of Independence, the right of self-government, and they would pay any price to achieve it.

Basil Gildersleeve, still known today as the greatest American classical scholar of all time, was a Confederate soldier from Charleston, South Carolina. He sums it up nicely in The Creed of the Old South, published 27 years after the war:

All that I vouch for is the feeling; . . . there was no lurking suspicion of any moral weakness in our cause. Nothing could be holier than the cause, nothing more imperative than the duty of upholding it. There were those in the South who, when they saw the issue of the war, gave up their faith in God, but not their faith in the cause.iii

 


i The Boston Transcript, 18 March 1861, in Adams, When in the Course of Human Events, 65.

ii Charles W. Ramsdell, "Lincoln and Fort Sumter", The Journal of Southern History, Volume 3, Issue 3 (August, 1937), Pages 259 - 288.

iii Basil L. Gildersleeve, The Creed of the Old South, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1915; reprint: BiblioLife, Penrose Library, University of Denver (no date given), 26-27.

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8 Comments

  1. I am a COLLECTOR OF SOUTHERN MILITARY HISTORY AND ART WORKS.
    I HAVE STUDIED THIS SUBJECT MATTER FOR OVER 55 YEARS. IT IS ALL BASED ON LIBERAL UNION BASED REEDUCATION OF THE VICTORS OF THE WAR..
    IF YOU THINK FOR ONE MICRO SECOND THAT O L ABE FOUGHT TO FREE THE SLAVES YOU HAVE BEEN DUPED !!!!

  2. Effective and truthful writing is what we need to address the real cause of the war. As an academic, I applaud your use of credible sources.

    Thomas J. Sabetta, Ph.D.

    • Thomas, Thanks so much for writing. The cause of the War Between the States is the most important question in American history but the politicization of history since the 1960s has degraded history so much that if you say anything other than slavery as the cause, you are a vile racist who deserves to die. David Donald admitted that the cause of the war was dead as a serious subject among mainstream “historians” and had been since the ’60s, and Eugene Genovese called the study of Southern history today a “cultural and political atrocity.” The NY Times’s 1619 Project is a good example of that atrocity now spread to American history in general. The 1619 Project is not the study of history by serious historians, it is political operatives doing what they do which is lie, distort, and not seek truth but seek to persuade and intimidate people for their own political gain. The 1619 Project is filthy politics and not history. John Lukacs said that much of the best history in the future will come from lay people and independent historians and writers, and that is great for America, and historical truth. Despite the impediments in academia and the news media to a healthy study of the causes of the war, I really think we may be entering a golden age of historical scholarship. It will certainly be a real debate forcefully argued, and slavery as the primary cause of the war, rather than being just one factor of many, will die. Thanks very much for writing! Please write anytime. Gene

  3. As a proud, active member of the Emma Sanson Chapter, Texas Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy, I enjoyed your article on how Lincoln started the war! Great reading – and I sent it on to all my chapter members!

    • Virginia, Great to hear from you in the great state of Texas! Don’t mess with Texas! Another great Texan, Charles W. Ramsdell, wrote the famous treatise “Lincoln and Fort Sumter” that proves in minute detail how Lincoln started the war in Charleston Harbor. It is Part Three of my book, Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, The Irrefutable Argument. Thanks so much for sharing my article! There are several articles in my blog on http://www.CharlestonAthenaeumPress.com that you would like. I also have some discounts on my book in quantities of five and 10 so chapters and camps can use them for fundraising. I have enormous respect for the UDC. The Confederate Museum on Market Street here in Charleston is run by Charleston Chapter #4. They had a big anniversary and drop-in that I went to recently and it was great (https://www.confederatemuseumcharlestonsc.com/). The UDC has done an enormous amount since the end of the war to preserve and promote truthful Southern history and raise money for so many monuments across the South, and defend others today when they need it. I love Mildred Lewis Rutherford and plan to publish several of her works soon. Thanks so much for writing! Please write anytime. Gene

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