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Slavery and Freedom

July 21, 2015

The war which occurred between the Union and the Confederacy has been known by many names. The official name in the 127-volume record of the United States is the “War of the Rebellion.” Former Confederates regarded it as the “War for Southern Independence.” There are at least a half-dozen other names which attempt to define the cause of the war or to assign blame for the war, everything from the euphemistic “Late Unpleasantness” to the partisan “Mr. Lincoln’s War” to the descriptive “War Between the States.”

Lincoln called it “a great civil war” in his Gettysburg Address. More than a year later, in his 2nd Inaugural, he mentioned that slaves were “somehow the cause of the war.”

During the early months of the war, Lincoln had to focus on preservation of the Union in order to keep the border states from joining the Confederacy, but after the Emancipation Proclamation and Congressional support for the 13th Amendment, everyone finally had to admit what the war was all about. In the 2nd Inaugural Lincoln assumed everyone understood that slavery was the cause of the war when he said that neither the North nor the South “anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease.”

Not everyone was so slow to see the true cause of the Civil War or to anticipate its ultimate outcome. On April 14, 1861, just one day after Fort Sumter fell to the Confederacy, an Ohio state senator wrote the following to a friend: “The war will soon assume the shape of Slavery and Freedom. The world will so understand it, and I believe the final outcome will redound to the good of humanity.”

The author of that statement soon became a colonel of volunteers, then a brigadier, and ultimately the youngest major general in the Union Army. Fifteen years after the war ended, he was elected 20th President of the United States.

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