Southern matters

Today, June 19, is the 140th anniversary of the readmission of the American Southern states – i.e. those that had made up the Confederate States of America, or the Confederacy – to the United States (the Union), some five years after they had been defeated finally at the end of the American Civil War. Of course the chief result historically of these events was the end of slavery in America and the defeat of those who had advocated or defended it. But the war also left the defeated states in a war-ravaged condition, and mostly they did not regain any degree of economic prosperity for some 100 years. But then again, real black or African-American emancipation took more or less as long to be established also.

I have  long taken the view that familiarity with the American Civil War and with its political, economic, social, cultural and military aspects is of particular benefit historically. It was war in which important principles and values were fought over, in which economic lessons had to be learned, in which great military strategies were first tried out (including the scorched earth strategies that were used by various combatants to such horrific effect in the 20th century), and in which the embryonic signs of future American global influence could be discerned. It was a war of great oratory, and of some larger-than-life characters, including of course President Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps the best known figure from the South was General Robert E. Lee, and he pursued a successful and distinguished post-war career as a university President.

The issues and values that were fought over then are still important today, and still require discussion and global action. The American Civil War is very much worthy of continuing attention.

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3 Comments on “Southern matters”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Yes, it could certainly be seen as the first 20th Century War in much the same way as WWI was the last of the 19th.
    But it has to be said that much of the economic problems in the South were of their own making. In that a bit like here they could see only one asset type and as that asset, Land, was on the floor internal investment stagnated rather effectively nullifying any material good for those at the bottom.
    Some would argue that it was not until the Bank of America that things really started to hum.


  2. Alas, the scorched earth strategy long pre-dates the American civil war. General Sherman’s implementation of the strategy would have been thought timid by many early proponents.

    More significantly, it sealed the unity of the United States. With unified control over a self sufficient continent, and a security from foreign invasion Bismark could only dream of, the American path to global hegemony was set, and the geopolitical and economic narrative, if not the detail, of the centuries to follow was written.


    • Robert, I agree – that was exactly my point. In Europe we sometimes see the American Cicil War as a little local difficulty they experienced. In fact, it was really the defining moment that created the global political patterns of the 20th century.


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