The Killer Angels

Wars have been fought for many different reasons through the years, and that holds true for the American Civil War (1861-1865). In Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Killer Angels, the reasons for fighting the war are brought about through the officers and soldiers at a famous battle site of the Civil War, Gettysburg. Gettysburg was one of the most documented battles of the whole war. It took place over a span of three days and can be viewed as a turning point from Confederate prominence to Confederate demise. As in any conflict, there are two sides to the story. The Union and the Confederacy each had their own views as to why they were fighting the war. Victors write the history so too often only the Union side is presented. In the book we are presented with some of both veiwpoints.
The propaganda pitch the Union gave was they were fighting to free the slaves. This was not true! It was said Southerners were fighting to preserve slavery. This is also a false statement. Roughly less than 6% of all Southerners owned slaves. In fact, there were a substantial amount of generals in the Union army that owned slaves themselves. In addition the constitution protected slavery. If the true issue was to maintain slavery the South would not have seceded. The most obvious myth is that the “good” North marched into the "cruel and evil" South for the sole purpose of freeing the slaves. There are many quotes from Northern leaders that show clearly that the main purpose of the North was not the eradication of slavery, but subjugation of the southern people. Slavery was used to rally the Northern population behind Abraham Lincoln’s war. It was an emotional issue, sure some Yankees joined and fought to “set men free”, but most were there to preserve the union. Preserving the Union meant stepping on the Southern people and keeping them as a tax base to feed Northern industrialists. An interesting conflict of Northern morals is discovered. The North is portrayed as wanting to set black men free, but they practiced economic slavery on the Southern states. The Civil War was really more politically complex with regards to Abraham Lincoln and his Republican party’s actions.
The South fought this war as the Second American Revolution. The cause of the South was equated to that of their forefathers who had fought and won their freedom from Great Britain less than 100 years earlier. If it was a war to set men free, it was the Southern farm boy that wanted his freedoms guaranteed under the original constitution. The Northern states\' politicians were aggressively attempting to implement a monarchial form of government, which was precisely what the early colonists had fought against in the American Revolution. The Northern states were taking advantage of their superior numbers in the federal government and were using their advantage to implement unfair tariffs against the South. Enormous amounts of money were taken from the South and funneled into the Northern states. Most of the revenue taken from the Southern states was used to run government programs. This brought about the argument of “State’s Rights” and a weaker central government by the South.
The main cause of the war was Lincoln’s rejection of the right to peaceable secession of the eleven sovereign states and subsequently the denial of self-government to the nearly 8 million people living in those states. The Federal government needed the income from the South so they were forced into fighting to save the tax coming from the South. Without consulting Congress, Lincoln sent great armies of destruction to the South. The Southern people had no choice but to defend themselves from this invasion.
The South fought, simply, for their independence, as the United States federal government of the Northern states refused to allow the South to leave peacefully. The men of the South did not fight to win their freedom, they fought to keep it! To quote from the Declaration of Independence:
“... that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such