The Truth About Fort Sumter and the American Civil War


On this day 150 years ago, shots were fired on a small fort in Charleston, South Carolina. Fort Sumter has since been a well known historical monument, especially to Southerners whose relatives fought in the bloody war which matched North against South, brother against brother, cousin against cousin, neighbor against neighbor. The report on the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War by CBS this morning brought up some quite interesting talking points.

One of the main ideas mentioned in this video is the idea that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War. I, and 48% of people in a recent Pew Internet Research poll, beg to differ. The Civil War did not begin as an attempt by the North to free the poor, enslaved African-Americans in the South. It was instead a battle over the freedom of each state to make it’s own decisions within the federal government. This issue, referred to as States’ Rights, was a definite source of conflict and strong debate in the years leading up to the Civil War. While slavery was one of the issues that states wanted the right to choose their stance on, there were also other issues involved. Take a look at the results of the poll (below).

I was a bit surprised to see that 56% of people polled admitted that they knew that the Civil War was still relevant to American politics and political life. I would definitely agree with this statements, not because I had many relatives from both sides of my family who fought in the Civil War, but because civil rights and states’ rights are still hot topics in todays’ political arena. For the 44% who don’t agree, I have provided some videos below related to this topic.

Is it odd that Al Jazeera is reporting on  the Tea Party?

While you may agree or disagree with the Tea Party, States’ Rights or other issues mentioned, you would have to agree that topics of conflict during the Civil War are highly relevant today. They will also most likely be highly discussed in the upcoming presidential election.

I was also surprised that 36% of people polled believed it was appropriate to praise Confederate leaders. I find it strange that today’s citizens-liberal or conservative-believe they have a right to look down their noses at Confederate leaders, when even President Lincoln greatly acknowledged their leadership skills:

On April 18, five days after the fall of Fort Sumter, President Lincoln offered Lee the job of commanding the Union army. A Union general had told Lincoln, “Lee is so valuable; his life should be insured for five million dollars.” Lincoln’s offer was a great honor, but Lee turned it down. The day before, Virginia had voted to secede from the Union. With a heavy heart, Lee then left the U.S. Army and joined the Confederacy. Lee said: “If I owned four million slaves, I would cheerfully give them up to save the Union. But to lift my hand against Virginia is impossible.”

Lee was Lincoln’s first choice for General of the Union Army, and was greatly admired by those fighting on both sides of the army. Other Confederate leaders also gained great admiration during the Civil War for their abilities to stand strong against adversity and not compromise their values and ethics regardless of the situation. Whether or not you agree with their political position, you should be able to acknowledge that these men were strong leaders. There are a great number of people who have taken the time to understand the real causes and purposes of the Civil War and have chosen to honor it’s heritage from the Rebel flag to the white and black soldiers who fought for the North and the South.

I encourage you to check out the Fort Sumter Historical Site in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina, and pause for a moment of silence to honor all of the 624,511 Americans- black and white – who lost their lives in the America Civil War.

And, as an extra tidbit of information, here are some other historical happenings on April 12th!