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What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War

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  • Posted October 11, 2010


    This is Chandra Manning's first book. The book utilizes primary resources and examines the perspectives of Union and Confederate soldiers. The book examines the timeline of the war year by year to show the evolution of the changing role slavery played in the war according to the soldiers. The Union soldiers viewed slavery as the cause of the war and overtime sought its abolition due to the cruelty they viewed in the south and the actions of black soldiers. The north believed that the institution of slavery was dehumanizing for both the slave and the master, because slave master's often engaged in the 'fancy' slave trade and intermixed the races. This shows that racism was rife in the north as well as the south.

    The southern soldiers viewed slavery as being morally sound due to its mention in the Bible and used it to justify their identity as white men. The majority of Confederate soldiers weren't slave owners, but they were willing to fight for the Confederate cause to preserve their way of life; They believed in white supremacy over blacks. The author uses examples such as Union General Butler's "Woman Order" and the actions of C.S.A. citizens actions towards confederate soldiers to show their decreasing morale, but they still fought for the south to preserve what they perceived as the natural order of things. If the north won the war, they felt they would be racial lines would become blurred leading to "miscegenation." The book offered an interesting glimpse into the attitudes of soldiers during the time period and it was interesting to see how the changes in morale due to battles helped to form their opinions on slavery. It was a good book, I'd recommend it for classrooms.

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