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Route 66, part VI:
Understanding the War Between the States


Howardstown and adjacent White City have the birthplace and boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was born poor, as we see visiting his birthplace, and, being an honest man, he remained that way throughout his otherwise rich life of public service.

Many (especially outside of the South) believe Lincoln was America's greatest president. Certainly, Lincoln, George Washington, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt governed in the most difficult environments.

Washington strained to establish national unity after a debilitating war for independence, and resisted entreaties to become king of the new American nation. Roosevelt dwelt with the worst economic collapse in U.S. history and World War 2. And, Lincoln, more than any than any other person, prevented the dissolution of the American nation during its War between the States.

Had Lincoln not been assassinated near the end of the war the course of U.S. history might have been far more positive, as Lincoln believed that the South should not be punished for its role in the war. Healing the wounds of the most savage war in world history to date was to be his final priority.

At his second inaugural, while the war still raged, Lincoln ordered the "Song of Dixie", the Confederate anthem, played as a gesture of reconcilliation.

And, what an anthem it was!


Song of Dixie

Oh, I wish I was in the land of Cotton--Old times there are not forgotten
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land
In Dixie Land where I was born in early on one frosty mornin'
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land (Chorus)

Chorus:
Then I wish I was in Dixie. Hooray! Hooray!
In Dixie Land I'll take my stand: To live and die in Dixie!
Away! Away! Away down south in Dixie.
Away! Away! Away down south in Dixie.

Ole Missus marry "Will the weaver", Willum was a gay deceiver.
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land
But when he put his arm around'er, He smiled fierce as a forty pounder!
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land

(Chorus)

His face was sharp as a butcher's cleaver, But that did not seem to grieve'er
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land
Ole Missus acted the foolish part, And died for a man that broke her heart
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land

(Chorus)

Now here's a health to the next ole Missus, An' all the gals that want to kiss us;
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land
But if you want to drive 'way sorrow, Come and hear this song tomorrow
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land

(Chorus)

There's buckwheat cakes and Injun batter, Makes you fat or a little fatter;
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land
Then hoe it down and scratch your gravel, To Dixie's Land I'm bound to travel,
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land

(Chorus)


Other voices of reconcilliation spoke, too.

When General Lee of the South finally surrendered his half starved and now largely shoeless army, the Northern general on hand ordered "Dixie" played again. As Lee's army marched in to surrender, the Northern solders formed a respectful canopy of bayonets over the heads of Lee's men, and then fed them. On breaking camp, the Southern solders were allowed to keep their weapons, so that they could hunt. These were honourable acts by honourable men.

Alas, these gestures of Northerners playing "Dixie" and other acts of reconcillation not did not last.

Upon his death, Lincoln was succeeded by an honourable but much weaker president, Andrew Johnson, and the economic rape of an already ravished South by Northern opportunists called "carpetbaggers" begin in earnest. Puppet state governments composed of former slaves appointed by the carpetbagger occupation fuelled white Southern anger and desire for retribution and revenge.

Few Americans understand that the North and the South fought for different causes. Southern white boys did not fight to keep slaves. Few of these poor solders owned slaves, or ever would own slaves.

They fought a distant central government that all too often favoured the interests of the fledgling northern industry that wanted high tariffs against European imports. The largely rural South sold its products like cotton and sugar to Europe and wanted no barriers.

Thomas Jefferson, who largely wrote the Declaration of Independence and who became president after Washington, believed that American democracy could not survive industrialization and urbanization. With all the rules and regulations governing American life today, some say Jefferson was largely right.

The supremacy of control by individual states and local governments was the foundation of the southern Confederacy. The South fought against an all powerful central government. It fought for a Jeffersonian America of little government interference in the lives of the people. It did not fight based on hatred of people of African descent.

The South fought, too, for the North to honour its commitment to have half of the new western states admitted to the Union as southern states with slavery permitted. The despicable right to own slaves, alas, symbolized Southern political power.

The new state Kansas, south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the demarcation of the North and South, refused slavery for moral reasons, and the North went along. The South was not so much interested in expanding slavery as it was in assuring that its position in the United States government would not be overwhelmed.

The South fought against outsiders telling it what to do. The Northern opposition to slavery symbolized this conflict in the minds of white Southerners.

On the other hand, northern solders marched into war with religious fervour, in a moral crusade against the evils of slavery, to preserve a united country. By far, the most popular song of the Yankee solders and northern civilian population was The Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe.


Battle Hymn of the Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored,
He has loosed the fateful lightening of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on.

Chorus:
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps
l can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps
His day is marching on.

(Chorus)

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnish`d rows of steel,
"As ye deal with my condemners, So with you my grace shall deal;"
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel
Since God is marching on.

(Chorus)

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

(Chorus)

He has sounded form the trumpet that shall never call retreat
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

(Chorus)

ln the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.


(Chorus)


For the North, slavery was a great sin in God's eyes, and indeed it was. And, breaking up the most perfect political union ever created under God was a terrible sin, too, in the view of the North. After reading the words to the Battle Hymn, does anyone doubt that in the eyes of the Yankee troops this was a holy war?

For the Union side, fighting in the War between the States was a crusade for the Right. A battle against evil. "As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free," the song said, and die they did on both sides in numbers unknown before in any war in world history (Solders in earlier wars had been blessed with grossly inaccurate weapons).

Concentration of power in a central government was not an issue to the Union solders. And the common person in the North had no interest in tariffs or international trade either. He fought the devil in form of human subjugation.

For Lincoln, Union was paramount. Involuntary servitude with all the breaking up of families and the tramping of aspirations that it entailed was a despicable abomination in his eyes; hence, his enthusiastic support of generals Grant and Sherman (of Gone with the Wind infamy) who fought with such bloody vigour. Lincoln had seen slaves marched along roads in his native Kentucky as a child, and this gentle but iron-willed boy recoilled at the sight.

Lincoln wheeled and dealed to keep some Southern border states such as Kentucky fighting on the Union side or at least neutral, even to the extent of promising them the right to keep slaves until the end of the war. He made these compromises to achieve the absolute devastation of the Southern war effort. In his mind, a vigorous military campaign would shorten the war and in the long run lessen casualties.

But, Lincoln, a Southerner himself, understood the South. Unlike some of his Northern contemporaries, Lincoln knew that for the most part the Confederate solders and their leaders were good and decent men. They were not evil men. After the war, they should not be punished for fighting for what they felt was just.

Nevertheless, after Lincoln's death punished they were.

Although the South had not focused on the war in racialistic terms, other than wanting to make sure Southern states did not become outnumbered by the admission of new free states, the first order of business in the post war "carpetbagger" era (named for the northern opportunists who flooded into the South after the war who often carried cheap cloth suitcases) was getting rid of the puppet legislators of African descent who worked at the bidding of the Northern economic occupation.

Scaring largely undereducated people of African descent from power and keeping them impotent by using the demonic (cross burnings) and the often violent (tar and feathering and lynching) rites of the newly formed Klu Klux Klan proved very effective. Numerous laws were enacted at the state and local levels to keep people of African descent "in their place." After Lincoln's death, the South descended into a racialistic abyss from which it is just now breaking free.

And, the whites were immensely harmed, too, by this situation, as only recently has the huge population African descent in the South begun to be able to gain enough income to foster a vibrant economy for everyone in the region.

Long ago, Henry Ford knew that to sell cars in high volume he needed people with money to buy them. He paid his workers what was then a king's ransom, $5.00 a day. But these workers bought cars, and they bought things from other people who in turn bought Ford cars.

Other industrialists followed Ford's lead, and their workers bought cars, and so on. In this way the world's most potent economic force, the American middle class, was created, while the South remained a nearly feudal economy with a few wealthy people and with the vast majority of both blacks and whites "dirt poor".

Unfortunately, though, the somewhat simplistic view of economic harm given above was not the paramount harm caused by the legacy of the War between the States, a legacy that includes the North's zealously in pursuing the war with extreme force bringing hunger and misery to civilian populations, the South's dishonour in its treatment of Yankee prisoners of war, Lincoln's murder, the plundering of the South that followed his death, the rise of the Klu Klux Klan, the creation of numerous state laws to restore the population of African descent to powerlessness, and after the war the growth of abject slums in northern cities populated by rural blacks who fled the South usually unprepared to make a living in an urban environment and whose family structures had been destroyed by a slave system that broke up families.

No, being the poorest region of the U.S. was not the greatest on-going wound. Nor was the brutality handed out by the Klu Klux Klan and sometimes brutal racist southern law enforcement officers (all too often the same people), as we witnessed in the excellent movie "Fried Green Tomatoes".

The robbing of the intellectual and spiritual potential of generations was the greatest sin. The wonderful movie, "Driving Miss Daisy," offers poignant scenes of the black chauffeur, a man of significant intellect, trapped in a society where the display of one's potential could be downright dangerous. One wonders how much better the world might be if these people had been allowed to flower. How many illnesses prevented? How many hungry people fed by new technologies and so on?

And, although the population of African descent suffered most grievously, the shear evil of the post-war system robbed millions of southern whites of their intellectual and spiritual self respect. Like many in Germany years ago, all too many whites knew the work of the devil was being done, and that was awfully hard to live with, when one was too intimidated to push for change.

Heavy stuff, eh? The War between the States and the death of Lincoln have had a such profound impact on the U.S., which sadly continues to this day.

On the other hand, as we travel through the South and the border states, we can take joy that the sun is shinning in. As we travel through this region, it is important that we understand the complex history here, as described above, as we want to be fair to all sides.

Today, we see the U.S. flag being proudly displayed all over the South. Thirty years ago, a traveller seldom saw the U.S. flag flown in the South, except from post offices and other Federal government buildings. Although wounds remain, the North and South have become one country. Today, in Dr. Voyageur's opinion, relations between the races have become much better in the South than in many northern cities.

The southern anthem "Dixie", by the way, was written in New York City.

"War between the States" used here is a compromise. "Civil War" is more commonly used in the North. "War of Northern Aggression", of course, is a southern term.

Continue your Route 66 trip with Part VII: Virginia to Washington, D.C..

Go to >> Route 66, part I: Introduction
Go to >> Part II: Santa Monica to Las Vegas
Go to >> Part III: Las Vegas to Albuquerque
Go to >> Part IV: Albuquerque to the Mississippi River
Go to >> Part V: Mississippi River to Virginia
Go to >> Part VI: Understanding the War Between the States
Go to >> Part VII: Virginia to Washington, D.C.
Go to >> Part VIII: Washington, D.C. to New York City
Go to >> Part IX: Planning your Route 66 trip


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