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There is a common misinterpretation that is continually perpetuated in America today that the civil war was solely waged to free and aid the slaves. Yet the Union’s proclamation of emancipation was a catalyst to winning the war for the cause of keeping the states united, not the other way around. Through a thorough investigation of documented opinions and conversations, one can clearly take the stance that most of the Union did not fight for comrades or for the abolishment of slavery, but instead to reign in the disobedient South. Both sides undoubtedly had varying and common reasons within the Union and the Confederacy. For the most part though, the South was fighting for the cause of keeping their customs and living conditions alive and thriving, which for them meant disbanding from the the progressive and industrial North. On the other hand the Union was split between racist soldiers who fought for the cause of preserving their great and united nation, with those who were committed to aiding their black comrades. Undoubtably though both side’s soldiers fought full heartedly to gain or maintain control of the South.
The true reason the Union entered in a war against the Confederacy was because as Lincoln said “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”, for he feared that the whole government would crumble if it were divided and he refused that outcome. Lincoln was an extremely intelligent man, especially in regards to political tactics for “with the emancipation proclamation, Lincoln turned a limited war for reunion into a total war against slavery” (Biography of America, Civil War). During a time when rights were being debated and missionaries were spread throughout the country, Lincoln knew that he would have the majorities side against the confederacy. For in the North there were those who did not want the South to succeed and there were those who thought slavery was morally wrong and needed to be ended; with both sides Lincoln was sure to have a large amount of support. In addition to this Lincoln would have the support of the already freed slaves in the North as well as the ones who would thereafter escape there, by allowing African Americans to fight against the Confederacy. The reason for going to war was to keep the Union together but ultimately the reason white men enlisted in the North was spread out between helping comrades and the cause to stop the Confederate succession. It should be mentioned that there was still racism in the North, as a man once wrote “I am quite sure there is not one man in ten but would feel himself degraded if negro equality is to be the order in the field of battle” (Public Opposition to use of Black Troops, 1862). This is not saying that every soldier or Northerner was a racist, as many were actually excited to see slaves in their troops; but it must be made aware that not everyone in the North was against slavery or specifically equality. In addition to this, Lincoln reinforced in his Getty’s Burg Address, the aims of the Union’s primary cause to be that “this nation … shall have a new birth of freedom; and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth.”.  This reminds the audience that the cause of the war is to keep a good government for the people unbroken and helped to rally morale for getting soldiers to join the war.
The only comrades that the Southerner’s thought of were their families and friends who were either starving back at home or who were dying beside them. The yankees had pillaged their farms and towns, leaving them and their families with limited supplies. As the Union planned, this diminished the Confederates spirits. Similarly to the Union, the Confederacy rallied behind keeping the South as well; for they did not want to adopt Northern culture which they felt was going to be pushed on them. The plantation owners were enjoying the profits of free labor and refused to industrialize like the North. Even in 2017, when taking the AM Trak Train past Virgina from New Jersey there is a stop to switch the engines from electric (Northern electric railroads) to steam (Southern railroad system). As stubborn as they are today for switching to a faster system, they were during the Civil War about giving up their right to hold property and have property in the form of slaves. Before the spirits of the Confederacy were demolished by the Union, there was a period when both sides were taking bad losses; “one reason the war was so bloody is because men on both sides were fighting for a cause they believed in” (Biography of America, Civil War). The Southerners truly just wanted to keep their lifestyles intact and keep what they lawfully thought was theirs. Losing their slaves meant losing the value of the slave in worth and the profit he brings to the work, which is why the South did not feel it could suffer such a loss. In addition to this, they in some cases believed they were better than the African American and were racist due to a cultural bias against African Americans. Thus the war for the Confederate South was for a cause of keeping their lifestyles, beliefs, values, and some’s profit untouched.
The Civil War could not have come at a more opportune time for the North, as it fell smack in the middle of an era of enlightenment and suffrage movements. Thus it became Lincoln’s hidden weapon, for involving such a controversial topic (equality for all) as part of the reason for the war, which would only aid in the support of the Union. Now white men who wanted to help free the slaves could literally do so by demolishing the southern plantations and ravaging them of their supplies. Now African American’s could join their fellow comrades in the march against their oppressors. Unlike those who were white, who were divided by such trivial things as gender or wealth; almost all African American’s were united by a common struggle and savage treatment they had faced. In slavery men and women were both treated to the same demeaning hard labor in the fields, and therefore could share a common pain with all of the former slaves. It was this outstanding bond that led such vast numbers of African Americans to join the Union troops, for they had no reason to feel any loyalty to the North or South, except to unite to help their comrades. This connection of having suffered similar fates and tragedies and still having to suffer them if they could not free their comrades gave them the power to fire at their previous masters; for “by the end of the war 180,000 African Americans had served in the Army” (Biography of America, Civil War). Even when the North had felt like the war was never going to end and were tired of the deaths, Lincoln refused to drop the emancipation proclamation as one of the requirements for peace. He did this because over 130 thousand African Americans were then fighting for the union, and he would not betray them.” (Biography of America, Reconstruction), knowing that they were determined in their quest for freedom for each other.
Depending on geographical region and political side in the Union or Confederate debate, the answers would carry for whether the Civil War soldiers fought for comrades or for a cause. In both cases it was stronger for white Southerners and Northerners to be fighting for the cause to keep the south. Yet some Northerners fought in an aid to help free slaves or put an end to slavery. In many cases freed slaves or slaves who had run away from the South joined the Union and turned right back to fight. In this way, the African Americans truly fought for their comrades, but also for the cause of equality. As expected, the South fought more for the cause of keeping slavery as well, while the North’s majority were anti-slavery.
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