11 April 2011

Did the Ordinance of Secession "Start" the Civil War?

During a conversation with Dr. Larry Rowland in the BDC Research Room a couple of months ago, the subject of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration came up.

Dr. Rowland maintains that the Ordinance of Secession did not cause the start of the Civil War; the firing on Fort Sumter caused the Civil War. If cooler heads had prevailed, he said, the United States government just might have let the seceded states go peaceably. The firing on the federal fort is what made concession impossible.

I am certain that all of us will hear about and/or read about a broad variety of opinions, points of view, and/or brisk discussions about this and other Civil War ("War of Northern Aggression," "War of Southern Independence," "the War of the Rebellion," or even "the Late Unpleasantness") related documents, battles, activities, and events over the course of the next 4 1/2 years. And this is a good thing. It challenges the mind. It opens one up to different perspectives. It allows one to perhaps see matters in a new light; perhaps to have one's opinion confirmed; perhaps to change one's former opinion; perhaps just to entertain oneself.

The goal is to keep learning, regardless of one's age.

For example, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History offers "New Interpretations of the Civil War" in their final 2010 issue of their online journal, History Now. Essays by leading historians, Eric Foner, Catherine Clinton, Matthew Pinsker, and Bruce Levine, advocate a serious reexamination of the Civil War from a left of political center perspective.

Carologue, a publication of the South Carolina Historical Society began highlighting the commemoration in its Fall 2010 issue.

For a long list of links to Civil War related organizations, try these suggestions from "Shotgun," who says "I am a Southerner by birth and a Rebel by choice. As I read and study, I pull for Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet. As I live, I thank Grant, Lincoln, and Democracy." When you read some of Shotgun's opinions, you will find that the tone is quite different than the tone found in the material posted by the Gilder Lehrman Institute.

Louisiana State University Libraries has a Special Collections Civil War Center that serves as an excellent portal to books, manuscript collections, and exhibits on some facet of the American Civil War. (I always scavenge their quarterly book reviews for any new books on our local conditions during the Civil War. Perhaps you'll find something of interest to you -- and then can use SCLENDS or Interlibrary Loan service to secure a copy.)

There are loads of other sites to explore - and I'll mention more from time to time.

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