This letter seeks to correct an assertion in the July 16 letter by Culpeper resident Kris Deal, “County board lacks courage; buries their head in red clay.”
Deal’s letter states, “let it be known that the Civil War was fought over Southern states’ intentions to preserve the institution of slavery. That is it.”
No, that is not it. The preservation of slavery was without question the driving force behind the Southern states’ decision to secede from the Union. The South believed the U.S. Constitution gave them that right.
The Union, essentially, said “No, it doesn’t,” and invaded to force the Southern states back into the Union. The preservation of the Union was what the Civil War was fought over, and the fact that the slaves were freed in the process is possibly the only silver lining to that brutal, bloody time.
If anyone would like primary-resource documentation for this assertion, look no further than President Abraham Lincoln’s Aug. 22, 1862, letter to Horace Greeley, in which he wrote: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it.”
It’s important historically to note that Lincoln’s “oft-expressed personal wish” was that “all men everywhere could be free”—but that was not the Union’s justification for invasion.
(Editor’s note: Ms. Lawrence’s assessment leaves out the critical role of African Americans, enslaved and free, in gaining their freedom in a war that was about slavery. Freeing enslaved people may not have been the government’s stated intent. But it was a major outcome of the Civil War.)