Book Review: 1861 The Civil War Awakening

I haven’t finished reading this book, but I am far enough along in what I have read of it, that I can present a decent blog comment about it.  First of all, the politics of slavery:  both north and south benefited from slavery.  There was also the racism behind maintaining the status quo of slavery.  Just as wealth and a “new” aristocracy of the American kind was developed around and achieved by forced labor.  Secession in the year of 1861 was based as much on maintaining that status quo at all costs and of refusing the right of the federal government and known abolitionists, to tell the south what it could and could not do.

The Democrats circa the mid 19th century opposed the election of “black” Republicans such as Abraham Lincoln.  Deeming that if the African-American slaves were freed, they would make a run for public office, even the White House itself.  More than a hundred years after the fact, the Democratic party would applaud and vote for the descendents of slaves into those very same public offices.  It does say a great deal about how time does change certain political opinions and positions.

What is also interesting, is Adam Goodheart’s bringing to life the assorted bit players, and placing them into the drama of the first year of the Civil War.  In Missouri and prior to the Civil War, there was established a German immigrant settlement.  Oh, and the German immigrants, well they were known Socialists.  Seems that Karl Marx was already very active in pushing for social and economic equality under “scientific” rationales.  Before the German socialists immigrated to this country, they had sought to take part in social revolutions throughout Europe.  And found, that only in this country were they free to speak their minds.  Of interest, Thomas Paine had only been dead about two or three decades when Marx and Engels started writing their social revolutionary philosophy.  And I should not doubt in the least, that both men had access to his written legacy, plus a clear memory of the French revolution, and the promises of the American revolution to draw upon.  Well, in this country, a people who argue economic and social equality, would find slavery to be anathema.  They joined wholesale the Republican “Wide Awake” movement, and voted for Abe Lincoln.  The fact that the early years of the GOP had some decidedly socialist roots?  If Mr. Goodheart’s research is quite factual, then that would indeed be the case.  i am wondering too, about the immigrant Herrmanns who came to this country and founded the Harman family?  Did they hold a politically socialist view?  Did Germany become a country too hot for them to live in any longer?  It would be interesting to find that out.  As it is, my family on Dad’s side, are known to be politically radical.  So maybe, it isn’t so hard to imagine after all.

Mr. Goodheart gives his readers the inside description of the events of For Sumter.  Just as he discusses the westward settlements of California and secessionist movements that reached the Pacific coastline.  The transcontinental railroad became a reality during the Civil War as did an ever expanding telegraph service. 

What was also interesting, the southern slave holders wanted to conquer non American countries, in order to “open up” new slave states.  Something that you don’t read about in standard history books.  I am sure that I fully understand why.  A hundred or so years after the fact, and the whole idea of slavery and an economy built entirely on the idea of slavery, becomes a shameful period in American history.  The idea that we could “buy” or otherwise conquer countries to keep expanding the slave state, would be even more shameful.  But apparently, that was the thought of the Southern slave holders who wanted, I am sure, the opportunity to create their own private fiefdoms.

The Southern secessionist movement created strategic blunders.  Attacking Fort Sumter in the Charleston, North Carolina harbor, unquestionably unified the North.  It was what President Lincoln apparently counted on, when he sent relief tug boats to the tiny garrison stationed there.  Also, when Missouri was about to go the way of the Southern secessionist movement, the German socialists got up in arms and very bloodily prevented that from happening.  Wow!

All in all, a book well worth reading.

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2 Responses to “Book Review: 1861 The Civil War Awakening”

  1. Erwin D. Horton Says:

    Yankees and Northerners predominated in the westward movement into the Midwestern territory after the American Revolution; as the states were organized, they voted to prohibit slavery in their constitutions when they achieved statehood: Ohio in 1803, Indiana in 1816, and Illinois in 1818. What developed into a Northern block of free states united into one contiguous geographic area that generally shared an anti-slavery culture. The exceptions were areas along the Ohio River settled by Southerners, for instance, the southern portions of states such as Indiana, Ohio and Illinois, leading those areas generally to share in Southern culture and positions.

  2. Abel Burke Says:

    enfeebled health would permit, I have been engaged in various parts of the country, speaking concerning my own experience and escape from slavery, and lecturing, as well as I could, about slavery generally; thus doing my best for many who are still enduring what a merciful Providence has rescued me from.

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