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Then We'll Go Start Our Own Country!


South Carolina decides no more U.S.A. for them
We were driving along in South Carolina listening to talk radio. The topic of discussion was the presidential election mess. One of the callers suggested that if Al Gore was to become President, people should start a civil warto protest. I don't agree, but it did get me thinking about why a civil war would begin and why it did begin back in 1861.

South Carolina was actually the first state to secede, or leave the Union. This was very soon after Abraham Lincoln was elected President. The people of South Carolina were not such big fans of Lincoln. They did not want him to be president, but he won with votes from the North.

Institute Hall in Charleston, South Carolina
People still debate the exact causes of the "War Between the States," as it is called. The North and the South at this time were like two different countries. Slavery, of course, was a huge issue. If there were no slavery, there would have been no war.

Yet, on the other hand, if you asked the soldiers of the war why they were fighting, I bet only a small number of them would say they were fighting for or against slavery. They felt it was more about protecting their own ways of life. The North and South were such different places at the time that each side felt threatened by the other.

The differences between the people of the north and south were more than just what they ate for breakfast or the kind of clothes they wore. It was all the differences in their daily activities and the ways that they made money and …well, basically it was like this:

The South was based on farming that depended on the labor of enslaved Africans. There were approximately 9 million people living in the South at that time and nearly 4 million of these people were enslaved. And even though the majority of people did not own slaves, it was definitely a major part of the Southern way of life.

The North had a great number of factories and more miles of railroad than the rest of the countries of the world combined. Southern states were losing political power and felt that each state should make its own laws. This is what came to be known as "state's rights." The North believed in the strength of the Union and wanted to keep it together.

The Alabama State Capitol-where the confederate government began
When Lincoln was elected, he promised to keep the country united and the new western territories free from slavery. Southerners felt he did not understand their way of life. After South Carolina seceded, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas were soon to follow.

Then, in February of 1861, these states banded together to form a new government called the Confederate States of America (CSA). Jefferson Davis was elected president. Montgomery, Alabama was established as the first confederate capital.

Becky stands where Davis' gave his inauguration speech… the crowds go wild
Davis' inauguration was like a big party, with citizens on the streets cheering, cannons booming, a band playing "Dixie" over and over again, and even a woman dancing on top of the U.S. flag.

When the Confederacy was created, it flew its own flag, called The Stars and Bars. The new government came up with its own Constitution, which was very similar to the U.S. Constitution. Except, of course, the confederates put in a section about the right to own slaves.

Neda gracefully frolics down the stairs of the Capitol
Davis was a former war secretary, decorated veteran and hero of the Mexican War. He was a plantation owner from Mississippi who had turned to politics. Another fun fact about Davis: he is remembered for his idea to use camels instead of horses for cavalry patrols in the southwest desert. It didn't catch on, but Arizona residents still hold camel races once a year.

Montgomery: the Confederacy's first home
But we are in Alabama and there are no camels here. Becky and I went to Montgomery to check out the Alabama State Capitol, which served as the headquarters of the early confederacy. We also took a tour of the first White House of the Confederacy. The buildings were quite nice. Not such a bad gig that good ole' Jeff Davis had going on. Except for the fact that the South lost, of course.

Neda knocks on the door of the Confederate White House-sadly, Davis was not home
So there you have it. That's how and where the Confederacy was formed and why the Civil War started The American Civil War was the deadliest war in our country's history.

Which makes me glad that most people don't share the view of that talk show caller.


Please email me at: neda@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Stephanie - Dred Scott: "a simple man who wanted to be free"
Daphne - Bloodshed in Kansas: we're part of the war now, Toto

Daphne - Abraham Lincoln: A log cabin boy wonder!