(As I posted this article, I suddenly realized that I had posted a very similar article two years ago. Please forgive me for being repetitious. It tends to go with age.)
My grandfather Jordan and his five brothers all served in the Confederate army. It disturbs me that today many people try to label my Civil War ancestors as traitors.
Little more than eighty years prior to 1861 these men’s own forefathers had fought for freedom from British rule. Now their sons and grandsons were fighting to separate themselves from the northern states. The union was thought of as a voluntary association of states. Why couldn’t they leave the union?
In 1861, a man’s loyalty was to family, community, state, and nation in that order. The nation was rather far down the totem pole. When secession happened, a southerner faced a dilemma. He had to be a traitor to his family, community and state or to the nation. Northerners had no such problem.
Were southerners fighting for a good cause? Of course not! But slavery in the south was a matter of history and geography. It was highly profitable for the large plantation owners, and these wealthy men usually controlled the machinery of government. When the institution was threatened, they pushed for secession. Slaveholding was not profitable in the north. Had it been so, I am certain that slavery would have continued in that part of the country as well. I seriously doubt that northerners were morally superior to their brothers in the south.
If the south had successfully seceded, I’m virtually certain that slavery would have ended there before 1890. The tides of civilization were against it, even in those places where it remained economically profitable.
These men who fought for the South should be evaluated in the context of their time and place. They were not traitors.