This is how the American Civil War got its name

Mildred Europa Taylor July 04, 2022
Image via American Battlefield Trust

American Civil War was a four-year war between the United States and 11 Southern states that seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. The conflict was the bloodiest and most expensive war ever fought on American soil as it killed some 620,000 and injured millions, destroying much of the South.

The Civil War started in 1861 following years of agitations between northern and southern states over slavery, states’ rights and westward expansion, according to History. In 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was elected, seven southern states seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. Four additional states joined them. The war would eventually end when the Confederates surrendered in 1865.

“Rebellion”, “protest”, “riot”, or “insurrection,” were some of the terms used to describe what we now call the Civil War. In April 1861 when Confederate troops opened fire on Fort Sumter, which was the first encounter of the war, President Lincoln described what happened as an “insurrection”, according to historian Gaines M. Foster.

Months later, he started calling it “rebellion”. Confederates and some northerners preferred “abolition war”. At the time, many in the Midwest viewed the conflict as “an unholy, unchristian, unjust Abolition War,” according to The Macon Daily Telegraph cited by JSTOR Daily.

Frederick Douglass was also all for “abolition war” based on his argument that the war was about abolition. He believed that in order to preserve the nation and the Constitution, slavery should be abolished.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the “War of Aggression” was adopted by some southerners. Indeed, years after the war ended, there was no one particular term being used to describe it. Some southerners preferred the “Confederate War for Independence,” or the “Confederate War” before most agreed on the “War between the States.” According to Foster, polls showed the upper-class and well-educated used it most, “which probably reflected the strength of the Lost Cause among the white South’s elite at that time.”

Northerners used “rebellion” during and immediately after the war. However, when Reconstruction — an effort to reunify the divided nation and integrate African Americans into society after the war — was stamped out, and Jim Crow began, the northerners decided to overcome their differences with the southerners by adopting a neutral term.

“Civil War” became the most common name by the 1890s and between 1905 and 1911, Congress made it virtually the official name. The United Daughters of the Confederacy campaigned for “War between the States” to be the name of the war but failed.

By 1907, “Civil War” was the favorite term for many Americans, per polls. “Civil War” promoted “reconciliation, deemphasized the role of slavery and allowed both sides to hold to their interpretation of the conflict, thereby helping obscure the war’s meaning,” Foster wrote.

History notes that by the end of the Civil War in 1865, about 179,000 Black men, that is 10% of the Union Army, served as soldiers in the U.S. Army while another 19,000 served in the Navy. In fact, almost 40,000 Black soldiers died during the war. Black soldiers served in artillery and infantry and were involved in all non-combat support functions.

But due to prejudice against these Blacks, black units were not used in combat as heavily as they should have been. Still, these Black soldiers fought courageously in several battles.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 4, 2022


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