Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Coming Fury. Bruce Catton. (1)

The Centennial History of the Civil War. Vol. One. The Coming Fury (1). Bruce Catton. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.1961.

Why read it? Although the official Washington line was that preserving the Union was the chief goal of the Civil War, the emotional reason was the issue of slavery. Oddly, and many people of the South knew it, slavery was obsolete because the country was becoming industrialized. There was no way that the South could win because it had remained a rural section of the country while the North had the advantage of industrialized resources. But the South had heart, as revealed in the following quote by Robert E. Lee: “I prefer annihilation to submission. They may destroy but I trust will never conquer us.” p. 472.

When South Carolina seceded and the rest of the Southern states followed, all chance for settlement by negotiation was ended. When the Southern capital was moved from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia, only 100 miles from Washington, the North thought it would win easily. Take Richmond, and the heart of the South would collapse. The Battle of Bull Run, witnessed by picnickers, and concluded with a disorderly rout of Union troops, ended the North’s belief in their superiority and began the entire nation’s understanding of the meaning of war.

An interesting note is the composition of the Northern and Southern presidential Cabinets. Lincoln chose the most forceful leaders, even though he knew they would disagree with him. Davis chose his Cabinet looking for decision by consensus.

Sample quotes and Ideas:

Slavery was the issue. On both sides of the issue men were not trying to persuade so much as giving vent to emotion. p. 17. ………. Owen Lovejoy: “Slavery…was the sum of all villainies, worse than robbery, worse than piracy, worse than polygamy: ‘It has the violence of robbery, the blood and cruelty of piracy, it has the offensive and brutal lusts of polygamy, all combined, and concentrated in itself.’ ” p. 23. ………. Most did not think that war would occur. p. 24.

“At Charleston and at Baltimore the South had taken its stand. It would remain the South, separate and unalterable. He who could not subscribe to that fact would be an enemy.” p. 78. ………. “Men’s motives…are mixed and obscure, and none of the many separate decisions which brought war to America in 1861 is wholly explicable.” p. 79.

“The long voyage across the sea to America lies embedded in the subconscious memory of every American. It was a hard trip even under the best of conditions, and many people died trying to achieve it, but it was made more tolerable by the unvoiced promise that lay at the end. After it was made, its hardships and dangers faded slowly out of sight, because those who came were volunteers led on by hope, and there was something in the New World to justify that hope after the trip had ended.” p. 81. ………. “But for the Negro it had been different. The trip itself was worse—fearfully, unspeakably worse—and what came after it was very little better than the trip itself. The institution of slavery had become comparatively benign, to be sure, but it was still slavery: a vast system of forced labor that sustained the economy of half a continent, offering to those who labored no prospect whatever for a better life. To the Negro, hope was denied. There was only survival bought at the price of surrendering human dignity. The Negro had to remain what he was, his mere presence a mocking denial of the nation’s basic belief in freedom and the advancement of the human spirit. He was the one man in America who could not be allowed a share in America’s meaning.” p. 81.

Slavery was obsolete because the country was becoming industrialized. p. 83. ………. The Presidential campaign of 1860 did not help solve the problem of slavery, it only intensified the problem. p. 87. ………. Douglas who would have been a friend to the South was rejected by the South as a candidate. p. 89. ..........“Parades and loud noises were taking the place of reasoned discussion.” p. 97. ………. “The showdown [over slavery] might have shattering impact, but it would have to come.” p. 99.

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