Is defining the war as a sectional crisis problematic?

Posted on April 20, 2009 by

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I’m thinking through this, but let’s give something some thought…

I wonder if looking at the war as a sectional crisis has presented a problem (especially in terms of “historical memory”) in not only defining the people within those sections but understanding just how complex the history of the war really is.

The geographical borders laid out for us on a map show it as a sectional crisis. Yet, with the exception of the border states (and, of course, Delaware), slavery defined that map, but not necessarily all of the people within those boundaries. While people can clearly see that the nation, at least geographically, was divided, I wonder how many are actually unable to see that the people within those areas were divided. A fine example, I think, is the way that some want to say that the “Southern perspective of the war” equates to the “Confederate perspective of the war.” That’s simply a gross distortion of the facts as it does not include the perspectives of slaves, free blacks, Southern Unionists, disillusioned Confederates, disaffected Confederates, or the generally indifferent Southern residents. Of course, telling just the “Confederate perspective” of the war as an element of the “Southern perspective” would not be all that easy either (another argument for another time).

So, seriously, does seeing the war as a sectional conflict (perhaps like taking a document at face value) make it more difficult to explain the complexities of the war?

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