“Perspectives” on the Civil War

Posted on September 3, 2008 by


Noting two (see 1 & 2 ) different blog posts that mention a relatively recent newspaper article, I began to think about the reasons for giving a “sectional perspective” of the Civil War.

In this article there is something about one of the goals of the SCV. Granted, the words appear to be that of the author of the article, yet, the idea of the term “Southern perspective” must have been conveyed to the author in some manner. Nevertheless, over the next several years, the organization will be presenting a “Southern perspective” of the war. Yet, as in the case of presenting a “Northern perspective,” how valuable is this, really, in the delivery of good, factual history? But let’s take what we have on-hand here, with this article.

In the context in which it is used, I see the word “perspective” as “cognitive perspective,” and that, in itself, could prove problematic.  Is the “Southern perspective” of the war a “perspective” of some of those who lived during the war or a “perspective” of some of those same people after the war. Is it “perspective” of some people, living today, in the way that they “feel” about the war… or is it not really “perspective” at all but more accurately the the way that some of these same people interpret and “feel” about the history of the war?

In any of the possibilities listed, I see problems, that is, unless the “Southern perspective” of the war is all-inclusive or a true representation of all of the people in the South. If one is acting in third-person and telling the “perspective” of someone who experienced the war, I see nothing wrong. If someone is acting in the first-person, having memorized the written “perspective” of someone who experienced the war, I see nothing wrong. I do see problems with someone, in general conversation, speaks as if he is delivering “perspective” of the war as if he had lived at the time of the war. I could go on and on with this, but it isn’t necessary.

Considering the books made available by this organization, through their website, a precedence is being set. One might say that everything there is “pro-Southern,” but that wouldn’t really be true. Therefore, is everything there “pro-Confederate?” Maybe, but not necessarily. Isn’t a Confederate veteran a Confederate veteran, whether he enlisted, was conscripted, deserted, stuck-it-out to the end, etc.? Yet, if he did not agree with the “Cause” and did whatever he could not to be a part of it, even after being forced into the ranks, would not calling him a “Confederate Veteran be a misrepresentation of the man and that in which he really believed? Might calling this person a “Confederate Veteran” be contrary to the way that same person wanted to be remembered? Anyway, everything on the list of books must be “pro”…. some line of thought. But again, is it representative of “Southern perspective?”

Apparently, this takes us back to the earlier discussion of the definition of “Southern perspective.” If it is indeed, all-inclusive and representative of the Southern people as a whole, then the use of the phrase is misleading, for what we are seeing in the list of available books is not all-inclusive of the Southern people. There is nothing about Southern Unionists, Confederate deserters, free blacks who were forced to help the Confederacy, disaffected Confederates, etc., etc., etc.

So, in the end, in the manner in which the phrase “Southern perspective” is used, there is a problem and that problem is that there is the distinct absence of one word… “balanced.” If the word “balanced” and the actual commitment to being balanced remains absent from “telling the “Southern perspective,” then saying that a person or organization is telling the “Southern perspective” would be a lie.