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Monday, October 10, 2011

Takes Time to Reflect on the 150th Anniversary of U.S. Civil War

Our nation went to war against itself 150 years ago. Many in the South felt they could no longer tolerate policies enacted by the federal government they perceived to violate their rights as states protected in the Constitution. Many in the North felt the South had been acting like a spoiled child that only asked for more.  Many of the federal policies enacted were put in place as a compromise, meant to keep a balance between the slave holding South and the free North. Everything came to a head with the Presidential Election of 1860.  Several Southern states followed through on their promise to leave the Union if Abraham Lincoln was elected and war shortly followed.

Civil War Map courtesy of
The United States has cautiously approached the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. Several newspapers and websites have created special Civil War sections. Federal and state governments have struggled with how to remember the Civil War.  The specter of slavery and racism casts a shadow that is still felt today. In this age of political correctness some are afraid to speak about the war for fear of offending another’s sensitivities. Others state slavery had nothing to do with the war.  Having the extreme opposites in opinion dictate to the majority can lead to trouble. 

The reality is that the American Civil War should be remembered for what it was. Next to the American Revolution, it is the most important event in our history. Before the war many Americans saw themselves as citizens of states first, especially in the South. The war eradicated slavery, helped open the country to more industrialization and transportation with the growth of railroads and helped unite people into being Americans first. Six future presidents served with Union armies during the Civil War. The American Civil War also gave us our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.

It is important to remember the war and the impact it had on our nation. Thousands of books have been written and numerous websites are dedicated to the subject if you don’t want to leave the comforts of home.  For those that enjoy travel, there are museums and battlefields across the country. Those opportunities are closer than you think if you live in Nebraska. Battlefields can be experienced as close as Kansas and Missouri. Museums have or will have sections dedicated to the war and its impact. Across the river in Council Bluffs, Iowa, is the Dodge House, former home of Grenville Dodge. Dodge is most famous for his work with the railroads. He served in the in what was known as the Western Theater of the Civil War. The Durham Museum in Omaha had an Abraham Lincoln collection last winter.

When you break everything down, the people, the decisions they made and the impact they had on our nation are fascinating. Abraham Lincoln became our greatest president yet for was born in poverty. He worked hard to improve himself, learned from his mistakes and treated people fairly. He also suffered from depression throughout his life, saw two sons die and hundreds of thousands were killed as a direct result of his election.  Robert E. Lee was the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia from 1862-1865. History remembers him as one of America’s greatest battlefield generals. He was a member of one of the first families of Virginia. His father accumulated a crushing debt and forced Robert and his family out of their plantation home. Both his mother and wife were sickly people. He loved cats. Everyday people are perhaps the most fascinating. What compelled a poor cotton farmer from Georgia to join the fight for slavery and States rights?  Why would Ely Parker, a member of the Seneca Tribe, choose to serve with the Union Army and how did he come to play a role at the Confederate surrender at Appomattox?  It is the people, the decisions they made and the impact they had on our country that make remembering the Civil War so important.  Please take the time to learn a little about Civil War during the 150th Anniversary.
– population-we™ blog post by Ron Wiley
© 2011 population-we, LLC 

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  1. Ron does bring out the decisions by people who were in many ways ordinary that collectively changed the course of our country. Lincoln has been studied from every angle. In recent years, people have started to say he was not the great Emancipator as was thought. I learned within the last few years that he said that if slavery is not wrong that nothing is wrong.

  2. Ron: Welcome to the population-we™ team! No matter if our readers might be for the North or the South -- wonderful job paying our respects to all those who fought for our liberties some 150 years ago. We’re excited to learn more about this topic and especially to have you on board as our official pop-we Civil War Blogger and Historian.