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The Motives For Which They Fought

2508 words - 11 pages

The Motives for Which They Fought
The reasons given for why Civil War soldiers fought were abundant, but in among the vast array of motives, only a few could be taken into careful consideration. Some historians agree that the main interest for both the North and South was political in nature, arguing that if the government fell, so would the future and characteristics of both nations. Consequently, some of the many diaries and personal accounts profess that soldiers felt an overwhelming sense of duty, which extended first to their closest relatives and friends, this being the central driving force motivating them to enlist. However, what surely remains is thousands on both sides gave up ...view middle of the document...

It was then that many soldiers came to a decision that gave them a cause for action. As the struggle deepened, the diaries suggested that many of the initial political reasons changed as the fighting progressed. Conversely, the cause for many who fought had remained constant throughout the war.
The two authors, McPherson and Sheehan-Dean, illustrate many of the political reasons that invoked men on both sides to enlist. Both authors point out that all the men in the beginning who joined both sides were volunteers. Voluntary enlistment could be significant, when considering that they fought out of their own free will. These shared beliefs by those in 1861, makes one question the specific reasons why these men justified within their own minds, an idea of such great importance, that they would freely give up their entire existence to protect their interests.
When examining political ideology, one could write a long list of motivations connected to the reasons for why they endured such grinding hardship. One main feature could have been the underlying social pressure from society that was placed on those who enlisted, that reflected a want to fulfill a duty and responsibility in service of country. Many in a close community could question, or look down on a man who was unwilling to stand up and protect his family from harm. Many of these soldiers could have thought the same, reasoning that; protecting their family meant to fight for their country.
McPherson stresses the evidence that the soldiers in the North, were certain that “Republican Liberty” was worth dying for, even towards the last days of the war. Northerners view of liberty was to defend the republican freedoms that some in the Union felt were handed down to them from a preceding lineage of generational heritage. Thus, the importance of family was due to the closeness to the period between the American Revolution, and 1861. What many of their grandparents fought for generated a sense that they were indeed part of something great, which was sure to endure. Interestingly, the South upheld similar ideals of liberty, but in an exceptionally different fashion.
The South’s investment in slavery inclined many Southerners to have a point of view that was very different with those in the Union. Both authors illustrate how both sides perceived a strong gratitude owed to the Founding Fathers, and the heritage of the Revolution. However, it is agreed that the Founding Fathers view of liberty was somewhat differing from those in new Confederate nation. McPherson brings up the point of how the Founding Fathers were not entirely satisfied with holding slaves, while fighting a war of independence. Nevertheless, the North and South had equal and opposing views on the slavery issue. The author stated that, Confederates claimed “to fight for liberty and independence from a tyrannical government,” while, Unionists sought “to preserve the nation conceived in liberty from...

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