(above, a Civil War Union Veterans Parade in Ashland, Oregon, approximately in the 1890's.)
After thirty hours the Federal commander, Major Robert Anderson, surrendered.
It began as a war devised in my opinion by a few southern politicians, the landed interests they represented, and the northern politicans and cohorts who either appeased or profited from slavery, to leave the Union---and maintain the "peculiar institution" of slavery in the bargain. It only ended when it had been made clear by Mr. Lincoln that slavery could no longer exist as a protected economic vehicle inside the United States.
Ratification of the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, ending slavery and giving citizenship rights to all citizens born in America, was the price the former rebel states paid after the war when they rejoined the Union.
The price for the bondage of four million African souls and all those who came in chains to America prior to 1861, was borne by both sides in the conflict, North and South, white soldier and (in the Union forces) black soldiers as well.
As Abraham Lincoln put it in his great speech in his Second Inaugural Address four years after the first...
"One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.
"Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged..."
"Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
Lincoln himself was one of the last to pay with his life in that war for this cause.
That was not the end of the story of course and the conflict that is so long ago still instills bitterness and revisionism in some quarters. The great myth of "The Lost Cause" began shortly afterwards to console those who had loyalties to the Dixie States that thier fight was not about oppression but somehow about tariffs or states rights or whatever--anything but the prime motive, profitting from the labor of the uncompensated and unfree.
True, as I'm sure a friendd has told me quite a few times on this matter, many young southern men who fought did not own slaves and many union men who fought for the Grand Old Republic hated blacks. But there was a deeper truth to the conflict, sensed by Lincoln before the war started when he said: "a nation cannot exist half slave and half free, it must be either one or the other."
The argument will go n in some quarters as long as the country lasts. One thing is sure: many hundreds of thousands on both sides paid dearly in those four years. And to be ignorant of this conflict is to be ignorant of many of the political problems America faces even today, especially the attitudes toward government power.
Some states and their citizens were luckier than those in others. In the far Northwest, the state of Oregon had only been admitted to the Union in 1859. Its state constitution forbade slavery but also made it a criminal offense for black men and women to emigrate to the new state. This is more measure of the hatred and bigotry that some legislators of "free soil" states, including Lincoln's home state of Illinois, had for those who were liberated from un-remitted toil and status as little more than chattel property.
The article below is from "The Ashland (Oregon) Daily Tidings", published on April 8 of this year and refers to a talk given by local historian Jeff Lalande about the effect the war had on a distant Pacific-shored state.
No battle of the Civil War was fought in Southern Oregon, but feelings on both sides ran high. Backers of the secessionist South, who concentrated in the Jacksonville-Gold Hill area, nearly came to blows many times with abolitionist Union immigrants, clustered in Ashland, Talent and Phoenix, historians say.
Ashland tended to be the settling place of "kindred spirits" from the Oregon Trail who knew a lot of the same people back home in the Midwest, says LaLande, ticking off the family names of Beeson, Helman and Applegate, "the movers and shakers" of Ashland.
Museum director Victoria Law says immigrants from the South were engaged prosperously in gold mining here, while immigrants from the upper Midwest settled into the farming life.
"The war was far away," says Law, "but the feelings were intense and often pitted neighbor against neighbor and community against community. A lot of immigrants came from the South, including a lot of the gold miners in Jacksonville — and they were pro-slavery and pro-secessionist."
One "very ardent secessionist" was William T'Vault of Gold Hill, the first newspaper editor in Oregon and the first speaker of the Oregon House, she says.
"Northern Oregon people called Southern Oregon 'Little Dixie,' " says Law, adding that there was a riot in Roseburg in which secessionists killed nine Union sympathizers.
"There was a lot of speech-making here and threats to tear down each other's flags."
The political parties in 1861, says Law, "were the reverse of now, with the Republicans being the progressive party."
The pro-slavery South was Democratic and the abolitionist Union, home of Abraham Lincoln, was Republican.
Most of the men in Ashland were involved in the war in some way, with many joining the Ashland Mountain Rangers, "the first militia here, formed to protect Southern Oregon from secessionists," says Law.
The Union built Camp Baker in Phoenix so the militia could drill and be prepared for battle, says Law, who has located 59 Civil War burials in Jackson County — only three of them veterans of the Confederacy.
Camp Baker, says LaLande, was a small post, not a fort, and served as a military presence of volunteer cavalry and infantry after the regular army went off to war.
They protected settlers from "depredations" of the Klamath Indians, who began coming over the Cascades after original American Indians here were shipped off to the Siletz and Grande Ronde reservations on the Oregon Coast, LaLande says. A bronze plaque marks the site of the camp today.
"There was fear some locals might prove disloyal (to the Union)," he says.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at email@example.com.
A song from the period, performed by the popular and controversial 1950's and 60s folk group The Weavers.