Why Students Should Study the American Civil War
The Civil War was long ago. It happened, the good guys won, slavery ended, and American History marched on, right? Then why is it important to study the Civil War, and to honor those who fought on both sides of the Conflict?
- America had been putting off resolving slavery since 1776. Every attempt resulted in a compromise, leaving the next generation to deal with it. By 1860 we were at the end of the road. Many issues divided the country preceding the Civil War, but slavery was the issue no one was willing to compromise on any further.
- To many, it wasn’t about slavery. Most of the soldiers who fought for the Confederacy were not slaveholders. Many of the South’s political and military leaders opposed both slavery and secession. There were those fighting for the Union that supported the practice, or owned slaves themselves. Until the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War was about reuniting the Union, not freeing the slaves. Many chose sides based on geography, not philosophy.
- The Confederate leaders saw federal government as tyrannical and they themselves as patriots. In the years leading up to the Civil War, the federal government had taken on extra-Constitutional powers – funding transportation projects, taking power away from state and local governments with the Fugitive Slave Act, and supporting tariffs, which protected manufacturers in the North at the expense of the cotton growers in the South. Many supported secession only as a last resort to deal with the out-of-control federal government.
- Just because a person is on the other side of an issue doesn’t make them a bad person. Today, many feel the need to vilify the opposition. Freedom of thought means everyone gets to make up their own mind about issues. Those decisions are made based on personal experiences, unique to the individual making them. Brave men fought on both sides of this war to protect their families, to honor their beliefs, or because they were drafted. All the soldiers that sacrificed during the Civil War deserve to be honored.
- When we study American History, we need to study all American History. Only by understanding the unpleasant parts of our history can we prevent future injustices. I would love to teach only the “fun stuff” or the positive moments, but that would not present the whole picture.
Following the Civil War, the American government made the decision not to prosecute any of the soldiers, officers, or members of the Confederate government for their part in the insurrection, realizing that it was now time for healing. Recently, in the wake of political divisiveness, we are ready to rewrite history, to alter the historical memory of our country to fit the present day political agenda. Learning the true story of the American Civil War is one way to bring about healing in our land.
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Becky Frank has been steeped in American History from her early days growing up on the family farm in Northeastern North Carolina. Although Barrow Creek Farm has been in her family since the 1680s, her parents were the first to live on it in three generations. On the farm, she learned to milk cows, shear sheep, and drive a tractor. After an internship at Historic Edenton, she received a B.S. in Public History from Appalachian State University in 1992. Answering God’s call to teach in a classroom setting, she added a teacher certification from East Carolina University to her degree in 1998. Becky then taught social studies in Gates County, North Carolina, where her classes included U.S. History, World History, Economics, Government, and Humanities. In 2004, she moved to Northern Wake County with her new husband and began a family. Becky has taught American History online for six years. She currently homeschools her three children and is active in her church. She enjoys gardening, cooking, scrapbooking, and long walks with her family and their dog. Sharing the heritage of our great country is one of her passions. Her lifelong dream is to return to the family farm and make a portion of the acreage a living history site.