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“This Is an Abolition War”

“This Is an Abolition War”

Soldiers, Civilians, and the Purpose of the War

(p.55) 3 “This Is an Abolition War”
Across the Divide
Steven J. Ramold
NYU Press

This chapter examines how race and the purpose of the Civil War became debatable issues between the Union Army and Northern civilians. The Civil War was touted as “abolition war,” with the goal of ending slavery. The debate over whether the Civil War was an abolition war had significant implications for why soldiers fought, what they represented, and what they wanted the war to achieve. Civilians also debated the abolition issue, offering a variety of opinions on the virtue of abolitionism. Both civilians at home and soldiers in the field did not agree amongst themselves on the purpose of the war, but the latter derived their views from their side of the experience divide. Whereas soldiers experienced slavery and its consequences on a daily basis, Northerners discussed the institution as an abstraction. This chapter discusses three broad categories of Union soldiers with respect to their stand on what the war should achieve relative to the slavery issue: abolitionists, anti-abolitionists, and emancipationists.

Keywords:   race, Civil War, Union Army, North, civilians, slavery, abolition war, abolitionism, Union soldiers, emancipation

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