Deadline Now: The Civil War
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Deadline Now: The Civil War

Friday, April 8, 2011

Gerald Bazer, Dean Emeritus of Arts and Sciences at Owens Community College, and Donald Buerk, Associate Professor of History at Defiance College, offer fascinating insights and expert perspectives on the Civil War, which began 150 years ago when the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina. What were the real reasons for the War and what did it resolve?

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of Deadline Now:

So why does the Civil War continue to engage our imaginations the way it does? This doesn’t hold true for everyone, of course.

To my perpetual astonishment, I have college students these days who aren’t quite sure when it was, or what it was all about.
But there are other people who eat, sleep and breathe what polite southern ladies used to call “the war of the rebellion.”  As a boy, I read every word of every book Bruce Catton wrote about the Civil War, and if I didn’t have to work for a living, would do so again.

My guess is that there are a couple major reasons why the Civil War remains so vivid. It is the only war in our history in which we can fully identify with the men on both sides, because they were all Americans. Every battle, every skirmish of that conflict was fought on American soil. Nearly every state has cemeteries or sections of cemeteries devoted to its dead, and to veterans of that conflict.

Far more Americans died in that war than in any other war in our history, even World War II, which was fought worldwide. Battle deaths and disease killed more than six hundred thousand men, in ar era where the entire population was less than thirty-five million. That would be the equivalent of six million dead today. Plus, also unlike other wars, all the property damage and social disruption took place in this country. You can still see chimneys from plantation houses in the south that were burned by union troops.

But I think perhaps that the biggest reason the Civil War matters is that it settled something, or actually, two very big things. First, it settled for all time that a state can never secede from the union. Before the war, it was customary to write, “The United States ARE a great country.“  Now, it’s always, ‘The United States IS.“

The war did something even more important. It ended slavery, an institution that been labeled America’s original sin. In recent years, we’ve been fighting wars for reasons that have often seemed hazy, and which have often ended without any clear result.

Nobody can say that of the Civil War.