Union the last anchor of our hope, and that alone which is to prevent his heavenly country from becoming an arena of gladiators.
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, May 13, 1797.
What is the likelihood that the United States could have a second civil war? The topic has been mentioned a few times since the election, though no discussion ever occurs on the matter because that would be too radical for most people. Though as a history geek it is a fascinating topic to think about.
The country is divided. Not north and south, but urban and rural. Not blue and gray, but blue and red. Liberals were disgusted by 8 years of George W. Bush and conservatives are horrified by 8 years of Barack Obama. Is that itself enough to lead to a civil war? Not likely, but of course that’s not all there is to it.
The country is more than just in disagreement. Essentially half the country feels threatened and persecuted. Their concerns are not without merit.
But could there actually be a civil war? I seriously doubt it.
While half the country feels chased I don’t think the typical modern American has it in them to do anything about it. Surely there are a great number of individual Americans who would be willing to do something, but the majority wouldn’t do anything.
It’s not worth the risk. Why risk their lives for freedom and what they think is the better way of life when they have a pretty nice life going anyway. When’s the last time they had to struggle for anything?
This is why we don’t see any revolutions in advanced and open countries. Sure, part of the reason is because they are advanced and open societies that they don’t induce revolutions but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.
During the American revolution and the French revolution, the Bolshevik revolution, those countries were at the peak of moderninity. Modern is a moment in time, not a place.
Americans are too soft to rebel against their government. The hunters and gun owners who are listed as threats to the government are nothing without popular support.
Chris Dorner may have tied up the LAPD for a week by himself, so individuals can cause big acts, however without extended support they will likely not last all that long.
The American Civil War occurred not because individuals Southerners were upset at the differences with the North and decided to act on their impulses but because the states they lived in had those ideas and were willing to act upon them.
Civil wars occur because people have something they believe is worth fighting for and haven’t got much to lose in trying to get it. How many residents of Shaker Heights, Ohio are going to sacrifice their Lexus, single serve coffee maker, and primetime TV to sit in a foxhole and watch the perimeter for tanks coming up the Ohio river valley? Not many. It’s too hard and asks to much.
The United States will not see another civil war. It’s people are too docile and no change would be affected by small individual acts. A few angry people do not represent the entirety of American inertia. The only chance for something like this to happen again is if it followed the same path as before and it was a single state, perhaps with others following along, declaring independence and seceding. Then the question becomes, if Americans are too feeble to conduct a civil war, would they also be too feeble to drag a nation back into the union again?
This week’s person of the week is Confederate General and Virginia native Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson.
Jackson fought for the Confederacy, because he fought for Virginia. A home state being as unfamiliar as a concept to us today as is slavery. By all accounts Jackson appears to have treated slaves and blacks with the utmost courtesy and respect, largely stemming from his religious beliefs. However his overall opinion on the issue of slavery is less clearly understood. He did own slaves and seems to have not really opposed that institution but still treated his slaves better than most and a quote about Jackson says he was the black mans friend.
But it is not for being a gentemanly slave owner that Jackson is our person of the week. Rather he was selected for his success in military strategy.
Though Jackson was relatively unknown at the start of the Civil War, and only a Colonel, had he been more well known and given the overall command instead of Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy may have very well won the war.
While Lee’s typical strategy was to stand in front of the enemy and fight, Jackson was a master strategist who regularly developed plans of campaign as well as battlefield maneuvers to outwit the numerically superior Union forces. Having to fight under Lee however his plans were often neglected. General Longstreet is once reported to have said, “General Jackson never showed his genius when under the immediate command of General Lee.”
It was at Chancellorsville that Lee finally allowed for a plan of Jacksons to be implemented. Jacksons force split off from the main Confederate force and around the right of the Union lines. He found himself staring down the line of the Union force at camp. Jackson led his forces forward and routed the Union. Jackson rolled up the Union line to its center until daylight ran out and brought the days action to a halt.
However it was at this point, in the darkness around Chancellorsville that Jackson was shot, it is suspected by Confederate troops, who mistook the officers on horseback in the dark for Union cavalry. Hearing about Jacksons wounds, General Lee remarked, “I have lost my right arm” in regards to Jackson.
Jackson was shot three times and evacuated. His left arm had to be amputated and he died of pneumonia several days later on 10 May, 1963.
Following are some quotes of General Jackson.
Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me.” He added, after a pause, looking me full in the face: “That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.
Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number. The other rule is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible.
The patriot volunteer, fighting for country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier on earth.
Don’t say it’s impossible! Turn your command over to the next officer. If
he can’t do it, I’ll find someone who can, even if I have to take him from
When war does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the
Then, Sir, we will give them the bayonet!
Bevin Alexanders book Lost Victories: The Military Genius of Stonewall Jackson is a good read for more information about Jacksons ability as a commander and strategist.