Friday, July 13, 2007

The Uncivil War

One of the excellent ways the internet is serving humanity is to make what really happened in history much more likely to reach an ever-widening number of the reading population of the world. Case in point: most of us in the United States were taught in school to see the Civil War as a struggle between Bad People (largely portrayed as Southerners who wanted to keep African-Americans as slaves) and Good People (largely imagined to be Northerners who were willing to lay their lives on the line to rescue Black people and set them free). Actually, while there were undoubtedly many who fit into these two categories, they do not begin to cover everyone alive and active at the time.

In fact, as I have already mentioned in the past, even Abraham Lincoln told the Vice President of the Confederacy that emancipating the slaves in January of 1863 was just a necessary war move against only those states that had seceded so that the emancipated slaves could join the Union Army that was at that point probably going to lose without the fresh recruits. Lincoln's intention, he let it be known, was to reinstate slavery after the war, which needless to say, was impossible.

In any case, another move the federal government implemented later that same year for the same reason was the first ever war-time draft of young men to fight for this country. Irish immigrants (as you'll recall, if you saw Gangs of New York) were already being conscripted as they got off the boats from the old country. And 100,000 former slaves had stepped up without hesitation to put on a uniform, pick up a gun, and do their share. But it still wasn't enough. So Lincoln called for another 300,000 by using a draft, while giving those who could afford to pay $300 a pass not to participate.

Unfortunately, there were a huge number of White Northern men who did not have the $300 and did not want to either fight or run to Canada as many had already done. So on this date in 1863, a mob -- 50,000 strong -- ran through New York City burning down everything in their path (including an orphanage) and viciously murdering more than 1200 African-American people over a three-day period, as if they had caused the War...

Read the rest of the story here.

6 comments:

Peacechick Mary said...

I just don't understand at all what makes people go crazy like that. It's a mystery. War does strange things to people's heads, things that are already skewed toward insanity.

dnA said...

Great post changeseeker. I remember this moment when it was dramatized by Martin Scorcese in Gangs of New York...and it was almost a footnote to the 2 hour plus film.

Charles M. said...

Thanks Change, I thought that i was pretty good with history, but did not know about this? I actually feel a little ashamed about the whole thing? Should I? Or can I pass it off on my 9th grade teacher? (& no I never saw "Gangs of New York)

Changeseeker said...

Mary: I agree. But while wars and other mob actions appear to be hysterical, according to the differential expression concept (in sociology) each individual chooses to participate for their own subjective reaons. This makes every participant culpable. Alternatively, I guess that would make us ALSO responsible for what we don't do, too. No matter what the reasons are. I know you of all people catch my drift.

dna: I was thinking that this showed up in the film, but I didn't recall it being clear to me what the mayhem was about. There was a LOT of mayhem in that movie. :^)

Charles: Those with the power to define have so controlled what students are taught, it's a wonder we're not all walking around scratching our heads over everything. Gangs of New York was INTENSE.

Villager said...

My first visit to your blog. I will be back. I enjoy the flow in general .. and this civil war history lesson in particular.

peace, Villager

Changeseeker said...

Welcome, Villager. Glad to meet you. I get some of my history lessons here.