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macpherson midterm - 1 American Military History Prof...

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1 American Military History Prof. Saeger October 31, 2010 Take Home Essay Never before in American history have as many men gone to war as during the Civil War. In his book, for Cause and Comrades , James McPherson seeks to provide a coherent answer to the question of why so many men fought in the Civil War and through a detailed analysis of thousands of letters and personal diaries he is able to provide several causes that would lead thousands of men into battle and eventually their deaths. Using the initial motivating factors causing men to fight, long-term motivation for fighting, and combat motivation along with the concepts of honor and duty, the individual mentalities of soldiers will be analyzed. McPherson divides his analysis of why men fight into three different categories, initial, long term, and combat motivation. First, initial motivation will be discussed. During the Civil War there was two major periods of enlistment. The first period, a three- year enlistment at the outset of the conflict, according to McPherson was comprised mostly of men who went to war for idealistic reasons. He claims that without them “there would have been no Union and Confederate armies, no Civil War” (16) . Union soldiers who enlisted felt it was their duty to maintain the Union and uphold the legacy of their revolutionary fathers. They felt that the actions taken by the C.S.A. was an affront to the
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2 constitution and could not be tolerated. James Welsh, born in the Shenandoah Valley, felt that “Jeff Davis and his crew of pirates” had committed “treason and nothing more or less” (14) . Welsh fought in the 78 th Illinois, marched with Sherman throughout Georgia and eventually survived the war. Many men throughout the first wave of Union enlistments echoed patriotic sentiments like this. The motivations behind initial Southern enlistments were slightly different. First, many viewed the North as a tyrant, and as such it was their duty to protect “life, liberty and property [i.e. slaves]” (20) . Obviously, it was paradoxical for one to fight for liberty, while actively denying another’s. To resolve this conflict, many soldiers believed that their own liberty involved owning slaves, as well as believing that they were fighting against enslavement by the North. Southern soldiers, like their Northern counterparts, also invoked the memory of the Founding Fathers and legacy for justification of the war and enlistment. The colonies had rebelled from a
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