why was the civil war called the civil war
More than 150 years after the shooting began, controversy remains over what to call the conflict between the United States of America and Confederate States of America. Georgetown history professors
In 1881 the United States government published the first of many volumes of the official records of its war with the Confederate States of America. That massive resource has been a first port of call for historians, amateur and professional, since the moment of its publication; today digitization has made it even more widely accessible. Its shorthand nickname is the O. R. , for Official Records. It can come as a surprise, then, to see that its full title is The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. It was called that because the rebellion was what the people who actually fought the war, especially but not only on the Union side, were most likely to call it. Understanding why helps us to better understand how the war s participants understood the conflict, and how they remembered it. During the war, Northerners and Southerners sometimes used the uncapitalized phrase civil war as a declarative description of the mess in which they found themselves, but Civil War was not yet a proper noun. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, President Lincoln famously declared in the Gettysburg Address.
Less famously, Lt. James Langhorne of the 4th Virginia Infantry lamented to his mother, I think our country is doomed to a civil war of years duration. Throughout the struggle Confederates likewise spoke of the civil war, or just this war. But most often, Northerners referred to the war as a rebellion. They commonly used phrases like this rebellion and the great rebellion. Northerners followed the course of the war in Frank Moore s popular Rebellion Record, which began to run in 1861, and Lincoln himself frequently used the word rebellion to describe the war in public and in private. Rebellion was simply what Union soldiers, and sometimes even Confederate ones, called the war. I generally call it the Civil War because, well, that s the generally accepted name. (It should probably be American Civil War, given that there have been many civil wars, but we re America, damn it. ) But one can argue that it wasn t a civil war at all, in that the Confederacy existed as a separate state and its war aims were independence, not control of the United States government. War for Southern Independence is arguably a more accurate name but only one said had that war aim and, well, it lost. War of the Rebellion has fallen out of favor, but works.
War Between the States is also commonplace and accurate. Some Southerners like War of Northern Aggression, which is both not particularly descriptive but demonstrably untrue, in that the South fired the first shots. In the wee hours this morning, tweeted Today in 1866: President Andrew Johnson formally declared the Civil War over, months after fighting had stopped. My : He was wrong. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the new Union and Confederate armies were made up largely of amateur soldiers who were poorly trained, equipped and organized. Northern troops generally enjoyed better provisions than their southern counterparts, especially after the Union blockade of the Atlantic coast made it difficult to get goods and supplies in and out of the South. The staples of a soldierБs diet were bread, meat and coffee, supplemented by rice, beans and canned fruits or vegetables, when available. The meat they received was beef or pork, preserved with salt to make it last longer, and the soldiers called this Бsalt horse. Б Both armies increasingly replaced bread with thick crackers known as hard tack, which were notoriously difficult to eat and had to be soaked in water to make them edible. Did You Know? As the Union and Confederate armies camped across the Rappahannock River from each other in the winter of 1862-63, bands on both sides played the popular ballad "Home Sweet Home. " Music proved to be a much-needed diversion for both Union and Confederate troops.
Before 1862, new volunteer regiments usually included a regimental band; when the proliferation of bands became too unwieldy, many regimental bands were dismissed, but some survived, or were replaced by brigade bands to serve a larger contingent of troops. Whether played by these organized bands or simply sung by the soldiers themselves (accompanied by banjo, fiddle or harmonica), popular songs ranged from patriotic melodies meant for marching or to rally the troops to aching ballads that reflected the soldiersБ yearnings for home. Among the Union favorites were БYankee Doodle Dandy,Б БThe Star-Spangled BannerБ and БJohn BrownБs BodyБ (later changed into БThe Battle Hymn of the RepublicБ), while the Confederates enjoyed БDixie,Б БWhen Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,Б БThe Yellow Rose of TexasБ and БThe Bonnie Blue Flag. Б In addition to military music, southern slaves sang spirituals dedicated to emancipation, which would slowly work their way into the fabric of AmericaБs musical culture as well.
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