The Course of American Democratic Thought

By Ralph Henry Gabriel; Robert H. Walker | Go to book overview

Chapter 12
THE RE-CREATION OF THE AMERICAN UNION 1865-1917

APPOMATTOX ENDED one of the two major wars of the nineteenth century. In the size and the power of armies and in the losses sustained, the American Civil War was comparable to the Napoleonic struggles in Europe. The Americans, however, concentrated into four years an amount of destruction and anguish which in the Old World was extended over more than a decade and a half. The intensity of the conflict was due to the unyielding will of the Southern people who began, in 1861, a fight for independence. They strove to set up a new nation which would differ from the old United States to about the degree in which Southern economy and social life differed from that of the North. The Confederacy might have surrendered with honor when Grant smashed Bragg's army at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge in the autumn of 1863, for after this disaster the military outlook for the South was almost hopeless. But there was no thought of surrender on the part of the leaders or of the people. The war dragged on for a bloody seventeen months. The Confederacy did not die until its armies had been either dispersed or captured and until vast areas within its hoped-for boundaries had been laid waste. The Southern people gave battle for the right of self-determination to the limit of their strength.

Thirty-three years after Appomattox the United States mobilized a volunteer army in a war against Spain. Southerners enlisted under the national banner as readily as Northerners. Reconciliation between the sections was symbolized by the appointment of two ex- Confederate major generals to active command. By 1898 the sentiment of nationalism binding the American people together had

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