A Perceptive Student

Today I showed my AP classes a short section of Ken Burns’s The Civil War.   We watched the sections between Lincoln’s election and Robert E. Lee’s resignation from the U.S. Army to take command of the Virginia state militia.  At one point Shelby Foote explains how white southerners viewed secession and Lincoln.  From "Secessionitis":

Southerners would have told you they were fighting for self government. They believed the gathering of power in Washington was against them… When they entered into that Federation they certainly would never have entered into it if they hadn’t believed it would be possible to get out. And when the time came that they wanted to get out, they thought they had every right….

Southerners saw the election of Lincoln as a sign that the Union was about to radicalized, and that they were about to be taken in directions they did not care to go. The abolitionist aspect of it was very strong, and they figured they were about to lose what they called their property and faced ruin.

Student response: "Why doesn’t he just come out and say it?"  Of course, he meant slavery.

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1 comment… add one

  • Woodrowfan Dec 7, 2007

    I had my (Freshman) students also read Alexander Stephens “Cornerstone Speech” and the South Carolina Declaration of Independence.

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