When I was sitting in the field at the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania Court House in 2015, I saw two park-goers engaged in a game of soccer…on the remains of the trenches of the Mule Shoe Salient. When I asked that they not climb over the trenches where thousands of men fought for 20 hours in what may have been the most brutal combat of the Civil War, the gentleman of the couple asked me if I even knew what it was about. I laughed. He took it to mean I didn’t know.
In truth, I laughed because this topic comes up with alarming frequency on a very popular Civil War message board where I spend time. In late 2015 and early 2016, a poll asking members about the cause of the Civil War generated a measly 39 votes which then generated 3,170 posts (and counting) that totaled 159 pages long. So why is there still a controversy 150 years later about what caused the Civil War?
I have been debating for some time exactly how I want to go about addressing what tends to be the enduring controversy of the Civil War: What was it all about, anyway?
I really didn’t want to launch the site to immediate controversy because no matter how well I write about this particular topic, someone will be upset. But the truth is, the way others address this situation tells me how serious a scholar they are, and I should be willing to put my credentials on display for my loyal readers by addressing this particular issue to the best of my ability.
Besides, to exclude the topic from my initial launch of the website buries one of the most essential and important things to be learned from the Civil War. If we don’t know why it was fought, how can anything else really matter?
Check out my essay on The Cause of the Civil War on the Civil War Topics Page.
Toni is a wife, mom and history buff who loves bringing the Civil War to life for family members of all ages.