Removing Confederate's name from Laurel library reflects shallow understanding of Civil War [Letter]

  • Charles Stanley Jr. was Laurel's mayor from 1891 to 1893.
Charles Stanley Jr. was Laurel's mayor from 1891 to 1893. (photo circa 1911/courtesy…)
March 29, 2014

The calls to remove Charles Stanley's name from the Laurel public library are narrow-minded and reflect the shallow, simplistic understanding the vast majority of Americans have about the Civil War. If asked to identify the cause of the Civil War, most Americans would reflexively respond, "slavery." This is simply not true.

Like all major events in history, the Civil War was complex and defies any simple explanation. Attributing the Civil War solely to slavery is intellectually lazy. Most Americans are mistakenly taught from Day One that the Civil War was "all about slavery." But in fact, slavery was only one of at least five major issues over which the war was fought. To a great extent, the North used the slavery issue to rationalize a host of less than noble causes over which they instigated the war, and to justify thousands of unspeakable crimes committed against the civilian population in the South, the vast majority of whom were not slave-owners. Sherman's March was hardly a day at the beach for the civilian population of the South. To Lincoln and the northern/federalist political and military establishment, the Civil War was far more about money and power than any principled desire to liberate those held in bondage. Unfortunately, the winners always write the history books.

No one is denying that slavery was a disgraceful stain on our country's history. But it is unjust to repetitively and wrongfully claim that the Confederacy was only fighting to preserve slavery while forever relegating Confederate veterans to scorn and shame. It is estimated that between 750,000 and 1,000,000 men served in the Confederate forces. The vast majority of these men were fighting for reasons of duty and honor, wholly unrelated to slavery, which most Americans today cannot even begin to grasp. It is time academia and the media drop their reflexive, simplistic insistence that the Civil War was just about slavery while unjustly condemning Confederate veterans to ignominy for having honorably served and, in many cases, given their lives, in service to a cause which is truly beyond our ability to empathize.  

Robert J. Seyko


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