Shattering the Slave Power: Northern Soldiers Interpret Their Civil War

Luebke, Peter, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Gallagher, Gary, Department of History, University of Virginia

"Shattering the Slave Power: Northern Soldiers Interpret Their Civil War," examines the durability of the so-called "Slave Power" conspiracy thesis during the Civil War era in maintaining motivation among Northern soldiers. In short, soldiers sprang to the defense of the Union because they believed that a Southern slaveholding oligarchy had created a domestic aristocracy, seized the levers of government in the Southern states, and sought to destroy republicanism. Such a belief allowed soldiers of different regional subcultures to interpret the Civil War in their own ways while continuing to fight the Confederacy. Crucially, the desire to depose the Southern oligarchy led soldiers to support enthusiastically emancipation of millions of enslaved African Americans as the best way to strike at the Southern leaders. Yet Northern soldiers' desire to end the institution of slavery entailed little contemplation of how the newly-freed African American population would fit within the country. Soldiers continued to believe that they had fought a republican struggle against a domestic aristocracy until they died, advancing the slave power thesis in print publications and public presentations well into the 20th Century.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: