Civil Slavery and Slavery

We are still arguing over the meaning of the Civil War (Was it about slavery? States rights?). In 1999, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina claimed in a speech that he was “irked” (meaning angered) by anyone claiming that the Civil War was fought over slavery. Instead, Thurmond proclaimed that the war was fought over “the rights of the states to control their own destinies.” What these discussions often miss is the way that meanings and war aims might have changed during the course of the war. What did the Union and Confederacy think the war was about in 1861? What about in 1865? What happened in between?

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