A pro-Confederate flag group on Facebook put up this deeply ridiculous meme recently. There are a few problems I can see with the it. First off…oh, you know what, let’s be fair here. I don’t want to be so overly critical of the meme maker that I neglect to offer them praise. I mean they totally deserve a slow clap or two for their ability to Google ‘how many people died in the Civil War‘ and come up with 620,000. That level of talent just boggles the mind. So yeah, let’s take a moment to congratulate the meme maker here for the ability to find a number related to the Civil War. Now, about those problems with the meme.
I wonder if the members of We Support the Confederate Flag argue against slavery being the driving force behind the Civil War (which flies in the face of reality as seen in the Articles of Secession from the treasonous Southern states) . I don’t know for certain, but that is quite a common belief among supporters of the Con flag, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they believed it as well. If they do, I find it really amusing bc it’s the unintended message sent by this meme is that the Civil War was fought over slavery. Cognitive dissonance much?
As mentioned above, that 620,000 figure is accurate. Funny thing though. That figure is the *total* number of US soldiers who died in the Civil War. On both sides. Those fighting in the Southern states most certainly did not “die to free black slaves”. They fought and died to keep the peculiar institution alive. They don’t get to be counted among those who died to free black slaves. Out of the 620,000 deaths in the Civil War, approximately 258,000 of those deaths were Confederate soldiers, and roughly 359,528 Union deaths (source). So perhaps the meme should say 359,000 white people died to free black slaves.
Except that number isn’t accurate either, bc white people weren’t the only people who fought in the Civil War. Black people, including former black slaves, fought in the war, and roughly 40,000 of them died fighting for the Union. Which of course means that approximately 319,000 white Union soldiers died to free black slaves, right?
In a word: no. Or, wrong. Or, incorrect.
Many people believe that the Northern states fought in the Civil War to end slavery, out of some sense of benevolence. Nosiree.
While many still debate the ultimate causes of the Civil War, Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson writes that, “The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln won election in 1860 as the first Republican president on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, seven slave states in the deep South seceded and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. The incoming Lincoln administration and most of the Northern people refused to recognize the legitimacy of secession. They feared that it would discredit democracy and create a fatal precedent that would eventually fragment the no-longer United States into several small, squabbling countries.“
The United States government fought to maintain the Union, not because they recognized the inherent humanity of black people and opposed slavery. So where does that leave us?
We’re left at: pretty much no white people fought in the Civil War to free black people (I’m sure there were some exceptions, but the numbers are likely so small as to be insignificant)*. That’s where we’re left. So noooooooooooooooooooo. There won’t be any thanks offered to anyone. Especially since blacks were enslaved by white people in the first place! So y’know, We Support the Confederate Flag, you can take this meme and shove it, bc this is nothing more than a pathetic attempt at revisionist history.
*Edit: it has been pointed out to me that this is not an entirely fair statement to make as there were white folks who supported abolition during the Civil War, some of whom likely fought for the Union. How many of them unfortunately, are unknown to me.