“Why did the North Fight?”
One of the biggest questions asked is, “Why did the North fight?” Understanding the southern life style will quickly answer this question. Confederates fought for independence, for their own property and way of life, for their very survival as a nation. Why did the Yankees fight? Why did it take four years, one of the bloodiest fights in American history? Costing many northern and southern lives as well downfall of resources.
John clerk had many of the same questions, writing “Our men must prevail in combat or lose their property.” If that was true, why did the Yankees keep fighting? We can find much of the answer in Abraham Lincoln’s notable speeches: the Gettysburg Address, his first and second inaugural addresses, the Peroration of his message to Congress on December 1, 1862. But we can find even more of the answer in the wartime letters and diaries of the men who did the fighting. Confederates who said that they fought for the same goals as their forebears of 1776 would have been surprised by the intense conviction of the northern soldiers that they were upholding the legacy of the American Revolution.
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“We fight for the blessings bought by the blood and treasure of our Fathers,” wrote an enlisted man from Missouri to his parents in 1861. “I will fight till I die if necessary for the liberties which you have so long enjoyed.” A Michigan soldier told his younger brother that he fought against, “Traitors who sought to tear down and break into fragments the glorious temple that our forefathers reared with blood and tears.” A New Jersey officer declared that “The man who doesn’t give hearty support to our bleeding country in this day of our country’s trial is not worthy to be a descendant of our forefathers.
We will be held responsible before God if we don’t do our part in helping to transmit this boon of civil and religious liberty down to succeeding generations.” An Illinois farm boy whose parents had opposed his enlistment asked them tartly “Should We the youngest and brightest nation of all the earth bow to traders and forsake the graves of our Fathers?” Answering no, the theme of parallel sacrifice with the patriots of 1776 punctuated the letters of many Union soldiers.
An officer in the Ohio wrote in December, 1862, that “our fathers in coldest winter, half-clad marked the road they trod with crimson streams from their bleeding feet that we might enjoy the blessings of a free government.” Likewise, “our business in being here is to lay down our lives if need be for our country’s cause.” Two weeks later he was killed in the battle of Stones River. A young Michigan private was also killed in action not long after he wrote a letter to his uncle describing the hardships of a soldier’s life.