In James McPherson’s “For Cause and Comrades”, he talks about the various reasons why union and confederate soldiers risked their lives for the civil war. To arrive at his conclusions, McPherson gathered information from over 25,000 letters written by uncensored men on both sides of the conflict as well as nearly 250 private diaries. His fundamental contentions argue that a soldier could be persuaded to fight for honor, country or duty; or alternatively against slavery.
Politics also played a role in this time period as the civil war was fought during the election of 1860. All of these reasons combined is what made soldiers want to fight and die for their respected side during the civil war.
Although there were many reasons for why soldiers fought during the civil war, McPherson argues that the main reason was because of comradeship. Comradeship is defined as “a spirit of close friendship and mutual trust among a group of people” and this is what held units together during battle.
The soldiers would bond with one another and develop friendships that would last a lifetime. These bonds were formed because they had to rely on each other for survival both on and off the battlefield. They would help each other out with things such as writing letters, getting food and even stealing liquor from the enemy.
McPhersons then explores the experiences soldiers endured, such as choosing to carried on fighting despite how terrible warfare is, along with the fear of being seen as a coward by those who quit and faced public scrutiny. Furthermore, these soldiers not only gained support from back home but were also religious which granted them determination to fight another day. Soldiers joined the civil war due to motivations related their country, duty and honor experiencing feelings of extreme patriotism.
McPherson defines duty as “a moral commitment to something or someone” and how it was instilled in these individuals from a young age. Honor is defined as “a code of conduct that governed a mans relationships with others” and was very important to soldiers because their reputation was at stake. In other words, men didn’t want to be looked down upon for not fulfilling their obligations.
McPherson goes on to say that the combination of these two things led soldiers to make incredible sacrifices like giving up their lives for a greater cause which was their country. Duty and honor were major reasons why men decided to fight in the civil war and without them, the war may have had a different outcome.
McPhersons then shares a letter written by a union soldier to his father, expressing his reasons for joining the army. The soldier states that “asoldier has but one thing in view, and that is two fight the Battles of his country with honor.” McPhernson believes that these soldiers were very fulfilled fighting for their country. This argument is believable due to how common it is for soldiers top be encouraged by duty, courtry,, and honor during times of war.
Also, going off to battle could be seen as an honorable thing to do for one’s country. These factors alone would not be enough to claim that every soldier who fought did so for these reasons but McPhersons provides several more examples and explanations for his case making it more reliable. Politics also played a role in why some soldiers decided to fight in the war. For example, the Emancipation Proclamation was a political move by Abraham Lincoln that stated that all slaves in rebellious states were now free. This provided a new incentive for black men to join the Union army and fight for their freedom.
In addition, many politicians during this time period were using patriotic rhetoric to rally support for the war effort. They spoke of how the Union needed to be preserved in order to maintain democracy and freedom. This rhetoric would have been especially effective in convincing young men to enlist since they would have been eager to defend their country. Overall, McPhersons provides a compelling argument that duty, honor, and politics were all factors that led soldiers to fight in the Civil War.
While McPherson’s argument is persuasive, it is important to consider that there may have been other reasons why soldiers decided to fight. For example, some soldiers may have joined the army in order to escape difficult situations at home. Others may have enlisted for financial reasons, as the army provided a steady income. It is also possible that some soldiers simply enjoyed the thrill of battle. Therefore, it is important to consider all of the potential motivations for why someone might join the army before coming to a conclusion.
Several reasons, including the expansion of slavery, led soldiers to join during the civil war era. Some union soldiers who fought for freedom and justice opposed slavery while others only wanted to limit its expansion westward. Nevertheless, most union “soldiers believed that President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had changed the purpose of the war” such that they would now fight not merely to keep states together but also for black freedom. This development promoted division within union armies.
Politics also played apart in the joining of the armies, many new republican voters joined the fight to preserve their voting majority in the upcoming election. Honor was another factor, “a sense of duty to country and community” drove young men to enlist. The idea of freedom and liberty also lead others to enlist in order to protect these constitutional rights.
The Civil War was a turning point in American history, marking the end of slavery and paving the way for greater equality for all citizens. The courage and sacrifice of the soldiers who fought for both the Union and Confederacy is deserving of our honor and remembrance. Today, we remember all those who fought in the Civil War, on both sides, as brave Americans who did their duty to their country and their comrades.
In contrast, Confederate soldiers fought primarily for the establishment of slavery. McClellan added a piece from Ohio artillery officers who believed “that the war will not be ended until the subject of slavery is finally and forever settled.” I trust this was a persuasive guarantee introduced by McClellan for why men entered the Civil War, since it was such an essential purpose behind why men felt so strongly about fighting.
It was not exclusively about the South leaving the Union, but about a way of life. Politics were obviously very important during this time and caused much conflict, but honor and duty among men was also a common value that led to many battles being fought. Men felt it was their duty to their country and their comrades to fight for what they believed in, whether that meant preserving the Union or protecting southern values. The Civil War was fought for many different reasons, but ultimately it was men fighting for what they thought was right that led to such a bloody and devastating conflict.