Posted: March 23rd, 2023

How “The South vs. The South” Changed my Views on how the Civil War was Fought and Won

In his book, The South vs. the South, William Freehling provides an intriguing narrative of the Civil War. The book’s focus is based on how many Southerners, both black and white, opposed the Confederacy. With a wealth of information from the Civil War, Freehling presents an interesting theory about the Confederate loss and the Union’s victory during the war. In the book, the author presents interesting facts about how the Confederate was overwhelmed by the Union for the role played by the anti-Confederates in the South. With particular examples from the text, this paper will discuss a personal change of views about the war based on how the battle was fought and won.

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Before reading the text, I had viewed the Civil War as one that divided America into the Northern and Southern parts. However, the text has opened up my understanding of the war. While it is true that the War divided America, it is worth noting that this was not the only division that took place. The conflict witnessed major divisions between black and white, the opponents and supporters of the Confederacy. Within the south, the divisions that transpired paved the pathway for the war. Freehling suggests that the army also became divided, a reality that allowed a majority to fight against the slave masters (Freehling, p. xi).

The text provides critical information on how the differing loyalties of the lower and upper southern states to the slave reality played an imperative role in the defeat of the Confederacy. From the perspective presented by Freehling, the “anti-Confederates,” made up of a major part of the southerners, played a critical role in defeating the “pro- Confederates,” the side that was in support of continued slavery in America. The role played by the “anti-Confederates” in aiding the victory of the union is made clear in this text that in most of the previous texts on the civil war, one of the roles they played was ensuring that the home front in the South was divided. They also acted as a pivotal factor in weakening the Confederacy military and contributed material and workforce support for the Union.

I have learned from the text that the Union’s effort in the war would not have been as successful as it was without the contribution of the anti-Confederates. Reading the text makes it possible to realize the economic and social dynamics within the South that shaped the trajectory of the war. The diversity in the South allowed the strength mastered by the anti-Confederates. This became possible because there was a weakness in slavery in the Border South, which had started to motivate the freeing of the enslaved from the Deep South.  The blacks had started to become part of the military, which allowed them to go against the Confederacy in support of the Union. In the western theater, as Freehling suggests, the blacks in the military became an important part of the success of the Union.

In most of the text, Freehling speaks about the Union’s willingness to gather a military force out of the blacks from the failed Southern region, particularly Mississippi and Louisiana. Possibly, the Union could not be able to have the kind of influence it had in the South without the division. The black soldiers’ army enabled the successful occupation of the South. The Southern population became demoralized by the black soldiers making it possible for the military efforts of the Northern army to garner strength, especially towards the end of the war. The collaboration between the Union Army and the slaves that desired freedom became the main tool of the revolution that took place, leading to the release of hundreds of thousands of enslaved from 1862 to 1964 (Freehling, 129). Together with the vast resources that the North had, the support of the black soldiers provided a formidable force that the Confederacy could not be able to conquer.

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Freehling provides important insight into the role played by the free slaves in the war. The fugitive slaves were a critical part of the war, especially their non-violent resistance. The slaves played a part in the commencement of the war as they had started resisting long before it broke out. The events witnessed in the Border States, particularly the aspects of undermining slavery by free slaves, contributed to the outcome of the war. These fugitive slaves became the agents of emancipation, effectively negotiating the desire of the whites in the North to demolish the Confederacy’s cornerstone and the concerns about black violence by the whites. The blacks’ role as non-violent runaways and supportive military officials motivated the efforts against the Confederacy (Freehling, p. 134).

The anti-Confederates hastened the conclusion of the war, with the Union coming out victoriously. It is interesting to realize how the South’s fighting against the South played a role in the war’s outcome (Freehling, p. 201). I realize that during the Civil War, in as much as the Union was fighting in the War, it was a conflict of the divided Southerners. The Confederate could not successfully fight against the Union due to the division’s reality, which made the Confederacy weaker. The black troops and helpers undermined any possibility of effective fighting by the Confederate. In essence, the fall of the Confederate was also contributed by the reality of a labor holding society involved in a contemporary conflict. The Whites in the South were used to getting things done through the blacks. However, the war brought about a different reality: the blacks turned against the whites and started fighting against them.

Freehling’s work provides an entirely new light in understanding the events already known about the Civil War. The events the author explains well include the 54th Massachusetts Regiment’s attack. The author also effectively explains the magnitude of the part the anti-Confederates played at the commencement, progress, and the outcome of the Civil War. The text is a reminder of the western theater’s significance in the failure of the Confederacy and the eventual emancipation. The book is a composition created by a creative mind and out of an adequate understanding of the events that took place during the Civil War, particularly the divisions within the South. The divided South hindered any possibility for the Confederacy to win the war and led to the successful emancipation. According to the text, the Union could possibly have failed without the significant role of the black soldiers.


Works Cited

Freehling, William W. The South vs. The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.


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