Subscribe to the IHARE Blog

State of American History, Civics, and Politics

Did the Confederates Win the War of Northern Aggression?

Kevin Seefried carries a Confederate flag as he protests in the Capitol Rotunda, Jan. 6, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

America’s second Civil War has been in the news as of late. Even as we begin the celebration of the 250th anniversary of America’s first Civil War as part of the American Revolution and fight the third Civil War right now in the presidential election, the second Civil War remains a flashpoint in American political life.

Two recent events by Republican presidential candidates highlight the ongoing importance of the second Civil War. The first concerns a puffball question about the causes of the war which the candidate muffed. The second involves the unsolicited comments by the former president on the negotiating skills of the alleged greatest president in American history which will be addressed in a future blog.

While there has been a great deal of press coverage regarding slavery question, it still needs to be put in context to borrow a phrase from some former Ivy League school presidents.


The traditional official answer by the winning side has been that the war of northern aggression was over slavery. No attention or credence was given to the designation of the war as the war of northern aggression or the issue of states’ rights. Here we may observe a double example of the winners writing history and of the loser bearing a grudge for over 160 years. It’s another example of elitists not listening to the people in the flyover states or taking them seriously.

Now consider these issues:

Covid vaccine
Food aid for children
Gun control
Immigration (Texas)
Medicaid Expansion
School vouchers
Voter Suppression.

How many of these issues were issues back before the Civil War? How many of them involve slavery (not racism but slavery)? How many of them involve a states’ rights component?

The federal government back then was not the federal government today. It was not as involved in the daily life of citizens as the government is today. There was mail delivery. There were tariffs. Sometimes there was Sabbath laws. But by and large, the federal government did not intervene at the state or individual level the way it does today.

Up until the Civil War, slavery was the main way the federal government and northern abolitionist elitists had of trying to alter the way the Confederates did things. Abolitionists then weren’t call “woke.” Instead they were called “Damn Yankees,’ a derogatory term referring to the manner of discourse by condescending arrogant visible saints, the elect of God, mentally and morally superior people who had no hesitation in expressing that superiority. They were seeking to redeem the Confederacy as a whole and the Confederates individually from their sinful ways. There was no “come let us reason together” and perhaps none was possible. It was a zero sum dialog where sooner or later the result would be physical war. The election of Lincoln was the straw the broke the Confederates’ back. Starting with South Carolina, home of the true origin of racism and systemic slavery in this country, leading the way, the secession began.

Here we are over 160 years later and the Confederates are still fighting for states’ rights. How do Confederates feel about the:

Department of Education
Obama Care?

They are always trying to defund and/or destroy these national initiatives along with all safety net programs. Slavery may be gone but racism remains. So does states’ rights. In addition, Confederates would rather play Russian roulette with their own lives than admit that Covid is real and that vaccines work. These actions show a fairly deep commitment to not allowing elitists telling them how to lead their lives that goes beyond the issue of slavery.


Now Confederates stand on the brink of taking control of the federal government. The flag-waving Confederate in the Capitol on January achieved more than Robert E. Lee ever was able to any military campaign. Only after the war at Arlington would he be so close to the Capitol.

In the House of Representatives, weak Republicans have been pushed aside. True the Republican Party is now the MAGA Party or the Trump Party, but there is a strong Confederate base foundational to those developments. It was sad listening to some people in Iowa act as if the Republican Party was still the party of Lincoln.

Republican leaders [in Iowa] are conscious of the critiques and eager to push back on any characterization that the party has shifted from its abolitionist roots.

“Quite frankly, I’m getting damn tired of the re-interpretation of history that I hear from Democrats,” Iowa Republican Party chair Jeff Kaufmann said at the state party’s annual legislative breakfast Tuesday. “The Republican Party emerged because Democrats would not give on slavery.” Republicans were founded “because somebody needed to take a bold, uncompromising stand on human rights and civil liberties. That is not woke. That is a fact,” said Kaufmann, the Iowa GOP chair. “We are the party of Abraham Lincoln. We have always been the party of Abraham Lincoln” The Civil War keeps coming up for Republican candidates. It reflects tensions inside the GOP (Matt Brown, AP, January 13, 2024).

Abraham Lincoln was a “last best hope of humanity,” built the transcontinental railroad, launched the Homestead Act, and supported the Land Grant colleges. All of these were big federal programs for their times.

Many of these northern Republicans are descendants of people who died in the Civil War. Robert E. Lee is not their hero. Statues to honor generals who killed their ancestors are not a priority to people who admire Lincoln. Nor is the Confederate flag. Yet one does no hear much about them in the battle for the Republican nomination. They have been swept up into the MAGA maelstrom … unless you were to take away their agricultural subsidies, social security, Medicare, and take away their ability to hire the workers they need to work their fields and operate their plants. But this part of the Republican Party, people who sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic, are casualties of the Confederate and trump takeover of the Republican Party today.

There is no place for Lincoln in the current Republican Party no matter how much the Lincoln admirers claim the party is still the party of Lincoln.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.