The U.S. Civil War:  Union Aims (Part 1)

By | March 27, 2020

[March 27, 2020]  I grew up in the Deep South.  Living in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas with all my family relatives nearby gave me a common understanding of the U.S. Civil War.  But that shared understanding, I later learned, did not agree with mainstream thinking.  One must note that feelings about the Civil War run deep in Southerners, and I had adopted those same feelings.  For example, I didn’t know that Damn Yankee was two words until I was in Middle School.

In this two-part series on the U.S. Civil War, I plan to present the Union and then the Confederate aims.  To many of my friends and me, we wanted to get a better leader understanding of what was important.  If you cannot know the culture, the desires and wants of a people, their aims, and dreams, then it is difficult to appreciate their stance on any topic, especially one as important as the Civil War.

In the early Spring of 1865, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln met with his Union generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman.  Those are still hated names for Southerners.  They met on this date, March 27th, in 1865, to plot the last stages of the war.  Grant was preparing to attack Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s lines around Petersburg and Richmond.

President Lincoln was concerned that Lee might escape the Grant-Sherman steamroller by joining up forces with General Joseph Johnston to forge a new Confederate army.  Such an action would extend the conflict for months.  It was at this meeting that Lincoln emphasized to these two generals that any surrender terms of the South must be to preserve the Union and a pledge of equality for freed slaves.  Union aims were clear.  There would be no deviating from them.

I was taught that the Civil War, or the “War Between the States,” as we called it, was about state’s rights.  Slavery, I was told, was a secondary issue and that slavery was just a strategic way of keeping European nations from aiding the South.  Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 changed the federal legal status of millions of enslaved African Americans from slave to free.  Europe was anti-slavery.  It was both a brilliant strategic move by Lincoln, but it was also in alignment with the thinking of Northerners.

“The war is over.  The Rebels are our countrymen again.” –  U.S. Union General Ulysses S. Grant to his officers

Two weeks later, from the meeting between Lincoln and his generals on April 9, 1865, Confederate General Lee surrendered his troops to Union General Grant.1  In the Deep South, there remains a lesson learned incorrectly that the war was about something other than slavery and keeping the union together.  Tomorrow I will address Confederacy aims.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “The U.S. Civil War:  Union Aims (Part 1)

  1. Dennis Mathes

    Very nice two-part series, Gen. Satterfield. This is something I never gave any thought to.

  2. Albert Ayer

    Good history lesson that maybe all we are taught is not true and maybe distorted within our own culture.

    1. Darryl Sitterly

      Hummmm,,, never thought of that. 😊

  3. Bill Sanders, Jr.

    Well said, Gen. Satterfield, I learned something new about the US Civil War. I look forward to Part 2.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      The best and most interesting part of the book is Grant’s recollection of the Civil War. For those military professionals seeking to emulate his deeds, it is interesting to see what he finds concerning.

    2. Tom Bushmaster

      General Grant thinks very hard about his subordinate officers. He calmly lays out his reasons for firing and hiring the various people and has an interesting read on all of them.

      1. Xerxes I

        Yes, but also an excellent first-hand recollection of the American civil war. It is (obviously!) written in the style of the time, which makes the reader ‘work’ a bit harder – but this also provides a real understanding of the thinking, and the values, of people who lived through the events. Ulysses Grant was an amazing person, so humble about his own skills and contribution to the Union – but also possessing the confidence and decisiveness sadly lacking in other generals.

  4. Bryan Lee

    Good article, Gen. Satterfield. Hope you and your family are well during this pandemic. I wanted to add that the lessons of the US Civil War are not being heeded today. I know for a fact that we are no longer taught about the war, why it started, who started it, and the number of men and women who participated. Yes, the South still harbors a grudge today because of the outcome.

    1. Nick Lighthouse

      I love the South, grew up there.
      “The South will rise again.” Boy have I heard that a gazillion times. Gets a little tedious.

  5. Yusaf from Texas

    Hey guys and gals, I know this is a little off topic, but the new update on the COVID-19 virus says it could kill 81,000 in U.S., subside in June this year according to a-Washington University analysis. And that it could peak in April or so.

    1. Ruth M. McMasters

      Sad about this whole pandemic. But, there is one silver lining in that we are learning a lot about China and about the weaknesses in our health-care system.

      1. Lynn Pitts

        That is true, Ruth and I’m sure the govt will be compiling a list of lessons learned. It will be a good thing to get on the inside track and hear some of those lessons early and not have to wait months.

      2. Linux Man

        Yes, and Europe as well. What we are not hearing much is what is happening in the lower part of the hemisphere (other than Australia and NZ). What about Central and South America as well as Africa? Are they in the throes of a pandemic too? Come on, news media. Get on the ball here.

  6. Eric Coda

    I found it funny that you thought damnyankee was only one word. It is? Or is it? Ha Ha Ha
    But there are many in the South who are still fighting the war in their minds.
    What we have to do is what Gen. Grant did…. he said these men were now part of our country again.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      “Unity” That is what Grant meant. He knew, as well, that it takes a lot of people working together to achieve great things. He figured it out while campaigning in the South to destroy the Confederate Armies.

  7. Army Captain

    I’ve been to the Gettysburg battlefield and many others. I too was seeking the real reasons that men fought for so long and so hard. Good that you are putting this info out so that our young people may understand better why the war war fought, so many died, and how the thinking in those times still echoes today.

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