Do We Still Care About the Civil War: Eric Wittenberg

The cover story of the newest issue of Civil War Times asks, “Do we still care about the Civil War?” ECW is pleased to partner with Civil War Times to extend the conversation here on the blog.

Of course, the Civil War still matters. There are many lessons to be learned from the events that triggered this conflict, and I have long been a firm believer in the truth of the statement by George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We see many of the political concerns that triggered the war rearing their ugly heads once more: the belief that states can nullify federal laws that they don’t like, extreme political polarization among the citizenry, sectional disputes, disputes over whether states rights or federalism should predominate, the expansion of presidential powers, and other similar unhappy phenomena. Mix in dangerous traits like the rise of armed militias, and you have a tinderbox that seems ready to trigger a second American civil war.

Since I believe firmly in learning the lessons of history, the study of the American Civil War, and particularly, the events that caused it, is more important today than it has ever been. Americans need to learn the lessons of history and pump the brakes before the ship of state careens into an iceberg, to mix my metaphors.

5 Responses to Do We Still Care About the Civil War: Eric Wittenberg

  1. The events today are eerily similar to the events leading up to the Civil War. The politicians of today are using the media to their advantage as they did before the Civil War to manipulate public opinion. Only today you can add social media to the news media. And once again most people are not wise enough to realize that they are being manipulated to advance the agenda of the politicians. As was the case then, there is less and less middle ground and very little respect for the opinion of the other side of the aisle.

  2. Actually the problem isn’t the ignorance of the populace regarding the manipulation of the news, They believe that their opponents are actively ignoring those aspects of the news which disagree with their own. All of the major news outlets have fervently embraced a particular position and actively skew their reporting. In this way we are perilously similar to the 1850s with the hyperpartisanship of the press and journals of opinion. The war over the presidency is beyond unhealthy, with adults acting like rabidly irrational children. Hey, welcome to 1860! It will be interesting to see how the Democrats in 2020 will avoid their 1860 performance. Their hatred of “Black Republicans” in 1860 didn’t unify their party.

  3. Many still do care, but the narrative is increasingly controlled by academics trying to revise the interpretation of the War and its remembrance. The work of Catton, Tucker, Freeman, and to a lesser extent McPherson is being cast aside for more radical theories concerning the meaning of the conflict.

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!