Question of the Week: 1/11-1/17/21

In the free, newly released podcast, there was a discussion about what events are seen as the start of the American Civil War in 1860-1861.

What event and date do you consider as the start of the Civil War? Why?

16 Responses to Question of the Week: 1/11-1/17/21

  1. When two incompatible sections first began to form a union for their common good the seed was planted for sectional strife. Then when one of the sections continuously sought to circumvent the compact around which the union was formed for its own political and economic benefit, the seed began to germinate. And finally when a politically party was formed to consolidate the interests of the more populous section against the other, the full fruit of disunion was in place.

  2. Dred Scott decision rendering any further compromise on the spread of slavery impossible by allowing slave owners to bring slaves into non-slave states without jeopardizing the slaves’ indentured status. The holding was that such would violate the Due Process Clause (Amendment V) of the Constitution by depriving property rights by crossing state lines. .The decision is a prime example of antebellum racism.

  3. Enjoyed the discussion you guys had. It’s hard to say. Lincoln’s election? The firing on Fort Sumter? I agree with the Penn Stater who said Lincoln’s call for troops was the point of no return and brought the other states into the Confederacy.

  4. Rod nailed it in my view. In my reading of the history of the forming of the nation, I was always struck by the fact that the North and South did not get along from the very beginning. We don’t get along even today. With the expansion of the nation, the mid-west has joined the South, and the North has aligned with the far west. The opposing sides have just expanded their bases.

    Looks to me like the seeds of Civil War are sprouting again!

  5. Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin that enhanced cotton processing & thus the requirement for significantly more slave labor, coupled with his development of interchangeable parts thus accelerating the growth of Northern industrial power.

  6. I wonder if it doesn’t necessarily have a fixed starting line. I feel like the tensions that caused the war (slavery and states’ rights controversies) had been building since… forever? Human nature and the building dependency on slave labor in the South’s society and economy would have made the fallout inevitable. The “civil war” might have existed in the back of the American’s mind since the establishment of the two-party system as well. They weren’t waging war on the battlefield, but in their attitudes and mindsets. The whole idea that the “North” is better than the “South” or vice-versa, and both sides have their own reasons and passions to support their argument. Just the concept of there even being a “North” and “South” created that rift between the people. The straw the broke the camel’s back and made it all exploded only happens within the decade or two preceding the firing on Fort Sumter. Maybe with the Compromise of 1850? Or when South Carolina threatened to secede the first time, creating the temptation to follow through with the threat later?… Okay, I’m rambling now. But you get the idea, right?

  7. Well done, ECW readers!! Ima gonna take May 24, 1861–Ellsworth’s death in Alexandria. It informed both sides that dead men were going to be the result if it went further.

  8. I’ll go with First Manassas. Two organized armies in combat with, for that time in the war, relatively high casualties. There was no looking back at that point.

  9. John Brown’s raid. Sides were lining up, and now one of the ‘other sides’ was being actively attacked via military action. Everything that happened after that pretty much became inevitable.

  10. There was something explosive about President Lincoln’s call for volunteers followed by the secession of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

    1. If I recall correctly, that followed “something[s] explosive” fired at a United States installation in Charleston Harbor.

      1. Yes, I have a similar recollection, but was that a declaration of war? I’m not sure.

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