The American Civil War, also known as the War Between the States started at 1861 and ended in 1865. It was a civil war in the United States of America when the Southern slave states declared about their desire to get separated from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America. With Jefferson Davis as their leader they started a fight against the United States federal government. This war which took the lives of 620,000 soldiers and caused an undetermined number of civilian casualties ended the slavery in the United States and strengthened the role of the federal government. In other words, the Civil War was started in order to end slavery but whether it was necessary to start a war for this is the question Bruce Levin is answering in his book “Half Slave and Half Free: The Roots of Civil War”.
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There is absolutely no doubt that the Civil War of 1861was one of the most memorable events in the history of the United States: “The American Civil War was, by general agreement, the most important event in the history of the United States. It altered the internal structure of American society more profoundly than had the Revolution” (Bruce Levin, p. 1). Even these days people still argue what caused the war of brother against brother and they have different opinions towards the real reasons of this terrifying event. Bruce Levin names slavery one of the main reasons of the Civil War. As he states in his book, the South and the North of the States had a very significant difference in economical development. In the South the number of poor people prevailed whereas the north had grown economically and had a large paid labor force available. Levin describes the southern and northern positions very clearly and keeps to the idea that having such differences and opposing views over slavery it was impossible for them to remain united.
Bruce Levin does not pay proper attention to the issue of religion in the Civil War which is also the fault of many other sources: “Despite the uncontested and unrivaled centrality of the Civil War in American history, despite its importance for both the history of the South and the history of African Americans, and despite its nearly mythic place in the popular mind (as seen in the massive continuing interest in Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee, as well as the huge popularity of the Ken Burns PBS series), surprisingly little attention has been devoted to the war as a religious experience and event” (Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout, Charles Reagan Wilson, p. 3). In fact, religion was everywhere where the war was: “Politicians on both sides of the conflict invoked God to justify their actions, soldiers and their families prayed for God’s blessing, religious-based organizations mobilized relief and urged reform, and the slaves reaching for freedom praised God for their day of Jubilee.” Thus we can state, that religion is what kept people alive during this war that’s why it can not be ignored.
To sum it up, in his book Bruce Levin gives clear causes of the American Civil War of 1861-1865 and gives detailed information on each of them as well as he states that the divergences between the North and the South of the States culminated in this war. He lays a special emphasis on the slavery and the struggle which took place in order to abolish it. His book is a valuable piece of writing which should be recommended for reading to everyone who is interested in the history of the United States.
- Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout, Charles Reagan Wilson. Religion and the American Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
- Bruce Levine. Half Slave and Half Free: The Roots of Civil War. New York: Hill and Wang, 2005.