Slavery and the American Civil War are almost always seen as the cause and effect in the historical perspective. But was the Civil War really about ending slavery in the South? This is the question military historian Samuel W. Mitcham Jr. takes up to explore in his latest book It Wasn’t About Slavery (Regnery Publishing, 2021).
If the title of Mitcham’s work doesn’t say it all about the book’s message, the subtitle does: Exposing the Great Lie of the Civil War. Starting from a brief history of slavery to slave trade in America and the political scene of the events that led up to the Civil War of 1860s, the book offers details on the deep political divide between the North and the South in the United States and its foundation in the economic structure of the country. The author attempts to refute the general perception that Lincoln fought the war against the South to emancipate the slaves.
History books can be controversial as there is nearly always more than one account of the same event, people, or phenomenon. It Wasn’t About Slavery is no exception. The author provides detailed notes and references to back up his account of the antebellum and Civil War events. It will appear that the author is biased against the North and blames the North and Lincoln as responsible for the war that according to him didn’t do much except invade and conquer the South for economic exploitation.
By its content, the book itself is very interesting and significant. The narration is very consistent and there is hardly any boring moment or gap in the author’s account of the events leading up to the Civil War. While the book is meant to explain how the war itself wasn’t primarily about slavery, Mitcham necessarily digs into the details of slavery and its economic-political value for both sides. Also of great interest is the exploration of Abraham Lincoln’s character as a politician and President in the later chapters of the book. Fans of the much-revered “Honest Abe” may suffer disappointment or even shock over what this work tells about him. The author backs his claims with references so it’ll be the dissenting reader’s job to check the references and infer accordingly.
It Wasn’t About Slavery makes a good source of alternative history or non-popular history of the Civil War and whether or not one agrees with it, reading this book is surely worth your time.
Disclaimer: This was the first book this reviewer read on the topic of Civil War.