10 Things You May Not Know About the Civil War (pt. 2)

Our previous post gave you four of the promised 10 curious facts and dispelled myths about the Civil War. Today, we’ll give you three more. What? You didn’t think you’d actually get all 10 at once, did you? We’re Southerners. We like to draw (or drawl) these things out.

Let’s start by recapping the first four items on our list:

1. The first death in the Civil War was an accident.
2. The first non-accidental deaths in the War were not in combat.
3. The first true combat death was all because of a cow.
4. The War was largely brought about by one man’s Oedipal complex.

READER ADVISORY: Before we move on to the next three, we should warn readers that there are descriptions and terms in this list that some may find offensive. These are historical facts that we have double- and triple-checked for authenticity and are only included here to stress the heated political and cultural climate of the times.

Here we go:

New York City Draft Riots of 1863

5. Northerners were racists, too.

The lack of shocked gasps emanating from your homes and offices tells me you aren’t surprised by this. However, history has tended to paint the Late Unpleasantness with broad strokes: Southerners were all racist slave-owners who wanted to destroy the nation. Northerners were bold abolitionists who fought to make men free. Yeah, not so much.

In fact, while some in the North embraced abolition as moral imperative, Northern factory workers viewed slaves much the way their modern counterparts see low-wage foreign workers today: as unfair competition for their jobs. And freed slaves presented an even bigger threat in their minds.

When, in 1863, the federal government created a broader draft law, requiring all men between 20 and 35 and all unmarried men between 35 and 45 be entered into a draft lottery, anti-war sentiment in the North grew to a fever pitch. Making matters worse, free blacks in the North, who were not considered citizens, were exempt from service. (If anyone could pay $300, they would be exempted from the draft – unlikely among the working class.)

Newspapers in New York City, long a bastion of abolitionism, began to decry the new law, spreading fear of an invasion of black labor resulting from the earlier Emancipation Proclamation, referring to the conflict as a “nigger war” and claiming that slaves were more valuable than white workers, as the price on their heads was $1,000, as opposed to the $300 exemption. Rhetoric fueled fear, and fear fueled hate. Hate exploded into rioting on July 13, 1863 and lasted for five days in the city.

Rioters attacked random black victims on the street before thousands of them descended upon an orphanage for black children, looting and ransacking the place before burning it to the ground. Those perceived as supportive of blacks, white women in interracial marriages and white businesses that catered to black or interracial clientele were also targeted. None fared worse than black workers. Eleven were lynched in the city streets, their bodies often sexually mutilated.

Though the North would, of course, win the war. The New York Draft Riots proved that America had much more than a slavery problem. It had a nationwide racism problem.

6. The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t do what you think it did.

Ask any average American what the Emancipation Proclamation did, and the answer you’ll likely receive is, “free the slaves.” It didn’t, not really. That’s not to say the it didn’t have a profound effect.

The Emancipation Proclamation actually declared that “all persons held as slaves” in those states still fighting on behalf of the Confederacy “are, and henceforward shall be free.” It didn’t apply to slave states loyal to the Union – the so-called border states. It didn’t even apply to areas like Tennessee and certain parishes in Louisiana (including New Orleans) where the Union had regained military control by that point in the war. Further exemptions were extended to the counties that would soon become West Virginia. It only declared free slaves in states where the Union government held no sway. In practice, it did very little.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln announced the proclamation in September of 1862, but it would not take effect until January 1, 1863. In theory, any Confederate state that returned to the Union prior to the effective date would have been exempted as well.

None of this meant that the Emancipation Proclamation was a toothless edict. Where it held the most sway was in the realm of ideas. The proclamation inextricably linked the war to the cause of freeing slaves – a connection that had previously only been tangential to the more complex political questions of the nature of our Constitution and federal government.

Perhaps more importantly, it gave slaves who heard of it something they had heretofore never possessed: hope. Slaves who were freed by advancing Union armies or who managed to escape could then fight on behalf of their emancipators. More than 200,000 did so by war’s end. But there was still work to be done in the cause of freedom, because…

7. The end of the War did not mean the end of slavery.

For all the positive gains the Emancipation Proclamation made in the cause of human liberty, it did not, in fact, end slavery in the United States. Exemptions had initially left nearly 300,000 slaves in bondage in Union-controlled states and counties. The end of slavery wouldn’t come until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution on December 6, 1865.

At the time of its ratification, slavery still existed in Delaware and Kentucky. In fact, those two states wouldn’t ratify the amendment until 1901 and 1976, respectively. West Virginia, too, still had legalized slavery. The amendment took effect on December 18, 1865, finally making slavery illegal everywhere in the United States. And setting the stage for the grand failure that was Reconstruction … but that’s another story.

Continue on for our final three curious facts and dispelled myths about the Civil War.

5 Responses to “10 Things You May Not Know About the Civil War (pt. 2)”

  1. great stuff WF. very well said. btw, saw a guy on twitter today (who i don’t know) promoting your blog. very cool.

    • Thanks, Mark. Now if only this thing would help pay my bills… BTW, I plan to start doing some video content on here this summer. Let me know if you ever have a spare minute to do some fun stuff…or ideas for video content.


  1. 10 Things You May Not Know About the Civil War (pt. 3) | Real Southern Men - June 9, 2011

    […] Time to wrap up our little series of curious facts and dispelled myths about the Civil War. If you wish to read about the first seven items in our list, check out parts one and two. […]

  2. Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency: Emancipation Proclamation « Jeinrev - August 28, 2011

    […] 10 Things You May Not Know About the Civil War (pt. 2) (real-southern.com) […]

  3. Abolitionism in the United States: Later Movements (The Civil War and Emancipation) « Jeinrev - August 28, 2011

    […] 10 Things You May Not Know About the Civil War (pt. 2) (real-southern.com) […]

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