A War Lost and Found

Here is an interesting essay by Allen Guelzo of Gettysburg College published in The American Interest.   Apropos because August 20, 1866 was the day President Andrew Johnson declared that the Civil War was over. Professor Guelzo is a historian and noted Civil War era expert.

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2 replies on “A War Lost and Found”

Are we safe yet? The Civil War cost the South $5-8 billion dollars, according to Professor Guelzo, about 70-80% of its pre-war wealth. He didn't seem to make an estimation of the total cost to the North, other that saying that by the 20th century, veterans' benefits were more than 20% of the economy. Even a tie-dyed and stone-washed libertarian wants to see bang for the buck. After $1.25 trillion in war costs and $8 trillion in defense spending since 9/11, we still base our success criteria on what >hasn't< happened. Show me the money!

Congressman Ron Paul would doubtless agree conceptually with the foregoing. But I'm not sure of the point, otherwise. Interestingly, there were two Union Army widows receiving benefits as late as 2002. They were in their teens when they married very old men, but apparently were still eligible. Now that makes a lot of sense.

Guelzo's point, with which I agree, is that the immediate ante-bellum political leadership in the South was feckless in the extreme. If preservation of wealth — i.e., slaves — was the goal, secession was completely unnecessary, given the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the Dred Scott decision in the preceding decade. Once secession occurred, war came about only because the leadership in the South continually overreached. Cry Havoc! The Crooked Road to Civil War (2007, I think) by Nelson Lankford is the best recent study of that series of fiascos.

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