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How to Teach the Civil War

Written by Gary North on March 5, 2015

This was posted yesterday on a www.GaryNorth.com forum.

Kids intro to US Civil War My 9-year old son would like to read a book on the War Between the States. Any recommendations?

Little boys like to play war. They like to play with toy guns. They want to read about war. They like to read about victories without considering the bloody cost of these victories. They are drawn to aesthetically bloodless bloodshed early.

If you read about this war, you should read about 700,000 young men who were sent to their deaths by politicians. Then there were the girls they left behind. These girls did not marry.

One of the problems with the Civil War literature is this: only three literary figures actually fought in it. Do you know who they were? Probably not. I’m going to put a link in, and I want you to click to it. Two of them were in the North. One of them was in the South. There are very few Americans who have heard of them. Let’s see if you can guess who they were. To find out, click here.

Boys like to read stories about winners in battles. They get a taste for this. When they grow up, they read the same sorts of books. Civil War historiography is the largest segment of American history in terms of books. Everybody wants to talk about the battles. On the whole, the battles were militarily irrelevant. The North had trains, the telegraph, the industries, the navy, and the population to sustain the war. It had the tax base. It had the banking system. The fall of Atlanta sealed the fate of the South, but it was not a battle. If it had taken place after November, Lincoln would have lost the election. If the South had held out until the following March, McClellan probably would have settled with the South. But Atlanta fell, and McClellan wasn’t elected.

The forgotten fact that you should begin with concerning the Civil War is this: the future of North from 1860 to 1865 was dependent on the Illinois Central Railroad. Lincoln was a lawyer with that railroad. Stephen A. Douglas was a lawyer with that railroad. In senior management was George McClellan, who oversaw both of them. So, in the election of 1860, the President was going to be won by an Illinois Central lawyer. In the election of 1864, the election was going to be won by an employee of the Illinois Central Railroad. Anybody who thinks this was random is the kind of person who believes that it was random in 2004, when a member of Yale’s Skull and Bones was going to be elected President. This is an organization that selects 15 people a year. Out of all the people in the United States, the only candidates who made it to the top were Skull and Bones members in 2004, neither of whom was allowed, or is allowed, by the secret oath of the organization to discuss the organization. Similarly, historians of the Civil War rarely bother to talk about the centrality of the Illinois Central Railroad.

A decent book on the Civil War would cover these three topics:

1. How did the war come?
2. How was the war financed?
3. What were the post-war social changes directly attributable to the war?

Every war should be studied this way.

You can find Civil War books on these topics, but you cannot find these topics discussed in detail in one book. You do not find one book that focuses on these three questions.


The war began over one issue above all others: slavery. That was not why the North invaded; that was why the South seceded. Statements that specifically stated this, in state after state, confirmed what South Carolina initially said: the reason for secession was slavery.

The book should cover one topic above all topics: how South Carolina seceded. It did so on the basis on a single issue: its commitment to slavery. The politicians had almost done this in 1828, and if they had, they would have succeeded. But they waited too long to do it the second time. The secession document is here. This is what it said:

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

Continue Reading on www.garynorth.com

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