This West Point colonel will tell you what the Civil War was really about.

“The Civil War was fought over slavery" and “The Civil War was about much more than slavery."

You might have heard both of these statements before. And not just in your U.S. history class.

Amazingly enough, it's also an ongoing debate today in the real world, especially with the battle over the Confederate flag in the South and the Black Lives Matter movement's push for much-needed changes toward racial equality. In both cases, the legacy of slavery — and its role in our past — matters. For that reason, it's worth re-examining and getting to the bottom of the motivations behind that pivotal conflict — and what it still means today.


So which is it? Was slavery the main issue in the Civil War or not? Well, here's your answer, once and for all.

The Civil War was about slavery. Period.

I know, I know. I'm just an Internet guy — what do I know? But Col. James T. "Ty" Seidule, Ph.D., who teaches courses at the West Point Military Academy like “History of the Military Art I: From Ancient Times Until the 20th Century" and contributed to “The West Point History of the Civil War," is kind of an expert here.

I guess he'll do. Although all those pins on his uniform are kinda distracting.

In a video, Seidule stated unequivocally: The Civil War was about slavery. And he's pulling from the only authority that exists: history.

The biggest reason for the controversy around the "true reason" for the Civil War, according to Seidule, is simple: Many people don't want to believe the citizens of the Southern states were willing fight and die to preserve the morally repugnant institution of slavery.

It's a hard pill to swallow. But it's true.

There's plenty of evidence to prove it.

It's right there in the Southern states' secession documents. You can read them for yourself right here. They state clearly that the purpose of secession was to protect slavery. Mississippi's, for example:

"In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world."

These were not minority views. The votes to secede based on these documents were not close in any of the Southern states — in South Carolina, it was unanimous.

Also kinda telling: The vice president of the Confederacy said so.

But how can we really know what he meant by "founded on slavery"???

And the counterarguments ("The Civil War was about something else!") just don't hold up.

A common one, of course is the classic: "It's about states' rights."

OK, sure. States' rights. States' rights ... to what?

"States' rights" is not even an argument that the war wasn't about slavery. It's an argument that the South was justified in seceding — in order to keep slavery.

Another common counter-argument: President Abraham Lincoln fought the war to keep the Union together.

True. But Lincoln did so because he saw the writing on the wall: Slavery was all-or-nothing.

Running for president was actually Lincoln's fallback after failing his audition for the Blue Man Group.

He fought the war against the South because he knew slavery would eventually either exist in all of the country or none of it.

Slavery was (and is) shameful — but that shouldn't prevent us from owning our history around it.

Dealing with that legacy, particularly as it still exists today in so many ways, is something we're all responsible for as Americans. Rewriting history to gloss over the terrible truth behind the war is not the way to do that.

But as Americans, we should also be proud.

The Civil War was brutal and bloody and hard. But we fought it for a very good reason.


All images via Prager University.

As Seidule says: "It's to America's everlasting credit that it fought the most devastating war in its history in order to abolish slavery."

You can watch Seidule's video and hear the full argument in the video below:

If you're still in the 41% of Americans who say slavery wasn't the main cause of the Civil War (and don't think that fact should be taught in schools), feel free to peruse:

via KrustyKhajiit / YouTube

Thomas F. Wilson played one of the most recognizable villains in film history, Biff Tannen, in the "Back to the Future" series. So, understandably, he gets recognized wherever he goes for the iconic role.

The attention must be nice, but it has to get exhausting answering the same questions day in and day out about the films. So Wilson created a card that he carries with him to hand out to people that answers all the questions he gets asked on a daily basis.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

Sometimes a politician says or does something so brazenly gross that you have to do a double take to make sure it really happened. Take, for instance, this tweet from Lauren Witzke, a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate from Delaware. Witzke defeated the party's endorsed candidate to win the primary, has been photographed in a QAnon t-shirt, supports the conspiracy theory that 9/11 was a U.S. government inside operation, and has called herself a flat earther.

So that's neat.

Witzke has also proposed a 10-year total halt on immigration to the U.S., which is absurd on its face, but makes sense when you see what she believes about immigrants. In a tweet this week, Witzke wrote, "Most third-world migrants can not assimilate into civil societies. Prove me wrong."

First, let's talk about how "civil societies" and developing nations are not different things, and to imply that they are is racist, xenophobic, and wrong. Not to mention, it has never been a thing to refer people using terms like "third-world." That's a somewhat outdated term for developing nations, and it was never an adjective to describe people from those nations even when it was in use.

Next, let's see how Twitter thwapped Lauren Witzke straight into the 21st century by proving her wrong in the most delicious way. Not only did people share how they or their relatives and friends have successfully "assimilated," but many showed that they went way, way beyond that.

Keep Reading Show less
via WatchMojo / YouTube

There are two conflicting viewpoints when it comes to addressing culture from that past that contains offensive elements that would never be acceptable today.

Some believe that old films, TV shows, music or books with out-of-date, offensive elements should be hidden from public view. While others think they should be used as valuable tools that help us learn from the past.

Keep Reading Show less