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The War of Northern Aggression is one of the alternate names for the military conflict that took place in the United States between 1861-1865. The generally accepted term for this conflict is the Civil War, and this is the term that is most commonly found in textbooks and other references. Some people continue to refer to this conflict as the War of Northern Aggression, however, and the disputes over naming the Civil War reveal lingering resentments and a variety of cultural attitudes.
The conflict began when several Southern states seceded from the United States, known as the Union, and formed the Confederate States, known as the Confederacy. The secession was provoked by the election of President Abraham Lincoln, a known opponent of slavery, although a number of other factors were involved as well. Rather than allowing the Southern states to separate peacefully, the Union fought to force the Confederacy to rejoin the Union, and was eventually successful.
In war, the victors tend to name the conflict, as well as telling most of the stories. In the immediate wake of the war, many Northerners referred to the conflict with names referencing slavery and the union, such as the "War of Insurrection" and the "Slaveholder's War." Southerners, embittered by what they felt was interference, used terms like the "War of Secession" and "Mr. Lincoln's War." Some people stuck with more neutral phrasing such as the "War of 1861 to 1865." Eventually, people settled on "the Civil War" as a term for the conflict.
Terms like the "War of Northern Aggression" and the "War Between the States" are in use by some residents of the South. They reflect a certain amount of Southern pride, as well as beliefs about why the war was fought, placing the blame for the events on the North and its refusal to allow the Confederacy to secede and form its own government. Some critics have suggested that people who use terms like the "War of Northern Aggression" are romanticizing the events of the Civil War and the antebellum South.
Since the North's version of events tends to dominate textbooks and references about the Civil War, the insistence on referring to the conflict as the War of Northern Aggression could be considered a subtle form of rebellion on the part of some Southerners. Historians have written extensively about the conflict from a number of perspectives, using a variety of terms to refer to it. The diverse stories that have emerged illustrate that it can be difficult to report with neutrality on a conflict.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the War of Northern Aggression?
The term "War of Northern Aggression" is an alternative name used by some in the Southern United States to refer to the American Civil War, which took place from 1861 to 1865. This name reflects a Southern perspective that the conflict was initiated by the aggressive policies of the Northern states towards the Southern states, particularly regarding the issue of states' rights and the legality of slavery. It is important to note that this term is considered controversial and is not commonly used in academic or international contexts.
Why do some people refer to the American Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression?
Some people, particularly in the South, may refer to the American Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression to emphasize their view that the conflict was caused by the North's encroachment on the rights of Southern states. This perspective suggests that the North was the aggressor in the conflict, imposing its will on the South, particularly in relation to the issue of slavery and the federal government's authority over the states.
What were the main causes of the American Civil War?
The main causes of the American Civil War were deeply rooted in disagreements over states' rights, the expansion of slavery into new territories, and economic differences between the industrial North and the agrarian South. The election of Abraham Lincoln, who was seen as anti-slavery, in 1860 led to the secession of several Southern states and the formation of the Confederate States of America, which ultimately triggered the war. According to the National Park Service, the issue of slavery was central to the conflict.
How did the term 'War of Northern Aggression' come into use?
The term 'War of Northern Aggression' came into use as part of the Lost Cause narrative, which emerged in the post-war South. This narrative sought to recast the Civil War as a noble defense of the Southern way of life against Northern domination, rather than a rebellion primarily aimed at preserving the institution of slavery. The term has been perpetuated by some groups to emphasize a Southern identity and viewpoint.
Is the term 'War of Northern Aggression' widely accepted by historians?
No, the term 'War of Northern Aggression' is not widely accepted by historians. Most scholars prefer the term "American Civil War" as it is more neutral and accurately reflects the nature of the conflict as a war between two regions of the same country. The term 'War of Northern Aggression' is seen as part of a revisionist history that downplays the role of slavery as a cause of the war and is not supported by the consensus of historical research.