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.