I have recently had the pleasure of reading Thomas DiLorenzo's Lincoln Unmasked, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the time period. Prior to reading the book I had never really questioned my knowledge or understanding of the "Civil War" as it was pretty boring and clear-cut. Whether it is a product of our educational system or my own proclivity towards math and science I feel there are a great many events of historical significance which I do not quite understand. The civil war is no exception. As a child growing up in a northern state, the message I got was that the southern states seceded from the union because they wanted to keep their slaves (occasionally the phrase "state's rights" was thrown in without explanation). Finally the good guys prevailed and Lincoln freed the slaves. Throw in some carpet baggers, reconstruction (which I never followed too closely) and the dastardly assassination of the noble Lincoln, and that pretty much wraps things up. Sympathy with the confederate cause was never something I considered.
Now, I want to state right of front that slavery is unequivocally the most reprehensible institution ever to exist within our shores. The fact that it was inflicted with such prejudice upon a particular people makes it so much worse. However, to focus an inordinate attention to this singular issue while ignoring the political and economic forces driving the southern states to secede from the union is to do ourselves a great disservice. More importantly I think we must pause to question why Lincoln would react to these actions with military invasion.
I am not an expert on the history of the war between the states, so I am not going to open a debate here on the causes of that war or the character of the men who started it. I am simply going to tip my hat to the author for opening my eyes to a series of questions I had never considered. I will close by imploring the reader to recognize the anti-southern bigotry that surrounds us on a regular basis. Challenge your preconceptions and you can't help but make the world a better place.