Letters to the Editor: The Semantics of Civil War Regions

Williamjames Hull Hoffer, October 2008

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To the Editor:

I am writing this to advocate on behalf of my own lost cause with regards to Gary W. Gallagher’s “Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten” (Perspectives on History, May 2008). Although much of the historical community and the wider public would agree with Gallagher’s use of the terms “North” and “South” to describe the sides in the Civil War, we historians should not give into that long-time myth. “Southern” states like Kentucky and Maryland, the population of the region that would become the state of West Virginia, and other southern-leaning areas of the “North” did not on the whole fight for the Confederacy. Similarly, Confederate sympathies and Union sympathies also knew no region, though the supposed governments of the Confederacy were confined to the southern part of the United States. The regional short-hands create improper distinctions and oversimplify the conflict between Union forces and those of the Confederacy. The sooner we agree to use proper terminology the sooner we can eliminate the ignorance and the baleful consequences from that ignorance that surround that massive conflict.

—Williamjames Hull Hoffer
Seton Hall University