Elaine Marie Cooper
As we approach Fourth of July weekend, the 244th Birthday of the United States, it reminds me how often we confuse two important wars in our history—the American Revolution and the Civil War.
While they are both in our distant past, understanding these wars with their conflicts and goals, help us understand who we are as a nation. It seems an appropriate time to refresh all Americans on these unique events.
Before this war that took place from 1775-1783, we were called British citizens. The King of England ruled us and we were the colonists working the lands of North American soil to prosper Britain’s needs. England had long since used up many of their country’s resources like trees used for ship masts and they needed the fruit of the forests in America.
Maintaining ownership of these lands was a constant conflict, especially with the country of France who also desired to own America. That fight came to a head years before during the French and Indian war, when England fought side-by-side with the colonists to protect American soil. England came away the victor. It also brought huge debt to the coffers of King George. Parliament decided that the colonials could help pay for that war that secured triumph, so they raised their taxes.
It became clear to the Americans that they really were not equal to British citizens. They had no representative to speak for their needs in Parliament. That’s when the phrase, “No taxation without representation” became the cry of the Americans. It was the beginning of the end for good relations between Britain and the colonists.
Instead of negotiating with the Americans, Parliament decided a heavy-handed approach for the rebels was necessary and troops were sent to Boston to quell the insurrection. That of course led to the first shots fired between the Mother country and the Colonists in 1775. Eight years and 50,000 American casualties later, this land became the United States of America.
The Civil War
The seeds of this war were actually sown during the Revolution. Congress, in writing the Declaration of Independence, wrestled with the issue of slavery that was prevalent in all the colonies. While some members of Congress were willing to declare ALL men—including blacks—equal, many in the south would not have signed that document if it included the freedom of black people in America. They depended on the slave labor for their economy and, if the northern colonies insisted on including equal rights for all, many in the south would not have signed the declaration that separated the colonists from England.
The sad irony is that some of our Founding Fathers were slave owners, even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In this day and age, it is a bitter pill to swallow that the writer of the Declaration of Independence was himself, an owner of humans.
Slavery continued in the southern (and even a few northern) states. According to history.com, James Madison, one of our Founding Fathers, assumed slavery would die its natural death from lack of profitability. All that changed with the invention of the cotton gin in 1794. Suddenly, black slaves were an economic advantage that the south was not willing to give up.
That situation led to a rising group of Abolitionists in the new United States. These were brave citizens, both white and black, who fought in various ways to free black people from bondage. This led to the Underground Railroad, a series of hiding places from the south to the north to help slaves escape their master’s cruelty.
After decades of conflict, things came to a head when Abraham Lincoln, a believer in all men are created equal, was elected President in 1860. On April 12, 1861, the Battle of Fort Sumter took place, starting that 4-year war that took the lives of over 650,000 Americans.
While this is a brief overview of both wars, I hope this will help Americans understand the differences between these notable events in our history. We are a nation of imperfect people, whose sins have often led to bloodshed. May we all aspire to lean more on our Heavenly Father for wisdom in difficult times.
And on this 4th of July weekend, please take a moment to thank God for the sacrifices that our forefathers and foremothers made in establishing this nation in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed. It was an astonishing announcement—the concept of a free and independent country ruled by the people, of the people and for the people.
May that freedom continue to ring.
Elaine Marie Cooper has two historical fiction books that released in 2019: War’s Respite(Prequel novella) and Love’s Kindling. They are the first two books in the Dawn of AmericaSeries set in Revolutionary War Connecticut. Love’s Kindling is a Finalist in this years’s Selah Awards. Cooper is the award-winning author of Fields of the Fatherless and Bethany’s Calendar. Her 2016 release (Saratoga Letters) was finalist in Historical Romance in both the Selah Awards and Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and HomeLife magazine. She also penned the three-book historical series, Deer Run Saga. Her upcoming release, Scarred Vessels,” is about the black soldiers in the American Revolution. Look for it in October 2020. You can visit her website/ blog at www.elainemariecooper.com