What is in some ways the most remarkable and significant feature of the American Civil War
is generally overlooked.
Many another struggle has been rendered glorious by daring charges upon the ramparts of the foe; other armies and captains have inscribed upon their banners victories as brilliant as Chancellorsville
; other nations have poured out treasures of gold and blood in maintaining some right held sacred.
But it has remained for the American
people to present the spectacle of a fierce fratricidal conflict, prolonged to the point of exhaustion, swiftly followed by an even firmer knitting of the ties of brotherhood than had prevailed before the joining of battle.
In a word, the Civil War
, though stubbornly waged, was in many respects the most generous civil conflict of modern times.
Even in the midst of the strife, commanders on either side were frank to recognize the sterling qualities of their opponents.
A Confederate cavalry leader, in 1863, reported of his antagonists, ‘The Federals fought like devils.’
This eulogy, to be sure, is not couched in conventional terms, but that does not lessen its sincerity.
In the following year, the unrelenting Sherman
wrote to his wife concerning the people of the South
: ‘No amount of poverty or adversity seems to shake their faith: niggers gone, wealth and luxury gone, money worthless, starvation in view within a period of two or three years, and causes enough to make the bravest tremble.
Yet I see no signs of let-up—some few deserters, plenty tired of war, but the masses determined to fight it out.’
By no means was the spirit of brotherly sympathy lacking