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The War of Secession


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By John Marquardt April 12, 2022 Blog

A line from Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?” In the case of the great American conflict of 1861, the name by which it has become generally known is, of course, the “Civil War.” This term was, however, only occasionally used during the war, such as Lincoln’s reference in his 1863 Gettysburg Address that the country was “engaged in a great civil war.” Even the hundred twenty-eight volume history of the war published by the Government Printing Office from 1881 to 1901 was entitled “The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.” Most writers in the North at that time used the same term and others the War for the Union. At least one author, William Crafts, used the title “The Southern Rebellion” for his 1863 history.

 In the South, while some such as Richmond Examiner editor Edward Pollard merely called it the “War,” others called it the War of Separation. The terms War Between the States and War of Southern Independence also came into use in the South at that time and are still popular with many Southern writers today. Perhaps, however, the terms employed by some European nations during the war were the truly correct appellations for the conflict. These would be the French expression “Guerre de Sécession” and “Sezessionskrieg” in Germany, both of which mean a War of Secession.

 On December 20th of 1860, South Carolina adopted an Ordinance of Secession and reverted to its original status as an independent, sovereign state. During the following month, six other Southern states followed suit and on February 22nd, the seven states reunited in Montgomery, Alabama, as the Confederate States of America. Lincoln refused to recognize the legality of the South’s actions and by calling it an act of rebellion, he felt empowered to use military force to prevent their departure. His primary tool was the Insurrection Act of 1807 which allowed the president to use both the federal military and state militias to suppress an armed insurrection. At Lincoln’s urging, Congress added a new section to the Act that year which authorized  him to use such forces in dealing with a “rebellion against the authority of the government of the United States.” :snip:  


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