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What should we call the War?

The American War of 1861-1865 has been referred to by numerous different names:

The War of the Rebellion - the official US government name during the war.
The War of Insurrection - another popular Yankee name. Lincoln frequently referred to the "insurrection".
The Civil War - the most well known and continuously used.
By most Southrons the War is referred to as the either The War for Southern Independence or The War of Northern Aggression. As a compromise, the term War Between The States is often used.

Letís examine for a moment the actual meaning of these terms.

rebellion - an uprising or organised opposition intended to change or overthrow an existing government or authority.
insurrection - an act or instance of open revolt against civil authority or a constituted government.
civil war - a war between factions or regions within the same country.
war - 1.a) a state of open, armed, often prolonged, conflict carried on between nations, states, or factions. b)the period of such conflict. 2. a condition of active antagonism or contention.
independence - 1. The state or quality of being independent - politically autonomous; self-governing 2. Free from the influence, guidance, or control of another or others; self-reliant.
aggression - 1.the act of commencing hostilities or invasion; assault. 2. the habit or practice of launching attacks 3. hostile action or behavior.
A couple other necessary terms:
secede - to withdraw formally from membership in an organisation, association, or alliance.
sovereign - self-governing; independent
The first three names are easily dismissed by simply looking at the definitions and considering some simple facts. The Confederate States of America was a legally established government representing the interests of several sovereign states which had legally seceded from a voluntary alliance with several other sovereign states known as the United States of America. Secession from the USA was not made illegal until after the war.

The compromise of The War Between the States is also, by definition, incorrect. The War was fought between the Confederate States of America and the United States of America two alliances of independent sovereign states. The War was not fought between the individual states, i.e. Virginia was not at war with New York, Pennsylvania was not at war with Florida, etc.

The War for Southern Independence is correct if it is considered that independence is what the states of the Confederacy were fighting to obtain. However, this term infers that the Confederacy started the war, in order to achieve independence, which it did not. The order to fire on Fort Sumter was given only after the military forces of a foreign power (the USA) refused to depart the territory of a sovereign state (criminal trespass) and the leader of said foreign power dispatched more military forces to reinforce this criminal act. Therefore, although Confederate guns fired the first shot, the Union President pulled the trigger.

The War of Northern Aggression is also correct. The Northern government (the USA) perpetuated an unprovoked attack on another sovereign nation (the CSA). However, this implies that the Southern States were just the hapless victims. While they were victims of a criminal attack, the cost to the attackers for their subjugation was very high. This cost was not just the human casualties of war, but the destruction of the American culture, way of life, and the loss many of the basic freedoms previously guarantied by the US Constitution.

Personally I, as a Southron and a Confederate, find the first three options totally unacceptable. Often when I hear any of these terms used I get a feeling not unlike being on the receiving end of a racial slur. The War Between The States, while inaccurate, is , situationally, an acceptable compromise. I generally reserve the term War of Northern Aggression for relating what the Northern aggressors did to the South. I prefer the War for Southern Independence since independence is what we, the Southern people and the Confederacy, were, and still are, fighting for.

Joseph Cole

M. Joseph Cole