T Nation

If Your State Seceded


This is purely hypothetical, but it came up in a discussion with my brother, a high schooler who's learning about the Civil War for the first time.

He said that Robert E. Lee was a genius, he just fought "for the wrong side." I had to agree with him, but I threw in there that he should judge him lightly for fighting for the South, because fighting against one's home could be exceedingly hard (as history shows.)

So, if your state seceded, who would you fight for? Would you join the fight to "preserve the union?" Would there have to be some other cause for you to fight for in order to have you turn on your home? If you disagreed with the cause your state was seceding over, would you still fight with them (as Lee did?)

In reality, is fighting for something so abstract as "preserving the union" really something you'd lay down your life for? It was for Union soldiers- their letters are rife with references to that being the reason they were doing what they were doing.

I'm genuinely curious.


My first priority is my family, so I would take them to someplace away from any threat of war. I would neither fight to preserve the union or to secede, I would fight any parties trying to get in my way.


It really is tough in a real world context. Lee did not approve of secession (he referred to as anarchy), but his devotion to his native Virginia overwhelmed his sense of Union.

Of course, that is why I don't like it when people trivialize the Civil War in caricatured terms of easy Good Guys versus easy Bad Guys - we have the luxury of historical distance, they did not.

That doesn't mean I don't think there was a "wrong" or "right" in the Civil War - clearly anyone who has read my posts know I don't think that way. But the question you pose is a hard one, and I think it would have been much harder back then.

For my part, I'd side with the Union. It wouldn't be easy, but I've thought enough about the issue to have strong opinions on what disunion is and is not, and I could have no allegiance to a point of view of disunion.

Although, as a caveat - it may depend on why we are "seceding". In truth, we have no right or ability to "secede", but if we are "revolting" (and simply calling it "seceding"), then it would depend on if the revolution was justified. If so, of course, I'd side with my state. But under the basic notion of a "secession", I'd cast my lot with the Union.


It would depend on the reasons and positions my state is seceding. Even then, I would most likely take then place of borrek and stay out of the way while protecting my family and property.


I don't know if you remember, but there was talk decades ago of North and South Jersey splitting into two States.


I would have to fight for my state.


Possibly as an interesting follow up question, if a state - say Texas - had seceded without a fight, would you move there? It would be the epitome of state rights, with acceptable hamburgers.


Tell him to read Grant's personal memoirs.


I've read all there is to read on that war. They are equal in their genius, even if it came in different forms.


At first, I was thoroughly in favor of siding with my state, for the reason that it is still the "mystic dirt of home."

But then I thought, what if everyone here was attempting to instate a slave system similar to what we had back then?

I would not be able to support my state in that, but I don't know that I could join the army and fight against my own state, possibly killing people that I'd known for so long, or burning a place that was, and will always be, where I come from.

I am framing it more in a current-day scenario- i.e., if the Federal government attempted to ban abortion, ban gun rights, or some other fiery social issue that I feel incites the worst in people... because I try not to say what I would or would not have believed in 1860.I always think that by my nature I would hate slavery and despise the system, but there's no way to tell... much of how one feels about such things has to do with the way they came up, and coming up in 1860 ensures that you'll come up...differently.

I also have trouble conjuring up an issue that could arise such passion that could lead to such violence on a widespread scale nowadays. It would have to be something huge, beyond the scale of anything we've seen in recent history. Even Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement couldn't do it, or the racial tensions of the 60s and 70s.

I do believe a lot of whether or not I'd follow my state depends on where I was following it to...


Difficult to make comparisons on such things. Perhaps someone who's also studied the campaigns of numerous great captains throughout history like: Epamindondas, Xenophon, Alexander, Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Sertorius, Julius Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, Marlborough, Prince Eugene of Savoy, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Rommel, Guderian, Von Manstein etc might be a better judge of these things. Who knows?


I personally think that the original intention of the constitution might have allowed succession. So Lincoln's insistence that it was not permitted may have been wrong. Did any state argue it to the supreme court?


It really matters what the fight is about. I'd like to think I would fight on the side I deemed to be in the right. I love New York but if it were seceding to establish and preserve the right to buttrape kids I'd have to side with Amurricah


Belisarius. Guy was the fucking champ.


I would side with my state. I believe the ability to Secede is a very good thing, keeps the union in check.


What if you lived in California and a bunch of freaking long haired far-left nutjobs from Frisco/Hollywood were governing/shitting on your doorstep and then they claimed sovereignty and announced the founding of the 'Peoples Republic of California'? Would you side with your state?


Read Procopius' Anecdota


Actually The History of the Wars of Justinian by the same author is the far more important source for the campaigns of Belisarius.


I'd like to think I'd side with whomever I thought was just.


True, but the Anecdota has all of the juicy shit that Procopius couldn't include in an officially-sanctioned document. It's like the National Enquirer of the 6th C.