Would you join the Union or the Confederacy? It's May 1861. The Civil War has started and the country is taking sides. You are a white farmer in Kentucky. Although Kentucky is a slave state, you have never owned a slave. Would you go north to join the Union Army or join the Confederates? Be specific; you must make a choice and discuss your reasons. Please be very specific and detailed.

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Since I am a well-prepared person who enjoys not getting shot and would hate not having anything to defend myself with, I would go for the Union.

The confederates were a culture of their own. They still are, and I can tell you because I live in the South. The mannerisms of Southerners are very deeply-rooted, and they enjoy their ways of life complete with the football, the church, and their comfort foods. I am not putting them down, but I can almost see how my neighbors, whose ancestors were confederate soldiers, were so resistant to change and so obstinate in that they would win the war. It is because the Southern individual has a very warm connection to their roots and they will go to any length to defend them even if they lose the battle.

I, however, am not a Southerner, just a happy guest of the South- soI will jump the boat any day and run North to save myself.

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Just because I have never owned a slave does not mean I don't want one. I might just be too poor. So if this is based on character traits of my described character, I could still choose either way. From my own point of view, I would choose the Union because I'd assume they are stronger.
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Most likely, the farmer in the south...regardless of whether or not he owned slaves...would feel obligated to fight for his home and with the people of his region.  It was a matter of honor which, unfortunately, seems to have been more valued then than it is today where most people jump on the most popular bandwagon rather than thinking for themselves and deciding what is right for him, his family, his hometown, etc. 

During this time, states rights were a huge issue.  Just like today, big government threatened to take away all the rights of the individual states to decide what was right for themselves.  Back then, the southern states banded together to say, "To heck with you.  What you say will hurt our economy and our crop production, not to mention our way of life."  So, they seceded from the Union and decided to fight.  Right or wrong, whether you agree or not, the farmers fought for what was in their best interest.  The north didn't understand how their ideas were unfair since they were mostly cities and factories...fewer farms since the growing season was so short.  Consequently, the need for large labor forces were not needed there, or at least not in the way they were needed in the south for harvesting vast crops.  This is where the slavery issue comes into the Civil War.

Hope this helps!

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Having personally lived half of my life in a Northern and the rest in a state of the Deep South, I know that to this day, people in the North do NOT consider Kentucky a Northerner state (certainly its neighbors Illinois and Ohio do not) and the people in the Deep South certainly do not consider Kentucky as part of the South.  Therefore, from these perspectives, this white farmer with no slaves has no allegiance to either side. (I also have ancestors from Kentucky who resided in Kentucky in the 1800s and they did not participate in the Civil War.)

Would it not seem logical that he would want to do nothing just as Jimmy Stewart's character in the movie "Shenandoah" feels.  He and his sons refused to fight in the war until Northern soldiers took his youngest boy captive.  when the father declared, "Now this war is personal.  I have a reason to fight."

So, unless this man has a vested interested in some aspect of the War or is a strong advocate of some principle such as that of states' rights or slavery as were the Southerners, why should he want to risk his life?  

Forced to take a side he might be pressured after the election of 1861 to become a Union soldier when Unionist candidates won 9 of 10 congressional seats and voting on issues became pro-Unionist.  Added to the powerful force of politics, the farmer may have had the foresight to see that the strength of the country was moving to the more heavily populated industrial North, and it was mor likely that the North would win.

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I would have to say that my answer would depend on what I valued during the time period.  Not being able to escape the web of history when being placed back in it, I would say that if I valued freedom for all as a foundational concept in my own life, I would be for the North.  Yet, if I felt that being able to control my own sense of destiny was important, then I would probably advocate for the South, who felt that the war was about preserving a sense of Southern autonomy.  In an odd way, this debate is seen in Sir Isaiah Berlin's "Two Concepts of Liberty," where he suggests that freedom consisted of a sphere of positive freedom, when people can feel free to do whatever they wish, and negative freedom, when people can feel a level of non- interference and the ability to be left alone.  A Northerner would support their side in defense of positive freedom, while the Southerner would be driven by the idea of negative freedom, the ability to be left alone.

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I would do neither. I'm from Tennessee, which was the last state to leave the Union and the first to rejoin. I'd stay right where I was and try to help people as best as I could. From the little I know of my family history, most of my ancestors were not slave owners. There is one distant relative who was a colonel in the Confederate Army, but his side of the family considered my side of the family as the "black sheep." Even though my relatives would have fought for the South, my heart would be freeing the slaves and ensuring their human rights. So I'd find some way to work "underground."

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What a fabulous question, allowing such room for different opinions and time-frames!  I would have not been allowed to do either, for I am a woman and, therefore, it would have been unthinkable for me to join.  I most likely would have ended up trying to farm my own land as my husband went off fighting for the doomed South.  I have thought a lot about this subject over the years and have decided that I would have been a member of the "Underground Railroad," carefully shuttling slaves through my Southern home to freedom in the North, . . . while secretly paying my own workers who would have been free to work for us or not.  However, I know myself enough to know that I wouldn't have been a highly "vocal" abolitionist out of fear.  It always saddens me to think of the truth behind that last idea. 

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I definitely would go North, joining the Union Army.  Although slavery was a hideous institution, it was practiced throughout most of the world, and accepted as part of the culture and social order of the period.  It is often hard to inject oneself into another time period without leaving behind our modern, advanced mindset.

In other words, I react to the idea of slavery as a 21st century indidivual, an informed and educated person who is revolted by the owning of another human being.

I would definitely go North to offer my assistance in saving the Union, I would have been a follower of President Lincoln. His commitment to saving the country would definitely have inspired me to join up.

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I think your topic is important for this reason, you do not restrict anyone who posts a response with a time frame. For example, are we the white Kentucky farmer with an 1861 mindset, or are we the Kentucky farmer with a 2009 mindset? This paradox creates an interesting dynamic to which I would like to address both.

Kentucky became the 15th state in 1792 with slavery already embedded in the social fabric of the society. What is interesting and somewhat ironic about the Confederate states was that most Confederate soldiers who fought in the war were NOT slaveowners. So the question becomes 'why' did those men most of whom were not plantation owners but smaller farmers fight for the south? The answer... the war between the north and south was primarily fought over 'individual honor' and 'principle', (the interpretation of Article Six of the United States Constitution and the Tenth Amendment ) At that time in history the south depended upon the north for just about everything. This created a deep rooted resentment which resulted in two very different perspectives about the United States of America. ( there is evidence to support this reality on both sides from many existing primary sources)  It was the never ending struggle between the rights of the federal government and those of the state government. The white Kentucky farmer of 1861 who never owned a slave probably would have fought for the south because it his 'honor' and 'princilpes' dictated that mentality.

Now this is not to say that slavery was not part of that struggle, however it was one of several firery issues between the federal-state relationship between 1789 and 1861. The issue of slavery grew in intensity for many reasons, among them the Abolitionist movement reached more people, the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin added fuel to the fire, and in 1863 President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation shifted the purpose of the war from a federal-state tug of war to the war with a moral purpose.

Okay...the bottomline, slavery was bad, is bad, and must be abolished anywhere it exists on the planet, however this is a post Civil War, American Civil Rights Movement, in short a 20th-21st century perspective. We must remember slavery is an ancient institution but there is no doubt that when the word slavery is spoken today it is American slavery that holds the capacity to define the institution itself....that it in itself speaks volumes.

There is an old saying... 'If hindsight were foresight we would all be geniuses'...unfortunately it just does not work that way.


 

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Why have I never owned a slave? Is it because the idea of owning other human beings violates my conscience and moral code, or is it because I own only a small farm and cannot afford to buy slaves as property? In either circumstance, my first response would be to protect my land, since it no doubt would represent economic survival for my family. If the North were to win the war, what would happen to my farm? How would we live? How could I feed my children? The war might well be a matter of starving or not starving for me. Also, I would think of the hard work I had invested in my farm. Could I just walk away from it to go north, join the army, and come back to fight against my relatives, friends, and neighbors? Not likely. Human nature is to protect what is our own, especially what is most important to us. Even if I disagreed with slavery, if I had to fight, I would fight for my own home, which would mean fighting for the South. However, if fighting for a society that imposed slavery upon others was simply unbearable for me because it violated my own principles, I would sell my livestock, pack my belongings, gather my family, and head west.

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My first reaction would be to join the Union for the obvious reasons: They had more weapons, were more prepared, had a much stronger leadership, more soldiers, and they had industry on their side.

Yet, being the lover of the underdog that I am, I would have ended up in the Confederacy, just to touch on my own feelings of the staunch loyalty to that which is inevitably fading away, yet, in order to give my last "yeehaw" and give it my 100% heading on towards the obstacle course.

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