For Cause and Comrades: An Analysis
As long as man has had the ability to think for himself, there has been conflict and war. Wars are waged by the rich and powerful, but fought by the poor masses who march, inexorably into the meat grinder. The question of “why do soldiers fight?” arises when looking at the study of warfare. What compelled the hoplite from Sparta, the foot soldier in Napoleon’s Grand Army, the American Infantryman on Omaha Beach, or the Army Ranger in Baghdad to willingly enlist and fight for their cause? The most devastating war in American history was by far the Civil War, claiming more American lives in four years than all other American wars (except World War I and II) combined. What is it that made these hundreds of thousands of men and women abandon their homes and fight against the nation that their forefathers had fought to gain the independence of not a century before. Many scholars believe that slavery, “states rights”, and freedom were the driving factor in these soldier’s minds. However, there was far more than simple ideology that drove these soldiers to Bull Run, Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Appomattox. Other factors that drove these soldiers into service were a sense of patriotism, their comrades in arms, the need to prove themselves, religion, and the defense of freedom and property to name a few. In For Cause and Comrades by James M. McPherson, McPherson argues that ideology plays a major role in why soldiers choose to fight, but in the heat of battle, ideology is forgotten and the aforementioned reasons become a significant reason as to why they choose to stay.
The ideologies that drove citizens to combat in the Civil War varied dramatically between Northern and Southern soldiers. Many soldiers who enlisted in the Federal Army of the North did so as to preserve the young nation, which had less than a century ago, gained its independence from England. The idea of “freeing the slaves” was a very small concern in the...
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