While prepping for a few summer programs I was re-reading The Road to Guilford Courthouse, The American Revolution in the Carolinas by John Buchanan.
In his prologue, Buchanan states the following premise:
“But that tragedy [the American Civil War] is of far less interest than the American Revolution. The Revolution was the most important event in American history. The Civil War was unfinished business. The armies of the Revolutionary War were small but the stage global, the characters larger than life. The American Revolution was the first of the great modern revolutions, arguably the most important, and certainly the only one that did not end in tyranny or one-party rule.”
The Civil War is the most written about subject in American history, but is it the most important? Is it just the book-end of the American Revolution and was just wrapping up “unfinished business” as Buchanan writes.
Do you agree with the author? Disagree? Conversations and perspectives help shape our recollections and allows for fresh outlooks and critical observations into our shared past. So, feel free to comment below with your thoughts, opinions, and/or insights!
3 thoughts on “Unfinished Business?”
I agree with this argument. It’s hard to argue the opposite since all the issues of the Civil War had their inception during the Revolution. I think though the Shelby Foote comment that the Civil War ‘defined’ us is an important reason as to why so many people are more connected to the Civil War than the Revolution.
The only thing I disagree with is that the Civil War was of far less interest than the Revolution. These days the Civil War is of more interest because of the slavery issue, which pops up all the time. The American Revolution was indeed important because of all of its ramifications, and the slavery issue at that time was indeed “kicked down the road” because at that time something more critical was at stake. That doesn’t mean slavery was less of an issue, only that a bigger issue loomed larger – the scary possibility of disunity and fragmentation among the several states should the slavery issue be pushed. Like Mark, I also agree that the Civil War was unfinished business due to the same issue – slavery. Looking at the big picture, though, it was the Revolution that made the United States possible in the first place, so in that sense, the Civil War owes its existence to the Revolution, as terrible as it was.
If the American Civil War is to be relegated to the place of a bookend, of a shelf on which the Revolutionary War is of prime interest; then I suggest the French and Indian war should be the bookend on the opposite side.It was this crucible that steeled the commander of the rag-tag Colonial Army. The French and Indian war was of longer duration, and was the North American portion of the eponymous Seven Years War. You probably got a hint by my use of the word, relegated, that I am a devoted student of the war that, as another commenter has already pointed out, Shelby Foote said “defined us”.