The issue of slavery divided the nation leading to the Civil War. The northern half of present-day West Virginia spearheaded the decision to secede from Virginia in 1863 and created the state border based on the geography of the Allegheny Mountains. The southern counties of the newly formed state, including Greenbrier County, wanted to stay with Virginia and the Confederacy. Most white men from Greenbrier County fought for the Confederacy and impressed or hired out their slaves to work in various departments of the Confederate Army. Many enslaved people took advantage of the war and fled to freedom or to support the Union. In 1863, Mary M. Lewis claimed in a letter that almost all of the enslaved African Americans in Greenbrier County fled
Myths of the Civil War
The Civil War was fought over States Rights not slavery.
African American men served as soldiers in the Confederate Army
Enslaved people were happy and benefited from slavery.
White southerners who fought for the confederacy, but didn’t own slaves, were not fighting to protect slavery
The Union Army welcomed African American soldiers from the start of the Civil War.
FALSE: According to the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens, during a speech in 1861, “[the Confederate government] is founded upon… the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”
FALSE: While African Americans did work in the Confederate Army, they were enslaved and forced into service. They were not soldiers, but rather were manservants, cooks, and laborers.
FALSE: White southerners created this myth to rationalize and romanticize the pre-Civil War era. It was based on the idea that African Americans were childlike and helpless without white direction. It was widely believed that Africans were savages, but slaves became more civilized through their exposure to Christianity.
FALSE: White southerners who did not own slaves still participated in the institution of slavery. They acted as slave catchers, slave traders, or rented enslaved people to work on their farms. Slavery was a symbol of status and wealth so non-slaveholders aspired to own slaves.
FALSE: African American men were not allowed to enlist in the Union Army until 1863. They were paid $3 less than their counterparts until Congress passed an equal pay bill in 1864. African American soldiers faced much racism and discrimination by their white counterparts. They were in segregated units and commanded by white officers and black noncommissioned officers.