What was the war about? For many people today, slavery was the main reason why the Civil War happened. Some in the Union would have agreed that the war was about slavery. However, President Abraham Lincoln, understanding that making the war about slavery would mean the loss of Kentucky, Maryland, and likely Missouri, emphasized the importance of Union and unification as a war goal in the early stages of the war. As a result, Lincoln explained in his inaugural address that he had no intentions of dealing with the institution of slavery where it existed but focus on the western territories to keep them free. He promised to uphold the constitution and keep the country together.

Union soldiers went to war to keep the country together and defeat the southern offenders. Many in the country had perceived the political activities of the southern politicians over the last decade to indicate that the South wished to nationalize slavery, and force a minority view on the rest of the country. There was a fear in the country that a slave power conspiracy was afoot to destroy the democratic character of the United States. While most people disagreed with the arguments and methods of the abolitionists, who called for immediate abolition of slavery, people in the country felt that slavery would undermine the ideology of “Free Soil, Free Men, Free Labor, Free Speech.”

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