“You can say that the battalion was named after Abraham Lincoln because he, too, was assassinated,” a survivor told a reporter. Jarama was the first major engagement fought by Americans in the Spanish Civil War, and it turned out to be representative. Again and again, high-level commanders ordered Lincolns into attacks that officers in the field warned would be suicidal. The Lincolns’ sacrifices rarely won the Republic any tactical advantage, and, as Hochschild reports, foreign volunteers in Spain were “killed at nearly three times the rate of the rest of the Republican Army.”
On the morning of February 27, 1937, which began cold and gray, a few hundred Americans waited to storm a hill southeast of Madrid, near the Jarama River. They were volunteer soldiers, drawn to Spain by a noble cause. Germany belonged to Hitler, and Italy to Mussolini, but there was still a chance that the Spanish Republic—governed by an unstable coalition of liberals, socialists, and anarchists—could fight off a cabal of right-wing generals who called themselves Nationalists. The previous year, the Nationalists had tried to take over the country, touching off a civil war. Leftist volunteers from around the world flocked to the Republican side, seeing the war as a struggle between tyranny and freedom that transcended national boundaries. The fight felt almost holy—“like the feeling you expected to have and did not have when you made your first communion,” Ernest Hemingway wrote, in “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” The Americans had been brought to Spain by Comintern, the worldwide Communist organization, but, to disguise their allegiance, the troops had been given an irreproachably non-Communist name: the Abraham Lincoln battalion.
I attribute the structure of my lesson to the content lectures that I participated in as a student during the Midlands Institute. The daily content lessons made me think of history in a way that is different from most of the history classes that I have taken. During the course, I was able to make connections across time periods and events. Then I was able to put these events, people, and places together in uncommon ways. For example, when we were required to write an essay based on information from the book Stono: Documenting and Interpreting a Southern Slave Revolt by Mark Smith, I was able to clearly see the connection between The Negro Act, Charleston School for Negroes and the Treaty of Paris of all things. I found that this method of instructions aligns with my beliefs as a teacher of history. I believe that history is a way to understand people and their behaviors. I also seek to have my students engage in this level of understanding about history. As a result, I thought that the best way to help students understand the essence of the American Revolution through primary documents was to teach the causes and consequences instead of the regular names and dates.
The Civil War was fought for many reasons, not solely or even primarily because of the growing importance of cotton on southern farms. Moving away from economic differences and cotton as simplistic causes leads to a more accurate, and far more interesting, understanding of the causes of the Civil War.
For years, textbook authors have contended that economic difference between North and South was the primary cause of the Civil War. The northern economy relied on manufacturing and the agricultural southern economy depended on the production of cotton. The desire of southerners for unpaid workers to pick the valuable cotton strengthened their need for slavery. The industrial revolution in the North did not require slave labor and so people there opposed it. The clash brought on the war.
The Civil War, which Sidney Mead calls "thecenter of American history," was the second great event that involved the national self-understanding sodeeply as to require expression in civil religion.
Economic divergence is certainly one of the reasons for the Civil War, but neither the major one nor the only one. Many factors brought about the war. Focusing only on different economies would be like arguing that one professional football team will always win because it has taller players.
For the next twenty years, Great Britain passed a series of acts that created tension and unrest in the British colonies. Some of the acts included in this lesson are the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, the Quartering Act, the Declaratory Act, the Townshend Act, the Tea Act and the Intolerable Acts. The overall goal of these acts was to raise revenue to pay off war debts and finance future imperial pursuits. Colonists fiercely opposed these measures not because they had no allegiance to Great Britain but because they were usually not involved in the decisions Britain made on their behalf. The rally cry became “no taxation without representation”. Colonists took to the streets throughout America staging boycotts, writing news articles and sermons, and even rioting to protest the new laws imposed on them. What seems inevitable in hindsight was not the foremost intention of most colonists. War was realized as Britain refused to share the political and economical power they were sure they could maintain over the colonies.
Not only did the Civil War have the tragic intensity of fratricidalstrife, but it was one of the bloodiest wars of the nineteenth century; the lossof life was far greater than any previously suffered by Americans.