Historians have tried to figure out why soldiers enlisted in the Civil War.
Soldiers from both the North and South enlisted in the Civil War because of feelings of nationalism and to gain experience and maintain their society’s beliefs in bravery and duty. On both sides, soldiers continuously enlisted in the war because of their personal and their society’s beliefs.
Henry Fleming, a young sold the Union, struggles to find his courage and encounters the truth about what war is really like. Henry's confidence is somewhat based on the curiosity of his young age. He is confident that war will bring him honor and glory, but he doesn’t yet realise the hardships that are associated with war. “He felt that in this crisis his laws of life were useless. Whatever he had learned of himself was here of no avail. He was an unknown quantity.” (Crane 7.) This quote shows Henry’s fear about the battle and it also shows his questions about whether he has the courage to fight in the battles. Unlike some other soldiers, Henry isn’t motivated by heroism, but by fear and self-absorption. This passage leaves the reader wondering whether he will face his fears and stand up in the case of a battle, or if he will back away in fear. Throughout the book, like many other young soldiers, he doesn’t believe in himself, but fear is what drives him to be a great soldier. The Union’s beliefs in the reasons to fight, influenced Henry in a positive way.
Union soldiers fought in the Civil War for entirely different reasons than the Confederates did. Union soldiers fought to protect the Union. Further along in the war, more Union soldiers fought to abolish slavery. As the Confederacy was trying to keep slavery and their own nation, the Union was trying to unify them all and make it more like the United States today. “He had believed that it was a mere question of getting over an unpleasant matter as quickly as possible, and he ran desperately, as if pursued for a murder.” (Crane 77.) This quote shows the significance of what the Union believed. All the Union wanted to do was unify everyone as well as preserve the North. Henry had once believed that they were just fighting to get it over with, but he realised that the war was not just about that. Although the Union had strong beliefs, the Confederacy had their fair share of them too.
Confederate soldiers were inspired to fight by adventure, patriotism, and money. Many Confederate soldiers fought to defend their homeland. Often times, they fought because they feared a Union victory would have a society where black people would be equal to white people as an outcome. The majority of the poor farmers that were drafted into the Civil War had little money. Those soldiers often fought just for the money, although it wasn’t much, was still an incentive for them to fight.
The entire book showed the reasons why the different sides of the Civil War enlisted. The Confederate soldiers enlisted for similar reasons as the Union. They both enlisted in the war because of feelings of nationalism and to gain experience and support their society’s beliefs in bravery and duty. Besides their similarities, the Confederacy and the Union had very different beliefs in what they were fighting for. The Union wanted to a line both the North and South. On the other hand, all the Confederacy was fighting for was their slavery rights and to defend their area. While both sides shared some similarities in their reasons for enlistment, they also had some major differences.