Tales from Scotland Scots Cause the American Civil War
Most Americans recognize the contributions to
our culture from Scotland, and the many Scots who emigrated to our shores. What is not so
commonly known is a peculiar side-effect of this Scottish-American culture that become
known as the War Between The States.
Each group of immigrants to the American soil in the late 1700s and early 1800s came into
their own favored ports. While this was not exclusive, it is easy to see that many Irish
immigrants went through Boston, Italians through New York, and so forth. For the Scots,
that port was Philadelphia. From Philadelphia, one of two paths emerged. One led the new
immigrants westward across Pennsylvania -- settling there, and forward in Ohio, and
westward still into the lush plains of Iowa. Many eventually went onward to Oregon and
other parts of the northwestern US.
That, in fact, was the route taken by the descendents of Robert McClure, my own ancestor
and a member of Clan MacLeod of Lewis. Our family now stretches from Iowa to Oregon, with
extended family eastward through Pennsylvania. The other significant path turned south.
Scots settled in Alexandria, Virginia (still home to one of the largest and best gathering
of the clans each year), then emigrated down through Virginia, North Carolina and into the
regions of South Carolina, northern Georgia and eastern Tennessee.
To these regions they brought what is best and finest of Scotland. A love of tradition,
honor, courtesy and a good fight among them. These would later be erroneously identified
as "Southern" hospitality and culture, and so it may be in America. But its
roots are Scottish. They brought with them also a strong disdain for the English throne,
and a centralized government that would seek to rule over the independent states. Thus it
was that Scots were critical in establishing the US Constitution with guarantees of state
rights. And in 1860 it was the Scots of South Carolina who fired the first shots and led
the Confederate states in seceeding from the Union.
The national government under the Republican Party and Abrahahm Lincoln sought to alter
the realtionship between the states and the federal government, creating a stronger
national entity. It is interesting to note that while history has simplified the US Civil
War into a contest over the issue of slavery, the real issue that brought the nation to
war was that of federal versus state rights. Unfortunately, the Scots in America had
centuries of experience with the
English kings on this issue. In their eyes, this American struggle -- even though clearly
another lost cause -- was a continuation of the English challenge to Scottish sovereignty.
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