Did the Confederate Soldier Fight to Perpetuate Slavery?
The vast majority of those who fought in the Southern armies, especially in Virginia, were not slaveholders and had no personal interest in either the continuance or extension of slavery. The United States census for the year 1860 fixed the White population of Virginia at 1,047,299 and the number of slaveholders in that State at only 52,128 — a total percentage of slaveholders at just under five percent. In his American Nation series, French Ensor Chadwick noted, "Of the 52,128 slaveholders in Virginia, one-third held but one or two slaves; half held one to four; there were but one hundred and fourteen persons in the whole state who owned as many as a hundred each, and this out of a population of over a million whites." In addition to the census data, we also have the personal testimony of the Southern soldiers themselves. For example, Major Robert Stiles, who served for four years under General Robert Edward Lee, testified, "Why did they [Southerners] volunteer? For what did they give their lives?... Surely, it was not for slavery they fought. The great majority of them had never owned a slave, and had little or no interest in the institution. My own father, for example, had freed his slaves long years before." Likewise, Dr. Hunter McGuire, medical director under General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, wrote, "The Stonewall Brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia was a fighting organization. I knew every man in it, for I belonged to it for a long time; and I know that I am in proper bounds when I assert, that there was not one soldier in thirty who owned or ever expected to own a slave."