The vast majority of those who fought for the Confederacy, including Robert E. Lee, did not fight to preserve slavery. That is a simple truth we need to remember as we are removing monuments to Confederate veterans. The vast majority of Confederate soldiers fought to maintain the independence of their home and to defend their home from what they saw as an invading army. Most Confederate soldiers were not slave owners.
The point I am making here is not about whether or not slavery was the primary cause of the War Between the States. My point is that the vast majority of Southerners did not fight with the goal of defending and preserving Southern chattel slavery – which was most certainly an evil institution. One can separate the overarching political arguments about and reasons for the war from the motivations of individual soldiers. Of course, most Union soldiers were not fighting to end slavery. Abraham Lincoln himself said that the war was not to end slavery, but to preserve the Union.
Yes, you can argue “Well, by fighting for the South they were fighting for slavery.” That is irrelevant to the point I am making here. Most Confederate soldiers simply did not see it that way. Going back to Robert E. Lee, he famously said that he “is rejoiced that Slavery is abolished.”
So what is the point of this blog post? The point is that you simply cannot lump all Confederate soldiers into one category. They were not a bunch of Snidely Whiplash clones twirling their mustaches while proclaiming “Why yes, I would like to step on that box of kittens.” Many were honorable men, with honorable and patriotic intentions. They saw their war as a defensive one. Were they wrong? That is not the point. It is a profound oversimplification of history to damn all of them and paint them all with the same brush.