With the Civil War sesquicentennial comes the inevitable fun of even more people arguing past each other about what started the conflict. It was with some amusement, then, that I came across the following explanation in a 1903 regimental history of the 116th Pennsylvania:
When the Second Corps massed on the banks of the James River it bivouacked on the spot where the foundation and prime reason of the War of the Rebellion was laid in September, 1620. In that month a small Dutch vessel landed here twenty negroes from Africa, who were sold to the planters as slaves. Within ten days from the landing of those slaves on the shores of the James River the “Mayflower” landed on the shores of Massachusetts a cargo of very different character–a set of men and women who had fled from slavery and come to the new land in search of freedom. The lowering storm that hung over the bay as the Pilgrim fathers leaped on the Plymouth Rock seemed to herald a life of strife for principle, and a struggle that culminated at Appomattox.
As the years rolled by, the people of the South, by force of circumstances, naturally became more attached to the institution of human slavery. It had been shorn of its chief horrors, the slave ship was a thing of history, and in many cases the slaves had come to be regarded as members of the family in which they resided and were often regraded with affection. But to the descendants of the Pilgrim fathers the years failed to soften the hatred of slavery in all its forms. It was so totally in opposition to the Puritan’s faith, in which all of his descendants and nearly all the people of the North held almost as firmly as the original passengers of the “Mayflower”. And so the amries of the North and South were here on the very spot where slavery was founded, and the descendants of the Pilgrim fathers and those who believed with them that human slavery was a crime were there in force and in earnest. Much has been said and harsh feelings engendered in the two sections of our country endeavoring to fix the blame of originating the war on the North and South, but happily these feelings are becoming less harsh as time rolls on, and now the spirit of mutual love, patriotism and friendship is possessing the whole country. Had that little ship from the Netherlands never brought that cargo of negroes from Africa to the South, we never would have had the War of the Rebellion; and would it not be a good idea for the future to stop all recrimination and further argument on a subject so harsh and so fruitful of bad humor by putting the blame where it properly belongs–on the Dutch!
See people? You’re wasting your time arguing about slavery and states’ rights and the tariff. It was the Dutch who caused this whole thing!