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Old April 5th, 2013, 04:05 PM   #1
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American Reluctance to Enter World War 1 and the American Civil War


Already there has been a popular image of the United States eagerly wanting to go to World War 1 and fight the Germans. The popular view is that Americans were pissed off because of the sinking of the Lusitania and were eager to get revenge at the Germans for this act.

However I've been reading a lot of stuff on the American Civil War. One interesting connection I learned is that there was a strong anti-war sentiment in the US from the start of World War 1 and even after the United States entered the war.

Millions of American women still remembered the destruction caused by the ACW, many still living at the time period or hearing of tales from their grandmother or great-grand mother.

After the heavy casualties of the first few months of World War 1, so many Americans were reluctant about United States involvement in the war out of fear of the destruction and loss of life in the ACW.

In other words the memory of the Civil War was still fresh on American's minds

I'm still researching into World War 1 but I've found cases of protests or even violent opposition to the draft.

So I am seeking more information about the relationship between the American Civil War and World War 1 and how the memory of the ACW played a major role in American reluctance to enter the World War.
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Old April 5th, 2013, 06:28 PM   #2
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2 different wars and the reasoning behind each of them was different.
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Old April 5th, 2013, 06:53 PM   #3

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The US population and government were very reluctant to enter yet another
European war. Obviously she did, but she dragged her feet into it very late,
only joining the last two years, but enlisting over four million soldiers.

The US Civil War is as dobbie wrote, a totally different gorilla to put a dress on.
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Old April 5th, 2013, 07:17 PM   #4

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I remember my school textbooks harping on about the British and French populations having recent memories of WW1 and this being an factor in appeasement and recruitment. My own Father read my homework one day and said "What utter tripe!" He was born in 1919, joined the RAFVR in 1938 and was chomping at the bit to go to war in 1939 like most young men of his age. A diligent examination of history confirms that whoever wrote the textbook was, indeed, talking tripe and that is with two wars separated by 20 years.
In 1914 any American who personally participated in the ACW would have been in their late 60s or older. The ACW didn't put a dampner on the US enthusiasm for the Spanish-American war or any of the military adventures of the late 19thC and early 20thC. There were plenty of adventurous American volunteers in allied units in WW1, although not as famous as in WW2, especially in air units--over 200 in the RFC, the Escradille Lafayette and uncountable numbers in the Canadian RFC, the Royal Navy and the French Foreign Legion. Young men of fighting age couldn't give a monkey's toss about casualties--other people get killed, not them.
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Old April 7th, 2013, 02:37 AM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ancientgeezer View Post
I remember my school textbooks harping on about the British and French populations having recent memories of WW1 and this being an factor in appeasement and recruitment. My own Father read my homework one day and said "What utter tripe!" He was born in 1919, joined the RAFVR in 1938 and was chomping at the bit to go to war in 1939 like most young men of his age. A diligent examination of history confirms that whoever wrote the textbook was, indeed, talking tripe and that is with two wars separated by 20 years.
In 1914 any American who personally participated in the ACW would have been in their late 60s or older. The ACW didn't put a dampner on the US enthusiasm for the Spanish-American war or any of the military adventures of the late 19thC and early 20thC. There were plenty of adventurous American volunteers in allied units in WW1, although not as famous as in WW2, especially in air units--over 200 in the RFC, the Escradille Lafayette and uncountable numbers in the Canadian RFC, the Royal Navy and the French Foreign Legion. Young men of fighting age couldn't give a monkey's toss about casualties--other people get killed, not them.
Good to see you back after your yellow card, and of course you are right.
There were no shortage of volunteers for the indian wars or the Spanish-American war,
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Old April 7th, 2013, 02:57 AM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ancientgeezer View Post
I remember my school textbooks harping on about the British and French populations having recent memories of WW1 and this being an factor in appeasement and recruitment. My own Father read my homework one day and said "What utter tripe!" He was born in 1919, joined the RAFVR in 1938 and was chomping at the bit to go to war in 1939 like most young men of his age. A diligent examination of history confirms that whoever wrote the textbook was, indeed, talking tripe and that is with two wars separated by 20 years......................... .



And twenty years is not a long time, "That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country" etc is not fiction, the trauma of WWI had a huge effect on European society. Chamberlain was not unpopular in Munich in 1938 and neither was appeasement.

The declaration of war in 1939 was not greeted with cheering crowds and a surge of patriotic fervor as it was in 1914.

So it is not ‘tripe’ but it just one side of the story, another is the is the militarism of the 1920’s and 30’s and even a type of Social Darwinism, a desire for violent revolution on the right and left to sweep away ‘the enemy’.

There is also of course young men who want adventure and will often view themselves as ‘immortal’

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Old April 7th, 2013, 03:24 AM   #7

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I think the American Civil War changed Americans' attitudes towards war in general. But you have to remember that Americans were downright eager for the glory and adventure of war, going into the ACW. Tens of thousands of men rushed to enlist out of fear that the war would be over before they had a chance to serve. One redemption of the Civil War is the demise of that attitude.

However, that's not to say that it led to a total abhorrence of war either. As others have noted here, there was still some enthusiasm for fighting the Indian wars and the Spanish-American War.

But I do agree that there was a strong aversion to getting involved in WWI. I think this was partly due to the less romantic view of war that Americans had after the ACW, but more because of a strong aversion that Americans had always had towards getting involved in wars on European soil. Plus it would have been obvious to all that this would be a huge war, that would involve a lot more Americans than either the Indian wars or the Spanish-American war had.
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Old April 7th, 2013, 03:34 AM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ancientgeezer View Post
I remember my school textbooks harping on about the British and French populations having recent memories of WW1 and this being an factor in appeasement and recruitment. My own Father read my homework one day and said "What utter tripe!" He was born in 1919, joined the RAFVR in 1938 and was chomping at the bit to go to war in 1939 like most young men of his age. A diligent examination of history confirms that whoever wrote the textbook was, indeed, talking tripe and that is with two wars separated by 20 years.
In 1914 any American who personally participated in the ACW would have been in their late 60s or older. The ACW didn't put a dampner on the US enthusiasm for the Spanish-American war or any of the military adventures of the late 19thC and early 20thC. There were plenty of adventurous American volunteers in allied units in WW1, although not as famous as in WW2, especially in air units--over 200 in the RFC, the Escradille Lafayette and uncountable numbers in the Canadian RFC, the Royal Navy and the French Foreign Legion. Young men of fighting age couldn't give a monkey's toss about casualties--other people get killed, not them.
As usual with wars, the young men were eager to join and prove themselves. Older men and women were more hesitant. I find it totally normal that women's suffrage was such a huge issue at the same time the USA experienced Big reluctance to enter a war. Yet still, there were millions of young men who eagerly volunteered once war came.

There is a documentary on the "last voices of WWI". Great interviews that really project the attitudes of that time.
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Old April 7th, 2013, 04:16 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rongo View Post
I think the American Civil War changed Americans' attitudes towards war in general. But you have to remember that Americans were downright eager for the glory and adventure of war, going into the ACW. Tens of thousands of men rushed to enlist out of fear that the war would be over before they had a chance to serve. One redemption of the Civil War is the demise of that attitude.

However, that's not to say that it led to a total abhorrence of war either. As others have noted here, there was still some enthusiasm for fighting the Indian wars and the Spanish-American War.

But I do agree that there was a strong aversion to getting involved in WWI. I think this was partly due to the less romantic view of war that Americans had after the ACW, but more because of a strong aversion that Americans had always had towards getting involved in wars on European soil. Plus it would have been obvious to all that this would be a huge war, that would involve a lot more Americans than either the Indian wars or the Spanish-American war had.

As has been mentioned WW1 at its outset had nothing to do with America
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Old April 7th, 2013, 11:02 AM   #10

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The difference between World War I and all the other conflicts that America had fought between 1865-1914 (Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, Filipino Insurrection) were that the previous ones involved either an issue that concerned the U.S. (contested land between the U.S. and the Native Americas) or offered some kind of economic or colonial benefit (Spanish-American War). WWI neither involved the United States nor did the U.S. have anything to gain from entering it, while the status of neutrality offered Americans the opportunity to get rich by selling arms to the belligerents without having to spend money or spill blood.

People always had their personal sympathies towards either side of course, but from my understanding, very few were willing to fight and die for a cause that they didn't need to. Anyone in a position to actually get affected by the war realized that they'd be better of just making a profit while the Europeans shouldered the costs of human lives and wartime spending. But as World War I went on, and Germany began to interfere with America's ability to make money from the conflict through its submarine campaign, while around the same time the U.S. began to loan heavily to the Allies, thus creating a financial stake in the war's outcome, the position of America began to change. And even then, those not directly affected by the war (for example, the Midwest) still tended to oppose actual entry into it.

I don't think the American Civil War really affected anything regarding America's opinion on war in general. When there was something to be gained, American authorities were ready and willing to send the country into conflict. And in that period, before WWI exposed people to the way in which warfare had evolved and how easy it was for millions to die, the American people often didn't object. No, it's more about what affected the U.S. to the point where it would be inclined to use force to protect its interests. Another faraway war in Europe didn't exactly inspire the same kind of response as events that happened closer to home.

Last edited by Falcone; April 7th, 2013 at 11:25 AM.
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