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GSL students learn about Civil War from true history buff, expert

Glencoe-Silver Lake history students got to hear about the Civil War from a true expert Wednesday, Sept. 7, when Jeffrey S. Williams, director of media relations for Minnesota Civil War 150, spoke to Tom Schoper’s history classes.
Williams, a veteran of the Gulf wars, has long been a Civil War history buff, visiting battle sites and participating in re-enactments.
In a short 45 minutes, Williams took students through the war’s history, hitting the highlights along the way.
Williams told the students that while the Civil War was technically fought between 1861 and 1865, tensions between the northern “free” states and the southern slave-owner states started about 90 years ahead of when the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. (It was pointed out that Sumter and Sumter Township in McLeod County were named after that famous battle).
First came the Three-Fifths Compromise in 1787, which determined how people should be counted in the U.S. Census. The question, said Williams, was how slaves should be counted in the census.
“How do you count a slave? He’s not a free man, but he is still a person,” said Williams. The compromise counted slaves as three-fifths of a person.
Other factors building to the war were the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which defined the balance of power between the northern and southern states; and the 1850 Compromise, which dealt with the land that was acquired in the Mexican-American War.
The Fugitive Slave Act also figured in the reasons for the war. The act required people in the northern “free” states, if they came upon an escaped slave, to return that person to his owner.

For more, see the Sept. 14 print edition of The Chronicle.