I found myself a paperback copy of all billion pages when I was last in a Barnes & Noble, mainly because in my reading of modern histories of the Civil War, I kept stumbling on references to General Grant's Memoirs as one of the truly great reads in American literature.
They were right.
More than that, the man's "Memoirs" have completely changed my mind about him. I associated his name primarily with government corruption during his two terms as president (1869-1877). He bears the blame since he was chief executive and allowed certain men into office who generously helped themselves. The justification for that blame is another study altogether and not one I've undertaken or plan to undertake.
His writing about the Civil War is another matter, and he comes across as brutally honest (especially about himself), with a sharp intelligence and a quiet but active wit. He was no brute, which is also a part of the reputation I absorbed from somewhere.
I found this passage near the end of those billion pages:
The cause of the the Great War of the Rebellion against the United States will have to be attributed to slavery. For some years before the war began it was a trite saying among some politicians that "A state half slave and half free cannot exist." All must become slave or all free, or the state will go down. I took no part myself in any such view of the case at the time, but since the war is over, reviewing the whole question, I have come to the conclusion that the saying is quite true.
Slavery was an institution that required unusual guarantees for its security wherever it existed, and in a country like ours where the larger portion of it was free territory inhabited by an intelligent and well-to-do population, the people would naturally have but little sympathy with demands upon them for its protection. Hence the people of the South were dependent upon keeping control of the general government to secure the perpetuation of their favorite institution. They were enabled to maintain this control long after the States where slavery existed had ceased to have the controlling power, through the assistance they received from odd men here and there throughout the Northern States. They saw their power waning, and this led them to encroach upon the prerogatives and independence of the Northern States by enacting such laws as the Fugitive Slave Law. By this law every Northern man was obliged, when properly summoned, to turn out and help apprehend the runaway slave of a Southern man. Northern marshals became slave-catchers, and Northern courts had to contribute to the support and protection of the institution.
This was a degradation which the North would not permit any longer than until they could get the power to expunge such laws from the statute books. Prior to the time of these encroachments the great majority of the people of the North had no particular quarrel with slavery, so long as they were not forced to have it themselves. But they were not willing to play the role of police for the South in the protection of this particular institution....
Out of curiosity, I just Googled "Civil War not about slavery" to see what would turn up and was actually not at all surprised that a great deal of special pleading turned up, a concerted effort to erase slavery as the prime mover for the Civil War and replace it with reasons a good deal more high-minded and, incidentally, a good deal more flattering to those political forces of this day that are resisting our current president and his legislative initiatives.
Resistance is one thing. Mythological history to justify it is something else and quite debilitating to boot.