As for the reasons these people came and fought, I don’t think one answer is going to suffice. With over 3,000,000 combatants in the field, I should imagine their reasons for fighting would range from boredom to bloodlust, and everything in between.
I can understand the Southerners fighting to defend hearth and home, but the motivation for the Northerners is a little more difficult. For anyone to boldly say it was to free the slaves, I don’t buy it. There are many tales of deserters from the Union ranks just for this very reason.
Big Ames and several of his companions deserted from their New York unit just after the Emancipation was announced. When he joined Mosby’s Rangers in Northern Virginia he complained that emancipation had never been a cause of the war.
He did not say it was not the main reason, or some mitigating factor, he stated that it had never been the reason for the war. Of course, that was just his opinion – mirrored by several other accounts I have read – but because it was someone’s opinion, on the ground, at that time, it cannot be ruled out regardless of the stature of the academic denial.
Apparently they thought the North had lied to them or simply changed the reasons for the war in mid-stream.
Probably most of the Northern troops did not have this reaction, otherwise the desertions would have been greater.
One thing I know for certain, the Southerners were depicted as scum in the North and the Northerners were pictured as scum in the South. The attitude can be found reflected in the newspapers in the North and the South during the war. Seems like that part has continued in many ways.
How nice that some things seem to never change.