Maine Gov. Paul LePage waded back into the controversy surrounding the Civil War by claiming 7,600 Mainers fought for the Confederacy and did so first for land, not to defend slavery.
"What was the war? If you really truly read and study the Civil War, it was turned into a battle for the slaves, but initially — I mean, 7,600 Mainers fought for the Confederacy," the Republican said in an interview with Maine radio station WVOM on Tuesday. "And they fought because they were concerned about ... they were farmers and they were concerned about their land."
LePage added that those fighting were doing so for their property.
"It was a property rights issue as it began. The President of the United States [Abraham Lincoln], who was a very brilliant politician, really made it about slavery to a great degree," he added.
Last week, LePage said taking down Confederate monuments was the equivalent of taking down tributes to the victims of the Sept. 11 terror attack.
According to the Maine Sun Journal, more than 72,000 Mainers fought for the North, the Union. At least 7,300 of them died in the Civil War.
"Most Maine residents were enthusiastic supporters of the war effort and, even more, were ardent opponents of slavery. Many saw in the Civil War a chance to rid the nation of the scourge of slavery for good," according to the encyclopedic volume The American Civil War.
In August, LePage bragged about being a "history buff."
Historian KC Johnson, a professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, told the Maine Sun Journal that at "the most generous interpretation of his remarks, LePage confused Maine for Missouri or Maryland, where there were lots of citizens who fought for the Confederacy."
Johnson, who called the notion that Maine farmers were worried about their property rights "wholly wrong," noted that just one Civil War battle took place in Maine. And in that battle in Portland Harbor, there was little indication anyone was "eager to fight for the Confederacy," Johnson said.
The Confederacy and Civil War as a whole have both been thrust back into the national spotlight following protests in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month that left three people dead. A group, "Unite the Right, was in the college town to protest the removal of a Confederate memorial, sparking counterprotests against white supremacists.
Dozens of Confederate monuments and statues have been coming down nationwide since that incident.