The real Underground Railroad was not a railroad, that was just a code word to throw off people listening in on discussions about saving people from slavery.
The Civil War vs. the abolitionists playing a more prominent role is highly debatable. On one hand, the war did directly force the south to yield and give up slavery, but on the other hand, no war is fought over just one reason. In truth, the war was primarily fought over states retaining power over the federal government. It is true that this took the direct form of slavery, but slavery in this context serves as a variable that could have been any defiance of the federal government. The states seceded and this broke apart the Union.
Now, Abraham Lincoln is often painted as a saint who freed the slaves because he related to them, growing up on a farm where his dad paid him nothing for his labor. However, this picture contradicts former President Lincoln's own words.
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.” -Abraham Lincoln’s Letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862.
He did grow up in unfair conditions in which he could relate to slaves, yet he had no intention of instilling racial equality.
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,” -Fourth debate with Stephen Douglass, at Charleston, Illinois, on September 18, 1858
And furthermore, he did not see blacks and whites as equal and preferred white people to come out as superior in society.
“I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position.” -First debate with Stephen Douglass, at Ottawa Illinois, on August 21, 1858.
With this context we see that, through Lincoln’s own words, he believed whites and blacks to be fundamentally different, he had no interest in pursuing racial equality, and he believed that whites should be superior to blacks in society. He shows us that he is willing to take whatever action is necessary to save the Union of the United States, even if that means keeping slavery legal. Given this, it makes sense to say that the abolitionists were truly the ones who were doing the direct work of abolishing slavery and finding racial equality, and that the Lincoln Administration’s removal of slavery was not the primary goal of the Civil War from Lincoln’s perspective, rather, it was keeping the Union together. The fact that slavery was abolished is only the consequence of the South surrendering, not a relentless president’s creed for equality and justice.
With all of that said, it is hilarious to watch Republicans and Democrats fighting over who gets to claim Abraham Lincoln as their own in the modern day, since he’s really not the abolitionist hero that people paint him to be.
http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/greeley.htm https://www.history.com/news/5-things-you-may-not-know-about-lincoln-slavery-and-emancipation https://www.nps.gov/liho/learn/historyculture/debate1.htm