When I entered college in 1999 I immediately declared my major as history. So for the ensuing six years, both undergrad and graduate, I took a lot of history classes. In nearly every single one there was that one guy who tried all he could to somehow justify the Confederacy. It was always about something other than what the Civil War was always about, slavery. States rights, northern aggression, and other excuses were always brought up. It was always talked about carefully, argued very reasonably. But in the end, it was making excuses of the South.
The main problem with Civil War historiography is the accepted narrative is flawed and, ironically, accepted by both sides. Southern states, in the name of states rights and slavery, attempt to leave the Union only to best stopped by the heroic Lincoln and federal government in Washington. The real story, which to this day is only just beginning to be told, is in fact the reverse. Since the founding of the country, the South labored diligently to control the federal government. The Slave Conspiracy, as the abolitionists called it, ensured pro-slavery southerns controlled the House, Senate, Presidency, Supreme Court, military, and federal bureaucracy. The true champions of states rights and individual liberty were the abolitionists and northern legislatures fighting slavery through personal liberty laws. The very heart of the Slave Power's justification, the Dred Scott decision, was the federal Supreme Court deciding that slavery was legal all over the country. There is very little federalism in that. "States rights," as we know it historically, is actually an artful political head-fake by southern politicians who became (and still are) experts at victimization politics. Men like Calhoun, Hammond, Yancey, and other southern theorists argued for states rights mostly to stay in power. What in fact they were doing was using the federal government to enforce and expand slavery.
For some reason, this escapes many libertarians. Of course, it is often hard to understand libertarians because they exists outside the normal political dichotomy that this country is used to. Many look at Lincoln's pretty vicious suppression of the press, border state legislatures, and congressional dissent. He revoked habeus corpus. He also was the first president to introduce paper greenbacks as currency to pay for the war. Many libertarians often take that position without understanding the horrific abuse of federal power and suppression of personal liberty before the war by southern states and their politicians. It does worry me that it is almost a scandal for anyone to present criticism of Lincoln. History is always a discipline focused on arguments and reevaluations, a subject that is more than black and white open to constant debate. But it is an interesting historical event that cuts libertarians right down the middle. Anti-war and pro-civil liberties, the Civil War era saw both sides committing atrocities to these principles.
It is pretty funny that Rand Paul is now being held accountable for the Civil War. The attack on Jack Hunter for foolish utterances from his 20s while pretending to be some sort of pro-wrestling character shows that the GOP establishment will attempt to use racial politics to bring him down. Frankly, attacking the views of a new media director on the Civil War is one of the thinnest guilt-by-association arguments I've ever seen. That doesn't mean libertarians don't constantly talk themselves into trouble by taking history at face value. You would think a political philosophy based on the argument that existing assumptions are wrong would be more distrustful of the consensus story of the Civil War.