Thursday, March 01, 2007

Anti-Confederates, Not Unionists

I am reading Jonathan Dean Sarris's excellent A Separate Civil War: Communities in Conflict in the Mountain South (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press 2006), a study of two counties in north Georgia, near the Tennessee-North Carolina state line, before and during the Civil War. Professor Sarris makes a convincing case that, in those two counties at least, most dissenters were anti-Confederate rather than Unionist. Here is a quote from pages 75 and 76:
[M]any mountaineers saw the Confederacy's policies as essentially illegal. In the name of secession, authorities invaded homes and violated the sanctity of property and family. The traditional arbiters of law and order -- constables, soldiers, government officials -- had transformed into brutal agents of state-sponsored terrorism.

. . . .

[N]orth Georgia's Tories were driven to resist in reaction to the policies of the Confederate government. What does not appear in the records is any strong evidence of ideological Unionism among the dissenters. Just as a vote against secession in 1861 did not necessarily delineate unconditional pro-Union sentiment, the desertion, draft evasion, and resistance of 1862 and 1863 were not a comprehensive demonstration of any well-defined commitment to the abstract ideals to which so many Northerners subscribed. Although a few "unconditional Unionists" doubtless inhabited north Georgia's mountains, it seems evident that dissent sprang from less philosophical, more contingent causes.

Anyone who has been intrigued by reports of "Unionist" enclaves in the south during the Civil War will want to read Professor Sarris's book.

Thanks to Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory, whose post mentioning this book a few months ago alerted me to its existence.

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