Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Loyalty and Loss: But Why?

I've finished Margaret M. Storey's Loyalty and Loss: Alabama's Unionists in the Civil War and Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 2004), and you can color me disappointed.

In fairness to the good professor, it may just be that she was just not interested in the questions I was hoping she'd explore, or perhaps there are just no good answers to those questions. Putting aside the numbers issue (about which I griped about recently), there was little discussion of why some people, or families, or even areas, were unionist, while others were not. There was some scholarly patter about family and kinship and community ties, but that doesn't explain why this family, or that community was unionist, while the family or community next door was not.

She did a reasonably good job of conveying the tribulations of unionists, both during and after the War, but I found the narrative less compelling than, for example, that in Jonathan Dean Sarris's A Separate Civil War. In the latter book, I got a much better feel for the progression of resentment and violence over the years. Professor Storey writes perfectly well; her largely non-chronological treatment just didn't grab me.

On the plus side, Professor Storey related some surprising episodes of slaveholding unionists confiding in and working with their own slaves. She also did a good job treating the period of Presidential Reconstruction, capturing the bitter disappointment that unionists felt as they realized that the federal government was sacrificing them to placate and try to win over the rebels who had brutalized them and killed their kin during the War.

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