John Inscoe, Robert C. Kenzer, eds. Enemies of the Country: New Perspectives on Unionists in the Civil War South. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001. vii + 242 pp. $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8203-2288-9.
Reviewed by Derek W. Frisby (Department of History, The University of Alabama)
Published on H-South (February, 2002)
Loyalty and Conflict in the Civil War South Revisited
Loyalty and Conflict in the Civil War South Revisited
In 1998, the University of Richmond's Douglas Southall Freeman Symposium assembled a group of scholars to discuss family, loyalty, and conflict in the Civil War South. Historians will perhaps one day recognize the 1998 "Southern Families at War" conference as a landmark event in Civil War historiography. Catherine Clinton has already collected twelve of the thirty-two essays presented in Richmond into her edited volume, Southern Families at War: Loyalty and Conflict in the Civil War South. Whereas Clinton's collection focused primarily on issues of gender and race on the Confederate homefront, John Inscoe and Robert Kenzer's Enemies of the Country combines six papers from the 1998 conference with four new essays to explore how Southern families and communities dealt with divided allegiances during the Civil War.
Three of the four new essays included in Enemies of the Country investigate Unionists struggling to balance allegiance and community in urban environments. Thomas Dyer's essay traces the ordeal of Cyrena and Amherst Stone, two Vermont natives who moved to Atlanta in the 1850s and presided over one of the city's more successful businesses. The Stones, along with other Atlanta Unionists, covertly provided aid and comfort to Federal prisoners held in the city, but as Confederate prospects dissipated on the battlefield, so too did the patience of the Unionists' secessionist neighbors. The Civil War had caught the Stones between the proverbial "rock and a hard place." Their northern heritage made them targets of southern suspicion in Atlanta and their southern ties cast doubt on their loyalty while visiting family in Vermont. Dyer's recounting of the Stone saga is the product of excellent research into Cyrena's diary and reveals "how complex the experiences of a single family could be in the vortex of war when it came to choosing sides" (p. 143).
The entry on Civil War Knoxville establishes Robert Tracie McKenzie as the preeminent period historian of the city. He followed the response of Knoxville's elites to the rhetoric of the indefatigable East Tennessee Unionist Parson Brownlow, revealing the intricate relationship between economics, race, and allegiance in the South. Knoxville's Unionists and secessionists both agreed in protecting southern rights and the preservation of slavery, but differed in judgment about whether war was the best means to these ends. Although most of Knoxville's elites sided with the Confederacy, those who were Unionists rejected Brownlow's call to arms against Confederate rule, and instead, they decided to make the most of their situation while maintaining silence and "strict neutrality of conduct" until the crisis was resolved (p. 90). William Warren Rogers, Jr.'s history of Unionists in Montgomery, Alabama is equally adept at describing the character of Unionism inside the Confederacy's original capital. By organizing themselves into an effective resistance group, they "drew comfort from their philosophical kinship," enabling them to keep their identities and survive as a "maligned and small minority" within the city (p. 184).
In keeping with the "Southern Families at War" conference theme, Keith Bohannon, Carolyn Stefanco, Scott Reynolds Nelson, John Inscoe and Robert Kenzer examine the toughest tests of loyalty: conflicting intrahousehold allegiances. Bohannon compares the dual memoirs of Horatio and Margaret Hennion. Horatio Hennion was a northern-born ironmaker who married into Margaret's South Carolina/Georgia kinship network with all its incumbent responsibilities and loyalties. Yet, when the onset of Civil War forced Horatio to choose between his extended family and his country, he chose the latter. Hennion's education and leadership soon thrust him into the role of local Unionist militia commander. Although Margaret supported and abetted her husband in this endeavor, her stance isolated her from her family, especially following the war, when Horatio moved his family to New England to escape the persecution of the Reconstruction period. Their contrasting reminisces of their wartime lives starkly demonstrate the pressures withstood by those within a bisectional household.
Northern-born women who married Southern men also experienced the conflict of loyalties between family and community. Carolyn Stefanco's essay describes the tribulations of one such couple, William and Nelly Gordon. Born in Chicago, Nelly Kenzie was the niece of Union General David Hunter. She married Savannah, Georgia native William Gordon in 1857. She struggled throughout the war to balance her roles as a wife and daughter with sectional loyalties. Nelly's strong sense of patriotic duty was shaped not only by her northern ties, but other factors as well. She resisted her husband's desire to surrender herself to him and the culture of the South, becoming increasingly alienated from both the Gordon family and the Savannah community. This isolation fostered Nelly's growing sense of independence which only further estranged her from William and his expectations of her role as wife and mother. Additionally, Stefanco's study of the Gordons goes beyond the nature of the Gordon marriage and the "heterosexist lens of historical inquiry" to examine how Civil War women related to one another within a variety of relationships and settings (p. 149).
Scott Reynolds Nelson's study of the Faucette family in North Carolina follows the contrasting fortunes of a white father and his mulatto son through the crucible of war and reconstruction. Chelsey Faucette was a wealthy planter and merchant in antebellum Alamance County who produced a son with a black woman several years before his marriage to a white woman. It is unclear how this son, Wyatt, became a free black man, but he continued to live in the county as a mechanic in the shops of a nearby railroad company. Chelsey's membership in the "Red Strings," a secret anti-Confederate political group, eventually cost him both his fortune and sanity.
Meanwhile, his black son, Wyatt, began to increase his social standing by joining the United States Colored Troops. There he assumed the name Wyatt Outlaw and followed in his father's footsteps by opening a small store in postwar Alamance. From this store, which doubled as a tavern, Wyatt organized the Loyal Republican League, a political group encouraging freedmen to vote and whose membership rolls included many former white Red Stringers. League members composed most of the county's postwar government and conservative whites quickly formed the White Brotherhood to counter the League's authority. The White Brotherhood ironically included many of the Faucette family network who were aware of Wyatt's background. The contest between these opposing groups erupted into violent confrontations that ended with the public hanging of Wyatt Outlaw in 1870. Nelson argues that the Faucette/Outlaw story exposes the artificial nature of the public and private worlds of nineteenth-century America and how conservative whites mimicked the structure of their opponents' organizations to reestablish racial order.
John Inscoe and Gordon McKinney explain the strategies many families of dual allegiances utilized to endure the war. They build upon Michael Fellman's "survival lying" technique as the most common means of dealing with the war among divided households. By employing deception and role-playing, the fluidity of loyalties in the mountain South could be kept secret without incurring the ire and hostilities of their opposing families or neighbors. Sometimes, "survival lying" took extreme measures as shown in the case of "Buck" Younce in Ashe County, North Carolina. His fiancé and her family were devout secessionists, yet he intended to march off with the local Unionist force. Younce stopped at his fiance's house to say good-bye, but the home guard, who were alerted to Younce's intentions by his future in-laws, arrested him shortly after his arrival. Given the choice between imprisonment and Confederate enlistment, Younce chose the latter, but doing so still cost him his fiance, who married someone else just after the war's end.
At other times, divided allegiances were not so tidily resolved, as illustrated by Confederate General John Hunt Morgan's death at his mother-in-law's home in Union-occupied Greenville, Tennessee. Also living at the home was Morgan's sister-in-law, Lucy, whose husband was serving in the Federal army. She reported his whereabouts to Union troops, who surrounded the house and shot Morgan dead as attempted to flee. Although she continually proclaimed her innocence to maintain residence in the house, Lucy became a social outcast, even in the Unionist community, for betraying both her family and a houseguest. The continued suspicions and recriminations forced Lucy to move away and created a rift in her marriage that soon ended in a divorce. While these examples of divided familial allegiances are described as anomalies in a region where the relationship between kinship and loyalty was strong, they emphasize the importance of coping strategies like "survival lying" and "the sheer tentativeness and fluidity" of allegiances "in areas characterized by partisan confusion" (p. 64).
Kenneth Barnes' essay (the fourth added to those from the original conference) "shows to what extent kinship networks and local leadership influenced allegiance and actions in wartime" (p. 202). While supportive of slavery, Jeff Williams and his extended Arkansas kinship network simply wanted no part of the wider sectional conflict, preferring to defend only their Ozark homesteads. With Union troops pushing the Confederacy out of the region after the Battle of Pea Ridge, many in the Williams clan decided joining the occupying Federal troops was the best way to protect their families. Union commanders had little desire for extended occupation duties, however, and Federal troops soon moved out to pursue the retreating Confederates into central Arkansas, taking the Arkansas men with them as scouts. This movement forced Williams' company to leave their families defenseless and at the mercy of roaming Confederate conscription parties and bushwhackers. After some extended service, Williams' company returned to their homes to find the area overrun by Confederate guerillas, and their families living as refugees. The conflict between the two groups for control of the area devolved into a bitter, violent struggle that had consequences lasting well into the postwar era.
Anne Bailey's work on German-speaking Texans during the war has the distinction of being included in both compilations arising from the 1998 "Southern Families at War" conference. Her essay chronicles the attempts of Confederate forces to pacify, remove, or eliminate the significant dissenting German-speaking population of central Texas. Guerilla warfare soon erupted between the German-Americans and Confederate authorities. Southern authorities placed the region under martial law and sought to expel any who resisted. Eventually, the Germans became "reconciled to the new regime," although as in other places, reverberations from these confrontations continued on into the twentieth century (p. 221).
Jonathan Berkey's "Fighting the Devil with Fire: David Hunter Strother's Private Civil War" is an intriguing insight into one man's personal fight to maintain loyalty to his country and his community. Strother, a Virginian, had a successful career as a writer-artist under the pen name, "Porte Crayon." Enlisting in the Union army as a topographical staff officer, he traversed the Virginia theater of war and often wrote of his experiences with the army and the population. Strother used his influence and rank to act as a mediator between the army and his friends, relatives, and neighbors.
Berkey argues that most relatives "could not ignore [Strother's] status as invader, which tempered any kindness they received from him" (p. 28). In April 1861, a Confederate cavalry under Colonel Angus McDonald captured Strother's father and initiated a family feud between the once-friendly McDonalds and the Strothers. Incensed at his elderly father's imprisonment by Colonel McDonald, David sought revenge for this perceived betrayal of personal loyalty and family honor. Union forces captured McDonald near the war's conclusion, and Strother was given his chance for vengeance by his distant cousin, General David Hunter. Strother's revenge was refusing not to intervene at all. This act alienated the two families, and the community vilified Strother after the war despite all his efforts on their behalf. This example powerfully demonstrates how "the ebb and flow of military activity...ensured that decisions about national allegiance would have far-reaching and complex personal consequences...." (p. 33).
Two questions might be asked of this book: What is "new" about the perspectives offered in Enemies of the Country: New Perspectives of the Civil War South? Are these not just new treatments of traditional Unionist historiographical arguments? After all, three of the contributors have already published book-length treatments of their topics (Dyer, Inscoe/McKinney, and Rogers), and two other contributors have books on their subjects forthcoming (McKenzie and Stefanco). Additionally, historians have written about the significance of Appalachian kinship networks and the Unionist tendencies of mountain or non-native southerners included here for decades. While these may be valid criticisms, the essays do further diminish the "Solid South" myth by innovatively demonstrating the complexity and shifting nature of Civil War loyalties, regardless of geography, class, or clan. These essays also emphasize the importance of an individual's ideology in determining allegiance rather than stressing ethnicity, nationality, or class. For these reasons, and its clear and concise summaries of larger works, this collection should interest Civil War scholars and promote new research into southern Unionism.
. Thomas G. Dyer, Secret Yankees: The Union Circle in Confederate Atlanta (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999); John C. Inscoe and Gordon B. McKinney, The Heart of Confederate Appalachia: Western North Carolina in the Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000); William Warren Rogers, Jr., _Confederate Home Front: Montgomery during the Civil War (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1999). The forthcoming works of Robert T. McKenzie and Carolyn J. Stefanco are referenced in the book's contributor biographies (233-34).
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Derek W. Frisby. Review of Inscoe, John; Kenzer, Robert C., eds., Enemies of the Country: New Perspectives on Unionists in the Civil War South.
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