Unionists (United States Civil War)



A Unionist was "a member or supporter of the twenty-three Northern states that were not part of the seceding Confederacy during the American Civil War" (Wikipedia). Unionism in the South took on a variety of forms and encompassed many different beliefs. While most northerners sided with the Union, many southerners did as well. Even prior to secession, no solid white South existed, as many white southerners in mountainous and upcountry areas of the South did not own enslaved persons. While some areas like eastern Tennessee and parts of northern Alabama rejected secession outright for the entire war, secession produced renewed patriotism for many non-enslaving whites in the South. That patriotism faltered for many as the awful realities of wartime violence and poverty struck even as early as 1861. Many poor white southerners viewed the Confederacy's conscription, impressment, and taxation policies as elitist, forcing many families to, if not support the Union per se, at least oppose the Confederacy.

Entire unionist communities developed throughout the war to shield those loyal to the Union or opposed to the Confederacy, as well as deserters from the Confederate Army and, in certain cases, escaped enslaved persons. Southern unionism often led to internal armed conflict between southerners, as bands of guerilla fighters raided Confederate depots and shipping for supplies and even attacked some Confederate units. While unionist strongholds most frequently developed in the mountainous regions of the South and the border states, Unionism spread throughout the entire Confederacy, including one of the most notable in Jones County, Mississippi, where ex-Confederate soldier Newton Knight and roughly 500 others formed the so-called "Free State of Jones" and opposed Confederate forces until the war's end. The presence of Unionism across the South stifled the Confederate war effort in many ways and revealed that tensions of national loyalty, race, class, and gender remained complicated even for southern whites (American Heritage; Essential Civil War Curriculum).

See also: https://www.americanheritage.com/souths-inner-civil-war-0

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