Lincoln's Loyalists Union Soldiers from the Confederacy
On April 15, 1861, two days after the fall of Fort Sumter, President Lincoln used the authority provided in a 1795 statute for "calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union." Requests for troops were sent by telegraph to all non-seceding states; Northern states complied immediately, but Lincoln received stern refusals from all four governors of the upper South. A typical response was that of Governor Isham G. Harris: "In such unholy crusade no gallant son of Tennessee will ever raise his sword." But as Richard Nelson Current shows in this pathbreaking book, many "sons of the South" did indeed raise arms against Dixie, and the result was decisive in the outcome of the Civil War.
The ranks of Union forces swelled by more than 100,000 men known to their friends as "loyalists" and to their enemies as "Tories." Despite the insistence of Southern governors, every Confederate state except South Carolina contributed at least a battalion of white troops for the Union Army. And individual South Carolinians joined Union regiments from other states. The presence of these forgotten men of the Civil War strengthened the Union, weakened the Confederacy, and played a large part in the eventual victory of North over South. While much deserved attention has been paid of late to black soldiers--both Northern and Southern--very little has been written or said about white southern supporters of the Union cause, and nothing has been hitherto published on the group as a whole. Relying almost entirely on primary sources, Current here opens the long-overdue investigation of these many Americans who, at great risk to themselves and their families, made a profound contribution to the preservation of the Union.
Besides providing the factual basis for Current's revealing account, the primary sources he has discovered--including letters, military dispatches, and personal memoirs--allow a wide variety of extremely articulate officers, soldiers, politicians, and ordinary citizens to speak to us directly across the years, bringing to life what was perhaps the most formative era of our nation's history. These myriad voices reveal a level of discontent over secession among Southern citizens little understood until now, and also demonstrate the insidious effect the defection of Southerners to the Union cause had on morale south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Current meticulously explores the history of the loyalists in each Confederate state during the war, weaving their stories into a rich and fascinating account of the conflicting claims of honor, conscience, and patriotism. In the end, the number of Southerners fighting for the Stars and Stripes equalled ten percent of the total Confederate army. Putting this striking figure in an new historical context, Current has written a book that will challenge old assumptions about why the North won the Civil War.