White Unionists in the Deep South during the Civil War and Reconstruction
240 Pages / 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.69 in / 12 halftones, 1 map
- Hardcover /
- 9780807176627 /
- Published: April 2022
- eBook /
- 9780807177532 /
- Published: April 2022
During the American Civil War, thousands of citizens in the Deep South remained loyal to the United States. Though often overlooked, they possessed broad symbolic importance and occupied an outsized place in the strategic thinking and public discourse of both the Union and the Confederacy. In True Blue, Clayton J. Butler investigates the lives of white Unionists in three Confederate states, revealing who they were, why and how they took their Unionist stand, and what happened to them as a result. He focuses on three Union regiments recruited from among the white residents of the Deep South—individuals who passed the highest bar of Unionism by enlisting in the United States Army to fight with the First Louisiana Cavalry, First Alabama Cavalry, and Thirteenth Tennessee Union Cavalry.
Northerners and southerners alike thought a considerable amount about Deep South Unionism throughout the war, often projecting their hopes and apprehensions onto these embattled dissenters. For both, the significance of these Unionists hinged on the role they would play in the postwar future. To northerners, they represented the tangible nucleus of national loyalty within the rebelling states on which to build Reconstruction policies. To Confederates, they represented traitors to the political ideals of their would-be nation and, as the war went on, to the white race, making them at times a target for vicious reprisal. Unionists’ wartime allegiance proved a touchstone during the political chaos and realignment of Reconstruction, a period when many of these veterans played a key role both as elected officials and as a pivotal voting bloc. In the end, white Unionists proved willing to ally with African Americans during the war to save the Union but unwilling to protect or advance Black civil rights afterward, revealing the character of Unionism during the era as a whole.
“Clayton Butler has done a service to the field of Civil War history by offering this engaging and well-researched analysis of Unionism in the Deep South. By exploring the wartime experiences of southern white Unionists, their shifting policy positions during Reconstruction, and the ways that they and their descendants remembered their place in the conflict, Butler helps us better understand the complex and fascinating story of the Civil War era. This is an essential read.”~Jonathan W. White, associate professor of American studies at Christopher Newport University and author of Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln
“Clayton Butler’s new book takes its place in a growing body of scholarship and popular writing that challenges the very foundation of the Lost Cause. True Blue’s focus on the military service of southern Unionists in the Deep South uncovers a largely unknown story of loyalty to the United States government and defiance against secession and the Confederacy. Though their numbers were relatively small, the men of the First Alabama and First Louisiana Cavalry offer a new perspective on the scope of violence that took place on battlefields such as Fort Pillow as well as the challenges they posed to the forging of Confederate nationalism and the possibility of reestablishing loyal governments during Reconstruction. This book is a must-read.” ~Kevin M. Levin, independent historian and author of Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder
“Clayton Butler’s True Blue is an impressively researched history of white men from the Deep South who defiantly enlisted in the U.S. Army during the American Civil War. Butler skillfully explains how a commitment to Union remained a guiding principle of their lives, as they moved from combat into Reconstruction politics and eventually into an alliance with their former Confederate enemies. Full of incredible and deeply human stories, True Blue helps explain why a war with so much transformative power gave way to the reactionary forces of white supremacist ‘redemption.’ It is a welcome and compelling addition to the growing library on southern Unionism.” ~Amy Murrell Taylor, T. Marshall Hahn Jr. Professor of History at the University of Kentucky and author of Embattled Freedom: Journeys through the Civil War’s Slave Refugee Camps
“Butler makes an important contribution to our understanding of Unionists in the Deep South during and after the Civil War. . . . Small in number but consequential nonetheless, these Deep South Unionists found ‘their voices drowned out by the chorus of returning Confederates and their descendants’ (p. 166). Clayton Butler’s book reminds us of why those voices and their actions matter.” ~Journal of Southern History