"Homemade Yankees": The First Alabama Union Cavalry in the Civil War

Butler, Clayton, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Butler, Clayton, University of Virginia

This essay seeks to engage with five essential questions. Who were the white Unionists of the Deep South? Why did they take their Unionist stand? How did they do so? How were they perceived by people in the Confederacy and the United States? And what happened to them as a result during and after the war? To address these questions, I have investigated a Union regiment recruited from among the white residents of Alabama, men who passed the “severest test” of loyalty by enlisting in the army. Utilizing service records, newspapers, speeches, letters, diaries, and Southern Claims Commission files, among other sources, I argue that during the war these Alabama Unionists took on a symbolic importance to both sides out of proportion to their actual numbers. To northerners, they represented the tangible nucleus of Union support within the rebelling states on which Reconstruction policies could be built. To Confederates, they represented Tories and, eventually, traitors to the political ideals of the Confederate South and, most important as the war went on, to the white race. The Unionists’ wartime allegiance and service to the United States then became an important touchstone during the political chaos and realignment of Reconstruction, a period when many of these veterans played an important part.

MA (Master of Arts)
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