Deserter Country: Civil War Opposition in the Pennsylvania Appalachians

Deserter Country: Civil War Opposition in the Pennsylvania Appalachians

Deserter Country: Civil War Opposition in the Pennsylvania Appalachians

Deserter Country: Civil War Opposition in the Pennsylvania Appalachians


During the Civil War, there were throughout the Union explosions of resistance to the war -from the deadly Draft Riots in New York City to other, less well-known outbreaks. In Deserter Country, Robert Sandow explores one of these least known "inner civil wars", the widespread, sometimes violent opposition in the Appalachian lumber country of Pennsylvania.

Sparsely settled, these mountains were home to divided communities that provided safe-haven for opponents of the war. The dissent of mountain folk reflected their own marginality in the face of rapidly increasing exploitation of timber resources by big firms, as well as partisan debates over loyalty.

One of the few studies of the northern Appalachians, this book draws revealing parallels to the War in the southern mountains, exploring the roots of rural protest in frontier development, the market economy, military policy, partisan debate, and everyday resistance. Sandow also sheds new light on the party politics of rural resistance, rejecting easy depictions of war-opponents as traitors and malcontents for a more nuanced and complicated study of the class, economic upheaval, and localism.


This work is a study of war opposition, an “inner civil war,” in the Pennsylvania Appalachians. It pursues the basic question why some rural northerners opposed the Civil War even to the point of violence. in its conception, it combines a regional study of the northern mountains with an examination into the causes and meaning of wartime protest. It argues that specific social, political, and economic factors contributed to the prevalence of antiwar attitudes there.

Although the Appalachian Mountains extend into the North, scholars of the Civil War have focused predominantly on their southern reaches—a region noted for the development of thorny resistance to the rebel government. Scholars of the Confederate war have drawn increasing attention to the complex struggle between Unionists, the disaffected, and Confederate Loyalists, most notably in the mountainous border areas. the people of the southern Appalachians were divided in their loyalty to Confederate independence. On the periphery of state authority, these communities developed strong regional identities nurturing traditions of autonomy and local government. Kinship and community fashioned the hierarchy of their loyalty.

Wartime hardships intensified the internal divisions of the mountain South. Many southerners grew to resent the intrusion of the Confederate government with its increased demand for volunteers and seizure of military supplies. Yeomen farmers of the upland South lived more closely to the margins of subsistence, and the disruptions of labor and food threatened family survival. As border communities in the path of Union military advances, they faced additional pressures. When armies advanced and retreated, issues of loyalty had profound implications for the people who lived there. Soldiers on both sides justified the capture of food and sometimes the destruction of property belonging to the enemy. in the uncertainty of the Civil War, hardships and bitterness fractured neighborhoods into warring factions that continued their bloody feuds even after the armies departed.

In its social and economic patterns, the heavily forested Pennsylvania Appalachians shared traits common to the South. the similarities of mountain experiences suggest that scholars rethink the boundaries of conflict. Like the southern mountains, a sparse population lived scattered across vast daunting . . .

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