Enemies of the Country: New Perspectives on Unionists in the Civil War South

By Rhyne, J. Michael | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, January 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

Enemies of the Country: New Perspectives on Unionists in the Civil War South


Rhyne, J. Michael, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


Enemies of the Country: New Perspectives on Unionists in the Civil War South. Edited by JOHN C. INSCOE and ROBERT C. KENZER. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001. x, 242 pp. $45.00.

THE essays in this edited volume chronicle the extent to which community and family loyalties and tensions both shaped and complicated the wartime experiences of southerners who chose to oppose the Confederacy. Carl N. Degler and Richard N. Current have previously addressed, respectively, political and military aspects of this topic, and several community studies have examined the social consequences of southern Unionism. Yet, as the editors of Enemies of the Country point out in their introduction, this topic has failed to receive the attention it deserves. Northern political leaders and intellectuals placed great hope in the possibility of fomenting an uprising within the Confederacy among secret Unionists. Abraham Lincoln went so far as to incorporate this hope into Federal war strategy. The essays in this collection demonstrate that although northern hopes may have been unrealistic in scale, they were not without any real basis.

The contributors utilize personal letters, journals, memoirs, local histories, oral tradition, and other tools of the social historian's trade to open windows into an intriguing assortment of southern Unionist households. Jonathan M. Berkey examines the experience of David Hunter Strother, a Virginian from the lower Shenandoah Valley who followed his father's Unionist leanings, joined the Federal army, and thus alienated himself and his wife from extended family and community. Berkey concludes that Strother's story is a microcosm of the bitter and ambivalent wartime experience of many families in the lower Valley. As Scott Reynolds Nelson illustrates, the war led to similar internal family conflicts in central North Carolina. The Faucette household boasted a patriarch who was active in a secret, militant Unionist organization, two legitimate sons who served in the Confederate army, five who did not, and one illegitimate son, born of a free black woman, who served in the Federal army. In keeping with the topic of divided families, John C. …

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