Maryland's Blue & Gray: A Border State's Union and Confederate Junior Officer Corps

By Hagerman, Edward | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, April 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Maryland's Blue & Gray: A Border State's Union and Confederate Junior Officer Corps


Hagerman, Edward, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


Maryland's Blue & Gray: A Border State's Union and Confederate Junior Officer Corps. By KEVIN CONLEY RUFFNER. Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1997. xiii, 428 pp. $34.95.

KEVIN RUFFNER'S study of Maryland junior officers, Federal and Confederate, contributes valuable insights into why soldiers fought. Maryland's Blue and Gray is based on a collective biography of 365 lieutenants and captains who fought in the Virginia theater with the Army of Northern Virginia's Maryland Line and the Army of the Potomac's Maryland Brigade. A valuable feature of the book is a biographical roster of these officers.

If they did not quite fit into dichotomies of Riflemen and Chevalier or Cavalier and Yankee, the two groups of officers, when they chose sides, did so from the experiences and the perspectives of two different societies within the same state. A significant proportion of Maryland's Confederate officers came from prominent families, were bound by family ties, had personal and real estate wealth, and enjoyed a high level of education. However, only two were possible slave owners.

The six largest occupational groups found among the junior officers of the Union Maryland Brigade were clerks, farmers, carpenters, merchants, shoemakers, and printers. The greatest number fell into the category of skilled workers, while most others were described as proprietors, clerks, businessmen, and merchants. Relatively few could be considered professionals by nineteenth-century standards. The vast majority had no personal or real-estate wealth. Very few had achieved any level of higher education, with only two known to have graduated from college before the war. Although apparently no officers in the Union Maryland Brigade were illiterate, literacy appears to have been a problem that affected the performance of some officers.

According to Ruffner's portrayal, the Confederate officers were motivated by the constitutional issue, by the right to defend civil liberties, and by the rights of individual states to choose their own destiny. Slavery itself was a minor issue. Maryland's Union officers felt compelled to fight by the opposite side of the constitutional issue and by the preservation of the Union. …

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