Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Barton A. Myers's "Rebels against the Confederacy"

Barton A. Myers is Assistant Professor of Civil War History at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He is the author of Executing Daniel Bright: Race, Loyalty, and Guerrilla Violence in a Coastal Carolina Community, 1861–1865 as well as numerous articles and book reviews.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Rebels against the Confederacy: North Carolina's Unionists, and reported the following:
Based on groundbreaking new research on the American Civil War, Rebels Against the Confederacy asks readers to set aside their previous understanding of the American South from 1861 to 1865 in order to observe the Confederacy from the perspective of hundreds of Southern-born unionists, white and black, men and women, who fought the new Southern nation from within.

The Page 99 Test highlights a central theme of my book. Southern-born unionists were faced with a potentially deadly decision in 1861. These people woke up one morning and encountered a new Confederate world around them. Many of the same people they had known all of their lives were now enemies, who might kill them because of their own life-long adherence to the Union of American States. Page 99 is part of Chapter Three entitled “Resistance,” which closely follows the various methods of opposition that men and women used against the Confederacy. It specifically falls in the section on hostility to Confederate symbols and heroes. Unionists celebrated the death of Confederate leaders, rejected Confederate currency, rejoiced at Northern victories, and despaired over southern battlefield successes. In particular, Southern-unionists hated Confederate General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, the great military mind, who was accidentally shot by his own troops at Chancellorsville in May 1863. Unionist James Hawkes “rejoiced when he heard of the death of Stonewall Jackson.” Confederate Julia Gwyn of highland Caldwell County, North Carolina fretted in July 1863 that local Unionists had organized a military company to “march under an old dirty United States rag!” and celebrated “the death of Genl. [Stonewall] Jackson.”

The page also begins the section of the chapter examining “Aid and Comfort to Confederate Enemies” by recounting the story of six escaped U.S. prisoners of war incarcerated at the Florence, South Carolina stockade, who were subsequently supported in their daring escape by southern Unionists living along the border between North and South Carolina.

While the Page 99 Test captures the heart of one chapter of the work, the equally important questions of who southern-unionists were, how their resistance transformed into guerrilla conflicts across the Confederacy, and subsequently, what that violence means for the all-important question of why the Confederacy lost the war in 1865, are addressed in other areas of the book. Readers will find the life and death struggle of Southern Unionists an exciting new foray into enduring questions of Civil War America.
Learn more about Rebels against the Confederacy at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue