Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Neighbors, Kinfolks, and Enemies

I had to go to a meeting last evening, and on the way there, I was pondering this question: why were not the majority of Unionists in western North Carolina forced to flee? In my research for the Brooksville Raid book, I learned that many of those who lived in Hernando County (Florida) who possessed Unionist sentiments were driven from their homes by local Confederates. Many of them fled to Key West and joined the 2nd Florida Cavalry (US). The primary reason of the Brooksville-Bayport raid was to destroy the homes and property of those loyal Confederates who had driven the Unionists from their homes. Here in western North Carolina, there were families who were just as loyal to the Union, but it seems that we seldom hear of them being flat out driven from their homes (or burned out) during the war. Sure, it does happen – Colonel Palmer’s (58th NCT) home was burned toward the end of Kirk’s raid. But why did it not happen more often?

I think, for the time being, I have come to this conclusion: the reason why more families were not driven from the area is that people here were all kin, were all related. Like many other people, my ancestors first came to this area (east of the Blue Ridge) in the 1750s, and after the American Revolution, moved to the west side of the Blue Ridge. They lived in small, isolated groups, and due to the small number of families in the area, quickly became related through marriage. So the people who lived in the hollow over from yours might be kin, and while they might profess feelings for the other side, they were still kin. In contrast, Florida had only recently been open to settlement prior to the start of the war. And while it was also sparsely settled, not enough time had passed for the families to have developed strong inter-family relationships.

What do you think? I really don’t have anything to prove this, just observations.

1 comment:

cenantua said...

I think you may be on to something in this line of thought. While treatment may have been harsh, and even resulted in death sometimes, the kinship may have had an impact on some. Even in the case of many conscription enforcement patrols, they were made up from locals who were on detached service from the regular army.

However, I also think that geography had something to do with it as well. As I recently mentioned in Southern Unionists Chronicles (the recent post about J.L. Gillespie), Confederates were about as thrilled about heading into those hollows and hills as the Union soldiers were. In some cases, soldiers of both sides stood an equal chance of getting shot.

Sometime after this semester is over, I'm going to start conducting some map studies about concentrations of Unionists in neighborhoods to see if "collections" of these groups had something to do with the lack of "running-outs." The thing about the Southern Unionists claims is that one needs to look at the claims as well as those identified in the claims. We can often identify a larger number of Unionists in geographical areas in this way that are not readily identified in the names of the applicants alone.