Southern Unionists in the Union army… “sans” enlistment bonus

Posted on March 13, 2008 by


In reading through the website for the 1st Alabama Cavalry, USV, I ran across an interesting page that made reference to a Grant administration veto. What it boils down to (at least my take on it) is that because these Southerners (Southern Unionists) enlisted to seek refuge (at least that was President Grant’s take on it), they were not entitled to enlistment bonuses. I really don’t think that Grant’s veto was a fair reflection of true loyalty/Unionist sentiment found in some of those Southern Unionists. Certainly, some enlisted to take refuge (and get a little revenge after chased down by Confederate conscript hunters), but I do believe that there was true desire to serve the Union. Personally, my favorite story is of Dr. James Gillespie and his son. They were in Page County, Virginia at the beginning of the war (having been residents for at least a decade – and the doctor being a native-born of Albemarle County, Va.), but ended up in a West Virginia unit – something I will have to talk more about at a later time. I would think that West Virginia units were entitled to bonuses weren’t they?

That said, I’m curious… has anyone come across anything about Southern Unionists in other units (with Northern state designations) that were not entitled to bonuses? In my own research, I have run across Virginians out of the Shenandoah Valley who enlisted in units such as the 143rd Pennsylvania Infantry, the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry, the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry and a few others, but I didn’t even think to look at the situation with bonuses. I did notice that certain districts were credited with the enlistment of these Southern Unionists (for example, when the man enlisted in the 143rd, I think a district around Harrisburg, Pa. was credited with the enlistment. I have to say that this is rather interesting in that the Southern Unionist helped to fill a quota for that district, though he wasn’t from there, but had taken refuge in Pa.). I’m just curious to see if Grant’s veto was imbalanced in dealing with Southern Unionists as a whole.