On Saturday afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit the American Civil War Center, and, as one who is in search of how Southern Unionists are represented in reflections of the Civil War, I began my walk-through anticipating what I might find. While an interesting and different way to present the history of the war and, perhaps more importantly, how it has been “remembered,” I was incredibly disappointed that Southern Unionists were in no way represented. I found an exhibit showing a butternut badge (Southern-sympathizing Northerners), saw the mention of Copperheads, and I even saw a quote (more or less, if the South loses the war, it will be because of the Southern people, or actually lack of support from them), but not once was the phrase “Southern Unionist” used! Did I miss something??? If not, I’m shocked at the absence.
I realize that I am pro-active in seeing the history of Southern Unionists brought into the overall story of the war, most especially with the Sesquicentennial on our doorstep, but really… for a museum that challenges the way that we “remember” the Civil War, it seems there should be something in there. The experience has left me even more determined to find museums that actually recognize Southern Unionists in some form of fashion. I know one exists here in the Valley (The Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center), but Southern Unionists were by no means limited to those who based their position on religious dissent. I also think the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley mentions Southern Unionists, but will have to take a look at their exhibit there again (I think it also tells the story of Southern Unionists from the same angle as the Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center). So, really, how many museums actually mention Southern Unionists and the role that they played in the war? It’s strange, but I’m finding more mention of Southern Unionists in historical markers across the landscape than I am in museums. I wonder why that is.