Dashing “Won Cause” mythology

Posted on April 1, 2010 by


It’s funny, but Civil War Memory is a double-edged sword. Being a Southerner, I’m used to the heavy dose of Lost Cause mythology, and several years ago, I finally came to the point where I could start to distinguish between myth and reality when it comes to the history of Southern Confederates in the war. That said, I’m also starting to see something else in my work with Marylanders in the Union army… Southern men in blue. Keep in mind, I’ve been aware of “Won Cause mythology” for sometime, but I’m finding some really interesting stuff in my work with western Marylanders in blue. Remember, it was a border state, and many of these folks did consider themselves Southerners (rightfully so, consider the geographical location as designated by the Mason-Dixon line), and Maryland was a slave state… but… anyway…

First, it wasn’t always “all for Lincoln”; I’ve provided snippits about the political interests of western Maryland in some posts here in the past. Likewise, in the case of some units (Potomac Home Brigade) that were intended for service to protect the homefront… specifically, that they were taken beyond that line and into points further to the south, into the Shenandoah Valley and into what is now West Virginia, I think some soldiers may have become a little testy about the nature of their service… at least as told to them when they enlisted. Additionally, I can see where slavery was a touchy matter with some of the Maryland boys in blue. Clearly, some of these fellows thought that Unionism was the way to go… and that it would see to the preservation of the institution of slavery. This isn’t your traditional “Won Cause” storyline for the boys in blue, but it’s all good. The “Southerness” of these Maryland men in blue helps to shed some light on a number of things, not only does it challenge what “Won Cause” mythology has done to our Civil War Memory about the men in blue in general, but it also adds more light to the challenges to “Lost Cause” mythology. Understanding these Southern men in blue provides us with a better understanding of the Southern men in gray.

As an after thought… balance is the ability to see the whole story and appreciate it all for what it is… not just look at it and take an angle that you think fits a certain agenda… or fits Won or Lost Cause mythologies respectively. More to follow… in good time.