How all Northerners “then” weren’t really so out of touch with “being Southern”

Posted on November 14, 2010 by


It’s bad enough to hear some contemporary Southerners speak of Northerners as if it was still the time of the Civil War, but it’s even worse to hear Southerners speak of the people of the North from the time of the war, as if they could not, in the least bit, identify with the culture of the South. By doing so, what they reveal is either an unawareness of the facts or, perhaps “Civil War forgetfulness.” In the end, the result is an inaccurate and unfair stereotype of who the Northerner was… a blanket statement that falls far from the truth.

After all, the reality of it is that there were quite a few Southerners, in the North at the time of the war, and in the Union army.

In Lincoln’s Loyalists, Richard Nelson Current avoided trying to put a number on the Southerners who were in the ranks of the Union army… and no, I don’t mean those who joined units formed in the South, but in units from the respective Northern states, as they were formed in those states. I understand why he did this. It’s a huge task to go into each and every soldier’s record from the Union army and figure out who was born in the South and who was not… and in some cases, the records won’t reveal the place of birth. Nonetheless, I’ve identified Southerners who were born in Virginia, who enlisted in units 1) after those units were in Virginia, and 2) as the units were formed in the North… after the Southern family relocated to the North. Some relocated to the North before the war, some at the onset of the war, and some several years before the war. These people understood the culture of the South… the way of life, etc., etc. It’s likely that they even lived in the North, culturally, as Southerners. They could speak quite knowledgeably about the South. If we include those who were only one generation removed from being Southern, their parents having been Southerners, the number of those who had connections with the South is even greater.

In fact, I’m even aware of Southerners who divided from each other on account of… slavery.

In Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, there was a congregation of Baptists in what is now Page County. Sometime after 1800, this congregation, the Mill Creek Baptist Church, began to have a number of disagreements over slavery. According to Harry M. Strickler’s Short History of Page County, the dissenting group thought in harmony with what became a basic belief of the 1806 Ohio Association, that being… “We do not wish to correspond with any Association or Church that do, in principle, hold involuntary slavery.” Elder John Koontz, a convert from Lutheranism (baptized in Fauquier County in 1768), and from whom I’m twice descended, believed that such things were matters for individual conscience and should not be a part of church doctrine.

The "White House", near the S. Fork, Shenandoah River, Page County, Va.

Even so, in 1805, the congregation split. One portion began holding worship services at the White House, just west of Hamburg, while the other portion (approximately fifteen members from 6 families) moved to Fairfield County, Ohio. Among this number were also three ministers, Lewis Seits, Samuel Comer, and Martin Kauffman.

In fact, for those with anti-slavery sentiment, the move was fitting, as, under the Ordinance of 1787, slavery had been prohibited north of the Ohio River. Additionally, following the battle of Fallen Timbers, in 1794, and after the Treaty of Greenville, in 1796, settlement in that area had finally become relatively safe from Native American incursions. At the time of the move, Fairfield County was only five years old and had been only the eighth county to be formed in the Northwest Territory.

Once in Ohio, the former members of the Mill Creek congregation established the Pleasant Run Baptist Church, in Lancaster. The church was first constituted in 1806, and, on April 19 of that same year, the congregation met “according to appointment and opened our meeting with prayer and praise. Second – proceeded to business, with choosing our Moderator, Martin Coffman. We ended our meeting with prayer and thanksgiving.”

Though only started with fifteen members, Strickler notes, “Many from Virginia followed these Baptist brethren to Ohio.” By 1809, the congregation had nearly eighty members and was one of four churches to become part of the Scioto Baptist Association (named for the nearby Scioto River).

Various surnames of the membership can also be seen in the history of Page County, Virginia – Beaver, Coffman, Comer, Geiger, Hiestand, Hite, Huffman, Pence, Ruffner, and Spitler. There are also other names in the cemetery (Baptist Corners cemetery) that reveal names that are usually identified with Page County, Virginia’s neighbor to the west… Shenandoah County.

There are also Page County names tied to other churches in Fairfield County, Ohio. In the Dovel family cemetery, in Pickerington, Ohio, there is a grave for John E. Dovel, private from the 113th Ohio Infantry, who died as a POW in Louisville, Kentucky. His parents, Jacob B. and Elizabeth Dovel, were born in the Page Valley of Virginia in the 1810s.

Not too terribly far away, in Champaign County, Ohio, there are several with Virginia roots… and some who later served the Union, being themselves only one generation removed from Virginia. Christian Norman served in the 45th Ohio Infantry. His father, Benjamin Norman/Nauman, was born in the Page Valley.

In Carroll County, Ohio, there is George M. Roudebush, a private in the 157th Ohio Infantry. His father, Abraham, was born in Rockingham County, Virginia.

Down the Ohio River, and across in Gallia County, West Virginia, we have Charles C. Aleshire, and his brother, Edward S. Aleshire, sons of Reuben Aleshire, born in 1808, in what is now Page County, Virginia.

Off to the west, in Indiana, I know of the grave of Hiram Jackson Foltz, born in Indiana, a son of Henry J. Foltz and Veronica Hollingsworth Foltz… both of the Page Valley. Hiram served in the 85th Indiana Infantry. Hiram’s brother, James, was born in Page County, Virginia in 1833, but he too served in blue.

These are just a few of the Southerners, and sons of Southerners, who relocated to the North… and ended up serving in blue. They are also some of my cousins… and first cousins of a good number of those who served in gray, back in Virginia.

I’d say that, even though most listed here were one generation removed, they still grew up in their parents’ homes… in which Southern culture could still be easily recognized. So, were they really so out of touch with what it was like to be Southern? Had they lost their “sense of place”? Perhaps they had a new “sense of place”. Still, I don’t think they were so detached from the place in which so many of their people had settled, lived, and died, for so many years before.

They were not as out-of-touch with the South as some suggest.