Thinking of Southern Unionists under different terms

Posted on November 28, 2010 by


I had been thinking about this for a while, but yesterday, while watching the latest Harry Potter movie, I caught myself thinking of Southern Unionists in a different light (yes, I know… of all things, how would I think about Southern Unionists in a Harry Potter movie… I suppose I’m hopeless…). Why did I think this?

Well, in one portion of the Harry Potter movie, there are scenes in which a Nazi-like police force is standing guard here and there, and there are patrols asking for papers. Clearly, this was done to mirror the situation that could be encountered in Nazi Germany. When we see things like this, I think we can’t help but feel something for those who are pressed under such a tremendous weight. That burden… the ever-present feeling of oppression. The directors of the movie got that right… it was dismal, it was depressing… but, enough about the movie…

Scenes like this may have been common in tracking down Southern Unionists... or conscript-hunting. This image is from "The Thrilling Adventures of Daniel Ellis" (1867)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing Confederates to Nazis, however, I can’t help but think about native German people, in their own land, not going along with the majority… not going along with the government in power, and comparing them to native Southerners, in their own land, not going along with the majority… not going along with the government in power. Can you see what I’m seeing?

It’s such an incredibly heavy feeling to think about Southern Unionists under these terms, but really, give it some thought… what would it have been like to restrain yourself, and not to reveal your sentiment? How awkward would it have been to put on a facade? I do, however, get the impression that maybe the Southern experience wasn’t quite as oppressive as what the Germans may have experienced. For example, there are Southern Unionists who were documented in regard to being outspoken in their sentiments at the time of the war… yet, can we say the same for some in Germany? I get the impression that people wouldn’t dare be among those who spoke negatively against the government, but maybe I’m wrong. Help me out if you know better.

A depiction of a hanging of Southern Unionists in Tennessee. From "Thrilling Adventures of Daniel Ellis" (1867)

The point is to think about Southern Unionists, not as “traitors” to their native states, but as an oppressed people in their own land. They had a vision of Union that was not shared by others, and frankly, all those who wore gray didn’t have one vision of Union alone. We hear about the oppressive reach of the United States government at the time of the war, but stop and give consideration to the reach of the Confederate government that was just as oppressive, and coercive.

Conform, leave, or die… because your views are not in harmony with those of the government in power of the land that is yours, and was generations before, that of your ancestors.