Were Southern Unionists and Northern Copperheads really comparable?

Posted on January 29, 2011 by


Over the last two years, when I’ve raised points about Southern Unionists, the topic of Northern Copperheads has entered the picture.

I think the two groups are commonly seen in the most basic terms… people in two separate geographic regions that supported the government (or “cause”) in power in the other geographic region. But, I think a great deal is lost in that, and, it’s not exactly accurate.

So, the next question is… If they aren’t truly comparable, then how are they different? Allow me to point out a few details…

One of the most basic facts in the formula is that Southern Unionists were in the “embattled land”. Many of these Unionists remained in the South, despite the government in power. Some remained quiet, some were operatives, some were activists… even to the point of wearing blue.

On the other hand, Copperheads were not in the embattled region. If they were so supportive of the Confederacy…. to what lengths would they go? How many actually made a commitment to the Confederacy in the form of support, ranging from verbal, to financial, and service to the Confederacy… even to the point of wearing gray?

Incidentally, I’ve linked to the Wikipedia definitions for both groups. While I don’t necessarily believe these are complete and accurate (effective) definitions, I do think they provide some material for consideration.

Was one more committed to an idea than the other? Also, again, were they really comparable?