What manner of tolerance? – Southern citizens vs. soldiers… blue AND gray

Posted on July 10, 2012 by


There’s something that really strikes me when looking at Southern Claims Commission applications, and that is… how much one can take, and still adhere to the sentiments held prior to situations that can try one’s level of tolerance.

Just as an example, among Southern Unionists… they are loyal (or profess to be so, after the fact, when applying for reimbursement for items lost/taken) to the Union, yet… Union soldiers take things from them without asking… and still, these same Southern civilians remain loyal. Some Southern Unionists recounted their frustration over such things, while others simply recounted something along the lines of… “well, I suppose the Union soldiers needed these things”, or… “better the Union soldiers to have these things than the Confederate soldiers.” Yes, I’ve actually seen both examples in the claims that I’ve read.

On the other hand, I can also imagine how some people may have snapped, and flipped to the other side because of similar episodes… after all, people are people. This might especially be the case for some who had been “sitting on the fence” prior to an incident… or a series of incidents.

Is it any different, however, with Southern civilians who professed sentiments to the Confederate cause, and yet were taken to their personal limits by depredations at the hands of Confederate soldiers?  

Sadly, we don’t have anything similar to the claims of Southerners loyal to the Union. Still, there are stories out there that show cases in which Southerners loyal to the Confederacy became frustrated with Confederates seizing whatever they needed, and yet those same Confederate-leaning civilians still holding-on to loyalty to the Confederate cause.

Then too, we also have stories that show us where Southerners became intolerant of Confederates seizing the goods of Southern civilians. 

Even worse, it seems, were the Confederate intrusions on the part of Confederate conscript patrols. I’ve certainly seen, in various examples, where this pushed some Southerners to the point where they donned Union blue. 

I don’t think enough consideration can be given to these sorts of things when reflecting on the lives of Southern civilians at war. Though I cringe at using it too often, the word “complex” rises again, and seems inescapable.

I think some folks become too comfortable in a mindset…

… that vision of a group of ladies sitting together, knitting socks for Confederate soldiers in the field… or a woman sitting by a window, stitching away at a new Confederate battle flag…

 The fact is, these images are too comfortable, and revealing of an inability to move beyond a personal comfort zone of historical memory. It may be unsettling to be so unsure of how things really were, but there’s more history there than meets the eye… especially when one chooses to keep the blinders on.

Truth is… the more one delves into the story of Southern civilians at war, the more uncertain one should be, especially in the absence of personal accounts detailing how any one person may have felt at any particular time, or for the entire course of the war.