Southern Unionists around Fredericksburg

Posted on December 8, 2012 by


As Sesqui events kick-off in Fredericksburg this weekend, leading-up to the anniversary of the battle this coming Thursday, I figured this would be a good subject to bring forward at this particular time.

In retrospect, it might have been a good thing to do since the beginning of the Sesquicentennial… write short pieces, now and then, in conjunction with the anniversary of battles, relating the stories of Southern Unionists in the vicinity of the battles. For those who enjoy my posts about the Shenandoah Valley, not to worry… it remains my chief focus, and posts related to the Valley will continue. I do, however, think flexing the blog’s discussion of Unionists elsewhere is a good thing. For one, there isn’t a great deal about it on the Web, and adding content will, I think, be of service in helping to fill that void.  

Despite the fact that we are about four months short of the two year mark in the war, Fredericksburg is also a good starting point, especially when we consider the devastation suffered by the city, leading up to the battle, during, and after.

The difficult part of surveying Southern Unionists (SUs) associated with claims relating to the battle is that the devastation at the hands of Federal troops (whether that be because of the bombardment leading-up or the looting that occurred) may have “flipped” Southern Unionists who had remained loyal up to that point. Sure, we see SUs in the Valley who endured some pretty rough treatment at the hands of the Federal armies, despite their loyalty, and yet maintained that loyalty. Still, we have to consider the fact that, even well into the war, there were people who lost that sense of loyalty on account of actions of Federal armies. It’s without saying, but war brings pain… excruciating pain… and people have various levels of pain tolerance. There are some folks who are more tolerant than others, but it has to be acknowledged that people have limits. What occurred at Fredericksburg had to push some of those people over their personal limits, and, if not in December 1862, there were plenty more opportunities through the spring of 1864.

Finding people who made that flip may prove to be a challenge. For obvious reasons, these folks won’t appear in the approved claims, but evidence related to such occurences might be found in the barred and disallowed claims. Fact of the matter is, there are relatively few approved claims from Spotsylvania County… which bore the brunt of Union actions initiated across the river in Stafford County. But, of course, we have to keep in mind, that those numbers can’t merely be a reflection of one battle. There was plenty more to come around Fredericksburg. Still, even while Stafford County Unionists may have been pushed to the brink at various points during the war… were they exposed to nearly as much as those on the other side of the Rappahannock River? With the Battle of Fredericksburg, for example, we see Stafford as the staging point of the Federal forces, and it didn’t face the same level of destruction as seen on the south side of the river. Is the larger number of approved claims from Stafford County residents an indication of the difference? This might be just one of a few questions to come out of this survey of SUs. Where we end up, and what we end up with… well, it might be interesting to see…

The first claimant, whose claim is tied to activities around Frederiscksburg, in December 1862, is coming up.