Logan Osburn throws in the towel… but later tries to backtrack

Posted on March 1, 2013 by


OsburnLoganPicThe measure of conditional Unionism varied from person to person.

Jefferson County’s Logan Osburn provides an excellent example of that, and I’ll show how in just a minute.

Ultimately, in measuring Unionists… and yes, even some “eventual Confederates”… Unionism is the common thread from which “conditionals” broke. Going back even further, there is a valid argument that even anchors this line of Unionism in “old line Whigs” (even “self-defined” as such by some who submitted claims applications).

A former justice of the peace and a member of the Virginia House of Delegates during the 1857-58 session, Logan Osburn was one of Jefferson County’s two “Union conservatives” sent to the Virginia Convention. True to his promises, he held that line… even after Lincoln’s call for troops (which was the point of separation for many who had proclaimed their position as Unionists, up until that point). Osburn voted against secession on April 4 AND again on April 17, but, then came his breaking point

The following appeared in the Virginia Free Press, in June, 1861:


He made it clear…

I therefore bow (from a sense of patriotic and public duty) in humble submission to their will, and acquiesce in their decision. My lot has been cast. I am a son of Virginia, and her destiny shall be mine.

Yet, when there came time, in years after the war, to apply for a financial claim based on his “Unionism”… well, there were obvious problems. In the end, the claims commission had the following to say regarding the level of Osburn’s “Unionism”:

Mr. Osburn is a prominent citizen of Kabletown, Jefferson Co., W.Va. Several of his witnesses testifying in general terms that he was reputed to be a Union man and that he talked in favor of the Union and against the Confederacy. In passing upon the question of loyalty so invariably place more confidence in the conduct and acts of claimants than in proof of general reputation and their present profession of loyalty. Disloyal acts necessarily outweigh present profession and the opinions of claimant’s friendly neighbors. Mr. Osburn swears that he was elected a delegate to the secession convention, that he voted against the ordinance of secession and when it was submitted to the people, voted against its adoption. After the ordinance was passed by the convention he signed it. But one (ex-senator Lewis) of all the delegates resisted the pressure of popular sentiment and refused his signature to that instrument. If after signing the ordinance Mr. Osburn opposed its ratification by the people we can only say his actions were not consistent. He contributed 500 bushels of corn to the Confederate government. No satisfactory excuse is given for rendering his aid to the Confederacy.

We cannot conclude this report without remarking that the claimant’s testimony is not full and is subject to severe criticism. The 14th interogatory(*) is not answered at all. Mr. Osburn says nearly all his near relations were in the Confederate army. Yet he doed not tell us whether any of them were his sons or whether he contributed to their outfit or support while in the army. The printed questions were before the claimant and special commissioner who took the testimony and must have been seen and read at the time as they are answered in their order excepting certain significant omissions of very pertinent and important interrogatories.

Mr. Osburn must be judged by his conduct. When he affixed his signature to the ordinance of secession in the Virginia convention. Although he had previously opposed its adoption, he committed an act intensely hostile to the Federal Union, and when he subsequently gave 500 bushels of corn to the Confederate government he gave direct aid to the Confederacy.

The claim is disallowed.

While I’ve pointed out what I believe to be an injustice on the part of the claims commission in evaluating some Southern Unionists, I’d say they accurately assessed Osburn’s level of loyalty (conditional Unionist)… most especially since he had gone public, in an open letter to the newspaper, with his decision to endorse the ordinance of secession with his signature. But… again… even after giving his best shot on behalf of the Union, the bottom line, to him, was that he was “a son of Virginia, and her destiny shall be mine.”

*The above-referenced 14th interogatory was the question… “What were your feelings concerning the battle of Bull Run or Manassas, the capture of New Orleans, the fall of Vicksburg, and the final surrender of the Confederate forces?”