After receiving a comment last night on a recent post, and while driving into work this morning, I realized that, for over a decade, I’ve been involved in the study of Southern Unionists in the Shenandoah Valley. It was ten years ago this fall when I started writing my thesis on Southern Unionism and disaffected Confederates in Page County, Virginia. Thinking back, it really wasn’t a deliberate decision. In fact, two years prior to that, after having sifted through every issue of the local newspaper from Luray (the county seat of Page County), I had accumulated a good deal of content that provided me with a unique lens to the story of the people in my county, through the years, and up until the early 1940s (and I became particularly fascinated with the story of the county in the First World War). Nonetheless, in relation to the Civil War, I gained an entirely new perspective on sentiments in the county during the Civil War… and it is quite a bit more complicated than some may think. By the fall of 2006, it just seemed like it rolled altogether, and was a good time to lay out all of that material a thesis.
Since then, I’ve expanded my understanding of Southern Unionism, to cover the entire Shenandoah Valley… and even into western Maryland (due to ancestor-related scenarios) and Northwest Alabama (due to my interests in my wife’s ancestors), and, at times, other areas. Though I’ve not added a great deal of content in quite a while to my Southern Unionist site (Southern Unionists Chronicles… which I formerly operated as a blog), the activities of Southern Unionists in the Valley remains pivotal in my considerations of the diverse sentiments of people in the Shenandoah during the Civil War. It might sound ironic, but the examination of Southern Unionists and “Leave alone’rs” has enlightened my understanding of the complexities behind those who served (willingly or not) for the Confederacy. Most certainly, I’ve come to understand the very complicated social interactions between people and their varied ranges in sentiment. Furthermore, while it may seem as if I’ve put this study on a back burner, in fact, it has encouraged me to look further into the social dynamics of the Valley throughout the early 19th century, up to the Civil War. Despite my other work at this time (my slow and steady advance toward a PhD in Writing and Rhetoric… which is actually tied to the delivery of historic content in the digital space/Web), I do hope to produce something of value regarding the Shenandoah Valley and its people through the Antebellum Era, on down the road.