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Civil War History 46.4 (2000) 344-346

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Book Review

Southern Unionists Pamphlets and the Civil War

Southern Unionists Pamphlets and the Civil War. Edited by Jon Wakelyn. Shades of Blue and Gray Series. (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999. Pp. xiii, 392. $39.95.)

Southern unionists seem to be enjoying a particularly strong presence in the historical spotlight over the past year. Thomas G. Dyer's Secret Yankees, a meticulous recreation of Atlanta's heretofore unacknowledged unionist community, appeared last spring; Steven V. Ash has edited a new collection of Knoxville [End Page 344] loyalist William G. "Parson" Brownlow's writings; and David Williams introduced a new edition of Georgia Lee Tatum's Disloyalty in the Confederacy (1933). Two essay collections explore different aspects of the Southern unionist experience: Unionists, Guerrillas and Violence on the Confederate Homefront, edited by Daniel E. Sutherland, is just out; and Enemies of the Country: New Perspectives on Unionists in the Civil War South, edited by John Inscoe and Robert Kenzer, is forthcoming.

With few exceptions, this literature focuses on loyalties at the grassroots level, or how the rank and file, as individuals and communities, responded to the challenges posed by those who suddenly found themselves to be subversive--even treasonous--minorities within the new nation whose creation they had opposed. What historian Jon Wakelyn provides us in his own contribution to this recent outpouring is a collective portrait of the leadership, the opinion-makers, the public face of wartime dissent in the South.

A successor to Wakelyn's collection of Southern pamphlets on secession, this volume includes the texts of eighteen such documents by unionists, all published and distributed during the war years. Included are representative samples of the multiple publications by prominent, and outspoken, Southern dissidents--journalist and propagandist Anna Ella Carroll of Maryland, Presbyterian minister and educator Robert J. Breckinridge of Kentucky, newspaper editor Brownlow and politician Andrew Johnson of East Tennessee, and congressman and military governor-in-exile Andrew Jackson Hamilton of Texas. Others are lesser known political leaders, journalists, preachers, and a former Confederate general who converted to unionism midway through the war, Edward W. Gantt of Arkansas. While all but three Confederate states are represented, nearly a third of these authors lived outside Confederate bounds--Maryland, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Missouri.

The concerns of these propagandists were vast. Arranged chronologically, they reflect the variety of fears and worries that inspired these Southern critics of the war: the future of slavery (many were proslavery advocates), Confederate policy toward dissidents, the terms of peace, and their own status within a restored Union. While each of these issues inspired considerable disagreement among these writers, Wakelyn notes some important commonalities as well. First and foremost, they were consistent in their patriotism to the Federal government and in their high expectations of the Lincoln administration in putting down the Southern rebellion. They were equally vocal in their criticism of the Confederate government, stressing to Northern and Southern readers its ineffectiveness in carrying out its own agenda or in fulfilling early promises made to its citizenry. The uses and abuses of governmental power--North and South--provide a central theme that links nearly all of the loyalist voices recreated here.

Much of the current work on Southern unionists emphasizes the social context of their homefront experiences and the secret and subversive nature of their activity. Through these very public documents, Wakelyn reminds us that many were also engaged in extensive propaganda efforts as well, and demonstrates [End Page 345] the often sophisticated intellectual basis for their sustained loyalty to the Union throughout the uncertainties of the war years.

John C. Inscoe
University of Georgia



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