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FW: Donovan on Storey, _Loyalty and Loss_ [Alabama's Unionists]

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  • Amos J Wright
    ... From: H-Net Review Project Distribution List [mailto:H-REVIEW@H-NET.MSU.EDU] On Behalf Of H-Net Reviews Sent: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 1:00 PM To:
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      Subject: Donovan on Storey, _Loyalty and Loss_

      H-NET BOOK REVIEW
      Published by H-CivWar@... (December, 2005)

      Margaret M. Storey. _Loyalty and Loss: Alabama's Unionists in the Civil
      War and Reconstruction_. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,
      2004. xv + 296 pp. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $49.95
      (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8071-2935-7.

      Reviewed for H-CivWar by Brian Donovan, Department of
      History, University of Iowa.

      Yankees on the Homefront

      Margaret M. Storey's _Loyalty and Loss: Alabama's Unionists in the Civil
      War and Reconstruction_ is a thorough, well-written, and informative
      contribution to an important new trend in Civil War studies: the
      examination of the Confederate homefront and the various complexities
      and contradictions of loyalties there. The original works in this field,
      such as Georgia Lee Tatum's landmark book _Disloyalty in the
      Confederacy_ (1934) and Carl Degler's _The Other South_ (1974),
      struggled with the problem of definition. Tatum wrestled with the
      concept of "disloyalty" versus "disaffection" and ultimately concluded
      that most Southern Unionists were "disloyal" as their Confederate
      contemporaries understood the word; Degler's study, by focusing on the
      public opinions of well-known figures like Parson Brownlow and Jonathan
      Worth, moved the definitional problem almost entirely into the national
      and political realm at the expense of the local and social aspects of
      "disloyalty."

      Storey avoids the problem of definitions by focusing on what can only be
      called "unconditional Unionists"--those whose loyalty to the Union was
      uncompromising and resulted in terrible hardships--in several counties
      of northern Alabama. She shows that this Unionism, originally born of
      conservatism rooted in the hierarchical family, became by the end of the
      war a radicalized stance in which "unwavering wartime loyalty to the
      Union and a willingness to punish treason [were] the key components of
      postwar political legitimacy" (p. 2). She illustrates the development of
      this position through an analysis of the secession conflict in northern
      Alabama; the various strategies available to resisters of the
      Confederate draft; the ways in which the United States army employed
      Unionists following the Federals' 1862 invasion of northern Alabama; and
      the disillusionment of those same loyalists during Reconstruction, when
      staunch "Union men" found themselves both politically marginalized and
      physically threatened by ex-Confederates, especially the Ku Klux Klan.
      Throughout, Storey emphasizes the complexity of the relationship between
      family, friends, slaves, and community, and the ways in which all four
      combined to form self-reinforcing networks that sustained Unionists
      through four dark years of war.

      The "familial" nature of Unionism in northern Alabama is one of the most
      interesting and important features of _Loyalty and Loss_. Storey's
      analysis is largely based on a carefully circumscribed population, the
      testimony of 405 Alabama loyalists whose statements were recorded by the
      Southern Claims Commission and whose identities she was able to trace in
      the 1860 U.S. census. Among these, however, she shows there were no
      clear ties other than those of family and Unionist identity. Storey's
      wealth of testimonies and slaveholding statistics (helpfully summarized
      in one of three appendices) show that Unionism was a highly distributed
      phenomenon which did not track well with any particular socioeconomic
      situation. "Indeed," she concludes, "love of the Union may be the only
      'interest' such individuals shared" (p. 13). The nature of the ad-hoc
      community into which these individuals were forced is the subject matter
      for most of the rest of the book.

      _Loyalty and Loss_ is especially good at illustrating the close
      interrelationships between Unionist men, whose loyalty was tested by
      everything from the Confederate draft to Federal army service, and the
      women and slaves who largely enabled them to take an active part in the
      war. Exact statistics on female Unionism are unobtainable, but
      throughout _Loyalty and Loss_ Storey emphasizes the importance of
      women's contributions. "Lying out," or hiding from Confederate
      press-gangs, for example, would have been impossible without the active
      support of a large number of a community's women, who furnished the men
      with provisions, information, and moral support, all at enormous risk to
      themselves. Also crucial--and even riskier--was the active support of
      the slave community. Storey shows how many slaves assisted both
      draft-dodgers and (later) Federal partisan and counterinsurgency efforts
      by employing the elaborate mechanisms of resistance and evasion they
      once used against their masters in the service of those same men. This
      irony does not go unremarked, nor does the unsung heroism of slaves who
      sacrificed considerable opportunities for revenge or short-term profit
      in the service of a much larger cause.

      Finally, Storey is careful to note the partisan political component of
      Unionism in northern Alabama. While loyalists were continually harassed
      in Confederate-controlled sections, the situation was quite different
      once the Federal army established a presence there in 1862. Though often
      still preyed upon by Union foragers, many loyalists took full advantage
      of the Union's presence to avenge themselves upon their former
      oppressors-- some by serving as Union scouts or irregulars, others by
      practicing a "partisanship" indistinguishable from piracy. During
      Reconstruction, also, northern Alabama's Unionists felt that their
      loyalty under extreme hardship merited reward by the United States
      government. Some loyalists got their wish--only those who had never
      sworn allegiance to the Confederacy, for example, could hold posts like
      election registrars or tax assessors under the Military Reconstruction
      Acts--while many others suffered an extreme backlash at the hands of the
      newly-founded Ku Klux Klan, an organization which the government's
      limited military presence in northern Alabama was incapable of
      suppressing. In the end, Storey details in a chapter aptly titled, "The
      Day of Our Ruin" how northern Alabama's Unionists were not able to
      muster sufficient political clout to put their program into law, and
      after a brief period of Republican rule, "Unionism" once again reverted
      to an identity defined by one's friends and kin.

      _Loyalty and Loss_ is an important work for understanding the dynamics
      of allegiance in the Civil War. While the study is localized and
      circumscribed (those wishing to further investigate Storey's methodology
      can refer to her extensive appendices), it fits snugly into a large and
      growing field of social history that recasts an important aspect of
      Civil War studies. Well written, informative, and accessible, _Loyalty
      and Loss_ is on the front line of Civil War social history and is a
      welcome addition to recent scholarship.


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