Some True Southern Patriots

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Some True Southern Patriots

Post by BWV 1080 » Fri Jun 23, 2006 8:24 pm

Interesting history of N Alabama Unionists:

[ newwindow][/link]
It is a story that is largely unknown. Certainly it is not taught in the schools. It is a story of courage, conviction, patriotism, persecution, retribution, and even atrocity. Above all, it is a great American history story worth telling and preserving .

When the gathering dark clouds of war were all encompassing in the South and in Northwest Alabama in particular in the spring of 1861, the voices of dissent were loud and clear. While some were eager to fight for a newly created secessionist government, many others considered an impeding war as a wicked, treasonous undertaking and wanted no part of it.

Indeed, a majority in the hills of Northwest Alabama, mostly poor yeomen dirt farmers, saw little value or reason in taking arms against the federal government. They recognized quite early that this was not their fight, but that it was the landed gentry. It was obvious to the hill folk that the plantation owners and their political spokesmen were fanning the war flames and talked the loudest about separation.

With their money and property and political power, it was the planters who felt most threatened by the election of Abraham Lincoln as president.

That “Black Republican” Lincoln, the planters said, would mongrelize the races. He would destroy everything they built as a finer civilization. Southern women would not be safe from roving gangs of black thieves. They only thing to do, the planters contended, was to fight protect their very way of life, to secede and create a government that would protect their interests, protect their property rights, and protect that “peculiar institution.”

Of course, the peculiar institution was slavery.

But in the rugged landscape of northern Alabama, slaves were few and far between. The same was true in the mountains of East Tennessee and North Georgia and western North Carolina, and western Virginia, which would later become a state because of its overwhelming anti-confederate sentiment.

Few slaves were owned in the upland South, simply because the land would not support a plantation economy. Those who did work the land in the mountain South were a fiercely independent breed, poor but proud, and of no mind to lend support to plantation owners who looked down upon them as uneducated and inferior.

Winston County resident James B. Bell, a farmer who owned no slaves, was typical of an Alabama unionist. He blamed secession on large "Negroholders." In a letter to his pro-confederate son in Mississippi on April 21, 1861, he wrote. "All they [slave holders] want is to git you pupt up and go fight for there infurnal negroes and after you do there fighting you may kiss there hine parts for o [all] they care."

Southern unionists were not threatened by Lincoln’s election but saw him more as a blank slate. They were willing to give him a chance as president and did not see the federal government as any threat to their property rights.

The Loyalty to Old Hickory

If the inhabitants of the upland South were willing to give a new president the benefit of the doubt, they revered a former president. This was a man who lead their fathers and grandfathers against wild Indians and who tamed the land. He made their very existence here possible. President Andrew Jackson, “Old Hickory” was seen as a man of the people. He was also a staunch unionist who warned the Southern aristocracy years before that any talk of busting up the union was madness and any actions to do so would be punished severely.

At a time when the country was about to go war, many Alabama unionists spoke about how President Jackson would have dealt with secession by hanging the ringleaders and crushing the rebellion before it got started.

Indeed, Jackson warned South Carolina on Dec. 10, 1832 that he was prepared to do just that.

“Are you really ready to incur its guilt? If you are, on the heads of the instigators of the act be the dreadful consequences; on their heads be the dishonor, but on yours may fall the punishment. On your unhappy State will inevitably fall the evils of the conflict you force upon the Government of your country. It can not accede to the mad project of disunion, of which you would be the first victims.”
And many Alabama unionists would remember the parting words of their fathers and grandfathers who served with Jackson, and who sensed years before that a war over secession could erupt. The old veterans would warn on their deathbeds to be loyal to the “Old Flag.” And their words were remembered and taken to heart.

Murder or political assassination was a constant threat for Alabama unionists who chose to remain at home. Three sons of Solomon Curtis were all killed in Winston County. Joel Jackson Curtis was killed in 1862 for refusing to join the confederate army. George Washington Curtis, home on leave from the union army, was killed by the home guard in his yard while his wife and three children watched. Thomas Pink Curtis, the probate judge of Winston County, was arrested near Houston by confederate authorities in 1864 and taken to a bluff on Clear Creek where he was summarily executed with two shots to his right eye.

Henry Tucker, a private in Company B, of the 1st Alabama Cavalry, US, was arrested by the Home Guard at his home in Marion County and tortured to death. He was tied to a tree, castrated, his eyes removed and his tongue cut out before he was literally skinned alive. He is buried at Hopewell Cemetery, south of Glen Allen, Ala.

But Tucker’s vicious death was avenged. Home Guard leader Stoke Roberts who personally directed the torture of Tucker, was eventually caught by a group of unionists near Winfield. They took a long iron spike and drove it through his mouth and out the back of his head and nailed him to the root of a big oak tree.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jun 23, 2006 10:12 pm

I had heard about the sessionists from the sessionists from a friend whose family came from that area. Saturday nights must have been really interesting.

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Post by Ralph » Fri Jun 23, 2006 10:23 pm

"Henry Tucker, a private in Company B, of the 1st Alabama Cavalry, US, was arrested by the Home Guard at his home in Marion County and tortured to death. He was tied to a tree, castrated, his eyes removed and his tongue cut out before he was literally skinned alive. He is buried at Hopewell Cemetery, south of Glen Allen, Ala.

Wow! I thought only Islamic terrorists did that sort of thing.

There are some good books and articles about Southern Unionists and folks wrongly suspected of being loyal to the Union. I briefly cover that in my seminar.

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Post by BWV 1080 » Fri Jun 23, 2006 10:31 pm

I remember hearing about this growing up in the Dallas area:
GREAT HANGING AT GAINESVILLE. Forty suspected Unionists in Confederate Texas were hanged at Gainesville in October 1862. Two others were shot as they tried to escape. Although the affair reached its climax in Cooke County, men were killed in neighboring Grayson, Wise, and Denton counties. Most were accused of treason or insurrection, but evidently few had actually conspired against the Confederacy, and many were innocent of the abolitionist sentiments for which they were tried.

The Great Hanging was the result of several years of building tension. The completion of the Butterfield Overland Mailqv route from St. Louis through Gainesville brought many new people from the upper South and Midwest into Cooke County. By 1860 fewer than 10 percent of the heads of households owned slaves. The slaveholders increasingly feared the influence of Kansas abolitionists in every unrest. In the summer of 1860 several slaves and a northern Methodist minister were lynched in North Texas. Cooke and the surrounding counties voted against secessionqv and thus focused the fears of planters on the nonslaveholders in the region. Rumors of Unionist alliances with Kansas Jayhawkers and Indians along the Red River, together with the petition of E. Junius Foster, editor of the Sherman Patriot, to separate North Texas as a new free state, brought emotions to a fever pitch.

Actual opposition to the Confederacy in Cooke County began with the Conscription Acts of April 1862. Thirty men signed a petition protesting the exemption of large slaveholders from the draft and sent it to the Congress at Richmond. Brig. Gen. William Hudson, commander of the militia district around Gainesville, exiled their leader, but others who remained used the petition to enlist a nucleus for a Union Leagueqv in Cooke and nearby counties. The members were not highly unified, and their purposes differed with each clique. Most joined to resist the draft and provide common defense against roving Indians and renegades. Rumors began to circulate, however, of a membership of over 1,700 and of plans for an assault when the group had recruited enough men. Fearing that the stories of Unionist plots to storm the militia arsenals at Gainesville and Sherman might prove to be true, Hudson activated the state troops in North Texas in late September 1862 and ordered the arrest of all able-bodied men who did not report for duty.

Texas state troops led by Col. James G. Bourlandqv arrested more than 150 men on the morning of October 1. In Gainesville he and Col. William C. Youngqv of the Eleventh Texas Cavalry, home on sick leave, supervised the collection of a "citizen's court" of twelve jurors. Bourland and Young together owned nearly a fourth of the slaves in Cooke County, and seven of the jurors chosen were slaveholders. Their decision to convict on a majority vote was a bad omen for the prisoners, all of whom were accused of insurrection or treason and none of whom owned slaves. The military achieved its goal of eliminating the leadership of the Union League in Cooke County when the jury condemned seven influential Unionists, but an angry mob took matters into its own hands and lynched fourteen more before the jurors recessed. Violence in Gainesville peaked the next week when unknown assassins killed Young and James Dickson. The decision already made to release the rest of the prisoners was reversed, and many were tried again. Nineteen more men were convicted and hanged. Their execution was supervised by Capt. Jim Young, Colonel Young's son. Brig. Gen. James W. Throckmortonqv prevented the execution of all but five men in Sherman, but in Decatur, Capt. John Hale supervised a committee that hanged five suspects. A Southern partisan shot a prisoner in Denton.

Texas newspapers generally applauded the hangings, disparaged the Unionists as traitors and common thieves, and insisted they had material support from Kansas abolitionists and the Lincoln administration. The state government condoned the affair. Gov. Francis Richard Lubbock,qv an ardent Confederate, praised Hudson for his actions, and the legislature paid the expenses of the troops in Gainesville. Articles from the Texas press were reprinted across the South. President Jefferson Davis,qv embarrassed, abandoned his demand for an inquiry into a similar incident involving northern troops in Palmyra, Missouri, and dismissed Gen. Paul Octave Hébertqv as military commander of Texas for his improper use of martial law in several instances, including the hangings. The northern press heralded the story as another example of Rebel barbarism. Andrew Jackson Hamilton,qv a former congressman from Texas and a Unionist, had been speaking in the North warning of the danger to loyal citizens in Texas. Reports of the Great Hanging and other incidents lent support to his campaign and led to his appointment as military governor of Texas and the disastrous Red River campaignqv of 1864.

The unrest did not end with the hangings in North Texas. Albert Pike,qv Confederate brigadier general in charge of Indian Territory, was implicated in testimony and arrested. Although later released, Pike continued to be regarded with suspicion and served the rest of the war in civilian offices. Capt. Jim Young killed E. Junius Foster for applauding the death of his father. He also tracked down Dan Welch, the man he believed to be his father's assassin, then returned with him to Cooke County and had him lynched by some of the family slaves. The Union League was powerless to exact revenge; many members fled along with the families of the slain prisoners, leaving bodies unclaimed for burial in a mass grave. A North Texas company of Confederate soldiers in Arkansas learned of the executions and almost mutinied, but tempers were defused by Brig. Gen. Joseph O. Shelby, their commander. Several men later deserted to return home, but Shelby prevented a mass assault on Gainesville. The half-hearted prosecution of those responsible for the hangings after the war, resulting in the conviction of only one man in Denton, increased resentment among the remaining Unionists in North Texas, but the failure of a Union League march on Decatur indicated the futility of further attempts at retaliation. ... /jig1.html


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