Southern Unionists in a Fractured Confederacy: A Historiography


  • David Daveport


With the exception of recent scholarship, there is little monographic or article literature devoted exclusively to Southern Unionists in the Civil War. When Unionists are acknowledged, they are usually relegated to only a paragraph or footnote in most general studies. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate that during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we re-examine the existing literature regarding Southern Unionists. Southern Unionist literature can be grouped into three eras. First, the era from 1865 to the 1890s was one that acknowledged Southern Unionists and their contributions to the Union war effort and Confederate defeat. Second, the era immediately following the war and stretching into the early twentieth century called the “Lost Cause” era. The final period runs from the Great Depression to the present, in which gradually, more and more literature is written regarding Southern Unionists and their contributions during the war. These works have evolved into more detailed studies that focus on the cultural, social, and other aspects that distinguish the Southern Unionists from their pro-Confederate counterparts in the South. Studying the historiography of Southern Unionists allows students, teachers and those with interest in the Civil War to see the biases that have existed in the literature over the years. In addition, it identifies other areas that need further research on the topic.