Saturday, June 27, 2009

Choosing Sides

The Civil War is not called the war of "brother vs. brother" for no reason. The war divided the nation as well as many families, particularly in the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware.

Throughout the North and South men, and women, often faced tough decisions in claiming allegiance. Those decisions were probably easier depending on where you lived. For example, not many people in Vermont were going to display a Confederate flag and make their way to the South to join the army. Likewise, citizens of say, Montgomery, Alabama were probably not going to cheer for Honest Abe and sing Yankee Doodle. But, things were more complicated the where the geography of the two sections met. For instance, there was an element of Southern sympathy in parts of southern Indiana and Illinois, and as most people know, West Virginia joined the Union in 1863, and East Tennessee was a hotbed of Union sentiment.

The border states found even more conflict. Many of Lincoln's Kentucky kin served in the Confederate armies, or were married to Confederate soldiers. In Maryland, some scholars think Lincoln exceeded his presidential powers by imprisoning state officials to prevent possible secession. And, in Missouri, Unionist and Confederate guerrillas waged a terrible war against one another.

In these border states, all of which remained in the Union, but all of which also legally allowed the institution of slavery, the decision to join one side or the other sometimes came down to logic or practical thinking. One Kentucky Confederate, Philip Lightfood Lee, who eventually became Colonel of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry explained how he chose the South as follows:

"I am for the Union. But if the Union is divided, I am for Kentucky. Should Kentucky be divided, I am for Bullitt County. Should Bullitt County be divided, I am for Shepherdsville. And should Shepherdsville be divided, I am for my side of the street."

It is difficult to put yourself in the shoes of those so long ago and imagine which side you have fought for. Depending on your location or sentiment it might have been less difficult, but if you were from one of the border states, you might find yourself thinking along the same lines as Lee did.


  1. what color is for confeds and which is union

  2. Union was the American flag and the Confederacy was the "Stars and Bars" flag

  3. this article is completely accurate. I pride my self on my knowledge of the civil war

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