The more I dig into my family tree, the more Southern Unionists I find. My ggg grandfather, William Holland Wright, b. 1812 in Tennessee, lived in Dekalb County in NE Alabama.
Too old to serve in either army, he was strongly opposed to secession. To avoid calling attention to himself, he followed the suggestion of other Unionists in the county and stayed close to home during the war. Even so, he was regularly threatened by a Captain Freeman of the local home guard.
William’s story is chillingly outlined in his Southern Claims Commission papers, available on footnote.com. “There was times when (there were) thirty or forty of them over me snapping their pistols and guns on me, cursing and abusing me. They kept me in fear of them all the time for they would come like a passel of wild men and I did not know at no time but that they would come and kill me. ….”
Not to be defeated, William persuaded his son, a Confederate in an Arkansas regiment (using $60 in gold as incentive) to join the Union army when it passed through on the way to Chickamauga. William became known as far away as NW Georgia that his home was a safe haven for deserting Confederates and Union soldiers separated from their units or escaping from Confederate custody. William’s wife stated, “(Mr. Wright) fed and directed other deserters from the Rebel army how to get through to the Union lines and we furnished rations to five Federal prisoners who had escaped from the Rebels. They came in one morning and we gave them rations and showed them which way to go to keep out of the way of the Rebels. They had not had anything to eat in two days and nights. They said they were directed to us J.R. Dorsey, a Union man who lives over towards Alpine, Georgia and they said a number of black men had directed them to our house as persons they could trust. This county was occupied by the Rebels then. That was in the summer of 1864…..”
William personally walked with some of these men cross Sand Mountain (including a dangerous no man’s land called the ‘dead line”) to Union lines. Even so, the Yankee army, (out of necessity, as they were living off the land) wiped him out twice, taking his hogs, cattle, horses, wagons, and the contents of his smokehouse. After the war, William is said to have suffered from some type of mental illness, understandable in view of what he had lost. (above quotes from http://www.footnote.com, Southern Claims Commission papers)
Excellent comment, Glenda. Thanks for sharing this info! The Loyalist Claims are a true treasure trove! Not only that, but they reveal a great deal more than “traditional” Southern history has “taught” us.