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Old August 20th, 2011, 08:17 AM   #1
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Mountain southerners and the Civil War

I wonder if one the reasons mountain southerners tended to be Unionist was that some of their ancestors had been indentured servants. Maybe stories were passed down about mistreatment on the plantations and so on.
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Old August 20th, 2011, 09:06 AM   #2

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I think it's more that they felt no connection to the urban, moneyed interests that tended to ignore their needs. Confederate reprisals against the "mountain southerners" were also harsh.

This is also one of the great contradictions in the Confederate experiment. They held that they could secede whenever they chose, but used force to keep people from seceding from them.
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Old August 20th, 2011, 09:29 AM   #3

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The mountain folk had been a political minority in the south, politically at odds to the tidewater "English" folk since colonial times.

The "Regulator War" is an example of this tension, although that is from a colonial context -- the eastern planters however, had strong ties to colonial officials and were the ones who inherited the most political control of the state governments following independence. By the 1860s, these problems were still evident.
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Old August 20th, 2011, 02:22 PM   #4

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Yes, the other lowland Southerners in Nashville were well known crooks, while the Yankees were pretty much on the other side of the moon, as far as the mountain folks were concerned.

The US government couldnt hardly find places like East Tennessee on a map, let alone exert much authority in Appalachia. And so, the mountain people hadnt really been aggravated by the US government too much, and didnt have much animosity towards them.

Except to declare them crooks too. But far away crooks.

And so, the crooks closer to home (Nashville) were more of a danger than the crooks in far away Washington DC.

The mountains dont lend themselves to slavery, so it was rare in Appalachia. There just were not many ties, and a whole lot of suspicion of the State government in Nashville.

East Tennessee wanted to secede from the rest of Tennessee during the war. In fact. I sometimes think that Appalachia would like to secede from the world, and bar all the passes and bridges into the region, and just be left alone.

Appalachians just want to be left strictly alone, for the most part. There is a really strong independent streak among the mountain people, even to this day.

And if there were reprisals done on the mountain folks by the Confederates, it was repaid in full, with interest. And for a century and more, even after the end of the war. Things dont go away in Appalachia. Once a feud is begun, it is passed down through the generations right on. I still know who my grandpa was mad at. That stuff gets talked about on front porches from one generation to the next, and the next, and the next...
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Old August 20th, 2011, 03:00 PM   #5

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I was eagerly awaiting your visit here R_.
Glad to see your footprint.
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Old August 20th, 2011, 06:44 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by betgo View Post
I wonder if one the reasons mountain southerners tended to be Unionist was that some of their ancestors had been indentured servants. Maybe stories were passed down about mistreatment on the plantations and so on.
This might have something to do with it.

[ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melungeon]Melungeon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]
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Old August 20th, 2011, 07:09 PM   #7

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Now we have let the chickens loose!

The Melungeons, quite a mystery there. They were already here when the first Europeans settled into the Tennessee country. And nobody knows where they came from. Not even to this day.

I have known some melungeons. Good people. And, I cant really say that they look a bit different than any of the rest of Scots-Irish old families up here. But almost all of the old families of Appalachia have some Cherokee ancestry.

(Almost all of the old families are related to each other)

And so, whatever the melungeons are, they do have some old world ancestry. But I cant tell you what that is. I understand that the language is some archaic old world language. It aint Cherokee.

But you really cant go by appearance, as you probably couldnt pick out a melungeon from any Scots-Irish fellow walking down the street in East Tennessee. And they almost all have English surnames!

An inexplicable mystery. I have no answers?
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Old August 22nd, 2011, 08:26 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by betgo View Post
I wonder if one the reasons mountain southerners tended to be Unionist was that some of their ancestors had been indentured servants. Maybe stories were passed down about mistreatment on the plantations and so on.
It was more to do with the fact that they were separate from the normal southern communities.

Most all communities in the South during that time centered around a wealthy plantation owner. It was similar to a little fiefdom from Europe back in the middle ages. The Plantation owner not only provided loans and contributions to other Southerners but also maintained order. If a stranger arrived in town the plantation owner would show up shortly afterwards to find out who that person was and what their business in town was.

Therefore this family or families exerted a lot of influence throughout their community. An attack on slavery, while not personally affecting any possessions of most Southerners nethertheless was a direct attack on their community as a whole.

Mountain folk were cut off from all of this. And most often despised the plantation owners.

We had a hive of people like that down here in Texas centered in Fredricksburg, TX. We killed off a lot of them when they tried to sneak out of the state to join the Union. Few made it out.
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Old August 22nd, 2011, 10:07 AM   #9

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Mountain folk of the Civil War hadnt changed much since their ancestors moved into the mountains 100 years before. They had their own dialect and their own ways and their own worldview. The rest of the South was often seen with mixed feelings by the mountain folks.

Lawyers and politicians in Nashville (den of iniquity to the mountain folks) had took the state out of the Union, even though secessionist lost the statewide referendum. And so, the already suspicious mountain folk saw this as just one more dirty trick done by corrupt politicians.

And they just never did like the "Big High Men", as they were called.

And yes, there were some feuds involved too. If a family joined the one side, then the rival family would often just join the other side, just as a way of continuing on with the feud in a semi-legal way.

And so, you might see a situation where a whole lot of violence was really just simmering feuds being acted upon in the wake of total collapse of law and order in the region. A lot of old scores got settled when one family would take over the Confederate Home guards and start making it rough for a rival clan. Until the other side showed up in a blue uniform and settled them scores.

And so it went.

The Civil War was still being fought up until my time, on school buses and playgrounds, with fisticuffs and name calling. Kids might fight while saying stuff like...

"Your danged old great great grandpaw shot so and so in the back during the war".. (fist to the face) ". Wham!"

And the next boy might say.."Thats because he was stealin my great great granny chickens! " (Slap up side of the head)

And so it goes.

Appalachian people tend to be a little stubborn about some things, and highly suspicious of big shot outsiders. Especially ones who came in the name of the Confederacy (from Nashville) and joined up with a local family, that ones own family had been feuding with since they left Ulster 150 years before.

The civil war was really just another page in the old feud book. A few were settled, and a whole lot more new ones were started. And that can curtail a young mans dating chances around here.

If ye set on the porch and your kin elders ask you who you are a courting at the time..Especially the current patriarch...you just tell the name of the gal ye are a sparkin, and hope they dont say something like.....

"Why, she is from that ole bunch of (insert insult here) and they have that old (insert family surname here) blood in them. Why, they aint no account. Back in the war, that old (insert mans name here) was a (insert insult here) that shot (insert name here) and robbed (insert name and offenses here).....

And once the patriarc has spoken, then all the other men and ladies of the family will all chime in, and a general hate fest of old memories and long forgotten slurs and crimes will be brought up.

That is why I was smart.

I married a gal from the next town over. My granny knew her grandfather when they were both children, but nobody knew too much dirt on them. And so, I didnt have any protest from either family.
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