During the American Civil War did enlisted soldiers in the Union Army do courtships with and got married to southern women?

Aug 2013
564
I live in Chesapeake, Virginia in the United State
Greetings Everybody!

1. During the American Civil War did enlisted men in the union army did courtship with and married southern women?

2. If so, how would the enlisted union soldiers met, do courtship with, and got married to southern women?

3. How common was it for enlisted union soldiers to meet, do courtship with, and get married to southern women and was it more common among enlisted union soldiers than among the union officers?

4. Were the courtships and the marriages between enlisted union soldiers and southern women a lot like or different than the Union officer's courtships and marriages with southern women in terms of whether their families approved or not approved of them, what they did so that the courtships and the marriages could work out, were their courtships and marriages mostly approved or frowned upon by the union army, how they could get married, which spouse moved where after the war, and etc and etc?

Thanks so much in advance for answering my questions! I really appreciate it! :) ;)
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,723
Dispargum
I'm unaware of any bans against Union soldiers courting local Southern women. Many Southern women were more rabid seccessionists than their men. When the Union captured New Orleans in February 1862 the ladies of the town took to cat calling the Union soldiers of the garrison and subjecting them to other forms of verbal abuse, knowing that the men could not fight back. Their commander, Benjamin Butler issued General Order 28 which stated that any woman behaving contemptuously toward Union soldiers would be treated as a woman of the town, ie, a prostitute. It worked. The ladies behaved themselves thereafter.

https://ironbrigader.com/2013/10/14/general-benjamin-butlers-general-order-number-28/

Not all Southern women were ardent Confederates. Union sentiment ran high in some parts of the South.

It would be wrong to assume that all 19th century American women were apolitical. The Civil War in particular saw many Southern women become politically active. They did not have the right to vote, but with the men away at the war, women often found themselves doing things traditionally done by men, and that included convincing the government to address various social problems. Public rallies and demonstrations become more common during the war as one way that women could air their grievances. The polarized politics of the time would be a major obstacle to any romance between a Union soldier and a Southern woman. Unless, of course, she was pro-Union all along.

Assuming this hypothetical romance would evolve over several months, the Union soldier could not be engaged in an on-going campaign. Some of the armies did remain in one place for extended periods. The Army of the Potomac arrived at Fredericksburg, VA in November 1862 and with the exception of the Gettysburg Campaign in June and July '63 remained within a day's ride of Fredericksburg until May '64. The same Army of the Potomac arrived at Petersburg, VA in July '64 and did not leave until March '65. The Army of the Cumberland arrived at Murfreesboro, TN in January '63 and did not leave until August of the same year.

It might be more realistic for your Union soldier to not be assigned to a field army but instead to a garrison. During the war the Union Army established dozens, if not hundreds, of garrisons throughout the South.

Women being women and finding money and power attractive, a Union officer would find it easier to date than would a Union enlisted man. Officers would also find it easier to go off post and meet a lady. An enlisted man would more often be restricted to base. To go off base he would need a pass which may or may not have been difficult to obtain depending on the leniency of his commanding officer.

A Union officer would be unlikely to marry a girl who did not come from a good family. Such a girl would insist on the approval of her family, and that approval would depend on the familiy's politics. After the war the marriage would follow the usual customs of 19th century marriages - the wife almost always followed the husband wherever his career took him. Only in a situation where a man of humbler origins married into a wealthier family would he follow his wife into her social circle. Many marriages did successfully breach two worlds. Given the economic ruin of the South after the war, most Southern women would happily follow their husbands out of the South to a better life elsewhere. After the war there was such a thing as a carpetbagger - a Northerner who moved to the South for political or economic opportunity. The easiest way for a carpetbagger to gain acceptance was to marry a Southern girl.
 
Oct 2018
53
Minneapolis, MN
I haven't seen any stories of that occurring, but I would be very surprised if it did not. Figure there was a large loss of life among men in that marrying age at the time (war casualties).

And lots of Confederate land was under US control for large chunks of the war.

I lived in Northeast Colorado where there were a large number of POW camps during WWII. There were stories of Italian POW's singing to the women outside of the camp, and quite a few settled there after the war. There are some very strong German and Italian communities there today. Former POWs that romanced into a relationship in the US.

I'm sure if that was possible, northern soldiers could have done the same while in the South and vice versa.
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,610
Las Vegas, NV USA
Well Abe Lincoln married a southern woman, but that was before the war. No doubt it happened, especially where garrisons existed in border locations such as the Shenandoah Valley and northern Virginia. However through much of the South there was a deep resentment of "blue bellies" that lasted long after the war ended. Even if a woman didn't share this view, her family and peers likely did. Given the shortage of candidates, spinsterhood was bad, but marrying a Yankee was almost certainly worse.
 
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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,493
Lincoln was also a southerner. He and his wife were both from Kentucky. She was from a fancier background.
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,610
Las Vegas, NV USA
Lincoln was also a southerner. He and his wife were both from Kentucky. She was from a fancier background.
Both Lincoln and Jeff Davis were born in Kentucky. Lincoln's family moved north while Davis ended up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, about as far south as one could get. Kentucky was a border state that did not secede although it had secessionists. Lincoln grew up in Indiana and moved to Illinois when he turned 21. He did speak with a Kentucky drawl but I'm sure Jeff Davis did not consider Lincoln to be a true "southerner".
 
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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,493
Lincoln's southern accent, and southern style with story telling and so on is probably a major reason why he was chosen as a Republican candidate for Senate and then President.

The links provided deal with interactions between soldiers and women on Sherman's March, which was ostensibly designed to humiliate southern women. Not sure it is all that relevant to OP.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,493
The book on Sherman's march seems a little odd from the excerpts. It seems to be mostly based on letters from wives and daughters to Confederate officers where they imply but don't explicitly state certain things, which is sort of typical of southern belles.