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Volume 4, Number 7 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 April 25, 2012
Author's Notes This is the second article in a two part series on the Civil War. In this newsletter, we will discuss some of the causes of the Civil War as well as locating the Union Records. Since the Union Records are easier to locate than the Confederate Records, I do not go into as much detail. Hopefully you find some ideas for finding that missing piece of the puzzle for your relatives involved in the Civil War.
If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
James L. Douthat
Causes of the Civil War and Union Records
With this being the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, a lot of attention is being placed on the records that pertain to this conflict. Much is being made of the battles, the men in the trenches as well as the generals that fought in the war. However, there is little attention being paid to the cause of the war. While many believe the cause of the war was slavery, there were other causes as well. There were vast differences between the north and south in lifestyle, culture and attitudes that also lead to the division.
I have read a lot of letters and diaries from the 1830s through the 1850s and separation of the north and south was much in the conversations of the people of the day. One minister kept writing in his diary during the 1830s and 1840s about the differences between the sections of the country and he saw the shadow on the wall of a split in the nation. At the time he was writing, the Methodist Episcopal Church, now the United Methodist Church, was on the verge of splitting into the M.E.C. and the M.E.C., South which it did in 1844. Like the nation later, the split in the church was over ideologies.
When the north and south split in the great Civil War, or as many like to say The Un-civil War, the south tended to be more interested in local leadership and control over their government while the north tended to be more centralized in their leadership. The North was more industrialized while the South was more rural and this lead to differences as well.
In researching your Civil War relatives, it is difficult for us to understand the feelings and uncertainties during this time period. I have letters of soldiers who lived in Tennessee, a border state, and preferred to serve in the Union Army. He tells of walking thirteen nights from Chattanooga to Kentucky to join the Union Army. This small group walked only at night for fear of being caught by southern sympathizers in the process. There were several units of Union soldiers raised in Georgia, in the heart of dixie. Things were not easily put in place and time during this conflict like when the Confederate Army raided one or two of the towns in Vermont. Southern prisoners who escaped made their way to Canada and were welcomed like conquering heroes.
If you have a soldier that fought for the Union, then the records are must easier to obtain than the Confederate records. The Federal Government kept the Union records collectively and so they are more centralized in their deposit. You have the service records that tell of when they joined, where they fought and when they were discharged. To find out what they did day to day, you will have to locate either a Regimental history or personal letters of that soldier. The pension records are likewise kept in the files of the Federal Government.
The only problem with Union soldiers is that sometimes they might have found on the other side as well. For example, when your unit was formed by someone like Calvin Bricksley of Middle Tennessee things could change quickly. Bricksley raised three companies of soldiers. One of his techniques was to ride down a road and when he saw a man in the fields working, he rode up to the man, pointed a gun in his face, cocked the gun and invited the man to join his company. The man had a choice of joining or dying on the spot. Many chose the latter rather than join the wrong side. The Union Army arrested Bricksley before the war was over and sent him to prison for murder. This is a rare exception to the rules of war.
If your soldier was in a battle and captured, the Union soldiers fared worse than the Confederate prisoners. The south just did not have the means to feed and clothe their own much less the extra mouths captured from battle.
Your local library should have information on units in your area for either army. Start there and then you can branch out to other libraries.
Civil War Records
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