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Re: Civil War (Union) BLACKWELL Brothers
Posted by: Joel Mize (ID *****5447) Date: January 30, 2003 at 14:35:13
In Reply to: Re: Civil War (Union) BLACKWELL Brothers by Joel Mize of 780

In a message dated 2/20/00 11:03:45 AM Mountain Standard Time, writes:

<< Finally, have you turned up anything on how these families reacted to
conscription? My g-grandfather, Joseph Newton Chafin, was born in 1848. By
end of the Civil War, he was 17. My dad always said that "Grandpa Chafin"
stories about being forced to drive wagons for the Confederates. Given the
family history and their connection to the First Alabama, I don't believe he
would have done that willingly >>

Conscription seemed to be a one-way street. During much of the war, the
UNION army (particular during Grant's tenure at Corinth) set limits on how
many Southerners they were willing to take and quite a few who wanted to
join-up were turned away. The big swing in loyalty to the Union gathered
momentem after the Union victory at Vicksburg and as a reaction to the
"scorched earth" campaign of CSA General Van Dorn to put down loyalists in
1863 (the "learning experience" which inspired Sherman's Army's 1st Alabama
Cavalry Regiment during the "march to the sea").

It was the CSA who were most manpower short and resorted to the sometimes
nasty business of forced conscription. Justification for conscription was
easy, as "draft-dodgers" were considered treasonous to the "new CSA nation".
A fair number of NW Alabamians (Winston, Marion, Franklin, Fayette, Walker,
Blount, Lawrence & Morgan counties) were successful in "hiding out" and
avoiding conscription. Thompson cites several who were put to death while
trying to avoid conscription; their choice was sure and swift death or
sign-up. I'm sure the "survival instinct" took over for a number of
conscripts and once captured, they went along to get along. Because of
bi-directional family ties and neighbor influences, not all individuals had
a clear view of the morality or whatever of either side. Hiding out was a
natural neutral course between the two sides. There may have been as many
hiding out as were enlisted on both sides for some of the Alabama counties.
Of course this was also a survival strategy of those who served for a
one-year hitch, say Jan 1863-Jan 1864 and then went back home (where the Home
Guards constantly prowled in search of loyalists).

I've just been reading "Galvanized Yankees", about those 6000 CSA men who
were in prison in Centralia or Alton ILL and were given the chance to wear
blue uniforms on the Frontier of the 1864-1866 period to quell Indian
uprisings (largely triggered by massacre of Cheyenne at Sand Creek Colorado
by the Colorado Militia). Some of these men were north Alabamians.
Dyed-in-the-wool union army men had deep suspicion about whether they would
adapt to the change of loyalty. They turned out to be loyal, brave good
frontier fighters who reopened the stage lines and stabilized the turbulent
west. I bring this up to show how men can be flexible when the need
dictates. One of the motivations for volunteering for this duty was that CSA
prisoners were reduced to about 1/2 rations as part of their punishment.
There wasn't a lot of moral perfection - then or now.

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