Why did some of my ancestors join the Confederate military?
I have often wondered why some of my ancestors fought for the Confederacy- from three of my family lines: Judd, Nash, & Swallows. It’s easy to reason that because they lived in the South (Tennessee) that they naturally sided with the rebels. That logic doesn’t hold true, however, in light of the fact that some of my ancestors from the same area and family lines joined Union forces. In fact, the divided loyalties of my ancestors-even within the same family households-are difficult to explain. I guess the exact reasons will never be known. But the question remains for me an important one when it comes to my Confederate kin. Did they join the C.S.A. military on the issue of states rights? Or did they simply believe that they had to do their “part” to keep out the “Yankee invaders?” One thing I think for sure: they were not fighting to protect slavery. None of my ancestors owned slaves. They were farmers. Typically, the parents of the household would have many children with good reason-they were needed to work the farm. The children were the slaves! (Smile).
According to the book American History Revised by Seymour Morris Jr., the slavery issue in the South was a problem:
“By 1864, alienation from the Confederate government and its zeal to preserve slavery had reached overwhelming proportions. Whites made up only 60 percent of the South’s population, and only 5.5 percent of them owned slaves. Slave owners who held more than twenty slaves automatically were exempted from the draft. For the Confederate government of Jefferson Davis to wage a costly, deadly war for the benefit of this rich minority was not popular. In addition to widespread demonstrations, riots in Richmond, and massive desertions, many Southerners carried out guerrilla operations against the state and offered active military support to the enemy…The Civil War is always seen as a war between the North and the South. This is a mistaken impression. The war was really between the North and the Confederate administration that ruled the South.”
At least one of my Confederate ancestors deserted the army. He was a private. He lived on a country farm in middle Tennessee. Maybe he joined the military to get away from the farm. I’m sure he thought joining the army was the right thing to do at the time-for whatever his reasons were. But before his term of service was up he took off. He became AWOL-after which he was classified as a “deserter.” Eventually, he returned home-to his family and to the farm. Maybe he became dissatisfied with the slavery thing. Or maybe he just wanted to go home-like all young soldiers do.
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