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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16 Responses to “Why did some of my ancestors join the Confederate military?”

  1. Honey says:

    I trust you will allow a guest from the Eastern side of the Pond to make an observation on the meattr of voting, although I am not qualified to vote in any of the states of the USA.The judgement that any and every voter needs to make is whether his choice will have a chance of being elected, and the difference between the other candidates likely to be elected. Here in the UK, we have had a choice of three parties, Labour, which is the party of organised labour and has a social democratic position. Liberal which varies from pretty much extreme free market all the way through to being left of the Labour party, and Conservative, which are pretty much akin to the Republican party in the US. No Conservative would ever vote Labour, and no Labourite would ever vote Conservative. the Liberals are a much smaller party. Except that we now have the United Kingdom Independence Party or UKIP. UKIP would have us withdraw from the European Union and would roll back much of the state, and because of this draws its support mainly from disaffected former supporters of the Conservative party. Each constituency elects a single Member of Parliament to the House of Commons. The constituency in which I live has a high profile Labour MP, who, in 2010 beat the Conservative candidate by 1100 votes. The UKIP candidate polled 1500 votes. The question each elector in this constituency needs to ask is whether the difference between the Labour party and the Conservative party is sufficiently large that it warrants voting for someone who is your second choice effectively (Conservative when you personally would prefer UKIP) because the other side might well cause so much damage to the county, like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown (who are often referred to as B-Liar and B-Ruin on the web) that the country would never recover. If you think that I am joking, consider that under the Tax Credits scheme introduced by Gordon Brown, a family could be receiving benefit called tax credit when there was a family income of around $120,000 per annum. And no, that is not a misprint, I mean One Hundred and Twenty Thousand dollars per annum. You are paying tax with one hand and receiving benefit with the other. Is it more important to ensure that such people are kept away from the levers of power or do you keep your conscience pure and allow them to be elected because the alternative loses too many votes to your preferred party? It brings to mind the old adage that there are two things to keep clear of the making of, sausages and laws.

  2. B. Nash says:

    Hi Mona: I’m from the line of their child J.W. Swallows.

  3. Mona Mehas says:

    I am a descendent of Isaac Swallows and Frances Hammock. How are we related?

  4. B. Nash says:

    Thank you for expressing your opinion, although I don’t agree with it at all. I’ve heard statements like your many times during my lifetime. It always strikes me as ironic to say that the fight was for “freedom” while the Confederate government supported slavery.

  5. Ted H. Reed says:

    Its easy. Your ancestors who fought for the Confederate States of America fought for freedom. Freedom from Federal domination, freedom from a Supreme Court that could nullify the rights of the States and Freedom to live the life envisoned by the founding fathers who included many patriots from the Southern states. Be proud of you Southern heritage. If I had lived in the North I would never ever have allowed myself to have been cought up in the war of tyranny against the Southern people.

  6. Don says:

    Send me a message to my email address. I want to send you something. Also, what is you first name?

  7. B. Nash says:

    Sad to say-the average person on the street couldn’t even say who Daniel Boone was or what he did. We are in so much trouble with our society as a whole. God help us.

  8. B. Nash says:

    Don: your lineage is astounding! Mine is too. And to think you and I did absolutely nothing to have our pedigrees except by being born with them! :)

  9. Don says:

    Seeing the link on the right to the SAR, you have done some research on the New England Lincolns it looks like. I live in Charleston, SC and had three ancestors here at the same time during the Revolutionary War. Commodore Abraham Whipple, General Benjamin Lincoln and Joseph Turpin. Abraham Whipple is a second cousin, Benjamin is a 2nd cousin of husband of 2nd cousin (almost so far it doesn’t count) and Joseph Turpin, a privateer in the SC Navy was a 6th great Uncle.

  10. Don says:

    My wife is my 10th cousin (we did not discover that until our 26 year of marriage). Daniel Boone is her 6th Great Uncle and Abe is, like me, her 6th cousin 5x removed. Our common ascestor is Obidiah Holmes from Rhode Island.

  11. B. Nash says:


  12. Don says:

    Would that be Dainiel Boone lines?

  13. B. Nash says:

    Ok, now you have my attention! I’m related to Lincoln through my Judd and Boone lines myself.

  14. B. Nash says:

    Don: Glad to meet you sir. I’m always amazed at the people who have contacted me on this Lincoln blog. I have communicated with the descendants of Grant, Custer, Chandler-to name just a few. Yes, I agree. We cannot know what it was like for them. I firmly believe for my Confederate ancestors it wasn’t about slavery. Even with that-I could be in error!

  15. Don says:

    I forgot to mention that President Lincoln is also a relative. Rev. Obidiah Holmes was my 10th G Grandfather which makes Abe my 6th cousin. Talk about my divided loyalties.

  16. Don says:

    I have a second cousin who was the wife of Jefferson Davis, (Varina Banks Howell) and I have ancestors who fought for the North. I don’t think it is possible today to understand the divided loyalties which existed at that time, especially with those who lived in the border states.

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