Avidly devoted to the Confederate cause, Mary Greenhow Lee of Winchester, Virginia, vocally opposed Union occupation of the town between 1862 and 1865. Forty-one years old when the war broke out, Lee was the widow of Hugh Holmes Lee, a lawyer who had died in 1856.
A native of Richmond, Virginia, Mary Greenhow Lee had adopted Winchester as her home upon her marriage. Located in Virginia's fertile Lower Shenandoah Valley, Winchester became one of the most fought-over towns in all of the Confederacy. By war's end, Winchester had officially changed hands 13 times.
Lee captured Winchester's tumultuous wartime existence in a journal that she began on March 11, 1862, the day Confederate troops first evacuated the town. At that time, Lee headed a household that included two sisters-in-law, two nieces, and five adult slaves. Both of the slave men in her household would later escape to Union lines. The Lee family and the town's other stalwart residents, who included many Union supporters, lived through six battles in or near the town, as well as countless raids.
Just as Winchester represents an extreme example of invasion and occupation, Lee exemplifies the zenith of fervent secessionism.
guerillas raided Union outposts. John Singleton Mosby, who commanded the Forty-third Virginia Partisan Ranger Battalion, was one of the most successful guerilla leaders. In Union-held north-central Virginia from 1863 to 1865, his unit attacked railroads, bridges, supply wagons, and telegraph lines. In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan conducted many similar raids behind Union lines.
Civilians often found themselves caught in the middle. Guerillas burned the contraband camp in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1864. In East Tennessee, Unionist bushwhackers threatened the Fain family farm in the closing year of the war. Early in April 1865, they stole food, a horse, and silver from the Fains' already depleted resources. Lizette Woodworth Reese, who lived north of Baltimore for most of the war, later wrote about the fear she experienced when caught between both sides. Reese's home was located near a Union encampment that was often visited by Confederate raiders. ''Between the blue forces and the gray we were ground between two millstones of terror,'' she recalled (Bardaglio 2002, 321).
Despite mounting military defeats and pressing everyday needs, Confederate supporters continued to speak out against aspects of Yankee rule. Civilians who believed that they were being mistreated by occupation authorities protested, sometimes successfully. In Natchez, Mississippi, in 1864, civilians registered numerous complaints against General Mason Brayman, commander of the Union post. When Brayman ordered that all congregations pray for President Abraham Lincoln, the Roman Catholic bishop of Natchez, William Henry Elder, refused. Brayman exiled Elder to Vidalia, Louisiana, but Secretary of War Edwin Stanton overruled Bray-man and rescinded his order, so that Elder could return to Natchez.
She rejoiced in being known as a "Secesh" by Union forces. Determined to maintain her independence under Union occupation, she dehumanized the Yankees as vulgar individuals not worthy of her consideration, much less her company. Although many Union officers sought lodging at her house during the war, she succeeded in putting them all off, save one, who stayed for only a few nights in 1863.
Like some other female Confederate supporters, Lee confronted occupying troops, identifying herself to them as their enemy. She intentionally defied even minor rules, including night curfews, lights-out commands, and orders to clean the sidewalk in front of her house. Even as she rejected Union rule, Lee worked for the Confederacy, running an underground mail service, making and collecting goods for Confederate forces, and doing hospital work. She depicted herself as a soldier for the cause.
For their constant annoyance to Union officers and soldiers, Lee and her family were banished from Winchester by General Philip H. Sheridan in February 1865. In October of that year Lee settled in Baltimore, Maryland, where she ran a boarding house and became involved in Confederate memorial activities. Mary Greenhow Lee died in Baltimore in 1907.
Other citizens of Natchez went to nearby Union authorities and complained of arbitrary arrests and confiscation of property from individuals who had taken the oath of allegiance. Transferred to Vidalia and later publicly censured, Brayman was replaced by General John W. Davidson, who eventually established a formal body to respond to complaints by Natchez citizens.
By December 1864, civilian charges of mistreatment and exploitation by Union occupiers led President Lincoln to appoint special commissioners for the occupied areas. These men had the task of investigating the activities of both civil and military officials.
Meanwhile, military officials, missionaries, and teachers promoted the legalization of slave marriages in occupied areas. In 1864 and 1865, many former slaves in Union-controlled territory got married legally, some in mass wedding ceremonies. New unions were formed, and existing ones made legal. Vicksburg, Davis Bend, and Natchez, Mississippi, for example, together registered more than 1,400 nuptials during these years.
According to one chaplain of a black regiment, ex-slaves did not just see the war as an opportunity for freedom but also as ''the road to Responsibility; Competency; and an honorable Citizenship'' (Berlin, Reidy, and Rowland 1982, 712). This citizenship included legal marriages. The chaplain approved of the popularity of weddings among the former slaves he ministered to in Little Rock.
Teachers played an important role in politicizing former slaves and introducing them to the rituals of citizenship. Early in 1865, teacher Anna Gardner in New Bern, North Carolina, introduced her ex-slave students to a ritual of Union citizenship when she had them present a flag to a black artillery unit. Holiday celebrations, such as those on the Sea Islands to commemorate Thanksgiving in 1862 and New Year's in 1863, included speeches and songs promoting the Union cause. An Emancipation Day celebration in Beaufort, South Carolina, on January 1, 1865, featured a former slave woman dressed as the Goddess of Liberty. She sang ''In That New Jerusalem'' and waved a banner. During Reconstruction and beyond, emancipation celebrations would become an integral part of black community and political life.
By 1865, some residents of occupied areas were looking toward the future and life in the postwar South. In January 1865, for example, the ''colored citizens'' of Nashville petitioned the Union Convention of Tennessee. The 62 individuals who signed the petition wanted blacks to be given the right to vote and to testify in court. The petitioners based their request in part on the sacrifices that black soldiers had made in their service to the Union cause. The Nashville civilians asked, ''When has the colored citizen, in this rebellion been tried and found wanting?'' (Berlin, Reidy, and Rowland 1982, 815).
In 1865, residents of the last bastions of the Confederacy experienced invasion and occupation. General Sherman's Carolinas campaign in February and March 1865 brought significant suffering to civilians, particularly in South Carolina. Sherman and his army, which numbered 60,000, wanted to destroy Confederate resources but also to inflict punishment on South Carolina for its rabid secessionism. At the Middleton Place plantation near Charleston, for example, slaves joined Union soldiers in destroying the plantation. Officers burned the house and many of the outbuildings. Slaves desecrated the family mausoleum. Although slaves and Union forces worked together in this instance, many blacks in the Carolinas were appalled by the destructiveness of Sherman's troops and disaffected when the soldiers mistreated them.
As Confederate troops evacuated strongholds like Richmond and Charleston, they set fire to the cities. Citizens desperately tired to subdue the flames. ''It was a terrible scene,'' Susie King Taylor wrote of Charleston in her memoir of the war (Taylor 1904/1968, 42). For civilians in invaded and occupied areas, the South's devastated landscape served as a constant reminder of the war's heavy toll.
As Sherman's troops made their way through South and North Carolina, they encountered firm resistance from Confederate supporters, especially women. Throughout the South, civilians who had supported the Confederacy drew on a range of coping mechanisms to deal with defeat, from continued resistance to denial to religious resignation. In Norfolk, Virginia, for example, Confederate supporter Chloe Tyler Whittle flirted with despair but drew on her Christian faith to face the future. She dedicated herself to avoid taking the oath of allegiance to the United States at all costs.
Although invasion ceased with the Confederate surrender in 1865, occupation of areas of the South by Union troops would continue for 12 years. Reconstruction was not a new experiment but a continuation of the challenge of wartime occupation. Civilians would continue to work out the transition from slavery to freedom, the response to Northern rule, and
the recreation of community life. Years after the Civil War, Susie King Taylor wrote, ''I can and shall never forget that terrible war until my eyes close in death'' (Taylor 1904/1968, 50). Countless civilians who witnessed the horrors of the conflict shared her sentiment.
Was this article helpful?