The Consequences of Union Occupation

Most of the civilians who experienced invasion and occupation lived in the Confederacy. For most of the white residents of the South, the invading enemy was the Union Army. These civilians deeply resented the coming of Union forces. Still, a significant minority of white Southerners were Unionists and welcomed the Yankees. Most of the Confederacy's black residents, slave and free, cheered the arrival of Union troops as well.

Residents of the Border States, who were sharply divided over the war, also experienced occupation by Union forces throughout the conflict. Incursions by Confederate troops took place occasionally and had the support of Southern sympathizers in these areas. Northerners in towns like Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and Sharpsburg, Maryland, also experienced invasion by Confederate forces.

Invasion and occupation by Union troops presented Southern civilians with both challenges and opportunities. With the threat of invasion came the difficult decision of whether to stay or go. Confederate supporters had to choose whether to remain at home and try to protect their property or to leave home and become refugees deeper within the Confederacy. With

Charlotte Porten Grimke (1837-1914)

A teacher on the South Carolina Sea Islands during the Civil War, Charlotte Forten helped former slaves make the transition to freedom. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1837 to a prominent black family, Forten attended school and then taught in Salem, Massachusetts, before the war. Her family advocated the abolition of slavery and racial equality.

Sponsored by the Port Royal Relief Association, Forten began teaching on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, in October 1862. She was the first black teacher on the island and one of the first in all of the Union-occupied areas. She taught children of all ages to read, write, spell, and do math. She also gave lessons in history, highlighting the lives of abolitionist John Brown and Haitian revolutionary Touissaint L'Ouverture. Like other teachers of the former slaves, Forten also provided moral instruction and practical advice to adults.

While on the Sea Islands, Forten developed a genuine care and concern for the ex-slaves. She was moved by their generosity and loved their stirring spirituals. As did many of the well-educated Northerners with whom she worked, Forten occasionally expressed a patronizing attitude toward the former slaves.

While on St. Helena, Forten became friends with fellow teacher Laura Towne, as well as with Union colonel Thomas Went-worth Higginson, commander of the First South Carolina Volunteers, a regiment of black soldiers recruited on the Sea Islands. Forten and the unit's surgeon, Dr. Seth Rogers, shared a love of literature and the outdoors.

Forten kept a diary while on the Sea Islands and drew on these journals to publish descriptions of her experiences in the Liberator and the Atlantic Monthly during the war. Chronic respiratory illness and the death of her father prompted Forten to move back to the North in 1864. She remained involved in invasion came the dire prospect of witnessing the carnage of battle or even getting caught in the crossfire. The arrival of Union troops signaled freedom for many enslaved civilians, who took advantage of the opportunity to leave slavery behind.

Occupation brought new rules and regulations governing everyday life, and Union authorities eventually tightened these restrictions to clamp down on Confederate civilians' active support for the Rebel war effort. Perhaps most significant, occupying troops looked to civilians to provide them with food and shelter. The occupiers generally took what they needed, leaving Confederate supporters and even many Unionists with significant grievances against the Yankee troops.

Relatively little Confederate territory came under Union control in 1861. The land held by the Yankees existed on the fringes of the Confederacy and consisted mostly of western Virginia and coastal islands along the shores of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. In these areas, local civilians became guinea pigs, as the army and government officials worked out the policies and procedures that would guide the early years of occupation.

Charlotte Forten Grimké was a free-born African American activist who fought for the abolition of slavery and later for the education of African Americans. (Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lennox and Tilden Foundations)

the transition to freedom, however, serving as secretary of the Teachers Committee of the New England Branch of the Freedmen's Union Commission for six years and then returning to South Carolina to teach for a year at the Colonel Robert Gould Shaw Memorial School in Charleston.

In 1878, Forten married Francis Grimke, a Presbyterian minister and former slave. The Grimkes shared a vibrant political, religious, cultural, and intellectual life in Washington, D.C., until Charlotte Forten Grimke's death in 1914.

Perhaps inevitable in a war fought over the issue of the expansion of slavery, some of the first residents of the Confederacy to live under occupation forces in large numbers were slaves themselves. When Union troops invaded Port Royal Sound along the South Carolina coast in November 1861, most white residents of the Sea Islands fled to the mainland. Most of the local slaves stayed behind; many of them refused to become refugees with their owners, and some paid a high price when they were beaten or even killed. One contemporary estimate held that close to 10,000 slaves lived on the Sea Islands at the time of the Union invasion. These slaves were soon joined by others, who were escaping the lowcountry plantations of the mainland. One slave family left a Savannah River rice plantation during the night. The grandmother of the family successfully steered them to a federal gunboat. '''My God! are we free?''' she exclaimed when her family's boat touched the Union vessel (Schwalm 1997, 95).

Late in 1861 and early in 1862, another key group of civilians to live under Union occupation within the Confederacy began to arrive. Northern teachers came to areas of coastal Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to assist the former slaves living under Union occupation.

These teachers, most of whom were unmarried women from the New England states, performed varied tasks. Sponsored by secular and religious societies, the teachers did much more than give lessons in reading, writing, and arithmetic. They also provided moral instruction, medical care, sewing lessons, and advice on conduct, dress, child care, and household organization. In addition, these Northerners distributed donated clothes among the ex-slaves and supervised black field workers on occupied plantations. By war's end, there would be about 900 such teachers working in the former Confederacy.

As President Abraham Lincoln sought to shore up support in the Border States in 1861 and early 1862, Union troops occupied areas of Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky. While Unionists welcomed the Yankees with flag presentations and other demonstrations of support, Confederate partisans expressed their disdain for the occupiers. In Maryland, for example, tensions quickly arose between civilians and Union troops. In Baltimore, where there was considerable secessionist sentiment, the Union Army attempted unsuccessfully to stifle Confederate support. Not allowed to display Confederate flags or banners, residents found other ways to demonstrate their loyalties. Women wore ribbons and bows that reflected their leanings. Similarly, girls clothed themselves and their dolls in Confederate colors. Defiantly, on July 4, 1861, about 70 boys who supported the Confederacy went to a Union encampment and paraded around with a homemade Confederate flag.

Beginning in February 1862, the Union Army began to take over significant pieces of the Confederacy, particularly in the Western theater of the war. By spring, the Union would claim the cities of Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee, and surrounding regions; Norfolk and areas of southeastern Virginia; and New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Also in Union hands were footholds in coastal Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, as well as parts of northern Alabama, Arkansas, northern Mississippi, and northern Virginia. The anticipated arrival of Union troops provoked turmoil, fear, and uncertainty within the Confederacy. John McCline, an enslaved boy who lived outside of Nashville during the war, later described the evacuation of Tennessee's capital by the Confederates in February 1862: ''The fact that they seemed so frightened and helpless left us under the impression that the yankee was an exceedingly dangerous foe'' (Furman 1998, 43). Indeed, even before they laid eyes on any Yankee troops, many Confederate supporters viewed them as a depraved bunch. As sectional tensions had mounted during the antebellum period, people in the North and those in the South adopted severely distorted and highly stereotypical views of each other. In the minds of many Southerners, Northerners were greedy, worldly, selfish, and ruthless.

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