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In the United States, Southern Unionists were people living in the Confederate States of America, opposed to secession, and against the Civil War. These people are also referred to as Southern Loyalists, Union Loyalists, and Lincoln Loyalists. During Reconstruction these terms were replaced by Scalawag, which covered all Southern whites who supported the Republican party.

In Ireland in 1900-21, Southern Unionists were a minority opposed to Irish Home Rule, and, when that was inevitable, to the partition of Ireland. They were represented politically by the Irish Unionist Alliance.

Who was a Southern Unionist?[]

The term Southern Unionist, and its variations, incorporate a spectrum of beliefs and actions. Some Unionists opposed secession, but afterwards served and fought with the Confederate armies. Others refused to fight, went North or stayed North to enlist in the Union Armies, or fought informally as partisans in the South. The term could also be used of any Southerner who worked with the Republican Party or Union government in any capacity after the war ended in 1865. Many liked to choose the other side.

The scholar James A. Baggett profiled 742 Southern Unionists, comparing them to 666 Redeemers who opposed and eventually replaced them. He compares three regions, the Upper South, the Southeast, and the Southwest. Baggett follows the life of each Southern Unionist before, during, and after the war, with respect to birthplace, occupation, value of estate, slave ownership, education, party activity, stand on secession, war politics, and postwar politics.[1]

Baggett thus looked at 1400 political activists across the South, and gave each a score:

Score Activity
1 Antisecessionist Breckinridge supporter in 1860 election
2 Bell or Douglas supporter in 1860 election
3 1860-61 opponent of secession
4 passive wartime unionist
5 peace party advocate
6 active wartime unionist
7 postwar Union party supporter

Baggett found the higher the score the more likely the person was a Southern Unionist. Of course, depending on the definition, all of these activities make one a Southern Unionist by definition.

During the war, many Southern Unionists went North and joined the Union Armies. Others joined when Union armies entered their hometowns in Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana and elsewhere. Nearly 120,000 Southern Unionists served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and every Southern state, except South Carolina, raised Unionist regiments. Southern Unionists were extensively used as anti-guerrilla forces and as occupation troops in areas of the Confederacy occupied by the Union. Ulysses S. Grant noted "We had many regiments of brave and loyal men who volunteered under great difficulty from the twelve million belonging to the South." (Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, 1885, vol 2. chapt. 68, p. 636).[1]

See also[]


  1. Baggett



  • Fleming, Walter L. Documentary History of Reconstruction: Political, Military, Social, Religious, Educational, and Industrial 2 vol (1906). Uses broad collection of primary sources; vol 1 on national politics; vol 2 on states
  • Memoirs of W. W. Holden (1911), North Carolina Scalawag governor

External links[]