#AskACWM Military History

Southern Federals?!


We love hearing about our visitors’ Civil War travels and experiences. Tom from Ann Arbor, Michigan wrote in about a perplexing listing on a small-town memorial that stopped him in his tracks.

My wife and I were recently photographing the Civil War memorial in Adrian, a college town and county seat in Lenawee County in SE Michigan. The memorial contained eight tablets with names of Lenawee County men who served during the War and the units in which they served. The very first name on one tablet was: Capt. A.M. Rogers 1st Ga. Infantry.

My first inclination was to dismiss the fact that he was a Confederate. The chances that a Michigan man served as an officer in a Georgia CSA unit AND would be remembered on his hometown monument defied all kinds of logic, historical and patriotic.

So we drove home and looked him up. Alonzo M. Rogers was a private in the 18th Michigan Infantry from August 1862 until October 1864. A note indicated that he “was discharged for promotion.” But there was nothing more explaining his promotion.

Next, I looked over some USCT units from Georgia, knowing that white enlisted men and officers were often recruited from veteran White regiments to staff new Black regiments. Nothing doing for Alonzo M. Rogers.

Finally, I checked another soldier database and he was listed as the captain of the 1st Georgia Infantry Battalion (Union)! It seems that 4 companies of Unionist men and ex-CSA men who took the oath of allegiance were recruited from around the Atlanta area in late 1864 to provide troops to guard the Western & Atlantic Railroad near Dalton, Ga...

So the question is, about how many White Unionist regiments or battalions were recruited in the Deep South for duty of any kind?

John Coski, our staff historian, did some digging to answer this question:

Thank you for sharing the fascinating story of Alonzo M. Rogers. It draws attention to a rarely-studied facet of Civil War: northerners who fought in Confederate forces and southerners who fought in Federal forces.  As you noted, there were many men living in the mountain regions and Border States who fought for the North.  In his book,  The South Vs. The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War, William Freehling, estimates that 200,000 white men from what he calls the Border South (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware) and another 100,000 white southerners from the Middle South (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas) enlisted in Union ranks. He gives no numbers of men from the “Lower South” who fought for the North, but they were substantially lower, probably in the low thousands. Most enlisted as individuals, either on their own initiative or by “galvanizing” — taking the oath and switching sides — after deserting or being held in Union prisons.  

There were, however, a handful of organized Federal army units raised in the South.  A list of these (along with published sources about them) appears in Charles E. Dornbusch’s valuable and oft-revised Military Bibliography of the Civil War, and summaries of their service appear in volume II of Frederick Dyer’s Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. Those units include the 1st Alabama Cavalry (see W. Stanley Hoole’s Alabama Tories); 1st and 2nd Florida Cavalry (see David W. Hartman and David Coles,  Biographical Rosters of Florida’s Confederate and Union Soldiers, 1861-1865); 1st Georgia Battalion Infantry; 1st and 2nd Louisiana Cavalry and 1st Louisiana Infantry (see George Gilbert Smith, Leaves from a Soldier’s Diary), 2nd Louisiana Infantry; and unspecified units from Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas. For all of those units, Dornbusch lists as source of rosters the U.S. Adjutant General’s Office’s Official Army Register of the Volunteer Forces of the United Stated States Army….1865.  The unit abstracts from Dyer’s Compendium are (usually) available on the National Park Service’s Soldiers and Sailors System website via the Units or Regiments tab.


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