A Family's Trials in Civil War Era Missouri: Unionism, Displacement, and Not-so-radical Reconstruction
Much has been written about the vast and violent conflict that was the American Civil War, exploring every social, political, and economic aspect. And this body of literature continues to grow. Scholarship focused on the war in Missouri has appeared more often in recent decades, but much of it concerns the role of Missourians in the Bleeding Kansas conflict prior to the war or on the activities of Confederate-sympathizing guerillas that roamed the state’s countryside for much of the Civil War. While civilians enter into some of these more recent narratives as victims, participants, and supporters of guerilla violence, there is something of a historiographical gap in examining the experiences of those who remained loyal to the Union in Missouri. A collection of letters known as the John A. Mack Collection offer a valuable and seemingly rare look into the lives of a large, Unionist family in the Ozarks region of Missouri. The letters span from 1861 to 1869 and detail the experiences of various Mack family members in the Union military, as refugees following the early victories of secessionist forces in Missouri and as Radical Republicans in the postwar period. These documents provide valuable resources to analyze how a family of seemingly loyal Unionists became incredibly embittered toward Confederate sympathizers in their home state. The Mack family fought on the Union side during the war and became involved in postwar politics in order to make sure that those who were disloyal to the nation and destructive to their state, were harshly punished. In contrast to their hardline stance on former southern sympathizers, the Macks were not of the same mind that many Radical Republican politicians were with respect to civil rights, as revealed by the obvious racism toward African-Americans in their letters.
Lucerna, Vol. 11, January 2017, p. 33-43
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