Family and State
A Hard Choice But Sometimes Plain Choice


     As the 1850's came to a close, the 1860's brought along Constitutional choices that nobody in the country found simple to make. An entire generation of constitutionally savvy people were faced with an excruciating question: If it comes to taking sides, do I stay with the flag or do I offer services to my state, my family, my friends?

     The political forum of back breaking tariffs and interpretation of what is and what is not considered property, created a rift with lifestyles themselves. The vast majority, did not own slaves, but their homeland had grown tired of fingers being poked in their chest hairs. Very little was left to talk about, nobody was honestly listening anymore. Families and friends argued among themselves.

     As the new Lincoln Administration had made preparations of reprovisioning Fort Sumter, war became inevitable. It was all Virginia needed to tip the balance in favor of secession. One of the chief diplomats to insist on such an ordnance of secession was a plantation owner himself southeast of Richmond, former 10th President of the United States, John Tyler. The choice was plain, family and homeland came first over governmental allegiance. The federal government had overstepped their authority.

     There was no hypothesis to this overly burdening issue. The people of the United States were being faced with cold hard reality. Would they be so willing to give up the only homes they've known, sacrifice all relations with their families, follow a decision that is likely to cause them shame or dishonor?

     Major James Longstreet quietly resigned and tendered his services to the south, as did many other South Carolinians, Virginians, and Alabamians. The constitutional question became such an emotional one that the decision to defend a new idea was not contained to the Mason/Dixon Line alone. John C. Pemberton, a Philadelphian, offered himself up for the new Confederate Cause, as did Samuel Cooper, highest ranking general officer in the Confederacy and native to New York State.

     Many southerners likewise remained loyal to the old Constitution like Montgomery C. Meigs of Georgia, and George H. Thomas of Virginia. To ease Abraham Lincoln's suspicions, George H. Thomas was offered a commission only at the personal recommendation of Colonel William T. Sherman.

     Never before, and probably never since had so many battle hardered veterans of the old Federal Army wept over saying goodbye to old friends and classmates. The imaginary line had been drawn in the sand, home had been on the forefront of everyone's mind, and war would test governmental theory with scorching fire.


Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2002

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwar.net