War in the Pine Barrens: The Civil War Era in South-Central and Southeastern Alabama
Type of Degreedissertation
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When the American Civil War erupted in 1861, the eight counties that comprised south-central and southeastern Alabama responded by sending thousands of men to fight in southern armies. This corner of the Confederacy, and especially the southernmost counties that straddled the Alabama/Florida border, has been identified in the past as an area where poverty reigned, Unionism was disproportionately strong, shirkers routinely escaped military service, raiders and bushwhackers created havoc on the home front, and deserters outnumbered the faithful when it came to hard fighting. Previous histories of the region rely heavily upon events and circumstances that took place during the final months of the war, and give the impression that the people in this part of the state played an inconsequential role in supporting the southern war effort. This study challenges the traditional interpretations of the area, arguing instead that a majority of white Alabamians in the region supported slavery, supported secession, and supported the Confederate war effort for the bulk of the conflict. In addition, if previous studies of the region are correct, soldier morale should have disintegrated much earlier in the conflict as the home front collapsed. Instead, the opposite appears to have been the case. The region’s soldiers fought well during the 1864 Overland Campaign as well as the Franklin-Nashville Campaign later that year, arguably the two bloodiest campaigns of the entire war. Finally, much of the state’s history has concentrated on the Tennessee Valley, the hill counties, and the Black Belt, with south-central and southeastern Alabama barely an afterthought. This study brings much-needed attention to a region of the state largely ignored by historians. It deserves a more prominent place in the state’s historical record.