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Keri Leigh Merritt @KeriLeighMerrit
, 22 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
I'm seeing some misinformation here re: non-slaveholding southerners fighting in the #CivilWar since @TheTattooedProf 's #RobertELee thread went viral. So let's get a few things right:
1. Support for the #Confederacy varied greatly among non-slaveholders, depending on rural/urban, Upper/Lower South, slave societies/societies w slaves, & ties to slaveholders. Class also mattered: many landholding yeomen DID think 1 day they could own slaves, some rented slaves.
2. But for many cyclically-poor landless whites, esp in the cotton South (abt 1/3 white pop), there was no desire to fight & die to protect slave property. They even realized that their lives were negatively impacted (socio-economically) by the "peculiar institution."
3. In the cotton South, poor whites were overwhelmingly illiterate & often disenfranchised, & even when they voted they did so viva voce in front of 3 of the most powerful slaveholders in town, who controlled job prospects, property leases, & the criminal justice system.
4. (Important:) Most poor whites FULLY REALIZED they could never afford a purchase a slave. Most never owned more than a few dollars cash at the richest point in their lives. There was no credit for poor people.
5. And you wanna know how much a slave cost in 1860 in today's (2011) terms?

An astounding $130,000:
6. In the 1850s, non-slaveholding laborers were forming nascent unions, demanding protection from competition w brutalized slave labor. These unions met throughout the South, & some even threatened to withdraw their support for slavery altogether -it hurt their prospects & wages.
7. By eve of war, slaveholders used racist media to try to scare lower class whites into supporting secession, predicting that they'd be raped & slaughtered by the thousands in an inevitable race war following emancipation. If they lived, slaveholders said, they'd be white slaves
8. Slaveholders were terrified of Republican Party, & not just because of the Party's stance on slavery:
9. More on "Red" & "Black" Republicans:
10. Unfortunately, no matter how many times abolitionists tried to reach the white masses, censorship+illiteracy+police state rendered the effort fruitless.

Lynchings for whites -whether talking about Lincoln, or possessing Hinton Helper's book, or associating w Blacks-abounded.
11. So why did poor whites vote for secession??

Well, many did not. Voter turn-out dropped precipitously bw the 1860 Presidential election and the secession convention elections - the extent of apathy v force is still unknown. Fraud *was* rampant.
12. And we *must* keep in mind that slave societies were HEAVILY policed, constantly surveilled, censored societies. Slaveholders used vigilante violence whenever they could to beat & torture ppl into maintaining the southern hierarchy:
13. Now, re: joining the Confederacy: both historians & (quant) political scientists agree that most of the ppl volunteering were slaveholders or made a living off of slavery somehow. In the early years, poor whites who joined typically did so for 4 reasons: (1) FORCE. Accounts
14. of poor men forced at the point of bayonets, or who were arrested for vagrancy & then forced to join are common. (2) PAY. Already trapped in cyclical un-& under-employment, this was a steady & decent wage. Good-excellent, life-changing $ for substitutions,etc. (3) LAND. prior
15. to the Civil War, veterans had always had the chance to get LAND for their service. Poor whites had NO land. (4) Honor. These were white men with no honor...& what's the quickest way to gain honor? Fight to protect your home.
16. Poor whites were forced to join en masse after the Conscription Act of 1862. Then the "Twenty Negro Act," exempting the richest slaveholders, inflamed class tensions.

= led to massive defections/desertions of the poor in 63-64, ultimately adding to the Confederacy's defeat
17. Whether Unionist, anti-Confederate, or just completely apathetic, non-slaveholding whites - along with the enslaved & the Union - ultimately added to the Confederacy's demise.
18 (FIN). The slave regime of the South - the #Confederacy - needs to be remembered for what it was. In 1867 Union General John Pope wrote a letter to Ulysses Grant, expressing his concerns about how the Civil War—and the causes of the Confederacy—would be remembered in history:
Wow - this has blown up, thank you.

(And many thanks to @TheTattooedProf & @PatrickIber for the shout-outs).

For those who are asking, yes, this is pretty much all from my book:…
Here's a link to my thread on the historiography: (@SandyDarity thought you may be interested.)
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