A Rebel Amongst Rebels

“A Rebel Amongst Rebels.”

Winston County, Alabama. 1862.

It was dark days on the land. Men, women, and neighbors seemed to defy the common good. War had gripped our country, war had gripped our county.

“You know I tried to stop them, brother.” “Not even in the State Legislature do they make any sense, I am now rolling with the tide, and it is a tide of blood,” said brother John. “I will continue for the cause of the Union in our legislature, although we are now disaffected and broken free as Confederates.”

“They call us rebels!” said brother David. “We were one of the early ones to settle this part of Alabama, our ancestors fought in the Great War of Independence,” he bemoaned. “And now, my sons have gone and joined to fight for the Confederacy . . .” “such is their choice, such are all men’s fates.” David spoke with great force and alacrity.

David was a farmer, John a founding Legislator for the State of Alabama, both of whose father was a hero in the War of 1812. Both believed in the idea of state’s rights, both also believed in the idea of a federal union. Not all men, it was known, shared their stance or their version of idealism.

“Who the hell are you?!? State your business!” Exclaimed David at the approaching mob. He knew who they were for they had been here on his property before. The confrontations had only emboldened David. “You know this is my land,” David asserted. “Your land?” “This here is Confederate territory, we are no longer a part of this unholy union that you so cherish!” threatened the mounted man and his posse.

“I have a right to my morals, get the hell outta here and leave my family alone,” shouted David back at them. You could hear the chuckles among the men as their leader broke out into laughter. “YOUR sons have joined OUR army, what does that say about YOU!” “I will burn this place down, make it known!” shouted the mounted man and his posse. “YOU are living in the Confederacy, or have you not heard that all the states including North Carolina have already seceded last year?” His air of arrogance was growing in intensity with each passing exchange.

The mounted man was grimly right however, two of David’s own sons had joined to fight for the Confederate army.

This struck deeply into the heart of David. He was a man alone, a rebel amongst rebels. He was a self-proclaimed ‘Union man’ in the heart of Confederate territory. He was, in the eyes of the posse, a traitor. Where should his allegiance fall? To his family? To his country? To his farm in Winston County? To his sons who had joined the Confederacy? All he knew in this moment was that he was getting tired of being bullied for his ideals!

“You damn Lincolnite! You’ll suffer for this!” The men rode off in a dusty fury; this wasn’t the first exchange, it wouldn’t be the last.

That night David decided it was time for action. If he was caught in the middle of his idea that a nation should not go to war with itself and the sympathies of the state to which he so fondly cared for, he must do something. The time for action was now. Each time the posse of mad men came back to his farm, they grew more and more hostile. He was clear in his own heart that they would eventually act out their threats and hurt his family and burn down his farm.

He decided that Decatur was the place where he would go. Decatur, Alabama was about 40 miles northeast of where he lived and at the time it was a Union stronghold. He was going show them who he was, he was going to enlist in the Union army! His ride was furious, ground rambled under foot as his horse strode off to the glory of his fate. Brush, lakes, and rivers all dissected his path as his speedy gallop only gave him strength of conviction and focus of will. He thought all along the way all the things he would do to defend his beloved country and how the rebels were being misled. Indeed, there was an empathetic thought or two for the Confederate cause and the irony of war where good people were fighting against other good people who in a time of peace would have shaken hands and supped together under a common law of the land. Many of the families around his farm in Winston, Alabama were also from the old world.

“You want to what???” Smirked the officer decorated in blue. “Well, now, I, um, understand your enthusiasm, sir . . . it’s just that . . . well, we can’t take you into our army.” The enlistment officer stumbled to find his words. “Sir, it says here that you were born in 1802, is that correct?”

“Yes, sir, that’s right” Stated David quite pointedly. “Well, that would make you 60 years old!!! There’s no way we can take you into our ranks!” affirmed the Union officer. “You just go on home!”

It was true, David was 60 years old! The grit and voracity of his personality, however, had not faded over his years. He was just as fiery as day one and would dig his heels in when backed into a corner, and in 1862 he certainly felt like he was backed into a corner. His choice had been clear: sit back and publicly declare his “Lincolnite” sympathies or take up arms and man up to the cause. No one would respect a coward, and a coward does not take action to affirm his position. One way or another he would affirm his position.

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His wife and family were glad to see him back on the farm. Not just because their defender was home, but because their defender had left. They were glad to receive him back for the posse had been back in his absence. This time they did it! Just shy of burning his house down, they had stolen his horse, his crops, and other items necessary for their survival, each act claimed in the name of the Confederacy. It must have been harrowing for his dear wife. She was a tender woman who came from a well-to-do family who also had deep southern roots.

The attacks continued; however, so did David’s entrenched stance. As the year 1863 followed the War Between the States, several pivotal battles were fought in Alabama and David, sure to support his “traitorous” Union cause, provisioned the ranks of several northern militias with the supplies from his farm. He was no traitor. He fed and clothed them, affirming his position. This David, beloved of his land, would feed any man, Union or Confederate, if they were in actual need.

The following year in 1864, after repeated attacks on his farm, David was taken into custody by the Confederate army for his support of the Union cause and kept in a Confederate prison camp for 41 days. It was called a ‘Camp of Instruction’ and it was located in present-day Talladega, Alabama. When no case could finally be proven against him, he was released. The attacks and threats on his home continued undaunted to the close of the war in 1865.

David, through it all remained himself undaunted by anything thrown at him. His sense of honor and the dignity of his beliefs created a true man of the South. His Union sympathies, although they riled many of those around him, never detracted from the support and love he had for his unified country. Even through it all, I doubt such a man would have held any grudge against his Confederate neighbors and friends, for even his own sons joined that fight!

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