Famous Virginians in History :: History of Virginia

Famous Virginians in History

June 5, 2018
The Abduction of Pocahontas

For most Us citizens, choosing a side within the Civil War was no simple task. Many people simply sided with their home condition, other individuals struggled with family members pressures, personal political thinking and their devotion to the federal government. Hesitant to break their army oaths, many Southern-born officers stayed using Union, but a surprising few sympathetic Northerners in addition cast their particular great deal using the Confederacy. These conflicted soldiers were often disowned by their families or thought to be traitors in their native says, nevertheless they additionally encountered suspicion and distrust from their particular newfound brothers in arms. The following, get the realities on six generals whom switched edges when you look at the run-up towards the Civil War.

George Thomas


In accordance with some historians, the greatest and most skilled Union general may have been a southerner. a native of Southampton County, Virginia, George Thomas was a vocation soldier who'd served with distinction when you look at the Mexican-American War and soon after taught at western aim. But despite his strong south origins—he’d grown-up on a plantation and also owned slaves—Thomas refused to break his oath on U.S. Army and stayed faithful towards the Union during Civil War. Your choice sent shock waves through the Southern. J.E.B. Stuart, a former student of Thomas’ at western Point, said he deserved to be hanged as a traitor. Even his very own sis disowned him, composing which he was, “false to his state, their family members, and also to their pals.”

Thomas however went on in order to become one of the Union’s most successful generals in war’s western movie theater. After winning an important very early triumph in the Battle of Mill Springs, he led a brave protective stand on Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863, and soon after crushed General John Bell Hood’s forces at Battles of Franklin and Nashville. Despite their unquestionable tactical acumen, Thomas’s stoic personality and his link with the Confederacy saw him over and over passed over for promotions. When once informed that Thomas should really be offered supreme demand of U.S. forces in the western, Abraham Lincoln’s curt ended up being response had been merely, “let the Virginian hold off.” Thomas finished the war with an unparalleled record, but his interactions with of their loved ones never ever recovered. Once they had been sent materials on Thomas’ account shortly after Lee’s surrender, his sisters tend to be thought to have refused the offering, saying they had no sibling.

John C. Breckinridge

Many prominent American politicians tossed their particular assistance behind the Confederacy, but few had been as loathed within the North as Kentucky Senator John C. Breckinridge. Although he had been a pro-slavery Democrat, Breckinridge preferred the peaceful conservation of Union, plus the belated 1850s and early 1860s he regularly spoke from the Senate flooring resistant to the march to war. He remained inside U.S. Senate even with the start of hostilities, and sometimes acted as lone dissenting vote against lots of Lincoln’s armed forces policies. Breckinridge returned to their house state in September 1861 to argue in support of neutrality, but once Kentucky’s government backed the Union, he abruptly fled to Virginia to avoid arrest as a Confederate sympathizer. A few months later on, their fellow legislators denounced him as a traitor and expelled him through the U.S. Senate by unanimous vote.

After deciding into the South, Breckinridge provided his solutions into the Confederacy and won a payment as a brigadier general. He would rise to your rank of major-general, and later served at crucial battles including Shiloh, Chickamauga and brand new marketplace. At the war’s end, Breckinridge once more discovered himself a marked guy, in which he fled the united states in order to avoid prosecution as a turncoat. He would live-in exile in Cuba, European countries and Canada until 1868, whenever President Andrew Johnson’s general pardon of Confederates permitted him to return to his residence in Kentucky.

Bushrod Johnson

Couple of guys took a far more unlikely path to becoming a Confederate basic than Bushrod Johnson. Born in Ohio to a household of abolitionist, pacifist Quakers, Johnson went to western aim against his moms and dads’ desires and soon after fought in both the Seminole War plus the Mexican-American War. Their budding military profession stumbled on a sudden end up in 1847, as he was caught starting a scheme to offer contraband federal government gear. Forced to resign from the army, he spent the second several years working as a professor at armed forces schools in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Once the Civil War smashed completely, Johnson had reinvented himself as an unrepentant southerner. After delivering his young child to reside together with family relations when you look at the North, he joined up with the Army of Tennessee as a colonel. Johnson quickly rose into the rank of brigadier basic, and earned a reputation as a fierce fighter on Battles of Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Perryville and Chickamauga. He had been later appointed a significant basic, but his unit ended up being effortlessly destroyed within Battle of Sailor’s Creek in April 1865, only some days before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. After the war, the “Yankee Quaker” gone back to academia and in the end relocated back once again to the North, settling in Illinois.

Samuel Cooper

The Confederacy is usually associated with Dixie-born luminaries like Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, nevertheless the South’s highest-ranking army officer was actually a Yankee. Samuel Cooper ended up being a brand new York native which forged an illustrious job inside armed forces, and by the 1850s he had climbed to the ranking of adjutant general—the army’s chief administrative officer. Though a Northerner by beginning, Cooper was hitched towards daughter of a prominent Virginia general, and he has also been an in depth friend of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In March 1861, he resigned their payment when you look at the U.S. Army and switched sides toward Confederacy. Ironically, one of is own last will act as adjutant general involved authorizing the dismissal of David E. Twiggs, an officer who'd willingly surrendered his command into rebels.

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