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  • Glenda-Stroud-Peace

How Scores of Alabama Farm Boys Chose “Uncle Abe,” Old Glory, and the Union over Slavery & Secession

I am directly descended from five Confederate soldiers (this included a father and son who went to war). Therefore, it came as a surprise bordering on shock when, back in 2000, I was browsing the internet for information about my Barbour County relatives and came across a title, “Born in Barbour County, Served with the Union.” When I clicked on the article, I saw those men listed alphabetically, and the very first one was Bass, Willis T. -- a great-great uncle of mine. But no one had ever told me that Uncle Willis served with the Union. That is not surprising. Anyone familiar with the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud on the West Virginia-Kentucky border probably knows that some surmise the feud started (and raged for many years) because a Hatfield murdered a McCoy -- only because that McCoy had served with the Union Army. So it’s understandable that a Union Army relation in southern Alabama would not have been fondly remembered.

Fascinated, I emailed the author of the site. Was my uncle an abolitionist (I hoped), fighting against slavery? What a relief that would be. The site author responded that, no, probably not -- these men were either quite old or very young (Uncle Willis had just turned 19 toward the end of the war) and joined the Union Army for $300 in cash, a new uniform, a horse, and little likelihood of being killed, as they were not sent into the thick of things in the upper South, but to Ft. Barrancas near Pensacola. And, he added, many were murdered on their return to Barbour County at war’s end “for their treachery.” I checked genealogical records and found that Willis was not among the murdered. He died in 1904 and was buried in a Union cemetery in Butler, Alabama, indicating that his allegiance to the Union was lifelong.

Willis’s story really engaged me. And that is how my Wiregrass Chronicles character Noble Coltayne was born. But while Noble both betrays the Confederate cause and deserts the Union Army, Willis T. Bass was honorably discharged from the Union in November 1865 after a “cooling-off” period deemed wise by the Union officials. Unfortunately for some, the cooling-off period was not long enough.

WIREGRASS CHRONICLES ~Your Road Map to the Wiregrass

Glenda Stroud-Peace, author of the Wiregrass Chronicles four-book series, is a former English teacher and a descendant of Alabama Wiregrass pioneers. In the first book in the series, Long Rows to Hoe, she highlights the role of Alabama’s Union soldiers.

Be sure to read Wiregrass Chronicles - Long Rows to Hoe to learn more about this often overlooked part of history and become acquainted with the diverse characters who inhabited the Alabama Wiregrass from the Creek Wars through World War I. Buy your copy today by clicking on the Buy Books button above!

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