I am always interested in reading first-person accounts of the Civil War, and so was pleased to find an article in my inbox this morning concerning the unpleasant task imposed upon Southerners of taking the oath of allegiance.
After the War Between the States, loyal Confederates were forced to take the oath in exchange for the right to vote, the right to undertake business transactions, and in many cases, even to acquire rations.
For many Confederate prisoners, freedom itself was the exchange for the oath. One young man, who remained in prison through May of 1865 was implored by his sister to take the oath. “You will ever command the respect of your friends. Your character is too well established to be assailed after four years of strict adherence to duty, should you deem it advisable to bury all hopes and become a good ‘citizen’ of the United States of America… Don’t imagine that those who love you so dearly will ever blush for your conforming to unavoidable circumstances. Come home, then, my darling, for home needs you as well as you need it.”
It’s hard for us to imagine in this day and age facing the hardships those Southerners faced because of the “dishonor” implied in taking the oath. I do hope Shades of Gray helps readers understand the vital role that honor and principles played during that period of our nation’s history.
Anyway, my favorite story concerning taking the oath was the response of one young woman, who retorted rather emphatically “I never swore in my life” to the question by the provost “have you sworn the oath?”
When informed by the agent that, in order to obtain food, she must swear the oath, she reluctantly complied. “Well, sir, if you will make me do such a horrid, wicked thing, DAMN the Yankees!”