May 21, 1862: Southern unionism?

A secret meeting of southern unionists

The New York Times holds out the prospect of hidden loyalty to the union in the south, and admonishes the federal government to protect southern unionists. While no doubt there was some union sentiment, it seems to have been consistently overestimated by northern observers.

Latent Loyalty at the South.

Is there any Union sentiment at the South? is a question often asked among us, and more often abroad. And all eyes watch the progress of our armies, to see if any indications of the existence of such a sentiment are to be found. New-Orleans has been a point of especial interest in this regard. The New-Orleans Crescent of April 28, three days after the arrival of Com. FARRAGUT’s vessels before the city, says:

“It is with feelings of the deepest pride that we point the Union officers to the fact that no Union sentiment exists in our midst; that with almost one voice and one tongue, this community entirely repudiates all allegiance to the old Government, and warmly and devotedly adheres to the new. And we respectfully, but firmly, assert that this sentiment, this feeling, is so firmly implanted in the breasts of our people, that no time, no circumstance, no change, can serve to eradicate it, or still their free souls in the struggle for their independence.”

But this statement of a rebel newspaper is more than counterbalanced by the contrary statement, which we published on Sunday, of an escaped Union man. That statement is made by one who is personally known to us as an intelligent, educated and perfectly reliable gentleman, and we give the most implicit faith to its facts. Nor should we be surprised if there had not been, within the first three days, much, if any, outspoken Union sentiment. The Union men there, as elsewhere, know the desperate character of their enemies. The reign of terror under which they have lived, and which has forced them to be Secessionists from the lip outward, hiding their love for the Union in their hearts, cannot be at once shaken off. They must wait and see whether the devils which have been driven out may not return, for if they do, they are sure to be seven times more devilish than before. The expression of Union sentiments now would, in case of reoccupation of the city by the rebels, insure their utter ruin. They cannot be expected to throw their all upon the hazard, on the instant. But as time goes on, and as the powers of the rebellion wane, this fear will be less prevalent, the foul mists of falsehood in which they have been enveloped will clear away, and this hidden feeling will more and more come to the surface.

This is a matter of the utmost importance, and our leaders everywhere should be most careful never to leave unprotected any Unionists who have declared themselves such, on the faith of our assurances of protection. The fate of the Union men of Jacksonville must not befall others. It is too costly an experiment. We cannot afford to repeat it anywhere.

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