November 20, 1862: Memphis Unionism

Memphis in 1862

The New York Times reports that after a few months of occupation, the citizens of Memphis have found an unexpected well of Union sentiment. Considering that trade with the North had resumed for them, unlike places still under Confederate control, maybe not that unexpected.


In the large cities of the South, captured by our arms, there are very hopeful and cheering manifestations of the Union sentiment. The Memphis papers of the 11th bring us long and glowing accounts of an “immense Union demonstration” in that city on the preceding day. There was a prodigious procession of citizens — over three thousand being in line; there was a prodigious mass meeting in the theatre, at which glowing speeches were delivered by distinguished gentlemen; there were flags and bands of music; there were two Union Clubs, German Turners, and citizens on horseback; there were boys and girls costumed in white, and bearing devices and emblems; there was (to quote the Memphis Bulletin) a “magnificent car, of immense proportions, covered with pink, and drawn by twelve gray horses, while in the centre rose a dome of blue, resting on pillars, and within the circle of the dome, stood a tall young lady of a regal style of beauty, (whose name the Memphis editor does not hesitate to give,) habited in the costume of the Goddess of Liberty.” In short — for we cannot add to the ornamental skill of the Bulletin — “beauty was there, brave warriors, loyal men, flouting banners, streamers wantoning in the wind, flags displaying the emblems of our proud nationality, and martial and patriotic airs pealing from trumpets and bounding from drums, added an exultant feature to the magnificent display.”

All this in Memphis — in that city from which, of all cities of the South, we heard, but a few months ago, the loudest and fiercest declarations of deathless devotion to the rebellion — where the howls of defiance to the Yankees fairly split the ears of the world — where every soul had sworn to perish in that last ditch which Gen. PILLOW had dug and Rev. Gen. POLK had consecrated. In the Spring, the Memphians were in the precise condition of mind in which the Richmond correspondent of the London Times describes the people of the rebel Capital, and of the entire South, now to be. But they have grown wiser since then; half a year of Union rule has effected a change in the city. In all this, there is an instructive lesson to the London Times man, as well as to those here who may yet imagine that the people of any part of the South will “fight to the last man,” or will not acquiesce in destiny when the fortunes of war go against them.

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