February 12, 1864: Southerners in New York

New York City, 1861

The Richmond Whig reproduces, without comment, a very interesting sociological piece from a New York paper. It classifies the thousands of southerners living in New York City during the war into three groups: Secessionists, Unionists, and “No-Siders”. It then reports the relative wealth and habits of the three groups.

RICHMOND [VA] WHIG, February 12, 1864, p. 1, c. 6
Southerners in New York—Their Numbers,
Resources and Quality.
[From the New York Commercial.]

It is estimated that there are about 25,000 Southern people sojourning in this city and its environs, Brooklyn, Hoboken and Jersey City. They are mostly refugees, and may be divided into three classes, namely—the secessionists, the no siders and the Unionists. They stay at the hotels, they lodge in private boarding houses, and they rent our finest mansions; yet they keep so quiet, affiliating only with a choice coterie of friends and sympathisers, that but few of us are aware of their presence. In fact, their advent among us has had an effect to make rents high and houses scarce. Among them are some of the highest families of the South, whose names history loves to repeat, and men who, a few years ago, were fabulously wealthy. Numbers of them own valuable real estate in this city, or are interested to a considerable extent in various insurance companies, banks, etc. On the other hand, hundreds of them are absolutely dependent on their Northern relatives for their daily bread. These cases are generally widows, with their little ones, whose fathers have been killed in the war, the widow robbed of the little estate her husband had left her, and who has returned to the home of her youth, which she left years ago, happy and proud, as the bride of a planter’s son.

The Secessionists.

Of this class are the rich, those whose every interest is at stake when the “peculiar institution” is in jeopardy. A great many of these are of Northern birth—They cherish the doctrine of secession with religious zeal, and are bigoted beyond all reason. Many of them have sons in the Confederate service, with whom they have frequent intercourse. They also receive the Southern papers regularly. Most of this class came North because they could live cheaper and better there, during the war, than they could if they stayed at the South, while some come with the double purpose of escaping the Southern conscription and to save their Northern property from confiscation. They are blind worshippers of Jeff. Davis. when worse come to the worse, and nothing can save the South from defeat, they will fly to Europe, where they imagine they will be received like princes. They effect to care nothing about slavery, whether it exists or not, the question now being, whether or not the North shall rule the south. This class is in the minority of our southern visitors.

The Unionists

This class is in the majority. It consists chiefly of Southerners, includes some of the most respectable and old families of the South, especially of Virginia and the border States. Some of them came on here before the war, thinking that they could pass the time pleasantly and quietly until the difficulties were settled, which, coinciding with Mr. Seward, they looked upon as an affair of a few months. They then hoped to return to their homes, but finding that such was not the case, they concluded to stay here, eke out a living as best they could, some in business and some in Government employ. The gentlemen were unaccustomed to the heavy business which fell to their share, if they found anything to do, and many were unable to get work. The only resource left was that the ladies should do fancy work for the stores; or, (and these cases are few, as they had no friends to give as security for the rent,) open a private boarding-house. The sufferings of this class have been terrible. A large family which had lived in a palace at the South, passed the whole winter, last year, in one small garret room, in a tenement house. Many of these ladies have, so we understand, obtained work from the New York depository, by which they have managed to support a family.

The No Siders.

This class consists chiefly of the border State people, Southerners who own no property, and Northern wives of deceased planters, who have as great interests at the North as in the South. Others have arrived since the war began, having had a taste of the perils of frontier life. This class is by far the best off. They think they will not be materially affected as individuals, no matter which side is victorious. If the South, they trust they can make it all right again with their old comrades. If the North, why they are all right already. Bo they watch the conflict with apathy, and so they lead a life that has little in it to redeem it from the absolute contempt of the loyal, or of those who have decided convictions. 

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