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The 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment--an oxymoron?

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It's hard to believe that the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment escorted General William Sherman in his march to Atlanta and beyond. An Alabama Cavalry for the Union? The words just don't seem to go together!

In my last blog post I mentioned the Alabama Cavalry Regiment consisted largely of men from Eastern Tennessee. That is not true. The folks from Alabama that formed the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment were from the northern mountain part of that state and they believed in the Union. They did not own slaves and saw no reason to support secession.

Like those in Eastern Tennessee, they were harassed and their families brutalized, driven from their homes into the Alabama hills, then into Union lines, and at last into the ranks of the U.S. Army.

Paraphrased from http://www.1stalabamacavalryusv.com/1sthistory.aspx:
 It is ironic that the Confederacy, created to preserve the principle of states’ rights over the primacy of the central government, instituted the first wartime draft in Ame…

A Comparison of Western Virginia and Eastern Tennessee in 1861

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I have been reading Jeff Shaara’s novel, A Blaze of Glory: A Novel of the Battle of Shiloh. His book reminded me that the east versus west disagreement that occurred in Virginia as described in my book, Storm Coming: A Novel of the Civil War in Western Virginia, also occurred in Tennessee. Except in Tennessee it was the eastern counties that wanted to secede and form a new state.
Before South Carolina attacked Fort Sumter on April 2, 1861, most Tennesseans had wanted to stay with the Union. In the 1860 Presidential election they had voted by a slim margin for the Constitutional Unionist John Bell, a native son and moderate who wanted to find a way out of the crisis that led to the southern states seceding from the union. The following map shows the 1860 election results:

Unlike Virginia’s Governor Letcher, Tennessee’s Governor Harris did not believe he had the authority to call a State Convention without a vote of the people.In February 1861, 54 percent of the state's voters voted a…

Storm Coming - A novel of the Civil War in western Virginia

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Breaking from my normal technical writing, I decided two years ago to write a history about the exploits of Alexander J. Swaney, one of my two paternal great-grandfathers, who fought in the Union cavalry during the American Civil War. His military records stored at the National Archives indicated he had been an orderly for General Buford from August 1862 until Buford died in December 1863. After Buford's death he became an orderly for General Wesley Merritt, who took over command of Buford's division after his death.

From the start I had many questions that needed answers. Swaney was born in southwestern Pennsylvania on a farm near the small village of Smithfield in Fayette County. Smithfield was only about six miles away from Morgantown, Virginia and a couple of miles from where I was born. His military records indicated he joined the First Virginia Cavalry regiment in September in Morgntown. The only First Virginia Cavalry I knew of at the time was formed in Winchester, Vir…