Would you join the Union or the Confederacy?It's May 1861. The Civil War has started and the country is taking sides. You are a white farmer in Kentucky.... Although Kentucky is a slave state, you...

Would you join the Union or the Confederacy?

It's May 1861. The Civil War has started and the country is taking sides. You are a white farmer in Kentucky....

Although Kentucky is a slave state, you have never owned a slave. Would you go north to join the Union Army or join the Confederates? Be specific; you must make a choice and discuss your reasons. Please be very specific and detailed.

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Having personally lived half of my life in a Northern and the rest in a state of the Deep South, I know that to this day, people in the North do NOT consider Kentucky a Northerner state (certainly its neighbors Illinois and Ohio do not) and the people in the Deep South certainly do not consider Kentucky as part of the South.  Therefore, from these perspectives, this white farmer with no slaves has no allegiance to either side. (I also have ancestors from Kentucky who resided in Kentucky in the 1800s and they did not participate in the Civil War.)

Would it not seem logical that he would want to do nothing just as Jimmy Stewart's character in the movie "Shenandoah" feels.  He and his sons refused to fight in the war until Northern soldiers took his youngest boy captive.  when the father declared, "Now this war is personal.  I have a reason to fight."

So, unless this man has a vested interested in some aspect of the War or is a strong advocate of some principle such as that of states' rights or slavery as were the Southerners, why should he want to risk his life?  

Forced to take a side he might be pressured after the election of 1861 to become a Union soldier when Unionist candidates won 9 of 10 congressional seats and voting on issues became pro-Unionist.  Added to the powerful force of politics, the farmer may have had the foresight to see that the strength of the country was moving to the more heavily populated industrial North, and it was mor likely that the North would win.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Most likely, the farmer in the south...regardless of whether or not he owned slaves...would feel obligated to fight for his home and with the people of his region.  It was a matter of honor which, unfortunately, seems to have been more valued then than it is today where most people jump on the most popular bandwagon rather than thinking for themselves and deciding what is right for him, his family, his hometown, etc. 

During this time, states rights were a huge issue.  Just like today, big government threatened to take away all the rights of the individual states to decide what was right for themselves.  Back then, the southern states banded together to say, "To heck with you.  What you say will hurt our economy and our crop production, not to mention our way of life."  So, they seceded from the Union and decided to fight.  Right or wrong, whether you agree or not, the farmers fought for what was in their best interest.  The north didn't understand how their ideas were unfair since they were mostly cities and factories...fewer farms since the growing season was so short.  Consequently, the need for large labor forces were not needed there, or at least not in the way they were needed in the south for harvesting vast crops.  This is where the slavery issue comes into the Civil War.

Hope this helps!

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would have to say that my answer would depend on what I valued during the time period.  Not being able to escape the web of history when being placed back in it, I would say that if I valued freedom for all as a foundational concept in my own life, I would be for the North.  Yet, if I felt that being able to control my own sense of destiny was important, then I would probably advocate for the South, who felt that the war was about preserving a sense of Southern autonomy.  In an odd way, this debate is seen in Sir Isaiah Berlin's "Two Concepts of Liberty," where he suggests that freedom consisted of a sphere of positive freedom, when people can feel free to do whatever they wish, and negative freedom, when people can feel a level of non- interference and the ability to be left alone.  A Northerner would support their side in defense of positive freedom, while the Southerner would be driven by the idea of negative freedom, the ability to be left alone.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since I am a well-prepared person who enjoys not getting shot and would hate not having anything to defend myself with, I would go for the Union.

The confederates were a culture of their own. They still are, and I can tell you because I live in the South. The mannerisms of Southerners are very deeply-rooted, and they enjoy their ways of life complete with the football, the church, and their comfort foods. I am not putting them down, but I can almost see how my neighbors, whose ancestors were confederate soldiers, were so resistant to change and so obstinate in that they would win the war. It is because the Southern individual has a very warm connection to their roots and they will go to any length to defend them even if they lose the battle.

I, however, am not a Southerner, just a happy guest of the South- soI will jump the boat any day and run North to save myself.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Just because I have never owned a slave does not mean I don't want one. I might just be too poor. So if this is based on character traits of my described character, I could still choose either way. From my own point of view, I would choose the Union because I'd assume they are stronger.
epollock | Student

If I were in Kentucky, I would fight to protect my family, friends, and property. I wouldn't leave my farm and family to go fight somewhere I might not ever know.