A Year in the South, 1865

Live Chat
A Year in the South, 1865


The onset of civil war directly affects and triggers many changes in the livelihood of people. Despite some positive results, civil war is characterized by the hardships and challenges that it brings to the people after its end. In 1865, as the war progressed, people from both the North and the South began to choose sides. Apparently, some people from the South were fighting alongside the Yankees who were from the North, and some Yankees fought alongside Southerners. A good example of this is portrayed by George Thomas, a Southerner (Ash 43), who was very loyal to the Union and was among the most skilled Union general, despite being a Southerner.

As the war was ending, a lot of relationships between Yankees and Southerners were affected. The reason is that these fighters were all interrelated and lived in similar towns. At that time, great hostility aroused between these two groups of people. In fact, it was very difficult for them to coexist in the same dwellings having fought on different sides during the war. Thus, it is evident that the relationship between black and white Southerners and Yankees was heavily affected by the war.

Relationship between Southerners and Yankee Soldiers in 1865

The individual lives of the four Southerners described in Ash’s book can tell a lot concerning the relationship between Southerners and Yankees. First and foremost, while examining the life of John Robertson, one gets the perspective of a Southerner who was working for Yankees during the war. After the war, he returned home to his family and had to rethink what to do to survive. Robertson sought to start a new life, and he started calling himself a seeker. In fact, he was not a wealth- or adventure-seeker; what he sought was spiritual fulfillment (Ash 47). Robertson represented a part of people in the war who did not long for slaves as he did not own any of them. Apparently, he wanted the war to come to an end so that people could continue living their normal lives.

Robertson was a Confederate soldier, but after the Unionists gained ground, his only way to survive was to surrender and join the Unionists. Thus, this creates a clear picture that some people chose the side of the war that they wanted based on their ideological beliefs. If what the Yankees were advocating for seemed logical to a southerner, they were free to choose whether they wanted to fight for or against them. Talking about Robertson, there were some Unionists who having sworn allegiance to the Unionists noticed that Robertson was fighting against them before; therefore, they started plotting revenge against him. Taking this situation into account, it can be deduced that the relationship between white Southerners and Yankees was not friendly at all.

In addition to the above claims, one can analyze the relationship between the black Southerners, white Southerners and Yankees in 1865 by examining the life of Louis Hughes. He was a black man, and this meant that he was a slave, since all black people were slaves at that time. He and his wife were cooks in the home of a state Salt Commissioner and a Confederate Benjamin Woolsey. As they worked for him, Woolsey was impressed by their work so that they developed a good relationship and colluded with him in business. Hereby, Hughes sold tobacco rolls to the slaves who worked for Woolsey, and they split the profits fifty by fifty. With regard to this fact, it is evident that slaves (black Southerners) accepted their way of life and there existed a good rapport between them and white Southerners who acted as their masters. On the other hand, Unionists were also on good terms with blacks as they advocated for their emancipation. The relationship between black Southerners and Yankees was confused as one chose the side that was beneficial to them.

Despite the fact that Hughes was working with Confederates, he was still a slave and not a free man. His master took him and his wife to Mississippi together with other slaves after learning that Unionists were seizing the state. While Hughes did not want to surrender emancipation because he wanted to be a free man and to be able to free himself and his family from bondage, he had to support Yankees. Thus, in Mississippi, he found a way to request Union officers to come to their rescue. After the Unionists helped Hughes and his wife, they returned to Memphis; however, he did not feel that his freedom would be protected in post-war America. Thus, he moved to Canada before settling in Milwaukee in the USA (Ash 36). After thorough examination of Hughes’ story, it can be noted that many white Southern slave masters did not want to surrender emancipation even after the war ended. Also, the counter migration to Canada and the return to the United States were intriguing and showed that slaves did not feel free even after the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. Thus, this was a clear indication that there were no good relations between Southerners, mostly white, and Yankees during the war. Moreover, it is worth noting that there was a good relationship between black Southerners and Yankees because the letter ones liberated Southerners from their life of slavery at the hands of White southerners.

Additionally, through the life of Sam Agnew, another man whose life has been narrated in Ash’s book, it is possible to make deductions about the relationship between white Southerners and Yankees. Agnew owned large portions of land that required much manpower to cultivate and plant crops. Thus, he was dependent on the slaves to work on his plantations. Agnew did not support Yankees in any way, since they wanted to end slavery, which meant that he would lack the necessary labor to make his land profitable. During raids by federal officers, his crops were destroyed, and they miserably failed during the summer drought of 1865 (Ash 62). What is more, the entire workforce abandoned the land as the federal troops captured it to insure the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation was followed to the latter.

Notwithstanding the complicated situation, the slaves who worked on the Agnew Plantation did not desert him and also did not in any way threaten the Agnew family. In fact, they “simply quit working except when it suited them” (Ash 82). After being freed, the free men and women who were once slaves started negotiations on sharecropping that greatly puzzled the planters like Agnew’s who were not used to negotiating or bargaining with blacks. It is evident that before the Emancipation Proclamation, the relationship between blacks and white Southerners was not good as blacks were alienated and the only option for them was to become slaves. In the North where Yankees occupied, slavery was not practiced at all so that if a black person supported Yankees, they would coexist together.

Finally, the analysis of the life of a southern white woman Cornelia McDonald can aid in drawing a conclusion about the relationship between white Southerners and Yankees. While being married to a man who served in the Confederate Army, McDonald occupied a high class in her society. Since they were a wealthy family, they owned a couple of slaves to do their household chores and help them take care of their seven children. Unfortunately, her husband died, and Unionists started gaining power over Confederates. She was greatly affected by her husband’s death and the fall of Confederates as this meant that her luxurious life was ended.

After the spring of 1865, Unionists defeated Confederates. The new social order that aimed to liberate all the town’s slaves greatly haunted McDonald as it meant that her children had to perform degrading jobs to survive. She wanted to continue the struggle against the Yankee soldiers, but her family prevented her as she had to join them in the struggle for survival. It is possible to state that this woman represented white Southerners who flourished and had a good life by owning slaves. In fact, this group of people was the ones who greatly resented the fact that Yankees freed slaves and ended their luxurious lives. Thus, it is clear that there existed a huge rift between white Southerners and Yankees. Having analyzed the four individuals Ash described trying to explain how the situation was in 1895, it is evident that emancipation meant that white Southerners would not have anyone to work on their plantations and homes. Hereby, this was a severe blow to their livelihoods that is why they opted to fight Yankees. On the other hand, there was no difference between black Southerners and Yankees; in fact, they were thankful that Yankees liberated them.

Relationship between the Southerners and the Yankees after the War

After the Confederacy was defeated, the war came to an end, and Unionists were able to fully enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. The economy of Southerners was mainly agrarian, and they were largely dependent on their primary source of labor, namely slaves (blacks). Thus, with the end of slavery after the war, the economy of the South was largely affected. Consequently, many slaves who lived in the South migrated to the East and the North to start life as free people; this meant that a lot of industrious people left the South, negatively affecting the economy there.

With regard to white southerners, they continued to despise Yankees for affecting their lives in a negative way. Talking about McDonald, she continued to support the Confederate even after the war ended. On the other hand, slaves like Louis Hughes believed that they were moving to a new era and a new South; being liberated by Yankees, they were in good terms with them. People like Agnew were greatly affected since they used to own slaves and perceived themselves as a superior class; the emancipation affected their livelihoods a lot as there were no more slaves to work for them. With regard to John Robertson, he represented a group of people who was indifferent to black people since he did not own any slaves. The emancipation of slaves did not change his life, while it was changed by the ending war. In the end, he became absorbed in religion to escape Unionists who tried to pursue and kill him. Thus, many white Southerners felt resentment against Yankees since they destroyed their way of life.


Stephan Ash in his book A Year in the South, 1865 gives one the possibility to examine the life of the four Southern citizens and understand that people had to change their lifestyle so as to accommodate the new rules that had been put in place by Unionists. The relationship between black and white Southerners was adversely affected by the war. If any black Southerner had to work for a white Southerner, they were not treated as slaves but as normal employees with a reasonable salary. The way things were done in the South changed drastically, and it was very hard for white Southerners who were slave masters to accept that they and the ex-slaves were to be equal. Since Confederates were defeated, they had to surrender and work together with Unionists so that their relationship between the Southerners, both black and white, and Yankees had to change. Even though slaves had been freed, the poor remained to be poor and the elite war still the elite.