The Limits of LoyaltyOrdinary People in Civil War Mississippi

The Limits of LoyaltyOrdinary People in Civil War Mississippi

Jarret Ruminski

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9781496813961

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi


In The Limits of Loyalty, Jarret Ruminski examines the lives of ordinary people in Confederate Mississippi to show how military occupation and the ravages of war tested the meaning of loyalty during the American Civil War. The extent of southern loyalty to the Confederate States of America has long been a subject of historical contention that has resulted in two conflicting conclusions: southern patriotism was either strong enough to carry the Confederacy to the brink of victory or so weak that the Confederacy was doomed to crumble from internal discord. Mississippi, the home state of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, should have been a hotbed of Confederate nationalism, but the reality was more complicated. This study breaks the “weak/strong” Confederate loyalty impasse by examining how people from different backgrounds–women and men, white and black, enslaved and free, rich and poor–negotiated the shifting contours of loyalty in a state where Union occupation turned everyday activities into a potential test of patriotism. While the Confederate government demanded total national loyalty from it citizenry, this book focuses on wartime activities like swearing the Union oath, illegally trading with the Union army, and deserting from the Confederate army to show how Mississippians acted on multiple loyalties to self, family, and nation, thereby thwarting the government’s attempt to enforce nationalism at any cost. Ruminski also explores the relationship between loyalty and slavery to demonstrate how an internal war between slaves and slaveholders defined Mississippi’s social development into the twentieth century.