During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 Southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the Confederacy. Although the Union states included the Western states of California, Oregon, and (after 1864) Nevada, as well as states generally considered to be part of the Midwest, the Union has been also often loosely referred to as "the North", both then and now.
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Legally, the term originated in the Perpetual Union of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Also, then and now, in the public dialogue of the United States, new states have been "admitted to the Union", and the President's annual address to Congress and to the people has been referred to as the "State of the Union address". Even before the war started, the phrase "preserve the Union" was commonplace and a "union of states" had been used to refer to the entire United States. Using the term "Union" to apply to the non-secessionist side carried a connotation of legitimacy as the continuation of the pre-existing political entity.
During the American Civil War, those loyal to the federal government and opposed to secession living in the border states and Confederate states were termed Unionists. Confederate soldiers sometimes styled them "Homemade Yankees". However, Southern Unionists were not necessarily northern sympathizers and many of them – although opposing secession – supported the Confederacy once it was a fact.
Still, nearly 120,000 Southern Unionists served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and every Southern state raised Unionist regiments. Southern Unionists were extensively used as anti-guerrilla forces and as occupation troops in areas of the Confederacy occupied by the Union. Since the Civil War, the term "Northern" has been a widely used synonym for the Union side of the conflict. Union is usually used in contexts where "United States" might be confusing, "Federal" obscure, or "Yankee" dated or derogatory.
In comparison to the Southern Confederacy it opposed, the Union was heavily industrialized and far more urbanized than the rural South. The Union states had nearly five times the white population of the Confederate states (23 million to 5 million). The Union's great advantages in population and industry would prove to be vital factors in its victory over the Confederacy in the American Civil War.
The Union states were:Template:Col-1-of-5
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia*
* Border states: In Kentucky and Missouri, pro-secession factions declared for the South and those states were claimed by the Confederacy, but had both Union and Confederate state governments claiming power.
Kansas joined the Union on January 29, 1861, after the secession crisis had begun but before the attack on Fort Sumter. West Virginia separated from Virginia and became part of the Union during the war, on June 20, 1863. Nevada also joined the Union during the war, becoming a state on October 31, 1864. Portions of what is now Southern Nevada were part of New Mexico territory, which at one point was claimed by the Confederacy.
- Current, Richard N. (1994). Lincoln's Loyalists: Union Soldiers from the Confederacy. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508465-9.
- Mackey, Robert R. (2004). The UnCivil War: Irregular Warfare in the Upper South. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3624-3.
- Pro-Union Southerners
- Southern Unionists - from a history of the 1st Alabama Cavalry, U.S. Volunteers
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