SECRET YANKEES by Thomas G. Dyer


The Union Circle in Confederate Atlanta
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A groundbreaking account, with historian Dyer’s (Univ. of Georgia; Theodore Roosevelt and the Idea of Race, not reviewed) spotlight on the diary of a Yankee-born woman’s ordeal. When one reads of the Union flag burnings in Atlanta, the military concern for traitors to the Confederacy, and the vicious treatment of those who openly opposed secession, one understands why Cyrena Stone, left on her own in the Southern city by her husband, former Vermont businessman Amherst Stone, kept her political loyalties under her bonnet. According to her diary, which is reprinted here, Stone cannot even attend church without getting “embittered by hearing from the pulpit such vile aspersions cast upon the Government, such prayers for its destruction.” The logic and even the free speech of Unionists was not tolerated, and citizens of Atlanta instead flocked to crackpots, like “General” George Bickley of the Knights of the Golden Circle (admission $5), who proposed that the South conquer Mexico and the Caribbean. Some Unionists were heroic and openly defiant. William Markham’s views prompted calls for his assassination; mulatto Robert Webster saved dozens of hot, starving, and gangrenous wounded Union soldiers. Yet, Dyer correctly focuses on his diarist, who hid her miniature Union flag in her sugar bowl and had her estate ruined by both armies, as the doomed, pathetic defense of Atlanta was partially fought in her backyard. In late summer of 1864, General Sherman’s sacking of Atlanta left mass graves, mangled bodies, and ruined structures. “Union soldiers were surprised to find Unionists and loyal sentiments in Atlanta,” Dyer notes, but former pariahs like Cyrena Stone, who hid both escaped prisoners and freed slaves and did some intelligence work for the attacking army, were now somewhat protected and even influential. This is an important addition to Civil War scholarship, and an important reminder that history cannot be written in black and white. (13 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: April 20th, 1999
ISBN: 0-8018-6116-0
Page count: 392pp
Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1999