Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Union Soldier with a Confederate Flag

I spent some time last night walking through Cowpen Pond Cemetery, where many of my ancestors are buried, and found this to be of interest.
The grave is the final resting place of "H.W." Neel (also given as "W.H. Neel"), a Civil War soldier, and someone placed a Confederate flag by his headstone. This is commonly done to honor Confederate soldiers at cemeteries across the South.
Neel, however, was not a Confederate at the end of the war. In fact, he was fighting for the other side.
According to his service record, Neel enlisted in Company D of the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry, a Union regiment, near the end of the war. Born in 1847, he was 18 years old when he joined the Union army at Pensacola in March of 1865.
Formerly a soldier in Company E of the 5th Florida Cavalry (Confederate), Neel deserted near the end of the war and made his way to Pensacola where he enlisted in the Union Army. He left the Union regiment in August of 1865, after the end of the war.
His story was actually more common than many realize today. By the end of the war, many Confederate soldiers realized that the "Cause" had been lost. They were also irate over the fact that Confederate commissary agents were roaming through the country taking livestock and other food supplies, often at gunpoint, from families that were near starvation themselves. Hundreds of men from Florida deserted during the last year of the war and joined the Union side because they believed the Confederate agents were mistreating Southern civilians.
Governor John Milton, also from Jackson County, wrote numerous protests to Richmond about the treatment of civilians in his state, but they largely fell on deaf ears. He stated on several occasions that many loyal Floridians felt their families were being treated worse by Confederate commissary agents than by the Union army.

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