When Union troops took control of Confederate territory, the residents had to take a loyalty oath promising to uphold the U.S. Constitution and government. In return, they were allowed to keep their homes and land, travel, get protection from the U.S. Army, and receive rations and support from the U.S. government.
Loyalty oaths were most commonly required of former soldiers, but thousands of Confederate women took the oaths to protect their homes, families, and livelihoods. By the end of the war, these oaths came to symbolize the possibility of reconciliation.
The first item in this pair of sources is a loyalty oath signed by Margaret Dunn in Missouri in 1862. Missouri was a border state, but tens of thousands of Missourians supported and fought for the Confederacy. Loyalty oaths varied from region to region because different commanding officers determined the phrasing and demands of the oaths.
The second item is a sculpture by artist John Rogers. He sculpted this scene, entitled Taking the Oath and Drawing Rations, seven months after the end of the Civil War. It uses the well-known practice of taking loyalty oaths to represent the daunting task of reuniting the Union and Confederacy. A genteel white woman and her young child represent the Confederacy. They have come to take the oath in order to receive rations they need. Rogers used a woman and child because he knew they would evoke sympathy. An officer taking off his cap, a sign of respect, represents the Union. He will administer the loyalty oath. A Black child looks on. He has come with the white family and holds the basket that will be filled with rations after the oath.
This sculpture struck a chord with white Americans in the post-war era. John Rogers sold so many copies that his workshop could not keep up with the demand. The sculpture came to be considered his masterpiece, and it was one of only two Civil War-themed sculptures that he continued to sell until his retirement in 1892.