In our series of Legacy of Hate, we explore the Confederate connection to Idaho history and politics.
But you can also just open up an Idaho map to find the influence of the Civil War in the territorial days. Click around the map below to explore some of the places named for their connection to the historic North and South.
At the beginning of the Civil War, Idaho wasn’t even a territory – let alone a state. But in 1862, gold was found near Idaho City.
The next year President Lincoln established the Idaho Territory, which included what is now Montana, Idaho and most of Wyoming. Thousands of people, many of them southerners, descended on the gold fields in search for their fortune.
At the same time, the Battle of Gettysburg dealt the Confederates a significant blow and the Union Army pushed into the South.
“And as it advanced, a lot of people in Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, they left,” says Boise State historian Todd Shallat, who co-wrote a book on the time period. “They went to what’s Montana today. A lot of them came to the Boise Basin.”
On July 4, 1863 – the day after Gettysburg, Union troops established a new post at Fort Boise, and appointed Union leaders to run the Territorial government. Shallat says establishing Idaho as a Northern stronghold was a key part of Lincoln’s war strategy.
“The Civil War [was] fought in the West over capitalist expansion. There was different ideas about how to do that, and the Lincoln Republicans, pro-capitalististic, pro-railroad, homesteader coalition went out and it’s still very, very powerful.”
Shallat says many of the Confederate sympathizers who came to Idaho were seeking a better life far from the horrors of the Civil War. But just because Richmond was thousands of miles away didn’t mean their dreams of a white-dominant, small-government, agricultural haven couldn’t come true.
“Ever since that day, Idaho has been a northern satellite for the South.”
Shallat says there are numerous examples in Idaho’s political history to illustrate the Gem State’s affinity for the South. He points to Senator William Borah who joined southern leaders to kill an anti-lynching bill in the 1920s, and then the resistance to the Civil Rights Movements in the 1960s, to the Aryan Nations in the 1990s.
This story is part of KBSX's news series "Legacy Of Hate."
Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
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