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Group wants to honor southern unionists

March 28, 2012 at 4:26 PM

PORTSMOUTH, Va., March 28 (UPI) -- The Portsmouth, Va., City Council postponed action on a proposal to designate May as a month to honor those who backed the Union during the Civil War.

The Portsmouth History Commission has already designated May as "Southern Unionist History Month," The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot reported. History Commissioner Greg Eatroff, who moved to Virginia from New Jersey when he was 10, said he and a friend came up with the idea in 2010 when there was a dispute about the designation of April as Confederate History Month.

"Both of us, being carpetbaggers, said, 'Hey, what about us?' " Eatroff said.

But Eatroff said it is important to remember that a significant number of southerners did not back secession. He said they included J.O. Lawrence, who was then mayor of Portsmouth and had to leave town when he refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy.

Some council members were surprised by Eatroff's proposal Tuesday night.

"You're kidding, aren't you? I didn't know we had any Union sympathizers," said Councilman Bill Moody Jr., a descendant of two Confederate soldiers.

The council did not vote on the plan because it had not been placed on the agenda in advance of the meeting.

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