Louisianans at UNC vowed to protect slavery

“As thousands of militiamen stared across Charleston Harbor at the scanty U.S. Army force occupying Fort Sumter, communities everywhere gathered to discuss the crisis….

“At a meeting of Louisiana students attending the University of North Carolina, 19-year-old Thomas Davidson recorded the proceedings. The Louisianans accused ‘fanatics of the North’ of robbing ‘the South of her most cherished liberties,’ and pledged their lives to the protection of slavery, ‘that Institution at once our pride and the the source of all our wealth and prosperity.’ ”

— From “What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery and the Civil War” by Chandra Manning (2007)


Yellow fever struck hard on N.C. coast

“With few exceptions the [Civil War] years passed without significant outbreaks. [One] epidemic, carried in by blockade runners, struck Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1862, taking almost 450 lives…An 1863 yellow fever attack on the Union army at New Bern was the worst; 700 soldiers lost their lives.”

— From “Yellow Jack: How Yellow Fever Ravaged America and Walter Reed Discovered Its Deadly Secrets” (2005) by John R. Pierce and Jim Writer

Returning sword reflected code of honor

“The theme of turning swords into ploughshares — albeit popular [circa 1890] — was less prominent, perhaps, than that of returning swords to their rightful owners. The press seized upon these human interest stories….

“In 1887 Captain James A. Marrow of Clarksville, Virginia, returned the sword of Lieutenant A. G. Case of Simsbury, Connecticut — a sword that had been captured by Confederates at Plymouth, North Carolina, in 1864.

“When Marrow learned that the sword’s owner still lived, he wrote to Case: ‘I am a true American and have no desire to retain any relic as a triumph of Americans over Americans.’ Reports of such chivalrous conduct restored American faith that a code of honor continued to exist in their culture….”

— From “Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture” by Michael Kammen (1991)

Civil War opened classroom jobs to N.C. women

“In the North, a feminization of teaching had already occurred in the antebellum era, but… in North Carolina in 1860 only 7 percent of teachers were women. During the war this proportion rose significantly, until by the end of the conflict there were as many female as male teachers in the state….

“As Calvin Wiley, superintendent of common schools for North Carolina, noted in 1862, ‘Many ladies are compelled  by the circumstances of the times to labor for a living; and there is no employment better suited to the female nature, and none in which ladies can labor more usefully, than in the business of forming the minds and hearts of the young’….

“J. K. Kirkpatrick, president of Davidson College, perceived a parallel between male soldiers and female teachers — and anticipated some of the same parental resistance to sending daughters to the classroom as sons to battle: ‘You have made your sons an offering on your country’s altar. Would you withhold your daughters from a service, noble in itself, and befitting their sex, without which their country must be subjected to a yoke more disgraceful and oppressive than that our ruthless enemies would lay upon our necks — the yoke of ignorance and its consequences, vice and degradation?’ ”

— From “Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War” (1996) by Drew Gilpin Faust

The Civil War’s worst investment tip?

“Confederate prospects for victory seemed brightest during the months after the Emancipation Proclamation, partly because this measure divided the Northern people and intensified a morale crisis in Union armies.

“Slave prices rose even faster than the rate of inflation…. A number of soldiers wrote home advising relatives to invest in slaves….The famous ‘boy colonel’ of the Confederacy, the planter’s son Henry Burgwyn [of Northampton County], who became colonel of the 26th North Carolina at the age of 21, urged his father to put every dollar he had into slaves. ‘I would buy boys & girls from 15 to 20 years old & take care to have a majority of girls ….’ he wrote. ‘I would not be surprised to see negroes in 6 mos. after peace worth from 2 to 3000 dollars.’

“Gettysburg cut short his life before he could witness the collapse of his dreams.”

— From “For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War” (1997) by James M. McPherson

‘Cold Mountain’: Feminism trumps realism

” ‘Cold Mountain’ can best be understood as a feminist antiwar film that turns almost every Lost Cause convention on its head. In the process, it distorts history at least as much as ‘Gods and Generals’… a film celebratory of Confederates at war….

“Virtually all white southern women in ‘Cold Mountain’ are either indifferent or deeply opposed to the war. This interpretation fits a modern sensibility, especially prevalent in academia…. Melanie Wilkes [Scarlett O’Hara’s sister-in-law] and her ilk would find few compatriots among their North Carolina sisters on Cold Mountain….

“But the large majority of white southern women — especially slaveholding women like Ada Monroe — resolutely supported the Confederate nation until very late in the conflict.”

— From “Causes Won, Lost and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War” (2008) by Gary W. Gallagher

After Worth Bagley: ‘No North and no South’

“As if orchestrated from on high to bring white Northerners and white Southerners together, the first soldier killed in the Spanish-American War was a white Southerner, Worth Bagley of North Carolina.

“Newspapers North and South vied with one another to describe the sectional symbolism of Bagley’s death. The New York Tribune announced the common theme: ‘The South furnishes the first sacrifice of this war. There is no North and no South after that…. We are all Worth Bagley’s countrymen.’ ”

— From “Southern Crossing: A History of the American South, 1877-1906”  by Edward L. Ayers (1995)

Pictured: badge from 1935 state convention of United Spanish War Veterans.

Lost and found: N.C.’s Civil War reputation

“In the Confederacy, North Carolina regiments endured a great deal of disdain from those of other states, especially Virginia. Union victories over small armies composed of North Carolina troops at Hatteras Inlet, Roanoke Island and New Bern early in the war rubbed salt in the psychological wounds of North Carolinians.

“One general from the Tar Heel State made the soldiers in his brigade promise  ‘not to visit wife, children or  business till we have done our full share in retrieving the reputation of our troops and our state.’

“When North Carolinians fought courageously in later battles with the Army of Northern Virginia… the conceited Virginians had been put in their place. ‘It was a proud day for the old state,’ a major in the 46th North Carolina wrote after Fredericksburg.”

— From “For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War” (1997) by James M. McPherson

Sorry, Colonel Rhett, we are not impressed

On this day in 1865: George W. Nichols, a major in Sherman’s army, writes in his journal in Averasboro in Harnett County, where Confederate Col. Alfred Rhett, former commander of Ft. Sumter, has just been captured:

“Rhett [is] one of the ‘first family’ names of which South Carolina is so proud. From the conversation of this Rebel colonel, I judge him to be quite as impracticable a person as any of his class. He seemed most troubled about the way in which he was captured. . . .

“One of [the Union soldiers], without any sort of regard for the feelings of a South Carolina aristocrat, put a pistol to the colonel’s head and informed him in a quiet but very decided manner that if he didn’t come along he’d ‘make a hole through him!’ The colonel came; but he is a disgusted man. I made no doubt that [the soldiers] would have had but little scruple in cutting off one branch of the family tree of the Rhetts if the surrender had not been prompt.”

N.C. women came through for Union POWs

On this day in 1865: Prisoner of war A.O. Abbott, first lieutenant in the 1st N.Y. Dragoons, records the POW train’s stop in Goldsboro, en route to Wilmington:

“There was also a camp of enlisted men about a mile from us, and they were suffering all it was possible for them to suffer and live. Many of them did not live. Some of the ‘ladies,’ God bless them, loyal women of North Carolina, heard of the sufferings of these poor men, and, regardless of the ‘order’ of the commandant of the post, visited them, ministering to their wants as best they could.

“Some of them came eight miles on foot, through the mud and wet. And one old lady and her two daughters came in an ox cart, twenty miles, to do what they could.”