Redistribution of wealth was Unionists’ aim

“Planters in the low country of North Carolina… were terrified to learn that, as one wrote, Unionists among the lower classes had ‘gone so far as to declare [that they] will take the property from the rich men & divide it among the poor men.’

“It was no idle threat. From near the war’s beginning , bands of Unionists had been raid coastal plantations. Formed initially to protect themselves from conscription and Confederate raiders, their objectives eventually expanded  to include driving planters from their land and dividing it among themselves.”

— From “Bitterly Divided: “The South’s Inner Civil War” by David Williams (2010)


N.C. spared ‘wanton’ destruction by Sherman’s troops

“The ferocity with which Union foragers collected provisions in South Carolina diminished once they crossed into North Carolina. ‘The army burned everything it came near in the State of South Carolina,’ Maj. James Connolly wrote to his wife. ‘The men “had it in” for the State and they took it out in their own way…. Since entering North Carolina the wanton destruction has stopped.’

“If the ‘wanton destruction’ ended, the regular form of it did not. Charles Jackson Paine wrote to his father from Raleigh in April, ‘We take of course everything eatable from the inhabitants…. The country is cleaned out behind us — & it will be hard work for the people to live till fall.'”

— From “War Upon the Land: Military Strategy and the Transformation of Southern Landscapes During the American Civil War” by Lisa M. Brady (2012)


‘Flames licking up tall trunks was striking and beautiful’

“For some of Sherman’s men, like Daniel Oakey, scenes of burning forests verged on the sublime. Describing the army’s advance into ‘the wild regions of North Carolina,’ he wrote,

” ‘The resin pits were on fire, and great columns of black smoke rose high into the air, spreading and mingling together in gray clouds, and suggesting the roof and pillars of a vast temple. All traces of habitation were left behind, as we marched into the grand forest with its beautiful carpet of pine-needles….

” ‘As night came on, we found that the resinous sap in the cavities cut in the trees to receive it had been lighted by “bummers” in our advance. The effect of these peculiar watch-fires on every side, several feet above the ground, with flames licking their way up the tall trunks, was…  striking and beautiful.’

“Despite the scene’s allure, however, Oakey concluded that the ‘wanton’ destruction was ‘sad to see’….”

— From “War Upon the Land: Military Strategy and the Transformation of Southern Landscapes During the American Civil War” by Lisa M. Brady (2012)


‘The roughest looking sergeant he had ever seen’

 On this day in 1863: Private D.L. Day, Co. B, 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, writes in his journal while on duty at Hill’s Point:

“We were marched out and paraded, and [the inspecting officer] commenced his job. He found right smart of fault, but didn’t find a really good subject until he came to me. He looked me over, and taking Spitfire, gave it a very careful and thorough inspection. Handing it back he gravely informed me that he had inspected the whole army of the Potomac, and never before seen a rifle looking so bad as Spitfire and further complimented me by saying I was about the roughest looking sergeant he had ever seen.

“I nodded assent, venturing the remark that I had been in the artillery detail while here and my rifle had been somewhat neglected, but I had a gun on the Malakoff [a reference to Fort Fisher, designed after the Malakoff Tower in Sebastopol, Russia] that could knock the spots off the sun.

“He allowed that that was insolence and any more of it would subject me to arrest. Imagine the indignation of the chief of artillery on being threatened with arrest by an infantry captain. My first impulse was to call my command, lash him to the muzzle of the gun on the Malakoff and give him rapid transit over the tops of the pines, but better thoughts soon succeeded and I forgave him, thinking that perhaps he was doing as well as he knew how.”


Underground railroad did lay track in western N.C.

An enlightening  “I Was Wrong” from Civil War blogger Michael C. Hardy:
“I was digging around and came across something that I’ve been telling folks did not happen: escaped slaves on the ‘underground railroad’ in western North Carolina….
“It’s not so much that it did not happen, it is just that it VERY seldom happened. I have a post-war account here someplace that speaks on escaped Union soldiers telling slaves they could not come with the fleeing soldiers. A slave would be missed and sought after immediately. While escaped Union soldiers were always being sought after by the home guard, it is not the same as a master getting together a posse to hunt for an escaped slave.
The account below was written by Dr. Steadman O. Pine (sometimes listed as Oran Steadman Pine). Pine served as a private in the 14th Brooklyn and in the 5th New York ( Duryea’s Zouaves).  Pine was captured at Cold Harbor in June 1864.
“This account was written more than 40 years after the event, so we should not take it as gospel.
“Pine probably would have traveled through modern-day Avery or Mitchell Counties to join up with Federal soldiers. Of interest is his description of his escape in Charlotte.”


Union troops no match for N.C. mosquitoes

“An expeditionary force of 15,000 [Union troops] landed at Roanoke Island in early 1862 and spent much of the war enforcing a naval blockade from a fort on the coastline. The air at dusk shimmered with Anopheles quadrimaculatus. Between the summer of 1863 and the summer of 1864 the official annual infection rate  for intermittent fevers [malaria] was 233 percent — the average soldier was felled two times or more.”

— From “1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created” by Charles C. Mann (2011)


1862: Mail call’s leftovers make for a movable feast

On this day in 1862: Private D.L. Day, Co. B, 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, writes in his journal while on duty in New Bern:

“We were right glad to once more get back to camp, where we could clean ourselves up and get a change of clothing, but were much more glad to find mail and express matter from home. We were not, however, overjoyed to find an order awaiting us to be ready early in the morning to start on a long and rapid march, but having become accustomed to adapting ourselves to circumstances, the order was soon forgotten and we were absorbed in our letters and papers, after which the contents of the boxes were attended to. There was a generous quantity of goodies from the loved ones at home, some of which are of a perishable nature; what shall we do with them?…There are no taps tonight, and the candles burn long and well, so we sit down and gorge ourselves until we can eat no more, putting aside what we think will keep until we get back and crowding as much as we can that remains into our haversacks.

“By morning we are ready. I wear my best clothes, thinking if I should happen to become a guest at the Hotel de Libby [the Confederacy’s notorious Libby Prison in Richmond], I should like to appear respectable.”