Hate for Confederacy didn’t ensure love for Union

“In North Carolina there is a great deal of something that calls itself Unionism; but… it is a cheat, a Will-o’-the-wisp; and any man who trusts it will meet with overthrow.

“Its quality is shown in a hundred ways. An old farmer came into Raleigh to sell a little corn. I had some talk with him. He claimed that he had been a Union man from the beginning of the war, but he refused to take ‘greenback money’ for his corn. In a town in the western part of the State I found a merchant who prided himself on the fact that he had always prophesied the downfall of the so-called Confederacy and had always desired the success of the Union arms; yet when I asked him why he did not vote in the election for delegates to the Convention, he answered, sneeringly — ‘I shall not vote till you take away the military.’

“The State Convention declared by a vote of 94 to 19 that the Secession ordinance had always been null and void; and then faced squarely about, and, before the Presidential instructions were received, impliedly declared, by a vote of fifty-seven to fifty-three, in favor of paying the war debt incurred in supporting that ordinance! This action on these two points exactly exemplifies the quality of North Carolina Unionism. There may be in it the seed of loyalty, but woe to him who mistakes the germ for the ripened fruit!”

— From “Three Months Among the Reconstructionists” by Sidney Andrews in The Atlantic (February 1866)

Andrews was among the most acerbic of Northern reporters visiting postbellum North Carolina. Here’s how he viewed  “the native North Carolinian.”


In 1865 a chilly welcome awaited ‘all d—d Yankees’

“I spent September, October and November, 1865, in the states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia….

“I judge, from the stories told to me by various persons, that my reception was something better than that accorded to the majority of Northern men traveling in that section….

“In one of the principal towns of Western North Carolina, the landlord of the hotel said to a customer, while he was settling his bill, that he would be glad to have him say a good word for the house to any of his friends; ‘but,’ added he, ‘you may tell all d—d Yankees I can git ‘long jest as well, if they keep clar o’ me’; and when I asked if the Yankees were poor pay, or made him extra trouble, he answered, ‘I don’t want ’em ’round. I ha’n’t got no use for ’em nohow.’ In another town in the same State, a landlord said to me, when I paid my two-days’ bill, that ‘no d—n Yankee’ could have a bed in his house.’ ”

— From “Three Months Among the Reconstructionists” by Sidney Andrews in Atlantic Monthly (February 1866)


N.C.’s ‘mask of nationality’ wasn’t to be trusted

“Much is said of the hypocrisy of the South. I found but little of it anywhere. The North-Carolinian calls himself a Unionist, but he makes no special pretence of love for the Union.

“He desires many favors, but he asks them generally on the ground that he hated the Secessionists. He expects the nation to recognize rare virtue in that hatred, and hopes it may win for his State the restoration of her political rights; but he wears his mask of nationality so lightly that there is no difficulty in removing it.”

— From “Three Months Among the Reconstructionists” by Sidney Andrews in The Atlantic (February 1866)


‘He thought they were handy for wrapping purposes’

“In the important town of Charlotte, North Carolina, I found a white man who owned the comfortable house in which he lived, who had a wife and three half-grown children, and yet had never taken a newspaper in his life. He thought they were handy for wrapping purposes, but he couldn’t see why anybody wanted to bother with the reading of them. He knew some folks spent money for them, but he also knew a-many houses where none had ever been seen….

“I found several persons — whites, and not of the ‘clay-eater’ class, either — who never had been inside a school-house, and who didn’t mean to ‘low their children to go inside one.”

— From “Three Months Among the Reconstructionists” by correspondent Sidney Andrews in The Atlantic (February 1866)

About that “clay-eater” reference: In 1866, a dispatch in The New York Times  described “the notorious clay-eaters [as] the lowest representatives of the United States … little more than mere animals … strange, undeveloped [and] repulsive…. For the most part, however, they are long-lived and rarely ill, realizing the old notion that dirt is extremely healthy.”   

By 1984 the Times was regarding the practice less with disgust than with clinical curiosity. 


A ‘wide and pitiful difference’ during Reconstruction

“I often had occasion to notice [in the Carolinas and Georgia] the wide and pitiful difference between the residents of the cities and large towns and the residents of the country. There is everywhere a rigid spirit of caste….

“Thus, Charleston has much intelligence, and considerable genuine culture; but go 20 miles away, and you are in the land of the barbarians. So, Raleigh is a city in which there is love of beauty, and interest in education; but the common people of the county are at least 40 years behind the same class of people in Vermont.”

— From “Three Months Among the Reconstructionists” by Sidney Andrews in The Atlantic (February 1866)

Andrews, a prolific correspondent for Northern journals, spent September, October and November 1865, traveling North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia by stage and railway.  After having  “had much conversation with many individuals of nearly all classes,” he came away repulsed by the region’s present and future. Here’s how he viewed  “the native North Carolinian.”


‘A native North Carolinian,’ uncharitably viewed

On this day in 1865: Sidney Andrews, Southern correspondent for the Boston Daily Advertiser and the Chicago Tribune during the early days of Reconstruction, sums up his observations of North Carolina:

“Spindling of legs, round of shoulders, sunken of chest, lank of body, stooping of posture, narrow of face, retreating of forehead, thin of nose, small of chin, large of mouth — this is the native North Carolinian as one sees him outside the cities and large towns.

“There is insipidity in his face, indecision in his step, and inefficiency in his whole bearing. His house has two rooms and a loft, and is meanly furnished – one, and possibly two, beds, three or four chairs, half a dozen stools, a cheap pine table, an old spinning-wheel, a water-bucket and drinking gourd, two tin washbasins, half a dozen tin platters, a few cooking utensils, and a dozen odd pieces of crockery. Paint and whitewash and wall-paper and window-curtains are to him needless luxuries.

“His wife is leaner, more round-shouldered, more sunken of chest, and more pinched of face than her husband. He ‘chaws’ and she ‘dips.’ The children of these two are large-eyed, tow-headed urchins, alike ignorant of the decencies and the possibilities of life. In this house there is often neither book nor newspaper; and, what is infinitely worse, no longing for either. The day begins at sunrise and ends at dark; its duties are alike devoid of dignity and mental or moral compensation. The man has a small farm, and once owned six or eight Negroes.

“How the family now lives, the propping hands of the Negroes being taken away, is a mystery, even if one remembers the simple cheapness of mere animal life.”