UNC’s Confederate history is very well documented: in the Confederate monument on campus, in the “Roll of Confederate Dead” in Memorial Hall, and in the names of several buildings. While the heavy focus on Confederate veterans is not surprising for a state university in the South, we often get asked about a largely unexplored aspect of Carolina history: alums who served in the Union army.
Were there any Union veterans from UNC? We’ve heard the question a lot, and never had a great answer. We do now: Yes, but not many.
After some research and consultation with colleagues around campus, we’ve identified a handful of UNC students who went on to serve in the Union army or in the federal government during the Civil War.
Francis Preston Blair, a native of Kentucky, attended UNC for the 1839-1840 school year. According to available student records, he was expelled from UNC. Blair also attended Yale before finally earning his degree from Princeton. He was living in Missouri when he joined the army, eventually rising to the rank of Major General.
Edward Mallet, UNC class of 1818, was Paymaster General for the United States from 1862 to 1865.
Edward Stanly attended UNC during the 1829-1830 school year. He was elected to the North Carolina state legislature and represented the state in Congress before moving to California. He was appointed by President Lincoln as military governor of Eastern North Carolina in 1862, but resigned the following year.
Junius B. Wheeler was a native of Murfreesboro and a veteran of the war with Mexico. He was student at UNC from 1849-1851, then transferred to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where he earned a degree in 1855. When the war began, there were split loyalties in his family: one of his half brothers was an officer in the Confederate Army. Wheeler served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers throughout the war.
George H. Williamson, from Cincinnati, Ohio, was a student at UNC during the 1860-1861 school year. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War.
We think there are almost certainly more Union veterans who attended UNC, but these are the only ones we know about right now. If you know of any, or have suggestions, let us know. If we confirm any others, we will add them to this list.