North Carolina Civil War Documentary

By W. Buck Yearns; John G. Barret | Go to book overview
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VII
WAR IN CENTRAL AND WESTERN COUNTRIES

The central and western counties of North Carolina, although generally free of Union troops during the first two years of the war, experienced difficult times. This was due primarily to disaffection in the region which by 1863 had reached an alarming stage. As early as November 1861, Governor Henry T. Clark had become concerned over conditions in the mountains. On this date he wrote authorities in Richmond that he was receiving "numerous communications from the North Carolina counties bordering on East Tennessee" requesting help against traitors.1

The situation grew worse in the spring of the following year when the Confederate congress passed the first of three laws which were particularly obnoxious to the mountain people. This was the Conscription Act of April 1862. The other two pieces of legislation which brought the war home forcibly to the region were the tax-in-kind and the impressment acts passed in 1863. For mountain folk, accustomed to individual freedom, these acts were especially galling. Of the three pieces of legislation, the Conscription Act of 1862 was the most distasteful. Having responded most generously to the early call for troops, the mountain counties in many cases were already stripped of young men by the time conscription went into effect. The additional demand for troops, therefore, met with considerable opposition, as did future legislation expanding the draft.

Furthermore, many western Carolinians placed little or no stigma on desertion, and the warm welcome they accorded army deserters caused the mountains to fill up with the disloyal from all of the southern states. The heavily armed deserters many times formed bands to plunder and murder. They perpetrated every sort of outrage.

The war was hardly a year old when Secretary of War George W. Randolph wrote Governor Vance and other governors that "our armies are so much weakened by desertion . . . that we are unable to reap the

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1
Official Records, Ser. 1, 52, Pt. 2:209.

-93-

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