The Heart of Confederate Appalachia: Western North Carolina in the Civil War

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The Heart of Confederate Appalachia: Western North Carolina in the Civil War. By John C. Inscoe and Gordon B. McKinney. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000. Pp. xi, 386. Acknowledgments, introduction, illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $39.95.)

John C. Inscoe and Gordon B. McKinney's new book offers a painstaking examination of western North Carolina during the secession crisis, the Civil War, and the war's immediate aftermath, but it fails to provide an adequate explanation of the reasons the highlanders behaved as they did during this crucial period in United States history. The authors argue that the highlanders were more devoted to their communities than to any abstract idea of a southern nation; that many maintained loyalty to the Union, though more out of self-interest than patriotism; and that many were provoked into embracing the Confederate war effort by a sense of outraged honor after the firing on Fort Sumter and President Lincoln's calling up of 75,000 militiamen. On the war's ultimate effect, Inscoe and McKinney argue that while "[i]ts immediate economic and social impact was overwhelmingly negative... by destroying the viability of the more traditional community system, the Civil War eased the way for the modernization of western North Carolina" (p. 285).

The authors are clear in their depiction of the highlanders as, at best, lukewarm revolutionaries. Once it became obvious that the war would be a prolonged struggle and, particularly, after the Confederate government instituted what many perceived to be a coercive and unfair draft law in April of 1862, the highlanders' loyalty began to wane. Inscoe and McKinney detail the conflict between the local Unionists and Confederates and provide effective and thorough accounts of the bushwhacking, raiding, and general turmoil of the times. Little effort is made, however, to place this tableau in a larger context. In fact, the trajectory described for the residents of western North Carolina-initial support for the war effort followed by resentment of the "Slave Power" and a desire for reconciliation with the Union-was, as others have argued, followed in many parts of the upper South.

In Arkansas, for example, a plot was hatched by Unionists to bring about the secession of six Ozark counties (Ted R. Worley, "The Arkansas Peace Society of 1861: A Study of Mountain Unionism," Journal of Southern History 24 [November 1958]: 445-456). …


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