Shifting Loyalties: The Union Occupation of Eastern North Carolina

By Judkin Browning | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
The First Year of War

Sitting in his home in Raleigh on the evening of February 13, 1861, Governor John W. Ellis closed his day by writing in his diary about the pervasive fear that had preoccupied his thoughts since South Carolina seceded from the Union nearly two months earlier. “Coercion is all the talk. Whether that will be the policy of the incoming administration &c &c,” Ellis wrote. The despised word even came out of the mouth of Ellis’s babe. “Sitting at dinner to day our little daughter Mary about 20 months old overheard this word ‘coercion’ and pronounced it quite distinctly, and of course, we thought, very sweetly,” Ellis recounted. “But alas! How ignorant of its terrible meaning.” The North Carolina governor, along with many other inhabitants of the Upper South states, adopted a watch-and-wait attitude in the days before the firing at Fort Sumter. These conditional Unionists believed that Lincoln’s election alone did not justify secession. But they did agree with the right of secession, and their pacifism would endure only as long as the Federal government did not attempt to forcibly compel the seven seceded states to rejoin the Union. As Ellis penned in his diary, the term everyone used to represent that potential use of force was “coercion.”1

The word’s terrible meaning became clear on April 15, 1861, three days after Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, when President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 troops to put down the rebellion. When Secretary of War Simon Cameron sent a telegram to Ellis formally requesting North Carolina’s contribution to the national levy, the governor indignantly asserted that the call to arms against the seceded southern states was “in violation of the constitution and a gross usurpation of power.” He confirmed the state’s resistance to Lincoln’s action with his unequivocal statement, “You can get no troops from North Carolina.”2

Lincoln’s proclamation also alienated other Upper South states, prompt-

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Shifting Loyalties: The Union Occupation of Eastern North Carolina
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1- Antebellum Antecedents 9
  • Chapter 2- The First Year of War 27
  • Chapter 3- The Beginning of Military Occupation 55
  • Chapter 4- The African American Experience under Occupation 81
  • Chapter 5- The Experience of Northern Benevolent Societies during Occupation 105
  • Chapter 6- The Effects of Occupation on Union Soldiers 123
  • Chapter 7- White Rejection of Union Occupation 149
  • Conclusion 177
  • Notes 183
  • Bibliography 219
  • Index 239
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