Shifting Loyalties: The Union Occupation of Eastern North Carolina

By Judkin Browning | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
The Beginning of Military Occupation

When advance scouts brought the word on March 13, 1862, that Union soldiers had disembarked from ships on the Neuse River about ten miles south of New Bern, excitement and dread gripped the town. The residents had been anticipating this moment for several months. In January, newspaper editors complained that rumors of a Yankee landing fueled a “cruel and unnecessary panic now raging in our town, crushing up furniture and driving crowds of people from their homes.” In February, the Bank of New Bern stopped accepting North Carolina Treasury notes, fearing that Union capture would render them worthless. Even the weather seemed to portend something ominous; on March 6 it snowed all day in New Bern—a rare occurrence. As if divining disaster from the heavenly signs, citizens hustled to load up on supplies. The next day, the New Bern Daily Progress editors witnessed “the greatest rush we have ever seen on a store in Newbern.”1

Though some panicked, other residents demonstrated their resolve. Editors of the Daily Progress had vowed to continue publishing the paper throughout the war: “Though the war be brought to its very door it shall not suspend.” In January, a “worthy gentleman” publicly bet five hundred dollars that the Yankees would not invade New Bern. There was no word on how many took him up on that losing wager. Few people left the city on March 13, though many did prepare a train for a quick departure on the morrow if necessary. These residents exuded confidence in their defenders. On the morning of the fourteenth, Confederate soldiers reinforced this belief with their jocosity. Many suggested that local ladies prepare meals to feed them on their triumphant return from the morning’s battle.2

Mary Norcott Bryan had risen early to prepare extra dinners, “expecting to feed the Confederate soldiers.” But late morning brought sounds of heavy fighting and messengers relaying the grim news of Confederate de-

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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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