Shifting Loyalties: The Union Occupation of Eastern North Carolina

By Judkin Browning | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
The African American Experience under Occupation

Wednesday, January 14, 1863, found Beaufort still drying out from a recent storm and getting colder by the hour. The weather had not been the only turbulent event that week. Captain William B. Fowle Jr., Beaufort’s provost marshal, sat down that morning to write a letter to his department commander relating an event that had occurred just a few days earlier when an African American woman enraged two prominent Unionists, Joel Henry Davis and Henry Rieger. According to Fowle:

Mr. Davis and Mr. Rieger together tied the woman to a tree[,] her
arms over her head[,] and then whipped her severely, the flesh on
her arms where the ropes went was badly lacerated and her arms
covered with blood when I saw her—She was only released upon the
peremptory order of a private of the 9th N. Jersey, who says the treat-
ment was very cruel—Her crime was that she demanded her daugh-
ter whom Mr. Davis retained in slavery; she is a smart intelligent
woman and quite able to support herself and children.1

This story illustrates one of the ways in which African Americans asserted their independence—and the violent reactions such assertions could cause—in the wake of the Emancipation Proclamation. Many slaves felt emboldened by the Proclamation, which was a direct acknowledgment of their right to freedom and, as a consequence, of their right to assert themselves. Perhaps it was under such influences that on a brisk January day this African American woman sought out Davis, a man she knew well, to insist that her daughter be released from servitude, provoking the incident that Fowle described.

As the captain of a company of nine-month Massachusetts militia volunteers (the 43 rd Massachusetts Regiment), Fowle had only been in the

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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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