L & T Respess Books has issued their List 355: Civil War & Reconstruction in North & South Carolina. South Carolina was the prime instigator of secession and the Civil War that followed; North Carolina slower to join the cause. When Lincoln started calling on southern states to send soldiers to defend the Union is when several others, North Carolina included, joined the fray. The material fits within a tight chronological window, mostly eighteen sixty-something. The South, in particular, was a very different place before and after this period. There are many letters from soldiers fighting in the war in this collection. Books, broadsides, manuscripts, documents, maps, and newspapers are offered. Oddly, there is not much about the slaves. The war was fought primarily over the issue of slavery, but the slaves themselves did not play a major role. Here are a few choices for those whose collections are centered on the Carolinas.
A long war can take its toll on the people, particularly those called to do the actual fighting. By 1863, Respess says “the North Carolina mountains filled with evaders of conscription and deserters.” In an about-face, some wanted to to secede from the Confederacy. Running for reelection in 1864, North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance called for perseverance. He spoke in Wilkesboro on February 22, 1864, encouraging people to continue obeying the law and the state constitution. This broadsheet of his speech is titled Address of Gov. Vance on the Condition of the Country. He argued against seeking a separate peace with the Union, not to “fly to evils you know not of.” He continued, “I have no more doubt now about the establishment of the independence of the Southern Confederacy than I have of my own existence, provided we remain true to the cause we have solemnly taken to support...” And, “[North Carolina] will dare endure to the bitter end. The men who suffer are the men who win.” There was lots of suffering, though I'm not sure anyone really “won,” though the North prevailed. Vance at least won reelection and many more elections thereafter, including returning as Governor in the 1870s a decade after retiring, and serving as a North Carolina senator from 1879-1894, when he died in office. Item 13. Priced at $4,500.
How did people travel between the North and South when necessary during the Civil War? I'm not sure if it was even possible in parts of the South controlled by the Confederacy, but by 1864, New Bern, North Carolina, was in Union hands. That's when Mr. W. S. Benjamin needed to travel to New York. Item 40 is a loyalty oath and permit to travel he obtained. This document states that he is a “Loyal Citizen of the United States, residing in a State now in rebellion, or who has sympathized with the seceding States.” It says he is going to New York “on business,” and shall be furnished with the proper permits to return. $125.
Next is Resolutions Adopted by McGowan's Brigade, South Carolina Volunteers, from February 6, 1865. There is some irony here the members of the brigade probably did not notice. In part, it says “If we then judged that the enemy intended to impoverish and oppress us, we now know they propose to subjugate, enslave, disgrace, and destroy us...our cause is righteous and must prevail...unawed by future dangers, we declare our determination to battle to the end, and not lay down our arms until independence is secured. Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?” The irony, of course, is that their cause was to chain and enslave other people. It should also be noted that they did not battle to the end or refuse to lay down their arms until independence was won. A few months later, they laid down their arms. Item 99. $200.
This is a typescript account by Henry T. Bahnson entitled An Exchange of Prisoners dated 1913. Bahnson published a couple of pamphlets on the war but this one appears unpublished. A note by Bahnson's son said it was written by his father recounting his experiences as a Confederate soldier at the age of 17. The prisoner exchange took place between two steamboats anchored on the James River on Christmas Day, 1863. Bahnson writes, “Gaunt and haggard, their shivering frames scantily covered with filthy rags, these spectres of humanity tottered and crawled, or were carried, until each vessel had exchanged 500 object lessons of the horrors of Northern and Southern military prisons.” He notes there was “jocular banter” between the men during the exchange, but the language became venomous, with curses and threats, once the exchange was completed. Item 4. $300.
We tend to think the Civil War ended when Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865, but he surrendered only his army. There was no universal surrender from the top. It wasn't until Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Sherman on April 24 in Durham, North Carolina, that the war for the most part ended, though fighting still continued in smaller locations. This is a letter written by Albert Whitley, a Sergeant in the Union army, to his sister on April 19. He recounts Sherman's march from Goldsboro to Raleigh and the continuing skirmishes. He said that Johnston had proposed surrender. While a surrender had not yet been arranged, Whitley writes “...undoubted the War will end soon.” Item 48. $300.
That left just one item to close out North Carolina's secession. Item 59 is An Ordinance Declaring Null and Void the Ordinance of May 20th, 1865 (should be 1861). This didn't just repeal North Carolina's secession, it said it was now and always had been null and void. Furthermore, it declared any amendments to the state Constitution after secession null and void, restoring North Carolina's constitution of 1789 that ratified the U. S. Constitution. Item 59. $1,250.
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