The Calamitous Long Night of Suffering Produced by Aristocratic Southern Leaders, Led by the Region’s Wealthiest Slaveholders, in Their Abortive Attempt, from December, 1860 until May, 1865, to Secede from the United States of America, Establish Armed Forces Capable of Winning an Extended War and Create a Sustainable “Slave Republic.”


The best corrective for the confusion created by, contemporaries and moderns, in their explanations of why the South started a war of secession lies in an examination of the remarks and actions by the region’s political leaders before secession, especially during volatile years of 1860 and 1861. Once the states south of the Mason Dixon line voted to secede, join the newly formed confederacy and initiate the fighting in Charleston harbor their comments become little more than embellishments. After the war as Lost Cause rationalizing expands justifications as a salve for the debilitating sting and deepening bitterness that flows from an annihilating defeat for the South. Historians properly examine and argue about a wider range of social forces and conditions, contingencies and the shifting emphasis of advocacy by the belligerents in their explanations of the war’s causation. Many of these forces and conditions might have been unappreciated or misconstrued by the political and military leaders, on both sides. Simply, decisions were made, a war followed and it had lasting consequences. In this drama, the actors and their decisions are identifiable. Also, the consequences of their actions, short and long term, are well documented. Regardless of whether they are wise men or fools, in both republics, established {USA] and aspiring [CSA], they are accountable for their decisions primarily by how their actions impacted on the American people. A substantial part of the post war rhetoric offered by apologist for both sides is devoted to identifying noble purposes justifying the massive blood letting and dying. Of course, the defeated South has proffered the most voluminous rhetoric.

In terms of causation, a primary aim of this site is to consider why the politicians in the Southern states, believed in 1860 and 1861, that only secession and war offered them sufficient protection for their vital interests. Subsequent to the war, the prodigious writings, tireless public speeches and the current growing thicket of blogs and websites by Southern partisans have provided a vast expansion of creative logic on causation and purpose. Much of this argument centers on the relative importance of the various provications. For example, believers in Southern nationalism prefer emphasis on states rights rather than slavery as a cause of the war. They seek to avoid the moral burden that adheres if the primary purpose of the Confederacy was to create a “slave republic” to assure the peculiar institutions a future. A government whose most important organizing principle is that of one human possesses the legitimate right, granted by God and law, to own another human, with the legal right to sell them like livestock, occupies a position that is fundamentally indefensible, especially morally. In four short years, the magnitude of the destruction and suffering, absorbed by both sides, makes the veracity of these competing explanations a high stakes game.

Inherently, in the Confederate republic secessionist are required to prove the need for separation from the United States. Second, the political leaders are accountable for the consequences for attempted secession. Once the secession votes are cast in the special called conventions in the Southern states the parameters of responsibility to decisions to join the newly founded confederacy and go to war. Once those votes are finalized subsequent explanations are doctored by the experience of war and its horrific outcome. At this crucial time, these republics, established [USA] and aspiring [CSA], state their reasons for “wading into the Crimson Sea” and risking an extended war far beyond their imaginations. During this time of war fever, the fate of the Old North State and the United States changes forever. One hundred and fifty years later, moderns wishing to know more about what happened and why will find more by ignoring what is offered after May, 1861. It is fun to read and listen to descendant partisans and historians with their imaginative possibilities a compulsory accountability requirement in a republic, expanded the grocery list of possible causes, however, the war was caused by those interests that persuaded them to pick up guns and fight. The heart of causation is found in the issue or issues that most frequently appear in their speeches and legislative actions in the period just before the first shots began the war. After the first shot is fired in anger subsequent explanations, unavoidably, are poisoned by the magnitude of the war’s continuation, horror and devastation. Interpretation before the war begins is a sufficient challenge and far more rewarding.

Even if the accuracy of the above explanation is accurate, it does not relieve the burden of accountability on the leaders and their constituents for deciding to fight a war. Leaders, on both sides, freely assumed responsibility, individually and collectively, for their legislative actions and, subsequently, implementing policies. If there is authenticity in their founding constitutions; the conflict was between two republics, one established based on free labor, one aspiring based on slavery. Both governments believed and constitutionally declared that they were republics. Boldly, they claimed that their form of governance guaranteed individual freedom in a way superior to the other. In fact, these highly stratified, honorific cultures vested power and its exercise overwhelmingly was located in the hands of an insulated elite. In the geographic area, south of the Potomac, especially in North Carolina, social mobility in 1861 differed very little from that found in 1790. The primacy of the landed ruling class was the primary factor determining the life chances of North Carolinians. Only after mid-1863, when the Confederacy begins to disassemble and lose control does one observe the resources of power, i.e., real and personal property, information, employment, governmental authority etc., become increasingly problematic. In spite of this military decline, Richmond decided to ride the horse of secession into the wall. This preference accelerated and deepened the Confederate journey into a crimson sea. Their willingness to fight on beyond hope is one of the biggest mistakes made by Confederate leadership and a misguided decision for which they bear the heavy responsibility for its outcome. Desertion, especially in the Confederate armed services, may lack the congruence necessary to constitute a political movement, however, as it escalates, it has a similar debilitating impact on the exercise of power by the rebel political and military elite.

It is boilerplate that all candidates in a republic voluntarily chose to seek elective office. They are not compelled, forced or required to run or serve. In fact, they are not required to serve for any length of time once elected. They may quit, at any time, or not seek re-election at their pleasure. Thus, they voluntarily assume full responsibility for their actions as public servants. This fact was true in the Confederacy and the Union. From December 1860 through May 1865, no matter how delusional, wrong headed or foolish their policy choices were, the leaders in Raleigh, Richmond and the other Confederate states bear the full burden of responsibility for their executive, legislative and judicial actions. It would seem that some assignment of responsibility to the appropriate people holding elective office for their deadly decisions would be a consideration of the highest priority. After the war, the leaders of the rebellion and secession constituted the group, living within the Confederacy during this time, who received the least penalty for their deadly decisions. Most of these men and their families quickly reassumed their positions of power and privilege. Since my eastern North Carolina kin were killed, wounded, maimed, imprisoned, died from disease and shoved into a condition of poverty for an extended period of time, I have a few axes to grind. On the Yankees, I will get to them later, right now, let’s assign a little responsibility for what happened, in terms of policy and why, south of the Mason-Dixon line.

It is a continuing mystery why people who descend from the powerless men, those who fought, in the greatest number, for the South, plus paid the heaviest price for it, will, in modern times, defend the decisions made by the region’s wealthiest slaveholders and their privileged friends. At the outset, figuring out the complexities of rapidly changing political conditions was the overwhelmingly responsibility of the region’s elite leaders. We reacted to the propaganda, race baiting, “news” reporting and shrill speeches that flowed from the politicians, the newspapers and, even more sadly, the preachers. Naturally, once the war started it developed its own hatreds among the men shooting at each other and, amazingly, the residue of that bitterness survives and even surfaces to poison our politics.

Second, in a republic there is a presumption that the existing government and its policies are working until those people advocating change can prove the necessity of alteration. They bear the primary burden of proof. This bias is essential to establish and maintain order, the number one objective of all governments. Stable governance requires such conservatism, even in republics. The South seceded from an established government, some seventy years old. Men from South of the Potomac had voluntarily sought and held power, from the highest office to the lowest during over seven decades. These concrete actions driven by securing, holding and excising power, all of which Southerners succeeded at doing, trumps the political theorizing about the intent of the Founders and the division of powers found in the Constitution they established. The only legitimate remedy for the Southern grievances was available in the United States Congress, state legislative bodies from the power awarded by Constitutional prescription and reserved therein and the courts. Many men, at the time, mostly lawyers and judges, in North Carolina and the other Southern states, pointed out that popular theories justifying revolution and secession were without Constitutional foundation. The reckless action taken by the Southern states could not be sustained by peaceful means. Only winning a war could guarantee the Confederacy a future.

When I read their debates, in legislative bodies, on these issues it feels like the leaders are totally detached from the general population, not worrying about the prowess of their opponent or the probability of an extended war; and blinded by affronts, many of which are imaginary or embellished, to their honor, both personal and for their state. Their rarified conception of their importance is common and such extends to others in their social class. I encourage readers to delve into their papers and read the moving letters written to them by ordinary citizens. Ones pleading the case of a fragile son who they know can not bear the full weight of fighting. These letters increase as news reaches home on the level of violence and the horrific dying. The response reduces these letters to little more than wasted ink and paper.

In Civil War application, all elected officials, in both governments, at the national, state and local levels, were responsible for their actions or policies. Since the states south of the Mason-Dixon line attempted to seceded from an established government, the United States of America, they bore the primary burden of proving that their actions rested on sufficient grievances and, in this case, that the level of violence that resulted was justified.

By August 1863, North Carolinians, at home, were fed up and disgusted with the war. The target of their animus was the secessionist elected officials in North Carolina and the Confederacy. Suddenly, these leaders faced a peace movement with over 100 demonstrations in two months throughout the state. Also, the party of secession, the Democrats, struggled to survive and kept losing elections. In fact, the 1862 election of Zebulon Vance as governor was loss for them because the state’s legal voters elevated a man to highest executive office that the secessionist unhappily viewed as a retread Unionist and a moderate. The massive killing, dying and loss of territory (with evaporating prospects for recovery) suffered by North Carolina and other Southern states suggested that the only future awaiting the so-called Confederacy was one that would culminated in a humiliating, total defeat.

The protesting women of Wayne County railed against the men making policy and running the governments in Raleigh and Richmond. They accused them of being massively incompetent because they were getting their men killed while putting even the folks at home in increasing danger. Opposition at the local level would not abate and while not recognized by the leaders, the growing loss of support was the beginning of the end. From this date, the gap between common people and the Confederate leaders only widened until hostilities ceased in April and May of 1865. Further, the level of desertion increased as a growing number of fighting men felt the situation was not only hopeless but also filled with accelerating danger to own survival.

By mid-1863, when peace negotiators passed between the lines of the two armies, soldiers, on both sides, would applaud. Of course, after January 1, 1863, Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation successfully drove a wedge and created distance between the interest in peace by the slaveholding leaders and that of ordinary people without slaves. These leaders were highly motivated to fight to the bitter end to protect their slave property, however, the wish for peace grew powerfully, in the South, North and West, from this date until the end of the war. On one occasion, when the news that the returning peace negotiators had failed to reach a settlement again, a comment was heard by a major in a North Carolina regiment, when he, in cold resignation, said, “I guess we will just wade deeper into the crimson sea.”

And, wade into it they did, with obvious deadly results. Even if, Confederate motivations for secession and fighting were sufficient in the Spring of 1861; by mid-1863, the accumulation of heavy, devastating defeats placed greater and expanding responsibility on the privileged Southern leaders who decided to continue war.

It seemed only calloused and insensitive that the combined impact of defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, alone, would have little weight, by Confederate leaders, in their decisions to continue fighting. They foolishly held out for a settlement that allowed the survival of the Confederacy. The Lincoln administration had little strategic reason, due to their superior military position, and showed no inclination towards accepting anything but a total surrender. The willingness of Confederate leaders to continue the fight seems to have rested, in part, on the long shot possibility that the Union might make some colossal, game-changing, military mistake. Simply, after mid-1863, their intransigence, selfish pursuit of protecting their financial investment in slave labor and reckless gambling on long odds resulted in a senseless, unnecessary loss of life and debilitation for thousands and thousands of fighting men, on both sides. During this time, if a Confederate gg grandfather or other kin died, does it really matter how many Yankees were killed? Was Biblical guidance sought and pray offered in determining the wisdom of such deadly decisions? It could not have been a factor of any significance for these privileged, reckless leaders.

This site focuses on politics and war, before, during and after the Civil War, without illusion. I only admire the powerless men and women, in all sections, who suffered the most, including my extended eastern North Carolina family, from the impact of the decisions made by the aristocratic, ruling class of the South. My interest in this work flows from a long scholarly interest in the cross cultural, comparative study of the politics necessary for: starting a war, fighting a war, ending a war and justifying a war, once completed. It is fascinating and underwhelming to read the contortions of logic that usually dominates all four stages. Such study consistently unearths support for an insight of Will Rogers that among humans “common sense ain’t common!” Finally, I agree with Walt Whitman that the most descriptively accurate name for the war is “The War of Attempted Secession.”


From 1860 to 1865, in the competing republics, established and aspiring, men sought political office by free choice. They were not required to serve. Participating in the scramble for power was a completely voluntary and individual choice. Thus, they freely assumed the responsibility for their legislative, judicial and executive actions. Further, they were free to resign at any moment or not seek re-election if they wished. No one was required to assume decision-making responsibility in the Raleigh or Richmond. Further, the available elective offices were competitively sought and held. This freedom of choice is most apparent in the prominent North Carolinians who chose not to run as a county delegate to sit in the 1861 Secession Convention; specifically, Alfred Dockery, Bartholomew Moore and Jonathan Worth. They knew that the outcome was predetermined before the first gavel rang down and did not want to bear the heavy responsibility for North Carolina’s secession from the Union. From 1860 to 1865, especially in 1860 and 1861, the decisions made by North Carolina’s elite leaders and the subsequent impact of their choices establishes their responsibility for what happened to the general population of state. This fact adheres in the 1850s and 1860s as well as into the deep future. A detailed accounting receives close attention at this site.

My interest in North Carolina’s war of secession, 1861 to 1865 is relatively straightforward. Specific, identifiable men made the decision to secede join the Confederacy and go to war. Most importantly, exclusively they made the major decisions on May 20, 1861. They chose, as a matter of policy, NOT TO SUBMIT the three major policy decisions, listed above, to the legal voters of North Carolina for their disposition. It was a premeditated and deliberate choice in sharp contrast with the popular votes held, at the recommendation of their secession conventions, in Virginia and Tennessee. Finally, their decisions had very specific consequences, short and long term, on the people living in the State of North Carolina. These conclusions are facts, not speculations! A final issue, of considerable importance, is the creative use by political and religious leaders of Divine approval for their policies. They arrived at these views by a creative, selective reading of the Bible and concluded that God not only approved of chattel slavery but also viewed such cultures as closer to his preferred Christian community. Of course, the clergy’s nearly unanimous advocacy of this view about God’s preference was most beneficial to North Carolina’s wealthiest, secessionist slaveholders [in 1860 and 1861, 85% of the state’s legislative representatives, Senate and House of Commons, were slaveholders]. Unfortunately, during these deadly, tumultuous years too few people held their leaders, political or religious, to the Bible’s highest standards of morality. Would the Civil War have occurred if the clergy of the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal faiths had opposed it? It is highly doubtful!

During the war’s sesquicentennial days, May 2011 through May 2065, the postings, at this site, are offered in commemoration of the pervasive suffering experienced by the great mass of ordinary people. While, they may not have had fame, wealth and power, they performed extraordinarily in this time of war, as it rapidly became a proverbial hell on earth. Simply, we proved that we could fight; they proved that they could not leader. It is mind-bending to think about what the war might have been if the political and military leadership, on both sides, had possessed more judgment and competence. Nothing expresses the view of ordinary people held by military and political leaders, again on both sides, than the number of human beings they were willing to sacrifice and maim in order to recklessly pursue their self-serving goals.

My research focuses on the wisdom of the decisions and implementing policies brokered by the aristocratic leaders of North Carolina and the Confederacy. The ultimate proof emerges by documenting the impacts of policy on the men and women not found in the halls of power in Raleigh and Richmond. A related interest centers on the corruption and favoritism revealed in the implementation of Confederate exemption and substitute laws, the awarding of military officer commissions to men of the upper class and the granting of a resignation to privileged Confederate officers.

At this site, during the time from 1860 through 1865, Joshua Peele of Nash County, Jacob Arrington of Nash County, Caroline Arrington of Nash County, Lucinda Evans Bell of Wilson County, Abraham Venable of Granville County, Burton Craige of Rowan County and Polycarp Henkel of Catawba County are the men and women selected to provide paths for appreciating the diverse actions taken and impacts on the groups of which they were a part during the war of secession, 1861 to 1865. Also, during these years, this site details and assesses the impact of all the decisions made by the state’s elite leaders including: governors; representatives in the state Senate and House of Commons; the state’s representatives in the United States Congress and officials in other federal bureaucratic entities; and county delegates at 1861-62 Secession Convention in Raleigh. Also described and evaluated are the organizational actions taken by the secessionist at the Goldsboro Convention in late March of 1861. During the war, each person’s experience is unique and yet their lives are similar as well to those of other men who comprise their particular group of cohorts. Obviously, wars dramatically alter humans in ways obvious and obscure from a distance of one hundred and fifty years. It is a humbling enterprise to think one’s way back into another time and place. The received stories from my family and the people in my small eastern North Carolina town animate my feel for this war. It is never easy to record a balanced blend of passionate views with objectivity. One needs inoculation against the romantic excesses that flow from the creative Southern story telling and rhetorical flourishes that have historically plagued the South’s appreciation of this war. Regardless, my belief is that “words, words, words; in the service of accuracy, actions will usually sober rhetoric!”

Joshua Peele and his family were a part of the vast power-deficient group of white men as well as their families who shouldered the major load of fighting and dying for North Carolina and the Confederacy. New work, on the grisly estimate of total number of deaths for white North Carolinians, reveals that North Carolina and Virginia absorbed equal horror with approximately 31,000 fatalities. These numbers compose the deadly extreme of loss and suffering by the several Confederate states. Jacob Arrington and his family were a part of a vast power-deficient black and mixed race group of men as well as their families. Many of them fought, sacrificed, and died while seeking their freedom in the Union armed forces. In this war, they had more at stake than even the slaveholders: achieving one’s freedom from being property, under the law, easily trumps protecting one’s monetary investment in slave property. Caroline Arrington and her family were a part of a vast power-deficient black and mixed race group of women as well as their families who struggled to survive after their husbands left home to fight for the United States of America. Lucinda Evans Bell and her family were a part of the vast power-deficient group of white women as well as their families who struggled to survive as their husbands left home to fight for North Carolina and the Confederacy. Abraham Venable and his family were a part of the group of a small, white privileged leaders of North Carolina [not just slaveholders alone] who worked to achieve and voted for secession as well as joining the Confederate States of America. In the state, they enjoyed the greatest capacity to affect their will on all other citizens. Burton Craige represents the smallest and highest echelon of elite leaders who led North Carolina in a war of secession. His narrow group is nothing less than an elite within an elite. In the critical days from January 1860 to May 1861, they led and dominated other privileged leaders in the county, state and national legislatures, especially at the 1861 secession convention. On 20 May 1861, the most important day in North Carolina’s history, they possess nearly absolute power to decide the state’s future and enthusiastically made the decisions of secession, with great pomp and circumstance, throwing caution to the wind. Polycarp Henkel represents the clergymen of North Carolina who, in the days before and during the war, were overwhelmingly found in the Protestant denominations of Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopalian believers. In 1860 and 1861, the Biblical Commandment of “Thou shall not kill” languished in disuse as they preached that God and the Bible approved of slavery and secession. In fact, they went much further by asserting that God would, without question, favor the South in whatever violence resulted from this political clash of wills. Polycarp is selected to highlight role of the preachers who not only advocated secession from their pulpits but who became political leaders in North Carolina’s secession. He best integrates the two types of sanctimonious approval and participation. In the presentation of files it should be noted that the people without power and their families receive the highest accolades. Obviously, like all humans, they made mistakes and consistently failed to uphold the teachings of the Good Book, however, from the beginning to the deadly end, they did not sit in the political and legal bodies, established and created, making the decisions.

People bearing Biblical first names, where available, seem the most appropriate window to their group. The intensity of their competitive appeals for God’s favor earns these individuals such recognition. I do not believe that God picked a side in this conflagration of maiming, killing and dying. In spite of the Union’s victory, I rest my case on the extent of suffering, in this war and after, visited upon all participants, their families and a considerable number of innocents.

By mid-1863, as the impact of Confederate defeats (especially Vicksburg and Gettysburg), territorial losses and peace demonstrations expanded throughout the state, a rapidly growing group of clever, privileged men, in North Carolina and the South, began positioning themselves for success in post war politics. They were wise enough to appreciate the uncertain, dangerous future for the losers of a bloody, extended rebellion. They began to take actions to polished and reinforce their Union credentials. Some of these men left the South and settled in the Northeast. An impressive number of them secured the favor of President Andrew Johnson and the Congress of the United States. They were able to broker this favor by Union officials into becoming governors and important political leaders, in the various Confederate states, during “reconstruction.” In North Carolina, most of them lived to regret their “cleverness”; for example, William W. Holden and Jonathan Worth.

Clio, the muse of history, represents the commitment by historians to tell this story as closely as the facts permit. Over a long life of reading and thinking about it, I have not found a composition sufficient in completeness of coverage, focus and perspective on North Carolina’s fate in the war. My family has suffered for long time because of these decisions and we had no influence, at the time, when these choices became our future. Since the founding of this nation, we have earned our right to an opinion in the blood and brutal suffering of our kin to secure it. The same fact is true about the War of Secession. One hundred and fifty years later it all feels like yesterday! In the early 1950s, as an old toothless carpenter on my boyhood paper route exclaimed, “Why hell boy, my daddy ate rotted horse meat in Pennsylvania!” He lighted a fire in this Tar Heel!

My preferred audience is those people who descend from anonymous men and women who, during the rebellion, made their official mark only in documents. In other words, the men and their families, regardless of color, race or ethnicity, who DID NOT possess: [1] the money to pay for a substitute to serve in their place; [2] an occupation that exempted them from military service; [3] the resources, private and public, to be commissioned an officer in a Confederate military regiment or, subsequently, the political connections to resign from a fighting unit; [4] the exemption statuses of owning 20 slaves, 500 head of cattle, 250 head of horses or mules and 500 head of sheep; [5] the political connections to avoid the draft; and [6] a sufficient combination of property, high office or politically connected kin or privileged friends that permitted them to choose whether to fight or not. These North Carolinians were largely powerless, without personal access to the halls of power in Raleigh or Richmond. This debilitating condition was of most importance in 1861 when initial decisions were made about secession, joining the Confederacy and going to war. Also, their powerlessness is manifest in only possessing the capacity to react to decisions made by powerbrokers in Raleigh and Richmond. For example, they had no capacity to reverse or modify legislature policies to enslave free blacks or punish black North Carolinians fighting for the Union with permanent enslavement, if they were captured by Confederate forces during the war.


“Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword which I am sending among them.’ “

Jeremiah, Chapter 25, Verse 15.


“The great event of all our lives [has] comes to pass [bringing a] Civil War of gigantic proportions, infinite consequences and indefinite duration.”

comment from John Moncure Daniel, the RICHMOND EXAMINER, 1861 in response to the secession of Virginia from the Union; as cited in William A. Link, THE ROOTS OF SECESSION: SLAVERY AND POLITICS IN ANTEBELLUM VIRGINIA (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003): 242 – 243.


“The slaveholders themselves have saved our cause from ruin! They have exposed the throat of slavery to the keen knife of liberty.” comment from Frederick Douglass in his journal DOUGLASS’S JOURNAL, May 1, 1861 in response to the Confederate attack and capture of the Federal facility of Ft. Sumter in the harbor at Charleston, SC initiating the fighting in the war of secession; as cited in Nelson D. Lankford, CRY HAVOC! THE CROOKED ROAD TO CIVIL WAR, 1861 [New York: Viking, 2007]: 93 – 94. Lincoln’s called for troops and the Confederate firing on Ft. Sumter stoked the flames of war fever and massive volunteering to fight in the Confederacy; the firing on Ft. Sumter alone resulted in broad patriotic support for the Union and the same kind of massive volunteering. Welcome to Armageddon!


“The great popular heart is not now, and never has been in this war. It is a revolution of Politicians, not the people; and is fought at first by the natural enthusiasm of our young men and has been kept going by State and sectional (the Confederate States of America) power, assisted by that bitterness of feeling produced by the cruelties and brutalities of the enemy.”

[These two sentences appear in a letter from North Carolina’s Civil War Governor Zebulon Vance to a friend written in September 1864; as cited by W. K. Boyd, “William W. Holden: Part II – Secession and Peace Movement,” in THE TRINITY COLLEGE HISTORICAL PAPERS. Series III [Durham, NC: Historical Society of Trinity College, 1899]: 69.


“. . . they [the North Carolina secessionists] promised us that if war should ensue, they would go to the battlefield, and spill, if necessary, the last drop of their blood in the cause of their beloved South. . . . As regards their promise ‘to go to the war and spill the last drop of their blood in the cause of their beloved South,’ I will say nothing. Every body knows how the Secessionists of North-Carolina have kept that promise. Every body knows that the leaders, with a few honorable exceptions, will neither fight nor negotiate. . . .”

Richard Spaight Donnell [1820 – 1867], a delegate from Beaufort County at the 1861 – 62 North Carolina Secession Convention; printed in RALEIGH (N.C.) STANDARD, of July 31, 1863.



from: the Southern Manifesto, 13 December 1860:

“We are satisfied [that] the honor, safety, and independence of the Southern people are to be found only in a Southern Confederacy —a result to be obtained only by separate State secession — and that the sole and primary aim of each slaveholding State ought to be its speedy and absolute separation from an unnatural and hostile Union.”

Signed by J. L. Pugh, David Clopton, Sydenham Moore, J. L. M. Curry, and J. A. Stallworth of Alabama; Alfred Iverson, J. W. H. Underwood, L. J. Gartrell, and Jas. Jackson, (Senator Toombs is not here, but would sign). John J. Jones, and Martin J. Crawford of Georgia; Geo. S. Hawkins of Florida. It is understood Mr. Yulee will sign it. T. C. Hindman of Arkansas. Both Senators will also sign it. A. G. Brown, Wm. Barksdale. O. R. Singleton, and Reuben Davis of Mississippi; [Representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives] Burton Craige and Thos. Ruffin of North Carolina; J. P. Benjamin and John M. Landrum of Louisiana. Mr. Slidell will also sign it. Senators Wigfall and Hemphill of Texas, will sign it. DATE: 13 December 1860.



“. . . somewhere they crawl’d to die, alone, in bushes, low gullies, or on the sides of hills — (there, in secluded spots, their skeletons, bleach’d bones, tufts of hair, buttons, fragments of clothing, are occasionally found yet [about 1880]) — our young men once so handsome and so joyous, taken from us — the son from the mother, the husband from the wife, the dear friend from the dear friend—the clusters of camp graves, in Georgia, the Carolinas, and in Tennessee — the single graves left in the woods or by the roadside, (hundreds, thousands, obliterated) —the corpses floated down the rivers, and caught and lodged, (dozens, scores, floated down the upper Potomac, after the cavalry engagements, the pursuit of Lee, following Gettysburgh) — some lie at the bottom of the sea — the general million, and the special cemeteries in almost all the States — the infinite dead — (the land entire saturated, perfumed with their impalpable ashes’ exhalation in Nature’s chemistry distill’d, and shall be so forever, in every future grain of wheat and ear of corn, and every flower that grows, and every breath we draw). . .The hospital part of the drama from ’61 to ’65, deserves indeed to be recorded. Of that many-threaded drama, with its sudden and strange surprises, its confounding of prophecies, its moments of despair, the dread of foreign interference, the interminable campaigns, the bloody battles, the mighty and cumbrous and green armies, the drafts and bounties — the immense money expenditure, like a heavy-pouring constant rain — with, over the whole land, the last three years of the struggle, an unending, universal mourning-wail of women, parents, orphans – the marrow of the tragedy concentrated in those Army Hospitals—(it seem’d sometimes as if the whole interest of the land, North and South, was one vast central hospital, and all the rest of the affair but flanges).

The Home Away from Home for a Growing, Seemingly Endless Number of Men, North and South, Who were Wounded and Dying! Mass graves were common, in the North and South, around all the hospitals and prisons as well.”

Walt Whitman, 1881; War Correspondent and Dedicated, Tireless Visitor to Army Hospitals in Search of Ways to Relieve the Suffering that the War Visited Upon so Many Men and Their Families, South and North, who served in the Armed Forces.



From 1861 through 1865, the intense pressures and dangers of the war resulted in a diversity of responses by North Carolina’s families and their fighting men. Wright Batchelor’s anguish resulted in him being a citizen of the Confederacy and the United States twice in five years. Most of the men fighting in the Confederate armed forces made their living from farming. They lived in uncrowded places, they knew their neighbors, the simpler routines of their life contrasted dramatically from the shocks they absorbed in military camps, prisons, hospitals, fighting with as well as against strangers, and often in places bearing unfamiliar names. It becomes common place for them to witness men being maimed and killed, to see people suffering in gruesome ways and then die horribly of disease. Often, dead corpses, in massive numbers, litter the landscape, unburied with the pressures of war preventing proper burials or identifications of their mortal remains. The mass grave, especially around hospitals and prisons, Union and Confederate, was an unavoidable necessity because men were dying faster than the single graves could be dug. Unless a person experiences such horror, it is not possible for them to predict their own behavior in these circumstances. Also, judging their diverse, desperate actions, under such intense pressure, should be tempered by compassion and some allowance for the conditions that produced their behaviors. If you care about them please read the complete published military records, for every man, who fought in various companies; especially the men from Wilson and Nash Counties [the complete military records of several regiments are already posted for these two counties] as well as neighboring Edgecombe. The following descriptions for four soldiers and an imposter provide insight into some of the diversity in actions by them, as reported in their published military records.

JOSHUA PEELE(spelled Peal in the published military record), Private, 32nd North Carolina Infantry, 2d Company H. Born in Edgecombe County; Resided in Nash County, NC where he enlisted on 10 October 1862 by Capt. Drake for a three year terms; 25 years old; conscripted at D. Bluff, Raleigh, by Capt Freisly on 1 May 1863; deserted on 4 June 1863 at Hamilton Crossing, VA; return to duty before 29 December 1863 when he is hospitalized at General Hospital #9, Richmond, VA, admitted on 28 Dec 1863; disposed to Winder Hospital #3 on 19 Dec 1863; died, in a Richmond hospital (probably the Winder Hospital), on 13 January 1864 with typhoid pneumonia at the age of 27; he had $2 in his possession at the time of his death; he left a widow Lucinda Peele, age 26, and two sons – John Peele, age 6 and Cornelius Peele, age 5.

WRIGHT S. BATCHELOR, Private, 47th North Carolina Infantry, Company A. [the regiment is heavily from Nash County, NC]. He was a Nash County farmer who enlisted at the age 33 on 4 Feb. 1862; captured Bristoe Station, VA on 14 October 1863; confined at the Union prison at Old Capitol Prison, Washington , DC; transferred to Point Lookout Prison, MD on 27 October 1863; released at Point Lookout on 24 Feb. 1864 after taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America and he joined the 1st United States Infantry, Company F; subsequently, he deserted from Federal service at Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 14 September 1864; returned to duty in the 47th NC Infantry, Company A after 31 Oct. 1864; surrendered at Appomattox on 9 April 1865. He received a pardon under the general amnesty extended to Confederate fighting men by United States President Andrew Johnson.

SAMUEL H. SELLERS, Private, 47th North Carolina Infantry, Company A (Chicora Guards); Enlisted as a farmer on 8 Feb 1862 at age 21; born in Nash County; Mustered In at Camp Mangum, Raleigh on 11 April 1862 by Colonel Sion H. Rogers, N.C.T.; wounded in the abdomen at Gettysburg, PA on 3 July 1863, “left in enemy’s hands at Gettysburg supposed to be mortally wounded”; died near Gettysburg on or about the same date.

LAWRENCE BATTLE, Private, 32nd North Carolina Infantry, 2d Company H; previously served as Private in 2d Company H, 12th North Carolina Infantry; transferred to this company 22 July 1862; present or accounted for until discharged on 25 August 1862, after providing Private EDWARD SWEENY as a substitute; Private Sweeny’s record, provied for men in the same company, reads “resided in Virginia and enlisted at age 45, 25 August 1862, for the war as a substitute for Private LAWRENCE BATTLE. Deserted the same day.” “Edward Sweeny” is probably an alias for a professional substitute. Did Lawrence Battle have to serve in the Confederate Armed Forces after Edward Sweeny’s desertion?



During the War of Secession, Black and mixed race people living in the Confederate States faced uncertainty about their status as success in the fighting shifted from one side to the other. From the 1850s, North Carolina’s Senate and House of Commons enacted punitive laws that sought to punish slaves and free blacks that attempted to either run away from their owners or support the Union’s initiatives against slaveholders. These policies included legislation to permit free blacks to enslave themselves and, once the war began, laws to eternally enslave black and mixed race North Carolinians, once captured, who were fighting for the Union. Certainly, the first law was not one of free choice because of the powerless status of free blacks. The second initiative was an attempt to enact a punitive law that would deter black and mixed race people from enlisting in the Union armed services.

As the war progressed, Abraham Lincoln seems to have viewed the option of emancipating slaves as one that could help Union forces to defeat the Confederacy. On 1 January 1863, the slaves were freed in the states in rebellion. As a result the number of Black and mixed race North Carolinians joining the Union armed services witnessed a dramatic increase. By mid-1863, Confederate military defeats, especially at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, strongly established that the war was turning against the South.

Two black North Carolina brothers, Jacob and Thomas Arrington of Nash County, joined the 37th United States Colored Infantry, Company E on 1 March 1864 at Washington, NC. They were mustered into the Union Army as privates for 3-year terms on 7 April 1864 in Norfolk, Virginia.

Jacob Arrington of Nash County was assigned to the Detached Services Division for work on a wagon train at City Point, VA (the headquarters for Grant’s Army of the Potomac) taking offensive actions against Petersburg and Richmond. In the July-August report he appears on the Hospital Muster Roll at Summit House, the United States General Hospital in Philadelphia, PA with an unreported complaint (sickness or injury). He is reported near Petersburg, VA around 5 August 1864. On 30 September 1864, he wounded by minie balls in both thighs and is admitted to the Hampton Hospital, VA in October, 1864 (day not reported). He is reported wounded in the hospital until January 1865. A report states that he returned to duty on 10 February 1865. He is reported present in March, April, May, June, July and August 1865 without comment. In August, September and October 1865, he is reported on detached services at Ft. Fisher in Wilmington, NC. Also, reported present in November, December, January and February, March and April, May and June 1866. In July 1866 he is furlough for 20 days (July 8 and returned on July 27, 1866). From October 24, 1866 to January 1867, he is assigned as a guard at Fort Strong (formerly Wagner) on Morris Island in the Charleston, SC harbor. He is mustered out of service in Raleigh, NC on 11 February 1867. At that time he is paid a $300 bounty and $100 in pay. Also, he is entitled to this compensation since he joined the original organization of the company.

Private Thomas Arrington, the brother of Jacob, of Nash County, enlisted at age 27 on 1 March 1864 at Washington, NC for a 3 year term or for the war. He was mustered in on 7 April 1864 at Norfolk, Virginia and served in the 37th United States Colored Infantry, Company E. Beginning in April 1864 through being mustered out at Raleigh on 11 February 1867, his military assignments, in terms of geographic location, were identical to those of his brother. Of course, he was not injured but his final assignment was also as a guard at Fort Strong on Morris Island, SC.

Private Warren Barnes from Wilson County, NC enlisted at age 21 on 15 November 1863 at Washington, NC for a three-year term in the 36th United States Colored Infantry, Company G. He was mustered in on the 28 December 1863 at Norfolk, VA. He was mustered out of service on 28 October 1866 at Brazos Santiago, TX.

Other black and mixed race men, from Nash, Wilson and Edgecombe Counties, North Carolina who fought in Union infantry regiments were: [1] Drew Mayhew of Edgecombe County in the 35th United States Colored Infantry, Company C; [2] Alfred Battle of Tarboro, Edgecombe County in 36th United States Colored Infantry, Company D; [3] Asa Carr of Edgecombe County in the 36th United States Colored Infantry, Company D; [4] Samuel Adams of Nash County in the 36th United States Colored Infantry, Company G; [5] Warren Barnes of Wilson County in the 36th United States Colored Infantry, Company G; and [6] William H. Brooks of Edgecombe County in 37th United States Colored Infantry, Company G.

Black and mixed raced men, from these counties, who fought in the Union Navy were: [1] Mac Daniels of Nash County on the USS Princess Royal; [2] John Dowdy of Wilson County on the USS Albemarle; [3] William Hesley of Nashville, Nash County; [4] William Jones of Edgecombe County on the USS Glance; [5] Benjamin Daniels of Tarboro, Edgecombe County on the USS Seymour; [6] Lawrence Baker of Edgecombe County on the USS Pink; and [7] George Dempsey of Edgecombe County on the USS Sciota.



A special consideration at this site centers on the fate of middle class and poor mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and other women who loved men fighting this war. In their extended lives, since most of them survived the war, they uniquely bore a disproportionate full measure of the pain and suffering inflicted by the war’s horrors. A few young women even disguised themselves and went off to war as men so that they could be near a man they loved. Between 1861 and 1865, their lives of affection and the ties of family are obliterated, on a massive scale. In 1860 and 1861, the calculations by state’s privileged leaders, those who held the final say on whether North Carolina seceded, joined the Confederacy and went to war, did not include how such danger would impact on the lives of women and children in the state. Their exposure to danger and suffering was not an issue of sufficient relevance to include in their consideration of alternative policies.


Caroline Jones Arrington of Whitakers Township, Nash County, in March 1864, witnessed her husband Thomas leaving home and enlisting in the army of the United States of America in Washington, NC. The following month, he was mustered into the 37th United States Colored Infantry, Company E at Norfolk, Virginia. Over the next two years and nine months she would rarely hear from or see him. During this time, their oldest son Isaac, born in 1864, had an absentee father at war. The absence of her husband and the changing fortunes of war could only make her life one of constant worry.

On 1 January 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation became the law in the Union, the pace of leaving the South and joining Union-fighting forces increased for black and mixed race men. The discussion between Thomas and his brother Jacob, about joining a Union regiment was, without doubt, the biggest decision ever for these two families. Surely, Caroline and Jacob’s wife Jane were deeply involved in these discussions. The fear of reprisals against their families once the Arrington brothers ran for their freedom or worse, the news made its way back to Nash County that they were fighting in a Union regiments of infantry must have been a constant in this substantial decision.

In 1870, the families of Jacob, Thomas and their brother John are living next to each other in Liberty Township, Nash County, a geographic area that become Whitakers Township in 1880. For two censuses, 1870 and 1880, the brothers and their families are living in northeast Nash County geographically close to western Edgecombe. Only in 1870, does Jacob have any declarable income; namely, $80 as value for land that he owns. On 11 February 1867, when he mustered out of the Union army, he receives just over $300 for his services. On the same date, his brother Thomas receives about $300 as well. However, in 1870 while Jacob is listed as a farmer, Thomas is listed as a farm laborer. In 1870 and 1880, neither of their wives, Jane or Caroline, have an occupation. In 1870, Jacob and Thomas are listed as farm laborers with no declarable property of value.

In terms of family, by 1880 Thomas and Caroline have eight children born and seven alive with an age range of 16 to three months. By the same date, Jacob and Jane have eight children; all living it seems, with an age range of 25 to 1. Also, none of the children seem to be receiving an education, since not a single person, including the adults, can read or write. While the males and females capable of earning money, in these two families, are working for wages doing hard manual labor with incomes that only allow for a meager survival existence.


Lucinda Evans Bell of Black Creek Township, Wilson County, NC was born in Edgecombe County in 1827 and in 1860 first appears in Wilson. In 1851, she married, had four children before the war began in 1861. Her life became one dependent on the Confederate fortunes of war, when her husband enrolled for active service at the town of Wilson on 8 May 1862 by volunteering to served, for the war, as a substitute for $250 at age 40. After being mustered into an infantry regiment, heavily comprised of men from Wilson County, on 30 May 1862 at Camp Mangum near Raleigh, he received a quick instruction on being a soldier. His regiment, after a short time in North Carolina, was dispatched to Virginia where he fought until receiving a wound in his right arm at the Battle of the Wilderness in early May 1864. He was transported by canal to a Lynchburg, VA hospital, died there of next to Hospital 2 on 25 May 1864. He is buried close to a mass grave adjacent to the hospital.

From May 1864 until her death in January of 1906 at age 79, Lucinda and her children struggled in abject poverty.

It seems that her husband did not come home from the time he left in 1862 to fight in the Virginia. Lucinda could not read or write so if she was able to correspond with him it was through others with a love one in his regiment. In his military record there is no indication that he ever left the infantry regiment of which he was a part. In 1901, Lucinda applied for and received a small widow’s pension from the State of North Carolina. It is not known whether Lucinda was aware of husband’s wound during the twenty days before he died.


“I have experienced a melancholy interest in preparing this summary of the proceedings of the “Secession Convention” of 1861. A more able and high-toned body of men has never been assembled in the State. They were among the leaders in their counties and “given to good works. Many had won high distinction in the service of the State. All in the decision of the most difficult questions acted, I am persuaded, with a sincere desire to do right.” . . . John Gilchrist McCormick [his co-author] notes that, “Out of the total enrollment sixty-seven had the advantage in whole or in part, of a college education. If we add sixteen physicians, who had taken a professional, but not a literary course, the total number reaches eighty-three. . . [In 1861] it is surprising to note the ignorance of even intelligent Southerners of the power and resources of the United States.”

From: Kemp Battle, Wake County Secession Convention Delegate and former President of the University of North Carolina in his pamphlet “The Secession Convention of 1861,” THE NORTH CAROLINA BOOKLET, XV, April, 1916, #4. At the time, he was writing as the last surviving member of North Carolina’s May, 1861 Secession Convention. He died in 1919.

Most of these men, in this era of adoration for male greatness, especially in the preening upper class, reinforced a heightened emphasis on self-awareness and promotion in the tireless pursuit of fame. Simply, they viewed themselves as a member of state’s elite. Public policy depended mostly on their speech making, rather than studies, an innovation that would not be embryonic until late nineteenth century Progressive reform. The objective of the power game was to devise and broker persuasive speeches; ones structured to cloak vested interest in creative, romantic subtlety that appeared to rest on the received wisdom of the ages. The resulting long-winded rhetoric blended divine and secular insights with a heavy infusion of tragedy, prophecy and jeremiads. Of course, the deep suspicion of all advocates that usually accompanies entering and sustaining a war strips most class pretensions and preferences of their rhetorical cover. Also, my studies suggest that, in North Carolina, the war of secession intensified, through their group efforts, initiatives to preserve and consolidate their primacy. This condition seems most evident in the process established for petitioning and awarding individual amnesty to members of the ruling class. Even under the harsh conditions of losing a war of secession they managed to protect each other from severe penalties.

In 1860 and 1861, in the debates among North Carolina politicians about the dangers inherent in seceding from the United States of America, Abraham Venable, Granville County delegate to the 1861 Secession Convention in Raleigh, stole the rhetorical show by standing and declaring, as he waived his handkerchief, that he would “wipe up every drop of blood shed in the war with this handkerchief of mine.”

In 1860, the combined population of North Carolina’s twenty-five largest towns constituted only 2% of the state’s total population. For nearly a year prior to the first gavel ringing down on the 20th of May 1861 to open North Carolina’s Secession Convention, Governor Ellis and the state’s General Assembly had been funding and preparing for war. On that day, the first item of business was concluded by a unanimous vote. Simply, all one hundred and fifteen delegates voted to secede from the United States of America and go to war. In late February 1861, the legal voters of the state had, in referendum, rejected the holding of a Convention. Also, the county delegates on that first day voted to joined the Confederacy, an action that was finalized on 20 June 1861 [see JOURNAL OF THE CONVENTION], and rejected a motion by Guilford County Delegate Robert P. Dick to submit whether or not to join the Confederacy to the state’s legal voters. With that vote, all county delegates to the Secession Convention, regardless of prior political preferences and good deeds, assumed full responsibility for the consequences of their votes for war, including all intended and unanticipated outcomes.

The fighting men to whom this site is dedicated are those who DID NOT possess: [1] the money to pay for a substitute to serve in their place; [2] an occupation that exempted them from military service; [3] the money or power to be commissioned an officer in a Confederate military regiment or the political connections to resign from a fighting unit; [4] the exemption statuses of owning 20 slaves, 500 head of cattle, 250 head of horses or mules and 500 head of sheep; [5] the political connections to avoid the draft; and [6] a sufficient combination of property, high office or politically connected kin to permit choosing whether to fight or not. Black North Carolinians were powerless, in terms of moderating the actions of the state’s ruling class, when the initial and ongoing decisions were made about fighting the war. Also, they did not possess the capacity to influence the state’s secession convention or legislature in their decisions to enslave free blacks or punish black North Carolinians fighting for Union with permanent enslavement, if they were captured by Confederate forces during the war.

Another important objective at this site is to examine how the war begins and ends, especially for the losers. One of the most powerful impacts of such study is a fuller appreciation of the dramatic contrast between the heady, even gleeful, chest-beating days of war fever, at the outset, with the complete misery of absorbing the full brutalities suffered in an irreversible total war. I can not imagine the pain that my kin and their compatriots suffered, in the final year and a half of the war, as rumors circulated, within their lines, of the destruction of home and hearth throughout the South, and these feelings could only grow more powerful as Sherman’s army drew closer to Wilson and Nash Counties. In these years, the increasing desertion rate is unsurprising to me. Most men, I would guess, headed home, in desperation, to protect their wives, children and other love ones.

Historically, war fever has visited awful destruction on human groups. While the consequences rarely are anticipated and horror is beyond human imagination, the pattern keeps repeating itself. A few men and responsible groups attempted to counsel against war. One such example is found on December 8, 1860 in THE DAILY EVENING BULLETIN in San Francisco. Their reporter, located in St. Louis, was attempting to keep folks on the west coast informed about the country’s drift towards war. His report states, “at a meeting of the Baptist clergy in Maryland, recently held in Baltimore, an address was unanimously adopted, prepared by Rev. Mr. Fuller of Baltimore, formerly of South Carolina, appealing to their brethren in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, to practice moderation, forbearance and brotherly love, in this period of excitement.” By December 1860 such advice is lost in the heady winds of war. The time of bloodletting, dying and suffering enjoyed great appeal. For political leaders of the time, what a responsibility to shoulder! Read their amnesty petitions to feel their anguish.

The disparities in wealth, as measured by the value of the real and personal estates in 1860 of those people involved in the war easily distinguishes the aristocratic leaders, political and military, from the men bearing the overwhelming primary responsibility for fighting. While, by most social class definitions they may be ordinary, for four long, bloody years these poor men did extraordinary things in numerous theaters of action. War intensifies action by wealthy men and their families to leverage their privileged position to avoid death and the destruction of their possessions, however, massive premature death, while dramatically disproportionate, does exercise some leveling effect on a substantial number of men and their families.

Often blessings adhere in forms beyond human anticipation. Mercifully, no relative of mine was a governor, a member of the state legislator, a member of the clergy claiming that God and the Bible approve of slavery, or a delegate to the 1861 Secession Convention. We did not vote as a representative of other North Carolinians to withdraw from the United States of America and fight a war. Rather, my kin, by their actions document that they trusted and believed in the necessities of war for the reasons offered by North Carolina’s elite leaders. Thus, we went off to war to die, get killed, be imprisoned and, finally, to survive in the best way we could devise in these dangerous, bloody and lethal times. The Civil War made life cheap as is most evident in the massive dying, a substantial part of which, on the Confederate side, was completely not necessary.

This site chronicles North Carolina’s deep voyage into the “crimson sea” that resulted from the decisions made by the Old North State’s aristocratic county delegates, with the collusion of Governor John Ellis, United States Senators and Representatives, and the state’s slave owner dominated legislature (85% slaveholders, 36% planters (men owned 20 slaves or more), in just over seven hours, 11 A.M. to 6:15 P.M. on the first day of North Carolina’s Secession Convention held on May 20, 1861. Beyond all the rationalizations for action, the secession from the Union by other Southern states, led by South Carolina, John Brown’s raid, Lincoln’s election and, after the states of lower South seceded, his call for troops plus the prospect of an “invasion” by Union, combined to stoke war fever and overwhelm North Carolina’s moderate Union-sympathizing leaders. In fact, war fever’s brief momentum, which seems to date from Brown’s raid in 1859 to the commencement of fighting, led to, in a very short time to the Confederacy’s issuing a call for troops. In 1860 and 1861, the rationalizations for all actions rested heavily on perceived violations of property rights assured in the United States Constitution and the honor of North Carolina’s privileged leadership class. As one of the 1861 secession convention delegate observed in July 1863 slavery produced Southern withdrawal from the Union where the tariffs could not.

In mid-1863, after the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg, deserters understood the fate of the South better than its “leaders.” As one Confederate major sadly surmised as one of the failed peace initiatives in 1864, “we can only wade deeper into the crimson sea!”

In the days prior to hostilities, as war fever raged, the politicians, aristocrats and common people speculated wildly and irresponsibly about the future of the Federal Union and the destiny of North Carolina as well as for the remainder of the South. At the Secession Convention, many county delegates found persuasive the argument that a unanimous vote for leaving the Union and joining the Confederacy would deter the United States of America from going to war to prevent their withdrawal. These decisions were not rational calculations based upon perceptive judgments about the future; rather, they were wild, groundless and eventually deadly, speculations.

In 1860, 85% of the representatives serving in North Carolina’s legislature were slave owners. This fact, contrasted dramatically with the fact that less than thirty percent of the state’s citizens owned a slave. The power held and exercised by North Carolina’s wealthiest slave owners rendered their votes at the 1861 Secession Convention ‘a fore gone conclusion’ before the first gavel rang down at 11 A. M. on May 20th, 1861. The same fixed and staged form of “deliberation” was evident in the actions taken by all the legislatively created secessions conventions in the several Southern states. Simply, the Southern secession conventions were nothing more than carefully staged theater by dominant slave owners in the several states. It was not even well done theater since several of North Carolina’s prominent politicians declined to serve as delegates to the Convention. Wisely, they did not want to assume the huge responsibility of participating in a fixed deliberation to go to war!

In the North Carolina case, responsibility for the blood letting and dying lies with the men from the several counties who decided, at the Convention, that they alone should make the final decision. This action was taken when the county delegates overwhelmingly rejected the motion by Robert Paine Dick of Guilford County to submit to the legal voters of North Carolina the issue of whether or not the state should join the Confederacy. Simply, by that action, the one hundred and twenty county representatives at the Convention assumed the primary responsibility for secession and the war. Those voting in the majority were men of little faith in the people of North Carolina. Their judgment contrasts dramatically with that of the delegates at the Virginia convention who prior to North Carolina’s convention submitted the issue to the legal voters of the state.

Second, it provides information on the aristocratic North Carolina men who made the decision for war, their individual wealth and the impact of their policy directives on the people living in Nash and Wilson.

Third, the men who made the decision and the men who fought the war are united here in a way that their social class preferences and limitations did not allow at the time of the American Civil War. In 1861, the lines of class separation were more rigid and fixed, especially in North Carolina as well as the remainder of the rural South. Even from the distance of May, 2011 it is indisputably clear who was making the decision to go to war and to whom the overwhelming weight of fighting fell. From 1861 to 1865, a time of a rapidly escalating war and struggling to create an effective new government, old fault lines placed men into their traditional roles and responsibilities. At this late date, some one hundred and fifty years later, no reason survives to separate the interdependent absorption of the devastating outcomes of the war on the men who made the decision and the annihilation of their vassals. However, the vast majority of North Carolina’s wealthy families before 1861 recovered quickest from the impact on the war after 1865. During the Civil War at the various times when ordinary people voluntarily and under compulsion fought, the guiding hand of North Carolina’s rural aristocrats is obviously manifest. This fact is powerfully and painfully evident in the state after Gettysburg as the expanding reach of a peace movement and desertion document the collective wisdom of the majority that continued fighting is bloodily hopeless. In fact, during those days, when peace negotiators moved through the lines of fighting men, cheering could be heard from men in the armies on both sides, North and South. The refusal of leadership in North Carolina and the Confederacy to act when the outcome of the war became obvious lays heavy responsibility on them for the slaughter that followed.

Men, fighting on both sides in the Civil War, widely shared the belief that the winner of this extended, bloody conflict would be the side able to sustain the most courage and the side who, by their actions, earned the favor of God. While desertion increasingly plagued both sides, especially after Gettysburg, there was no shortage of courage by either side on the battlefield. The level of dying and suffering was so severe, on both sides, that God’s favor, if such occurred, is hard for mere mortals to ascertain. Perhaps that judgment is best left to readers.

The North Carolina General Assembly created the Secession Convention, under a cloud of questionable authority, as an autonomous body, unaccountable to its creator or the voters of the state. The secessionist purpose and the shielding of it from the direct action of the state’s voters suggest that such a creation is beyond the Constitutional authority granted to the state’s legislature.

By mid-war, 1863, after Gettysburg and Vicksburg, sober, clever men in the South saw the inevitable and many adjusted their actions to position themselves for the optimal survival of their families and leadership in the reconciliation of the sections. As in far too many wars, throughout human history, Confederate leaders who held power did not possess the vision, wisdom or courage to stop the continuation of the war.

The full power the war’s impact is best revealed by examining the lives of young men like Moses Manning, 30th NC Infantry, Company I from Nash County. He was seriously wounded at Sharpsburg, MD on 17 September 1861, walked back to Nash County where two weeks after his injury, he died at home. He was 28 years old!

In all my reading and work on this I have not found a single member of the 1861 Convention expressing any remorse for the pain and suffering that resulted from their decisions. As a human being, I know that many of them felt it to their core. In his descriptions, Kemp Battle reports, if only briefly, that after the war Weldon Edwards, probably the most important leader at the Convention, lost all interest in living and that his depressed condition contributed to his premature death. As the last surviving member of the Convention, Kemp wrote that a certain “melancholy” came over him as he began to write about it at the turn of the 20th century. He was a historian at the University of North Carolina as well as a reasonably able writer and thinker. He was uniquely positioned to say more. If he had chosen to go more deeply into that painful psychic territory perhaps his legacy would be that of a participant who in his senior years became a wise sage providing some insight of use to young men and women in the leadership of the future. It might have helped to inoculate them for war fever when they confront circumstances that make most people’s blood boil at a level that only permits one decision to seem prudent – WAR! Sadly, it did not happen, either by him or by any other county delegate.

The category, in the right column, lists men from Nash and Wilson Counties who were casualties of the war and always uses a + by their names for identification. This list is selective, however, over the next several months all of their names will be provided in two places. First, their names appear in the listing for each Nash and Wilson County regiment. Second, they appear in the personal category that lists each delegate present and voting at the first two sessions of the Secession Convention; namely, the 20th and the 21st of the May 1861.

Those readers wishing to add the name or names of kin who were from Nash and Wilson Counties, who are not listed, please send me the information for posting. Also, if a reader wishes to supplement the existing information with other details on their lives and families, please do that as well. The email address to send such information is: civilwar.nash.wilson.counties@gmail.com


BADGER, George Edmund of Wake County

GRAHAM, William A. of Orange County

EDWARDS, Weldon Nathaniel 0f Warren County

RUFFIN, Thomas of Alamance County

BIGGS, Asa of Martin County

BROWN, Bedford of Caswell County

CRAIGE, Burton of Rowan County, identified by several historians as the floor leader for the secessionist at their Goldsboro Convention (March 22, 23 and 24, 1861) and the 1861 North Carolina Secessionist Convention (May 20, 1861 to the Fall of 1862]; also, he was the leader county delegate at the secessionist convention who liaison for instructions, during its deliberations, with secessionist North Carolina Governor John Ellis. planter also from Rowan County, and the leadership of the Confederacy, especially Judah Benjamin, right hand man of Jeff Davis, from Louisiana. Craige’s motion for North Carolina’s secession was written by Judah Benjamin.

DICK, Robert P. of Greensboro, Guilford County

GILMER, John A. of Guilford County

HOLDEN, William W. of Raleigh, Wake County

HOWARD, Jr., George of Edgecombe and Wilson Counties

JOHNSTON, William of Gaston County

RAYNER, Kenneth of Hertford County

REID, David S. of Rockingham County

WINSLOW, Warren of Cumberland County

From: J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, “Secession in North Carolina, ” in BETHEL TO SHARPSBURG by Daniel H. Hill, Volume 1 [Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Company, 1926]: 39 – 40.

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