First Wednesdays – Challenges for a Provisional Government 1865

In post-war 1865, Provisional Governor William Woods Holden went about the business of mending a state rent in every facet by the recent struggle.  Infrastructure such as the railroad system not only had to be repaired but also the governing bodies must be reconstituted with able men who were loyal to the provisional government and therefore loyal to the United States.  County officials had to be designated and approved by Holden in a move to reconstitute local civil authority.  At every turn, Holden faced administrative and political obstacles.

Nonetheless, by September Holden had manage to put the state on a firm footing.  A call for a statewide convention to meet in October 1865 was issued.  Holden was also working on, once that October Convention completed its designated functions, organizing a session of the General Assemble for November 1865, as well as holding a general election for the office of Governor.

If not quite political unrest, Holden faced another issue – relations between African Americans (most of whom were termed Freedmen) and Caucasians (including many ex-Confederate soldiers and sympathizers).  Tensions created by slights or perceived slights to a privileged white class by a previously under-privileged black class grew throughout the provisional administration.  Remember Holden decided that the first order of business was reconstituting the state and that did not mean, he stated, the need to address the newly freed slaves’ status as citizens.

Holden learned, however, that ignoring the reorganization of the previous social order would not be possible.  Alfred Moore Waddell sent a reminder, one of many by different citizens, that this was impractical if not impossible to sustain.  Decrying the treatment of Caucasians by African American citizens and soldiers Waddell warned of a massacre unless Holden interceded.  33 years later Waddell would lead the coup d’état known as the Wilmington Race Riot.

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First Wednesdays – “…Ankle Shattered by shell…”

With the ending of the American Civil War, North Carolina began the long process to rehabilitate itself for re-entry back into the United States of America. In addition, the state’s veterans also started the process of their rehabilitation back into society and deal with the emotional and physical scars from combat service. Starting in 1866, North Carolina began to officially provide support to those veterans, who had suffered the loss of a limb during the late war. Governor Jonathan Worth, with legislative support, began to contact county sheriffs to locate those men, who exhibited missing limbs as a testimony of their military service. This initial accounting of men led to the establishment of an organized state government agency to provide monies to these veterans for the attainment of artificial limbs to ease the suffering of their day to day lives. Soon, other former Confederate States also passed legislation to provide monetary assistance to their wounded veterans as well.

Beginning in 1885, the State of North Carolina sought to provide additional assistance to its veterans and their widows through the passage of the 1885 Pension Act. This act enforced strict guidelines for the issuance of monies to former Confederate veterans and their widows as was noted with the Martin County Board of Inquiry for Luvester Peal on June 7, 1885. By the passage of the 1901 Pension Act, the federal government began to provide financial assistance to the former Confederate States allocate support to their veteran’s and their families. As noted in the act: “every Person who has been for twelve months immediately Preceding his or her application for a pension a ‘bona fide’ resident of the State, and who is incapacitated for manual labor and was a soldier or a sailor in the service of the State of North Carolina or of the Confederate States of America, during the war between the States, and to the widow remaining unmarried of any deceased officer, soldier or sailor who was in the service of the State of North Carolina or of the Confederate States of America during the war between the States (Provided said widow was married to said soldier or sailor before the first day April 1865)…”

In some cases, it was not uncommon for veterans from other former Confederate States to receive monetary assistance from North Carolina. Jesse F. Cox, from Buncombe County, North Carolina, applied for pension from the State of North Carolina on July 3, 1909. In that application, Mr. Cox noted that his “…shattered by shell…” while serving with the Company D, First South Carolina State Troops at the Battle of Olustee, Florida. In addition to this application, Jesse F. Cox was also receiving monies from the State of South Carolina’s Artificial Limb Fund for being permanently disabled as a member of Company K, First South Carolina Infantry at the Battle of Lilly Farm, Florida in December 1864.  By July 1919, Jesse Cox had passed away, and now, his widow, Mrs. R. J. Cox, was now applying for a widow’s pension with the State of North Carolina. As one can tell, the sands of time can affect the remembrance of correct unit designations and specific battles that were fought.

Please join us for our next “Second Monday” lecture on Monday, August 10, 2015 at 12 Noon in the Archives & History Building Auditorium, Raleigh, NC

Ansley Wegner (Research Historian and Author of Phantom Pain: North Carolina’s Artificial Limbs Program for Confederate Veterans) will give a program titled

“Soldiers’ Artificial Limbs”

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First Wednesdays – Cohabitation Certificates

[This blog post was written by Debbi Blake, Collection Services Section Manager for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

With the abolition of slavery came many questions about the rights of freedmen, one of which was how to validate marriages. This was answered by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1866 with an act allowing formerly enslaved couples to register their marriages in the county of their residence. This act provided proof that such unions had existed, often for decades. In North Carolina, such certificates were called cohabitation records, most of which are housed in the State Archives of North Carolina. Couples were to appear before 1 September 1866, although it was later amended in order to extend the period until 1 January 1868. The overwhelming majority of couples came before the clerk of court or justice of the peace during the first targeted period of March to September. This stampede resulted in the thousands of certificates in the Archives.

Most certificates gave the names of the couple and how long they had been married and sometimes gave a date when the marriage took place. Some few counties have certificates that include the number and/or names of children born to the couple. Other counties included on the certificate the name(s) of the last slaveholder. There are extant cohabitation records for fifty-four counties, although some counties have very few. No records have been found for thirty-four counties, many having been lost in courthouse fires.

Bertie County Cohabitation Certificates, 1865-1866 [CR.010.606.1 - Miscellaneous Marriage Records, 1749-1914]

Bertie County Cohabitation Certificates, 1865-1866 [CR.010.606.1 – Miscellaneous Marriage Records, 1749-1914]

North Carolina is unique among the former Confederate states in that the law prompted the creation of over 22, 400 records related to slave marriages. Most other states proclaimed slave marriages legal without the need for registration, although some expected a new marriage ceremony be performed. The bounty of cohabitation records for North Carolina gives a clear indication of how important marriage and family were for formerly-enslaved citizens that they would rush to the courthouse during a short period of seven months to register their marriages.

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Restoration of North Carolina to the Union – Provisional Governorship

By June 1865 the reality of a failed attempt at disunion began to settle in the minds of the people of the states that had passed Secession Ordinances.  The capitol city of North Carolina had been occupied by Union forces since mid-April.  Civil authority was replaced by military authority – a general in command instead of a governor.

North Carolinians remained optimistic that a civil government would be restored.  It was generally known that William Woods Holden, newspaper editor and a peace advocate since at least 1864, would somehow be involved.  President Andrew Johnson spent most of May 1865 organizing his process for restoration of states in rebellion – a policy that became known as Presidential Reconstruction.

When Johnson announced his policy by proclamation on 29 May 1865 he also issued a second proclamation appointing Holden as the Provisional Governor of North Carolina and charged Holden with reconstituting the state government.

This letter by Holden in response to a request for him to be a speaker at a meeting in early May 1865 appeared in the May 3rd edition of Holden’s paper the Raleigh Standard (daily).  The letter was handed to Holden by a friend who served as courier.  Although this could happen prior to the military occupation it is also an indication that the mail wasn’t operational at the time – something Holden, as Provisional Governor, would have to fix.

Holden’s response gives a good insight into what his Provisional Governorship, when appointed, would be.  He would work to lay the “foundations of prosperity and happiness.”  He had to appoint Justices of the Peace, reconstitute the court systems, call for an election of a Convention which would then set dates for election of a General Assembly and Governor, and work to restore railroads (and their governing boards) – each and every part of the government and commerce of the state and counties.  He reviewed applications for pardons from high ranking Confederate soldiers and officials and people of property.  In June and July alone he reviewed over 3000 individuals on lists of people who had been suggested for county government service.

The most telling piece of his response, however, was his setting aside the question of the freedmen or former slaves.  Ignoring the freedmen would prove disastrous.  Even as Holden helped North Carolinians complete the steps set by Johnson to have their state restored, Republicans in Congress decided to take action against the omission of freedmen as citizens of the reconstituted states.  Holden’s efforts won Johnson’s acceptance of North Carolina as being back in proper relations with the federal government in December 1865- the same month that Radical Republicans recast restoration as Reconstruction and required that the process begin again.

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Announcing Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives

Originally posted on History For All the People:

The Friends of the Archives is pleased to announce an upcoming exhibit on the documents, history, and purpose of the State Archives of North Carolina. Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives will be open at the North Carolina Museum of History October 24, 2015 – June 19, 2016. Through a selection of documents from the Archives vault, unique letters, historical photographs, county and state agency records, posters, and digital media, the exhibit will illustrate the ways the State Archives documents state and county government, provides evidence of civil rights, and preserves the history and culture of North Carolina.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Archives, the…

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First Wednesdays – “…doing anything whatsoever calculated to cause excitement…”

Toward the end of April 1865, North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance was becoming increasing irrelevant in the rapidly unfolding events in North Carolina. He was unable to participate in the surrender negotiations between Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and Union Major General William T. Sherman, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis was only concerned in getting Governor Vance’s support to continue the Confederacy’s dying war of independence in the Trans-Mississippi Theater. Vance was able to find an ally in General Sherman to continue his quest to remain as the Chief Executive of the State of North Carolina, however, General Sherman’s lenient terms of surrender had discredited his role in the culmination of the fighting in the Old North State. Whatever support that Vance had from General Sherman did not get carried over to the remaining Union military forces in North Carolina, particularly Major General John M. Schofield, the new military commander in the state. Events had overridden Governor Vance and he was desperate regain control politically.

On his evacuation route from Raleigh to Greensboro, North Carolina, Governor Vance could see panic everywhere. The roads were filled with deserters, military units, refugees, and recently paroled soldiers from the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. The sight of full warehouses along the route of the North Carolina Railroad through piedmont North Carolina spurred Confederate soldiers to loot these facilities in the sight of quartermaster officials charged with their upkeep. Governor Vance also saw soldiers attempting to climb onto moving trains in an effort to look for food and/or plunder, and transportation westward. This lawlessness concerned Governor Vance, and fueled his fear that the state’s society was breaking down from the effects of the war.

On April 28th, Governor Vance issued one of his last proclamations as Governor of North Carolina during the American Civil War. In this proclamation, he stated that “…the country is filled with numerous bands of citizens and soldiers disposed to do violence to persons and property…” He commanded “…all such persons to abstain from any and all acts of lawlessness, to avoid assembling together in crowds in all towns and cities…” He also commanded “…all soldiers of this State to retire quietly to their homes and exert themselves together in preserving order.” In addition, Vance authorized “…the good and true soldiers of North Carolina, whether they have been surrendered and paroled or otherwise…” to form units under the command of civil magistrates to keep law and order in local communities. It is not known whether these units were ever formed or deployed within the state. Vance appealed to his fellow citizens for assistance, since as he noted “Without their aid I am powerless to do anything.”

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Upcoming Second Mondays Lecture Series – May 11, 2015 at 12 Noon


Second Mondays Lecture Series

 May 11, 2015 at 12 Noon

(Archives & History Building Auditorium, Raleigh, NC):

Sherman’s March and the Occupation of Raleigh

(William H. Brown, Registrar, State Archives of North Carolina)

In March 1865, the American Civil War had finally come to North Carolina with the arrival of General Sherman’s armies in the Tar Heel State. We will discuss the entry of General Sherman and his “bummers” in North Carolina and their arrival in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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“…returned to their usual place of deposit…”

In the world of politics, an ability to deal with crisis whether generated by yourself or others can truly define the value of an individual seeking to serve his or her constituents or using political office as a way to move up in the political spectrum. These dilemmas can serve to highlight a hidden quality that voters did not know about their elected official, or uncover a character flaw that had to this point remained hidden. In many ways, we are defined by crisis, or how we deal with stresses that was not accounted for during our daily lives.  For politicians, they have to find a way to continue to perform their duties and remain viable to voters during times of extreme stress.

North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance was facing just such an issue in April 1865. His beloved Tar Heel state was currently being occupied by two opposing armies maneuvering to find an advantage to either to attack or avoid combat as the last representative of a dying government. Governor Vance faced the prospect that his support for the Confederacy was now coming home to roost with the appearance of Union field armies occupying the Capitol City, and the vaunted Confederate Army of Northern Virginia disappearing from the military landscape. North Carolina state government was now operating from wagons trying to move westward in the throng of people consisting of refugees and soldiers in active service or recently paroled soldiers trying to obtain food and transportation home. The Confederate government, including Confederate President Jefferson Davis, was also in the Old North State trying to continue the dream of a separate government, even though that government had lost its capitol and one of its principal field armies. Death was at the Confederacy’s door, and North Carolina was going to be one of the witnesses at the funeral.

The initial terms of surrender offered by Union Major General William T. Sherman gave Governor Vance hope that he could remain as governor, and state government could return back to its seat in Raleigh, North Carolina. Events soon started to unfold with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and the rejection of General Sherman’s terms of surrender by the United States government. Governor Vance had hoped that he could be a part of the ongoing surrender negotiations between General Sherman and Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, but he soon became irrelevant in the national events being playing out in North Carolina. Vance’s political enemies were now reenergized to come after him, and to show him as a traitor. The Confederate government was looking for Vance’s support to continue the fight for independence, and the Confederate officers were simply ignoring Vance’s pleas.

State Treasurer Jonathan Worth was assigned by Governor Vance to move the records of the State Archives westward and out of harm’s way from the advance of Union troops. The destruction of the State Capitol in South Carolina played a large role in the fear that the same destruction was going to be repeated in North Carolina. With the rejection of the initial terms of surrender, the commencement of hostilities was a real possibility, and the State Archives was situated in active combat area. On April 25th, Worth wrote to Governor Vance to ask “…what can I do with the State archives must I move west or remain where I am?” Due to earlier assurances, Governor Vance felt that he could call upon General Sherman for assistance to save the records of the state. Confederate officials, such as Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge, saw Governor Vance as a hindrance to their efforts to secure an armistice, and refused to provide any assistance. In addition, Confederate soldiers were taking the opportunity to sack supply depots in piedmont North Carolina to obtain clothing and food, and there was a real concern that the State Archives might be destroyed by these lawless bands of soldiers. On April 27th, Governor Vance wrote General Sherman to ask if the records (and state government itself) can “…be returned to their usual place of deposit in the Capitol at Raleigh for your safe-guard…” Unfortunately for Vance, General Sherman was leaving North Carolina for Savannah, Georgia, and he would have to await an answer from the commander of the Union Army of the Ohio, Major General John M. Schofield.

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“…not taking time to bid their friends adieu…”

As Confederate General Robert E. Lee was meeting with Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant to surrender the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, another Union force was now moving through western North Carolina to disrupt rail lines stretching eastward to Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and his Confederate Army of Tennessee in North Carolina. This force was a cavalry division under the command of Union Brigadier General Alvan C. Gillem, but under the overall command of Major General George H. Stoneman. General Stoneman was directed to “raid” into western North Carolina with the support of local Union forces under the command of Colonel George Washington Kirk and disrupt the Confederate rail infrastructure in support of Major General William T. Sherman’s Union armies advancing westward toward Raleigh, North Carolina. On March 24, 1865, Stoneman’s force left their camp in Morristown, Tennessee, and by March 28th, the Union cavalrymen had taken Boone, North Carolina. They quickly moved through Wilkes County, and turned north into Virginia by April 3, 1865. Some seven days later, the Federal cavalry had reached the small community of Germanton located sixteen miles northwest of the duel communities of Winston and Salem, North Carolina.

At this point, General Stoneman ordered Union Colonel William J. Palmer to move his brigade of three regiments toward the county seat of Forsyth County in an effort to destroy factories producing cloth for the Confederacy as described in our earlier posts several years ago. As Colonel Palmer and his Union cavalrymen rode toward the town of Winston, local officials were meeting to convene the Forsyth County Superior Court on Monday, April 10, 1865. The Clerk of Superior Court, John Blackburn, described the events that were unfolding that day in an entry in the Forsyth County Superior Court Minutes. While waiting for the judge to arrive, word was received that the “…Yankee army was apparently on its way…” Blackburn described those called for jury duty and those who had arrived to pursue cases in court soon “… began to disperse rather unceremoniously…” from the Forsyth County court house. As clerk of court, Blackburn began to gather his court papers and dockets to prevent them from falling in the hands of what he described as the “…Yankee army…” Interesting enough, he chose to hide the records in several houses of women in the town such as one widow named “Mrs. Elizabeth Long,” maybe under the belief that Union cavalrymen will not harm the dwellings of women in town. He also noted that the local Confederate Conscription enrolling officer and his detachment “…left precipitately…”

After locking up his office, Blackburn joined the mayors of both Winston and Salem, the principal of the Salem Female Academy, and one other individual as they walked up to Liberty Street to meet the Union soldiers. Near sunset, a squad of Union cavalry rode up with pistols drawn, and the small party “…raised White handkerchiefs to let them know our mission was peace…” The cavalrymen were looking for “…Confederate or rebel soldiers…” who had recently fired on them. Soon after, Colonel Palmer and his staff arrived on the scene and accepted the surrender of the two small communities, and asked the small party to accompany him into town. Blackburn closed his account of the events of that day by noting that Colonel Palmer established his headquarters in the house of the Joshua Bonor, the Mayor of Winston.

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Lt. Walsh: “Raleigh’s Lone Defender”

These two accounts [see links below] of the first moments of the Federal army entering the capitol city of Raleigh give slightly divergent details about the time-line of events.  They both, however, agree upon the final action centered on the initial occupation: a Confederate soldier – a Reb – shot at the Federals and in return was hanged.

The City of Raleigh was wedged between two opposing forces – the retreating Confederates and the advancing Federals.  Governor Zebulon Vance had created a small party of men, including two former governors, to go out and meet with the Federal officers and surrender the city.  It was hoped that in doing so the city would be spared the fate of other capitol cities that fell to Sherman’s army. The honorable Kenneth Raynor also went out to surrender the city.  No timely word was received by Vance, the surrendering party having been delayed along the route. Vance decided he would leave and went to meet the main body of Confederate troops near what is now Cary.  He left the keys of the State Capitol in the hands of Alex – described as a “faithful old black.”  Raleigh itself was left to General Wheeler’s cavalry who began to plunder in earnest the night of April 12th.  Early on the 13th they set fire to a train depot to keep the goods out of the Federal’s hands and retreated.

As the sun’s first light shown on Raleigh, the remnants of Confederate looters scattered from the city.  Even as the sound of their horses’ hooves died down the martial sounds of a conquering army entered the city and echoed up Fayetteville Street.  At the northern end of the street stood former Governor Swain, who had been one of Vance’s surrender emissaries.  He now held the keys previously entrusted to Alex.

As Federal forces under General Kilpatrick came abreast of the Market House on Fayetteville Street two Confederate cavalrymen appeared at the head of Fayetteville Street near where Swain was standing.  A citizen happened by at that moment and seeing one of the cavalrymen pull a pistol and level it at the Federals cried out “for God’s sake don’t shoot the city has surrendered.”  His cry was too late for the cavalryman snapped a round from his pistol at the Federals.

The other cavalryman fled down Hillsborough Street leaving the shooter alone.  Kilpatrick’s men recovered from being shot at and began a dash up Fayetteville Street towards the State Capitol.  The window sash of a nearby house flew open and the occupant yelled to the remaining cavalryman – ‘The town has surrendered.  Don’t fire; you are jeopardizing us all.” The cavalryman cursed the Yankees, saying “I’ll take one last crack at ‘em” and emptied five more shots in the direction of the Federal riders.  The shots scattered the Yankees but a group of US cavalrymen spur their mounts on and give chase to the lone Confederate.

The shooter lost precious seconds riding down the wrong street to leave Raleigh. The street ended in a land drop too steep for his horse to make – the bridge was a block away on Hillsborough Street.  Retracing his path allowed the Federals to catch up and when his horse went down the Rebel cavalryman was at the mercy of the Federal soldiers.  They gathered him up and took him back to the end of Fayetteville Street where Kilpatrick and Swain were standing near the statue of George Washington.

Kilpatrick asked the man what was his command.  “I belong to Wheeler’s Cavalry and am from Texas.  My name is Walsh.”

Kilpatrick ended the brief exchange by ordering Walsh’s execution – “take the man out where no ladies can see him and hang him.”  Walsh was executed on April 13, 1865.

[For an excellent account of the Walsh story see the News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C. July 3, 1927, page 5.]

James D. Crozer letter

Newspaper article giving account of the Lt. Walsh incident

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