Last “Second Mondays” Presentation – Monday, November 9, 2015 – 12 Noon


Presidential Reconstruction In North Carolina

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

November 9, 2015 at 12 Noon

(A. Christopher Meekins, Head, Microfilm Imaging Unit, State Archives of North Carolina)

After four years of war, North Carolina was now preparing itself to reenter the Union after the American Civil War. Chris Meekins will discuss the entrance of the Tar Heel State back into the United States.

Free to the Public – Please Join Us

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First Wednesdays – “…to surrender the ship…”

Many North Carolinians saw the repeal of the Ordinance of Secession and repudiation of slavery as the final steps to be completed for their re-entry into the United States. Now, the voting population of North Carolina had to select a new governor and representatives to form a new state government to lead and to help heal the pain from the death and suffering of the last four years. County governments were being re-instituted, and new political alliances were now being formed from former Whigs, Democrats, and newly freed African-American men.

The war continued. Returning veterans found themselves in communities ravaged by death and destruction. Families were ripped apart by the war, and communities found themselves divided politically between those individuals who supported the Confederacy and those who considered themselves as still loyal to the Old Glory. For these communities, the bloodshed continued until the pain of the past was erased from the memory of the community.

Roughly 4000 miles to the northeast, one of the last symbols of the Confederacy was coming to a close. In the Mersey River, Confederate Commander James Iredell Waddell piloted the C.S.S. Shenandoah toward a rendezvous with Captain I. C. Paynter and the H.M.S. Donegal. At the time, H.M.S. Donegal was serving as a coastguard vessel at Liverpool protecting the river and the port facilities. Confederate Commander Waddell and his vessel had embarked on their cruise in October 1864 to strike a blow against Union shipping. By April 1865, the Confederate raider was in the Pacific Ocean attacking Union merchant ships, and a month later, Commander Waddell was striking against Yankee Whalers in the Bering Sea. In August 1865, Waddell learned that the war was over from a British ship sailing to San Francisco, California. From April 1865 to August 1865, Waddell and his crew had captured roughly forty-eight vessels during this time. Concerned that he and his crew would be considered as pirates, Commander Waddell immediately disarmed his ship and made course to sail to Liverpool, England. The C.S.S. Shenandoah sailed westward through the Pacific Ocean, around Cape Horn, and north to Liverpool.

On November 5, 1865, the C.S.S. Shenandoah sailed into the Mersey River, and proceeded drop anchor near the H.M.S. Donegal. Confederate Commander Waddell formerly surrendered to his ship to Captain Paynter on November 6, 1865. A Royal Navy detachment watched as the Confederate colors were struck from the vessel. In a letter to the Earl of Russell dated November 5, 1865, Commander Waddell wrote “… to surrender the ship, with her battery, small arms, machinery stoves, Tackle and approval complete to her Majesty’s Government for such disposition as in its wisdom should be deemed proper…” James I. Waddell would not return back to the United States till 1875. C.S.S. Shenandoah was sold to a foreign buyer and was sunk in a hurricane near Zanzibar in April 1872.

Letter: James I. Waddell to the Earl of Russell, November 5, 1865, PC.87.1 James I. Waddell Papers

Letter: James I. Waddell to the Earl of Russell, November 5, 1865, PC.87.1 James I. Waddell Papers

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First Wednesdays – “…the institution of slavery having been destroyed…”

As noted in a previous post, Provisional Governor William W. Holden had called for a statewide convention in October 1865 to complete North Carolina’s restoration to the Union. That convention had a very simple, but critical, charge to vote to reject the ordinance of secession that was passed in May 1861 and to abolish slavery as a fulfillment of one of several requirements as stated in President Andrew Johnson’s proclamations in May 1865. Provisional Governor Holden now faced the task of finding qualified citizens to serve in this convention. One of the problems that Holden faced was that many of the political leaders of the state had thrown their hat in the ring to support the Confederacy during the late war, and those men would have to be pardoned to be allowed to participate in the statewide convention. President Johnson stated that any Tar Heel citizen, who were requesting to receive a pardon, would have to make application through the Provisional Governor’s Office and will have be recommended by Holden himself to President Johnson. Unfortunately, the political turmoil that existed in North Carolina in 1864-1865 erupted again as Holden refused to approve pardons for many of his political adversaries in Post war North Carolina.

In a letter to the Raleigh Sentinel dated September 21, 1865, former Governor William A. Graham posted a letter disapproving of Holden’s action of refusing to approve a number of pardon applications by his former political adversaries. Graham’s reasoning was that there should be no restriction placed on representatives of the people to be their advocate in elected assemblies either by religion or former political persuasion. In addition, he felt that the issue of emancipation was settled by the war, and that no convention was needed to approve the abolishment of slavery. Despite previously receiving a pardon from Holden, Graham refused to participate in the upcoming statewide convention as a matter of principle.   Upon seeing Graham’s letter, Holden sent a message to President Johnson to ask whether “Am I am right or wrong” to deny seats to what he called “unpardoned persons” in the statewide convention. President Johnson responded by telegraph to approve Holden’s actions by stating “Your decision is correct that under the proclamation they cannot vote for members or sit in convention as members without first being pardoned on taking the Amnesty Oath.” His response settled the matter temporarily, but the issue served to be another mark against Holden in future events in North Carolina politics.

On October 2, Holden assembled the statewide convention in the House of Commons in Raleigh, North Carolina, after receiving permission by the local U. S. Army commander. The convention consisted of 120 elected delegates similar in number to the membership in the previous assemblies in the House of Commons. The convention immediately took up the issue of voting to reject the ordnance of secession, and then to settle the issue of the abolition of slavery. After much debate, the membership struggled to approve a resolution to reject the ordnance of secession. However, the resolution to abolish slavery was approved by the convention on October 7, 1865 by stating “That the institution of slavery having been destroyed in the State of North Carolina, hereafter neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in this state, excepted as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

N. C. Secretary of State Records, Series XX, Volume 7, State Convention of 1865, page 4

N. C. Secretary of State Records, Series XX, Volume 7, State Convention of 1865, page 4

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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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