First Wednesdays – The Emancipation Proclamation in northeastern North Carolina

In January 1863 William W. Holden, editor of the Raleigh Standard, published a letter from an unidentified woman to her husband.  The letter, written over several days, detailed events in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, that occurred after the turn of the New Year (1863).  The image included here is from the microfilm of the newspaper but the original copy of the paper is also available for research at the State Archives of North Carolina.

Union forces at Elizabeth City, in the wake of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, began arming African Americans as part of the Union garrison in the city.  Citizens of Elizabeth City, both Confederate and Union sympathizers, waited to learn what the effects of the final proclamation would be when it became enforced on 1 January 1863.  Even though Edward Stanly tried to delay the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans in Pasquotank County had a party in early January 1863, probably to celebrate the proclamation.  A few Caucasian men attended the party.  On 5 January 1863 (Monday), while returning to the Union army headquarters in the town, these Caucasian men were ambushed and killed by Confederate guerrilla fighters.  Bedlam ensued, as can been seen in the details of the unidentified woman’s letter.

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