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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