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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New Acquisition Highlights Appomattox Court House

[This blog post was written by Matthew M. Peek, Military Collections Archivist in the Special Collections Section.]

Pictured is an original company pay roll for Company G of the 38th North Carolina Infantry, a new addition to the State Archives of North Carolina

Road to Appomattox: Company G of the 38th North Carolina Troops and Their Path to Surrender

In January 2015, the State Archives of North Carolina Military Collection received a rare, original company pay roll for Company G of the 38th North Carolina Infantry, Confederate States Army, dated February 29, 1864. The document was dated two weeks after their new commanding officer, who remained the commanding officer until the surrender at Appomattox Court House, was assigned that position. The payroll was donated by the direct descendants of one of the company’s officers, who most likely carried this payroll while the company was at Appomattox Court House. In honor of the 150th anniversary of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, we would like to utilize the company payroll to trace the experience of Company G and some of its men from February 29, 1864, until their surrender on April 9, 1865.

Company G of the 38th North Carolina Infantry was raised in Alexander County, N.C., on November 2, 1861. It went into state service at Camp Mangum on December 31, 1861, near present-day Raleigh. Known as the “Rocky Face Rangers,” the great majority of its members were farmers, mechanics, and teachers. The 38th North Carolina Infantry and Company G served with distinction at some of the Civil War’s most important battles prior to February 1864, including the Seven Days Battles, Second Battle of Manassas, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. By 1864, Company G had suffered significantly from wounds, deaths, captures, and desertions to the enemy. 1864 would prove to be a turning point for the unit—as it had for so many other North Carolina regiments, worn down by the grueling fighting as the tide seemingly began to turn in the Union’s favor.

By February 1864, Company G had 46 men listed in its ranks, with many of these men having family connections to each other, such as the Murdock (listed in the payroll as Murdah) brothers and the Lackey family.  By the time of April 9, 1865, Company G had suffered tremendously from the course of war, with the following fates coming to the men of its ranks as listed on the February 1864 company payroll:

7 soldiers were captured during battle, and released after they took the Union’s Oath of Allegiance; 5 soldiers deserted to the Union side; 13 soldiers surrendered at Appomattox Court House with the 38th North Carolina Infantry; 5 soldiers were transferred or retired to the Invalid Corps due to injury; 1 soldier left the company and returned home, believed to be due to injury; 6 soldiers were killed in combat or died of disease before the surrender at Appomattox; 7 soldiers are unaccounted for due to unknown circumstance by the time of Appomattox; and 2 soldiers were discharged before the end of war.


Each of the company’s men who remained in service until the surrender at Appomattox found their own unique path to the doorsteps of defeat.

The company’s commanding officer, Captain Richard M. Sharpe, had just been promoted to captain and was assigned as the company’s commanding officer on February 16, 1864. Richard Sharpe served in the same company with his four brothers and one cousin, George W. (also a company officer), John C. (also a company officer), James F., Thomas J., and Christopher T. (cousin). Of all his relations in the company, only Richard survived through the Civil War to the surrender at Appomattox Court House. Richard Sharpe would lead Company G in the fierce combat at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Va., where he was wounded in the right shoulder on May 13, 1864. Sharpe would be unable to return to full service until sometime in July or August 1864, regaining command of Company G. Sharpe oversaw his company’s surrender to the Union forces at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

Alfred A. Hines was promoted to First Lieutenant of Company G on February 16, 1864. Having been a teacher before the Civil War, Hines served in the company with his two brothers and a family relative. Hines appears to have suffered greatly from illness, having been absent from the company before his 1864 promotion, and absent again due to illness for most of the year until October 1864. During this period of illness, Alfred learned of the death of his brother Benjamin at Petersburg, Virginia, on June 24, 1864. Finally unable to continue in full service, Alfred retired to the Invalid Corps, and would surrender with Company G and his sole living brother Samuel

Not all of those who surrendered at Appomattox had a clear path to the end of the war. Private Henry M. Poplin entered service with Company G at the advanced fighting age of 38 in March 1863. Before 1864, Poplin was captured by the Union forces at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Va., on May 3, 1863, and confined at Washington, D.C. He would be involved in a prisoner-of-war exchange with the Confederacy around May 13, 1863, and returned to duty with Company G within the next few months. Poplin would face the Union forces as victors again on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox.

Private Robert Clementus Lackey is one of the most unique soldiers in Company G to have made it to Appomattox. Lackey was one of thirteen members of the Lackey family of Alexander County who served in Company G, along with his first cousin Thomas Fielding Murdock (also Murdah). The Lackey, Murdock, and Sharpe families, represented by 22 members in Company G during the Civil War, are all related through marriage. The Lackey family at the start of the Civil War was one of the largest families in Alexander County. Robert worked as a farmer before the war, and enlisted in November 1861. Lackey was wounded about June 26, 1862, at Mechanicsburg, Virginia; he appears to have been bothered by the wound throughout the remainder of the war. He rejoined Company G by September 1862 and served until about March 1864, when he was promoted to be a Musician (again, likely due to his injuries). Robert Lackey retired to the Invalid Corps on December 7, 1864, remaining in a non-combat capacity with Company G until Appomattox.

One of the most unusual stories from the members of Company G by February 1864 was that of Private Cyrus Drum. At age 38 when he enlisted in March 1863, Drum was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Va., during May 1-4, 1863. After his absence from his company due to injury, Drum would be listed on August 13, 1863, as a deserter, having not returned to his company after more than three months’ absence. Drum returned to duty sometime in November or December 1863, after which he was court-martialed for desertion and sentenced to death by the Confederate Army. However, likely due to the shortage of Confederate soldiers by 1864, his death sentence was remitted. Drum would remain with Company G, only to end up surrendering to the Union Army at Appomattox.

Finally, we come to the Company G payroll’s original owner, Thomas Fielding Murdock (listed as Murdah). Thomas Murdock was a 19-year old farmer when he enlisted in Company G; Thomas’ younger brother Robert would enlist at some point in the same company. Thomas became the 3rd Lieutenant of Company G on May 11, 1863, and served in this capacity throughout the rest of the Civil War. Thomas surrendered on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House. During the surrender, Thomas appears to have retained an original February 1864 payroll, along with a diary he kept throughout the war, and took the payroll back with him, folded up, to Alexander County

The surrender of the Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, and later of Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee on April 26, 1865, did not spark the end of fighting for the Confederate veterans of Company G. They would return home to farms and communities in Alexander County, requiring the veterans to pitch in to fill the void of those men county men lost in war. The returning soldiers had to learn to deal with the horrors of war as they re-learned to live at home and reunite with their families. The men also had to learn how to deal with the residual injuries of the war, even as their Southern culture would be shocked with changes following the end of the Civil War and beginning of Reconstruction. Each member of Company G found their own way at war’s end.

Richard M. Sharpe returned to Alexander County, and married Barbra E. Mehaffey on April 4, 1867. Alfred A. Hines would eventually settle in Iredell County, and raised a family with his wife Rebecca C. Hines. Despite his various infirmaries, Alfred lived until May 15, 1926, getting to see a son and daughter into adulthood. Henry M. Poplin returned to Alexander County and his family, including his wife Mary and their four children—one of whom, Catherine, had been born at the start of the Civil War.  In a double ceremony with his cousin Thomas F. Murdock, Robert C. Lackey married a Civil War soldier’s widow, Panthy Susan Beckham, on November 22, 1865. The Lackeys went on to have a large family and built their own house.

Cyrus Drum returned home to his wife Nancy in Alexander County. It is not known what, if any, effect Drum’s desertion had on his reputation in the county. Drum died on August 23, 1904 at the age of 78. Drum did not die before seeking a Confederate veteran’s pension in 1902—without mentioning anything about his court-martial or desertion in his official application.  After the war, Thomas Murdock married Elizabeth H. Beckham on November 22, 1865. He and his wife had a large family, and Thomas became a local public official. Later, he became a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives. The entire time, his family retained the Company G payroll, until Thomas Murdock’s descendants donated it to the State Archives in January 2015. The documents preserved by the State Archives of North Carolina and the Military Collection assist in completing gaps in the record of our state’s Civil War heritage. And with donations by members of the public, such as this donation of this document, we are able to offer North Carolinians richer understanding of their past.

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“…to remove as soon as possible to the valley of the Haw River…”

By mid-April 1865, the eastern and western theaters of the American Civil War were now within 150 miles of each other. To the north in Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had abandoned Richmond, Virginia and their defensive works and was moving westward toward Lynchburg, Va. General Lee was seeking to reach the supplies positioned along the Danville Rail Road to re-energize his weaken army and to seek the security of open countryside to maneuver against Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant’s Union armies. Grant understood what General Lee was trying to accomplish, and attempted to move his Union forces in position to block the Confederate retreat route and to prevent their attainment of supplies from the rail lines coming out of North Carolina.

Near Smithfield, North Carolina, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston was also preparing to move westward as well. Confederate cavalry scouts were reporting that Major General William T. Sherman’s combined Union armies were preparing to leave their camps in Goldsboro, NC to advance westward to engage General Johnston’s Army of Tennessee. Upon his arrival in Goldsboro, General Sherman discovered that his Union armies were not needed by General Grant in Virginia, and he was quickly directed to turn his focus toward the “new” Confederate Army of Tennessee and defeat it militarily in the Tar Heel state. General Johnston knew that he did not have numbers to face General Sherman’s Union forces head on, but needed to retreat westward to favorable ground to mount a limited strike similar to his actions at Bentonville, NC.

On 8 April 1865, Confederate Lieutenant Colonel John J. Garnett issued orders to begin the retreat from Johnston, County, North Carolina. These orders directed Confederate Lt. Colonel Joseph B. Starr to move his artillery batteries westward from Clayton Station “…to the valley of the Haw River” in Alamance County. The north-south flowing Haw River was seen as possible defensive barrier between the Confederate forces and the General Sherman’s combined Union armies’ potential westward advance. In addition, the Confederate government was currently in Danville, Va. and any retreat toward Greensboro, NC to bring the Confederate Army of Tennessee in closer communications with its civilian government. General Johnston knew that it was important to keep organized armies in the field as a manifestation of that civil authority in order for the Confederate States of America to continue to survive

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Bells Across the Land 2015

On April 9, 2015 the National Park Service will commemorate the surrender of Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee to Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Bells will ring across the country in remembrance of this monumental moment and the subsequent end of the American Civil War.

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First Wednesdays – “They never come to hand…”

As the state of North Carolina was becoming increasingly besieged by enemy forces entering the state from all sides, the civil authority within the interior of the state was collapsing as well. This was not an overnight phenomenon. The cracks became evident during the implementation of the conscription acts in North Carolina during the war, where the poor and middle class became convinced that they were being forced to shoulder the burden of majority of the fighting in the sectional conflict. This chasm grew even more as county governments became as fractured by the internal conflicts erupting between the opponents and supporters of the war as they fought for the control of local governments. The internal struggle soon forced Governor Zebulon Vance to take measures to militarily deal with counties that were in open rebellion to the Confederate and state governments. These measures brought additional pain and suffering to the state’s population, and weaken the state’s material support for the idea of separate Confederate government within the boundaries of North America.

As the war continued, county governments became dominated by wealthy land owners, who were able to avoid military service due to exemptions in the Confederate conscription acts. This was not a new occurrence, since most county governments were controlled by justices of the peace, who were appointed by state legislators who were in turn elected into office themselves by the wealthy property owners in the county. During the war, these justices of the peace used their authority to control the prices within the county, forced “undesirables” into military service, and levy taxes on the poor. Much of the revolt against the Confederate government was in part a struggle against the practices of courthouse politics in North Carolina.

The arrival of Union forces in February 1865 brought another player to further disrupt local governance within the state. Now, local governments had to contend with arrival of military operations within their boundaries. County courts cancelled scheduled court terms and other vital components of local government simply disappeared with the sight of blue-coated soldiers on courthouse grounds. In many cases, the county government would just disappear from sight, as court officials rushed home to protect their properties from Union soldiers. In the case of our letter dated 30 March 1865, P. J. Coppendge, the Clerk of Anson County Court, wrote to Governor Vance to make a second request for the commissions for the local magistrates that were appointed during the last term of the General Assembly. As noted by Mr. Coppendge, “They never have come to hand our mail Facilities have been interrupted by Yankee Raids our mails are uncertain…” It is assumed that April Term of the Anson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (County Court) was able to meet, since the Trial Docket for that court did survive the war. Interestingly enough, the regular court docket did not survive, and we are not completely sure that all the magistrates’ commissions were delivered from Raleigh, North Carolina.

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