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Timothy Tyson on North Carolina’s anti-Confederate history

In the wake of Charlottesville and this week’s toppling of a Confederate monument in Durham, today’s N&O piece by best-selling author Timothy Tyson is well worth your time.

In the piece Tyson, author of Blood Done Sign My Name and The Blood of Emmett Till, writes about North Carolina’s Confederate history…and its history of anti-confederate sentiment.

Tyson, a native North Carolinian and senior research scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and Duke Divinity School, uses the piece to separate the historical from the political.

From the piece:

During the actual Civil War, the Confederacy bitterly divided North Carolina, the last Southern state to secede and the one with the highest number of battlefield deaths and the highest desertion rate. At times the conflict in North Carolina literally became “a war within a war.” Thousands of white North Carolinians took up arms against the Confederacy and far more refused to accept its authority. Thousands of black North Carolinians escaped enslavement and served in the Union army.

In 1861, Confederate officials complained that Eastern North Carolina was “infested with Tories and disloyal persons.” When federal troops captured the northeastern North Carolina coast in 1862, a thousand local white men immediately volunteered for the Union armies. Gov. Zebulon Vance called the conflict “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” and threatened to “take North Carolina out of the Confederacy.”

The Confederate Conscription Act, which exempted prosperous slaveholders from military service, turned many more Tar Heels against the war. That autumn of 1862, North Carolina’s own internal civil war began to rage. From the coastal swamps to the wilderness of the Blue Ridge, anti-Confederate guerillas, Unionists and runaway slaves battled the Confederacy; parts of North Carolina became virtually ungovernable.

Scores of public meetings in over 40 of the state’s then-86 counties demanded an end to the war. Campaigning for re-election in 1864, Vance declared, “The great popular heart is not now and never has been in this war. It was a revolution of the politicians and not the people.” The notion that the Confederacy represents white North Carolina’s heritage is not historical but instead political.

Take the time to read the whole thing.

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