More from Carolina

by Fred Ray on May 20, 2011 · 0 comments

Ben Steelman takes a look at pre-bellum Wilmington:

Wilmington was the largest municipality in mostly-rural North Carolina by a wide margin – New Bern, the next largest town, had only about 5,000 people – and it was growing fast. Its population had doubled in just 20 years.

NC was not a cotton state—most of its wealth was derived from mixed agriculture and forest products.

And then looks at NCs secession convention. The Old North State was the last to join the Confederacy, but after Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers, it was only a question of which side you would be on. The call included demands for troops from the Upper South, including Virginia, NC, and Tennessee, to invade their neighbor South Carolina. It also didn’t take a military genius the see that any Federal army would have to come through those states to get to the already-seceded lower South. The die was cast, and the vote for secession unanimous. But the price would be very, very high.

In the mountains, mobilization was already beginning.

The Buncombe Riflemen, a militia group formed in December 1859, left Asheville for Raleigh on April 18, 1861.

“The town was perfectly alive with people who had come to witness the departure of these brave volunteers,” the Asheville News reported.

Not everyone was as happy as it might have appeared.

Asheville resident William John Brown wrote a son in New Zealand that two other sons had “gone to prepare to battle for one section of the country vs the other section & that section contains all our blood relatives save our four selves. It is awful.”

Soon much of western Carolina would be at war with itself.


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