Civil War Book Review: Shifting Loyalties: The Union Occupation of Eastern North Carolina

Shifting Loyalties: The Union Occupation of Eastern North Carolina
by Judkin Browning

A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee's Triumph 1862-1863 by Jeffry D. Wert

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (February 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807834688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807834688

Occupation is difficult for all parties.  The civilian population is never fully trusted and the military often is high handed.  The result is a series of problems made worse by changing priorities and news of the war.  Make it a rebellion and things are even harder to handle.  Add in a population with a solid loyal core to make things worse.  For extra problems, add a large underclass based on race.  To make things worse, give the occupying army a strong racist tone.

The above is a quick description of the occupied areas of North Carolina.  The naval blockade needed ports if it was going to be effective.  The ports were in rebel hands.  In 1862, the Federal army and navy captured the ports of Beaufort and New Bern.  The operation resulted in most of two counties coming under control of the Army.  For the reminder of the war, an uneasy balance of power existed in this area.  This was not an area quick to leave the Union.  Having done so, they gave good service to the Confederacy.

Occupation and emancipation forced the white residents into a series of choices and compromises that tested their loyalties to their nation and each other.  These loyalties shift over the years.  Emancipation, ties to the community and the realities of being occupied cause real conflicts for this group.  For the free blacks and the slaves the arrival of the Federals is a revelation.  In a very short time, slaves are emancipated or in a position where their owner cannot force obedience.  Freedom is not universal and the application of “law” is uneven.  Overall, a large illiterate black population is set free for better or worse.  The author provides a balanced view of the freed slaves and the benevolent societies that try to help them.  Lastly is the occupying army.  The author gives of a real look at duty that is boring, unrewarding, stressful and at times dangerous.  There are few rewards in what is usually a thankless task.  Soldiers went from liberators to oppressors in a short time.  Even as blacks welcome them, their racism makes them discount this.  The benevolent societies have different priorities and often work harder to damage other societies than help the freeman.

This is a well-written scholarly book with full endnotes, sources and index.  This book is well off the beaten path and all the move valuable because of that.  The only problem I have is the lack of a good map.  This may not be a problem for many but I like to orientate myself and could not do so.


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