Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"Divided Allegiances: Bertie County during the Civil War"

Author Gerald W. Thomas* modestly admits to being no historian, but his book Divided Allegiances: Bertie County during the Civil War (North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1996) is of a quality that would certainly make any historian proud. Bertie County, North Carolina occupies a strategic position at the west end of Albemarle Sound, forming a peninsula of sorts bounded by the Chowan and Roanoke rivers. Thomas mined census data and county records to present to the reader in text and chart form the pre-war economic and political makeup of the county. As Chris Meekins discovered for nearby counties in his fine book Elizabeth City, North Carolina and the Civil War, Bertie citizens were divided in their support for the Confederacy. The initial wave of Confederate volunteers were sent north, leaving the county undefended during and after Burnside's expedition that captured much of the state's seaboard. Mounting resentment and resistance to the Conscription Act, led large numbers of deserters, unionists, and neutral whites into the ranks of the 1st and 2nd North Carolina (US) regiments. An even larger number of slaves fled the county and enlisted into several North Carolina colored units. Like Meekins, Thomas describes in some detail regular military and guerrilla operations in the area, and the precarious situation this destruction and disruption created for Bertie County civilians. Appendices list by company and regiment those county residents that served in the US and CS armies. I would highly recommend this soundly researched and very well written county history to anyone interested in Civil War North Carolina.

* - Thomas also co-authored the influential article "Massacre at Plymouth: April 20, 1864." [Weymouth T. Jordan Jr. and Gerald W. Thomas. North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. 72 (April 1995): 125–197].

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