Consent and Coercion in the Central Piedmont of North Carolina during the Civil War Era

In recent years the study of Civil War loyalty has gained considerable scholarly attention. Most of these studies demonstrate that many in the North and South struggled to balance conflicting loyalties between nation, state, family, religion, and self-interest throughout the war. This thesis finds that while all of these factors contributed to dissent, an underlying element that created dissent and disloyalty during the Civil War era was the belief that the government was violating the principles of proper republican rule. This study focuses on white North Carolinians living in a small region in the piedmont of North Carolina that was known as a hotbed of Unionist sentiment during the Civil War. The study uses newspapers, correspondence, political speeches, and testimony from the Southern Claims Commission to analyze how these white North Carolinians rationalized their positions. White North Carolinians from the secession crisis, through the Civil War, and into Reconstruction consistently criticized the both the Union and the Confederate governments for abusing their power. They concentrated their criticism on the ideas of consent and coercion by claiming that the government was not relying on the consent of the governed and was also using coercive policies against its own residents. White North Carolinians in the piedmont resisted the perceived imposition of illegitimate government power by advocating a truly republican form of government. The rationale that the government was failing to represent the will and the good of the people was central to shaping disloyalty during the Civil War era. Nevertheless, as the threat of racial equality grew in the late war years and the Reconstruction period, many of these white North Carolinians shifted their efforts from a fight for government by consent to promote government based on white supremacy.

King, Stefanie Alyson. “Consent and Coercion in the Central Piedmont of North Carolina during the Civil War Era.” (Under the direction of Dr. Susanna Lee.)

One response on “Consent and Coercion in the Central Piedmont of North Carolina during the Civil War Era

  1. Stephen Willis says:

    My question is this…Was Cleveland Co. North Carolina considered as part of this study?? My Great Grandfather and his family was caught up in this struggle in 1863. Great Grandfather, Banister Willis, was accused of being “too friendly” with Union Troops and his home and crops were burned to the ground by Rebel forces. Great Grandfather, Banister Willis, was thrown in prison. He had a farm near Shelby, Cleveland Co. N.C. at this time. One of his sons, Josiah Freeman Willis, (My Great Uncle) was a Confederate soldier and was on the March to Gettysburg in 1863, when he evidently got news of his family. Josiah deserted the Confederate Army and made it to Illinois where he joined up with the 110th Illinois Infantry Consolidated and served until he was mustered out in Washington D.C. in 1865. A younger son of Banister Willis, enlisted in the Union Army the next year (Feb. 1864) in New Bern, North Carolina. He was wounded and almost died from his shoulder gunshot wound. The resulting fever caused him to go blind in his left eye. His name was William John Willis. If your research covers Cleveland Co. please send me instructions on ordering. Thank you.
    Steve Willis
    6201 Mineral Way
    Carmichael, Ca. 95608

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