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Prewar Collection

Experience the events and controversies leading up to the Civil War from first-hand accounts. This collection contains primary sources, mostly documents and still images, related to pre-Civil War North Carolina from controversies related to slavery in the territories to the secession crisis to the outbreak of war. Historical actors in prewar North Carolina authored these primary sources. Students in history classes at North Carolina State University and other contributors added the primary sources to this collection.

Letter of Sterling Ruffin to Thomas Ruffin, June 9, 1804

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This person letter written by Sterling Ruffin, Thomas Ruffins father, was part of an on going series of letters between Sterling and Thomas while…

"Childhood," ca. 1810s-1820s

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In the first chapter ofIncidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), Harriet Jacobs described her early childhood (ca. 1810s-1820s) as a young, black,…

Chapter 1 of The Experience of Thomas H. Jones, ca. 1820s-1830s

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In the first chapter ofThe Experience of Thomas H. Jones, Who Was a Slave for Forty-Three Years, Jones described his early childhood, his immediate…

Articles of Agreement between Benjamin Chambers and Thomas Ruffin, October 26, 1821

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This document united Thomas Ruffin and Benjamin Chambers in a slave trading partnership beginning in February of 1822. Thomas Ruffin was a North…

Chart of Rates for Pilotage of the Cape Fear River

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This is a chart showing the rates per linear of foot of vessels traveling the Cape Fear river, either northbound or southbound divided by how much…

Letter of Quinton Anderson to Thomas Ruffin, January 15, 1822

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This letter from Quinton Anderson to Thomas Ruffin includes Anderson's refusal to enter the slave trade with Ruffin. This letter is significant in…

Account of Purchase and Sale of Slaves made by Benjamin Chambers, 1823

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This document gives an account of several slaves bought by Benjamin Chambers and Thomas Ruffin's slave trading partnership. This document provides…

Letter of Benjamin Chambers to Thomas Ruffin, May 21, 1824

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This is a letter from Benjamin Chambers to Thomas Ruffin discussing their partnership in a slave trading business. Chambers discusses his business…

Letter of Archibald Murphey to Thomas Ruffin, June 3, 1824

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Archibald Murphey was a neighbor and friend of Thomas Ruffin. Murphey wrote a letter to Ruffin about his overseer being overly harsh to his slaves.…

Ledger of Thomas Ruffin, 1825

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This ledger notes the names, ages and prices for which several slaves were sold by Benjamin Chambers in the slave trading partnership that Chambers…

Letters on Female Character, Addressed to a Young Lady, on the Death of Her Mother by Virginia Randolph Cary, 1828

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Letters on a Female Character by Virginia Randolph Cary, published in 1828, praised the ideals of the domestic sphere. Women, according to Cary,…

State v. Mann (1829)

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In 1828, John Mann of Chowan County rented a slave named Lydia from her owner Elizabeth Jones. During the year that Mann rented Lydia, he shot and…

"Sketches of Neighboring Slaveholders," ca. 1820s

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In the ninth chapter of Harriet A. Jacobs'Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl(1861), Jacobs discussed her neighbors' and enslaved friends' masters.…

An Address to the People of North Carolina on the Evils of Slavery by the Friends of Libersty and Equality, 1830

An Address to the People of North Carolina on the Evils of Slavery by the Friends of Libersty and Equality, 1830

In 1816, North Carolina Quakers, under the leadership of Levi Coffin, founded the Manumission Society whosegoal was to manumit the slave population…

"An Address to the People of North Carolina, on the Evils of Slavery. By the Friends of Liberty and Equality: Manumission Society of North Carolina," GreensboroughPatriot, March, 1830

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William Swaim, editor of the Greensborough Patriot, published this address in pamphlet form through his newspaper. Swaim was also the Secretary of the…

First Draft of Thomas Ruffin's Decision in State v. Mann, 1830

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Justice Thomas Ruffin's first draft of his controversial decision in State v. Mann. Ruffin was a slaveowning North Carolinian that served on the North…

Second Draft of Thomas Ruffin's Decision in State v. Mann, 1830

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This is North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Thomas Ruffin's second draft of his decision in the State v. Mann decision in 1830. Ruffin's ruling was…

"Insurrection in North Carolina," North Carolina Star, September 15, 1831

The Raleigh Star reporting on the outcome of the Nat Turner Rebellion that happened in Southampton County, Virgina. The article reports on other…

Letter of B. W. Daniel to William Augustus Blount, September 16, 1831.

For this letter, I am addressing the information provided in the footnote more so than the letter itself. The letter reflects the government…

Letter of Thomas Ruffin to Archibald Murphey, October 29, 1831

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Thomas Ruffin sent a letter to Archibald Murphey to explain his action in caning Bridget, a slave of Murphey's that used to belong to Ruffin. Ruffin…

Letter of Thomas Ruffin to Anne Ruffin, January 29, 1833

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Thomas Ruffin wrote letters to his wife and family frequently when he was away from home for work or other reasons. This is one of the letters that…

Tax Records for Caswell County, 1846

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These tax records were taken in Caswell County during the year of 1846. The tax records are split into districts. The record demonstrates that Thomas…

Letter from Thomas Day to David L. Swain, December 6, 1847

In this letter, Thomas Day wrote to David L. Swain about shelves that Day was making. In the letter, Day promised Swain that he would be provided with…

Tax Records for Caswell County, 1847

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These tax records show the amount of land Thomas Day had, the number of slaves he owned, and the amount of taxes owed to the government. Within these…

"The Life and Age of Woman. Stages of Woman's Life From the Cradle to the Grave" Kelloggs and Comstock, 1849

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The lithograph “The Life & Age of Woman” portrays a woman’s life in the domestic sphere. It begins with a baby girl in a cradle. As…

Census Record of Thomas Day, 1850

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This document presents the census record for Thomas Day, a free black man, taken during 1850 in Caswell County. The census listed not only how many…

Thomas F. O'Brien and William Beverhout Thompson, Map of the Cape Fear and Deep rivers from Fayetteville to Hancock's Mill showing the position of the several locks dams and canals upon the line of the companys works, 1852

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This map depicts the extensive system of locks, dams, and canals built on the Deep River and Cape Fear River. This existing infrastructure was one of…

Charles T. Jackson, Geological Map of Deep River Coal Field: From Recent Surveys, September 1853

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This map shows the vein of coal that follows the Deep River along the Deep River Valley, making up what is known as the Deep River Coal Field. This…

"The Nebraska Question," February 1, 1854

The editor of the Raleigh Register, a Whig newspaper, criticized the Nebraska bill, proposed by Stephen A. Douglas, a Democrat from Illinois, and…

"The Nebraska Bill," February 22, 1854

The editor of the Raleigh Register, a Whig newspaper, complained of dissenting voices within the South regarding the Nebraska bill. The author singled…

Address of Thomas Ruffin: Delivered Before the State Agricultural Society of North Carolina, October 18, 1855

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In 1855, one year after being elected president of the North Carolina Agricultural Society, Thomas Ruffin gave an address where he covered issues…

"Slaves and Free Persons of Color. An Act Concerning Slaves and Free Persons of Color," North Carolina Revised Code No. 105, 1855

In 1855, the North Carolina Genral Assembly enacted Revised Code No. 105 detailing the treatment of slaves and free people of color. It describes the…

Fremont and Victory. A Rallying Song--Tune of Marseilles Hymn

Fremont and Victory. A Rallying Song--Tune of Marseilles Hymn

In the nineteenth century, songs were a popular way to expose the public to political messages. This song, "Fremont and Victory" emphasized the key…

On the chastisement of Senator Sumner, May 26, 1856

In this untitled article, the Wilmington Daily Herald discussed the caning of Senator Charles Sumner by Representative Preston Brooks. This incident…

Democratic Party Platform of 1856, June 2, 1856

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In 1856 the Democratic Party nominated James Buchanan for president. The Democratic Party ran on a platform that embraced the popular sovereignty…

On the assault on Senator Sumner, June 6, 1856

In this untitled article, the editor of the Raleigh Register, a Know Nothing paper, noted that northern newspapers condemned Preston Brooks's caning…

Republican Party Platform of 1856, June 18, 1856

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The newly formed Republican Party nominated the famous explorer John C. Fremont, who was the first major candidate who openly stated their opposition…

"Fremont in the South," North Carolina Standard, September 13, 1856

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This editorial published in the highly conservative Democratic North Carolina Standard, edited by William Woods Holden, one of the North…

"Letter from 'An Alumnus,'" North Carolina Standard,September 27, 1856

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This article published in the North Carolina Standard, which served as an organ for the Democratic Party in North Carolina, expressed the idea that…

"Professor Hedrick's Defence," North Carolina Standard, October 4, 1856

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In August 1856, the North Carolina Standard launched an attack against UNC professor Benjamin Hedrick due to his open for support for John Fremont an…

Letter from Charles Manly to David L. Swain, October 4, 1856

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In the following letter Charles Manly, the University's Board of Trustees' secretary-treasurer, wrote to David Swain, University President, informing…

Ebenezer Emmons, Map of the Deep River Coal Field, 1856

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This map depicts the geology in the Deep River Valley where Endor was located. It show the vein of coal along the Deep River. According to this map,…

William D. Cooke, "Cooke's new map of the state of North Carolina," 1857

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This antebellum map of North Carolina displays counties, cities, comparative elevations, and three railroad lines (Western N.C. Railroad from…

John H. Hopkins, "On the Constitutional Rights and Duties of the American Citizen in Reference to Slavery," May 11, 1857

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The article published in the Fayetteville Observer, was an excerpt written by Bishop Hopkins from his book titled “The American Citizen: His…

Letter from Daniel Wilson to S S Jocelyn, November 26, 1858

This letter was from the abolitionist Reverend Daniel Wilson to a fellow reverend, who was Secretary of the American Missionary Association. Wilson…

Letter of Nathan H. Street, Peter G. Evan, John N. Washington to John W. Ellis, January 9, 1859

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This letter was written by three citizens of New Bern, North Carolina, about the sentiment between North Carolinians and Virginia. One of the authors,…

"The Fayetteville Observer Reporting of John Brown's Raid of Harper's Ferry. October 20, 1859."

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John Brown's Raid of Harper's Ferry ended on October 18, 1859, and it took a couple days for news to reach North Carolina. At first, assumptions were…

Letter of Duncan McDonald to John Ellis, November 17, 1859

The letter written by McDonald to Governor Ellis reflects the early sentiment of the need for a militia in North Carolina after the John Brown raid.…

"Slaves and Free Persons of Color," December 7, 1859

North-Carolina Standard Front Page 1861-12-09

This explosive front page of the North-Carolina Standard , published on December 7, 1859, and written by William Woods Holden, the future Governor of…

Letter of John Ellis to John Floyd, December 10, 1859

This letter is similar to Duncan McDonald's letter in the sense that it urges the importance of a well armed militia. The biggest difference is that…

Letter of Joseph Todd to John Ellis, December 15, 1859

Joseph Todd's letter to Governor Ellis continues the trend of militancy after John Brown's raid in North Carolina by requesting more commanding…

Address Delivered before the Wake County Workingmen's Association, February 6, 1860

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The primary source is a speech given by Frank I. Wilson, a lawyer and member of the Workingmen’s Association, about the grievances made against…

Speech of John W. Ellis, March 9th, 1860.

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This is John WIllis Ellis' acceptance speech in 1860. In this speech, Ellis addresses a variety of issues, such as William Seward's comments about…

"The Convention," The Wilmington Journal, June 28, 1860.

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The editor of the Wilmington Journaldiscusses the issues presented during the Democratic National Convention of 1860. The author begins by disussing…

"A Constitutional Union,"North Carolina Standard, July 11, 1860

The editor of the North Carolina Standard, a Democratic paper, makes a clear statement that the state of North Carolina has no intention whatsoever of…

Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, July 16, 1860

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Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston (pictured) recorded in her diary her various emotional, social, and personal experiences, throughout the Civil War,…

"Democrats are you Ready?," Raleigh Weekly Standard, October 31, 1860

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In this article by the RaleighWeekly Standard, the paper which backed the Democratic Party candidate Breckenridge argued why Lincoln should not be…

"Election of Lincoln and Hamlin!," Fayetteville Observer, November 8, 1860

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This item is an editorial from the Unionist newspaper the FayettevilleObserverin which the paper reports on the 1860 national election results. The…

"A Few Reflections on Secession," The Daily Herald, November 9, 1860

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The editor of the The Daily Herald, a Democratic paper, addresses the ongoing secession crisis and the effect of President Lincoln's election in 1860.…

"Presidential Election," Carolina Watchman, November 13, 1860

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In its editorial on the 1860 Presidential election theCarolina Watchman,a Unionist newspaper from Salisbury, N.C. reports on the election of Abraham…

"Disunion for Existing Causes," North Carolina Standard, December 1, 1860

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The editor of the North Carolina Standard, a Democratic paper, begins the article by going over a scenario that might likely happen if the Confederate…

Letter of Zebulon B. Vance to William Dickson, December 11, 1860

Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894) was a senator for North Carolina and a member of the Democratic thirty-fifth and sixth congress. Before North Carolina…

Craven County meeting resolutions, December 12, 1860

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"A large portion of the citizens of Craven" met in a meeting on December 12, 1860, to discuss "the present alarming state of national affairs." The…

"Craven County December 1860 resolutions" December 12, 1860

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Craven County Committee of Safety resolutions sent to Govenor John W. Ellis regarding North Carolina's relationship to the United States and the…

"The Secession Excitement; North Carolina Legislature," New York Times, December 20, 1860

A newspaper article discussing the North Carolina state assembly's discussion on secession. The view for North Carolina in 1860 was Pro-Union.
This…

"Alabama and Mississippi Commissioners," December 22, 1860

This newspaper article discussed the reasons why Alabama and Mississippi talked in front of legislature. Alabama and Mississippi wanted North Carolina…

"Report of Fredrick Olmsted," 1860

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In this excerpt Fredrick Olmsted writes of two encounters he has with inhabitants of the Appalachia Mountains. During this time Olmsted was working…

“Secession Flag At Wilmington,” January 7, 1861

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TheFayetteville Observer,was an anti-secession newspaper, that is reported on the secession movement at Wilmington, NC. The author is critizing the…

"General Assembly Resolutions submitted and referred to committee", January 1861

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Four resolutions of the General Assembly submitted to the Senate and/or referred to Senate committee in early January 1861. One resolution states…

"Speech of T. N. Crumpler, On Federal Relations," January 10, 1861

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This document is a speech given by T. N. Crumpler of Ashe County on Federal Relations delivered in the House of Commons on January 10, 1861. Mr.…

"Anson County Petition for Convention", January 1861

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Anson County citizens petition Governor John W. Ellis to convene the General Assembly in order to call for a secession convention. This was in…

"Civil War Will Be Abolition," North Carolina Standard, February 5, 1861

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The editor of the North Carolina Standard, a Democratic paper, writes a short article fighting against secession. The author discusses the possible…

"A Word to Disunionists," SalisburyCarolina Watchman,February 26, 1861

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The Salisbury Carolina Watchman published this article before the February 28 Secession Convention vote in which it urged its Unionist…

"The Disunion Programme," RaleighWeekly Standard, February 27, 1861

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In this article published by the Unionist Raleigh newspaper theWeekly Standard,the paper urges its readers to head to the polls to vote against the…

"Glorious News!--The Union Saved!!" FayettevilleObserver,February 28, 1861

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February 28th article in the Unionist FayettevilleObserver in which the paper reported that a compromise had been voted for in the House of…

Letter from John W. Halliburton to Juliet Halliburton, March 6, [1861]

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This Letter written in March 1861 provides an interesting example of the Upper South’s role in the secession crisis. It also shows the battling…

"If the Union has prevailed..." RaleighWeekly Standard,March 6, 1861

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In its March 6, 1861 edition the RaleighWeekly Standard,a Unionist Newspaper, reported on the Convention vote and its meaning in this article. The…

"Mr. Lincoln’s Inaugural," North Carolina Standard, March 9, 1861

The editor of the North Carolina Standard, a Democratic paper, gives an opinion on the recent election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United…

"North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company," Raleigh Register, March 21, 1861

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The North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company advertised life insurance for slaves between the ages of 10 to 60 in the Raleigh Register. The…

"Seventy-Five Negroes Wanted," Raleigh Register, March 21, 1861

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F. W. King advertised in the Raleigh Register his desire to purchase from fifty to seventy-five "Likely Young Negroes" that he intended to sell in the…

"Governor's Correspondence: Arkansas Resolutions", March 28, 1861

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Resolutions for Secession by Arkansas and correspondence from David Walker, President of the State Convention of Arkansas, to the governor of North…

“North Carolina and Secession,” April 4, 1861

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The Raleigh Standard, was a newspaper based out of Wake County. In this article it is denouncing the need or want of North Carolinian's to secede…

The Census of 1860.

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This picture depicts a table of slave ownership in the slave owning states in the United States. The reason I used this source was to provide first…

"The Disunion Faction," SalisburyCarolina Watchman,April 9, 1861.

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The SalisburyCarolina Watchmanpublished this article which was highly critical of the Secessionist movement. In the piece, the paper chastised…

"Cadet Paul Faison to his father regarding resigning his commission at West Point," April 12 and 14, 1861

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The Faisons were among the first settlers of Northampton County and owned land and a plantation near the town of Jackson, the county seat. Herod and…

"The News," April 13, 1861

This newspaper article from The Standard looked at the Battle of Fort Sumter. It summarizes what happened during the battle and what it meant for…

"Proclamation on State Militia," Abraham Lincoln, April 15, 1861

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Lincoln's proclamation to the Senate in which he states that South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas have been,…

"Reply by Governor Ellis to request by United States Secretary of War for troops from North Carolina", April 14, 1861

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Governor Ellis replies to request from Simon Cameron, United States Secretary of War, for troops to put down the southern rebellion. Includes the…

"Rumors From Washington," RaleighWeekly Standard,April 17, 1861

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In this article the RaleighWeekly Standard, a Unionist Newspaper reports on the bombardment of Fort Sumter, S.C. and Lincoln's call for troops. The…

"It is needless to remind our readers...," Fayetteville Observer, April, 18, 1861

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The Fayetteville Observer, a Unionist newspaper, ran an editorial outlining their past advocacy for the cause of the Union and regretted that the…

"The Border States Must Unite and Act!," North Carolina Standard, April 20, 1861

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The editor of the North Carolina Standard, a Democratic paper, was critical of both the Union's actions as well as the Confederacy's actions during…

"We must Fight!" RaleighWeekly Standard,April 24, 1861

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This article from the RaleighWeekly Standard reports Governor Ellis's refusal of Lincoln's request for troops and clarified its new position regarding…

"To the People of Wake County," May 8, 1861

W.W. Holden was the owner, editor, and publisher of The Standard so he wrote the people who would be voting to him to tell him he would be running for…

The Declaration of Independence of North Carolina, May 11, 1861

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A Declaration of Independence written by the North Carolina Senate.

An Ordinance to dissolve the Union Between The State of North Carolina and The United States, May 20, 1861.

North Carolina was one of the last states to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. It represents the turmoil that states in the Upper South…

North Carolina Secession Flag

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The secession flag that was flown in NC, when it announced leaving the Union on May 20, 1861.

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was written during the pre Civil War years of 1853-1858. The author, Harriet Jacobs, writes this detailed…

"Holden's Record!," 1861

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This is an 1861 leaflet circulated by the opposition of William Woods Holden when he was seeking a seat to vote in the North Carolina Secession…

Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, August 13, 1862

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Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston recorded in her diary her various emotional, social, and personal experiences, throughout the Civil War, that…

"The Experience of Thomas H. Jones, Who Was a Slave for Forty-Three Years -- Chapter Second," ca. 1849

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In the second installment of The Experience of Thomas H. Jones, Who Was a Slave for Forty-Three Years, Jones discussed his relationship with his two…

Southern Claim of John Horton, April 1876

The Southern Claim made by John Horton of Watauga County, was made in April 1876. Within his claim, he states that he did not vote for…

Southern Claim of David Norris, July 29, 1876

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David Norris was called as a witness for the southern claim of John Horton. He testified of Horton’s loyalty to the union throughout…

Selections from the Speeches and Writings of Hon. Thomas L. Clingman, of North Carolina with Additions and Explanatory Notes.

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Thomas Lanier Clingman was a prominent politician from the North Carolina Mountains. He was a firm Unionist yet he supported the institution of…

Southern Claim of Rittenhouse Baird, February 14, 1878

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Rittenhouse Baird submitted his claim on February 14, 1878. He was 63 years old at the time. He lived on Watauga River in Watauga County North…

Levi Coffin, Reminiscences of Levi Coffin (1880)

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Levi Coffin,"The Reputed President of the Underground Railroad," which is the subtitle of his work, described his experiences in the discussions of…

"Days of Bondage: Autobiography of Friday Jones: Being a Brief Narrative of his Trails and Tribulations in Slavery," 1883

This autobiography, written by an enslaved African-American, Friday Jones, documents his attempts to make something of himself and keep his family…

John Spencer Bassett, Slavery in the State of North Carolina (1899)

John Spencer Bassett was a history and political science professor at Trinity College in Randolph County, North Carolina in the late 19th and early…

Patrick Sowle, "The North Carolina Manumission Society, 1816-1834" (1965)

The Manumission Society of North Carolina was founded by slavery opponents, mostly Quakers. Its members formed an alliance to distribute written…

1856 Republican Presidential Campaign Poster

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The Republican Party emerged in the United States following the controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. While the Republican Party did not support…

William A. Link, North Carolina: Change and Tradition in a Southern State (2009)

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In William Link’s North Carolina: Change and Tradition in a Southern State he gives an overview of North Carolina’s history that covers…

Slavery, Civil War, and Salvation: African American Slaves and Christianity, 2010.

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This book discusses several key issues concerning the Christian viewpoints of African Americans during the time of slavery and the Civil War. While it…

A Southern Confederacy

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A newspaper article in The Knoxville Whig, discussing the implications of South Carolina's actions of firing on Fort Sumter and pleading with…

Lloyd Johnson, "Naval Stores"

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Lloyd Johnson from Campbell University gives and overview of turpentine farming in “Naval Stores,” on the North Carolina History…

William Gaston, "Address Delivered Before the Philanthropic & Dialectic Societies at Chapel Hill," June 20, 1832

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Judge Gaston's UNC Commencement address about the means in which the South, with particular consideration to North Carolina is being held back by the…

Letter from M.S. Sherwood to Benjamin S. Hedrick, August 20, 1856

Letter from M.S. Sherwood to his Nephew Benjamin S. Hendrick, August 20, 1856, Page 1

In this letter written by M.S. Sherwood, uncle to Benjamin Hedrick, he advised his nephew that it was a bad idea to make his political affiliations…

North Carolina Map 1860's

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Outline of North Carolina map form the 1860's. shows the counties who were unionist, and those who were sectionalist.

State v Caesar, a Slave

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In the case of State v Caesar Caesar, a slave killed a white man in an attempt to defend his friend from being beaten by a group of white men.…

Dred Scott v John Sandford

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In the infamous Dred Scott decision the United States Supreme Court declared, in essence, that the status of slave-hood does not end upon crossing…

State v Jarrott, a Slave

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In State v Jarrott Gaston continued in his vein of improving the legal status of slaves. Jarrott killed a white man and was convicted of murder. He…

Map of the 1856 Presidential Election

1856 Presidential Election Map

This map illustrates the polarized character of the political parties in the 1856 presidential election. The Northern states voted predominantly for…

1856 Democratic Presidential Campaign Poster

1856 Democratic Presidential Campaign Poster

For many years the Democratic Party competed for southern support with the Whig Party. By the 1856 presidential election, however, the Democrats…

Map of Slave Populations in North Carolina

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A map showing the slave populations of North Carolinian counties as a percentage of slaves to non-slaves.