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Wartime Loyalty: Bertie County Confederates

Map of Windsor During the Civil War

Fig. 10: Map of Windsor, North Carolina, surveyed and illustrated by the Confederate Engineers' Corps. April 1863.

            Of course, raids into Confederate territory were not always as "decisive" Windsor is a good example of this. During the war it sat in an interesting strategic situation. It was too small to be worth a concentrated push, and too far inland to make it worth an overland advance. It was accessible by river, but the Cashie River is the epitome of swamp; in many areas the water is so low you cannot differentiate the river from the swamps surrounding it. This restricts the size of the ship that can navigate the river to small gunboats, making an amphibious operation like what took place at Winton problematic. However, that did not make operations completely impossible and as battle lines were drawn and re-drawn around the town, skirmishes happened both on the river and on land around the area. This perhaps led to a lessened amount of unionist sentiment; the county of Bertie doesn't have a single accepted Southern Claims Commission claim. As a region with several rich, slave owning planters calling it home it is not hard to see why. One needs only look at the census data on people such as Joseph Etheridge (who had his claim to the Southern Claims Commission disallowed) who owned several farms around the region and a good number of slaves. The letter by [name here, difficulty finding source] to Governor Vance in the wake of the land skirmishes around Windsor complaining of his runaway slaves to Union lines and an apparent Confederate disinterest in their problems provides more evidence of an elite class that strongly identified with Confederate aims that remained more or less intact in Windsor during the Civil War.

Petition of Joseph Etheridge

Fig. 11: Joseph Etheridge's rejected claim.

If there is any single bit of evidence that points to Bertie County as having been the least Unionist, it would be the fact that, as demonstrated in Figure 3, there was not a single accepted claim in the county. Indeed, when looking at the service records available to us, the low amount of unionism is visible. While 805 men from Bertie County served in the Confederate Army, only 557 served in the Union army, and of those, 398 were black (Thomas, XIV).  Given the high slave population, this number in particular strikes me as low, even though skirmishes and raids (which frequently attracted "contraband" to the Union lines) happened in the region, to the point where as we see in figure 10, the Confederate military surveyed the region in preparation of its defense.

At the same time, we only have two rejected claims to go on either. There are a number of explanations for that, but it is my opinion that the reason is simply one of time. Aside from the raid early on in the war, Windsor itself, the largest population center was mostly untouched until the last years of the war. Thus the claim that I possess the most background information on was instead from the town of Colerain to the north. This is unsurprising, as the town sits on the banks of the Chowan River, albeit on the opposite side from Chowan County. The claimant was Joseph H. Etheridge who, according to the Confederate Tax Census for 1862 was a significant land and slave owner. Although the claim doesn't list reasons for the claim being rejected, looking at his holdings it is pretty clear where his sympathies laid. He owned multiple farms, and at least two hundred and forty slaves.

That said, while it seems that Confederate sentiment was strongest here, one must not forget those 557 Union Soldiers. In fact, the other rejected claim belonged to one of those soldiers. Calvin Hoggard was a soldier in the Union army, who had his property seized while he was off fighting. The claim was rejected, however, in the absence of explanatory remarks on the behalf of the Commission I can only presume that it was due to procedural reasons as his claim lacks testimony.