The Long Shadow of the Civil War

The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies  may be ordered from Amazon or directly from the University of North Carolina Press.

This three-state study of Civil War dissenters compares community uprisings against the Confederacy in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Texas.  The important roles played by women and people of color are emphasized throughout.

A full chapter is devoted to Newt Knight’s thirty-year quest to gain federal compensation for his guerrilla band, the infamous Knight Company of Mississippi’s Free State of Jones.

In central North Carolina, religious dissenters who opposed slavery and secession fought a ferocious inner civil war against the Confederacy. The origins of this struggle, and women’s central role in it, are spotlighted in two chapters.

Chapter 3 chronicles the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina in the war’s aftermath. The lives of black and mixed-race women during the Reconstruction and New South eras are given particular attention.

Chapters 1 and 5 tell the story of the staunchly Unionist Collins family of Texas. The Big Thicket’s guerrilla leader, Warren Jacob Collins, was a brother to Mississippi guerrilla Jasper Collins, right-hand man to Newt Knight during the Civil War. Both brothers were politically transformed by the Civil War: during the 1890s, Jasper founded Jones County, Mississippi’s first populist newspaper; in Texas, Warren ran for office twice on the Socialist ticket.

Chapter 6 traces the history of the multiracial community founded by Newt and former slave Rachel Knight into the 20th century, where descendants struggled against the degradation of racial segregation and second-class citizenship,

These are true stories of human struggles placed in historical context, their legacies reaching far into the twentieth century.

Vikki Bynum

By Vikki Bynum

Here’s another region of the South with a fascinating history of mixed-race ancestry. I discovered the Chowan Discovery Group after Steven Riley, creator and moderator of Mixed Race Studies, introduced me via email to the Group’s Executive Director, Marvin T. Jones. The “Winton Triangle,” located in Hertford County, North Carolina, encompasses the three towns of Winton, Cofield, and Ahoskie. Here, people maintain a distinctive identity rooted in Native American, European, and African ancestry.

According to Marvin Jones, the Triangle traces its origins to before the 1584 arrival of the English to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where Chowanoke (Choanoac) Indian settlements were prominent along the Chowan River. After the English invasion, diseases (to which Native Americans lacked immunity) and territorial disputes decimated and disrupted the Chowanoke settlements of present-day Hertford County.*

Choanoac Village marker

During the early 1600s, England continued its relentless effort to gain a stronghold in North American, successfully planting settlements on the James River in Virginia.  Again, disease and war displaced native populations. Indians traveling down the Meherrin River eventually settled in the Chowanokes’ previous home of Hertford County, North Carolina. In the century that followed, interactions between these Native Americans and English and African immigrants would produce the mixed-ancestry people of today’s Winton Triangle.

The mixed-race people of the Winton Triangle did not live far from those of Gloucester County, Virginia, the subject of an earlier essay on this blog. In both these regions, outward migration by Europeans, funded by Crowns and merchants in search of new lands, precious metals, and cash crops, brought a collision of continents, especially those of Europe, the Americas, and Africa. Within each, there were winners and losers. Those with wealth and power benefited from expanding empires. Others, such as England’s “sturdy beggars,” were forced into indentured servitude, or, like Africa’s captured villagers, into slavery. Many Native Americans were also forced into various systems of bondage.

In the Winton Triangle, however, as in Gloucester County, a number of people designated non-white escaped slavery. Legally defined as “free people of color,” people of mixed ancestry (particularly before the American Revolution) often maintained “interdependent relations” with local whites, which enabled them to buy land and to learn marketable skills.  Equally important, they founded schools and churches and built communities of mutual support that endured the centuries.*

The Winton Triangle and Gloucester County share similar characteristics, yet each region has its own unique history. Their  common features, however, speak to the social and economic forces that shaped the Atlantic coastal history and eventually enabled England to lay claim to its Thirteen Original Colonies. Often overlooked in the panoramic history of empire and bondage in the Americas are the new peoples who emerged, and the mechanisms by which they survived, even prospered, by building tightly-knit communities amid eras of slavery, segregation, and white supremacist laws and customs imposed by the dominant society.

During the Civil War, Parker fought for the Union with the 2nd Cavalry of U.S. Colored Troops. Photo courtesy Benj. Gary Robbins and Marvin T. Jones

During the Civil War, Sgt. Parker D. Robbins fought for the Union with the 2nd Cavalry of U.S. Colored Troops. Photo courtesy Benj. Gary Robbins and Marvin T. Jones

Elf and Annie Jones Family, circa 1914. Photo courtesy of Alice Jones Nickens and Marvin T. Jones

Elf and Annie Jones Family, circa 1914. Photo courtesy of Alice Jones Nickens and Marvin T. Jones

The history of the Winton Triangle is too long and too complex to do it justice in a short essay such as this. Luckily, Marvin Jones and the Chowan Discovery Group’s Directors, Laverne Jones and Dr. Harold Mitchell (all of whom were born and raised in the Triangle), are dedicated to collecting, preserving, and presenting materials relevant to that history. They hope to coordinate their efforts with other individuals, community leaders, organizations, and institutions that share like interests. Check their organization out at Chowan Discovery Group!

*See Marvin T. Jones, “The Leading Edge of Edges: The Triracial People of the Winton Triangle,” in Carolina Genesis: Beyond the Color Lineedited by Scott Withrow (2010): 181-209.

The following announcement recently appeared on the H-Net Southern History forum. My thanks to Prof. Christopher Fennell for allowing me to repost it here.  

Note: Edgefield, South Carolina, as well as the craft of pottery making, was an important link between the Randolph County area of North Carolina, the upcountry of South Carolina, and migration from Edgefield, South Carolina, to the Mississippi Piney Woods.

Vikki Bynum, Moderator

From: Fennell, Christopher [cfennell@illinois.edu]
Sent: 04 March 2013 03:21
Subject: Archaeology of Edgefield, South Carolina Pottery Communities

This six-week field school (May 26 to July 8, 2013) will focus on investigations at the Pottersville site (also called Landrumsville) and nearby John Landrum and B. F. Landrum kiln sites within the area of the Old Edgefield Pottery District, and will provide training in the techniques of excavation, mapping, artifact classification and contextual interpretation. Students will work in supervised teams, learning to function as members of a field crew, with skills necessary for becoming professional archaeologists. Many students from past University of Illinois field schools have gone on to graduate study and professional field-archaeology positions. Laboratory processing and analysis will be ongoing during the field season. Evening lectures by project staff, visiting archaeologists, and historians will focus on providing background on how field data are used to answer archaeological and historical research questions.

The first innovation and development of alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery in America occurred in the Edgefield District of South Carolina in the early 1800s. Our 2011 field school also discovered that the earliest of these production sites also utilized industrial-scale “dragon” kilns never seen before in the Americas. It remains an enduring mystery as to how these new ceramic methods were developed in that place and time, and how the techniques of kiln design and choices of clay, temper, and glaze ingredients developed over the following century. These potteries employed enslaved and free African-American laborers in the 19th century, and the stoneware forms also show evidence of likely African cultural influence on stylistic designs. Edgefield potteries thus present fascinating research questions of understanding technological innovations and investigating the impacts of African cultural knowledge and racial ideologies on a craft specialization during the historic period in America. This project entails an interdisciplinary, collaborative, and archaeological study of the first development in America of alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery forms, the development of that South Carolina industry over time, and the impacts of racism and African cultural influences on those processes.

For additional information about this field school opportunity, please contact Chris Fennell by email at cfennell@illinois.edu. To apply for participation in this field school, please download and complete a short application form and submit it by March 25, 2013. Students will be notified of acceptance no later than April 10, 2013. Accepted students should register for six credits in the University of Illinois summer session. Students from colleges other than the University of Illinois can register through our exchange at program and receive transfer credits. Additional information and application forms are available a http://www.histarch.uiuc.edu/Edgefield/

Watch a documentary about our 2011 field school at Pottersville by StoryLine Media at http://vimeopro.com/storylinemedia/thcsc-pottersvile

Best wishes,

Christopher C. Fennell
Editor, Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage (JADAH)
Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, and Associate Head
Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois

Some time ago, in response to my 10 November 2011 post, “Free People of Color in Old Virginia: The Morris Family of Gloucester County,”  (which I encourage you to read or reread) I received a long email message from Nathan Crowell, who traces his own mixed-heritage ancestry back to Gloucester County. Nathan shared not only his family research with me, but also certain insights that he gained over the years from listening to his ancestors—particularly his grandmother: insights into what it meant to be a “free person of color” in a slaveholding society, what it meant to be defined as “black” when one’s skin was fair. His remarks remind us that life in the Old South was far more complex than most of us realize, and that “race” was an imposed category of human existence that had no rational biological basis, but had very real legal, social, and psychological consequences that shaped the experiences and consciousness of all members of society.

With Nathan’s permission, I have created the following post from his remarks.

Vikki Bynum Moderator

Nathan Crowell on Racial Identity: Gloucester County, Virginia, revisited

My grandmother was raised in Gloucester County, Virginia, by the family of her mother. Her mother died when my grandmother was six months old. I always have been interested in her family history, and as well that of my other grandparents. So I have slowly and steadfastly attempted to learn what I can. I have traced the families of most of my grandparents back to the early 1600′s, where I found a combination of black ancestors, white ancestors, and so forth. In the process, I have learned an immense amount. I’ve seen that before the Civil War, people were incredibly mobile; they moved across counties, e.g., from Gloucester up to Campbell, and they moved across states, e.g., from Virginia to Ohio. I am from New York, and my visions of the South result from my grandparents’ narratives and my summer vacations “down home.” The South has always seemed to be static, and perpetually unchanged. The mobility of my ancestors however, clearly demonstrates that that perception is indeed erroneous.

Still, I had been taught long ago that Virginia was a major exporter of slaves to other states. While many of these slaves undoubtedly were bred just to be sold South, I understand now that there were actually thousands of slaves in Virginia at any one time; and many of the exported slaves were simply surplus from farms that had become increasingly unproductive. It was nothing more pernicious than that.

As well, I’ve come to realize that slavery was a lot more complex than I had believed. In the North, the experience is portrayed in black and white—defenseless slaves at the mercy of brutal masters. And even if that worldview is tempered, by literature from the period for example, it is still hard to internalize anything but the degradation and brutality of slavery. However, at the same time there was an intense interconnectedness among slaves, their masters, and everyone else living in the South. As a case in point, I have white relatives whose sole emotional relationship was with a slave; the uncle of one of my great, great-grandmothers, Ned Hockaday, never married a white woman, but had a good number of children with one of his slaves.  I have white relatives who had black children right alongside white ones. One of my great, great, great-grandfathers, William Hockaday, had a black son who he named Thomas, and as well, he had a white son, whom he also named Thomas. And then there are my free black ancestors, who were neighbors and possibly tenant farmers who rented land from their white ancestors. Effectively, they were living near, even with, their white cousins.

Perhaps most importantly, I’ve gained a much better understanding of who my grandmother was, and that has been very gratifying. My grandmother was very colorstruck, and growing up, I always found it to be unpleasantly odd. Again, I grew up in New York City, and in the seventies, with the emphasis on black pride and galvanizing the black community, there was no space for perceptions of superiority based on relative skin tone. As well, my grandmother was very dark, and it seemed that she took after her father, John Hamilton Boulden, who was pretty dark himself. My other grandmother, and my grandfather too, were, on the other hand, very fair–red hair, freckles, the works. And they never made any mention about skin color differences and certainly, they never seemed to attach any relative importance to lighter skin. So it was really strange to hear my grandmother go on about fair skin, good grades of hair, and so forth. I just wrote her views off as a legacy of slavery, illustrative of the sense of shame and inferiority that blacks took away from the slave experience. And given her age, it did seem logical to do so.  I see now that my grandmother’s views were a legacy of her family’s distinctive struggles as well as a byproduct of race-based slavery. I see that free blacks were just a sliver of the black community, with hundreds of them juxtaposed against thousands and thousands of slaves. And I can only imagine the intense pressure they faced in trying to distinguish themselves from those slaves, and thereby preserve their freedom, and any of the rights and privileges that it entailed. It would only make sense for them to fixate on skin color, hair texture, pedigree, and just about anything else that would help them stand apart. Thus, I think that the color prejudice that she learned was less about pride in white ancestors and disdain for African ancestors, and more an integral part of a hard-fought attempt at self-preservation.

Nathan Crowell

Note from Moderator: In the following indictment from a North Carolina court, in which a free woman of color is charged with illegally attempting to marry an enslaved man, we see one example of how the lives of free people of color were circumscribed by law:

In the following court document from antebellum North Carolina, a free woman of color is charged with illegally trying to marry a slave.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 57,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 13 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Museum of the Confederacy, Appomatox


My thanks to Thom Bassett and Kevin Levin, moderator of Civil War Memory for granting Renegade South permission to repost the following review of the Museum of the Confederacy. 

Vikki Bynum, Moderator

What follows is a guest post by Thom Bassett, who recently took a trip to Virginia to explore Civil War battlefields and other sites.  He took the time to visit the new MOC museum at Appomattox and sent along this review.  Thom teaches at Bryant University in Providence, R.I. He has written numerous essays for the New York Times Disunion blog and is currently working on a novel about William Tecumseh Sherman.

Kevin Levin, Civil War Memory

It’s unfortunate that in the minds of many the Museum of the Confederacy’s newly opened branch at Appomattox is associated exclusively with the ginned-up controversy about display there of the Confederate battle flag. For one thing, the museum staff seem heartily sick of the issue and those who protested the museum’s design: As I carefully began to ask about it during my visit this weekend, one of them interrupted me to scoff, “What the hell else did they want? We put the damn state flags outside!”

For another, and more important, the MoC-Appomattox overall is a superb example of sophisticated, accessible, evocative, intellectually honest public narrative about the Civil War. While it’s in some respects still very much a work in progress, the museum nonetheless already meaningfully informs and engages the public about the war and its significance today.

I’ll begin with aspects of the museum that are in my opinion comparatively less successful. The exhibition “Colors of Gray: Consecration and Controversy” is a decidedly uneven exploration of the history and uses of Confederate flags. While the exhibition includes some interesting and surprising information about army and regimental flags (it turns out, for example, that women’s bridal clothes were a popular choice for flag material), it falters on the subject of the national flags.

For one thing, the exhibition includes only the first and second national flags, even though the museum web site displays a picture of the third national flag as well. Moreover, while placards more than once make the salient point that some Southern heritage groups are as critical as civil rights groups of current (mis)uses of Confederate flags, particularly the Army of Northern Virginia’s (incorrectly called) “stars and bars,” the presentation on this issue lacks a clear thematic organization.

Perhaps to some extent my dissatisfaction with the “Colors of Gray” exhibition has to do with the contrasting directness with which the permanent exhibition presents a range of complex and, for some, uncomfortable fundamental truths about the Civil War. This occurs in a number of ways. For example, the opening audio-visual exhibit reminds visitors that white Southerners were not united in their feelings about secession or the resulting  war. This theme of southern disunion is repeated in other ways later, including in the exhibits about the arming of black southerners (which also demolishes, by the way, the lies regarding black Confederate soldiers).

But it’s the museum’s treatment of race and slavery that is most impressive. From the very first placard visitors see until the moment they exit the permanent exhibition, the MoC-Appomattox demonstrates the centrality of slavery and racial dominance to the causes of the war, the investment that virtually all white Southerners—slaveholders or not—had in perpetuating a slavery-based society, the efforts African-Americans made to liberate themselves as well as their contributions to the federal war effort, and the extent to which what followed the war blocked authentic national reconciliation.

The conclusion of the permanent exhibition, in my opinion, also shows forcefully that questions of the meaning of the war remain vitally important today. Visitors are left with an important challenge—to think and rethink their understanding of the war and the nation in its aftermath.

Even for those without a strong taste for questions of the war and public memory, there are other elements of the MoC-Appomattox that make it more than worth their while. The museum has on display items compelling to anyone interested in the war, including Lee’s sword and Patrick Cleburne’s frock coat. There are also many interactive exhibits, including one that allows visitors to look for the parole papers of Confederate ancestors. Finally, the museum’s use of contrasting scale, varied typography, lighting, and dimensionality makes the exhibits consistently engaging, kinetic, and stimulating.

Open only since March, the Appomattox branch of the Museum of the Confederacy still has room for improvement. But it already stands as a remarkable example of what substantive public history, imaginative curatorship, and cutting-edge museum design can achieve in informing and challenging our collective understanding of the Civil War.

Recently, in a comment posted to Yvonne Bivins’ essay on the Ainsworth-Smith-Knight family of Smith County, Mississippi. a reader mentioned an infamous neighborhood battle of the early nineteenth century that involved several members of the Ainsworth clan. Reminiscent of stories that abound in popular literature about the feuding Hatfields and McCoys, or, closer to home, the Sullivans of Smith County’s Sullivan’s Hollow, the Ainsworth-Windham feud ranks with the “best” in its portrayal of stereotypical Southern mayhem. My thanks to Yvonne for providing Renegade South with the transcript of this story. 

Vikki Bynum, Moderator

From the Ainsworth Trading Post

Smith County Reformer Raleigh, Mississippi Thursday, February 26, 1903


Of all the horrible battles into which Satan has ever had the pleasure of leading his forces, there never was one as far as our memory serves us in the history of the county of Smith, which breathes a more Satanic odor or beats a more demonical aspect than the one fought at the Jeffrey Ainsworth old place in the Southeastern part of Smith County near the line of Jasper county on last Saturday evening. We have heard of wars and rumors of war, but this was the biggest war ever fought on Smith county soil. This was a battle in which A.L. (Coon) Ainsworth and his two sons, Jesse and Sloney Ainsworth were arrayed against Anse Windham, in particular, and the other Windhams in general. It is claimed that over 100 gun and pistol shots were fired in this battle, in which Coon Ainsworth and his two sons, Jesse and Sloney were literally riddled with balls. The wounds are so severe that the victims are not expected to recover there from. No other human flesh was penetrated by balls except Anse Windham was slightly wounded in the side after he had emptied his six shooter and was retreating from the battleground in double-quick time.

It is remarkable that no more damage was done in the midst of such an array of balls flying hither and tether, cutting holes through the raiment of many persons and especially that of the Windhams. While human flesh was spared to a seemingly miraculous degree, yet the flesh of the dumb animals were not entirely spared. One horse, one yoke of oxen and a few dogs passed through the ordeal of this historical battle with many marks on their carcasses. This row or riot began at the close of a session of justice court presided over by Justice Andrew Bryant of Beat 2, in which Anse Windham had been proceeded against by Coon Ainsworth’s daughter in a case of bastardy which procedure resulted in the justice binding the accused over in a bond of $1000 to appear at the next term of circuit court to answer the complaint. It is said at this junction Coon Ainsworth kicked over the table, threw the justice docket out at the door and cursed out the justice of the peace, forbade any of the Windhams going on the bond and made an attack on Anse Windham and from that shooting began furiously. It is true that the enormity of the offense which Anse Windham had committed against the Ainsworth family and himself was enough to incense their feelings against his conduct beyond human utterance; for a man to seduce his sister-in-law in this way is wicked to the extreme. But one wrong can’t be corrected by committing another wrong, therefore Coon Ainsworth was not justifiable in letting the case go to trial and then tank up on mean whiskey and cause the shedding of so much blood. These two families of Ainsworths and Windhams related by blood as well as by affinity – hence the feud. Anse, Bill, Hiram, D. Windham and Jim Ainsworth, one of Y.E. Ainsworth’s sons, were brought in Tuesday by N.B. Boykin and G.M. Martin and committed to jail. They will have a preliminary trial here at Raleigh tomorrow. The committal of crime has reached an alarming point in Smith County and in nearly every case mean liquor plays a conspicuous part.

Smith County Reformer, Raleigh, Mississippi, Thursday, March 5, 1903

When court convened here last Friday for the preliminary trial of Anse Windham, Bill Windham and Jim Ainsworth, their cases were dismissed by the court for want of a prosecutor, and the defendants discharged. After that affidavits were made charging Anse and Bill Windham with the murder of Sloney Ainsworth; Anse and Bill Windham for assault and battery with intent to kill A.L. Ainsworth; Anse and Bill Windham for an assault with intent to kill Jesse Ainsworth; papers were issued for their arrest and preliminary trial set to be tried before A.L. Jones at Raleigh today. [final sentence unintelligible]

Smith County Reformer, Raleigh, Mississippi, Thursday, March 26, 1903

Dr. Hill, the attending physician, informs us that Coon Ainsworth who was so severely wounded at Ainsworth’s Store in the unfortunate shooting aggray which occurred on the 21st February 1903, with the Windhams, is improving and is likely to recover. He was shot in different places, but the wound made through the stomach is the most dangerous and difficult to manage. Jesse Ainsworth has about recovered from his wounds. It will be remembered that Sloney Ainsworth died from his wounds which he received at the same time about a week after the lamentable affray.



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