by Vikki Bynum
“This county has sent many & true men to this piratical war,” while the “coxcombs, cowards, & puppies,” of the planter class manage “to screen their own carcasses from yankee bullets.”
So wrote physician Samuel L. Holt in an angry letter fired off to North Carolina governor Zebulon Vance in the midst of the Civil War.*
First cousin to textile mill owner Edwin M. Holt, Sam Holt seemed an unlikely defender of the rights of common people. His anger arose from an encounter with a poor man of Randolph County whose only plow horse had been seized by a Confederate “press gang”.
The ordinary people defended by Samuel Holt are a major subject of the essays featured in The Long Shadow of the Civil War.** The lives of three anti-Confederate guerrilla leaders—Bill Owens of the North Carolina Quaker Belt, Newt Knight of the “Free State of Jones” (Jones County, Mississippi), and Warren J. Collins of the Big Thicket Jayhawkers of East Texas—are highlighted in various chapters. Also featured are communities of multiracial and white kinfolk who faced a volatile home front during and after the Civil War.
Three central questions run throughout Long Shadow of the Civil War:
1) how prevalent was support for the Union among ordinary southerners during the Civil War, and how was it expressed?
2) How did southern Unionists and freed people experience the Union’s victory and emancipation of slaves during the era of Reconstruction and beyond?
3) What were the legacies of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the South’s white supremacist counter-revolution in regard to race relations, class relations, and New South Politics?
To answer these questions and more, each essay examines a unique aspect of the Southern home front during the Civil War, but also covers events that occurred long after the fighting had ended and the nation was “reconciled.” Several essays, including one about the mixed-race descendants of Newt and Rachel Knight, extend their stories well into the twentieth century.
The incredibly long shadow of the American Civil War reminds us that the past, truly, is prologue.
*Letter dated May 24, 1863, contained in Governor’s Papers, Vance, North Carolina State Archives.
**For more information on this book as well as all my publications, including where to purchase, see Publications.