Often, in the many talks that I give, I get questions regarding the pro-Union sentiment of the mountains of western North Carolina. I often tell folks that western NC was not as pro-Union as the "historians" have made it out to be. I’ve been preaching that sermon for a decade now. Western North Carolina, especially in the first year of the war, was more pro-Confederate than the rest of the state - more mountaineers joined the Confederate army in the first year of the war than men off the mountain.
Another thing that I often talk about is three different groups all battling against each other in western North Carolina. Today, I up that number to four. In answer to an email that I received, here is my response:
No one could "live open" during this time. You have the Confederate home guard (after mid-1863), doing their best to police the area, and round up conscription dodgers and deserters. Then, you have groups of regular Confederate soldiers who swept into the area from time to time. These groups were usually worse than the deserter bands, impressing men into service and stealing whatever they could. You have the deserter bands, men who have illegally left the army and have formed themselves into armed bands who prey upon a largely defenseless civilian population. Lastly, you have individuals or family groups that use the war as excuses for carrying out acts of violence on their neighbors. This would later transmit into the "family feuds" that color writers would exploit later in the 19th century (i.e., the Hatfields and McCoys).
Well, that sounds like the outline for a book.
What do you think?