Union County, originally populated by Native American tribes known as the Waxhaws and the Catawbas, was created from portions of Anson and Mecklenburg counties in 1842. The area had been settled since the early 1700s by Presbyterian Scots-Irish, Welsh, and Germans. The name “Union” was a compromise. The Democrats wanted to name the county in honor of Andrew Jackson, and the Whigs in honor of Henry Clay. Monroe, the county seat, was named in honor of President James Monroe. While Mecklenburg County, to the west, had prospered with an "industrial revolution" in the 1850s and 1860s, Union County was still predominantly a planter- and tenant-farmer-based society, with a small number of artisans. The county, one of the largest cotton-producing counties in North Carolina, also produced an abundant amount of tobacco. In 1860, Union County had a population of 11,202, including 2,246 slaves. The county voted for Breckenridge in the 1860 presidential election.
In February 1861, the county voted 548 for and 483 against calling a convention. Hugh M. Houston was the elected delegate for the convention.
Union County sent numerous men to serve in the Confederate army. These men served in Co. C, 10th Battalion, North Carolina Heavy Artillery; Co. F, 2nd North Carolina Junior Reserves; Co. I, 4th North Carolina Senior Reserves; Co. B, 15th North Carolina Troops; Co. B, 26th North Carolina Troops; Co. F, 35th North Carolina Troops; Co. D, 37th North Carolina Troops; Co. B, 43rd North Carolina Troops; Cos. A, E, F, and I, 48th North Carolina Troops; and Co. I, 53rd North Carolina Troops. Regiments like the 26th and 37th NCTs were some of the hardest fighting regiments of the Army of Northern Virginia.
The landscape of Union County remained untouched until the very last year of the war. On March 1, 1865, a skirmish was fought between Confederate cavalry under the command of Joseph Wheeler and Federal cavalry under Judson Kilpatrick. That same day, a group of Federal raiders rode into Monroe, stealing horses, mules, a train of ten wagons, “and nineteen negro men…” After reading the ORs, it appears that the wagons belonged to the African-Americans, thirteen of whom later escaped and returned to Monroe.
There were both UCV and UDC Camps in Union County after the war.
On the grounds of the old Union County Court House is a monument dedicated to local Confederate soldiers. The marker was dedicated on July 4, 1910. A parade with floats opened the festivities, followed by the unveiling of the monument. Next, the UDC pinned crosses of honor on the veterans present (about 150), before adjourning to the Masonic hall for dinner.
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