In the county studies that I have written in the past, I’ve shied away from the large cities and their respective counties in the state. I just struggled with a way to both find the information that I wanted to include, and to find ways to write that information. I think I have figured it out. We are going to look at Mecklenburg County today, and probably for the rest of the week in a series of related posts.
Mecklenburg County was created in 1762 and named for the home of King George III’s wife, Charlotte Sophia’s home – Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The county seat, originally called Charlotte Town, was incorporated in 1768. Charlotte earned the name “The Hornet’s Nest” during the American Revolution because of the citizens’ patriotic fervor. It was also the site of the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, a document that was supposedly signed a year before the far more well-known Declaration of Independence.
In 1860, there were 17,374 people who lived in Mecklenburg County, including 6,541 slaves and 290 free persons of color. Today, Mecklenburg is the most populous county in North Carolina. In 1860, Buncombe, Granville, Guilford, Halifax, New Hanover, and Wake Counties were larger. In the 1860 presidential election, eligible voters cast 1,101 votes for Breckenridge, 826 votes for Bell, and 135 for Douglas.
During the February 1861 call for a convention, eligible voters cast 1,448 votes in favor of calling the convention, and 252 against. They were allowed two candidates for the convention: William Johnson and James W. Osborne. Johnson was born in present-day Gaston County in 1817. He was a graduate of UNC (1840) and then studied law. He settled in Charlotte soon thereafter. In 1856 Johnston was a railroad president. Johnson resigned his seat in the convention when appointed Commissary General by Governor Ellis. Osborne was born in Salisbury in 1811, and graduated from UNC in 1830. He also studied law and settled in Charlotte. In 1859 Governor Ellis appointed Osborne to a judgeship, and the legislature later approved the governor’s actions. Both Johnston and Osborne died in 1896.
Numerous companies came from Mecklenburg County and joined the Confederate cause. They include Company K, 1st North Carolina Cavalry; Company E, 4th North Carolina Cavalry; Company F, 5th North Carolina Cavalry; Company B, 2nd North Carolina Junior Reserves; Company C, 1st North Carolina Artillery; Companies B and C, 1st North Carolina Volunteers; Company A, 6th North Carolina State Troops; Company D, 7th North Carolina State Troops; Companies A, E, and H, 11th North Carolina State Troops; Company B, 13th North Carolina Troops; Company K, 30th North Carolina Troops; Company G, 34th North Carolina Troops; Company H, 35th North Carolina Troops; Companies C and I, 37th North Carolina Troops; Company K, 42nd North Carolina Troops; Company B, 43rd North Carolina Troops; Company F, 49th North Carolina Troops; Company B, 53rd North Carolina Troops; and, Company K, 56th North Carolina Troops. After the war, Dr. John B. Alexander, himself a former member of the 37th North Carolina Troops, believed that 2,713 men from Mecklenburg County served in the Confederate army.
There are numerous important people (to the Confederacy) who lived in Charlotte at the time of the war. Included in this list is Daniel Harvey Hill, who was teaching at the North Carolina Military Institute at the start of the war, along with Brig. Gen. James H. Lane and Col. Charles C. Lee.
There are numerous issues we could discuss about Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and its role during the war. I would argue that Charlotte and Mecklenburg County was the second most important area of North Carolina during the war (behind Wilmington and New Hanover County). Charlotte was the site of the North Carolina Military Institute, which provided numerous officers to the Confederate army. (Check out a post about the school here.) Also located in Charlotte was the Confederate Naval Ordnance Works, a hospital, the Confederate Acid Works, a Confederate gunpowder manufacturing facility in the Moore’s Chapel/Tuckaseegee Ford area, and a prison camp – Camp Exchange. The area was the site of the last cabinet meeting of the Confederate government in late April 1865. It was in Charlotte that Jefferson Davis heard of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Charlotte was later garrisoned by Federal soldiers after the war. We’ll talk more about these in the days to come.
After the war was over, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County was home to a large United Confederate Veterans camp, the Stonewall Jackson Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the James H. Lane Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In 1929, North Carolina held its only National Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans in Charlotte. You can learn more about that here and here. There are numerous Confederate markers and monuments around the county. Mecklenburg County is also the final resting place of D. H. Hill (in Davidson), Brig. Gen. Rufus Barringer and Brig. Gen. Thomas F. Drayton (in Charlotte).