There has been a recent trend in Academia to downplay the role of Unionism of western North Carolina. For decades , the academic party line was that the region was entirely pro-Union. Now, finally, scholars are beginning to take a more balanced approach. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for that trend to be come to fruition. I could not tell you how many times that I’ve given lectures, and during the question time, the ideas of a Unionist western North Carolina come out. I’ll say it again: western North Carolina was strongly pro-Confederate, with a few pockets of Unionism, and, as the war progressed, a lot of disinterest in the war, and both of the sides fighting it.
I was looking through Sitterson’s The Secession Movement in North Carolina a few days ago, and came across an interesting little side note. On pages 182-183, Sitterson gives a list of leading Unionists and Secessionists in the state House and Senate. Those who were Unionist in the House were as follows: D. D. Ferbee of Camden County; P. T. Henry of Bertie County; A. K. Simerton of Iredell County; and J. D. Wilkerson of Person. In the state senate, we have Bedford Brown of Caswell County; Josiah Turner of Orange County; John M. Morehead of Guilford County; David Outlaw of Bertie County; and J. D. Ramsey of Rowan County. Those considered the leading secessionists in the House were: John F. Hoke of Lincoln County; Samuel J. Person of New Hanover County; and Robert R. Bridgers of Edgecombe County. And in the state Senate, we have W. W. Avery of Burke County; Marcus Erwin of Buncombe County; Eli W. Hall of New Hanover County; and, V. C. Barringer of Cabarrus County.
What is interesting to note is that there were no leading Unionists in this list who were from western North Carolina, while leading Secessionists include Hoke of Lincoln County, Avery of Burke, and Erwin of Buncombe.