“Freedom, Sacrifice, and Memory” were the themes of the N.C. Office of Archives and History’s observance of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. The exquisite coffee table book “The Old North State at War: The North Carolina Civil War Atlas” is the agency’s crown jewel, the product of a decade’s research and writing and the only work of its kind.
Freelance author and cartographer Mark Anderson Moore and co-authors Jessica A. Bandel and Michael Hill have compiled a remarkable book, one that transcends North Carolina’s Civil War battles and campaigns.
Not an atlas per se, but rather a hybrid, “The Old North State at War” is a narrative history of the conflict that employs 99 full-color maps, charts, tables, rare prints, photographs, and text to document every significant military engagement in North Carolina during the war along with its economic, political, and social consequences.
Slavery and plantation agriculture, mobilization, manufacturing, women, the home front, dissent, inflation, casualty statistics, and divided loyalties receive significant coverage. The authors, however, never lose sight of how North Carolina’s geography influenced combat and the war’s outcome.
Readers will especially welcome the book’s state of the art pictorial and cartographic depictions. Moore based his renderings of historic road networks on wartime maps matched against primary manuscript plans and modern road surveys. Drawing upon Geographic Information System technology, the authors identify wartime landmarks, places, and sites with punctilious detail, employing contemporary spellings in their historically correct geospatial orientation.
“The Old North State at War” excellently covers such topics as combined naval and military operations in the sounds during 1861-1862, including the ebb and flow of combat around New Bern, Washington, and Plymouth. It also chronicles guerrilla warfare between bushwhackers and semi-independent military units in North Carolina’s western highlands. The book concludes by documenting the last months of the war when Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s army penetrated the state, fighting Rebel armies at Averasboro, Kinston and Bentonville before Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered at Durham Station in April 1865.
Moore, Bandel and Hill pay special attention to such lesser-known engagements as Union Gen. Edward A. Wild’s December 1863 raid into northeastern North Carolina. Determined to disperse guerrillas along the Dismal Swamp Canal and to free slaves in the vicinity, Wild’s African Brigade (consisting of men from five newly commissioned black regiments) struck terror into the region’s southern sympathizers.
In his final report, Wild noted that “We burned 4 guerrilla camps, took over 50 guns, 1 drum, together with equipment, ammunition, etc.; burned over a dozen homesteads, 2 distilleries, etc. Took a number of prisoners, including 6 Confederate soldiers ...; also 4 hostages for our men taken prisoners, 3 women, and 1 old man. Hanged 1 guerrilla, captured 4 large boats ..., and took many horses.”
The authors also provide superb treatment of the two Union joint army-navy expeditions against Fort Fisher – the so-called impenetrable “Gibraltar of the South”— and the fall of Wilmington, December 1864-February 1865
Fort Fisher’s capitulation broke the Confederacy’s last blockade-running supply line while the Wilmington campaign signified a strategic maneuver supporting Sherman’s march through the Carolinas. On January 16, 1865, following Fort Fisher’s capture, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg informed Gen. Robert E. Lee: “I am mortified at having to report the unexpected capture of Fort Fisher, with most of its garrison.”
Readers at all levels will judge “The Old North State at War” a great event in North Carolina historical publishing. It honors the sacrifices of those Tarheels blue and gray, black and white, female and male whose stories of “Freedom, Sacrifice, and Memory” continue to resonate today.
John David Smith is the Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of American History at UNC Charlotte. He served on the North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee’s Academic Advisory Panel.
The Old North State at War: The North Carolina Civil War Atlas
By Mark Anderson Moore with Jessica A. Bandel and Michael Hill
Office of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 190 pages, $85