Book Review Driven from Home: North Carolina's Civil War Refugee Crisis, by David Silkenat

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Driven from Home: North Carolina's Civil War Refugee Crisis, by David Silkenat, University Georgia Press

Description of the book from the UGA Press site:

Examining refugees of Civil War–era North Carolina, Driven from Home reveals the complexity and diversity of the war’s displaced populations and the inadequate responses of governmental and charitable organizations as refugees scrambled to secure the necessities of daily life. In North Carolina, writes David Silkenat, the relative security of the Piedmont and mountains drew pro-Confederate elements from across the region. Early in the war, Union invaders established strongholds on the coast, to which their sympathizers fled in droves.​
Silkenat looks at five groups caught up in this floodtide of emigration:​
• enslaved African Americans who fled to freedom;​
• white Unionists;​
• pro-Confederate whites—both slave owners (who often forced their slaves to migrate with them) and non–slave owners;​
• and young women, often from more besieged areas of the South, who attended the state’s many boarding schools.​
From their varied experiences, a picture emerges of a humanitarian crisis driven by mobility, shaped by unprecedented economic pressures and disease vectors, and exacerbated by governments unwilling or unable to provide meaningful relief.​
For anyone seeking context to current refugee crises, Driven from Home has much to say about the crushing administrative and logistical challenges of aid work, the illusory nature of such concepts as home fronts and battle lines, and the ongoing debate over links between relief and dependence.​

- Alan
 

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CSA Today

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#2
Driven from Home: North Carolina's Civil War Refugee Crisis, by David Silkenat, University Georgia Press

Description of the book from the UGA Press site:

Examining refugees of Civil War–era North Carolina, Driven from Home reveals the complexity and diversity of the war’s displaced populations and the inadequate responses of governmental and charitable organizations as refugees scrambled to secure the necessities of daily life. In North Carolina, writes David Silkenat, the relative security of the Piedmont and mountains drew pro-Confederate elements from across the region. Early in the war, Union invaders established strongholds on the coast, to which their sympathizers fled in droves.​
Silkenat looks at five groups caught up in this floodtide of emigration:​
• enslaved African Americans who fled to freedom;​
• white Unionists;​
• pro-Confederate whites—both slave owners (who often forced their slaves to migrate with them) and non–slave owners;​
• and young women, often from more besieged areas of the South, who attended the state’s many boarding schools.​
From their varied experiences, a picture emerges of a humanitarian crisis driven by mobility, shaped by unprecedented economic pressures and disease vectors, and exacerbated by governments unwilling or unable to provide meaningful relief.​
For anyone seeking context to current refugee crises, Driven from Home has much to say about the crushing administrative and logistical challenges of aid work, the illusory nature of such concepts as home fronts and battle lines, and the ongoing debate over links between relief and dependence.​

- Alan
A surprising choice for such a topic since there was so little fighting that actually took place in the state and most of that late in the war.
 
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I just completed David Silkenat's Driven from Home: North Carolina's Civil War Refugee Crisis, from the University Georgia Press. It is a very interesting, and at times, touching book.

The book is about the transformation of the North Carolina homefront as thousands of people, war refugees, migrated to or from Union occupied territory, or actual or feared battles, in the state, or nearby Virginia or South Carolina.

These war time migrations forced people into places that were short on food, shelter, and clothing, many times desperately so; breeding grounds for disease; destabilized and upended by poverty, individual financial ruin and high inflation; and subject to interpersonal or group conflict as people from diverse backgrounds were forced to navigate crowded spaces.

Silkenat describes the situation in North Carolina as a crisis, and you the extensive use of war time stories of the people who were there helps to make the point. Although this is an academic book, the stories of suffering were quite affecting. One does get the sense that there was a crisis here, which is very much unappreciated by many Civil War observers.

I will try to go over sections of the book in the next few days.

- Alan
 

Pat Young

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A surprising choice for such a topic since there was so little fighting that actually took place in the state and most of that late in the war.
It could also look at North Carolina because the author's previous book had been about that state:
Moments of Despair: Suicide, Divorce, and Debt in Civil War Era North Carolina

Perhaps he uncovered North Carolina resources for the one book that he felt justified the writing of another book.
 

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It could also look at North Carolina because the author's previous book had been about that state:
Moments of Despair: Suicide, Divorce, and Debt in Civil War Era North Carolina

Perhaps he uncovered North Carolina resources for the one book that he felt justified the writing of another book.
Perhaps.
 
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From the Introduction:

This book explores five distinct elements within the refugee population in Civil War North Carolina. The first and largest group was composed of the thousands of African Americans who fled from slavery to freedom, seeking liberty under the protection of the Union Army in eastern North Carolina. The second group, smaller, but no less significant, was the thousands oh white Unionists who also fled to union lines in eastern North Carolina. While both white unionists and fugitive slaves sought refuge with in the shadow of the Union flag, as we shall see, their experiences as refugees where are radically different.

A third refugee population consisted of pro-Confederate whites from across the South who sought safety with in the Confederate interior, placing as much distance between themselves and Union armies as possible. Fourth, White Confederate refugees often brought their slaves with them to central and western North Carolina, in part to work, but mainly to prevent their slaves from running away, thus securing there most valuable form of property. The removal of slaves to the Confederate interior created unforeseen problems for slave owners, undermine slave discipline, and dramatically expanded slave hiring.

Finally, while schools and colleges across the confederacy closed-door and the war, girls' boarding schools in central North Carolina flourished, as concerned parents sent to their refugee daughters to the most secure location in the south. Proud to call themselves refugees, these schoolgirls viewed the war from a unique perspective, one that would shape how they would remember and commemorate it for decades after.


- Alan
 
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From the Introduction:

From the perspective of 1861, few Americans anticipated that the impending conflict would you generate a refugee crisis of the scale, complexity, and duration that developed... There is little evidence to suggest, however, that the political and military leaders of the Union and the Confederacy gave serious thought to the impact that a highly mobile Southern population would have on the war. While many observers correctly predicted that the outbreak of war would dramatically increase the number of slaves running away, they never grasped the consequences of hundreds of thousands of white and black Southerners being on the move.

The failure either Union officials on North Carolina's coast or confederate officials in the North Carolina Piedmont and mountains to anticipate the magnitude a voluntary and forced relocations made the refugee problem into a refugee crisis. I use the term "crisis" not only to reflect the number of refugees and the difficulty of their circumstances but also because the response of governmental and charitable organizations was often woefully inadequate.

For Union officials, efforts to help refugees were hampered by racial and regional prejudices, by conflicts between civilian and military oversight, and by fears of fostering dependence on the federal government.

For Confederates, the failure to provide meaningful aid for refugees derived primarily from the financial problems that plagued the Confederacy after 1863, coupled with relief aid structures that favored local residents over refugees.

The failure of both the Union and the Confederacy to adequately respond to the refugee crisis reflected not only their inadequate planning and scant resources but also shifting attitudes toward the role of government in helping people in times of disaster.


- Alan
 

CSA Today

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#12
Don't war refugees usually go from high conflict zones to lower conflict zones?

There were several Federal occupied enclaves on the North Carolina coast that would have had led to many loyal citizens fleeing the area -- New Bern being the most notable. However, these were localized areas containing only a small percentage of the state's population. Had there been a significant state-wide number of refugees fleeing “in droves” I believe John G. Barrett in his exhaustive (nearly 500 pages) The Civil War in North Carolina would have mentioned it.


 

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The book is expensive, $26 or so on Amazon for the paperback. I do recommend seeing if your library can get it, perhaps from inter-library loan. It should be available somewhere in NC.

- Alan
I have a backlog of books to be read, but anything to do with the war in North Carolina is of special interest so I will put in the queue.
 
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Chapter 1: Gwine to Liberty

This chapter deals with the Black Exodus, as I call it, to eastern North Carolina during the war.

This useful map shows battles in NC during the war:

battleofnewbernofficial.jpg


Military success at Hatteras, Roanoke Island, New Bern, and Ft Bacon/Beaufort, enabled the Union to gain a foothold in eastern NC. This resulted in two separate migrations:
- enslaved people fled to the area to gain freedom behind Union lines
- Confederate civilians fled mainly to the NC Piedmont to escape Union occupation (discussed in a later chapter)

Huge refugee camps, also called contraband camps, also called freedmen camps or colonies, sprang up over the course of the war in these areas.

Two of these camps have been memorialized in the state:

outer-banks-history-hatteras-island_s-hotel-de-afrique.jpg

Monument to the Hatteras Island’s Hotel De Afrique, a freedom colony in North Carolina; Image was taken during the dedication of the monument in July 2013.
Image Source: Blog for OuterBanksVacations.com.


77482_791077767573335_230849375_o0-7da098c25056b3a_7da09bfa-5056-b3a8-490e18a29fc8fa49.jpg

Monument to The Freedmen's Colony Of Roanoke Island, at Roanoke Island, NC. As noted here,

Recognized as a historic National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site. A marker was erected in 2001 to designate the site of a permanent colony on Roanoke Island between 1862 and 1867. Most of its 3,000 residents had been slaves three years earlier in northeastern North Carolina. A path through the woods north of Fort Raleigh leads visitors to a commemorative park along Croaton Sound.

- Alan
 
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In early 1862, the Union captured several places in eastern NC, most prominently New Bern. New Bern was the second most populous city in the state, with 5400 residents.

The book describes the "stampede" from the city in advance of its imminent capture by the US:

The last-minute exodus of all but approximately two hundred of the town's white residents left the streets littered with baggage and furniture that could not be loaded onto railroad cars and ferries. To deprive Union soldiers of the benefits of holding New Bern, retreating Confederate soldiers set fire to the town. One Union soldier noted that "only for the prompt efforts of the troops crossing into the city, and aid furnished by the colored people, New Berne would have been destroyed." Refugees fleeing along the Kinston Road could see their homes go up in flames.

William Curtis observed that many of the refugees fleeing New Bern were wealthy young women, who "now turned their backs sadly upon their homes, that a short time before were pleasant and happy, and perhaps could now, for the first time in life, cast a lingering glance back, only to be met buy the lurid glare of the fiery element consuming the home... They're agonizing cries of grief, an anxious And treaties for assistance, were heard on all sides, amid the den and clatter... and the the panic stricken rabble."

The Union occupation included several other places:

Shortly after their victory at New Bern, Union forces occupied the towns of Washington, Beaufort, Morehead City, and Plymouth. Together with New Bern, Roanoke, and the Outer Banks island of Hatteras (occupied by Union forces in August 1861) these towns formed the heart of the Union occupation of eastern North Carolina that would last the duration of the war.

As in New Bern, a significant proportion of the white population refugeed themselves inland in advance of the Union occupation. When Union soldiers marched into the town of Washington, a northern journalist noted that "some two thirds" of Washington's twenty-five hundred inhabitants "have seen fit to leave for the interior."

Similarly, in Plymouth, Union forces discover that "the most rabid of the secessionists here all left the city, including all the ministers of the gospel, except the Baptist."

- Alan
 
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#16
Chapter 1: Gwine to Liberty

This chapter deals with the Black Exodus, as I call it, to eastern North Carolina during the war.

This useful map shows battles in NC during the war:

View attachment 290524

Military success at Hatteras, Roanoke Island, New Bern, and Ft Bacon/Beaufort, enabled the Union to gain a foothold in eastern NC. This resulted in two separate migrations:
- enslaved people fled to the area to gain freedom behind Union lines
- Confederate civilians fled mainly to the NC Piedmont to escape Union occupation (discussed in a later chapter)

Huge refugee camps, also called contraband camps, also called freedmen camps or colonies, sprang up over the course of the war in these areas.

Two of these camps have been memorialized in the state:

View attachment 290525
Monument to the Hatteras Island’s Hotel De Afrique, a freedom colony in North Carolina; Image was taken during the dedication of the monument in July 2013.
Image Source: Blog for OuterBanksVacations.com.


View attachment 290526
Monument to The Freedmen's Colony Of Roanoke Island, at Roanoke Island, NC. As noted here,

Recognized as a historic National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site. A marker was erected in 2001 to designate the site of a permanent colony on Roanoke Island between 1862 and 1867. Most of its 3,000 residents had been slaves three years earlier in northeastern North Carolina. A path through the woods north of Fort Raleigh leads visitors to a commemorative park along Croaton Sound.

- Alan
Inland raids. Only Goldsborough Bridge and Kinston, where about 2000 Confederates engaged about 11,000 Federals resulted in something more than skirmishes. In all case, the Federals fell back to their coastal base at New Bern. None of these brief engagements resulted in civilians fleeing the area for any length of time.

http://goldsboroughbridge.org/history.asp
https://www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2013/12/14/first-battle-of-kinston-1862
http://www.thomaslegion.net/battleofwhitehallferry.html
Tranter's Creek https://www.nps.gov/abpp/battles/nc006.htm
http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_south_mills.html
https://www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2013/12/14/first-battle-of-kinston-1862
 
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Inland raids. Only Goldsborough Bridge and Kinston, where about 2000 Confederates engaged about 11,000 Federals resulted in something more than skirmishes. In all case, the Federals fell back to their coastal base at New Bern. None of these brief engagements resulted in civilians fleeing the area for any length of time.

http://goldsboroughbridge.org/history.asp
https://www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2013/12/14/first-battle-of-kinston-1862
http://www.thomaslegion.net/battleofwhitehallferry.html
Tranter's Creek https://www.nps.gov/abpp/battles/nc006.htm
http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_south_mills.html
https://www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2013/12/14/first-battle-of-kinston-1862
The author of the book says this:

Shortly after their victory at New Bern, Union forces occupied the towns of Washington, Beaufort, Morehead City, and Plymouth. Together with New Bern, Roanoke, and the Outer Banks island of Hatteras (occupied by Union forces in August 1861) these towns formed the heart of the Union occupation of eastern North Carolina that would last the duration of the war.

Are you saying the author is wrong?

- Alan
 

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The author of the book says this:

Shortly after their victory at New Bern, Union forces occupied the towns of Washington, Beaufort, Morehead City, and Plymouth. Together with New Bern, Roanoke, and the Outer Banks island of Hatteras (occupied by Union forces in August 1861) these towns formed the heart of the Union occupation of eastern North Carolina that would last the duration of the war.

Are you saying the author is wrong?

- Alan
Only his implying any flight from those coastal enclaves, permanently or temporarily, created a major North Carolina refugee crisis.
 
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Only his implying any flight from those coastal enclaves, permanently or temporarily, created a major North Carolina refugee crisis.
Two quick things.

First, the refugee problem is seen in the aggregate of all the affected parties. The worst suffering refugee group was slaves who ran away to Union lines, and also slaves were "refugeed" by their masters away. But the refugees also included people who fled the Peninsula Campaign in VA and Sherman's Invasion in SC, for example.

Second, it's important to understand that the presence of refugees impacted non-refugees, creating communities that were in crisis. For example the influx of refugees often created severe food and housing shortages in the Peidmont. It helped spur runaway inflation as large numbers of people tried to compete for scarce resources. It also lead to epidemics as malnourished and poorly housed people were forced into small places that were a breeding ground for disease.

The presence of refugees in a place didn't lead to a degraded the quality of life for refugees only, it also degraded the quality of life for non-refugees. This is something that I did not appreciate until this book.

- Alan
 
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#20
I think this book is probably a good case study of what happened in the Southern states when populations had to deal with the invasion and occupation by Union forces but like my fellow North Carolinian and poster CSA Today, I am surprised the author chose the Tarheel state when there are several other Southern states that had refugee crises that dwarfed North Carolina's in comparison. I'm sure Sherman's march put a lot of both white and black Southerners on the move and the effect of it upon the population was far more felt among the states and communities affected by it.
 



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