North Carolina Steps Up For The War Widows

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JPK Huson 1863

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mourning with widow w photo.JPG


Conveying her raw pain to us over the span of a century and a half, this mourning photo is evocative, if we allow it, of what ' War ' meant to thousands. Is she Southern? Northern? Does it matter? Her husband is dead. Neither side could be said to have placed importance on the welfare of families left decapitated by sacrifice. Until one state did.

North and South, war truncated families. The arrival of mail created so many new widows, one war ravaged town decreed wearing black, illegal. It was too depressing.

Neither government concerned itself much with supporting families who lost their breadwinner, whose sacrifice in uniform should have been acknowledged. While profiteers salted away cash, soldier's widows were evicted, starved ( the real thing ) if they lacked family support and were thrown into yet another wr- survival.

widow nc 1863.JPG

From an NC paper, local sentiment on the subject seems clear

In a cash and supply strapped South, government support for soldiers' families was instituted, then withdrawn. yes, I can source that, please do not make me. Only so many hours in a day. In the supply rich North, conditions were not better.

One state, North Carolina, typically came to the rescue. You have to love it, and I do. NC newspapers sneered at war profiteers and dismissed Davis's speech on the subject, through the famous Bread Riots, for instance. There was good reason- NC took care of them with Texas a runner-up. Through 1863, 1864 and 1865, the newspapers beat the drum off the battlefield.

1864
widow ral 1865 1.JPG
widow ral 1865 2.JPG



widow hair.jpg

Tough to find photos of poor women as widows, a mourning photo the last thing on her list of expenditures. This obviously well-off widow's stark expression must speak for all of them.


widow nc 1865.JPG


bread riots nc.JPG

In order not to produce a lengthy thread, only a few snips. Easily found in era newspapers, this loyalty to soldiers' families is singular, North and South.


It was a ridiculously awful war, a time in which women sometimes turned to prostitution as a desperate means to feed their children. A famous case in the North highlighted their plight when a mother was discovered dead of starvation, her children nearly so. That these were children of soldiers, some fallen, was repulsive. One state took a public stand and stood by it.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Photo #2 - is her hair braided like that!?

I think so? Braids were wrapped, coiled, adorned with flowers, arranged on improbable, gravity defying heights- then covered with hats or net. Godey's has mind boggling illustrations.

Maybe elaborate hair pieces were sold at the time? ( women historically sold their hair, no idea if it was a ' thing ' in the era ) You see crazy confections adorning heads. Must have taken hours!
 
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Belle Montgomery

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I think so? Braids were wrapped, coiled, adorned with flowers, arranged on improbable, gravity defying heights- then covered with hats or net. Godey's has mind boggling illustrations.

Maybe elaborate hair pieces were sold at the time? ( women historically sold their hair, no idea if it was a ' thing ' in the era ) You see crazy confections adorning heads. Must have taken hours!
Victorian Women:
Queen Victoria was a fashion icon in her own right. In the early years of her reign, she inspired the “Apollo Loop” in which a plain or coiled plait of false hair was attached onto wires to create eye-catching loops worn vertically on top of the head. But the use of elaborate wigs made way for cleaner, gentler looks. The Victorian period of fashion was about living more simply than the previous era. Hairstyles eventually became more natural and demure with hair parted in the middle, drawn into a bun or coil with curls allowed to fall loosely at the sides of the head.

Hairstyles mirrored the aspirations and social changes occurring within society during this era. The Industrial Revolution saw the rise of the middle classes and brought new fashions for clothes and hair. By the 1850s women wore hairstyles incorporating hairpieces purchased from the new department stores. Additionally, women began using soaps to clean their hair, but this act would strip away oils, leaving the hair stringy and dry. Products to restore hair’s lustre included vegetable oil and even bear grease.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Marcell Wave invented by Marcel Grateau’s “curling iron,” became a popular hairstyle which enabled to create a more natural looking wave as opposed to a curl. Victorians associated hair with life and love, therefore, it was traditional for women to incorporate lockets of hair into mourning jewellery after the passing of a loved one.

Source: http://chertseymuseum.org/hair
 
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Mike Serpa

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I think so? Braids were wrapped, coiled, adorned with flowers, arranged on improbable, gravity defying heights- then covered with hats or net. Godey's has mind boggling illustrations.

Maybe elaborate hair pieces were sold at the time? ( women historically sold their hair, no idea if it was a ' thing ' in the era ) You see crazy confections adorning heads. Must have taken hours!
Thanks. I wasn't thinking about hair pieces. Could be a possibility.
 
North Carolina, widows, families of soldiers New

JPK Huson 1863

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I keep running into something we don't discuss much. Thought about this when reading a current thread where we Pennsylvania natives discussed different aspects of this state. This is it- at the time of the ACW states seemed much more ' state-centric ' than we are today. Just read an era account where men from NC and SC were throwing dismissive terms around about each other. NC newspapers of the era are extremely enlightening and it can't have been singular.

Was it something more comprehensive as in all of us felt our state was it, the others also-rans? Have to say North or South NC sounds the most independent. It's insistence on running counter to both the Confederate government and other states when it came to caring for war widows indicates a pretty firm stance.

You should read editorials sneering at other states during the famous bread riots. NC's position was their state suffered no riots because they ensured the family of a man away fighting the war would be fed.
 
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CSA Today

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I keep running into something we don't discuss much. Thought about this when reading a current thread where we Pennsylvania natives discussed different aspects of this state. This is it- at the time of the ACW states seemed much more ' state-centric ' than we are today. Just read an era account where men from NC and SC were throwing dismissive terms around about each other. NC newspapers of the era are extremely enlightening and it can't have been singular.

Was it something more comprehensive as in all of us felt our state was it, the others also-rans? Have to say North or South NC sounds the most independent. It's insistence on running counter to both the Confederate government and other states when it came to caring for war widows indicates a pretty firm stance.

You should read editorials sneering at other states during the famous bread riots. NC's position was their state suffered no riots because they ensured the family of a man away fighting the war would be fed.
Sound more like the squabbles between North Carolina and Virginia than between North Carolina and South Carolina. Even "Tar Heels" was a pre-war Virginia pejorative for North Carolinians until Robert E. Lee praised the Tarheels for bravery during a Virginia battle.
 
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TnFed

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One of Zeb Vance's early war gripes against the Richmond government was its tendency to put Virginians in command of North Carolina brigades.
Another gripe between Vance and Richmond was his sense of strong local government. I would imagine he was a supporter of relief for these women. If memory serves, he was also a supporter of religious tolerance for Jews.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Sound more like the squabbles between North Carolina and Virginia than between North Carolina and South Carolina. Even "Tar Heels" was a pre-war Virginia pejorative for North Carolinians until Robert E. Lee praised the Tarheels for bravery during a Virginia battle.

Had no idea ' tar heel ' had been a pejorative term! Not that I ever looked into it- reading say, accounts by veterans it seemed used as more a point of state pride. With reason. It seems generally used as Lee did? Admit to being more interested in North Carolina's war than some others. Two Pitt County brothers migrated to Ohio, two stayed in NC. Cousins fought in both uniforms but it didn't seem to keep the family split post war.

What was the Virginia v. NC point of contention please? I'm seriously not digging for any other reason than trying to figure out how states viewed themselves and each other. There just seems to have been a much stronger sense of identifying with your state than we seem to have in 2019- South and North. It's awfully interesting.
 

nc native

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Had no idea ' tar heel ' had been a pejorative term! Not that I ever looked into it- reading say, accounts by veterans it seemed used as more a point of state pride. With reason. It seems generally used as Lee did? Admit to being more interested in North Carolina's war than some others. Two Pitt County brothers migrated to Ohio, two stayed in NC. Cousins fought in both uniforms but it didn't seem to keep the family split post war.

What was the Virginia v. NC point of contention please? I'm seriously not digging for any other reason than trying to figure out how states viewed themselves and each other. There just seems to have been a much stronger sense of identifying with your state than we seem to have in 2019- South and North. It's awfully interesting.
I believe a lot of the negative feelings and back and forth hard feelings between North Carolina and Virginia go back to post battle accounts of Gettysburg and different viewpoints about which state's troops fought the best and which state's troops were the first to break during Pickett's Charge. Virginians blamed the troops of Pettigrew's Division for the failure of the charge and North Carolinans countered by claiming that they advanced further than the Virginians of Pickett's Division and the Virginians were the ones to blame. I have direct ancestors who fought in North Carolina and Virginia units at Gettysburg and I believe that considering the circumstances that both states can be proud of the valor their soliders showed during that battle.
 
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lelliott19

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What was the Virginia v. NC point of contention please?
In addition to what @nc native said, I think there was some animosity that went way back that may have colored the perceptions of each state against the other? Most of the folks who lived in antebellum NC had moved there from VA. Abandoning the cities of VA for the uncivilized wilderness - classified as barbarians I guess. They had some disputes over retained reserves that had been granted by VA and had to be honored by NC when they wound up being in NC. And then there were heated disputes over the positioning of the state line between them. I actually started a thread abut some of this a while back that may be of interest. Got some really good responses too. https://civilwartalk.com/threads/perceived-offenses-to-state-sovereignty-in-antebellum-north-carolina.164025/#post-2139591
 

nc native

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In addition to what @nc native said, I think there was some animosity that went way back that may have colored the perceptions of each state against the other? Most of the folks who liwhoved in antebellum NC had moved there from VA. Abandoning the cities of VA for the uncivilized wilderness - classified as barbarians I guess. They had some disputes over retained reserves that had been granted by VA and had to be honored by NC when they wound up being in NC. And then there were heated disputes over the positioning of the state line between them. I actually started a thread abut some of this a while back that may be of interest. Got some really good responses too. https://civilwartalk.com/threads/perceived-offenses-to-state-sovereignty-in-antebellum-north-carolina.164025/#post-2139591
That is a good point! I had forgotten about William Byrd II's History of the Dividing Line which was written by a Virginia planter who was involved in the surveying of the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina in 1728. He really used some colorful language to describe North Carolinians and their backwards state of character and development. Excerpts from his diary were included in an Early American Literature book I had in college and it makes very interesting reading to say the least.
 
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