After Slavery: Educator Resources

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1. Sidney Andrews on Attitudes among North Carolina's Poor Whites

The following educational document corresponds with Unit Eight: Planters, Poor Whites and White Supremacy in the After Slavery exhibition. Note the "Questions to Consider" section included at the end of each document.

A few months after the Civil War ended, northern journalist Sidney Andrews made a tour of Georgia and the Carolinas and published a book describing his travels and the people he met. To his surprise, he found North Carolina to be much more unsettled than South Carolina. The Rebels in North Carolina remained much more defiant (because, Andrews concluded, they had not experienced the destruction of Sherman's march as South Carolina had) and the whites were much more antagonistic. Throughout the war, Unionism had been much stronger in North Carolina than in South Carolina, and at the beginning of Reconstruction, Unionists in North Carolina, many of whom had been relatively poor, were holding a grudge against Rebels, many of whom had been relatively wealthy.

Sidney Andrews on Attitudes among North Carolina's Poor Whites

The poor whites could be relied upon during the war because their instincts led them in a path parallel to that taken by the government. Now, however, say many of our officers on duty in this section, they give us more trouble than the real Rebels,-those who voluntarily went into the Rebel army. They have very little judgment, and their instincts do not now lead them toward the ends the government is pursuing. Not a few of them claim that the farms of the leading Rebels should be apportioned out among those who fought Rebels.

I have already spoken of the somewhat savage disregard of the lives of those who have been known as Rebels. There is, further, an almost utter contempt of the property rights of Rebels in the country districts. It is a remark one often substantially hears, - "Every d--n thing in South Carolina ought to be destroyed, and every d--n man driven out of the country, and every d-n woman hung." Unquestionably these North Carolina Unionists have suffered much from Rebels before the war as well as during the war. I am not arguing a case against them, but only stating facts. The root of the matter is, that they are making the readjustment just what they made the Rebellion, - a personal issue with another class of the people. However satisfactory this fact may be to any man or any body of men in the North, it is one which gives trouble to our troops.

Source: Sidney Andrews, The South since the War: As Shown by Fourteen Weeks of Travel and Observation in Georgia and the Carolinas (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1866), p.116.


Questions to Consider

  1. What do Andrews's comments suggest about northern perceptions of the loyalties of southern poor whites during the war?

  2. What accounts for the expression of hostility towards South Carolina expressed by North Carolina Unionists?

  3. Why does Andrews believe that poor whites' "instincts do not now lead them toward the ends the government is pursuing"?

Return to Exhibition: Unit Eight