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The Civil War in North Carolina

This list is adapted from a reading list compiled by the North Carolina Museum of History.

Politics / Coming of the War / General

The Civil War in North Carolina
Barrett, John Gilchrist. 1963.
975.603 BARRETT
Barrett’s 1963 volume remains the only comprehensive account of military operations in North Carolina during the war.

North Carolinians in the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction
Escott, Paul D.  2008.
973.745 NORT

North Carolina as a Civil War Battleground, 1861-1865.
Barrett, John Gilchrist. 1980.
This pamphlet is an abridged version of Barrett’s earlier monograph.

Civil War Charlotte: Last Capital of the Confederacy
Hardy, Michael C.  2012.
975.603 HARDY

The Civil War in coastal North Carolina
Carbone, John Stephen. 2001.
973.71 CARBONE

Civil War Pictures
Corbitt, D. L., and Elizabeth W. Wilborn. 1961.
973.745 CORBITT
This slender volume illustrates the private soldier at war, blockade running, life on the home front, freedmen, and North Carolina generals. 

North Carolina and the Coming of the Civil War
Harris, William C. 1988.
975.603 HARRIS
Harris succinctly describes events leading to North Carolina’s secession.

State Troops and Volunteers: A Photographic Record of North Carolina’s Civil War Soldiers
Mast, Greg. 1995.
975.6 MAST
Mast skillfully blends images of North Carolina soldiers and text about their lives. 

Portraits of Conflict: A Photographic History of North Carolina in the Civil War
McCaslin, Richard B. 1997.
973.745 MCCASLIN
Photographs of people and places tell North Carolina’s Civil War history.

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
McPherson, James M. 1988.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning interpretation of the war sees secession as a conservative counterrevolution to the increasing liberality and moral righteousness of Northern states. 

The Civil War in North Carolina
Trotter, William R. Greensboro. 1988.
973.71 TROTTER
A comprehensive and easy-to-read history of North Carolina at war in three volumes: Silk Flags and Cold Steel: The Piedmont; Bushwackers!: The Mountains; Ironclads and Columbiads: The Coast.

North Carolina Civil War Documentary
Yearns, W. Buck, and John G. Barrett, eds. 1980.
973.709 N
Primary documents illustrate the lives of North Carolina’s civilians, administration, soldiers, sailors, and others and their efforts to survive the war.

Declarations of Dependence: The Long Reconstruction of Popular Politics in the South, 1861-1908
Downs, Gregory P. Chapel Hil 2011.
975.603 DOWNS

Home Front

Blood and War at My Doorstep: North Carolina Civilians in the War Between the States
McKean, Brenda Chambers.  2011.
973.71 MCKEAN

Shifting Loyalties: The Union Occupation of Eastern North Carolina
Browning, Judkin. 2011.

Moments of Despair: Suicide, Divorce, & Debt in Civil War Era North Carolina
Silkenat, David.  2011.
362.975 SILKENAT

“Neighbor against Neighbor: The Inner Civil War in the Randolph County Area.”
Auman, William Thomas. The North Carolina Historical Review 61 (January 1984): 59-92.
Periodicals Department
Class antagonism, staunch Unionism, and cultural factors engender anti-Confederate sentiments and guerrilla warfare in Randolph County and its environs.

“Heroes of America in Civil War North Carolina.”
Auman, William Thomas, and David D. Scarboro. The North Carolina Historical Review 58 (October 1981): 327-363.
Periodicals Department
A small group of North Carolinians forms a secret organization to overthrow Confederate authorities and restore the Union.

“Class Conflict and Political Upheaval: The Transformation of North Carolina Politics during the Civil War.”
Baker, Robin E. The North Carolina Historical Review 70 (April 1992): 148-178.
Periodicals Department
The Civil War disrupted a tenuous antebellum political balance between conservative planters and yeoman farmers and permanently divided North Carolina politics along lines of class and region.

“Sterling, Campbell, and Albright: Textbook Publishers, 1861-1865.”
Carroll, Karen C. The North Carolina Historical Review 63 (April 1986): 169&-198.
Periodicals Department
In addition to the manufacture of textiles and military materials, North Carolinians attempted self-sufficiency in textbook publishing. Publishers used their products to help create a national identity for the Confederacy.

War of Another Kind: A Southern Community in the Great Rebellion
Durrill, Wayne Keith. 1990.
975.603 DURRILL
Controversial interpretation examines class conflict in Washington County as poor and elite North Carolinians struggled violently over land and power.

“Poverty and Governmental Aid for the Poor in Confederate North Carolina.”
Escott, Paul D. The North Carolina Historical Review 61 (October 1984): 462-480.
Periodicals Department
State and Confederate authorities acted too late and with too few resources to prevent widespread destitution on the home front.

Kinship and Neighborhood in a Southern Community: Orange County North Carolina, 1849-1881
Kenzer, Robert C. Knoxville. 1987.
975.6565 K
Chapter 4 traces the wartime experiences of Orange County citizens, including those at the front and on the home front.

“‘Few Were the Hearts…That Did Not Swell with Devotion’: Community and Confederate Service in Rowan County, North Carolina, 1861-1862.”
McKaughan, Joshua. The North Carolina Historical Review 73 (April 1996): 156-183.
Periodicals Department
Rowan County citizens went to war in waves, first the young and independent, then the older, established farmers.

Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy
Moore, Albert Burton. 1996.
Available at Duke, UNC, and NC State
Classic monograph on the Confederacy’s internal problems.

Divided Allegiances: Bertie County during the Civil War
Thomas, Gerald W. 1996.
973.7 THOMAS
Thomas traces the fortunes of sharply divided Bertie County, source of hundreds of Union army recruits.

“Confederate Conscription and the North Carolina Supreme Court.”
Van Zant, Jennifer. The North Carolina Historical Review 72 (January 1995): 54-75.
Periodicals Department
North Carolina Supreme Court justices bordered on obstructionism as they tenaciously clung to strict legal precedent in protection of personal liberties and judicial review.

Soldier Life

“Inconstant Rebels: Desertion of North Carolina Troops in the Civil War.”
Bardolph, Richard. The North Carolina Historical Review 41 (April 1964): 163-189.
Periodicals Department
Bardolph’s account of deserters was the first to focus on this problem in North Carolina

“Confederate Dilemma: North Carolina Troops and the Deserter Problem, Part I.”
Bardolph, Richard. The North Carolina Historical Review 66 (January 1989): 61-86.
Periodicals Department
Bardolph looks at motives for desertion and efforts to stop the problem.

“Confederate Dilemma: North Carolina Troops and the Deserter Problem, Part II.” The North Carolina Historical Review 67 (April 1989): 179-210.
Periodicals Department
Bardolph continues to look at motives for desertion and efforts to stop the problem.

Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina’s Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era
Reid, Richard M. c2008.
973.741 REID

March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman’s Troops in the Savannah and Carolinas Campaign
Glatthaar, Joseph T.  1985.
Available at Duke, UNC, and NC State
This study examines the daily experiences and motivations of the soldiers who terrorized North Carolina in the final month of the war.

Stuart’s Tarheels: James B. Gordon and His North Carolina Cavalry
Hartley, Chris J. 1996.
Hartley describes North Carolina cavalrymen and their charismatic leader in the Army of Northern Virginia. Available at UNC-CH

“Test Case of the ‘Crying Evil’: Desertion Among North Carolina Troops During the Civil War.”
Reid, Richard M. The North Carolina Historical Review 58 (July 1981): 234-262.
Periodicals Department
Reid analyses desertion among Tar Heel regiments and finds that North Carolina’s desertion rate was no more extreme than that of other states.

The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy
Wiley, Bell I. 1943.
973.784 W
This classic volume set the standard for soldier life studies; though dated, it holds many insightful observations.

Campaigns and Battles

Lee’s Tar Heels: The Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade
Hess, Earl J. 2002.
973.745 HESS

Sherman’s March Through the Carolinas
Barrett, John Gilchrist. 1956.
973.7378 BARRETT
Barrett narrates Sherman’s destructive march through the Old North State, including actions at Fayetteville, the Battle of Bentonville, foragers, and Bennett Place.

Last Stand in the Carolinas: The Battle of Bentonville
Bradley, Mark L. 1996.
973.738 BRADLEY
Detailed narrative of the climactic battle of the Carolinas campaign.

Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-’65. 5 vols.
Clark, Walter, ed. 1901.
975.6 CLARK
Capsule histories of North Carolina regiments and military actions.

This Astounding Close: The Road to Bennett Place.
Bradley, Mark L. 2000.
973.738 BRADLEY

The Long Surrender.
Davis, Burke. 1985.
973.713 DAVIS
Davis narrates the last month of the Confederacy as its cabinet flees south through North Carolina.

The Wilmington Campaign: Last Rays of Departing Hope.
Fonvielle, Chris E. Jr. Campbell. 1997.
First comprehensive study of the fall of Fort Fisher and the Wilmington campaign.

Bentonville: The Final Battle of Sherman and Johnston.
Hughes, Nathaniel Cheairs Jr. 1996.
973.738 HUGHES
Another good retelling of the Battle of Bentonville.

“Massacre at Plymouth: April 20, 1864.”
Jordan, Weymouth T. Jr., and Gerald W. Thomas. The North Carolina Historical Review 72 (April 1995): 125-197.
Periodicals Department
This detailed account of the Plymouth massacre and its aftermath reveals a small number of Confederate atrocities and much confusion and controversy in the aftermath.

“‘Drinking Pulverized Snakes and Lizards’: Yankees and Rebels in Battle at Gum Swamp.”
Jordan, Weymouth T. Jr. The North Carolina Historical Review 71 (July 1993): 266-301.
Periodicals Department
Jordan illuminates two obscure and relatively insignificant skirmishes in Eastern North Carolina.

The Civil War on the Outer Banks
Mallison, Fred M. 1998.
Available at Duke, UNC, and NC State
Mallison chronicles the transformation of Outer Banks society by the war.

“A Succession of Honorable Victories”: The Burnside Expedition in North Carolina
Sauers, Richard E. 1996.
973.732 SAUERS
Sauers examines Union general Ambrose E. Burnside’s early 1862 push into eastern North Carolina, beginning with his success at Roanoke Island and ending with the capitulation of New Bern.

Stoneman’s Last Raid
Van Noppen, Ina Woestemeyer. 1961.
973.738 VAN NOPPEN
In the closing months of the Civil War, George Stoneman’s Federal cavalry swept undisputed through western North Carolina.

The Last Ninety Days of the War in North Carolina
Spencer, Cornelia Phillips. 1866.
973.7 S
Spencer’s rambling, and sometimes faulty, recounting of the advance of Sherman and the flight of the North Carolina government in May and April 1865 is a Tar Heel classic.


Confederate Generals of North Carolina: Tar Heels in Command
Mobley, Joe A. 2011.
355.009 MOBLEY

General Robert F. Hoke: Lee’s Modest Warrior
Barefoot, Daniel W. 1996.
Deemed a rising star, this North Carolinian was the youngest major general to serve under Lee.

Lee’s Maverick General: Daniel Harvey Hill
Bridges, Leonard Hal. 1991.
Known as a difficult officer to command, Hill remained a competent but controversial leader until the end of the war.

Boy Colonel of the Confederacy: The Life and Times of Henry King Burgwyn, Jr.
Davis, Archie K. 1985.
The upstanding son of an elite Tar Heel family, Burgwyn rapidly advanced through the ranks of his North Carolina regiment before his death at Gettysburg.

Stephen Dodson Ramseur: Lee’s Gallant General
Gallagher, Gary W. 1985.
Ramseur, who commanded North Carolina regiments in all major fights of the Army of Northern Virginia, was a fast-rising general when he fell at Cedar Creek.

Confederate Colonel and Cherokee Chief: The Life of William Holland Thomas
Godbold, E. Stanley Jr., and Mattie U. Russell. 1990.
Thomas, adopted son of the Cherokee, government agent, and entrepreneur, raised a battalion made up of Cherokee Indians and whites.

William Woods Holden: Firebrand of North Carolina Politics
Harris, William C. 1987.
The candidacy of newspaperman-turned-politician Holden in 1864 posed a serious threat to the Vance administration, and his postwar allegiance to congressional reconstruction vexed North Carolina.

Zeb Vance: North Carolina’s Civil War Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader
McKinney, Gordon B. 2004.

The Papers of Zebulon Baird Vance vol. 2, 1863.
Mobley, Joe A., ed. 1995.
Mobley offers a refreshing reevaluation of Vance as a staunch Confederate doing his best to support the war effort while ensuring the loyalty of his fellow North Carolinians.

“‘Patriot by Nature, Christian by Faith’: Major General William Dorsey Pender, C.S.A.”
Samito, Christian G. The North Carolina Historical Review 76 (April 1999): 163-201.
Periodicals Department
Samito examines Pender’s personal relationships within the Army of Northern Virginia and his critical role in the successes of that command. 


Doctors in Gray: The Confederate Medical Service
Cunningham, H. H. 1958.
Comprehensive review of Confederate medical operations.

“Edmund Burke Haywood and Raleigh’s Confederate Hospitals.”
Cunningham, H. H. The North Carolina Historical Review 34 (April 1958): 153&-166.
Periodicals Department
Chronicles the efforts of North Carolina medical officials to provide care to the state’s sick and wounded soldiers. 

In Hospital and Camp
Straubing, Harold Elk. 1993.
Available at Duke and UNC
The Civil War through the eyes of its doctors and nurses.


Ironclad of the Roanoke: Gilbert Elliott’s Albemarle
Elliott, Robert G. 1994.
973.757 ELLIOTT
Detailed history of the Albemarle and biography of its builder. The Confederate ram successfully staved off Federal naval encroachment of the Roanoke River in 1864.

“Career of the Confederate Ironclad ‘Neuse‘”
Still, William N. Jr. The North Carolina Historical Review 43 (January 1966): 1-13.
Periodicals Department
Named for the North Carolina river, the Neuse served merely to deter Federal riverine advances.

First-Person Accounts

The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers’ and Civilians’ Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865
973.782 CIVI
Watford, Christopher, ed. 2003.

Voices from Cemetery Hill: The Civil War Diary, Reports, and Letters of Colonel William Henry Asbury Speer (1861-1864)
Speer, Allen Paul, ed. 1997.
Available at UNC and NC State
Colonel Speer of Yadkin County served in eastern North Carolina and northern Virginia and in 1862 was a prisoner of war.

Rebel Boast: First at Bethel-Last at Appomattox
Wellman, Manly Wade. 1956.
973.74 WELLMAN
Diaries and correspondence of five cousins in the Forty-third Regiment North Carolina Troops served as primary sources for this lively narrative.


Encyclopedia of the Confederacy
Current, Richard N., ed. 1993.
973.713 ENCY
Thorough and thoughtful entries on all aspects of the Confederate experience. 4 volumes.

North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865; A Roster
Manarin, Louis H., and Weymouth T. Jordan Jr., eds. 1966–1998.
973.745 Manarin
A 12-volume roster of nearly every North Carolina regiment, with brief biographical and service information for the state’s soldiers. Cumulative index is available online.

Additional Information and Amendments to the North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865 Seventeen Volume Roster
Purser, Charles E., compiler. 2010.
973.745 PURSER

Slavery and Emancipation

A History of African Americans in North Carolina
Crow, Jeffrey J. 1992.
975.6 CROW
Crow examines the colonial origins of slavery, African American life and labor before 1800, nineteenth-century slavery, the Civil War, emancipation, Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights Movement.

The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves’ Civil War
Cecelski, David S. 2012.
326.809 CECELSKI

A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom: Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation
Blight, David W. Orlando. 2007.
973.711 BLIGHT

Recollections of My Slavery Days
Singleton, William Henry. 1999.

By Land and by Sea
Hilty, Hiram. 1993.
975.6 HILTY
Quakers confront slavery and its aftermath in North Carolina.

My Folks Don’t Want Me to Talk About Slavery: Twenty-one Oral Histories of Former North Carolina Slaves
Hurmence, Belinda. 1984.
975.6 MY

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Jacobs, Harriet. 1987.
An account of Jacobs’ life in slavery and her struggle for freedom for herself and her children.

“Raising the African Brigade: Early Black Recruitment in Civil War North Carolina.”
Reid, Richard. The North Carolina Historical Review 71 (July 1993): 266-301.
Periodicals Department
Federal officials raised three regiments of freed slaves on the coast of North Carolina in the government’s first efforts to enlist African Americans in the army. 

Black Voices from Reconstruction, 1865-1871
Smith, John David. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, 1996.
973.049 SMITH
North Carolinians figure prominently in this volume of documents and reminiscences of emancipated slaves at the close of the war.


Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South.
Bynum, Victoria E. 1991.
Available at NCCU, Duke, UNC, and NC State
Poor white and free black women inadvertently subvert the dominant social order to endure the hardships of war.

Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War
Faust, Drew Gilpin. 1996.
973.715 FAUST
Women experiencing wartime austerity choose their personal security over Southern independence.

“Coping in Confederate Appalachia: Portrait of a Mountain Woman and Her Community at War.”
Inscoe, John C. The North Carolina Historical Review 69 (October 1992): 388-413.
Periodicals Department
Inscoe chronicles the struggle of Macon County resident Mary Bell, wife of a halfhearted Confederate officer, to manage her farm through wartime hardships. 

“‘Home and Friends’: Kinship, Community, and Elite Women in Caldwell County, North Carolina, during the Civil War.” McGee, David H. The North Carolina Historical Review 74 (October 1997): 363-388. Elite Caldwell County women close ranks upon their small kinship networks to support their men in the army and to endure the bleak wartime economy. Periodicals Department

“Women’s Role in Civil War Western North Carolina.”
McKinney, Gordon B. The North Carolina Historical Review 69 (January 1992): 37-56.
Periodicals Department
McKinney describes the disillusionment of Confederate women in western North Carolina and the subsequent decline in their support of the Southern cause. 

Online Resources

North Carolina and the Civil War (from NC Museum of History)

Civil War Reference Network

Service Records of North Carolina Confederate Soldiers

Bennett Place State Historic Site: Site of the Largest Surrender of the American Civil War

North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster cumulative index

Updated October 1, 2013.