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Living a Big War in a Small Place

Spartanburg, South Carolina, during the Confederacy

Philip N. Racine

Publication Year: 2013

Most of what we know about how the Civil War affected life in the Confederacy is related to cities, troop movements, battles, and prominent political, economic, or military leaders. Far less is known about the people who lived in small Southern towns remote from marching armies or battles. Philip N. Racine explores life in one such place—Spartanburg, South Carolina—in an effort to reshape the contours of that great conflict. By 1864 life in most of the Confederacy, but especially in rural towns, was characterized by scarcity, high prices, uncertainty, fear, and bad-tempered neighbors. Shortages of food were common. People lived with constant anxiety that a soldiering father or son would be killed or wounded. Taxes were high, inflation was rampant, good news was scarce and seemed to always be followed by bad. The slave population was growing restive as their masters’ bad news was their good news. Army deserters were threatening lawlessness; accusations and vindictiveness colored the atmosphere and added to the anxiety, fear, and feeling of helplessness. Often people blamed their troubles on the Confederate government in faraway Richmond, Virginia. Racine provides insight into these events through personal stories: the plight of a slave; the struggles of a war widow managing her husband’s farm, ten slaves, and seven children; and the trauma of a lowcountry refugee’s having to forfeit a wealthy, aristocratic way of life and being thrust into relative poverty and an alien social world. All were part of the complexity of wartime Spartanburg District.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5

Dedication Page

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pp. 6-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-8

List of Illustrations

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pp. viii-9

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Acknowledgments, Maps

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pp. ix-xii

This small book is a distillation of material gathered over many years of studying and writing about the history of South Carolina and Spartanburg in particular. The contribution of the best of researchers, my wife Frances, to my last book, Gentleman Merchants, and this one is deep and invaluable. ...

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Part One: The District

People in Spartanburg District were in trouble. Life had become defined by scarcity, impossibly high prices, bad-tempered neighbors, and hard living. Many people were short on food. Salt, necessary to keep meat edible over time, was difficult to find and even then too expensive. ...

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One: The Setting

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pp. 3-10

Located in the northwestern part of South Carolina among the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Spartanburg District is made up of rolling hills drained by three river systems: the Pacolet, the Tyger, and along its most northeastern border with York District, the Broad. ...

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Two: Spartanburg Wages War

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pp. 11-29

Secession from the Union meant the independence long sought after by many of the men and women of Spartanburg District. Others in the area were ambivalent about the Union for many years prior to the 1850s. Leaders of the pro-Union factions in South Carolina were for the most part upcountry people, ...

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Three: Spartanburg Beleaguered

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pp. 30-43

Many residents of Spartanburg accepted the privations of war because they believed they were fighting for the right. But except for the initial year of fighting and the spring of 1863, when it seemed Vicksburg would withstand federal onslaught and General Robert E. Lee was invading the North, the war was depressing. ...

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Four: Slavery during the War

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pp. 44-58

Slavery had existed in Spartanburg from the time of the first settlements in the middle of the 18th century. By 1860 the district’s total population was about twenty-eight thousand, and the village population was about one thousand to one thousand two hundred. About one third of the district’s total population were slaves (there were about fifty free African Americans). ...

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Part Two: Individuals

The following stories are about individual residents of Spartanburg District during the Civil War. The tales provide insight into the impact of war on even the smallest of communities, whether the sites of battles or not. People make history and historians largely deal with people in the aggregate, for the national and regional narrative is the sum of the actions and reactions of individuals. ...

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Five: The Slave Catherine and the Kindness of Strangers?

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pp. 61-71

On the 25th of January, 1865, David Lipscomb, a resident of Northern Spartanburg District, formally accused his slave, Catherine, before the local magistrate, Davis Moore, of the crime of arson.1 The magistrate summoned eight local slave holders to appear at David Lipscomb’s farm on the first day of February 1865 for Catherine’s trial. ...

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Six: Emily Lyles Harris, Reluctant Farmer

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pp. 72-83

Emily Lyles Harris’s husband, David Harris, started a journal in 1855 to keep an accurate record of his farm work so he could eventually learn the very best time and method for undertaking his various tasks. With his wife, children, and ten slaves, he worked one hundred acres of a five hundred acre farm located eight miles southeast of the village of Spartanburg. ...

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Seven: A Question of Loyalty

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pp. 84-90

In 1861 Elihu Toland of Glenn Springs published a handbill entitled the “12 We Wonders” under the pseudonym “Brutus.” According to court documents read in the 1980s but which are no longer accessible,1 a farmer named Benjamin Finch believed himself to be one of the targets of this handbill. ...

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Eight: Having Fled War

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pp. 91-98

As soon as war broke out the coastal areas of the Confederacy became vulnerable to Union attack. President Abraham Lincoln determined early on to blockade the Southern coast which was over 3000 miles long. Even as the Northern navy grew and the blockade became increasingly effective, it could never truly prevent all shipping from Southern ports. ...

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pp. 99-100

War had not been the short-lived, adventurous, and triumphant experience almost everyone in Spartanburg had expected—not for the soldier in the field, and not for the people at home. Instead, it had necessitated unexpected sacrifice and caused social turmoil—it had proven hard and unforgiving. ...


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pp. 101-108

Works Cited

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pp. 109-112


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pp. 113-120

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About the Author

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p. 134-134

Philip N. Racine is the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of History Emeritus at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He is the editor of The Fiery Trail: A Union Officer’s Account of Sherman’s Last Campaign, Piedmont Farmer: The Journals of David Golightly Harris, 1855–1870, ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781611172980
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611172973

Page Count: 136
Publication Year: 2013