The Civil War Returns to Washington County

April 22-23, 2017, the Port o’ Plymouth Museum will host the annual Battle of Plymouth Living History Weekend. This year will mark the return of the popular “Torchlight Tour,” an evening walking tour featuring vignettes of the Civil War in Washington County. The tours will take place on April 22 beginning at 6:45p.m. and 8:45p.m. This year, the Torchlight Tour will focus on the civilian experience in Washington County.
For Washington County residents, the Civil War was not cut and dry. It was not merely North versus South. It was entire communities and households divided over the issue of secession. In Washington County, secession was championed by wealthy planters while the union cause was advocated by yeomen farmers. In the end, the wealthy secessionists won out and Washington County voted for secession at the North Carolina Secession Convention. Unionist yeomen farmers and some merchants feared that the planters were growing disproportionately powerful and were altering the socio-economic balance of power. Therefore, they parted ways with the planters and began competing for political influence over poor farmers and landless laborers. The result was a disintegration of Washington County’s political foundation and opened the door to politically and economically motivated violence.
As the political environment in Washington County unraveled, brawls broke out in the streets of Plymouth between unionists and secessionists, especially when Plymouth became a Union naval base and some unionists believed they could attack secessionist with impunity. Fortunately, law and order prevailed in Plymouth under the enforcement of Union military forces. This, however, was not the case in smaller communities throughout the county. Gangs of unionists and secessionist roamed the countryside where they terrorized, murdered, and pillaged in the name of their respective cause but truly for economic gain.
The Civil War in Washington County was not just about slavery or states’ rights; it was about two different groups vying for power in a changing society. By demonstrating this part of Washington County’s history, we hope to represent a more nuanced narrative of the Civil War in eastern North Carolina.
For more information on Living History Weekend and the Torchlight Tour, please visit or call the Port o’ Plymouth Museum at 252-793-1377.
The Civil War Returns to Washington County The Civil War Returns to Washington County Reviewed by kensunm on 7:00:00 PM Rating: 5

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