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February 17, 2014

Auman’s posthumous book reveals war within the Civil War

Randolph County central to anti-Confederacy insurrection

ASHEBORO — The book, based on his Ph.D dissertation from 1988, is what he called “an account of the seven military operations conducted by the Confederacy against deserters and disloyalists and the concomitant internal war between secessionists and those who opposed secession in the Quaker Belt of central North Carolina. ...”

Auman also calls the book “a revisionist interpretation of the Tar Heel wartime peace movement ...” which was “... in fact a Copperhead insurgency in which peace agitators strove for the return of North Carolina and the South to the Union on the Copperhead basis — that is, with the institution of slavery protected by the Constitution in the returning states.”

“He was working on the book for years,” said his sister, Anne Auman Brown. “People kept at him to finish it.”

Brown said she was her brother’s caretaker during his final months, during which time he worked late nights to complete the book. “He would stay up nights and work on it,” she said. “He was rushing to get it finished.”

Auman, whose health problems put him in the hospital for a time and whose doctor told him he may have cancer, was only more driven to get the job done.

Brown recalls seeing Auman with his final manuscript in a box ready to be mailed to the publisher in early or mid-April. “I’ve got my book ready,” he told her. “He was so proud,” she said.

The book was still at the publisher when Auman died, but, Brown said, he had “left instructions on the final details of the book, the proofreading and indexing.”

It wasn’t Auman’s only book. In 2010 he came out with “The Diary of Mary Elizabeth Auman: Proto-Feminist in the Age of Jazz.” She was his aunt and he wrote the book based on her diary entries from 1928-1930.

In his Civil War book, Auman focuses on the strife in what was known as the Quaker Belt, so named for the large contingency of Quakers in the region stretching east to west from Chatham to Wilkes counties and north to south from Surry to Moore. It’s somewhat of a misnomer since many in the region who opposed the war weren’t Quakers. In fact, there were Moravians and Wesleyan Methodists, who were against slavery, but also yeoman farmers, tenant farmers and artisans who didn’t own slaves and didn’t want to fight a war for slave holders. It was said that the Civil War was fought for slave holders by non-slave holders.

As Auman points out, the wartime peace movement sought to restore North Carolina back to the Union while protecting the institution of slavery. Confederate army deserters and draft dodgers found the Quaker Belt, Randolph County in particular, to be a safe haven from the Home Guard and local militia groups seeking to hunt them down.

The book describes the seven military operations carried out by the Confederacy to put down insurrection and send deserters and draft dodgers back to the front lines, or to prison.

Hostilities became so heated that neighbor was pitted against neighbor. Auman’s extensive records from the period provide proof of instances of murder, rape, torture and brutal acts perpetrated by both sides.

And Randolph County became notorious as a center of anti-Confed-erate activities. Auman quotes A.G. Foster in a letter to Gov. Zebulon Vance, in which he expresses frustration of Home Guard troops in trying to capture deserters in Randolph: “One of the Davidson Home Guard ... said to day the men were talking of recognizing the Independence of Randolph Co & quitting the chase.”

Understandably, such heated emotions weren’t quelled by the surrender at Appomattox. Instead, for years afterward there were reprisals between former adversaries for deeds committed during the war. Eventually, charges filled the courts as adversaries brought claims for wartime crimes.

Auman says the war within a war has gone unnoticed in subsequent history: “Paradoxically, the vast majority of the descendants of those who defied and cursed the Confederacy — the draft-dodgers, deserters, and militant Unionists — today pay homage to the memory of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson and honor the Confederate battle flag. Indeed, most of the progeny of the anti-Confederate participants in the inner civil war have no knowledge or recollection of it; they think their Confederate era ancestors were all selflessly dedicated to The Lost Cause from beginning to end. Southerners suffer from a severe case of collective historical amnesia. Few traumatic episodes in a people’s past have been so successfully blocked from the communal memory as has been the fratricidal inner civil war that raged between white Southerners in the Quaker Belt and in many other areas of the South during the War Between the States.”

Auman described his book as revisionist history of the wartime conflicts going on in the Piedmont.

“I know he was hoping the book would be used for research,” said Brown. “He really loved his history.”

She said there will be a meeting at the Seagrove Public Library on March 8 at 2 p.m. during which a video of Auman talking about the book will be shown. The book will be on sale there with $5 per purchase being donated to the library.

The book can also be found at the 220 Market, 2445 S. Fayetteville St., Asheboro, on Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Auman’s publisher is McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers of Jefferson, N.C. The Web site is www.mcfarlandpub.com.

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