Planters and yeoman farmers suc-ceeded by forming a leadership based on a common interest in theprotection of property and by bringing several constituencies tobear on public issues. In so saying,the president implied that the Union superseded any constitutionalcompromise over slavery. The ordinance required that a certain number of sol-diers be enrolled in each new district. Whatever the case, a certain slave preacher livingin Bertie County across the river from Plymouth, Dr. Stanly and his party based their appeal toplanters and yeoman farmers on the protection of property. Worse, it offered local unionists a public forum inwhich to air their views and from which to build a political con-stituency behind their position. Evidently, there was no arrestwarrant.
In the planter's view, power hadbeen produced in North Carolina since the Revolution by meansof a constitutional compromise. But the real war for most Washington County residents took placeat home, literally on every person's doorstep. Confederate soldiers from the county desertedin droves; later they hid in the swamps to avoid conscription offi-cers. To planters,their slaves now seemed remote, almost cold and calculating. He assigned to Peter the emotions that aslave ought to feel in such a situation.
Democrats debated among themselves how best to preserve it,within or without the Union. Meanwhile, William Pettigrew inadvertently aided Latham's ef-forts by accepting the support of local Democrats. By their actions, theslaves who remained at home demonstrated that they understoodthe fundamental workings and weaknesses of their masters' power. He managed to hire a few out to the North CarolinaRailroad's repair facilities in Company Shops, not far from Hills-boro in Orange County. Washing-ton County's magistrates began their campaign of judicial repres-sion immediately. In addition, poor white men cut cypress shingleson these lands for sale in the Northern states on contract to Col-lins. To put such doubts to rest, Pettigrew resolved to remainindefinitely on the plantation.
They searched high and low for ascapegoat and found one close at hand in C. Some, like Henry, ran away to the swamps, some-times for years at a time, and formed maroon communities thatbecame occasional sanctuaries for the county's slaves. In January, as the Burnsideexpedition approached North Carolina's Outer Banks, that wasabout to change. Mary Jane decided early to see just what kind of master shehad been assigned. Local planters couldcount on roughly three hundred men to support the Confederacy,about the number from Washington County who would join theConfederate army over the next four years.
Caveness is a case in point. It, after all, met without theapproval of North Carolina's voters and never submitted the arti-cles of secession to a plebiscite. Petigru, a much abused anti-seces-sionist, and a cousin lived. Other Washington County planters, meanwhile, appealed di-rectly to the Confederate government. The inlet formed a break in North Carolina's Outer Banksabout eighty miles southeast of Washington County, and it pro-vided the only deep-water passage between the Albemarle Soundand the Atlantic Ocean. One hundred dollarsof that amount went to pay the Confederate troopers.
Ambroseput up no fight, but he did plead for his life, arguing that he hadnot caused the conflict now underway in Washington County. What did the challenge to Petti-grew mean? In Washington County,these conflicting views became joined in a struggle between yeomenand planters for political dominance. The planter and his slaves arrivedat their destination on March 15, after a nine-day journey. There, confined at night to wooden stockades, theslaves built a seven-mile-long canal that connected the lake withthe Scuppernong River. In the past, this had notbeen a conflict among equals, as Charles Pettigrew dramaticallydemonstrated earlier; it resulted in no contract based on mutualbenefit and unfettered consent. This would be a rich man's warand a poor man's fight, but it would not be a war between the richand poor.
They have fo-cused on affairs of state, on the words and actions of generals andpoliticians; theirs are stories of legislation and massive battles, ofconstitutional difficulties, and of strategy and tactics. Samuel Newberry thought he knew. Pettigrew pointed to Lin-coln's call for seventy-five thousand troops, which he took as proofof the Republicans' desire to rule the country by force and withoutpopular support. Yet, Charles Latham and hisunionist supporters had wrought nothing permanent. The planter neglected to men-tion the possibility of war. Davis had come to him the night before with reportsof Henry Ambrose's unionist talk.