Civil War, Maternal Kin, North Carolina

Oath of allegiance.

Though he was of prime soldiering age, I have found no evidence that James Lee Nicholson, father of my great-great-grandmother Harriet Nicholson Tomlin Hart, ever enlisted or fought in the Civil War. He married in 1861, a few weeks after North Carolina seceded, and his wife Martha “Mattie” Colvert Nicholson gave birth to their first son in 1864. Otherwise, I have no idea how he spent the war years. Today, however, I found an oath he signed a couple of months after the Surrender, promising to abide by all laws made concerning the emancipation of slaves, i.e. those related to the newly won freedom of his four year-old daughter and her mother:

JL Nicholson oath



Civil War, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

I will henceforth faithfully support, protect and defend.

The war is over. The Union has won. There is nothing to do but accept it and move on. Two months after the Surrender, his enslaved son now free, John W. McNeely swore his allegiance to the United States.ImageHalf-way across the country, in Iron County, Missouri, William B. McNeely had not waited for the war to end and beat his brother to the punch by nine months.Image

[Sidenote: Compare the W, M and N in John and William’s signatures. They clearly learned to write from the same instructor.]

Oath of Allegiance. Union Provost Marshals’ File of Papers Relating to Individual Claims, National Archives and Records Administration.

Civil War, Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

Total value: $7,600.


Rowan County, North Carolina, 1863. The Civil War is dragging on, and the Rebs need money. In 1861, the Congress of the Confederate States of America had passed a statute authorizing a tax (at 50 cents per $100 valuation) to help finance the war effort. Taxable property included real estate, slaves, merchandise, stocks, securities, and money, and later agricultural products and anything else they could think of. In the 1863 assessment, for the first time, the North Carolina General Assembly required taxpayers to list their slaves by name. Assessments for only eight counties survive. Rowan is one of them.

Look in the bottom left corner. J.W. McNeely identified his seven slaves for the tax assessor, who duly recorded: Lucinda, age 47, value $750. Julius, 25, $1500. Henry, 22, $1500. Archy, 14, $1200. Mary, 13, $1000. Stanhope, 11, $900. And Sandy, 12, $950. Total valuation of Lucinda, her sons, and grandchildren: $7600. Remember Alice, the 3 year-old that Sam and J.W. McNeely bought with Lucinda? She was Archy’s mother, and Mary, Stanhope and Sandy were probably her children, too. Alice herself is gone — dead or sold — and John is not listed, though that seems to be oversight. Julius was born a few years after the McNeelys purchased his mother. His father is unknown, but was probably an enslaved man on a neighboring farm. Henry, though, was John Wilson McNeely’s boy. His only child, in fact. And worth exactly $1500.