Tar Heels Pitch In: North Carolina's Contributions to the Civil War"Tar Heel," evidence indicates, was a derogatory nickname applied to North Carolina soldiers by others in the Army of Northern Virginia. It was a natural, given that the boys from the piney woods oftentimes were harvesters of tar, pitch, and turpentine. It stuck and what at first was resented became a badge of pride. Over the course of 1861-1865, over 125,000 North Carolinians—more than from any other Southern state—fought for the Confederacy. Forty-seven generals, among them Robert F. Hoke, Bryan Grimes, D. H. Hill, and J. J. Pettigrew, were Tar Heels. With one-ninth of the Confederate population, North Carolina supplied one-sixth of the soldiers. The state led in the total number of troops lost, over forty thousand, 19,673 as a result of battle and another 20,602 due to injury or disease. Tar Heels accounted for one-quarter of Confederate deaths. There was irony in the sacrifice. Unlike others in the region, few Tar Heels had a vested interest in preserving slavery. Reluctant to enter, North Carolina quickly mobilized for the fight. Training camps, typically alongside railroad lines, dotted the landscape. Units such as the Burke Rifles, Edgecombe Guards, and Uwharrie Grays took the field. Yet, alone among Confederate states, North Carolina was home to a sizable peace movement. Divided allegiances were common and desertion rates ran high. Two Union regiments of African American soldiers, most of them emancipated slaves, were assembled in the northeast part of the state late in the war.
Gov. Zebulon B. Vance