ASU professor publishes Civil War diary of Beaufort resident
James Rumley's orderly world was changed forever when Union soldiers attacked New Bern in 1862 and occupied his hometown in nearby Beaufort for the following three years.
Rumley recorded his thoughts about Union occupation, secession, slave ownership and other topics in a diary that has been edited and annotated by Judkin Browning, an assistant professor of military history at Appalachian State University.
The book has been published by the University Press of Florida.
" is the result of Browning's painstaking work to recreate Rumley's writings from multiple sources, including a serialized account that ran in the newspaper The Look Out in 1910, and two fragmentary copies of the diary.
"Military occupation in terms of American foreign policy is something we have been reading about in the news for the past six years," Browning said. "That has led my generation of scholars to look back on previous wars to discover the similarities, differences, or perhaps even some universal truths about military occupation."
Rumley was the clerk of court in Carteret County Superior Court during the Civil War, a position he held until his death in 1881.
"I think Rumley deliberately and consciously wanted to record what happened during this time period for future readers," Browning said. "A lot of evidence suggests this was the only time in Rumley's life that he kept a diary."
Rumley's anger and rage at the upsetting of the social order in Beaufort is a theme that runs throughout the diary.
Shortly after the Union army attack south of New Bern on March 13, 1862, Rumley wrote, "The clouds that have long been darkening the horizon are gathering over us."
A later entry describes the changing way of life in Beaufort. "All persons leaving town are now required to have written passes," Rumley wrote. "To obtain these, an oath of allegiance has to be taken by each applicant. Very few citizens do this willingly."
Rumley writes of the Union army's confiscation and plundering of homes in Beaufort, and the tensions that developed between white residents and newly emancipated slaves. He also wrote of the arrest of Carteret County resident Emeline Piggott who carried bundles of clothing, toiletries, letters and other items under her hoop skirt across Union lines to Confederate troops.
After her capture, all the women in Carteret County were "required to take the hated oath of allegiance to the United States," Rumley wrote.
"Many people became reconciled to the fact that if they wanted to live in their hometown and maintain their property, they would have to take the Union's Oath of Allegiance," Browning said.
Browning's annotations to the diary help fill in the blanks about was occurring in the region and during the war. His footnotes are derived from state archives, newspapers and books and journals about the Civil War.
"Rumley was strongly in favor of the confederacy and secession," Browning said. "He never seems to come to peace with the upsetting of the social system perpetrated by Yankees. I'm impressed with how long he kept faith that the South would win the war."