Driven from Home
North Carolina's Civil War Refugee Crisis

David Silkenat

A new look at the divers refugee experience in the South with insights relevent to the current crises


“Silkenat has written what may probably be as exhaustive a study of the refugee problem in North Carolina as can be written. Scholars and the general public interested in that state and in the Civil War will find it interesting, informative, and challenging in its interpretation.”
—Carl Moneyhon, Civil War Book Review

“Silkenat does an admirable job exploring all of the various refugee populations, from African Americans, poor whites, and wealthy planters, to yeoman farmers, women, and even college students. Throughout the narrative the author effectively demonstrates his main argument by showing how and why the diverse refugee experience ultimately undermined the institution of slavery.”
—Tommy C. Brown, Agricultural History

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Examining refugees of Civil War–era North Carolina, Driven from Home reveals the complexity and diversity of the war’s displaced populations and the inadequate responses of governmental and charitable organizations as refugees scrambled to secure the necessities of daily life. In North Carolina, writes David Silkenat, the relative security of the Piedmont and mountains drew pro-Confederate elements from across the region. Early in the war, Union invaders established strongholds on the coast, to which their sympathizers fled in droves. Silkenat looks at five groups caught up in this floodtide of emigration: enslaved African Americans who fled to freedom; white Unionists; pro-Confederate whites—both slave owners (who often forced their slaves to migrate with them) and non–slave owners; and young women, often from more besieged areas of the South, who attended the state’s many boarding schools. From their varied experiences, a picture emerges of a humanitarian crisis driven by mobility, shaped by unprecedented economic pressures and disease vectors, and exacerbated by governments unwilling or unable to provide meaningful relief.

For anyone seeking context to current refugee crises, Driven from Home has much to say about the crushing administrative and logistical challenges of aid work, the illusory nature of such concepts as home fronts and battle lines, and the ongoing debate over links between relief and dependence.

UnCivil Wars

Page count: 264 pp.
7 b&w images
Trim size: 6 X 9


List price: $49.95

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List price: $28.95

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David Silkenat is a lecturer in the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Moments of Despair: Suicide, Divorce, and Debt in Civil War Era North Carolina.