River pilots and swamp guerillas: Pamunkee and Lumbee unionists.

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Hauptman, Lawrence M.  “River pilots and swamp guerillas: Pamunkee and Lumbee unionists.”  In: Between Two Fires: American Indians in the Civil War.  New York: Free Press, 1995.  Pp. 65-66, 76-85.


Clear, readable overview of the status of the Lumbee at the beginning of the Civil War.  Detailed but understandable account (no small feat, considering the complexity of the topic) of the Lumbees' political situation during the Civil War and the complications occasioned by the activities of Lowry Band.  Frames the Civil War and the activities of the Lowry Band as “a defining experience” for the Lumbee, much as Gerald Sider does (in fact, Sider's apt assessment of Henry Berry Lowry as both shape-changer and shaper of his people is used to conclude this essay). 

Hauptman makes an astute assessment of Henry Berry Lowry as a social bandit, as defined by historian Eric Hobsbawm.  He explains that the Lumbee, due to the North Carolina Constitution of 1835 and another 1848 law, lost the rights to vote, serve on juries, learn to read and write, and own or carry weapons.  He describes the “tied mule incidents” which also cost many Lumbee their labor time and their land.  He discusses the massive Confederate fort, Fort Fisher, which was being built at Wilmington as the Civil War began; the forceful conscription of the Lumbee to work on the fort's construction; and the Home Guard's raids of Indian property, purportedly to search for escaped Union prisoners.   He describes Sherman's march through Robeson County, the fact that local Indians guided the army through the swamps, and the discouragement some Indians felt when their own farms were plundered by Sherman's soldiers. 

He concludes by stating that “to present-day Lumbee [Henry Berry Lowry's] 'outlaw' role is most fitting considering the desperate conditions that their ancestors faced.  Unlike their Indian neighbors, the Catawba of South Carolina, they chose to fight back against a Southern white supremacist order that surrounded and enslaved them.  Indeed, their stance as guerillas in the Civil War separates them from most other southeastern Indians” (p. 85). 

This essay provides a carefully researched, well written survey of the complex racial and political events of the Lowry Band era in Robeson County.

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32 notes (on pages 211-215)