Wearing the mask of nationality lightly
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This is the story of two communities, Carteret and Craven County, at the southern tip of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and how the experience of Union military occupation shaped the inhabitants and the soldiers who occupied the region. Occupied in March 1862, both communities remained under Union occupation for the remainder of the war. The white residents had a strong streak of pre-war Unionism, and appeared to welcome the Union soldiers when they first arrived. However, by 1865, these residents would alter their allegiance and develop a strong sense of southern nationalism as a result of what they perceived as a harsh, oppressive, and racially radical occupation. African Americans in the region utilized Union soldiers to empower themselves and gain independence and autonomy in the face of white hostility, while prolonged occupation duty caused many negative reactions from the Union soldiers who had to act as administrators and policemen in the region. There was a symbiotic relationship between military and civilian forces during and after the war. The individual and collective actions that local white residents, slaves, and soldiers took affected the economic, social, political, and cultural dynamics of the region. After the war, whites furiously sought to re-establish racial control, and held inhabitants accountable for their wartime actions, presaging why Reconstruction would be so difficult in the region and the South. This work traces the development of white Confederate and Unionist loyalties in both regions, shedding light on the nature of Unionism and southern identity formation. Writ large, this work utilizes the experience of two adjacent communities to offer new directions in which to view the construction of personal and national identities as well as the nature of military occupation in the Civil War and beyond.