The Home Guard, Peace Keepers During the Civil War

The Confederate Grays, Comapny E of 20the Regiment, North Carolina Troops. (Not actually a Home Guard unit). Image from the State ArchivesOn July 7, 1863, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation to create the Home Guard.

By 1863, the Civil War had become an internal crisis for the state of North Carolina. Large sections of Piedmont and western North Carolina were openly opposed to the Confederate government and the administration of Gov. Zebulon Vance. There was strident opposition to the Confederate Conscription Acts, which allowed large slave owners to be exempted from military service, and heavy taxes were being levied to pay for the war effort.

In an effort to deal with lawlessness, the Home Guard was created to provide an emergency police force. White men between the ages of 18 to 50 who were exempted from the conscription laws were automatically enrolled in these units. The units were then classified either first, second or third class depending on the physical condition of the men enrolled. All counties had at least one a home guard unit, which could be called into service for three months at a time for the “public defense.”

By the end of the war, eight regiments were formed, comprising roughly 12,000 men. These units rounded up deserters, attempted to maintain law and order within communities, skirmished with invading Union forces and guarded federal prisoners.

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