Civil War Stripped Caswell County of Pride and Spirit
"Events of the brief span of time between 1861 and 1865 completely changed the course of the history of Caswell County as it did for much of the state and the South. What the effect was of the price paid with the life of so many young men can never be determined, of course. The loss of many thousands of dollars invested in slaves was regarded as significant only briefly; mere dollars were soon forgotten in the face of more pressing concerns.
"The totally changed pattern of life throughout the county, however, was a different matter. For blacks it meant freedom from the bonds of slavery, a brief period of rejoicing, and then a resumption of a life of hard work. For many whites it meant the abandonment of the familiar plantation life style; for the previously poor small farmer it meant even greater poverty; and for the whole county it meant a reduced standard of living all around, abandoned land, and a public revenue inadequate for the services that governments ordinarily were expected to provide.
"The character of the county underwent a metamorphosis that perhaps would not have surprised Bedford Brown, Willie P. Mangum, or Jonathan Worth had they lived to recognize it; but most people were stunned by what had happened, and they lost the pride and the spirit that had made Caswell a leader among counties for so many years."
Powell, William S. When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County North Carolina 1777-1977. Durham (North Carolina): Moore Publishing Company, 1977 at 225.
Caswell County Suffers after Civil War
Entries in the diary kept by John F. Flintoff [1823-1901] portray very realistically the situation which many people in Caswell County faced at the end of the war. On August, 17, 1865, he wrote:
"The people have had scarcely bread to supply them till harvest fall -- they will live on what there is -- very little meat anywhere to be had -- altho I have corn sufficient to supply my wants until Nov, when new corn will be dry enough to grind -- we have had 3 bad crops -- Years 1862-3-4 -- this year so far promises good for corn & tobacco for which I am worst by hard work -- this summer I am feeble as to health and only weigh 136 lost 12 lbs. in 4 months tho I am still at work -- My negroes all stay with me while the most of others are running about from home to home believing they are free -- many of them are killed and dieing for want of money and protection -- poor creatures -- I have to ride often after them and arrest them for trial, for their fighting, stealing and other meaness they are very troublesome to the white people."
Five days before Christmas he noted that he then had plenty of grain and pork and 85 bushels of wheat. "Bete, Sarah and William left me as free folks -- John, Mary, Sally & Henry stays with me yet -- I have to hire them as free Negroes." For Flintoff the situation may have been stable for the better part of a year, but on Christmas Day, 1866, his diary entry begins: "Allen left me. . . ." And in January, 1868, he noted: "All my negroes have left me -- I hired 3 hands this year. . . ."
Powell, William S. When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County North Carolina 1777-1977. Durham (North Carolina): Moore Publishing Company, 1977 at 228-229.
It appears the population of Caswell County remained somewhat stable between 1860 and 1870 (at least on a net basis), decreasing only 134 people.
Caswell County Population
1860: 16,215 (Enslaved: 9,355; Free Black: 282; White: 6,578)
1870: 16,081 (Free Black: 9,494; White: 6,587)
Source: Powell, William S. When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County North Carolina 1777-1977. Durham (North Carolina): Moore Publishing Company, 1977, p. 543.