Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Robert C. Kenzer

Second Advisor

Dr. John L. Gordon, Jr.

Third Advisor

Dr. Daniel M. Roberts, Jr.


This thesis traces 862 North Carolina Civil War soldiers who fought for the Confederacy, deserted or were taken prisoner, and then enrolled in the United States army. The pre-war lives, Confederate and United States military service, and post-war experiences of these men are examined to discover why they chose to enlist in the Union army. A sample of 226 soldiers was compiled by selecting every fourth county in the state in which these "Carolina Chameleons" lived. Their pre-war lives were revealed in the 1860 Population Census and their Southern service in Confederate military records compiled in Louis H. Manarin and Weymouth T. Jordan, eds., North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865, A Roster, 13 vols. (Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Archives and History: 1966-1994). The military service records of the First through Sixth U.S. Volunteers revealed their Northern service and the 1870 Population Census, 1890 Veterans Census, and U.S. Military Pension Records their post-war lives. Most of these soldiers were young men who volunteered early in the war for Confederate service. A significant majority served the South for over one year before being captured by Federal forces. Most were imprisoned for less than one year before joining the Federal forces. After the war, nearly two-fifths of the men returned to North Carolina to reside permanently with a majority again living in the state at some point in their lives. While some men were conscripted or forced into Confederate service despite their opposition to the Confederacy, most were loyal soldiers to both sides. Their decision to switch sides was dictated by the greater probability that they would die of disease in prison than in combat. For most Carolina Chameleons, expedience superceded political or ideological motivations for changing sides.

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