Barton A. Myers

Barton Myers

Contact Information:

Office: Holden Hall


U.S. Military, American Civil War and Reconstruction

About Dr. Myers:

Dr. Barton Myers teaches courses on nineteenth century U.S. and American military history, specializing in the American Civil War Era. He received his B.A., Phi Beta Kappa from the College of Wooster, and his MA and PhD degrees from the University of Georgia. Dr. Myers’ first book Executing Daniel Bright: Race, Loyalty, and Guerrilla Violence in a Coastal Carolina Community, 1861-1865 (LSU Press, 2009) traced the origins, course and consequences of a guerrilla war in the Great Dismal Swamp region of North Carolina and the legal issues related to the public execution of a notorious Confederate guerrilla named Daniel Bright. His work received the prestigious Jules and Frances Landry Award for the best book in southern studies published by Louisiana State University Press in 2009. A video of Dr. Myers discussing Executing Daniel Bright at the Abraham Lincoln Bookshop, Inc. in Chicago can be found here.

Dr. Myers’ current book project Rebels Against a Rebellion: Southern Unionists in Secession, War and Remembrance explores the life and death struggle of more than 350 southern-born unionist sympathizers living in Civil War era North Carolina. This project traces the repressive military policies of the Confederate military toward its own dissident population and the outbreak of guerrilla violence at the local level in the Old North State. This project received one of ten Harry Frank Guggenheim Dissertation Fellowships awarded internationally in 2008-2009.

Dr. Myers also contributed an article entitled “’A More Rigorous Style of Warfare: Wild’s Raid, Guerrilla Violence and Negotiated Neutrality in Northeastern North Carolina” in Paul D. Escott ed., North Carolinians in the Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction (UNC Press, 2008). Myers has presented and organized panels at numerous conferences including the Southern Historical Association, the Society for Military History, the American Historical Association, The Historical Society, and the Organization of American Historians.

Dr. Myers’ teaching interests focus on U.S. military history broadly defined. In 2009-2010, he was the inaugural Jack Miller Center Postdoctoral Fellow in Military History at Cornell University, where he taught courses in American military history and the history of irregular warfare. Myers is also interested in African-American, U.S. South, environmental and other sub-fields of U.S. and world history that intersect with the history of U.S. military policy and institutions. He spent four summers wearing the green and gray of the National Park Service as a historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, which gives him an intense interest in public history and issues related to Civil War memory.

Published Works

Executing Daniel Bright: Race, Loyalty, and Guerrilla Violence in a Coastal Carolina Community, 1861-1865

Executing Daniel Bright: Race, Loyalty, and Guerrilla Violence in a Coastal Carolina Community, 1861-1865 by Dr. Barton Myers

On December 18, 1863, just north of Elizabeth City in rural northeastern North Carolina, a large group of white Union officers and black enlisted troops under the command of Brigadier General Edward Augustus Wild executed a local citizen for his involvement in an irregular resistance to Union army incursions along the coast. Daniel Bright, by conflicting accounts either a Confederate soldier home on leave or a deserter and guerrilla fighter guilty of plundering farms and harassing local Unionists, was hanged inside an unfinished postal building. The initial fall was not mortal, and according to one Union soldier's account, Bright suffered a slow death by "strangulation, his heart not ceasing to beat for twenty minutes."

Until now, Civil War scholars considered Bright and the Union incursion that culminated in his gruesome death as only a historical footnote. In Executing Daniel Bright, Barton A. Myers uses these events as a window into the wider experience of local guerrilla conflict in North Carolina's Great Dismal Swamp region and as a representation of a larger pattern of retaliatory executions and murders meant to coerce appropriate political loyalty and military conduct on the Confederate homefront. Race, political loyalties, power, and guerrilla violence all shaped the life of Daniel Bright and the home he died defending, and Myers shows how the interplay of these four dynamics created a world where irregular military activity could thrive.

Myers opens with an analysis of antebellum slavery, race relations, slavery debates, and the role of the environment in shaping the antebellum economy of northeastern North Carolina. He then details the emergence of a rift between Unionist and Confederate factions in the area in 1861, the events in 1862 that led to the formation of local guerrilla bands, and General Wild's 1863 military operation in Pasquotank, Camden, and Currituck counties. He explores the local, state, regional, and Confederate Congress's responses to the events of the Wild raid and specifically to Daniel Bright's hanging, revealing the role of racism in shaping those responses. Finally, Myers outlines the outcome of efforts to negotiate neutrality and the state of local loyalties by mid-1864.

Revising North Carolina's popular Civil War mythology, Myers concludes that guerrilla violence such as Bright's execution occurred not only in the highlands or Piedmont region of the state's homefront; rather, local irregular wars stretched from one corner of the state to the other. He explains how violence reshaped this community and profoundly affected the ways loyalties shifted and manifested themselves during the war. Above all, Myers contends, Bright's execution provides a tangible illustration of the collapse of social order on the southern homefront that ultimately led to the downfall of the Confederacy.

Microhistory at its finest, Executing Daniel Bright adds a thought-provoking chapter to the ever-expanding history of how Americans have coped with guerrilla war.

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North Carolinians in the Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction

North Carolinians in the Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction by Dr. Barton Myers

conflicts as a result. North Carolinians were divided over the issue of secession, and changes in race and gender relations brought new controversy. Blacks fought for freedom, women sought greater independence, and their aspirations for change stimulated fierce resistance from more privileged groups. Republicans and Democrats fought over power during Reconstruction and for decades thereafter disagreed over the meaning of the war and Reconstruction.

With contributions by well-known historians as well as talented younger scholars, this volume offers new insights into all the key issues of the Civil War era that played out in pronounced ways in the Tar Heel State. In nine essays composed specifically for this volume, contributors address themes such as ambivalent whites, freed blacks, the political establishment, racial hopes and fears, postwar ideology, and North Carolina women. These issues of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras were so powerful that they continue to agitate North Carolinians today.

Contributors include David Brown, Judkin Browning, Laura F. Edwards, Paul D. Escott, John C. Inscoe, Chandra Manning, Barton A. Myers, Steven E. Nash, Paul Yandle, and Karin Zipf. The editor is Paul D. Escott.

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