North Carolina Secession Cockades

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The political views on secession in North Carolina were as varied as her cockades. Ardent secessionists, passionate unionists, and every viewpoint in between debated in conventions all over the state. The debate continued through April of 1861 when finally Lincoln's call for troops to fight against the Confederacy welded North Carolinians into a reluctant adoption of secession.

But once committed, North Carolina gave more troops and supplies, and lost more men than any other state in the Confederacy.

The official day for declaring secession was set on May 20, the anniversary of North Carolina's 1775 declaration of secession from Great Britain.

Red Artillery Cockades

The Wilmington Journal uncompromisingly stated on May 23, 1861:

"North Carolina an Independent Republic
At 6 o'clock p. m., on the glorious, but now twice glorious 20th of May, the Sate Convention of North Carolina passed unanimously, the ordinance of secession, thus severing the shadow or form of connection between North Carolina and the once proud but now degraded Union. We are no longer even in name the subjects of King Abraham and his military satraps, Scott, Wool or Mr. Butler of Lowell, Massachusetts....

Cockade worn by the Wilmington Horse Artillery
when firing the salute on Secession Day
"This morning the Wilmington Horse Artillery fired a salute in honor of the independence of the State. This is about the first salute fired here since the war excitement commenced."

The Wilmington Horse Artillery wore a special item at this historical event: A red cockade. This original cockade is one of those that the soldiers wore on their hats when they fired the salute guns.

But that's not the only style of cockade that North Carolinians wore!

Tar Heel Pine Cone Cockades

North Carolina, even in 1860, was known as the Tar Heel state. A large part of North Carolina's history had been intertwined with pine trees. So it's only natural that North Carolinians would want to put pine cones on their secession cockades.

The Baton Rouge Daily Advocate reported that, "The Wilmington (N. C.) Light Infantry have adopted for a pompon a natural pine burr, which, in the case of the officers, is gilded, and for privates, is varnished."

Thomas Fanning Wood, a young medical student in charge of the Committee of Safety in Wilmington, notes in his journal, "The Minute Men were organized as far back as Nov. of 1860, and were conspicuous on the streets with their badges of ribbon with a pine-bur rosette."

Blue Cockades

As early as November 1860, the Newbern Weekly Progress reported on North Carolina blue cockades. "There was a feeble effort made during the sittings of the Convention to draw out an expression of the members on a set of resolutions in relation to the sectional issues between the North and the South. It was objected to and dropped. We noticed that several of the members wore the blue cockade; and some others wore a cockade made of red, blue and white leather. These are the colors of our national flag, but whether or not worn to signify devotion to the Union, we did not inquire. Sal[isbury]."

Blue cockades continued in December, as mentioned by The Southerner. "The Blue Cockade. The Blue Cockade has made its appearance on our streets. We were pleased to see them worn during the present week, by men, boys, and even ladies. The spirit of secession is spreading and promises to soon become universal."

The blue cockades were definitely still around by April, as were the continued acrimonious debates about secession. The Wilmington Journal tells of the following incident. "Another Outrage.— Mr. W. A. Sturdivant, one of our Wake county farmers, had plucked from his hat a Southern cockade by Wiley Sauls of this City, wo forthwith proceeded to tear it up, upon which Mr. Sturdivant fired upon Sauls with a pistol but missed him. A scuffle then ensued in which a knife was used at the risk of Saul’s life. The parties were separated, however, but one of the parties interfering got slightly cut. The Banner says “Mr. Sturdivant got scratched somewhat severely. This is a mistake. We have seen Mr. Sturdivant and he is not marked at all or in anywise injured. Are Southern men not to be allowed to wear even a badge in Raleigh? –State Journal."

Sporting Secession Badges

From blue cockades to red cockades to pine cones, flowers, ribbons and leather, North Carolina may have had the most of variety in their secession cockades of any state in the Confederacy. As one person noted, "Patriotic individuals were sporting secession badges on their lapels and bonnets. Described as folded blue ribbons, some badges were red, white, and blue ribbons. Others wore a flower posy called a Southern badge, which consisted of a cluster of hyacinths and arborvitae tied with red/white/blue ribbons. Other men preferred a rosette of pinecones. Both men and women wore blue cockades during secession in Rockingham County, N.C."