Civil War Times and the Lowry Gang

Like most of the rural South, the Civil War all but depopulated communities of working-age boys and men. Hard times hereabouts got even harder as the war progressed. Food shortages were common, not just because of the demands of feeding a hungry army, but because there were very few able-bodied people to plant and tend crops at home.

Lee’s surrender at Appomattox ended the Civil War in most places, but not Robeson County. Recovery was delayed and Reconstruction prolonged by what is remembered as ``Lowry’s War,’’ a local insurrection by a small band of Lumbees led by Henry Berry Lowry against many of the county’s business and elected leaders, especially the sheriff.

As Union Gen. Sherman’s Army approached from the south in March 1865, Lowry’s father and older brother were summarily executed at their homestead by Confederate Home Guard troops. An ex officio white jury selected from their ranks found the men guilty of stealing from a prominent white farmer. Neither man was allowed legal counsel or to testify in his own behalf.

Lumbee grievances with Robeson’s white establishment dated to 1835, when legislators in Raleigh rewrote the state’s constitution to take away from Lumbees civil rights that were guaranteed them under the original state and federal constitutions; the right to vote, own property, serve on a jury, testify in court, or to legally own firearms. The county’s original residents became understandably resentful.

The southeast part of Robeson County saw little or no violence from the Lowry War, most of which was focused in the communities lying in and around Lumberton, Rowland, Maxton and Red Springs. But Lumbee legend has it that Henry Berry Lowry’s favorite hideout was in Ashpole Swamp, along the state line southeast of what is now Fairmont.

The military rule of Reconstruction in North Carolina ended by the mid 1870s. Tobacco, which had been a second- or even third-tier crop for most farmers before the Civil War, became more popular with James B. Duke’s invention of the automatic cigarette-rolling machine. Many Union war veterans fondly remembered the flavorful bright-leaf tobacco traded to them for coffee by Carolina Confederates.


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