Adhering to the Enemy – Charles H. Foster at Murfreesboro
Charles H. Foster (1830-1882) was a native of Maine who in 1857 had become editor of the Norfolk, Virginia “Southern Statesman,” a Democratic organ. At the end of 1859 he had purchased the small Murfreesboro, North Carolina weekly, “The Citizen.” Elected an alternate to the Democratic National Convention in Charleston in 1860, he also represented North Carolina at the Baltimore convention that year. He championed the nomination of John C. Breckinridge.
In October 1860 Foster had a change of heart, sold The Citizen and applied for employment with the US Post Office in Washington, and took a clerkship position in February 1861. Before leaving North Carolina Foster had become a strong Union man who opposed the secession of the State, probably to ensure his new federal government position. Returning to Murfreesboro in May 1861 to visit his wife and infant daughter, he was suspected of being a Northern spy and forced to flee northward.
Back in Washington, Foster claimed to represent all Unionists in North Carolina and attempted to gain a seat in the special session of Congress in July 1861. He “contrived a series of letters, postmarked from various North Carolina towns, representing that Unionism was rife throughout the State. The letters also publicized a “Unionist election” in North Carolina in August for the purpose of sending representatives to Congress.”
Foster was absent from Washington in July and August to create the impression of returning to his imaginary Unionist constituents, and then reappeared in September “bearing credentials attesting to his election to Congress by the Unionists” of the State.
Unable to obtain elective office to represent enemy-occupied areas of northeastern North Carolina, Foster eventually found work as a recruiting agent for the invading army. He raised most of the so-called “First North Carolina Union Regiment,” and was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the “Second North Carolina Volunteers. The latter position he held until banished from the army for “inefficiency as an officer” and complaints to Washington. The recruitment of North Carolina men was gained by threats of retaliation against their families and destruction of their farms and property. Merchants were required to take oaths of allegiance to the Northern government to keep their shops open, and fishermen required to do the same to continue their occupation.
Foster returned to enemy-occupied Murfreesboro late in the war where he practiced law, dabbled in Republican politics, and was an “erstwhile correspondent” for the New York Herald and other papers. In 1878 he and his family relocated to Philadelphia. Read more at: http://www.ncwbts150.com/ActsofTreasonAgainstNorthCarolina.php
Source: Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, William S. Powell, editor, 1986
The North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission