Old ballot battle: ‘War of the Rebellion’ or ‘War Between the States’?

When North Carolina voters went to the polls in the general election of 1914, the Civil War was on the ballot.

Among the 10 state constitutional amendments voters faced a century ago this week was the question of how to describe that unpleasantness variously described as “the War Between the States,” “the Civil War,” “the War of the Rebellion” and by some, “the War of Northern Aggression.”

It had only been 49 years since the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee to Gen. Ulysses Grant at Appomattox. Many alive at that time still had childhood memories of the rebellion and veterans of the conflict were about as common as those from the Vietnam War are today. There were still mentions of the war in the law books and in legislation about Confederate pensions paid by the state.

Amendment No. 1 asked voters yes or no: “To change the term ‘War of the Rebellion’ when used to ‘War Between the States.’ ”

It was a question only men got to decide – North Carolina did not allow women to vote until the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1920 (North Carolina’s General Assembly, by the way, ratified the amendment in 1971).

It took more than a week for the final results to be tabulated, according to the archives of The Charlotte Observer, but in the end, old times here were not forgotten.

Voters overwhelmingly decided it should remain “War of the Rebellion.”