Latham House

(Washington County)

Featured Character – 1864 Confederate Decline

Latham House

Courtesy of the The Washington County Historical Society and Shaylee Wright

Born on March 21, 1811, Charles Latham became one of the most powerful people in Washington County.  A wealthy farmer, the 1860 Census valued his personal property at over $77,000, Latham owned thirty slaves.  In 1854, he organized the first bank in Plymouth.  A devout Unionist and follower of the Whig Party, Latham served as county sheriff from 1842 to 1858.  Forging a political alliance between the county’s planter elite and yeoman farmers, he won election to the state house in 1860.  However, as war loomed, Latham’s political coalition broke apart.  Although he initially supported William Pettigrew as the county’s delegate to the secession convention, Latham withdrew his endorsement after Pettigrew sided with the secessionists.  Declaring himself the “poor’s man candidate,” Latham ran against Pettigrew.  In February 1861, Latham trounced Pettigrew, three-hundred and ninety-two votes to two-hundred and seventy-six.  However, voters across North Carolina decided against holding a convention, so Latham’s victory meant nothing.  After the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the state held another vote on a secession convention.  This time William Pettigrew ran unopposed.  Although Latham’s oldest son joined the Confederate Army, he gave lukewarm support to the new nation.  After the Union occupation of Plymouth in 1862, Latham emerged as a prominent Unionist leader.  However, as guerrilla warfare between the two sides rose in 1863, he sought refuge in New York.  Although adversely impacted by emancipation, the 1870 Census lists his net worth at only $600; he later served as a lawyer and politician.  Returning to Plymouth after the war, Latham served two terms in the state senate.  His son, Louis Charles Latham later served two terms in Congress as a Democrat.  Charles Latham died on May 28, 1893.

According to local tradition, during the Battle of Plymouth in 1864, citizens of Plymouth crowded into the basement of the Latham House for protection from cannon shelling.