The Southern Belle and the Union Soldier
Unlike many southern universities, the University of North Carolina largely escaped the ravages brought on by the Civil War. The campus was occupied briefly by Union forces during the spring of 1865; however, negotiations between the university’s President Swain and General William Sherman ensured that the occupation did not result in any substantial destruction of the campus buildings or other property. The greatest act of vandalism apparently was the stabling of horses in several university buildings, including the library.
However, far greater outrage, both within Chapel Hill and statewide, resulted when Swain’s daughter, Eleanor, fell in love and married General Smith Atkins, commander of the occupying Union forces. Atkins would order the regimental band to serenade the twenty-one-year-old Eleanor every night, and gifted both Eleanor and her father, David, with two fine horses. In spite of their differences, they married on August 23, 1865, and lived happily together until Eleanor’s death in 1881. Sadly, this romance impacted her father, David Swain’s Presidency at the University adversely, until his untimely death in 1868. They were seen from many of the Confederate supporters in North Carolina as traitors (musuem.unc.edu).