The colony of North Carolina faced problems unique to itself preceding the Revolution. The colony had a general low diversity in its population, with most citizens being farmers. It suffered from internal unrest just before the American Revolution as a result of the War of Regulation (1768-1771). Also contributing to civil dismay within the colony was the large population of Tories, which later led to an overwhelming sense of anti-federalism within the colony. These factors contribute to a colony drowning in its own turmoil by the time any blood is shed on its land during the war itself (Crow 2).
Farmers comprised the majority of the population in North Carolina at the time. The population was scattered with low density across the region from the coastline all the way to the Blue Ridge. There was no real presence of a colonial aristocracy. Most of the higher class evolved from families in the Albemarle and Cape Fear areas. Because of the low diversity throughout the colony, no real gentry class arose (Crow 2).
There was a tremendous population increase around the middle of the 18th century (Crow 1). New settlers immigrated to the colony from Maryland Pennsylvania and New Jersey (Powell 105). The backcountry of the state filled, and with the population increase, they demanded more representation in the assembly. The easterners held power and opinion during that time, and refused to compromise. This in turn led to the War of Regulation in 1768, which pitted North Carolinian against North Carolinian. It was this variety of civil unrest that bred the staunch sectionalism within the Colony of North Carolina. There was never a real common thread of unity within the colony up to, and even after, the Revolution (Crow 2).
The Tory population in North Carolina greatly outnumbered the Patriots. Here we have another example of the die-hard sectionalism in the Carolinas. It is always, North-South, East-West, Tory-Whig, or what have you, with the lines drawn thick separating the population. For some reason, most North Carolinians were still remaining loyal to Britain. This division also resulted in civil unrest, and came to a head at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge in 1776 (Crow 2.)
Anti-Federalism later became the problem. This was most likely a result of the large portion of the population being farmers, as mentioned earlier. The farming population was not one to trust executive or congressional power. This proved to be a stumbling block in the forming of the state, with the political structure never being centralized, and causing struggle in the ratification of the federal Constitution. North Carolina was second to last to become a state (Crow 3).
My contention is this unrest within the colony preceding the revolution, in combination with many of its inhabitants having ancestry to militant countries or regions in Europe, caused North Carolina to be a political and sociological minefield. I do not know if this is what Greene and Cornwallis are referring to by a feeling of this being a savage state, but it is my interpretation of it. It is a state of low class farmers with strong political ideals, and they are willing to wage war against each other as a result. Any colony with such anxiety within its borders should have rightfully been deemed savage.