A (mostly) friendly correspondence between Texas Monthly BBQ Editor Daniel Vaughn and author John Shelton Reed regarding the merits of their respective region’s barbecue. Some great information here on the history of North Carolina barbecue and thus, all barbecue in the United States.
More history from the professor (sorry): You first encounter something that is undeniably real barbecue in the 1600′s, in the Caribbean, where Indians had been cooking fish and birds and reptiles low-and-slow with wood from time immemorial. When Europeans showed up with hogs (note: hogs) the locals realized that this is what the Lord meant to be barbecued, and soon they were into pig-pickings in a big way. And they didn’t just cook a hog. At a 1698 feast described by a Dominican missionary, the meat was mopped with a mixture of lemon juice, salt, and chile peppers and served with a similar table sauce in two strengths, hot or mild. In time, this sauce came to the Carolinas (where the lemon juice was replaced by more easily obtained vinegar) and it spread inland. Barbecue historian Robert Moss shows that by the time of the Civil War this sauce was employed everywhere in the United States (yes, even Texas). This is the ur-sauce, the one from which all others descend, the perfection from which others have devolved.