Friday, January 12, 2018

Expert?

In case you missed the facebook announcement, I received my first case of General Lee's Immortals yesterday. The rest will arrive next week, and I'll be getting orders out then. If you have still not ordered a signed copy, please visit my store page.


On the inside back cover is a blurb about yours truly: "Michael C. Hardy is a widely recognized expert and author on the Civil War." This is something that the great folks at Savas Beatie wrote. "widely recognized expert" are the three words that I'm trying to wrap my head around. Have I reached the "widely recognized expert" stage? Perhaps.... I guess... With General Lee's Immortals being my twenty-second book, maybe?


I've never been hung up on titles. I don't have a wall of fame in my office that showcases some of the awards y'all have so graciously bestowed upon me. I don't even have my diploma from Alabama framed. I was in awe several years ago when someone reviewing my book on the 58th NC considered me a "veteran Civil War writer."


All I want to do, all I really ever have wanted to do, is to talk history. US history - Southern history. I want to try and capture what's out there for future generations. I want to make it accessible, so school kids and college students and everyday people can go to a library or bookstore and pick up a book and learn. Learn about their communities, and about some of these regiments, and brigades, and battles. And don't tell me it cannot be done. I had a professional tell me once that there was not enough information out there to write a book on Charlotte and the War. I guess I proved that person wrong! (Maybe it was a dare to get me to write the book!)


"Veteran Civil War writer" I get. With twenty-two and soon to be twenty-three books in print, I get the veteran part. "Widely recognized expert?" I'll be the first to say that there is a whole lot I do not know about the time period. I've never read a book on Phil Sheridan (sorry Eric Wittenburg), or Hannibal Hamlin, or anything dealing with the Trans-Mississippi department. Last year’s foray into the legal side of American history has taught me much. And there is so much more to learn, to read through, to talk about.



Oh well, I guess I'll keep digging. I'm quite certain there is something fresh on that next page I'll be turning over. 

Monday, January 08, 2018

Thomas Ruffin and the Confederate States of America.

Is it possible to be in favor of a new country (the Confederate States of America) and not be a believer in secession? Yes, it was. Thomas Ruffin was one of those individuals.


Most folks are probably more familiar with Thomas Ruffin's more famous, historically speaking, cousin, Edmund Ruffin. Edmund Ruffin was an agricultural reformer and Southern national who championed Southern independence. He supposedly fired the first shot at Fort Sumter, and after the demise of the Confederacy, committed suicide. Many years ago, I read Edmund Ruffin's diaries (three volumes, if I remember correctly). It was an interesting reading list, to be sure.


Thomas Ruffin is an entirely different story. Ruffin was born in Virginia in 1787. He graduated with honors from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and moved to Orange County, North Carolina, in 1807. He finished studying law in 1808, served in the General Assembly in 1813, and as Speaker of the House in 1816. Later that year, he was appointed a superior court judge. Ruffin resigned in 1818, but he was reappointed in 1825. In 1829, he was appointed to the North Carolina Supreme Court, and in 1833, was appointed Chief Justice. After twenty-three years on the North Carolina Supreme Court, Ruffin retired in 1852, returning to his plantation on the Haw River in Alamance County. He was later mentioned as a possible U. S. Supreme Court nominee, but declined.


When the Secession debates began, Ruffin was "a moderate voice in support of compromise and conciliation" (Huebner 155). He was the senior member of the Peace Conference in Washington, D. C., in early 1861. "I came here for a purpose which I openly and distinctly avow. I proclaim it here and everywhere. I will labor to carry it into execution with all my strength and ability which my advanced years and enfeebled health have left me... I came to maintain and preserve this glorious Government! I came here for Union and peace!" he was recorded as saying (155). Many of the delegates supported Ruffin's views.


However, Ruffin became frustrated at the unwillingness of others to compromise. When the US House refused to hear the proposal hammered out by the delegates, and the US Senate defeated the proposed amendment, Ruffin's support for the Union began to falter. In April 1861, at a meeting in Hillsboro, Ruffin encouraged his neighbors to "Fight! Fight! Fight!" A month later, as a delegate to the Secession Convention in Raleigh, Ruffin introduced the following proposed ordinance: "By reason of various illegal, unconstitutional, oppressive and tyrannical acts of the Government of the United States of America, and of unjust acts of divers of the Northern non-slaveholding states, it is the settled sense of the people of this state that they cannot longer live in peace and security in the Union heretofore existing under the Constitution of the United States." (156)


Ruffin described his position as a belief in the "sacred right of revolution"--"the right of a whole people to change their form of government by annulling one Constitution and forming another for themselves." Ruffin was not a secessionist, but a revolutionary! To quote Timothy Huebner, Ruffin "endorsed secession not because he believed in a constitutional right to separate from the Union but only as a revolutionary act against an oppressive federal government that he believed had already destroyed the existing Constitution." (156)


For more on Thomas Ruffin, see Timothy S. Huebner, The Southern Judicial Tradition: State Judges and Sectional Distinctiveness, 1790-1890, (1999)
and
J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, The Papers of Thomas Ruffin (especially volume 4).

Monday, January 01, 2018

Broadly and Deeply

Is it possible to read both broadly and deeply into one subject? Early in 2017, because of my interest in the life of North Carolina Chief Justice Richmond M. Pearson, I set out to read both broadly and deeply into American legal history. I wanted to know more about the lives and work of American jurists.

I guess this quest actually started in 2016, when I read Lawrence Friedman's A History of American Law and Joe Meacham's American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. Friedman's book has its interesting parts as well as some that are less so(I could never be a corporate or property lawyer). Meacham's biography of Jackson was quite interesting.

In 2018 came Cliff Sloan and David McKean's The Great Decision: Jefferson, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Court. This was a fascinating tome, and, at some point in the future, I want to dive more into the life of John Marshall. Next came John Quincy Adams: Policymaker for the Union by James E. Lewis, Jr. I had read on John Adams before (queue up David McCullough's voice), but never anything on his son, except in other texts. Like John Marshall's work on establishing the Supreme Court as an equal branch of government, John Quincy Adams really established the state department.

Next came Maurice G. Baxter's Henry Clay: The Lawyer, a book I've had for a number of years (published in 2000), but never read. Lawyers in 19th century America practiced all kinds of law, all at once. But they also developed specialties along the way. Clay specialized in real estate law.

Next, I turned my attention to Abraham Lincoln, picking out two books from the tens of thousands on this one man. The first was a collection of essays edited by Roger Billings and Frank J. Williams entitled Abraham Lincoln, Esq.: The Legal Career of America's Greatest President. The title should have given it away: this book was dreadful. Only two of the essays were really quality material (and I don't even remember what they were). One thing I did pick up was that Lincoln excelled in collecting debts. For example, some backwoods store owner would order merchandise from a New York wholesaler and when he did not pay, the wholesaler would hire Lincoln to collect. A much, much better book was James Simon's Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney. Once again, this was a book I have had for some time (published in 2006). This was a superb read, comparing the lives of Lincoln and Roger Taney. At some point, I would really like to dig more into the life of Taney.

Then came Timothy S. Huebner's The Southern Judicial Tradition: State Judges and Sectional Distinctiveness, 1790-1890, a book of essays on six different judges. I was most interested in Thomas Ruffin (yes, cousin to Edmond Ruffin). Thomas Ruffin had retired from the North Carolina Supreme Court by the time of the war, but did play several interesting roles during the conflict. We'll probably look more into his life in a future blog post.

Finally came Justice of Shattered Dreams: Samuel Freeman Miller and the Supreme Court during the Civil War Era. This book (I'm about half way through) is superbly written. It has some of the best summaries of national events, like the Kansas-Nebraska Act, that I recall seeing. Miller was one of the five justices that Lincoln appointed to the US Supreme Court during his presidency. He was a slave-owning Kentucky doctor before giving up on the institution and moving to Iowa to practice law. Miller believed that Southern leaders  who attempted to start the Southern Confederacy should have been hanged or driven into exile.

So, it is possible to read both broadly and deeply? Yes. I read broadly into American history in 2017, coving over 90 years of the past. But I have also read deeply, looking specifically at lawyers and legalities, men and events that influenced American history.

What's next? I'm not sure. Several times in my life, I have taken huge chunks of time to read on a certain subject or individual. I once spent two years reading on Robert E. Lee. I've already confessed that I would like to read more on Marshall and Taney. I have William M. Robinson, Jr.,'s Justice in Grey: A History of the Judicial System of the Confederate States of America, a book I have never read. (It's huge - almost 700 pages.) I'm very interested in the life of John A. Campbell, a sitting US Supreme Court Justice who resigned his seat at the start of the war, went back to Alabama, and was then appointed the Confederate Assistant Secretary of War.  I also have several books I've collected over the years on more recent justices and courts. I originally thought I would spend 2018 looking more into 19th-century  science, but maybe I'll hang out in the legal world a little longer. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Frazier's Farm or Frasier's Farm?

While working on my images for General Lee's Immortals, I made an interesting discovery. There is inconsistency on the spelling of Frazier's farm. Ok. There are a lot of inconsistencies on spellings in that time period. But this inconsistency happens to be on battle flags.

In December 1862, Branch's brigade received new Army of Northern Virginia battle flags.  These flags had their battle honors painted in white paint, in a very distinctive pattern. Of the five flags issued, four survive. The fifth flag, belonging to the 7th North Carolina State Troops, was cut up at the end of the war near Lexington, North Carolina. A scrap of this flag survives at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. On this particular issue of flags, the June 30, 1862, battle (a part of the Seven Days Campaign), is spelled "Fraziers Farm."


However, in a later issue of Army of Northern Virginia flags to the 28th North Carolina Troops (May 1864), it is no longer" Fraziers Farm," but it is now "Frasiers Farm." This flag was captured on July 28, 1864, near Malvern Hill, Virginia. A replacement was issued shortly thereafter. This 28th North Carolina flag has been further modified. Now, the battle honor reads "Frasers Farm." This flag was surrendered on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House.

 Being the inquisitive soul that I am, I pulled out my copy of Glenn Dedmondt's The Flags of Civil War North Carolina, and started to look at just the spelling of Frazier's Farm. It would appear that the odd spelling on the flag of the 28th North Carolina was an odd occurrence. Eight other flags bear the name "Frazier's Farm." (I also checked Dedmondt's books on Alabama and South Carolina, and once again the spelling is consistent.)

So our next question is why? Why did the lettering on two different flags issued to the 28th North Carolina, get misspelled, once with "Frasier's Farm," and the next time with "Frazier's Farm." Just who was painting these flags on these two different days?

Of course, these are questions I cannot answer. There is not even a consistent spelling of the family who lived on the farm during the 1862 battle. Is it Frayser's Farm? Frazier's Farm? Or, Frasier's Farm? (Or, maybe Glendale...)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Now taking pre-orders for General Lee's Immortals!

   Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, I am happy to announce that General Lee's Immortals: The Battles and Campaigns of the Branch-Lane Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865, has gone to the printers! The expected release date is January 12, 2018!

   I am now taking pre-orders for signed copies! Hardcover copies of the 400+ plus page book (with maps by Hal Jespersen) are $35.00. This is the first edition, first printing, and they are hardback, with dust jackets.  If you pre-order, I'll cover the shipping, and I'll throw in a limited edition Branch-Lane brigade book mark. The hardback books will sell out fast, and once they are gone, well, they're gone. You can order by visiting my web page:  Order Here!   Or, you can send a check or money order to P.O. Box 393, Crossnore, NC   28616

   My first regimental, a history of the 37th North Carolina Troops, came out 15 years ago. I never thought I would get the opportunity to write about the brigade itself. But four years ago, I took a chance and dropped a note to Ted Savas, asking if his company would be interested in publishing such a book. He said yes, and we will all see the finished product in just a few weeks.

   Writing a brigade history is hard - you cannot put in every example you might come across in your research, only the best one or two. And trying to decide which stories are the best is a challenge. I did something different in General Lee's Immortals than what I  did previously in my histories of the 37th North Carolina and 58th North Carolina. Not only does General Lee's Immortals follow a chronological history of the Branch-Lane brigade, from their creation right after the battle of New Bern to the surrender at Appomattox, but I also created themed chapters as well. There are chapters on brigade medical care; camp life; prisoners of war; and military discipline. Instead of having that material spread out over the text, I was able to concentrate on these topics, showing how brigade medical care (for example) changed over the course of the war. This was something new for me, and I do not recall seeing it in any other brigade history.

   That brings me to another point: I wanted this history of the Branch-Lane brigade to be more than a brigade history. I wanted to try and show how a brigade worked (or sometimes did not work) throughout the war. I'm quite certain a book like that does not exist.

   So much of my writing life seems to have been wrapped up in the Branch-Lane brigade. A regimental history, a battle history (Hanover Court House), articles for magazines and newspapers. I've blogged about it, spoken in cemeteries when grave markers have been dedicated, and participated in living histories at national parks. You could also say that books like Civil War Charlotte: Last Capital of the Confederacy and Watauga County, North Carolina, in the Civil War are products of my research into the Branch-Lane brigade.

   General Lee's Immortals: The Battles and Campaigns of the Branch-Lane Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865... I look forward to signing a copy for you next month, and I really look forward to continuing the discussion about a remarkable group of men that served in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Please pre-order a copy today!



Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Blog post 1,000

A milestone - this marks my 1,000th blog post! It took me eleven years to reach this post. What a journey! And, thanks for sharing it with me!

Eleven years ago, I set out in the blogging world. Blogs were not new then, and with all the material out there, I wondered how I might contribute something new. So, I decided to focus my blog on what I knew the most about: North Carolina's role during the Late Unpleasantries. At times, I've used the blog to share where I am traveling, or what I am writing about. At other times, I've shared questions, looking for answers to some of history's mysteries. (Trust me, after 20+ years of researching and writing, I still have more questions than answers). One thing I am still sure about is this: we still know so little about our own history. Time after time I have stood in the great libraries of our state and not been able to find the answer to some little question that I have.


So what is in store? I'm still researching and writing away. I have two new books coming out in the next twelve months. I'm continuing my research into the life of Chief Justice Richmond M. Pearson. And, I plan to continue letting you have glimpses into my world through the pages of this blog. Many blogs that I once followed have grown dormant over the years. But I believe that I still have something to say, something to share, and I look forward to getting your feedback as we share this journey together.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Books on North Carolina and Reconstruction



A few days ago, I saw a poll on facebook, asking people what areas still need coverage regarding the war. Well in front of the pack was the subject of Reconstruction. It had always been my conclusion that the subject, at least dealing with North Carolina, was pretty well covered. Of course, there is always room for a new book or two. I personally would like to see a book on the role of North Carolina's courts and/or the General Assembly during the time period.


There have been (to my knowledge), three books published on Reconstruction in North Carolina, and another that covered the era (think general history). The first was J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton's Reconstruction in North Carolina (1914). This was followed by Richard L. Zuber's North Carolina during Reconstruction (1969). Then came Paul D. Escott's Many Excellent People: Power and Privilege in North Carolina, 1850-1900 (1985). Finally, Mark Bradley's Bluecoats and Tar Heels: Soldiers and Civilians in Reconstruction North Carolina (2009). The last book is a superb treatment of the time following the war.


There are also several biographies of various people involved. Richard Zuber's Jonathan Worth: A Biography of a Southern Unionist (1965) is a good read, as is William C. Harris's William Woods Holden: Firebrand of North Carolina Politics (1987). Gordon McKinney's Zeb Vance: North Carolina Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader (2004), is, in my opinion, the best biography on Vance published to date.


Biographies I must confess that I have yet to read, but that might hold promise, are Donald Connelly's John M. Schofield and the Politics of Generalship (2006) and Otto H. Olsen's Carpetbagger's Crusade: The Life of Albion Winegar Tourge (1965).


Also in the line up are Roberta Sue Alexander's North Carolina Faces the Freeman: Race Relations during Presidential Reconstruction, 1865-1867 (1985), and Richard Reid's Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina's Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era (2008).


So, what have I missed? What would like add to this list? Is the coverage of North Carolina during Reconstruction adequate?