Thursday, January 19, 2017

My take on Blood and Fury

Last night was the premiere of the Petersburg episode on Blood and Fury. So how did I become involved? Here's my story.

In May of 2016, I received an email from Randy Chase, a researcher/associate producer with Cream Productions, regarding this new series. Their final episode was going to be, in part, telling the story of the 37th North Carolina Troops and the Petersburg breakthrough on April 2, 1865, and they wanted to know if we could chat. I'm not sure how they got my name. Maybe it was a simple search online, but I'm always happy to talk history, and I do know one or two things about the 37th Regiment.
After a couple of phone calls, I was scheduled to meet the crew in Nashville, or Fredericksburg, or maybe even Washington, D.C. After a few more phone calls and email messages, the crew decided that I was close enough for them to shoot locally while they traveled between Nashville and Fredericksburg. But I had to find a place. The Avery Museum really doesn't have the space needed for the cameras, so I shot a note to a friend about using one of the rooms at Lees-McRae College. We wound up using the Alumni House at Lees-McRae (thanks Michelle Scott!). This all transpired in a frenzied 48-hour period. First, I was on my way to Fredericksburg, then they were coming here, and I had to secure a site: a wee-bit nerve-racking, as you might imagine.

They arrived in Banner Elk before I did, and I discovered that they had moved every bit of furniture in the room we were using. That made me a wee-bit nervous as well. We were the guest of my friend and the college. They had promised to put everything back.

It took about an hour for them to finish setting everything up, and in that time, we conversed freely. When it came time for the interview, I was in front of the bright lights for at least three hours while they fired off question after question. I guess, after spending twenty years studying the 37th Regiment and the Branch-Lane brigade, I was as ready as a person could be. Needless to say, I had to come home and take a nap after that grilling. And yes, they got everything put back in the room, and Michelle was delighted with how it looked!

It always makes me nervous when I am interviewed for something. This was not my first "rodeo," of course. I've been on TV before, on the radio, and interviewed several times. But still, when the final product is released, I'm always wondering what they used, how did I come across, (did I really say that?), and hoping I didn't look odd (dang my beard is getting gray!).

My take on the episode? Yes, they could have used a better wardrobe department, and yes, they needed some skilled interpreters/reenactors. Why was Nicholson in a cavalry uniform? To be honest, I would have preferred the story of Lt. Octavius Wiggins to Capt. William T. Nicholson’s. As the Federals came over the works, Wiggins was shot in the face, blinded, knocked unconscious by the concussion, and captured. He survived, and his fellow prisoners of war picked the grains of black powder out of his face. On the train ride to Johnson's Island, Wiggins jumped from the train, surviving the fall. He concealed his identity and worked his way south, only to arrive in Richmond and learn that the war was over. I think that was a better story.

Overall, I think the Petersburg episode was one of the better ones. The overarching mission of the series was to tell some lesser-known stories of the war. I guess that is kind of like my own mission, to research and write the lesser known stories. The role of the 37th North Carolina Troops is just as important as that of any other Tar Heel Regiment (and Confederate, when it comes to it). I'm just glad that I got to tell that story. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Books on North Carolina's Confederate Generals

You've probably figured out that I like lists of books. For several years, I've kept a list of North Carolina counties and their published histories of the War. Well, below is a new list, a list of North Carolina-born general officers of the Confederacy (with one exception). There are several names not on this list, like James H. Lane or William Henry Chase Whiting. They were associated with North Carolina, but came from other states. There are also a couple who are buried in the Tar Heel state but who are not on this list, like William R. Boggs. He came after the war. The only exception that I have made is for Collett Leventhorpe. He was born in England, but when he moved to North Carolina (prior to the war), he never really lived any other place, and is buried in Caldwell County. I have also not included state-appointed generals, like John W. McElroy. These men are only Confederate-appointed generals.

Of the 46 men on this list, 26 have no material published on them, save brief pieces in Warner's Generals in Gray, Powell's Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, or Davis's The Confederate General (6 volumes). Of the 18 who do have biographies, three of those are just sketches, usually presented at a monument dedication or a memorial service. For me, that leaves 16 who have bios. Of that number, six have multiple biographies. Braxton Bragg has eight, William Dorsey Pender, Leonidas Polk, and Stephen Dodson Ramseur have four each, and James Johnston Pettigrew has three. Bryan Grimes had two, and the rest, one each.  

As always, this is a work in progress. If I missed someone, or some book, please let me know. At some point, I will probably update this list to include theses and dissertations, and then maybe articles.

Anderson, George Burgwyn, Brig. Gen.  (1831-1862)
            "A Private" Brigadier-General George Burgwyn Anderson (19--?)
Armistead, Louis Addision, Brig. Gen., (1817-1863)
Baker, Laurence Simmons, Brig. Gen. (1830-1907)
Barringer, Rufus, Brig. Gen. (1821-1895)
            Barringer, Fighting for General Lee (2016)
Barry, John D., Brig. Gen. (1838-1867)
Bragg, Braxton, General (1817-1876)
            Bragg, Braxton Bragg: Military Strategist (1998)
            Hallock, Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat, Vol. 2 (1991)
            Hay, Braxton Bragg and the Southern Confederacy (1925)
            Hess, Braxton Bragg: the Most Hated Man of the Confederacy (2016)
            Martin, General Braxton Bragg (2011)
            McWhiney, Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat Vol. 1 (1969)
            Seitz, Braxton Bragg, general of the Confederacy (1924)
            Stout, Reminiscences of General Braxton Bragg (1942)
Branch, Lawrence O'B., Brig. Ben. (1820-1862)
Bullock, Robert, Brig. Gen. (1828-1905)
Clingman, Thomas L., Brig. Gen. (1812-1897)
            Jeffrey, Thomas Lanier Clingman: Fire Eater from the Carolina Mountains (1998)
Cox, William R., Brig. Gen. (1832-1919)
            Spruill, A Sketch of the Life and Service of General William Ruffin Cox (1921)
Daniel Junius, Brig. Gen. (1828-1864)
Dockery, Thomas P., Brig. Gen. (1833-1898)
Forney, John H. Maj. Gen. (1829-1902)
            Daugette, The Life of Major General John H. Forney (1925?)
Forney, William H., Brig. Gen. (1823-1894)
Garrott, Isham W., Brig. Gen. (1816-1863)
Gatlin, Richard C., Brig. Gen. (1809-1896)
            Daddis,  Richard C. Gatlin and the Confederate Defense of Eastern North Carolina (2015)
Gilmer, Jeremy F., Maj. Gen. (1818-1883)
Gordon, James B. Brig. Gen. (1822-1864)
            Hartley, Stuart's Tar Heels (1996)
Govan, Daniel C., Brig. Gen. (1829-1911)
Grimes, Bryan, Maj. Gen. (1828-1880)
            Allen, Lee's Last Major General: Bryan Grimes of North Carolina
            Cowper, Extracts of Letters of Maj. Gen Bryan Grimes to his Wife (2014)
Hill, Daniel H., Lt. Gen. (1821-1889)
            Bridges, Lee's Maverick General: Daniel Harvey Hill (1991)
Hoke, Robert F., Maj. Gen. (1837-1912)
            Barefoot, General Robert F. Hoke: Lee's Modest Warrior (1996)
Holmes, Theophilus H., Lt. Gen. (1804-1880)
            Hilderman, Theophilus Hunter Holmes: A North Carolina General in the Civil War (2013)
Johnston, George D. Brig. Gen. (1832-1910)
Johnston, Robert D., Brig. Gen. (1837-1919)
Kirkland, William W., Brig. Gen. (1833-1915)
Leventhorpe, Collett, Brig. Gen. (18815-1889)
            Foley and Cole, Collett Leventhorpe, the English Confederate (2006)
Lewis, William G., Brig. Gen. (1835-1901)
MacRae, William, Brig. Gen. (1834-1882)
Martin, James G., Brig. Gen. (1819-1878)
McNair, Evander, Brig. Gen. (1820-1902)
Pender, William D., Maj. Gen. (1834-1863)
            Hassler, One of Lee's Best Men: The Civil War Letters of Gen. William D. Pender (1999)
            ----The General to His Lady: The Civil War Letters of W. D. Pender to Fanny Pender (1965)
            Longacre, General William Dorsey Pender: A Military Biography (2001)
            Willis, Confederate General William Dorsey Pender: The Hope of Glory (2013)
Pettigrew, James J., Brig. Gen. (1828-1963)
            Bauer, The Long Lost Journal of Confederate General James Johnston Pettigrew (2001)
            Wilson, Carolina Cavalier: Life and Mind of James Johnston Pettigrew (1990)
            Wilson, The Most Promising Man of the South... (1998)
Polk, Leonidas, Lt. Gen. (1806-1864)
            Parks, General Leonidas Polk, CSA (1992)
            Polk, Leonidas Polk; Bishop and General 2 volumes (1915)
            Robbins, The Bishop of the Old South: (2006)
            White, Confederate General Leonidas Polk: Louisiana's Fighting Bishop (2013)
Polk, Lucius E., Brig. Gen. (1833-1892)
Rains, Gabriel J. Brig. Gen. (1803-1881)
Ramseur, Stephen D., Maj. Gen. (1837-1864)
            Cox, Address on the Life and Character of.... Ramseur (1891)
            Gallagher, Stephen Dodson Ramseur: Lee's Gallant General (1995)
            Kundahl, The Bravest of the Brave: The Correspondence of Stephen D. Ramseur (2014)
            Schenck, Sketches of Maj. Gen. Stephen Dodson Ramseur (2015)
Ransom, Matt W., Brig. Gen. (1826-1904)
            Marlow, Matt W. Ransom, Confederate General from North Carolina (1996)
Ransom, Robert, Jr., Maj. Gen. (1828-1892)
Richardson, Robert V., Brig. Gen. (1820-1870)
Roberts, William P., Brig. Gen. (1841-1910)
Scales, Alfred M., Brig. Gen. (1827-1892)
            Conner, Address on Alfred Moore Scales (1907)
Toon, Thomas F., Brig. Gen. (1840-1902)
Ticker, William, Brig. Gen. (1827-1881)
Vance, Robert B., Brig. Gen. (1828-1899)
Wilcox, Cadmus M., Maj. Gen. (1824-1890)

            Patterson, From Blue to Gray (2001) 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ft. Fisher anniversary

This weekend, our friends at Ft. Fisher are holding their anniversary events. If you live in the area, please drop in and check out the living histories and special speakers. Two years ago, I was there, with thousands of others, including Ed Bearss and Governor McCory. It was a great event and I really enjoyed being a part of it. Above is the video of my presentation on the 150th anniversary weekend. I'm really looking forward to seeing my spot on Blood and Fury this upcoming Wednesday. At least I will not be in a big thick coat with gloves - kind of cold at Fort Fisher two years ago.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why do people think Zeb Vance was in the Klan?

A couple of months ago, I was reading a new biography on a North Carolina Confederate general. In this book, the author claimed that North Carolina Governor Zebulon Baird Vance was a member of the Klan, eventually elected to "Grand Dragon" of the Realm of North Carolina. That kind of took me aback, and led me to dig a little further.

Most of the entries I found are like this one from Invisible Empire: The Story of the Ku Klux Klan, 1866-1871, by Stanley Fitzgerald Horn in 1969: "Ex-Governor Zebulon Baird Vance was generally supposed to be the Grand Dragon of the Realm; and the testimony of the confessed Ku Klux was to the effect that within the Klan Vance was generally looked upon as the chief of state." (194) Horn, however, gives us no source for his vague notion regarding Vance's involvement. It is quite possible that Horn got his idea about Vance's involvement from a 1924 book by Susan Lawrence Davis. She writes in Authentic History Ku Klux Klan, 1865-1877 that "The Ku Klux Klan, led by Zebulon B. Vance, Grand Dragon of the Realm of North Carolina, succeeded in driving from their soil the 'carpet-bagger' and all other kinds of invaders, and impeached W. W. Holden from the office of Governor." (236) Once again, no documentation. But the words "Realm of North Carolina" appear in all three works. I dug a little further, but I found no reference to Vance and the Klan prior to 1926. I did finds lots of references to Vance being in the Klan referencing Davis or Horn.

Maybe this all stems from a letter that appears in the Testimony Taken by the Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States, Volume 2 (1872). Thomas A. Hope, from Lincoln County in an affidavit, stated that he had "frequently heard it talked among the members that Z. B. Vance was the chief of the State; do not know this of my own knowledge, have only heard it talked of." (400) This was the only mention of Vance I could find. Vance was not called to testify.

So what do the Vance biographers say about the matter? Dowd, published in 1897, is silent on the matter. Weinstein's Zebulon B. Vance and The Scattered Nation makes no mention. Cooper's Zeb Vance: Leader in War and Peace makes no mention.

Gordon McKinney in his 2004 biography on Vance, does discuss Reconstruction-era Klan violence and Zeb Vance. In 1870, when word arrived in Raleigh of outrages committed in Orange County, Vance issued this statement: "I opposed the Ku Klux from the start[.] Refusing to have anything to do with such an organization on the grounds that it was a secret society... I not only refused to approve of it but made a speech in a certain county against such organizations." (287-288)

I checked several other sources, and looked for references to Vance in various US Congressional documents related to the Klan, but I could never find Vance's name. It is interesting to note that Milton Ready, a retired UNC-Asheville history professor, came to the conclusion in an article in 2015 in MountainXpress, that Vance "loathed the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan, condemning its members as cowards and 'ruffians,' its intimidating methods as unlawful."

Maybe, just maybe, it is time to stop putting Vance in the Klan since he was probably never involved with it in the first place.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Charlotte and Stonewall Jackson's LeMat

   In the January issue of America's Civil War, there is an interesting piece on the LeMat revolvers, written by Michael G. Williams. The LeMats are fairly rare nine-shot .42 caliber revolvers that also had a small 20-guage shotgun barrel underneath. Imported during the war, they were owned by the likes of J.E.B. Stuart, Braxton Bragg, Richard H. Anderson, and P. G. T. Beauguard (Serial #8). The article has a sidebar about Stonewall Jackson's LeMat. But as the sidebar states, we don't actually have any proof that Jackson owned a LeMat. Maybe J.E.B. Stuart gave him one, about the same time that he presented him with a new coat, right before Chancellorsville.

The article includes a picture from the collection of the Virginia Military Institute. The photo is of a sitting room or parlor at the home of Mary Anna Morrison Jackson, taken in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mary Anna was from the area and lived in Charlotte twice after the war (she died there on March 24, 1915). In post-war newspaper accounts, she is frequently mentioned exhibiting some of Stonewall's personal effects. A visitor coming to the annual bazaar held each January to raise money for indigent Confederate soldiers could see Jackson's sword and other mementos.  When the national reunion of the United Confederate Veterans was held in Charlotte in 1929, visitors could stop by the home of Jackson's granddaughter and see these same relics.

Pictured in the image are a clock, field classes, epaulettes, sword, and two pistols. One pistol is identified as a British Tranter. The other bears striking resemblance to a LeMat, with its shotgun barrel under the main barrel, ornate trigger guard, lanyard, and "subtle slope atop the gun's frame..." Williams poses the question: "If Jackson owned a LeMat, where is it?"

Jackson's cased Beaumont-Adams revolver, his Lefaucheaux pin-fired revolver, field glasses, and Model 1850 US Field and Staff sword are all held at the former Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. But where is Jackson's LeMat?

Is this Jackson's LeMat? (VMI/America's Civil War)

As a side note, Williams describes the  sitting room as being in Jackson's former home in Charlotte; however, Jackson never actually lived in the home where Mary Anna resided after his death.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Calling for North Carolina's Troops

Leroy Pope Walker,
Confederacy Secretary of War
For the past few days, I've been reading Denis Peterson's Confederate Cabinet Departments and Secretaries (2016). Peterson does a good job detailing the various cabinet officers’ positions, and covering the men who filled those offices. There were several of these men about whom I really did not know much. However, I have now twice come across sections that I feel are wrong. The first was dealing with the last days of the Confederate government in Charlotte. I will not go into the details, since I have written two books on the subject.

The second deals with this statement: "After the Confederate peace commission failed to convince Lincoln to negotiate and in preparation for possible conflict over the fort [Sumter], Walker called on each of the seven states that made up the original Confederacy to supply 3,000 volunteers to meet any military necessity, for a total of 21,000..... Walker immediately ran up against the doctrine of states' rights. Each state wanted its troops to defend their own state... North Carolina's concerns were Forts Hatteras and Clark. Those states did not like the idea of having their troops sent to defend other states." (134)

Two things I see wrong here. 1): North Carolina was not one of the original seven seceding states. It was the last, not leaving the Union until May 20, 1861. The earliest call for troops that I can find is on March 9, 1861. Walker asked for troops from Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia (No South Carolina. See Official Records, Series IV, vol. 1, 135). Walker made a second call for troops on April 16, 1861, this time mentioning the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi South Carolina, Texas, and Florida. There is no mention of North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, or Arkansas - they had not left the Union! (Official Records, Series IV, vol. 1, 221-222.)

2): Peterson writes that North Carolina could not send troops because they were concerned with Forts Hatteras and Clark. Construction of these facilities does not begin until North Carolina leaves the Union on May 20, 1861. But, North Carolina is sending troops. On May 17, 1861 (three days before secession), Governor Clark telegraphs Walker, requesting him to accept four regiments of 12-month men. Walker sends word back to Clark, directing that the regiments be sent to Richmond. The 1st North Carolina Volunteers transfers to Virginia between May 16 and May 21. The 2nd North Carolina Volunteers leaves for Richmond on May 22, 1861, the 3rd North Carolina Volunteers leaves for Suffolk, Virginia, on May 29, and the 4th North Carolina Volunteers leaves for Suffolk on June 11. This is all about the same time that the construction of Forts Hatters and Clark begins. While North Carolina would want some of these troops back to defend their state in late 1861 and early 1862 (battle of New Bern), I would argue that the Tar Heel state does not have a problem sending troops to join the regular Confederate army.

I'm not one-hundred percent sure, but I think Peterson is relying upon some older, secondary sources. For the Charlotte problems, he cites Patrick's Jefferson Davis and His General, published in 1944. For the above citation, it is Harris's bio on Walker, published in 1962.

No printed text is perfect, or, as I often say, I am only as good as the material that I find. However, it makes me wonder what I am not catching, because I am not as well read in the lives of people like Walker, or Reagan, or Benjamin. 

Friday, December 09, 2016

Lincoln had a what?

Have you ever been reading something and a word or two, or a sentence, kind of pops out at you? That was me a couple a days ago. I was reading Glenn LaFantasie's "The Paradox of the Gettysburg Address" in the Summer 2013 issue of Civil War Monitor. LaFantasie writes, in reference to the
Gettysburg Address, "None of Lincoln's other speeches--either as president or in his long political career leading up to the election of 1860--leaves more frustratingly inconsistent evidence than the Gettysburg Address." Lincoln had a long political career? I guess if you count when he first entered office, it was long, but not really.

Ok, Lincoln's political career was longer than Washington's and Trump's, and about the same length's as Obama's, but he had not actually been elected to hold any state or national office since 1849. From 1834 to 1842, Lincoln had served in the Illinois House of Representatives, and from 1847 to 1849, in the United States House, but that was it. Ten years, eight of which on the state level. He actually had a longer list of political failures. Lincoln was defeated for the State Legislature in 1832, lost a bid to become speaker of the State House in 1838, lost a nomination for Congress in 1843, was not re-nominated in 1848, defeated for the US Senate in 1854, lost a nomination for Vice President in 1856, and was defeated again for the US Senate in 1858.

For me, a long political career might be someone like Andrew Johnson. Born in North Carolina (see, I worked it in), He had moved to Tennessee as a young man. Prior to being elected Vice-President of the United States in 1864, Johnson had served in the United States House (1843-1853), as the governor of Tennessee (1853-1857), in the United States Senate (1857-1862), and as military governor of Tennessee (1862-1865). That's twenty-two years of public service.

Jefferson David
How about John Bell, also from Tennessee and who was running against Lincoln on the Constitutional Union Party ticket in 1860? He had years of political experience behind him: Tennessee Senate (1817-1819); United States House (1827-1841, speaker 1834-1835); Secretary of War (1841); United States Senate (1847-1859). That's thirty-two years of public service.

How about Jefferson Davis? Davis had served in the United States House (1845-1846); in the United States Senate (1847-1851); as Secretary of War (1853-1857); and then back in the United States Senate (1857-1861). That's sixteen years.

In my opinion, Lincoln was not a long serving political figure. He'd didn't have the experience to back up the job he got. Why else put someone like Simon Cameron in as Secretary of War (Lincoln didn't believe there would be a war - see new Cameron biography). After Lincoln fired George B. McClellan as general-in-chief, Lincoln formed a "War Board" to govern the movements of Federal armies. Lincoln later admitted he didn't have a clue as to what he was doing, and Henry Halleck was brought in as General-in-Chief in late July 1862.

I don't think Lincoln was a long-serving politician and I'll even go a little further: I believe Lincoln's lack of political experience really hurt the country and helped propel us into civil war. You might disagree with my assessment, and that is ok. That's just what my years of reading and research has led me to believe.

If you want to discuss something, how about this: what if Lincoln had failed to win the Republican nomination in May 1860? What if it had gone to Sen. William H. Seward, who won the first and second ballots? Had Seward won the nomination, would he have carried the election? Would South Carolina still vote to leave the Union?  These are questions we can never truly answer, but they are interesting to ponder!