Monday, July 14, 2014

The largest towns in North Carolina in 1860.


It always seems to surprise people, when I am out giving a talk, about how small Charlotte was in 1860. So, here is a list of the population of North Carolina towns in 1860, based upon the census. Things sure have changed.

1. Wilmington         9,552

2. New Bern            5,432

3. Fayetteville        4,790

4. Raleigh                 4,780

5. Salisbury              2,420

6. Charlotte             2,265

7. Washington        1,599

8. Edenton               1,504

9. Kinston                 1,333

10. Greensboro       1,050

11. Asheville              960

12. Wilson                  960

13. Goldsboro           885

14. Greenville           828

15. Statesville           320

16. Monroe               204

17. Henderson         186

Friday, July 11, 2014

Last speech of Jefferson Davis.


While rooting around the other day, I came across the few lines below, reportedly delivered by Jefferson Davis from the front steps of the Bates House in Charlotte. The speech would have been given on April 18, 1865. The date of the article was May 20, 1896. I have read (but not looked for the actual piece) that there was an earlier version of this speech printed in a newspapers in Georgia, maybe just a couple of years after the war. If these claims are true, then would this not be the last speech of Jefferson Davis? Would not Charlotte be the place of that last speech?

"My friends, you greet me as cordially as if I brought you tidings of victory, while indeed I am the bearer of bad news. Gen. Lee has been forced to surrender--but the men live yet. The war has been for the people and by the people, and if they are firm and true there is hope. I thank you from my heart for this evidence of your confidence, and can say in reviewing my administration for the last four years, I am conscious of having committed errors and very great ones, but in all that I have done, in all that I have tried to do, I can lay my hand upon my heart and appeal to God that I have but one purpose to serve--but one mission to fulfill--the preservation of the true principles of constitutional freedom, which are as dear to me to-day as they were four years ago. I have nothing to abate or take back. If they were right then, they are right now and no misfortune to our arms can change right into wrong. Again I thank you."

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

My thoughts on Lee's Chapel.

Certain parts of the internet are all ablaze this morning on the news that the Confederate flags surrounding the statue of Robert E. Lee in Lee Chapel on the grounds of Washington and Lee University are going to be removed. This action comes as a result of a complaint of a group of six law students at the University. I guess the message of tolerance is lost on some people.

The last time I was in Lee Chapel, the reproduction flags were not in their holders, high above Edward Valentine's marble statue, but in holders on the floor. My guess was they were so place so they could quickly be moved for events when certain people might be "offended." I guess that's ok. But then again, it's not. I learned a long time ago that in life, I will be in places and situations in life that I find offensive. Do I raise a fuss? Do I cry out at the idiocy of some people? No. I had a better upbringing.

As a peace offering, the president of the University has stated that the reproduction flags will no longer be displayed. Instead, some of the flags that were originally on display in Lee Chapel will be returning, and will be on a rotating display. Hmm. This presents a problem for me. While I regret the decision of the school to remove all of the flags, and while I regret the cowering of the school administration to six minority students, to be able to see the original flags in a place where they were displayed for decades is something that I actually look forward to. Will they be hanging from their original  flag staffs? No. But still....

I have written before of my own story regarding one of those flags. In 1988, I visited Lee Chapel for the first time and saw the banner of the 37th North Carolina Troops, a flag captured on April 2, 1865, just outside Petersburg. Little did I know that my first book, released in 2003, would be about that same regiment. I've spent countless hours studying that flag - first at Pamplin Park, then at the North Carolina Museum of History, and finally at the Museum of the Confederacy's complex at Appomattox Court House. To have a chance to see the flag again near the statue of Lee would just be another piece of the journey that I am taking.

By the way, the Lee Chapel web page on the flags state that the flag picture, that of the 37th North Carolina, has "battle honors sewn into the fabric." That is not true. They are painted.

The web page also states that the first of the original flags scheduled to be displayed is that of the 26th North Carolina Troops, captured at Gettysburg, and still blood-stained.


Do I regret the decision of the school to remove the flags? Yes. Am I looking forward to seeing the flag of the 37th NCT back at Lee Chapel at some point in the future? Yes. 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The 33rd NCT - my weak point.


My work on the Branch-Lane brigade has been at a standstill the past few weeks. Between putting our house on the market and traveling to Florida with Nathaniel's science team, I've just been pressed for time. But now, it is time to get back at it.

I'm sitting at the beginning of the Maryland Campaign, and I've come to the conclusion that the 33rd NCT is my weakest link. I know less about this regiment than the other four. For example, at Hanover on May 27, 1862, after portions of the 33rd NCT captured the Federal field hospital at the Slaughter House, I honestly cannot say what they did for the next couple, maybe three hours. I do know they retreated, and eventually made their way to Ashland, but just what they did in the ensuing time is a mystery. Likewise, at the battle of Second Manassas, the 28th NCT and the 33rd NCT were ordered to support a Confederate battery on the far left of the Confederate line. The 28th NCT was recalled and redeployed, but what did the 33rd NCT do for the rest of the day? How far on the left were they and whom did they engage? They did suffer a few killed and wounded during the day, but nothing in comparison to the rest of the regiment.

I have on hand:

Weston's history from Clarks;

Schaffner's diary from the NC State Archives;

Shore's letters from Emory University;

Patterson's Reminiscences for the NC State Archives;

and, a few newspaper accounts.

Just not much there to draw upon...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Regimental Histories – updated list


Friends, please find below what I believe to be an updates list of modern (post-1960) North Carolina Regimental histories. If you see something I have missed, please drop me a note.

4th NC Cavalry - Neil Raiford’s 4th North Carolina Cavalry, by Neil Raiford (2003).

6th NCST - The Bloody Sixth: The Sixth North Carolina Regiment, Confederate States of America, by Richard Iobst and Louis Manarin, (1965).

7th NC Cavalry - The 5th and 7th Battalions North Carolina Cavalry and the 6th North Carolina Cavalry, by Jeffrey Weaver (1995).

11th NCST - More Terrible Than Victory: North Carolina’s Bloody Bethel Regiment by Craig S. Chapman (1998).

18th NCST - Cape Fear Confederates: The 18th North Carolina Regiment in the Civil War, by James Gillispie (2012).

21st NCT - The 21st North Carolina Infantry, Lee Sherill (2014 – coming soon).

25th NCT - The 25th North Carolina Troops in the Civil War, by Carroll Jones (2009).

28th NCT - The 28th North Carolina Infantry, by Frances Casstevens (2008).

30th NCT - To Drive the Enemy from Southern Soil The Letters of Col. Francis Marion and the History of the 30th North Carolina Troops by Michael W. Taylor (1998).

37th NCT – The Thirty-seventh North Carolina Troops: Tar Heels in the Army of Northern Virginia, by Michael C. Hardy (2003).

55th NCT - 55th North Carolina Troops, by Jeffrey M. Girvan (2006).

58th NCT – The Fifty-eighth North Carolina Troops; Tar Heels in the Army of Tennessee, by Michael C. Hardy (2010).

Thomas’s Legion - Storm in the Mountains: Thomas’ Confederate Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers, by Vernon H. Crow  (1982).

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What's your favorite Civil War-related book?


Last night, I picked up one of my favorite books for a re-read. That book is Harsh's Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign. It is more than just a favorite. Of the hundreds of books that I own, I would list Taken at the Flood as my second favorite book, right behind Wiley's The Life of Johnny Reb.

What do I like about Harsh? The level of detail. Harsh was well-versed in his topic, and on almost every page of Taken at the Flood some new fact, or little known detail in regards to Lee and the Maryland campaign is explored in great detail, so much detail that Taken at the Flood had to be split up into three different books.

So you have my top two favorite War-related books: The Life of Johnny Reb at number one, and, Taken at the Flood as number two. What comes next? Hard to say. Probably coming in third would be Freeman's R. E. Lee, or maybe Inscoe's The Heart of Confederate Appalachia, or maybe Coddington's The Gettysburg Campaign, or maybe Beatie's series on the Army of the Potomac. I had thought at one time about writing a series on the north Georgia battles, starting with Dalton in February 1864, and through Jonesboro, in the same vein as Harsh or Beatie, but as of now, I have yet to start collecting (beyond my work on the 58th North Carolina Troops). Who knows, maybe I'll get to it one day.

Is there a new book on my shelf or on my to-order list hat could solidify the third position? Maybe. I'm looking forward to reading Hartwig's book on the first part of the Maryland Campaign. Interestingly, as I retrieved Harsh from my shelf last night and re-shelved the two books on the battle of Ox Hill, I noticed that I have eighteen books on the Maryland Campaign. That's coming close to my own small Gettysburg Collection, in which I have twenty-seven books.

I posed the question above in the title line: what's your favorite book on the War? Well?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Books on the battle of Ox Hill


In my quest to fully understand and write about the role of the Branch-Lane brigade, I recently finished reading the only two books on the battle of Ox Hill: Welker's The Tempest at Ox Hill (2002) and Taylor's He Hath Loosed the Fateful Lightning (2003). Both of these books were released after I had finished writing The Thirty-seventh North Carolina Troops, and I have not done anything with the topic since the late 1990s.

The battle of Ox Hill, also known as the battle of Chantilly, was a small action fought on the heels of the Federal route at Second Manassas. Stonewall Jackson was attempting to interpose his divisions between the retreating Federals and Washington, D. C. The attacks of two Federal divisions, under Stevens and Kearny, along with a violent thunderstorm, and with darkness fast approaching, stymied Jackson's plan. While Stevens and Kearny were killed, and the Federals abandoned the field after the close of the battle, Jackson's attempts to cut off the retreat were also foiled.

My initial assessment of the two books is this: The Tempest at Ox Hill is better written, while He Hath Loosed the Fateful Lightning contained more material. However, I would not consider either book as presenting a good overview of the battle.

Welker's books is a great book when it comes to the Federal side of the battle. The role of Stevens and Kearny, two of the best Union generals in the Virginia theater, along with the pre-war lives, is deeply explored. The information regarding the various Union regiments in the battle, like the 79th New York Highlands, is given ample treatment. But there is not a corresponding treatment of Confederate generals and brigades/regiments. While I did not find a lot of material while working on my book on the 37th North Carolina, I did find enough to present their thoughts on the battle.

Taylor's book is a little better balanced. His great contribution comes in his discussion on the role of other events connected to the battle, like the arrival of Clara Barton at Fairfax Station in an attempt to administer aid to the Federal wounded. Taylor also goes on and discusses the loss of the Ox Hill/Chantilly battlefield to shopping centers and subdivisions, and the subsequent birth of the Civil War Preservation Trust and the successful battlefield preservation movement.

Taylor's tome, while shorter, has more illustrations, and both books have adequate maps.

There is a third "book" on the battle of Ox Hill - Charles V. Mauro's The Battle of Chantilly (Ox Hill: A Monumental Storm), released in 2002. I do not own this book, and at 92 pages, I doubt it can add a lot to the discussion. Also at price tag of $80.00 (almost a dollar per page), I doubt I will be adding it to my shelves.

James H. Lane, then colonel of the 28th North Carolina Troops, wrote that "This engagement is regarded by the brigade as one of our severest." It would be frutiful to know what other Confederates thought of the battle as well.