Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Civil War markers unveiled in Lexington

Found this article on my web crawl this morning. Good to see Chris is still out there working on preserving local history. I first met him when he was an undergrad at ASU. He used to come over and set on my porch and talk about the war. This is from the Lexington Dispatch

Civil War markers unveiled in Lexington
The Dispatch

When local historian Chris Watford decided to take a closer look into Davidson County’s Civil War history in 2003, the multi-state Civil War Trail program hadn’t yet expanded into central
North Carolina.

Within two years, the first two
Davidson County markers on the trail were dedicated in Thomasville. A third in the Chair City followed in March of this year, commemorating a field hospital that treated union and confederate soldiers wounded in the Battle of Bentonville in Johnston County.

On Saturday, Watford, alongside tourism and history museum officials, unveiled two new markers in
Lexington with a third to follow Sunday at Lake Thom-A-Lex. For Watford, the unveilings of the county’s fourth, fifth and sixth markers were a recognition of the role local people played in a pivotal moment in U.S. history.

“I came to realize, as a historian and a history buff, that these were some great stories that needed to be told,” Watford said.

The Saturday unveilings were performed amid a living history event that helped tell the story of the Union occupation of
Lexington in the late spring and summer of 1865, when Maj. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick took up residence in The Homestead on South Main Street, a private residence owned by Dr. William R. Holt. The doctor was away at the time of Kilpatrick’s arrival, securing his plantation, Linwood, against the threat of raiders. Holt’s wife, Louisa, offered up The Homestead to Kilpatrick upon his arrival in Lexington to prevent it from being taken by force, something she feared might place her family in danger.

After Kilpatrick set up his command at The Homestead, the Ninth Pennsylvania Cavalry arrived in
Lexington and took up residence at the Old Court House on the Square. The Union forces would remain in Lexington through July 1865.

The Union’s attraction to the two sites is understandable: The Old Court House was just as striking a presence in that era as it is today, and The Homestead was widely regarded as the most impressive house in the city at the time.

“In May of 1865, these were two of the most prominent landmarks in
Lexington,” Watford said.

On Saturday, reenactors from the 26th and 27th
North Carolina stepped momentarily out of character, donning blue Union uniforms to portray the Ninth Pennsylvania Cavalry in a living history event hosted in cooperation with the county’s Tourism Recreation Investment Partnership and the Davidson County Historical Museum. The regiment hosted “School of the Soldier” demonstrations, showing those in attendance the training exercises a newly enlisted man in the Civil War era would have undergone.

“It was part of the training that the men went through to learn to operate as a cohesive unit in battle,” said Capt. Dennis Brooks of the 26th
North Carolina. Sgt. Clint Johnson, also of the 26th, said these types of events can be illuminating for smaller towns not commonly thought of as Civil War hot spots.

“It gives the citizens a chance to realize that history happened in their town,” he said.

To aid in that realization, the
Davidson County Historical Museum opened its exhibit, “Marking the Trail of Our Civil War History,” featuring artifacts on loan from local ancestors of Civil War soldiers. Those items range from rifles and sabers to a wooden leg that once belonged to a local confederate soldier, Lindsay Lemuel Conrad, on whose land along Abbotts Creek, near modern-day Lake Thom-A-Lex, Confederate President Jefferson Davis camped in April 1865. That occurrence was noted on the Civil War marker at the lake Sunday afternoon.Museum curator Catherine Hoffmann said the exhibit focuses on the events of all six Davidson County markers.“We’re using these objects as triggers to discuss what visitors are interested in,” Hoffmann said.

With six markers on the Civil War Trail now firmly established in the county, Watford has his sights set on more official recognition for local historic sites. The two that were unveiled Saturday, he said, were made possible by years of concern for local landmarks by area residents.

“These sites were preserved not only throughout the federal occupation but by the care and concern of the people of
Lexington,” Watford said.

Glen Baity can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 227
, or glen.baity@the-dispatch.com.


Anonymous said...

This was and is a great idea. I'll have to check this out sometime.

LoveMySouthland said...

I attended the Sunday unveiling, it was very nice. The reenactors from the Davidson Guards SCV Camp are very friendly group of people.