Monday, July 30, 2007

Reading on Braxton Bragg

I started my reading this past weekend on Braxton Bragg - are there any "good" books on Bragg? I’ve started with the two-volume Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat.
I recently finished Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia. by McKnight - loved it! Just wished there had been a little more about the military campaigns that affected the socio-economic outlook of the area.

I also read War at Every Door: Partisan Politics and Guerrilla Violence in East Tennessee 1860-1869 by Fisher - I really liked this book also. I took lots of notes

Lastly, I’ve read The Terrible Time: The Civil War in Kentucky’s Bell, Knox, Laurel, and Whitley Counties by Taylor - I really wanted to like this book. I spend a lot of time in this area. Alas, there is not really anything here that cannot be found online for free. Plus, a full third of the book is reenactorisms. I’ve reenacted for over 25 years; I think I know how to load a musket.

After Bragg, I plan to read the bio on E. Kirby Smith.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

58th update

Gloomy day here in the mountains of western NC. It seems that we have tried to make up for our year-long rain deficit in the last couple of days.

If you have emailed me in the past couple of weeks, please be patient - I am getting to them as fast as possible. I think I sent close to one hundred emails in the past week. I’ve probably still got one hundred to go.

I did take time last night to actually work on the 58th NC book. I took chapter 3 and dropped it onto the bottom of chapter 1. Chapter 2 stayed the same, and the new chapter 3 is all about Vance’s Legion. Chapter 4 deals with the actual formation of the regiment. Chapter 1 now gives background on Colonel Palmer, the bridge burners, and the formation of the Mitchell Rangers. Chapter 2 backtracks and covers some of the foundations of why we had a war, especially from a North Carolina point of view.

Chapter 4 should not be too difficult - just a lot of names and dates and brief county histories.
I’m still having a hard time trying to divide up chapter 5. This chapter, time wise (at least in my mind), covers from August of 1862, when the 58th North Carolina arrives in east Tennessee, until September 1863, when they leave and join the Army of Tennessee in time for the battle of Chickamauga. While the regiment did not fight in any battles, they did move around a lot. Plus, probably 50 percent of my primary sources fall within this chapter. Once the regiment joined the AofT, they wrote fewer letters. Original letters are such treasures, and it’s so great to tell the story in the soldiers’ own words that I like to use as much of this material as I can.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What to do about Vance's Legion....

For most of you who have been reading this blog for some time, you know that I’ve taken an interest in Vance’s Legion. Now I’m trying to decide what to do with the information that I’ve collected.

In the spring of 1862, Col. Zebulon B. Vance came up with the idea of recruiting a Legion. A Legion is an organization composed of Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery. His motivation behind the Legion seems to solely be gaining a brigadier general’s star. Maybe that’s not quite a fair assessment, but that is the way it comes across in Vance’s correspondence.

Once gaining approval from the Confederate officials in Richmond, Vance began to run into problems. Vance had assumed that he would be able to get help from the governor in Raleigh - NOT! - They were of different political persuasions, and since Vance had not sought their approval, they turned a deaf ear to the young colonel. Vance assumed that he would be able to get companies already formed and in the training camps around Raleigh - NOT! See above for the reason.

Vance was facing a tight deadline regarding the Conscription Act. He basically had thirty days to finish his recruitment for his Legion. However, Vance could not even secure a pass from his commanding officer to allow him to go and recruit himself. Lastly, there were other people out recruiting, taking (not on purpose) men from the areas that Vance was most popular - his former 10th Congressional District, in the mountains of the western part of the state.

In the end, Vance was only able to recruit four companies for his Legion, three of infantry and one of cavalry, before his time ran out. The Legion failed, not only because it never met its recruitment goals, but because the idea of Legions became unpopular with the Confederate high command. Those four companies joined other regiments.

That leads me to this: I’ve come up with enough primary sources (there are almost no secondary sources) on Vance’s Legion to put together a small booklet on the organization. Say maybe 30 or 40 pages, with a roster. Would anyone out there be interested in a book on a group that never really existed?

Please drop me a line and let me know. I would probably self-publish the book. I’ve written eight books and have always worked with traditional publishers. The self publishing route would be a different road for me. I’m interested in your feedback!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Yesterday, I answered about 35 emails concerning the 58th NCT, and two concerning the 37th NCT. I am trying hard to get the emails from my recent genforum posting caught up. If I have not answered yours yet,please be patient. Yesterday's emails brought a smattering of birth and death dates, a couple of obits, and three post-war photographs. I am glad to have every one.

Richard Williams at Old Virginia Blog wrote a great posting on civility in the blogging world. I'm thankfully on his "safe list." However, it led me to think about my own blogging habits. Most bloggers have long lists of other people's blogs. I don't. Not that I don't find everyone else's ramblings of interest. I try really hard to put up only the blogs that I have time to read. I am a full-time writer, and the time that I spend sitting here I try really hard to devote myself to the craft. Otherwise, I'm either sitting in my big leather chair reading, or I'm spending time outside, or with my family. I started to teach my six-year-old to play chess yesterday.

Well, I guess it's time to get back to that email pile. I think I still have about 70 emails to go.

Monday, July 23, 2007

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of going out with a fine group of folks to place VA grave markers on the graves of Confederate soldiers in Mitchell and Yancey Counties. The group later went on to Madison County, but I was not able to go with them. Our first stop was the old Bakersville Cemetery. We placed a new marker on the grave of Albert N. Marker. Next, we marked for the first time (save for a rock) the grave of John F. Baker. Baker died during the war in a hospital in Bakersville, North Carolina.

The group then took off for the Bear Creek Cemetery, where we replaced the broken grave marker of William Duncan.

Next, we took off up Rebel’s Creek to place a centotaph for John Howell. That is the large group photograph. The fellows in suits are from the SCV Camp in Blountville, Tennessee, and one of them is related to Pvt. Howell.

Finally it was off to Yancey County and the Silver Cemetery, where we placed a marker for W. Alexander Silver. Silver died in Yancey County in 1862, and we believe that he is buried here in this cemetery near his parents.

That is when I had to leave the group and head for the Toe River Storytelling Festival. As usual, I have far more to do than I have days on the calendar!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I started a new blog yesterday. It is called Glimpses of Avery County and is a place to show off some of my local photography.

Last night, at 11:57pm, I finished posting the names all 2,003 men who served in the 58th North Carolina Troops on genforum. This project has taken weeks - I’ve posted the names of the soldiers, along with where they were from, when they were born, and in what company they served. I did this with the book on the 37th North Carolina Troops I did several years ago, and I had really good results.

I have already had really good results this time around. I’ve acquired several good family stories, several unpublished photograph, and an unpublished diary from Caldwell County. So, it has already been worth the time that it is has taken me to get it done.

I’ve got a couple more local research trips before I can get back to seriouss writing. I’ve been trying to find a way to divide up chapter three, which covers January to July 1862. I think I am going to pull out the information on Vance’s Legion and make it a separate chapter and move the current chapter three to chapter four.

Well, time to go to work. If you sent me an email in the past week, I’m going to start trying to answer them today.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Richmond is a hard road to travel

What a trip - I left home Wednesday morning at 11:00 am, and got back home Thursday afternoon at 12:45 pm. I drove to Ashland, Virginia, did a program for the Hanover Metal Detecting Club, spent the night, and came home. My six - year old son has caught a bug, and I needed to be at home by 1:00pm so Elizabeth could go to work. This is not the quickest trip to Richmond that I’ve ever taken. Once, when we were in grad school (before kids), we day tripped from Boone, NC, to Richmond. We were poor, and could not afford a room, so we left early one morning and drove to the area (I think it was on a January 2, maybe 1996 or 1997), and visited a few of the attractions - I remember the Poe Museum. We then ate, and drove home - that is 12 hours on the road, plus a full of day of battlefield and museum tromping.

I’ve been working on this site - what do you think? I’ve added another topic line to the right - what I’m reading right now. I’m reading War at Every Door for research purposes. The other book, Science of the Founding Fathers- is for fun. I thought about a column for books that I’ve purchased recently. I’ve picked up the new book on Lee by Pryor, Atlanta and the War by Garrison, and a history of Wise County, VA, and the War. I had never heard of the book by Garrison. It was published in 1995, and I got it for $5 in a used book store in Berea, Kentucky.

I didn’t mind not having much time in the Richmond area for this trip. I really don’t enjoy battlefield tromping with the temps 90+.

I really enjoyed seeing some of the treasures of the Hanover Metal Detecting Club. It is nice to know that some of these artifacts are being rescued from construction sites.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

All this just to say...

A couple of days ago, I wrote a paragraph, a nice long one, on the bridge burnings in east Tennessee and their connection to the formation of the first company of the 58th North Carolina Troops. This was for my book on the 58th NCT. Sometimes writers spend a lot of time setting up a scene - like the bridge burnings, just to say something might have happened. I discovered this when putting together my book on Watauga County. I spent over a page writing about the causes of the Spanish-American War and the recruiting process for local men, just to sum up the section by saying that these recruits never got into the war.
The same might be said for my research into Vance’s Legion. Off and on for the past month I’ve been researching this group - an organization that never really existed.
I’ve often wondered why the 29th, 39th, 58th, and 60th North Carolina regiments were sent to east Tennessee, and later the Army of Tennessee or other western commands. The 29th NCT was sent in direct response to the bridge burnings. Not sure about the 39th NCT and 60th NCT yet. The 58th NCT was sent to attempt to secure the area and help stem the tide of men leaving east Tennessee for Federal regiments in Kentucky.
This afternoon, I’m off the Virginia to speak to the Hanover Metal Detecting Club at the library in Ashland.

Monday, July 09, 2007

New Book - Just Released

Folks - I am happy to announce the release of my eighth book - Remembering Avery County: Old Tales from North Carolina’s Youngest County, published by the History Press of Charleston, South Carolina.

Remembering Avery County picks up where my Avery County pictorial history, released in 2005, left off. When one puts together a pictorial history, one is confined to a small amount of words for each photograph. So many of those people in those photographs have amazing stories and that is what this book does - tells stories. There are twenty-five essays in this book (along with forty plus photos) that tell the story of Avery County’s past, like biographical information on the county’s namesakes - Waightstill Avery and William C. Newland, Jr. You can find information on Howard C. Marmon, designer of the car that won the first Indy 500 and who lived in Pineola; Lulu Bell and Scotty, who were national radio personalities and helped preserve mountain music; Keith and Malinda Blalock, who ran an underground railroad through the area in the 1860s. There are also essays on mining, railroading, Grandfather Mountain, and the Land of Oz.

The book has also gotten its first good review. Check out what Scott Nicholson wrote in the Mountain Times at

I am taking orders - you can obtain a signed copy of Remembering North Carolina’s Confederates for just $22.00. Checks or money orders can be sent to PO Box 393, Crossnore, NC 28616. I will also be doing some local book signings in the very near future. I hope to see many of you at an upcoming event!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

I got an email from a friend a couple of days ago. He is interested in a group of Georgians stationed along the coast of North Carolina in April 1862. One of the soldiers wrote a letter headed "Bivouac of the N. C. Battalion, near Elizabeth City, N. C., April 24th 1862." It is believed that the letter was written from the Richardson’s Farm or Richardson’s Mill area. Does anyone know to what NC Infantry Battalion the writer is referring? It is not the 2nd North Carolina Battalion - they had all been captured and sent home on parole. Another clue - The Georgia writer also writes "that after the evacuation of Norfolk and Portsmouth, this battalion marched to Petersburg with Huger’s Division"

Does anyone have any idea to whom the writer was referring? I told my friend that I’d throw this information out and we’ll see what comes back in. I’m looking forward to seeing what surfaces!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Delap Family Cemetery

I’ve spent the past few days on "vacation" in east Tennessee and Kentucky. I know many people would not consider the constant tramp through battlefields, museums, and cemeteries as much of a vacation - but it is the only way I know. Last Friday, I revisited the Delap Family Cemetery in Campbell County, Tennessee.

For those of you not familiar with this story, here are portions of an article that I wrote two years ago:

North Carolina Confederate Soldiers Honored at Last.

On a recent warm and humid Saturday morning, more than 250 people gathered on a hilltop in LaFollette, Tennessee. They were there to honor a group of long-lost Confederate soldiers. Many of those soldiers were from the mountains of western North Carolina.

In the summer of 1862, these soldiers marched away from Grasslands, the estate of Col. John B. Palmer. The soldiers who left for war that summer represented some of the oldest families in the area, and they joined for many reasons: personal and family honor, desire to "see the world," and fear of conscription.

The regiment was the 58th North Carolina Troops. Their destination was garrison duty in east Tennessee. The first winter for these soldiers, 1862 to 1863, was a difficult one. Over sixty men from the 58th North Carolina perished far from their mountain homes. They died not from battlefield wounds, but from a host of diseases, including measles, typhoid, and even dehydration from intestinal viruses. Since their encampment was described as being "near a spring," it is possible that they were exposed to contaminated water. Those who succumbed were buried in a local family cemetery and, for the most part, forgotten.

But there were a few local residents who remembered the cemetery. Eighty-four-year-old Alice Coker learned about the cemetery from its caretaker, Bob Delay, in the 1960s.

In 2003, Watauga County native Leta Cornett, whose grandfather had served in the 58th North Carolina and met his death in camp that winter of 1862-1863, stopped by the Campbell County Historical Society and Museum and inquired about the location of the burial ground. She was directed to Coker.

Ms. Coker quickly identified the cemetery, grown up with trees and thorny bushes after years of neglect, as the long-lost burial ground of the 58th North Carolina. Historical societies and government agencies from across Tennessee and North Carolina quickly became involved, and the cemetery was cleaned and restored. Tombstones were ordered from the Veterans Administration....

I wrote several articles about the cemetery, many of which were published in local newspapers and in the Carolina Confederate. Sadly, the story of these Confederate soldiers is not well known out of Campbell County, Tennessee, and western North Carolina.

This was my first trip back to the cemetery since the memorial service in June 2005. I wanted to take a few pictures without all of the people milling around. The photograph above was one of those that I brought home, along with all the food, baby clothes, and zucchini that my wife’s relatives loaded into our car!

I’m having a rather restful July Fourth before heading down to our little community celebration this afternoon. It’s a great little event with plenty of fun photo opportunities and chances to visit with the public. I always look forward to it.