Friday, November 30, 2007

Book signing - tomorrow

Folks - I’ll be signing books tomorrow, December 1st, at the Carson House in Marion, North Carolina, from 12:00 until 3:00 pm. If you are in the area, drop by and say hi!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Col. Isaac E. Avery - 6th NCST

Folks - I had a reader send me a couple of days ago this piece about the marking of the grave of Col. Isaac E. Avery of the 6th North Carolina State Troops. Averyw as from Burke County, North Carolina, and penned the famous "I died with my face towards the enemy" from the fields of Gettysburg.

This article is from The Herald-Mail

Sunday November 4, 2007Family pays its last respects to Rebel soldier who was a hero

After 34-year-old Col. Isaac Erwin Avery was shot and died during the Battle of Gettysburg, his slave, Elijah, set off on a journey south to return Avery to Swan Ponds plantation in Morganton, N.C., his native soil.

As Avery’s body began to decompose, Elijah reconsidered his plan and buried Avery in Williamsport overlooking the Potomac River. Unbeknownst to his family, Avery’s body eventually was moved to Hagerstown along with thousands of other Confederate soldiers.

Avery’s family brought his native soil to him Saturday during a tombstone dedication ceremony at Rose Hill Cemetery.

For years the Avery family had been unable to locate the colonel’s remains, Civil War enthusiast and writer Richard Clem said.

Research done by Clem, 67, of Hagerstown, determined Avery’s final resting place and was the basis for a story he wrote for The Washington Times in March.

"After I wrote the article, I put the paper between my folded hands and prayed it would end up in the hands of the right people," Clem said Saturday morning. By the blessing of God that we are here this morning.

Isaac Avery’s fourth cousin, Civil War re-enactor Bruce Avery, 52, of Stevensville, Md., read Clem’s article and called him.

Bruce Avery said the mystery was solved after all these years. He said, "We need to put a stone on that grave," Clem said.

Clem provided documentation of Avery’s Hagerstown burial to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which furnished and inscribed the marker free of charge.

More than 30 people were present for the dedication, including Clem, members of the Avery family and Civil War re-enactors from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

It was a crisp and sunny morning as Bruce Avery stood in the grass facing the ground-level marker. Avery acknowledged Clem for his efforts, then spent several minutes sharing an account of Isaac Avery’s life and service. At times, Bruce became choked up and paused to regain his composure. He said Isaac Avery’s military superiors had recommended his promotion to general, but his career was cut short by death.

Bruce’s friend and fellow re-enactor, Michael Hendricks of Virginia Beach, Va., read a letter written by Maj. Samuel Tate, Isaac Avery’s friend, following Avery’s death. Mary Ann Avery, Bruce’s wife, read an excerpt from Shelby Foote’s The Civil War " A Narrative.

"Ken Avery, 55, of Annapolis, Bruce’s brother, blessed the grave and sprinkled it with soil from Swan Ponds, the Avery plantation in North Carolina.

"May all who visit in the future know this is hallowed and sacred ground," Ken Avery said.

As the ceremony concluded, 5-year-old Christopher Avery, Bruce’s son, placed a wreath on the marker.

It’s sad for the family when you don’t know where a soldier is buried. It tore (Isaac Avery’s father apart not knowing, Mary Ann Avery said. It’s important to have him marked with soil from his home state. He is still under North Carolina soil after today.

Ken Avery said it meant a lot to finally identify his ancestor’s final resting place."We are direct descendants. He was a hero to the cause of the South," Ken Avery said. "This helps us bring some closure to this little piece of our family history."

Bruce Avery said as a Civil War re-enactor for nearly 20 years, he was especially pleased to honor his family’s history.

"I know the family story behind Isaac. It’s an honor for me to have gotten this done," Bruce Avery said. "Hopefully, he’s up there looking down and smiling."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

One of the benefits of my job, at least as I see it, is being able to spend time in some of the most beautiful cemeteries in the South. There are not many cemeteries that I’ve not visited and photographed.

One of the frustrating things about working in cemeteries is finding the names of men who are of the right age to be in the war, but not being able to match those people to anyone from the area. Following the war, tens of thousands of Southern families picked up what was left of their lives and moved on. Sometimes those moves were just over the county line. More often than not, these families moved out west, to Texas, Oklahoma, Washington and Oregon.

When working in local cemeteries, I often jot down all of the names of men who have dates between 1820 and 1850. Below are the men from the Montezuma Cemetery in Avery County. This is one of the oldest cemeteries in the area, and is somewhat connected to my church, even though it is a community cemetery. Here are the names with the dates and regiment when I am somewhat certain.

Anderson, Enoch 14 Jan. 1844 - 8 Apr. 1900 Co. K, 37th NCT
Banner, Columbus B 1840-1931 4th TN (US)
Blalock, William M. "Keith" 21 Nov. 1837-18 Jul. 1913 26th NCT/10th Mich. Cav. (US)
Blalock, Sarah M. "Sam" 26th NCT
Carpenter, John C. 13 Jul. 1846-13 May 1931
Clifton, Samuel 14 Jan. 1843 - 11 Jan. 1922 (1st NCST ?)
Forbes, Abraham 13 Jun. 1846-
Franklin, John 14 Jan. 1817 - 1 Feb. 1900 Co. B, 6th NC Cav.
Harris, Rev. William J. 8 Aug. 1839-31 Oct. 1911 (Co. D., 44th NCT ?)
Luttrell, E. M. 4 Feb. 1847 - 3 Jan. 1929 Co. H, 13th Tenn. Cav.
Matney, Rev. Arthur R. 1 Nov. 1821 - 10 Apr. 1892
Matney, Rev. Thomas W. 1 Dec. 1829 - 23 Dec. 1892 Co. I, 26th NCT
Rash, James B. 13 Oct. 1845-1 Oct. 1912 26th NCT
Teague, William 15 Sept. 1818 - 18 Feb. 1894
Key, Thomas W. 1821-1892
Rominger, J. H. 1843-1898

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A few days ago, Andrew Wagenhoffer on his blog Civil War Books and Authors had a review of Walter Hilderman’s They Went into the Fight Cheering: Confederate Conscription in North Carolina. Check out his review here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

In the current issue of America's Civil War, there is an article by Tonia J. Smith (TeeJ) about Abby House. (Congrats to TeeJ on the article's publication!) Abby House was from Franklintown, North Carolina, and took an active role in the welfare of Confederate soldiers from her town. She frequently visited soldiers in hospitals around Richmond. House grew vegetables on her farm, she collected clothing, blankets, and shoes for soldiers in the field. And, she gained audiences with Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, trying to better the treatment of sick and wounded Confederates soldiers. After the war ended, House moved to Raleigh, and, in a strange turn of events, was asked to represent her county (Clay) at the State Democratic Convention in 1876, becoming the first women in North Carolina to vote. If you don't subscribe to America's Civil War, try stopping by your local newsstand and pick up a copy of the January issue. The article is well worth your time.

There were other women connected with North Carolina who were just as important and interesting. Just about everyone knows about Rose Greenhow. The famous Confederate spy drowned off the North Carolina coast in 1864 after her ship ran aground near Fort Fisher. She is buried in Wilmington.

Then there is Emeline Pigott, twenty-five when the war started and from Morehead City. Pigott worked as a nurse during the early part of the war, and after her love died at Gettysburg, worked whole-heartily for the Confederacy. She operated a spy ring between Morehead City and Kinston until her arrest . Pigott was released, and continued to work as a nurse for the rest of the war. She died in 1919 and is buried in the family cemetery in Morehead City.

You can also add Laura Wesson, a young women from Virginia who worked as a nurse in High Point and died during the war. She is buried in the High Point cemetery, amongst the soldiers.

I am quite sure other stories are out there. If I remember correctly, there are two strongly documented stories about women who served as men during the war. One was Malinda Blalock from my neck of the woods. The other was from the coastal area and I seem to have forgotten her name.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I think that I have almost recovered from my recent excursion. On Monday evening I spoke to the SCV Camp in Lenoir. This is a fine group of folks. I spoke for about 30 minutes about Confederate Veteran Reunions, and then for the next hour and a half, we just talked about the War. I find myself enjoying this type of dialog more and more.

On Tuesday, I journeyed to Duke University. I had been informed that there was letters from William Oxford of the 58th NCT in a collected under his sisters name. Well, there was a letter from July 1863. Just one more piece of the puzzle. There also letters from soldiers in the 7th, 22nd, and 26th Regiments.

From Duke, I made my way to Raleigh. I had half a dozen pension records that I wanted to look at. When I got off the elevator, I hardly recognized the place. I actually thought that I was on the wrong floor. The place has been remodeled beautifully. Most of the pension records were a bust, or did not contain any pertinent information. One did, andI'll discuss that later. I did have chance to meet Chris Meekins, who works at the archives, is on the Sesquicentennial Committee, and confessed to being a blog reader.

After leaving the archives, I traveled South out of Raleigh, and spent a large part of the evening talking with the fine folks at the SCV Camp in Garner. I was planing to spend the night, but some circumstances here on the home front brought me back. I got in about 1:00 am and spent most of yesterday trying to recover.

I had a great time at all of the venues that I visited, and it is nice to find folks who read these random thoughts of mine.

By the way, if you have emailed me recently, I am about 140 responses behind. I'll get to yours soon.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Yet another busy past couple of days. On Friday, I had the honor to take my son to Linville Caverns with his homeschool group. Linville Caverns is located in Burke County. During the War, the Caverns were used by deserters as one of the many hideouts in the area. As the story goes, one of the men in the cave, a cobbler, started making shoes and traveling to town (Morganton?) to trade the shoes for supplies. We have the bench that he supposedly used in the museum in Newland. Inside the caverns there was a small area covered with sand, one of the only dry areas in the entire complex. This is where the men camped and built a fire. The smoke from the fire filtered out of the top of the caverns, disclosing their whereabouts to the local home guard, and the men were captured. The photograph on the right is the area where the men built their fires.

On Saturday, I had the privilege of helping install several gravestones and one iron cross on graves in cemeteries in Mitchell and Avery Counties. Pictured on the right is the marker we placed on the grave of Lt. Col. John Keener of the 58th NCT. The group went on to place more markers in Yancey County, and I came home to get ready to go to Boone for a reception for the Watauga County Historical Society. That group is 30 years old this month.

Tonight, I am off to Lenior for a book signing. Tomorrow night, I’ll be in Gardner, just below Raleigh. I’m hoping to get some research done over the next couple of days at Chapel Hill and Duke.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Program last night

The program last night at the public library in Spruce Pine was great. Sixteen people gathered and we spent two hours on all aspects of the war. While the previous meeting in Yancey County focused on "battles and leaders," our discussion this time covered politics and local history.

I would really like to see these type of discussions going on in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Events are already in the works to hold "round table" discussions about the War in Avery, Watauga, and Caldwell Counties next spring, and I am quite certain that we will hold meetings in Yancey and Mitchell again. That leaves 95 counties to go.

While I could not participate in discussions in all of North Carolina’s counties (that would be something like three a week, considering I don’t travel January through March), I think that I’ll work toward as many as possible.

If you are interested in having a "_____ County and the Civil War" discussion in your county, please drop me a line at

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Mixed Arms

Last night, I was up at ASU again, continuing my journey through the compiled service records of the 58th NCT. It takes me about three hours to go through one roll. And to be honest, three hours is about as much microfilm reading that I can do at one time. The one really interesting thing that I found was a requisition, showing that the 58th NCT "borrowed" two cases of ammunition from the 65th GA: one thousand rounds of musket cartridges, and one thousand rounds of Mississippi ammunition. I suspect that the musket cartridges were .69 cal. smoothbore. Mississippi to me would mean .54 cal. What does all of this mean? That on the eve of the battle of Chickamauga, the 58th was mixed when it comes to their arms - possibly a nightmare for their ordnance officer.

Having a regiment with different caliber of arms seems to be a common thing for the first half of the war. Granted, I have only studied one other regiment on this level, the 37th NCT. The 37th started the war with flintlocks. By the time of the battle of New Bern, they were armed with altered .69 cal. muskets. After arriving in Virginia in May 1862, two companies of the regiment were armed with Enfield rifles (.577 caliber). In keeping with earlier time periods, these two companies should have been the flanking companies of the regiment. It was not until May/June 1863 that the rest of the regiment traded their smoothbores in for rifles.

Maybe in time, as I study other North Carolina regiments, more of this type of history can be brought to light.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Mitchell County and the Civil War round table announcement

Do you have an ancestor who served in the Confederate or Union army? Want to know what happened on Bakersville during the War of Northern Aggression? What did the men who marched away in 1861 and 1862 do? Were they at Gettysburg? Chickamauga? Bentonville? Appomattox? Join a group of local historians on Tuesday, November 6, at 6:30 pm, at the Spruce Public Library as we discuss the both Mitchell County and the War for Southern Independence, and the role that Mitchell County men played in many far off places. This event is free, and the public is invited to attend. Please bring a friend and all of those questions about the Civil War that you never knew whom to ask. For more information, please contact Michael Ledford at (828) 682-9152.