This past Saturday, I was at the Appalachian Authors’ Festival in Old Fort, North Carolina. There were several other authors there, including Richard Russell, editor of Fear in North Carolina: The Journals and Letters of the Henry Family (great book if you don’t already have it!).
I was surprised to see David Madden, founder of the U. S. Civil War Center at LSU and Lincoln Bicentennial Member. We had a very interesting talk about the upcoming sesquicentennial of the War. One part of our conversation centered on what appears to be a lack of community input and participation in our upcoming sesquicentennial plans. Sure, the state has a web page, but look at the North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee – every single person on this Committee works for the state. Look at the plans of the sesquicentennial committee – academic symposiums to be held in Raleigh, Wake Forest University, and (probably) UNC-Wilmington. The committee plans to hold programs and events at thirteen of the state’s historic sites (two each year per site). That’s great. What about the dozens of historic sites across the state that are not within the state’s system? I can think of three historic sites within an hour of my house – has anyone from the state contacted them to see if they are interested?
This is not to bash the folks on the Commission – this is just to say that the focus seems a little one-sided.
I took a look at the Sesquicentennial plans in Virginia. Their commission seems dominated by politicians. While I do not think that this system is the best, at least they are answerable to the people. What is nice to see is that just about every county, and a few of the large cities, have formed their own sesquicentennial committees. Wow – the entire state working together. Sure, I know, some of these committees will be working harder than others, but at least something is happening.
Most you know that I have been working on promoting an open discussion about the war in the western part of the state. I’ve been working in five different counties, trying to get people out and talking about the War, both in terms of the men (and women )who marched away, and the events that took place at home. I am going to continue to do this, and I hope to expand in the next couple of years. As I told Madden on Saturday, I would love to see this type of local dialogue happen in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. I would love to be a part of each one, which is probably not a very realistic goal. But, if I can work with the counties that are interested and the counties that are nearby, then maybe something can happen to educate and preserve what took place 150 years ago. Maybe I’ll even head down to the next Avery County Commissioners meeting to try and get approval for a local Avery County Sesquicentennial Committee.
Come on North Carolina, you supplied more men and lost more men than any other Southern State. We can do better than what we are doing.