What a weekend… I won’t give you all of the details, but I have made an observation that I want to share. This past weekend, I participated in two living histories and one book signing.
Friday morning started with me at the old Cranberry High School in Avery County. I was asked to be a part of the (new) Cranberry School’s Appalachian History Day, and I was honored to participate. I worked with four groups of about fifteen eighth graders each. Some of the talk was standard: this is how a soldier dressed, the equipment he carried, this is what battle was like, how post-battle wounds were treated. But what I really wanted to impress upon students was what had happened locally, and there was probably not a better place, for we could look out the window and see across the field the old Cranberry Mines, where iron-ore had been mined for the Confederacy during the war, and where a raid in June 1864 destroyed the facility.
Saturday morning found me setting up a camp in neighboring Yancey County with some very good friends and fellow interpreters. We had been asked by a home schooling group in Yancey County to have a living history for their students. We established seven stations: small arms, common soldiers, artillery, children’s lives and toys, cooking, soldier care packages, and local history. I had the privilege of doing the local history talk. About a mile from where we were (on Jack’s Creek), there had been a skirmish between dissidents and members of the home guard in October 1863.
On Sunday, I was at the Caldwell Heritage Museum in Lenoir, signing copies of my book on the 58th North Carolina Troops. It was great seeing many of you and hearing your stories. The museum has a good local Civil War collection that I encourage you to visit. What is more interesting is that the museum sits about a block away from St. James Episcopal Church, which was used by Gen. George Stoneman as a prison during his 1865 raid into western North Carolina.
So, three sites in three days, with three links to Civil War history. What I tried to impress upon my students is what happened here, at this site, or right up the road from where we were. Studying battlefields like Gettysburg and Chickamauga is great, and I encourage everyone to visit the parks, but you don’t need to drive to Virginia or Tennessee to glimpse Civil War history. It happened here just like it happened at those places.