Friday, February 26, 2010

News and notes...

Lots going on around the Old North State. Here are a few things that I found for your entertainment and education.

The 145th anniversary of the battle of Bentonville is coming up soon, and most of the news outlets are abuzz with articles concerning the reenactment. Here is one from the Carolina Newswire. Check it out here. Or, check out this one from the Fayetteville Observer here.

If you cannot wait until March to see the boys in Gray and Blue, head over to the Bennett Place this weekend for a living history. You can learn more here.

There is an article in the Beachside Resident on Wilmington that makes some mention about the War. The article includes some great pictures. Check it out here.

You can also find some information on Kinston and the War by visiting this link to an article on Eyewitness News 9’s web site.

Interesting article about post-war New Bern. Check it out here.

There is also a Civil War show in Salisbury this weekend. Learn more here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Hand of Friendship.

I grew up in the South. I have Confederate soldiers for ancestors. I love the South. And, I have no qualms about saying that. Throughout my travels and studies, I’ve come across many interesting people, such as Southern re-enactors who would never don the blue (“Grandpa would roll over in his grave,” they might say, while I’ve always been more interested in what is right historically.) And I’ve met people who have this notion that all Southerners hated all Yankees. Period. End of story. While this was true for some who donned the gray 145 years ago, it was not true for most, at least I don’t believe it was. To adopt and adhere to such an attitude would be un-Southern, un-Christian. We as Southerners believe that we should lend a helping hand to everyone, even if they are wrong.

Today, I am posting a story of one old Tar Heel Confederate soldier who was willing to extend the hand of friendship to a man, a Northerner, who had tried to kill him on the hills of Gettysburg.

Rather a Romantic Scene: Col. Lane sees Man Who Shot Him” Charlotte Observer 24 May 1903.

Raleigh, May 23—A romantic scene was witnessed here this morning when Col. John R. Lane was introduced to Mr. Charles H. McConnell, of Chicago, and Col. Lane grasped the hand of the man who shot him down upon the field of Gettysburg 40 years ago and almost killed him. Col. W. H. S. Burgwyn, of Weldon, arranged this meeting between the two scarred veterans and introduced them. Mr. Connell served in the 24th Michigan Regiment of the Iron Brigade of the Potomac. His company was almost annihilated at Gettysburg and he has been much interested in that great battle. A few years ago he wrote to Col. A. M. Waddell, of Wilmington, to secure some information, and his letter was referred to Col. W. H. S. Burgwyn, of Weldon. This led to correspondence between Col. Burgwyn and Mr. Connell. Later they met in Richmond, Va., when Mr. Connell remarked that he fired the last shot of his company and brought down the color-bearer of the 26th North Carolina Regiment. “Then you are the man who shot Col. Lane,” declared Col. Burgwyn. Arrangements were then made for the meeting which took place here to-day, and Mr. McConnell said this afternoon: “Yes, I have come all the way from Chicago and brought my wife for no other purpose than to grasp the hand of the gallant man I tried to kill and thought then that I succeeded.” The heaviest losses recorded on any modern battle field were the 26th North Carolina Regiment which had a loss of 90 percent, and the 24th Michigan with 80 per cent loss. Col. Lane and Mr. McConnell are survivors of these gallant regiments.

In reply to a reporter’s question Mr. McConnell gave this account of the shooting of Col. Lane. “The battle was nearing its close at Gettysburg,” he said “and only 8 men of the 54 in our company in the 24th Michigan Regiment were left. Our ammunition was exhausted, but I had one cartridge left which was to be the last shot we fired at Gettysburg. As I loaded my rifle my lieutenant commander said, ‘Charlie, see that splendid color-bearer, cannot you knock him over?’ and he pointed at the colonel not as far as across this street from me. ‘I have my last cartridge and I am going to try’ I replied as I rested my rifle against a small tree and took careful aim at the man waving his colors and shouting to his men. I fired, saw him fall and then hastened to join my comrades retreating through Gettysburg to Culp’s Hill.”

“He is the man who shot me,” interposed Col. Lane, laying his hand affectionately on Mr. McConnell’s shoulder. “It was just as the battle ended and I had turned to cheer on my handful of men and was waving our colors that the ball struck me.” Colonel Lane raised his black locks and showed the ugly scar on his neck, just below the base of the brain where the well nigh fatal ball passed. Col. Lane is the only surviving colonel of the illustrious 26th Regiment, Col. Harry K. Burgwyn, brother to Col. W. H. S. Burgwyn, was killed in the same battle that came so near costing Col. Lane his life.
This morning Col. W. H. S. Burgwyn took Col. Lane and Mr. McConnell on a drive over the city. They went out to Crabtree where the 26th North Carolina Regiment was organized and Col. Lane saw his first service as a private in Company E. The camp was then under Col. Burgwyn as a commander. They then went to the cemetery to view the monument to Col. Burgwyn, visited the Soldiers’ Home and spent an hour with the old veterans, then to the State library to see the painting of the three colonels of the 26th North Carolina Regiment, Vance, Burgwyn and Lane. Col. W. H. S. Burgwyn then gave them a dinner party at the Yarboro. This evening Col. Lane left for his home in Chatham. To-morrow Mr. and Mrs. McConnell go to Weldon to visit Col. and Mrs. Burgwyn. Mr. McConnell is president of the Veterans’ Association of the Iron Brigade of the army of the Potomac at Chicago and is a highly successful wholesale druggist. He is six feet tall, well proportioned, with his hair and mustache almost white, stands perfectly erect and appears as agile as a youth.

You can learn more about Colonel Lane by checking out theis link.

Monday, February 22, 2010

10th battalion, North Carolina Heavy Artillery

You know, I don’t spend a lot of time writing on North Carolina artillery. While the Tar Heel state fielded regiments and battalions of artillery, they didn’t work like infantry or cavalry regiments. The individual companies, or batteries, were assigned to different brigades (at the start of the war), or divisions and writing a history of, say , the First North Carolina Artillery would be a very disjointed affair. Plus, infantry and cavalry regiments have more men. Both the 37th NCT and the 58th NCT had 2,000 plus men who served in their ranks. A researcher stands a greater chance of finding letters and diaries and post war stories from an infantry or cavalry regiment than from an artillery battery. Most batteries had only 200 men. Added to this, many North Carolina artillery batteries only did coastal duty, or at least that was their lot until the end of the war. So, many of their letters home were not filled with descriptions of battles. For an artilleryman, he might see one or two Union warships a month, and those ships usually stayed out of range.

I guess I write all of this as an encouragement for you to check out the Robert C. Caldwell papers (online) at East Carolina University. Caldwell served in the 10th battalion, North Carolina Heavy Artillery, during the war. They were stationed in the Wilmington Area for much of the war, with a brief stint in Charleston. In late 1864, they were ordered to join the Army of Tennessee, and later fought as infantry at Averysboro and Bentonville. Let me encourage you to check out Caldwell’s letters by visiting this link here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Colored Confederates

Greetings folks! Sorry for the lack of post lately – I’ve got three or four going right now. I just saw that Earl Ijames, who use to work in the research room at the archives but has now moved across the street to the museum, is going to be speaking at Central Carolina Community College next Sunday (February 28) on Colored Confederates and the United States Colored Troops. This has been a topic of great debate recently in the blogging world. If we do not have another foot of snow, I am considering going. Maybe I’ll head off to the Civil War show in Salisbury on Saturday, and then over to Sanford on Sunday.

You can get more information by click here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

An interview with Skip Smith

I recently found a press release about the 26th NCT Reactivated’s latest preservation project: the flag of the 22nd North Carolina Troops. I thought some of you might be interested in learning more about what these great folks do for North Carolina History. Below, please find an interview with my friend, Skip Smith, Colonel of the 26th North Carolina Troops.

Skip, several news outlets are reporting that the 26th NCT Reactivated is going to raise funds to preserve yet another North Carolina battle flag. How did your group get involved in the preservation process?

In 2004 we decided to raise the money to preserve the 26th NC's Burgess Mill flag...initially we had not thought about the big picture but, it did not take long for us to realize that we needed to work on other talking with Betsy Buford, then NCMOH Director we found that there was a great need in this area as the Mus. did not have the funds to restore much of what they have in storage...we each exchange letters stating that we were formally creating a partnership with the NCMOH to raise money for the restoration of some of the battle has now evolved into the project and goal to raise the money for one flag per year...

Why is preserving Confederate battle flags important? Some people would prefer to just let them rot.

We decided to focus on the Battle Flags for one reason - they represent all men who marched beneath their folds...they have a story to tell and the only way this could be done was for them to be on display...while we respect other people's feeling and opinions, we do not let that dictate our mission...our focus is on the history and story these flags tell and not the modern politically correct story that some weave into them...these were battle flags that were designed to lead troops into battle...they became the pride of each Regiment...and for us it is important to preserve them for future generations...

What have been some of your most successful fundraising endeavors?

While there are other projects we have completed, there are three that have a special place in our minds...a) we have completed the fundraising for four North Carolina regiments battle flags, b) we raised $27,000 for a creation of a monument to the 26th NC on the New Bern Battlefield and c) the 26th NC led the process of getting the North Carolina Memorial at Gettysburg cleaned....

How do you decide which flag to preserve next - do you look at all of the flags to see which ones are in the greatest need, or are you drawn to certain flags because of their background?

After we completed the Burgess Mill flag of the 26th NC, we decided to first focus on the other flags from the Pettigrew-Kirkland-McCrae Brigade...our second flag was going to be the 11th NC's but, once we got started our friends in the 1st NC came forward and asked to be able to take care of that flag...we were very happy to turn that over and shifted gears to the 52nd NC's flag...once that flag was complete we went after the 47th NC's...once the fundraising for this flag was complete our goal of taking care of the brigade's battle flags was complete...we then looked at the list of flags the Mus. has and decided to work on the 58th NC's flag as this is a unit we portray from time to to the process of picking our flags, we have a )committee that looks at the list of flags and by working with the Mus. we simply select one...

Tell us about your newest endeavor, the restoration of the flag of the 22nd North Carolina Troops.

This year's project, the battle flag of the 22nd NC, came in a different way...two years ago the Greensboro newspaper ran an article on the Adopt-an-Artifact program that the NCMOH had this story they used the battle flag of the 22nd NC as the focus because there was a company from Guilford County in the 22nd NC...several people responded to the story by sending in donations to restore the battle flag of the 22nd NC (about $500) talking with the Mus. last year about our 2010 project, we started talking about the fact that this money might sit there for a while and we just did not feel this was right for those people that had sent in their donations...thus, we decided to make it our next project....we have trifolds and posters at each State Historic Site to not only raise awareness to our project but to also encourage others to adopt a flag to this time there are five organizations working on other flags!!!

What can people do to help?

To help with the restoration of the 22nd NC's battle flag, people can visit our website and click on the link at the bottom of the homepage...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dr. Art Bergeron, Jr.

So sorry to hear of the passing of Dr. Art Bergeron, Jr. We first corresponded back in the late 1990s when I started working on the book on the 37th North Carolina Troops. We meet in 2002, when the Branch-Lane Brigade Society met at Pamplin Park to hold a reunion, and have talked several times since. He was always helpful when I contacted the USAMHI looking for something. And, as with many of you, we were friends on Facebook. He will be missed.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

From Ignorant to Abysmally Ignorant

I’ve been watching and reading with interest the debate regarding North Carolina ‘s Department of Education and its revision of history-related public education. If you have not heard about this issue, Fox News broke a story last Wednesday (read article here). Currently, 11th graders in the state study American History from exploration until wherever they get – usually someplace around World War I. The proposed change is that instead of starting with exploration, to skip everything until 1877, in an attempt to have students be able to “see the big idea, where they are able to make connections and draw relationships between parts of our history and the present day."

Later that day, the North Carolina Depart of Education came out with its own press release (read here), in an attempt to salvage the proposals. Their idea is to teach United States History three times. "Our goal is to give students more study of United States history and to teach it in a way that helps them remember what they have learned," said State Superintendent Atkinson. "Students will have United States history three times before high school, and in high school they will have at least two more courses. The events, people and dates that are so familiar to many of us will still be taught to students. That means everything from early exploration through the Civil War, the 20th century and today."

So, I went through the proposals (which you can read here). History only gets a small nod in the third grade, it is mostly civics and economics. Nothing about the American Revolution or Civil War. Fourth grade is not much better. The proposals start out with more civics and government, then geography, with some culture, economics, and personal finances. When it comes to history, students are to compare American Indian groups before and after European colonization, the causes and effects of European exploration and colonization, summarizing state symbols, and analyzing “North Carolina’s role in various conflicts and wars.” Well, there is a nod, but North Carolina has been involved in eleven major conflicts since it became a part of the United States. How would someone explain this in a week or two? Fifth grade is not really any better. More Civics, more government, more economics, more personal finances. The only real mentions to history deal with immigration and migration patterns; political, social, and economic culture in colonial American; comparing major battles and military campaigns of the United States (once again, way too broad a topic); and, the “changing roles and the impact made by men and women of diverse groups.”

Sixth grade – the same, with “technology” being the history focused on.
Seventh grade – more of the same, with three of the seven points on technology, the fourth point is “Identify the origins of conflicts that have significantly affected people in North Carolina and the United States” -- far too broad. The fifth point is to “explain the impact of various types of conflict on specific groups and individuals (e.g., taxation, policies leading to the American Revolution, land ownership disputes and racial tension during the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898, desegregation during the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education).”

Eighth grade – more technology, and all of the history tends toward a global perspective.

And then in high school, students have a year of Civics and Economics, US history after 1877, and Global history.

So, minimal time is given to the two most crucial times in American history: the American Revolution and the American Civil War. Interesting how both of these two times period are about how a group of people felt that they were not being treated correctly by their respective governments and rose up in an attempt to start their own government. The first was successful, and second was not. Maybe I’m just reading too much into it…

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Ghost of Winter Past

I thought since so many of us (myself included) are snowed in, I would post a few snow-related stories from the war. I hope you enjoy.

“We have plenty of snow here and the soldiers appear to enjoy themselves finely snowballing each other. Penders Brigade & Greggs had a powerful time yesterday. Both parties held their ground. It imitates a battle as much as anything I ever saw.” Lt. Burwell T. Cotton, 34th North Carolina Troops, Feb. 25, 1863, Fredericksburg, VA.

“It is mighty cold Weather here for the last 3 or 4 days there has been a very good deal of snow here the last week the mountain is white with it now the Wind blows cold from it the mountains looks so pretty and White” Benjamin and W. H. Freeman, 44th North Carolina Troops, Feb. 19, 1864, Camp on the “Rapid Ann”

“I am sorry that I haven’t any thing new or interestin to write. I will write a bout the weather. It is very rough and has been for sore time and it seems like it will continue so, for it is raining and sleating and snow occasionally and the mud is from shoo top to knee deep.” Harrison H. Hanes, 4th North Carolina State Troops, Feb. 1, 1862, Manassas, Virginia.

“This morning at 4 o’clock we were waked up by the pleasant sound of the long roll. We were ordered to get ready to march. It is very cold, snow nine inches deep.” Louis Leon, 53rd North Carolina Troops, Feb. 4, 1863, Goldsboro, NC

“times is hard here and the winter is very cold here and clothing scearse. We have no clothing, only what we have on. Our houses is the forest of the woods. Our bead is the cold damp earth. Thre of us sleeps to gether.” Thomas L. Morrison, 6th North Carolina State Troops, Jan. 7, 1863, “near Frederick va”.

“I can inform you that we left the Gap Saturday the 25th at 1 o’clock and march 10 miles west and camp in Powell Valley and just before day it commenced snowing. The ground was gray at daylight. We marched at 8 o’clock and by 10 there was a good tracking of snow. At 12 the large snow commenced flying fast and the wind blew in every direction. It was bad traveling meeting the wind. I gave 50 cents to git my gun and napsachall (carried) and it saved me for I should of gave out. Some of the boys did not reach camp that nite. Wyatt and Jim Slagle like to of gave out. We camped at 4 o’clock and bilt fires. I had a good fire when the boys got there and by dark the snow was ankle deep but I can inform you I slept good and warm. I have got that pillow yet and was a great beautiful morning on Sunday. “ Green B. Woody, 58th North Carolina Troops, Oct. 29, 1862, east Tennessee.

“"Last Sunday has not been equaled for snow and wind since the furious ‘wind and snow Sunday' of 1856: our tents and huts were all wet with it. It lay on the ground about 12 inches…" John B. Alexander, 37th North Carolina Troops, Feb. 25, 1863, near Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Dr. Richard Iobst

I saw this morning on TOCWOC that Dr. Richard Iobst, author of a history of the 6th NCST, along with other books, like a history of Macon, Georgia, has passed away. Check out Fred Ray’s post here.

Monday, February 01, 2010

How Rumors get Started

Sometimes, you just can’t believe what you read. A few months back, I had a discussion with someone at one of our local historical festivals, involving who commanded the 58th NCT during the battle of Bentonville. Standing on the square in the town of Burnsville, without any notes, I was quite certain that it was Maj. G. W. F. Harper. My friend was sure he had read it was Lt. Col. Samuel M. Silver. I now understand where my friend got his information.

Samuel Marion Silver was born on December 30, 1833, in present-day Mitchell County. He enlisted in Capt. John Keener’s Company on June 25, 1862. Keener’s company became Company K of the 58th North Carolina Troops on July 29, 1862. Silver rose through the ranks, being elected a lieutenant, and when Keener was promoted, Captain, of Company K.

In 1864, with a high rate of attrition of field officers in the 58th NCT, the position of Major was open. Colonel Palmer, who was no longer assigned to the regiment, but remained its colonel, recommended Captain Silver. One of Silver’s fellow line officers, Captain A. T. Stewart (Company E), believed that the promotion should be his. Stewart would get the promotion, but was killed on August 31, 1864, at the battle of Jonesboro. Silver was promoted to lieutenant colonel on October 29, 1864, and commanded the 58th North Carolina Troops. He served in this position un March 16, 1865, when he submitted his resignation, claiming that he was “sufficiently educated to perform the executive duties of the office” he had, and that the situation of his family in western North Carolina, subjected to “tories and deserters,” necessitated his presence. Interestingly, Silver’s application was rejected. However, he had left the regiment.

In 1901, in response to a query for histories of various regiments, Isaac Bailey, a former Captain of Company B, sent in some notes, mostly about the battle of Chickamauga. Bailey was wounded during the battle of Chickamauga and would eventually retire. He was not present during the battle of Bentonville. Concerning the battle, Bailey wrote: “On 19-21 March at Bentonville, the last battle ever fought by our war-worn soldiers, [the 58th NCT] was a part of General Jos. B, Palmer’s Brigade and commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Silver, fought with accustomed valor. (Clark’s NC Troops)

However, this is not what those who participated in the battle wrote. On March 29, 1865, just a few days after the battle, Brig. Gen. Joseph Palmer praised the 58th NCT, writing that “Capt. G. W. F. Harper, commanding Fifty-eighth North Carolina… handled [his] command with ability and bore [himself] handsomely through the day…” (Official Records, vol. 47, pt. 1:1101) One of the first things you are taught regarding historical research, is to put more credence in what was written at the time, not what was written forty years later by someone who was not there.

Following the War, Samuel Silver moved around. He lived in Mitchell County and McDowell Count; he then went to Texas, and finally settled in Oregon where he died in 1922.