Friday, July 30, 2010

Book signing tomorrow

Elizabeth and I will have our first joint book signing tomorrow (Saturday), from 2:00 until 3:00 pm, at Black Bear Books in Boone. If you are in the area, please stop by and say hi! Also on the docket that day are Sharyn McCrumb, Mary Doria Russell, Mary Jo Anderson, and Peggy Poe Stern.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A little more of a review

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’ve been reading the essays in Escott’s North Carolinians in the Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. A couple of days ago, I finished Barton Myer’s essay on Wild’s December 1863 raid in North Eastern North Carolina - good essay and I really don’t have much to add. Myer does what Brown should have done – he uses the census records to examine a portion of the Confederate force that Wild (and other Federals) were dealing with.

Last night, I finished reading Professor Judkin Browning’s essay entitled “Visions of Freedom and Civilization Opening Before Them: African Americans Search for Autonomy during Military Occupation in North Carolina.” Browning has divided his essay up into different ways that former slaves sought autonomy, like education, enlisting in the Union army, employment, and escape. My difficulty with this essay is that there is no consideration given of the slaves who did not seek autonomy. Yes, there were some slaves who, although given their freedom, choose to remain with their former masters and on their former plantations or farms, still working. I once thought that this was a phenomenon that occurred just in the mountain counties, as I have come across this “choice” from time to time in my research in the area. However, having spent some time reading the slave narratives put together by the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s, I now understand that this “phenomenon” occurred elsewhere.

I seem to have noticed a trend. While it is acceptable to use the slave narratives to back up ideas of mistreatment and abuse, when talking about slaves who never left, or those who left and came back, well, those obviously cannot be credible occurrences or sources. Should not the words of Mary Anderson, a former slave in Wake County, who thought that “slavery was a mighty good thing” be any less credible than those of Jane Arrington, also a former slave in Wake County, who said: “I know slavery wus a bad thing”?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Civil War and …Art? ‘2nd Saturdays’ Series Wraps Up Aug. 14

Here is another press release from the NCDOAH. But hey, I’m in this one – can you find me?

Civil War and …Art? ‘2nd Saturdays’ Series Wraps Up Aug. 14

North Carolina ’s State Historic Sites are well known for the interpretation and preservation of the state’s Civil War story, but combining that story with the arts is a fresh approach. On Aug. 14, 2nd Saturdays programs — a series of more than 100 free events that was organized to bring together artists, history and authentic North Carolina culture at all 37 of the Department of Cultural Resources’ museums — will provide many new experiences. For more info rmation and a map of this summer’s events statewide, visit

Bentonville Battlefield
Bentonville Battlefield in Four Oaks will focus on the importance of community dances as a diversion for soldiers and civilians from the harsh realities of life during the Civil War.

On Aug. 14 the site staff will host a community picnic and a social dance highlighting the art of Victorian dance. Re-enactors will provide dance instruction and demonstrations, accompanied by a 19th-century-style band. Artisans and vendors will have goods for sale. The festivities are from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free.

Fort Fisher
“Living Our Civil War History” will be the theme for the day Aug. 14 at Fort Fisher in Kure Beach . The State Historic Site will partner with local artists and vendors to step back in time and explore the world of 1865, with period-style crafts and goods for sale including handmade models by Bobby Ward.

The staff will offer costumed tours and weapons demonstrations during the 2nd Saturdays event, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Period music will be performed at scheduled times throughout the day. Admission is free.

Bennett Place
North Carolina authors will share their works with audiences on the grounds of the Bennett family farm in Durham from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., on Aug. 14. Guest authors include Michael Hardy, Jim Wise and Betty Schiefelbein.

Artisans and craftsmen will show and sell their wares, including Julie Orson, the creator of handmade books. Civil War and Bennett Place souvenirs and collectibles sold in the shop help support preservation of Bennett Place State Historic Site. Admission is free.

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson
Archaeology is the topic of the day Aug. 14 at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson in Winnabow. The program is “Can You Dig It? A Day with Dr. Stan South – Archaeologist, Storyteller and Author.”

Dr. South will tell about his excavations at the state historic site in the 1950s and 1960s and will discuss his new book, “Colonial Brunswick: Archaeology of a British Colonial Town .” The African American field technicians who assisted with that work will also speak. Other storytellers will be involved in the program from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., along with authors and poets. Admission is free.

CSS Neuse
Visitors Aug. 14 at the CSS Neuse in Kinston will explore metal-working, a very important part of daily life during the Civil War. Blacksmiths and tinsmiths made a wide array of household goods, farm tools, camp goods and military tools.

From 10 a.m.-4 p.m., watch the craftsmen create everyday objects from lumps of metal, and browse through the wares they have for sale, including jewelry. Admission is free.

State Capitol
A Saturday evening of entertainment is in store for visitors to the State Capitol in Raleigh on Aug. 14. A free outdoor concert on the south plaza at 6:30 p.m. will showcase the state’s diverse music and dance traditions.

The young Little River Cloggers will kick off the show in Southern Appalachian style, followed by storyteller Obakunle Akinlana, who uses drums and other African instruments to draw listeners into his traditional African folk tales.

The Huckleberry Brothers will close out the show performing traditional and popular Civil War music in a way that is faithful to the original form. Their instruments -- authentically reproduced in the designs and materials of the mid-1800s -- are the five-string banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, mountain dulcimer, tin whistle, harmonica, bones and tambourine.

Artists, musicians and food vendors will be selling their goods during the 2nd Saturdays event. Admission is free.

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace
The State Historic Site in Weaverville that interprets the history of North Carolina ’s Civil War governor, Zebulon B. Vance, will explore “The Harvest from the Farm” as its 2nd Saturdays program Aug. 10 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

The program focuses on the agricultural heritage of a 19th-century mountain farm. Featured artists will showcase products from the farm and other handmade items related to farm life – food, candles, textiles, etc. Admission is free.

Historic Stagville
The State Historic Site in Durham , once the state’s largest antebellum plantation, will host “Learning the Land: Native Americans at Stagville” on Aug. 14 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The events will focus on the lives of early Native Americans in North Carolina , with an emphasis on the Old Indian Trading Path at Stagville.

Participants include potter Tracey Broome, wood turner Frank Penta, basket maker Anabela Mendesa and candle maker Jo Separk. Other goods for sale will include homemade artisanal bread from Mr. and Mrs. Gaddis, and soaps and candles from Angel Clay. Admission is free.

Tryon Palace Historic Sites & Gardens
The 2nd Saturdays theme at Tryon Palace in New Bern is “300 Years of Arts and Crafts” from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Aug. 14 as the palace celebrates its tricentennial birthday this year. Paid admission is required for palace events, but prices are discounted for 2nd Saturdays.

Artisans demonstrating period-specific crafts feature weaver Victoria Sowers and painter Jolene McCann; others may include a blacksmith and a basket weaver. Numerous hands-on craft activities are planned for children.

Historical interpreters in character will help visitors learn to quilt by having them stitch on the Hay House quilt, and will discuss the German paper-cutting art form of “Scherenschnitte,” which was popular in the 1800s.

Roanoke Island Festival Park
Visitors can see a free showing of the new documentary “Rescue Men: The Story of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station” at 7 p.m. on Aug. 14 at Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo.

Artwork on display during the day will feature weather and sky photography by Michael Halminski, Ray Matthews and Eve Turek. Paid admission to the park is required.

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources is the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities, and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina ’s social, cultural and economic future. For more info rmation, visit

Monday, July 26, 2010

State Capitol Hosts Free ‘2nd Saturdays’ Evening Concert Aug. 14

RALEIGH – A free outdoor evening concert on the Capitol grounds will showcase North Carolina’s diverse music and dance traditions on Saturday, Aug.14. The concert begins at 6:30 p.m. on the south plaza.

Visitors are encouraged to have some cash on hand, as there will be food, art, and CDs for sale during the 2nd Saturdays event. Throughout the evening, visitors can browse at the booths of local artists who will be selling their crafts around the stage area. The event is one of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources ( 2nd Saturdays events this summer that bring together arts, history and authentic North Carolina culture.

The Little River Cloggers ( of Rougemont will kick off the show with their lively performance style. The award-winning group of young cloggers specializes in the traditional dance of the Southern Appalachian Mountains .

The second performer, Obakunle Akinlana, is a storyteller from Charlotte who uses drums, shekeres and other African musical instruments to present fun and exciting traditional African folktales. Akinlana encourages audience participation and promises to draw even the shyest spectator out of his or her shell.

To close out the show, the Huckleberry Brothers ( will show that even in the 21st century, the music of the Civil War is alive and well. The Huckleberry Brothers play traditional and popular music of mid-19th-century America in a way that is faithful to the original form. Their instruments are authentically reproduced in the designs and materials of the mid-1800s. Their instruments include the five-string banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, mountain dulcimer, tin whistle, harmonicas, bones and tambourine.

The State Capitol’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history, architecture and functions of the 1840 building and Union Square . The State Capitol is at One E. Edenton Street , Raleigh , NC 27601 . Visit or call (919) 733-4994 for more information.

Administered by the Division of State Historic Sites, the State Capitol is part of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities, and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina ’s social, cultural and economic future. Information on Cultural Resources is available 24/7 at

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Part of a book review...

Lately, I’ve been reading a collection of essays, edited by Paul Escott, entitled North Carolinians in the Era of Civil War and Reconstruction (UNC 2008) . Instead of reviewing the book as a whole, I thought I would make some observations on various essays as I read through the them.

The first essay in the book is by David Brown and is entitled “North Carolina Ambivalence: Rethinking Loyalty and Disaffection in the Civil War Piedmont.” The author’s thesis is to look at the counties in the central piedmont and gauge enlistment as a litmus test for Confederate loyalty. He also believes that the burden of fighting the war fell upon the yeoman class, and that service was shunned by the upper class.

My problem with all of this is that there is no research to actually back up the author’s premise. Sure, there are a few letters here and there, but nothing to give us a concrete glimpse into the question at hand. Will you ever get precise figures? No, but we can get a better understanding by some simple (but time-consuming) work. Here is my idea: take the 1860 US Census, say for two counties in the piedmont, and take the 17-volume North Carolina Troop book series and create a list. Go through the troop books and list each soldier by the date of enlistment. Then go through the census and match up the men with their worth in 1860. Create a third list for those listed in the 1860 census who do not appear in the Troop books, and look at a copy of the home guard exemptions and see why some of these men of appropriate age did not serve. Create another column while going through the Troop books – this one on desertion of Troops during the war. A fifth column could contain information on those who died for various reasons (battlefield, disease), and the hardest column of all: those who joined the Union army. Sometimes the Troop books have this information; sometimes you will need to use the 1890 veterans census. Really, it is not that difficult. And an author will not need to use such words as “probably “ so often. Do this, and you will have some hard and fast numbers to support your ideas. Unfortunately, Brown has not taken these extra steps, relegating most of his work to the realm of guesswork.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Two New Sites from the State

Someone recently asked me if I worked for the North Carolina Department of Archives and History in Raleigh. Umm, no. Since I live not far from Grandfather Mountain, the commute would be, well, interesting. The interested party was curious as to why I posted press releases on my blog if I did not work for the state. While there may be times that I may disagree with what the state does, I still think they do a great job at educating, promoting, and preserving North Carolina’s Civil War history.

All that being said, I have another plug for the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. They recently created a new database on their North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial web page, a page dedicated to Civil War Monuments in North Carolina. The page is not just for Confederate Monuments, but for any monument related to the War in North Carolina. Let me encourage you to check out the site ( and if you see anything that is not listed, to contact Tom Vincent at I have information on several monuments and photographs of many that I am sending to Tom.

The other new piece of information on the War on the North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial web page is an essay by Josh Howard on a project entitled “North Carolina Civil War Death Study.” Using the Troop Rosters published by the State (17 volumes so far), along with the Compiled Service Records, period newspapers, and other resources, there is an attempt going on to get a more realistic number of North Carolina soldiers who died during the War. The estimate always passed around is 40,275. According to the article and research by the State, the number will likely be between 33,000 and 35,000. As cited in the article, we will never know just how many Tar Heels lost their lives during the conflict, largely due to the fact that existing records are so poor. I have mentioned this in the past while researching the 58th North Carolina Troops. There are hundreds of men who simply disappear from the records, just in the 58th. This article is well worth your time. I do wish that there was a way to contact the folks in charge of this program, as some of us probably have info on home guard fatalities that might be of interest. You can check it out here.

So there you have it, a couple of new items to keep you occupied for a few hours.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thomas Lanier Clingman: Fire Eater From the Carolina Mountains

Been traveling as of late, and I’ve been reading – still continuing my “tour” of books relating to North Carolina and the War. I’ve finished two since posting that last review on the biography of Governor Clark.

The first book I finished was Thomas E. Jeffrey’s Thomas Lanier Clingman: Fire Eater From the Carolina Mountains (University of Georgia Press, 1998). This is actually a re-read for me. When this book came out in 1998, I checked out a copy from the library and spent several days within its pages. I recently acquired my own copy (not a cheap book, either), and enjoyed my re-read. There is not much to say about Jeffrey’s book except that it is a really, really good biography. Jeffrey explores every facet of Clingman’s life, from his early days in the US House and Senate, to his services during the War, to his work as a promoter and inventor, along with his quest after the war to regain his position in the Senate. Clingman was born 1812 in Surry County, and was a graduate from the University of North Carolina. Clingman’s greatest claim-to-fame, at least the one he is best remembered for, came during the pre-war period of his life. Clingman got into an argument with one of his former professors, Dr. Elisha Mitchell, over who had measured the highest peak in the Black Mountains in Yancey County. Mitchell went back to re-measure the peak, and fell to his death in the process. Today, Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, bears his name, while Clingman’s name is attached to a peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Clingman is hailed as “Prince of Politicians” and in 1889, “one of the most remarkable men who have figured in politics in North Carolina…” Clingman was a rival of North Carolina’s more famous son, Zebulon Baird Vance. Clingman died in Morganton in 1897 and was originally buried in Concord. He was later reinterred in Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, not far from the grave of Zeb Vance. One thing that does puzzle me is this: Jeffrey’s title proclaims Clingman as a “Fire-Eater” Yet in the last paragraph of the conclusion, Jeffrey’s states that “Clingman was never a fire eater in the Rhett-Yancey mold.” If that is true, then it is an interesting sub-title. You’ll need to read the book to judge for yourself if Clingman was truly a fire-eater.

The next review will be on Travis’s history of the Rowan Artillery. I’m currently reading Escott’s North Carolinians in the Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

News and Notes

I had a look around at different online newspapers and here is what I found related to North Carolina and the War:

There is an interesting review of a couple of books that focus on the Confederate experience that makes some mentions of North Carolina communities. The books are Confederate Reckoning by Stephanie McCurry and The Long Shadow of the Civil War by Victoria Bynum. You can check it out here.

The Statesville Record and Landmark has a interesting article on brother-in-laws Stonewall Jackson, D. H. Hill, and Rufus Barringer. The article claims that Barringer is forgotten. Maybe for some, but I've spoken at the Rufus Barringer Civil War Round Table (twice), and been to his grave in Charlotte's Elmwood Cemetery - he is buried in the plot next to Col. Charles C. Lee (37th NCT), and across the road from the Confederate section. Check out the article here.

The Asheville Citizes Times reports that long-time Vance Birthplace sight director Sudie Wheeler has passed. Check out the article here.

The author of an article on a service to remember the Confederate Monument in Reidsville states that "There were no rebel flags to be seen ..." Yet, there is a Confederate first national in the photograph. Go figure... Check out the article here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Slave-owning Free Persons of Color in NC

Ok, this post is kind of one of those rambling kind, but the gist of it is a review of the Thomas Day exhibit at the NC Museum of History and ongoing research into free persons of color who owned slaves.

This past Thursday I was in Raleigh, speaking to the Capt. Samuel A. Ashe Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (and I had a wonderful time). Since I did not speak until the evening hours, I spent most of the afternoon at the State library digging out resources for one of my new books. Before I headed over to the archives, I visited the history museum. I usually stop by to see what interesting War-related pieces they have on exhibit. I also noticed that the new exhibit on Thomas Day, a free person of color who was a master cabinet and furniture maker, was open. (I reconnected with Randall Jones, author of In the Footsteps of Daniel Boone while at the Museum).

The Thomas Day exhibit occupies what I would consider the main exhibit hall at the museum. Day lived in Caswell County and built furniture for many years prior to the War. Those interested more in the material culture of the time period will be rewarded with different types of furniture, from the plain to the ornate. There are 70 pieces of furniture made by Day’s shop in Milton. Plus, the Museum has recreated Day’s woodworking machine shop. There are also some great audio visual presentations to go along with the exhibit. The Museum of History has gone an extra step, and pulled out numerous pieces from its collection from the time period, like wedding dresses and militia frock coats.

It was also great to see that the fact that Day was a free person of color who owned slaves was not glossed over. (Is Thomas Day one of the most famous black slave owners?)

If you get a chance, visit the North Carolina Museum of History and check out the “Behind the Veneer: Thomas Day, Master Cabinetmaker” exhibit. You can learn more by checking out this link here or here.

Thomas Day was not alone in the ownership of slaves by a free person of color. I recently began exploring this topic with the acquisition of my own copy of John Hope Franklin’s The Free Negro in North Carolina 1790-1860. In 1830, Thomas Day was just one of 190 free persons of color to own slaves. He was reported as owning just two slaves. Some of Day’s contemporaries in 1830 owned considerable chattel: Jonathan Critchion of Martin County owned 24; Charles Mallett of Cumberland County owned 36; and, Gooden Bowen of Bladen County owned 44 slaves.

The question that I am hoping that Franklin’s book answers for me is this: why did the number of free persons of color in North Carolina who owned slaves drop from 190 in 1830 to just eight in 1860? Maybe Franklin’s book will clear this up for me.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Civil War and …Art? 2nd Saturdays Family Fun

North Carolina ’s State Historic Sites are well known for the interpretation and preservation of North Carolina ’s Civil War story, but combining that story with the arts is a fresh approach.

On July 10, the 2nd Saturdays program — a series of more than 100 free summer events that was organized to bring together artists, history and authentic North Carolina culture at all 37 of the Department of Cultural Resources’ historic sites and museums — will provide many new experiences. For more info rmation, visit

Bentonville Battlefield
Bentonville Battlefield in Four Oaks will feature costumed interpreters demonstrating historical trades including: spinning, weaving, knitting, blacksmithing, candle-dipping and quilting. By 1861, many goods could be purchased from the local general store, but the economic impact of the Civil War forced many Americans to return to the tradition of making their own clothing, linens, candles, soap and other necessities.

On July 10, potters David Edwards of the Pottery Garden and Lonnie Blackmon of Asheboro , acrylic painter Amanda Robinson of Swansboro, and clay pipe maker Tony Kelly of Kinston will be on hand. Re-enactors Sheru Houghton and Barbara Blackmon will represent “A Row of Purls” Yam and Knitting Shop. Olde South Blacksmith Kirt Jarrett plans to fire up his “shop” and demonstrate the traditional art. All of these artists will display and sell their work to the public. And to make sure you can go home with more than great memories and wonderful photos, Thompson Orchards will be selling peaches and fresh veggies.

Fort Fisher
Local waterways will be the focus of 2nd Saturdays at Fort Fisher in Kure Beach on July 10. The State Historic Site will partner with local artists to host a program titled “Life on Fort Fisher ’s Waterways.”

Small arms demonstrations will be staged throughout the day. Volunteers from the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher will be on hand with marine artifacts and stories of life on and under the water.

Bennett Place
Wearable fiber art and durable household products will be among subjects examined at the “Tar Heels and Textiles” program at Bennett Place State Historic Site from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., on Saturday, July 10. Artisans will set up on the Bennett house lawn to demonstrate making cloth products, which will be for sale. Author and historian Jim Rumley, co-founder of the Cooleemee Historical Association, will speak on the history of North Carolina ’s textile industry. Costumed interpreters will demonstrate Civil War-era sewing skills adopted to meet the dramatic rise in demand for fabric caused by the war.

Participating artists include Michael Konvicka, textiles; Joanna White, wearable fiber art; Andrea Stephens, fiber art, pottery; Jenni James, jewelry; and Shawn Gibbs, painting. Visitors also can view the newly commissioned painting “The First Meeting,” by Dan Nance, in the Visitor Center and gallery. The film “The Dawn of Peace” will be shown on the half-hour. Civil War and Bennett Place souvenirs and collectibles sold in the shop help support preservation of Bennett Place State Historic Site.

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson
Fort Anderson will host demonstrations of different centuries of spinning and weaving using mediums such as cotton, wool and straw during its July 10 2nd Saturdays program. One of the most prized artifacts at Brunswick Town /Fort Anderson is the 19th-century textile, the Fort Anderson Garrison Flag. A conservationist will be available to answer questions about antique textiles and will offer advice on proper care and storage.

Visitors will be offered a hands-on opportunity to make their own basket or drop-spin wool. If artists have animals connected with their work they have been encouraged to bring the animals to the historic site for interpretation. Items made by artist Barbara Johanson will be available for purchase.

CSS Neuse
Kinston has turned 2nd Saturdays into a weekend of “Spectacular” with blues and jazz concerts, imaginative art, baseball games, free breakfast treats at the Farmers Market, carriage rides, and plenty of good food…especially if you’re a fan of Eastern –style ’cue! On Friday night, there’s a free live jazz concert at Chef & the Farmer Wine Bar, which is getting noticed by ChowHound ( and Yelp!

The 2nd Saturdays program at the CSS Neuse State Historic Site on July 10 is titled “Have a Yarn.” Visitors will learn how yarn was made and how it was used during the Civil War era. A local spinning guild will demonstrate the art of making yarn out of fiber using a spinning wheel. Knitting and quilting were an important in the art of homemaking during the period, and these will also be demonstrated on site.

Participants include Heidi and Jim Kittrell of Celestine Ridge Alpacas, who will offer spun wool items; Tarheel Civilians and the Spinning Guild, who will demonstrate spinning, dyeing and knitting techniques; the Neuse Quilters, who will demonstrate quilting and share examples of historic patterns; the Goldsboro Quilting Guild, who will display quilts; and painter Jolene H. McCann.

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace
The State Historic Site that interprets North Carolina ’s Civil War Governor Zebulon B. Vance will showcase “Traditions in Woodworking” as its July 10 2nd Saturdays focus. The program will take a look at 19th-century woodworking traditions. Featured artists will provide traditional and contemporary woodworking pieces.

Participants include Bob Bradley, who will demonstrate woodturning; Bob Weisgerber, who will showcase his furniture; and Barry Russell and Charles Farrar, who also demonstrate woodturning.

Historic Stagville
The Historic Site in Durham will host the “Jubilee Music and Food Festival” on July 10 as its 2nd Saturdays program. The festival will highlight gospel, country, bluegrass and blues music, combined with food, artists, crafts and games.

Satgville participants include bluegrass band Flies in the Kitchen; Raleigh Sankofa Cultural Dance Group, with dance; bluesman Boo Hanks; the Philharmonic Youth Jazz Ensemble; potter Sid Luck; basket-maker Anabela Mendesa; potter Tracey Broome; woodworker Frank Penta; candle-maker Jo Separk; artist Katherine Ladd; Angel Clay, offering soaps and candles; and jewelry maker Cynthia O’Toole.

Don’t leave hungry -- artisanal bread makers Mr. and Mrs. Gaddis of Charlotte and Charlie Mitchell’s Barbecue are ready with delicious treats for sale.

Tryon Palace Historic Sites & Gardens
Period-specific art forms will be featured along with other traditional mediums at Tryon Palace . Painter Thomas Kelly Pauley will be on hand.

The day will also feature a lecture by guest speaker Reginald Watson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English at East Carolina University ; and a memoir writing workshop by author Sheila Peele-Miller from noon to 5 p.m. in the Visitor Center Auditorium.

Come learn about the historical legacy of African American writers in North Carolina . Write your own personal memoirs and learn how to publish them. Meet present-day authors, hear their stories and purchase their works in this recitation, reception and book fair.

State Capitol
As one of the most photographed buildings in North Carolina , the State Capitol is a fitting setting for an afternoon of art. From noon to 4 p.m. on July 10, photographers, painters and other visual artists will be on site to demonstrate their craft and sell their wares.

Photographer Donn Young will lead a workshop at 1 p.m. in the historic Senate Chamber. The workshop will focus on the relationship between art, history and culture using contemporary and historic images of the Capitol as examples.

Roanoke Island Festival Park
Visitors can see a free showing of the new documentary “Rescue Men: The Story of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station” at 7 p.m. on July 10. Artwork during the day will feature nature photography by award-winning and published photographer Steve Alterman.

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources is the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities, and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina ’s social, cultural and economic future. For more info rmation, visit

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Gov. Henry T. Clark

Several months ago, I purchased a new biography on North Carolina Governor Henry T. Clark, written by R. Matthew Poteat. I read some of it, got distracted, and put it aside. After finishing the book on Stanly, I returned to the book on Clark, went back a couple of chapters from where I had stopped and picked up the book again. It was finished yesterday, and here is my review.

If you talk about North Carolina governors during the war, you usually talk about three men: John Ellis, Henry T. Clark, and Zebulon B. Vance. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, Vance is the most written-about Civil War era governor. Ellis has no biography, and Clark finally has one.

Clark was born in 1808 in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. His father, James West, was a US Congressman. Henry attended the University of North Carolina, and later gained admittance to the North Carolina Bar, but seldom practiced law. He was more interested in managing his family’s land and property. Clark was selected to serve as a delegate to the Nashville Convention in 1850, and soon thereafter was elected to serve as the representative for the Tenth District in the North Carolina senate. He was re-elected six times. In 1858, his colleagues elected him as speaker of the senate. He was occupying this position in July 1861 when Governor Ellis died. Since the state had no lieutenant governor, Ellis was elevated to the position of governor until the next general election in September 1862.

Clark laid the groundwork for much of the state’s involvement in the war. Almost all of North Carolina’s regiments were mustered into service under Clark’s administration. He also established a state-sponsored gunpowder manufacturing plant in Wake County, and a salt-manufacturing facility in Chatham County. And, he laid the ground work for a state-owned blockade runner that Zeb Vance would later purchase. However, Clark would catch flak for the loss of much of the eastern coast of North Carolina to the Federals, even though much of the fault rested with the Confederate government. For unknown reasons, Clark chose not to pursue another term of office in 1862, and instead, retired to his home near Tarboro. Later in the War, Clark’s Tarboro home was raided by the Federals, and he himself was almost captured. After the end of the war, Clark served again in the North Carolina Senate. He died at his home in Tarboro in 1874.

I really wanted to like Poteat’s examination of Clark’s life, and to be honest, the second part of the book (once the war begins) is much better than the first part of the book. Poteat seems to be obsessed with slavery. Chapters two and three seem much more an examination of slavery that of Clark’s life. The author makes several leaps of logic (aren’t these called fallacies?) with no documentation. For example, Poteat writes on page 52 that “owning slaves was not simply an aspect of his business, it was part of his heritage, and he [Clark] believed the system to be the natural order that God had intended.” And on page 66: “Clark’s view of slavery was consistent with that of most white men of his day. He believed that slavery was a necessary and just institution, essential to the South’s social and economic way of life. Conservative white southerners like Clark considered slavery the foundation of republic virtue, necessary to maintain the social order and an engine of human, moral, and material progress.” Both of those statements might be true, but there is no documentary evidence cited that Clark actually believed either of those statements.

I guess the statement that really is a leap of logic falls on page 138. Poteat speaks of many joining the Ku Klux Klan after the rise of the Radicals during reconstruction. He writes: “There are no records that tell of Clark’s thoughts or involvement (if any) with the Klan, but Col. William L. Saunders, the alleged leader and ‘Grand Dragon’ of the North Carolina KKK, was his nephew by marriage. The two men corresponded, and given Clark’s Democratic pedigree, racial views, and associations, it’s very likely he supported the Klan to some degree.” This statement is so flawed that it is difficult to find a place to begin. Might Clark have been involved with the Klan? Sure. However, since there is “no record,” what right does Poteat have to infer that Clark “likely… supported the Klan to some degree” just because he had someone in his family who allegedly was in the Klan? I can’t imagine a lawyer ever getting away with such allegations in a court of law today.

Poteat does well when discussing the efforts of Clark as governor during the war years. However, this book has serious flaws that will influence generations to come.

R. Matthew Poteat. Henry Toole Clark: Civil War Governor of North Carolina. 207 pages, illustrations, notes, index. McFarland, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-7864-3728-3.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Gov. Edward Stanly

I hope everyone had a good Fourth of July! It was pretty quiet here on my mountain in western North Carolina.

Recently, I finished reading a book titled Edward Stanly: Whiggery’s Tarheel “Conqueror” by Norman D. Brown, and thought I would give a little review. Yes, I know, the book was published in 1974, but who says we can only review new books?

Edward Stanly was a Tar Heel native (1810-1872), and important political figure in North Carolina history. He hailed from Beaufort County, was a lawyer, a Whig, and served five terms in the United States Congress (1837 – 1843 and 1849-1853). In the in-between years, he served in the General Assembly, as speaker of the State House (1844 to 1846), and briefly in 1847, as State Attorney General. Stanley is considered “North Carolina’s greatest orator of his generation.” After finishing his term in 1853, Stanley chose not to run again, but moved to California (San Francisco) where he practiced law and made an unsuccessful bid for the governorship.

Stanly’s time in the US House is full of intrigue. It seems that almost daily there were fisticuffs and challenges for duels sent and received. Stanly fought a duel with Alabama Democrat Samuel W. Inge in 1851, and later that same session of Congress, came to blows with fellow North Carolina representative Thomas L. Clingman on the floor of the House.

Stanly is somewhat of an enigma. In 1838, on the floor of the House, he told his colleagues that:

I am a Southern man. I thank God that I am. Next to learning the Lord’s prayer and the ten commandments, I was taught to venerate the character, protect the interests, and defend the honor of North Carolina. I still cherish the recollections of these early lessons. They ‘grow with my growth, and strengthen with my strength.’ And, sir, I regard it as a duty I owe my State and my country to avoid creating sectional feelings. In doing so, we forget the advise of the Father of his country, and the dignity which becomes the Representatives of sovereign States.

In 1850, fellow representative David Outlaw wrote that Stanly “ought to be from the North instead of the South side of Mason and Dixon’s line.” In many instances, Stanly sided with the South in issues on the floor, however, when it came to slavery, he voted most often with the northern Whigs, who later became Republicans. All very interesting, because Stanly was a slave owner.

After Stanly went to California, he again dabbled in politics, and even canvassed the state for Lincoln’s election, even though he never joined the Republican party.

In the spring of 1862, after much of the east coast of North Carolina had fallen under Union control, Lincoln tapped Stanly to be military governor of that section of the state. Stanly believed that most of North Carolina was still pro-Union and had been led astray by a few errant politicians. Stanly worked hard to bring North Carolina back into the Union, but never really achieved any success. He resigned on March 2, 1863, due to a disagreement with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Stanly returned to California, practiced law, and dabbled once again in politics.

Brown’s book on Stanly is a really good read. It is a good blending of state and national issues that took place during Stanly’s life and political career. My biggest question is this: Brown makes mention of Stanly’s ownership of slaves, but never tells us what happened to those slaves: did Stanly sell them, were they set free, and when did this happen?

If you get a chance, and like biographies of a political nature, give Brown’s book, Edward Stanly: Whiggery’s Tarheel “Conqueror” a read.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Books, books, and more books.

Well, I wish I had an announcement regarding my book on the 58th NCT, but I don’t, so we will skip to more exciting news.

I’ve gotten two contracts for new projects, one about finished, and one a long way from being finished.

The first is for a book that I’ve been working on most of the year. It is tentatively entitled North Carolina Remembers Gettysburg. It is a collection of seventy-seven first-person accounts on the July 1863 battle, all of which were written by Tar Heels and appeared in Tar Heel newspapers between July 1863 and the turn of the twentieth century. This book will be published by Ten Roads Publishing out of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and should be available later this year. I said that I’ve been working on it for most of the year; I actually started collecting the material when I started working on my book on the 37th NCT.

The second contract is for a book to be published by the History Press out of Charleston, South Carolina. It is for a work tentatively titled ­Civil War North Carolina. It will be a concise history of the Tar Heel state and the war. It will different from Barrett’s work from the 1960s in several different ways: it will have chapters that deal with reconstruction and remembrance, and will have three times the illustrations. I’m really looking forward to this, but it will entail some hard work: There are events that Barrett devoted whole chapters to that I will need to condense to a few paragraphs. This should be a good challenge and I am looking forward to it.

Lastly, I’ve slowly been working on cataloging my collection of Civil War book on an online site called I’ve enjoyed this little diversion, and I’ve gotten to thumb through some old favorites that I’ve not really spent much time with since finishing the work on the 37th NCT. As C. S. Lewis once said, old books are like old friends. Let me encourage you to follow along with my progress at

Well, I guess that is enough excitement for one week. Sorry about the lack of posts. My son has been attending a day camp at ASU this week and after dropping him off, I’ve been working in the library on both projects.