Monday, January 17, 2011

Program at the NC Museum of History

Sometimes, usually late at night as I drive back home from a lecture someplace, I think about all of the great experiences that I have had over the past 28 years. Some of these include re-enactments, like the 135th Antietam and 135th Gettysburg events; living histories like the ones at Fort Clinch; speaking engagements, like at Pamplin Park and the annual CWPT meeting on the Peninsula; and awards with which I’ve been honored, like being named North Carolina’s Historian of the Year by the NC Society of Historians, and being presented the Jefferson Davis Gold Medal in 2009. On Saturday, I added another event to that list: unveiling the conserved flag of the 58th North Carolina Troops.

I spent this past Saturday at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. I had a table set up in the lobby, next to the gift shop, and sold quite a few books, while at the same time getting to speak to scores of folks about the war. About 2:30 pm we were ushered into the auditorium and treated to a rousing performance by the drum and fife corps of the 26th North Carolina Troops. After opening remarks by Col. Skip Smith of the 26th NCT, Jackson Marshall of the Museum of History spoke on the history of the 22nd North Carolina Troops. Then, descendants of the men who fought in the 22nd NCT made their way to the front and the conserved flag was unveiled.

Then it was my turn. I spoke for a few minutes on the 58th North Carolina Troops, a talk that I entitled “A Fragmented History.” In this talk, I spoke of how the history of the 58th NCT, what we know about the regiment, is as fragmented as the remnants of the flag we were unveiling. Then, Skip asked that Jackson Marshall and myself unveil the flag. After the descendants arrived at the front of the room, we unveiled that flag. It was the first time I had ever actually seen the remnants of the flag of the 58th NCT in person. I was deeply moved, even more so than when I helped Tom Belton take the coverings off the flag of the 37th NCT in that very room a couple of years ago. Maybe it was because I had seen the flag of the 37th NCT previously, while it hung at Pamplin Park. I had always worked from a photograph of the flag of the 58th NCT, knowing that it was in very rough shape. I had never realized just how threadbare and fragile those fragments were.

However, my day was not finished. After hanging out for at the museum for a while longer, talking with other descendants and interested folks, we zipped over to Greensboro. The North Carolina Civil War Round Table was having a special meeting at the Greensboro Museum of History, with the one-of-a- kind Ed Bearrs giving a program about the beginning of the War in South Carolina.

Saturday was a fanatic day! What a great way for me to start off the sesquicentennial of the War. I am not quite sure how I will top this past Saturday in 2011, but I sure look forward to trying.

Congratulations to Col. Skip Smith and the 26th North Carolina Troops, reactivated, for their outstanding work in conserving the history of North Carolina’s role in the Civil War!

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