Monday, May 23, 2011

Commemoration events in Raleigh – May 2011

First off, what an amazing two days. To be included among some of the best Civil War scholars in the nation on Friday, to sit in the chamber of the state capital and hear the secession ordinance being read and passed, and to see the conserved flag of the 23rd North Carolina Troops, what an amazing weekend.

Thursday morning started off with the first of three planned conferences to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War in North Carolina. This conference was entitled “’Contested Past:’ Memories and Legacies of the Civil War” and was held at the North Carolina Museum of History. Dr. David Blight delivered the keynote address at the opening of the conference, and it was probably the best talk of the day (which is not to say that the others were bad). Other talks that I attended included Elizabeth C. King’s “’The Whirr of the Wheel Became a Song to Us’: Collective Memory and Individual Identity in Postbellum Narratives of Homespun Cloth”; Erica St. Lawrence’s “Public Memory in the South: The Role of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Salisbury”; John Coffey’s “’Arms for Art, and Other Shenanigans’: The Curious Case of a Mable Bust of John C. Calhoun”; Tom Vincent’s “More Memorials to their Dead than any Kingdom or Commonwealth”; Chris Meekin’s “Set in Stone: North Carolina’s Adaptation of the Lost Cause” ;Leonard Lanier’s “Killing the Klansman, Remembering the General: The Opposing Memories of Bryan Grimes”; John Haley’s “Risky Remembrances: African American Accounts of the Civil War and Reconstruction”; and Mark Elliott’s “Albert Tourgee, Thomas Dixon, and Memory of Reconstruction.”

My talk was entitled “’A People without Monuments is a people without Heroes’: Remembering the Civil War in Appalachian North Carolina.” There were a couple of good questions, and Ilook forward to further exploring one of those soon.

The day of talks was followed by a reception that evening in the lobby of the Museum. It was great to see many people with whom I communicate online and to connect with some old friends.

Saturday morning found us still in Raleigh. Except this time, we spent a large portion of time at the State Capital. At 11:00 am, there was a re-enactment of the passage of the secession act in the House Chamber (or was it the Senate Chamber?). This was followed by the dropping of a white handkerchief out on the balcony, signifying to the soldiers below to fire volleys. In May 1861, these volleys were fired by artillery, and, according to local accounts, the concussion shattered windows in businesses in town. So artillery fire was replaced by three well-timed volleys from the rifled-muskets of the 26th North Carolina Troops, Reactivated. For the next several hours, members of the 26th NCT delivered lectures on various subjects, including flags, uniforms, and North Carolina’s war record.
In the afternoon, I visited the two new exhibits in the Museum of History – you would think having spent all day Friday there I would had a chance to wander around. But I did not. The first new exhibit is entitled The Story of North Carolina, part one, and begins with Native Americans who lived in North Carolina, then runs through the early 1800s. I really enjoyed the pirate display. Next we visited the redesigned “A Call to Arms” exhibit. They have added more materials on the War, focusing on the years 1861-1862. There are uniforms, weapons, camp furniture, and even a couple of flags. They do need to fix the label on the state flag of the 33rd NCT – it is a state flag, actually a second pattern state flag, not a Confederate first national.

This was followed by another trip to the auditorium. The North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans recently raised over $8,000 to conserve the Gettysburg-captured flag of the 23rd North Carolina Troops. Henry Mintz did a great job of giving a history of the regiment and its role at Gettysburg. This was followed by a gathering of descendants of the 23rd NCT on the stage, and then the unveiling of the flag. That is always a special treat.

Then it was time to head home. A great weekend and it was a pleasure to meet so many of you. If you are interested in the War, and did not attend, you really missed out on a great weekend commemorating the War in North Carolina.

1 comment:

Doug said...

That was a great weekend! I like calling North Carolina home!