Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wilkes County

Seeing that I’m speaking at the opening of a new Civil War exhibit at the Wilkes County Museum this week, I thought maybe we could turn our attention to Wilkes County as our next county study. My ancestors landed in Wilkes County in the mid to late 1700s and include members of the Laws, Hampton, and Proffitt families.

Wilkes County, just east of the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was formed in 1777 from Surry County, and was named for a member of the British Parliament who fought for American Independence: statesman John Wilkes. The county seat, Wilkesboro, was incorporated in 1847. In 1860, Wilkes County had a population of 15,749, including 261 free persons of color and 1,298 slaves.

In the 1860 presidential election, there were 1,323 votes cast for Bell, and 363 for Breckenridge. Wilkes County men voted overwhelming against calling the convention in February 1861, with 51 for and 1,890 against. The county had two delegates. Peter Eller (1805-1872) was a farmer, elder in the Baptist Church, a member of the House of Commons (1856-1858); Eller “opposed secession until he thought opposition useless.” The other representative was Dr. James Calloway (1806 - 1878) Calloway was a graduate of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and the only doctor in the area for many years. He was a representative in the House of Commons from 1828 until 1832.

According to Terrell Garren’s Mountain Myth, Wilkes County furnished1,599 men to the Confederate army, and 145 who joined the Federal army. Those in the Confederate served primarily in Company B, 1st North Carolina State Troops; Company B, 11th North Carolina State Troops; Company C, 26th North Carolina Troops; Company D, 33rd North Carolina Troops; Company F, 37th North Carolina Troops; Company F, 52nd North Carolina Troops; Company K, 53rd North Carolina Troops; Companies E and G, 54th North Carolina Troops; Company B, 55th North Carolina Troops; and, Company D, 1st Battalion North Carolina Junior Reserves. Most of the Federal troops served in the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry (US) and the 13th Tennessee Cavalry. Once again according to Garren, 472 Confederates died while in service.

Wilkes County also produced a number of higher-ranking Confederates, including Brig. Gen. James B. Gordon, mortally wounded at the battle of Yellow Tavern in May 1864, Col. William Barber (37th NCT), mortally wounded in September 1864; Col. Monford Stokes (1st NCST), mortally wounded in June 1862; and Lt. Col. William H. H. Cowles (1st NCC); and, Lt. Col. Abner Calloway (55th NCT).

Wilkes was a troubled place during the war, and some have even argued it was one of the most Unionist counties in the state of North Carolina, even though both Yancey and Buncombe furnished more Federal soldiers. We really find events heating up in Wilkes County beginning in the summer of 1863. There are rumors of camps of deserters and dissidents in Wilkes with 500 to 1,200 men. On one occasion that summer, a group, supposedly of pro-Union militia, marched out of the Trap Hill area and to Wilkesboro, where they held a pro-Union rally and raised a United States flag at the courthouse. The militia company was soon out roaming the countryside, “harassing residents” and marching “under an old dirty United States rag.” Governor Vance asked Robert E. Lee to spare some troops for the area, and Lee sent Brig. Gen. Robert F. Hoke and two infantry regiments (21st and 56th NCTs), and a battalion of cavalry. Hoke spread his forces out in the surrounding counties, and by October, was reported to have captured 3,000.

Governor Vance chose to visit Wilkes County in February 1864. His speech that day was prefaced by the band of the 26th North Carolina Troops, and a crowd of between 800 and 2,000 people heard Vance kick off his re-election campaign. But neither the sweep of Confederate troops nor Vance’s visit could prevent another Unionist visit. Portions of McMillan’s cavalry were back in the area in the summer of 1864, skirmishing with the deserter bands.

In March 1865, real Union soldiers arrived. The brigades of Maj. Gen. George Stoneman rode through Wilkes County on their infamous raid, “gathering” supplies from a population that had been unwillingly supplying deserters and dissidents for quite some time. Stoneman soon left, the war ended, and the problems with bands of lawless men continued. One of the most famous (or infamous) was the Fort Hamby episode, in which a group of men used the Hamby home as a base for their robbing and plundering the countryside. The site is currently under water. You can read an essay about those events here.

There were reunions after the war for Wilkes County’s Confederate soldiers, and in 2008, a monument to local Confederates was placed on the courthouse grounds. You can learn more about Wilkes County and the War by visiting the Wilkes Heritage Museum.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Civil War Symposium

The Rockingham County Historical Society Museum and Archives, the Eden Preservation Society, and the Eden Historical Museum are presenting a Civil War Symposium to be held in June.

Date: Saturday, June 25, 2011
Time: 9:30am - 5:00pm
Location: Eden City Hall, Eden, NC

Seating is limited, so register early!

The subject of the symposium is Capt. Thomas Robinson Sharp, who spent the last 30 years of his life in what later became the Draper section of Eden, NC. Under Stonewall Jackson, Sharp masterminded one of the great railroad heists of all time during the Civil War. On May 24, 1861, soldiers began to seize some 40 locomotives and nearly 400 railroad cars they had accumulated and relocated them 130 miles over land. Read more about The Great Train Raid of 1861 – Strasburg, Virginia.

Sharp was from a railroad family. His father was superintendant of several railroads in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Thomas R. Sharp was assistant superintendent and later superintendent on numerous railroads prior to the Civil War. Although born in Pennsylvania, during the war he became the military road superintendent of the Confederate States of America, achieving the rank of captain. During this time, General Jackson recommended to General Lee, and Lee to President Davis that Sharp become head of the Quartermaster Dept., although this did not happen. Sharp became the mastermind behind the Great Train Raid of 1861, the Confederates stealing of locomotives, cars, rails, telegraph wire, etc. from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and the building of the Centreville Railroad, the first Confederate government railroad. He also worked in the railroad shops in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Columbia, South Carolina.

After the war, Sharp continued in the railroad business along the East coast, and even worked for the B & O Railroad, the very line he had robbed of equipment during the war!

About 1879, he bought over 1400 acres of land in what is now the Draper section of Eden, NC, and developed a hamlet by the name of “Sharp, NC.” Even then, he continued working in the railroad business (including serving as president of the Danville, Mocksville & Southwestern Railroad Company), often leaving his wife and children to oversee the bustling plantation. He died in 1909 and is buried at Lawson Cemetery in Eden, and his wife, daughter and father-in-law are buried at Church of the Epiphany in Eden.

Cost of the symposium is $40 and includes lunch. Registration deadline is June 11, 2011. Limited seating so register early!

To register, or for more details about the CIVIL WAR SYMPOSIUM, visit our website:

Or call: Melissa Whitten at (336) 623-6393.

You may also send us an email at: edenpreservationsociety@yahoo.com
The Rockingham County Historical Society Museum and Archives

Eden Preservation Society

Eden Historical Museum

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On the Road

Folks, I’ll be at the McDowell County Public Library this afternoon, signing books, and speaking before the McDowell County Historical Society this evening. Stop by and say hi if you are in the area!

On the Road

Folks, I’ll be at the McDowell County Public Library this afternoon, signing books, and speaking before the McDowell County Historical Society this evening. Stop by and say hi if you are in the area!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Three of Asheville's Confederate monuments.

In about a week, I need to submit the paper I am presenting at the Civil War Memory Symposium that is taking place in Raleigh in May at the Museum of History. The paper is on the process of remembering the War in western North Carolina, specifically on the monuments that were erected. So, last night I went to ASU to root out any additional materials from the different newspapers, and I came across a good mystery, which I might have already solved. But the mystery first.

For a long time, I’ve worked on a list of North Carolina-related Confederate monuments. The list is five pages and includes both monuments in the state and out of state. On this list, I have entries for five monuments or plaques in Asheville: one for Willie Hardy, one for Thomas L. Clingman, one for the 60th North Carolina, the large Vance obelisks, and one in the Newton Cemetery. I knew from previous research that the monument to the 60th NCT was dedicated on November 8, 1905.

Last night, I dug out the corresponding Asheville Citizen for the dedication of the monument for the 60th NCT. Not only did the citizens of Asheville erect and dedicate this monument on November 8, 1905, but they also dedicated monuments for Thomas L. Clingman and William B. Creasman. All three were located on the grounds of the Buncombe County Court House in Asheville.

The dedication of the monuments followed the usual routine. About 1,500 people gathered for the unveiling ceremony. The monument to the 60th NCT was draped in white, with eight ribbons hanging from the corners, which were held by eight little girls. As the crowd sang, “In the Sweet Bye and Bye,” the coverings were taken off. The monument to Clingman was unveiled by the UDC and Children of the Confederacy, and the monument to Creasman was unveiled by his descendants.

Due to the weather, the crowd was moved indoors to the courthouse. There, North Carolina governor Robert Glenn addressed the crowd, stating in his opening remarks that he “hoped the day would never come when his tongue would refuse to speak of that glorious cause for which my father died.” After the governor’s address, County Commissioner Locke Craig received the monuments on behalf of the county. At the conclusion, refreshments were served by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

All three of the monuments were designed and manufactured by the Cherokee Marble Works. That being said, I believe all three would have been similar in construction. The monument to the 60th NCT still stands in downtown Asheville. You can see an image of it here. I believe that the monument to Clingman now resides over his grave in Riverside Cemetery. You can view that monument here. So what about the monument to Creasman? And, why did he have a monument?

According to the Asheville Citizen, there were eighteen men who were colonels and came from Buncombe County: Robert B. Vance (29th NCT), Zebulon B. Vance (26th NCT), Thomas L. Clingman (25th NCT), J M. Lowry (29th NCT ), David Coleman, (39th NCT), Robert Coleman (7th NC Cav.), Thad Coleman (58th NCT), Harry Deaver, Washington M. Hardy (60th NCT), James M. Ray, J. Thomas Weaver (60th NCT), Stephen Lee (16th NCST), Philetus W. Roberts (14th NCST), A. H. Baird (5th Batt. NC Cav.), George N. Folk (6th NC Cav.) George W. Clayton (62nd NCT), William B. Creasman (29th NCT), and James L. Gaines (1st NC Cav.). Two interesting points: despite the Citizen’s statements, not all of these men were colonels, and, not all of them hailed from Buncombe County. For instance, George N. Folk lived in Watauga County in 1860 and is buried in Caldwell County. And, why is James S. McElroy, colonel of the 16th NCST, who moved to Weaverville after the war, not included?

And, why is Creasman’s name on this marker, and why did he have his own monument? Creasman was born in Yancey County and lived in Yancey County at the start of the war. He did not move to Buncombe County until the war was over, and actually died in July 1869. By this I am perplexed.

Also, what happened to Creasman’s monument? Is the monument that stands on Creasman’s grave at Bethel Baptist Church in Buncombe County the monument that was placed on the courthouse grounds in Asheville? It does not seem to fit the same motif as the monuments to the 60th NCT and to Thomas L. Clingman. Furthermore, the newspaper article described Clingman’s monument as a “granite-based marble shaft ten feet high” while Creasman’s is described as a “marble block in ornament design.” Maybe this “block” resembled Governor Vance’s tombstone in Riverside Cemetery.

I found this on a genealogical web site, from Kevin White in 2000 (this is the original text, without corrections):

Hi Rob,

I dont know what accomplishment earned Col Creasman the monument, but i do recall the monument, which was a granite stone with brass plaques attached to both sides. It was located in the middle of Pack Square in the center of downtown Asheville, maybe 20 yards east of the still extant Pack Memorial obelisk. This was directly in front of the main entrance to Pack Library, where it was then located, and there were benches next to it. I used to wait there on those benches for my mom to pick me up from visits to the library, and i recall her telling me that the Col Creasman memorialized there was my ancestor.

As an adult i developed an interest in genealogy, and i went back to see this monument, only to find that it was gone. Sometime in the late 1970s, the Akzona Corporation (formerly American Enka) decided to relocate its corporate headquarters to Asheville, and built a new building (designed by I. M. Pei) on the north side of the square. The city took this opportunity to "renovate" the square, because among other incentives the city gave to Akzona to induce this relocation was the right to build underground parking under the square for their new building, in complete violation of the original grant from Pack to the City for the square for "public use". At that time the public restrooms ("white" and "colored") under the square had been closed for many years, but now all traces of them were removed, along with the monument to Gen Clingman and Col Creasman, and another monument placed on the square by the Daughters of the Confederacy honoring other persons. I am ashamed to admit how many years passed before i noticed this uprooting of monuments.

Once i was aware the monument was gone i attempted to find out what had happened to it. The Asheville City Parks and Recreation Department, at least at that time, had the responsibility of maintaining the square, and the head of that department since the early 1970s, now in honored retirement, was Ray Kisiah. I spoke to Mr Kisiah, who told me 1) no such monument had ever existed, and 2) the City wouldn't have removed it without first contacting those groups or parties who had placed the monument there. He suggested i contact the president of our local chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy. This was about 1993, just before Mr Kisiah retired. I did as he suggested and called the president, whose name escapes me, and related to her the substance of Mr Kisiah's remarks, including his assertion that no monument would be removed without first contacting the groups who had placed the monument. She replied "Why, they certainly did NOT do so. If one of our members hadnt happened to be driving by as they were uprooting our monument we would have had no notice at all". It was only a few months before this conversation that the Daughters had succeeded in having their monument reset on the square, after about 15 years in storage somewhere.

But apparetnly, since no one who cared witnessed the City uprooting the monument to Gen Clingman and Col Creasman, the city was safely able to dispose of that monument, and now apparently officially maintains the stance that this monument was never there. Makes me proud to pay my taxes.

Col Creasman is still mentioned on a monument to all the confederate Colonels and Generals from Buncombe county, which is located just beside the courthouse, and is apparently too big and prominent to be safely sanitized.

What do you think? Is the rock at Bethel Baptist Church the monument the one that used to be on the lawn of the Court House in Buncombe County? Or is Creasman’s monument tucked away somewhere in a warehouse, right next to the Ark of the Covenant?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Setting Stones

I’ve probably said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: I believe that every soldier’s grave should be marked by a tombstone. This past Saturday, I got to help put in two.

On Saturday morning, I joined our local SCV Camp at a cemetery in southern Yancey County. The camp had been asked by a family to help clean a long-forgotten cemetery, and to install a Confederate marker. The family had already finished most of the work when we arrived. We did take out a couple of small trees and did some raking. I worked with a friend on re-setting the numerous leaning field rocks that mark the final resting places of about 30 or 40 people. Finally, we got the stone for Pvt. Burton Chrisown of the 49th North Carolina Troops placed in the ground. Private Chrisown lies in the cemetery under one of those field rocks.

Later in the day, I joined a couple of friends at another cemetery, this one in northern Yancey County. We had taken it upon ourselves to order a gravestone for Pvt. Henry H. Howard. Private Howard originally enlisted in Company G, 29th North Carolina Troops. He was discharged nine months later by reason of “disease of the heart.” On March 1, 1865, Howard joined Company K, 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry (US). Two weeks later, he was promoted to sergeant. Howard was also buried under a field rock, with the family indicating which rock he was under. Now his grave is marked.

It was a great day, and I hope to be able to do it again really soon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tweets Show North Carolina’s Civil War Home Front, 140 Characters at a Time

RALEIGH – Over the next four years, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources historian LeRae Umfleet will use new technology to tell an old story. Through the Twitter account http://twitter.com/civilianwartime, she is tweeting the words of North Carolina civilians who witnessed the triumphs and tragedies of the war. An accompanying blog, http://civilianwartime.wordpress.com, will contain the full citation for each Twitter message.

“This is a great tool to understand the impact of war in their words, not ours,” said Umfleet, who is the Collections Management Chief for Cultural Resources. “We hope that students, history buffs and cultural travelers will sign up for the tweets and the blog as the stories unfold.”

A tweet from the first week of the project, “I fear there will be civil war,” comes from the diary of Mary Jeffreys Bethell, which is part of the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill . The corresponding “CivilianWartime” blog entry helps put the tweet in context:

March 11, 1861
“I have just received a letter from my daughter Mrs. Williamson in Ark , says they are all tolerable well, she wrote a very cheerful letter it done me good. Mr. Bethell wrote that he would be at home in a few days, he left here the 5th. of Feb. I have just seen the President’s message, Mr. Lincoln, I think he intends to coerce those seceding States. I fear there will be civil war, and our happy and peaceful Country laid in desolation and ruins, every Christian should unite in fervent prayer to God, in behalf of our Country.”

The Twitter account and blog are extensions of the work of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources to observe the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. For more information about the sesquicentennial commemoration, visit www.nccivilwar150.com.

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. Information on Cultural Resources is available 24/7 at www.ncculture.com.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Pardon for Governor Holden?

Have you heard about the efforts of a Raleigh attorney to get a pardon for William Woods Holden, the North Carolina reconstruction governor who was impeached in 1870? You can read more about it here, here, and here.

The newspaper articles all stray a bit in telling their stories. The piece from the Charlotte paper reads “Holden declared Alamance and Caswell counties to be in insurrection and dispatched the state militia. The troops took control of courthouses and arrested more than 100 accused Klan members. As a result, the newly elected Democratic House brought eight impeachment charges against Holden.”

Well, that is not exactly true. It was not the state militia that Holden called out. It was a group of hired guns that Holden recruited for the purpose of going into the counties that Holden believed were in insurrection and quelling the violence. Were the counties of Alamance and Caswell in a state of insurrection, caused by clashes between conservatives and liberals? Yes. Did Holden overstep his constitutional powers by bringing in non-North Carolinians and organizing them into a quasi-military organization to deal with the violence? Yes. And hence, I believe that was the cause of Holden’s impeachment.

The first charge reads: “that William W. Holden did, on the 7th day of March, 1870, ‘proclaim, and declare that the county of Alamance, in said State, was in insurrection; and did, after the days and times last aforesaid, send bodies of armed, desperate, and lawless men, organized and set on foot without authority of law, into said county, and occupy the same by military force and suspend civil authority, and the constitution and law of the State; and did, after the days and times last foresaid, and before the time of impeachment in this behalf, through and by means of such armed, desperate, and lawless men, arrest many peaceable and law-abiding citizens of said county of Alamance, then and there about their lawful business; and did detain, hold, imprison, hand, beat, and otherwise maltreat and injure many of them, when he well knew that such and said proclamation was utterly groundless and false, and that there was no insurrection in said county, and that all civil authorities, both State and county, in said county, were peaceable and regularly in the full, free, and unrestrained exercise, in all respects, of the functions of their offices, and the courts were all open, and the due administration of the law was unimpeded by any resistance whatsoever.”

Article IV of the indictment states that Holden had used the powers of his office to “incite, procure, order, and command one George W. Kirk, and one B. G. Burgen… to assault, seize, detain and imprison and deprived of their liberty and privileges as freeman and citizens of said state…”

Article V read, in part, that Holden had “’unlawfully recruited, armed, and equipped as soldiers, a large number of men, to wit, five hundred men and more, and organized them as an army… [and] placed [them] under the command and control of one George W. Kirk, as colonel, aided by one B. G. Burgen, as lieutenant colonel…”

Articles V and VI detailed some of the problems that Kirk and his band caused. Article VII stated that Holden, as governor of North Carolina, “without any authority of law, but in contravention and subversion of the constitution and laws of said state and the United States, and intending to provoke and stir up civil strife and war, recruit and call together from this state and the state of Tennessee a large number of men, to-wit: Five hundred men and more, many of them of the most reckless, desperate, ruffanly and lawless characters, and did then and there organize, arm and equip them as an army of soldiers, and place the same under the chief command of a notorious desperado from the state of Tennessee, by the name of George W. Kirk… and did send large numbers of such armed desperate men in said counties… and did there and then without warrant or authority, seize, hold, imprison and deprive of their liberties for a long time… of twenty days and more, many of the peaceable and law-abiding citizens of said counties…” and that Kirk “without any lawful authority, made his warrant upon David A. Jenkins, treasurer of state, for large sums of money, to-wit: for the sum of seventy thousand dollars and more, and caused and procure… the treasurer of the state, to… pay out of the treasury such said large sums of money to the agent or paymaster of the said William W. Holden… did then and there and by the means and in the manner aforesaid, commit a high misdemeanor in office, in violation of the constitution and laws of the state, and of the peace and interests and dignity thereof…

Article VIII once again hits upon Kirk and the armed forces, and how Holden’s recruitment of the force was “without the sanction of the constitution and laws of said state…” (taken from Public Laws of the State of North Carolina (1871))

The 1835 Constitution of the state of North Carolina gave the governor permission to call up the militia when the General Assembly was not in session (Section 18). However, according to the Revised Code of North Carolina (1855) the militia had to be “citizens of this State, or of the United States residing in this State…” (398) The Constitution of 1868 further enforced this rule; to be in the militia in North Carolina, one had to be a citizen of the state. George W. Kirk was not. Kirk hailed from Greene County, Tennessee, and as far as I have been able to ascertain, never lived in North Carolina. Kirk served as a captain in the 2nd North Carolina Mounted Infantry and later as colonel of the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry. One local historian considered Kirk’s band “a notorious band of scoundrels and thieves.” Kirk’s tactics in western North Carolina were unconventional, and included using Confederate prisoners as human shields, wanton destruction of private property, robbery, and many other depredations. Western North Carolinians hated Kirk above all other Yankees.

Just how did Holden justify violating North Carolina’s Constitution and bringing in Kirk? In Holden’s memoirs, he writes: “I authorized the formation of two regiments of militia… Col. Kirk was fiercely, and roundly, and unjustly assailed by his enemies, mainly because he was a native man. He had raised three regiments of North Carolineans [sic] and Tennesseans for the federal government and had been a faithful soldier of the Union. He was employed by me in good faith in accordance with the law…. It was stated in some of the evidence (in the impeachment proceedings) that he said that if he were attacked at his place in the Court House at Yanceyville, that he would resist and burn the town and murder the women and children….” However, Holden, in his memoirs, never tells us where he obtained permission, or derived the power from, to appoint Kirk as colonel of a North Carolina state force.

As an aside, both Kirk and his second in command, Lt. Col. George B. Bergen, also from Tennessee, were later arrested for their actions.

Or course, I am not the only one to make this argument: that Holden hired foreign mercenaries to deal with acts of domestic terrorism. Mr. Graham states the same thing, during Holden’s impeachment trial, on March 15, 1871: “From the character of Kirk and his troops, the last instruments that any sane official would have employed to promote peace. Instead of taking for a commander a man of character from among our own citizens, whose name would have inspired confidence in his purpose to do right, with a body of militia composed of respectable and orderly men, and appointing them to the duty of the arresting prisoners and delivering them over to the civil magistrates, the introduction of a stranger with certainly the character of a brigand in this state, with an army composed in great part of foreign mercenaries, and of undisciplined and lawless recruits from the frontier of the state, was an insult and an offence to the pride, manhood and self respect of the people, calculated to provoke the fiercest collision.” And later, “Kirk’s army was an unlawful force, both in view of the constitution of the United States, which forbids any state to “keep troops or ships of war in time of peace,” and of the constitution of the laws of North Carolina.”

The prosecution then lays out the facts against Kirk’s force: 1) 399 of Kirk’s 670 were below the age of 21, the required age to be enrolled in the militia; 2) 64 of the men were over the age of 40, once again in violation of the law; 3) more than 200 of the 670 were from out of state, mostly from Tennessee; 4) all of the field officers were from Tennessee…

These disqualifications go on and on. There are thousands of pages of testimony in the matter, more than I have time to read and digest. While the violence in certain parts of the county was reprehensible, and something needed to be done, Holden overstepped his constitutional boundaries in appointing George W. Kirk to led the men, a third of whom were from out-of-state, to tackle to job.


Monday, March 14, 2011

On the road…

I’ll be speaking and signing books tonight (March 14) at the Caldwell Heritage Museum in Lenoir at 7:00 pm. Come on out and join us!

Tomorrow evening, (March 15) I will be speaking at the monthly meeting of the Col. Henry K. Burgwyn Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans. They are meeting at El Cerro in Wendell.

So, if you are free, come on out and join us!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Stagville Lecture March 20 Examines Salvation and the Enslaved

DURHAM – Christianity is often cited as a foundation of hope for the enslaved in the South. Historic Stagville will present a free program on March 20 at 2 p.m., exploring that connection with Dr. Dan Fountain, director of Public History at Meredith College in Raleigh . Fountain’s recent book, “Slavery, Civil War, and Salvation: African American Slaves and Christianity, 1830-1870” challenges that conventional notion.

The book reviews the African American conversion experience and argues that only after emancipation did African Americans more consistently turn to Christianity. Research from surveys of religious behavior and 1930s WPA slave narratives led Fountain to conclude that Christianity as a central facet of African American life is largely post-bellum in origins.

This lecture will examine the significance of Christianity in the slave community during the Civil War and into the post-bellum period. It is the first in a series of programs and events at the site observing the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Historic Stagville was one of the largest plantations in the South, holding 30,000 acres and 900 slaves by 1860.

Civil War programming is planned throughout the museums and historic sites of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources (http://www.nccivilwar150.com/).
Light refreshments will be provided for the lecture program. For additional information call (919) 620-0120.
Historic Stagville is located at 5828 Old Oxford Highway , Durham , N.C. 27712 . It is within the Division of State Historic Sites in 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 http://www.ncculture.com/.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

“Freedom, Sacrifice, Memory” Civil War Exhibit at Ashe County Public Library

RALEIGH – Heroic tales and valiant feats are depicted in images that reflect North Carolina ’s dedication to the war in the Freedom, Sacrifice, Memory: Civil War Sesquicentennial Photography Exhibit (www.nccivilwar150.com). Ashe County Public Library in West Jefferson will host the exhibit from April 1-28, sharing images and stories that capture the history and pe opl e of the Civil War (1861-1865).

“The Civil War was the first war widely covered with photography,” explains Deputy Secretary Dr. Jeffrey Crow of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. “The ‘Freedom, Sacrifice, Memory’ exhibit provides images of historic figures, artifacts and documents that brought the reality of the war from the battlefront to the home front, then and now.”

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources will display 24 images from the State Archives (www.archives.ncdcr.gov), the N.C. Museum of History (www.ncmuseumofhistory.org) and State Historic Sites (www.nchistoricsites.org). Between April 2011 and spring 2013, 50 libraries will showcase “Freedom, Sacrifice, Memory” offering visuals that present gallant women, African American triumph and the perseverance of Confederate soldiers. A notebook will accompany the exhibit with further info rmation and a section for viewer comments.

One of the images portrays a poignant letter from Colonel Isaac E. Avery that embodies the courage and passion of the Confederate forces. Born Dec. 20, 1828, in Burke County, Avery served in the 6th NC Troops and led the attack on Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg , Pa. , in July 1863. Though mortally wounded, Avery wrote a message to Major Samuel McDowell Tate reading, “Major. Tell my father I died with my Face to the enemy. I. E. Avery,” and he marked it with his blood.

The unique exhibit will share the history from regions of North Carolina , including the western mountains, to educate viewers about the hardships North Carolinians faced during this pivotal time in United States history.

For info rmation on the tour visit www.nccivilwar150.com or call (919) 807-7389. 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. Information on Cultural Resources is available 24/7 at http://www.ncculture.com/.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Cumberland County Public Library and Museum of the Cape Fear

Cumberland County Public Library and Museum of the Cape Fear Will Display Civil War Sesquicentennial Photography Exhibit in April

RALEIGH – Determination, commitment and pride are among many characteristics of North Carolinians depicted in the Freedom, Sacrifice, Memory: Civil War Sesquicentennial Photography Exhibit (www.nccivilwar150.com). The exhibit commemorates the role our state played in the Civil War (1861-1865), a defining period in United States history. It will visit the Cumberland County Public Library in Fayetteville from April 1-13 and the Museum of the Cape Fear from April 16-28.

“The Civil War was the first war widely covered with photography,” explains Deputy Secretary Dr. Jeffrey Crow of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. “The ‘Freedom, Sacrifice, Memory’ exhibit provides images of historic figures, artifacts, and documents that brought the reality of the war from the battlefront to the home front, then and now.”

Images gathered from the State Archives (www.archives.ncdcr.gov), the N.C. Museum of History (www.ncmuseumofhistory.org), and State Historic Sites (www.nchistoricsites.org) will illustrate valiant members of the Confederacy, African Americans fighting for freedom, and daring women dedicated to the South. A total of 24 images will be exhibited by the N.C. Department of Culture Resources (www.ncculture.com) in 50 libraries throughout the state from April 2011 to spring 2013. A notebook will accompany the exhibit with further info rmation and a section for viewer comments.

Amidst the photos will be an image from a re-enactment of the Battle of Bentonville, Opposing Lines at Bentonville, which depicts the largest engagement to occur in North Carolina during the Civil War. The original battle took place March 19-21, 1865, involving more than 80,000 Union and Confederate soldiers. At its conclusion, the battle claimed more than 4,000 lives. Even today, soldiers from Fort Bragg visit the Bentonville Battlefield to study the strategies used during this critical assault.

For info rmation on the tour visit www.nccivilwar150.com or call (919) 807-7389. 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. Information on Cultural Resources is available 24/7 at www.ncculture.com.

Friday, March 04, 2011

The most hallowed spot Tar Heels fought on?

Got an email a couple of days ago from the Civil War Trust about their latest battlefield preservation campaign. They are raising funds to preserve 104 acres along McPherson Ridge. For many in North Carolina, or who had North Carolina ancestors who fought under the banners of the state during the war, there is probably no more important piece of property that that of McPherson Ridge. It is on this land that the Iron Brigade battled portions of Pettigrew’s brigade, and it is on this land that the 26th North Carolina lost more than ten color bearers, and where Col. Henry Kidd Burgwyn received his mortal wound.

The Civil War Trust has put up some great information about the battle here.

Would you please consider joining with me to preserve this piece of historic property?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Any last words?

Recently, I’ve been working through several volumes of published letters from North Carolina Confederate soldiers. One thing I have noticed in these letters home are the numerous references to fellow soldiers being executed. The practice seemed to weigh heavily on those who had to witness such scenes.

Article 20 of the Articles of War states that “All officers and soldiers who have received pay, or have been duly enlisted in the service of the United States, and shall be convicted of having deserted the same, shall suffer death, or such other punishment as, by sentence of a court-martial, shall be inflicted.” This article was amended in 1930, the amendment reading that “No officer or soldier in the army of the United States shall be subject to the punishment of death, for desertion in time of peace.”

And along those same lines, Article 23 reads that “Any officer or soldier who shall be convicted of having advised or persuaded any other officer or soldier to desert the service of the United States, shall suffer death, or such other punishment as shall be inflicted upon him by the sentence of a court-martial.”

The Confederate laws read the same, just substituting Confederate States for United States.

According to research done by Jack Bunch, in his two books on the Confederate military justice system, there were 215 soldiers executed (shot) and 35 hanged. Of that number, 99 North Carolinians were shot, and 22 were hanged. These numbers, due to the paucity of the records, are low.  

These men were executed for a variety of reasons, with desertion ranking above all other causes. Among other causes are murder and robbery (Riley Cage, 16th NCST); cowardice (Green W. Ford, 37th NCT); and advising desertion (John M. Harrison, 44th NCT).

The largest number of men from a single regiment appears to be 14 men from the 8th Battalion, North Carolina Partisan Rangers, which became the 66th North Carolina Troops. These men were executed by Mag. Gen. George Pickett in February 1864 in the Kinston area. There were 22 men total executed, all former Confederate soldiers who had joined the Union army and then were captured. You can learn more by visiting this great web site.

The next largest group would be 12 men from the 58th North Carolina Troops, executed for desertion in May 1864, just north of Dalton, Ga. The 3rd North Carolina State Troops falls next, with eight men executed during the war. The 18th North Carolina lost six men, the 26th, 37th and 38th Regiments lost four apiece.

Lt. Burwell T. Cotton of the 34th North Carolina Troops left this description in a letter home, written on October 3, 1863, while stationed near Orange Court House, Virginia: “To day I witnessed a very sad scene although it is getting to be very common here. It was a man shot for desertion. There were three condemned to be shot to day but two were deferred until Tuesday as there was a reprieve sent up for them and did not get back. Two were shot last Saturday one of them was a member of our company viz John A. Thomas. He deserted sometime in August last and was arrested before he got home and brought back and court martialed. The sentence was death. It looks very barbarous to see men shot in that way but it is necessary to maintain the discipline of an army. the one what was shot to day was not killed dead the first fire. Consequently he was shot twice. You can not imagine how cruel it looks to see a man shot. Twelve men shot at him about ten steps. Only one ball hit him in the side. He fell over on his face [and] was examined by the Surgeon who pronounced him not dead. Two men then were ordered out with loaded muskets who shot him dead.”

Sad times for sure….