Ok - I know up front that there are already organizations called "Civil War Round Tables." I have spoken at quite a few of them. But for the lack of a better term, I've been calling a program that I've been working on for the past couple of years "________ County Civil War Round Table." This past Tuesday evening, I moderated the Burke County and the Civil War Round Table discussion at The History Museum of Burke County. This event was a stunning success. There were around 75 to 80 people present, and we talked for about two hours about the War, and about Burke County and the War.
For the past four or five years, I've been working on having similar discussions at several other libraries and museums, in Watauga, Caldwell, Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey Counties. They usually likewise meet with success. At one in Avery County a couple of years ago, Dr. Allen Spear of Lees-McRae College brought his entire Civil War class to the discussion.
Most of these discussions are very rich, and the subject matter varies, even at times when the event has been held in the same county repeatedly. Sometimes the groups of participants are small, just a dozen or so people. At other times, there are 30 or 40, or even 80 people. Not everyone participates in the discussion, but I believe everyone takes something away, or learns something new. I know that I do - I learn something new every time I moderate one of these discussions. Hopefully, it gets people thinking.
The way the program works is like this. At the appointed hour, I open the meeting (sometimes I get introduced), but after a few opening remarks - there is only one rule: we are not going to talk about anything modern - just about the War or Reconstruction. After the one rule, I give a few other remarks. In Burke County, I talked briefly about what a deep war-time history Burke County has, about Col. Isaac Avery, about Camp Vance, and about Stoneman's Raid. This usually lasts five or six or seven minutes. Then, I sit down. Participants can ask me anything about the War. That in itself is nerve-wracking. By no means do I even know everything about just North Carolina and the War. But after 29 years of research into the War, and the past seventeen just about North Carolina, I'm pretty confident that I've encountered it in some form or fashion. And hey, if I don't know, maybe someone in the crowd does. That is the beauty of the discussion: it often gets people talking to each other about local and regional history.
So, I have decided to try and hold this type of meeting in every county in at least the western part of the North Carolina, even though I am receptive to the eastern counties as well. If you are involved in a historical group or library, and would like to be involved, please drop me a line. Some of these meetings are co-sponsored. The event in Avery County is usually co-sponsored by both the Col. John B. Palmer Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Avery County Historical Society and Museum, and held at the Avery-Morrison Public Library in Newland. So there is a lot of opportunity to work together.
I am also open to a new name. Maybe something just as simple as "Avery County Civil War Discussion." What do you think?
Please drop me a line (you can use the form to the right) or comment back here if you are open to helping put something together. I am going to email a standard letter to all of the libraries/historical societies and groups in the western half of the state. To be honest, I might hear from one or two. So, it takes you to help me get the word out.