Tuesday, March 27, 2007

East Hill Cemetery, Bristol

Yesterday, we drove over to Bristol, TN/VA to have lunch with some family passing through. After lunch, we paid a visit to the East Hill Cemetery. Back last fall, I was speaking to the SCV Camp in Hampton, TN, and got some information on the cemetery.

East Hill Cemetery was begun in 1857 to meet the needs of the community of Bristol Tennessee-Virginia. During the Civil War, Bristol was the site of the junction of the East Tennessee & Virginia Railway.... About 1862, the Confederate Medical Department established hospitals in Bristol. Because of its strategic location and its railway, Bristol soon became a hospital hub for Confederate soldiers brought from battles for treatment. Those that did not survive were buried at East Hill, including many that were unknown.

The number of Confederate burials at East Hill were variously estimated to range from slightly over one-hundred twenty to nearly one hundred eighty. Recently, ongoing research has revealed that the number is closer to three-hundred and represents the largest location of Confederate graves between Knoxville, TN, and Roanoke, Virginia. Nearly every state in the Confederacy is represented. Furthermore, work by author and historian Gary Rose has helped to identify the names of over forty soldiers previously unknown.

Lieutenant William E. Allen and Lieutenant Robertson Bryan, who were two of the "Immortal 600" are buried here. James Keeling, the "Horatius of the South," who successfully defended the bridge at Strawberry Plains with the loss of his arm has a memorial here. Billy Wood, the last survivor of the young VMI Cadets who fought in the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864, is buried here. The commanders of the 63rd and 62nd Tennessee, Colonel Abram Fulkerson and Lt. Colonel William Parker also lie here.

The battles fought by these men cover the history of the war. Captain Davidson is credited with firing the first artillery shot at First Manassas. The 37th Virginia, with many men buried at East Hill, was a part of Jackson’s famous "Stonewall Brigade." Men buried here fought at Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Spottsylvania, the Wilderness, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chickamauga and Atlanta. They were there with Lee at Appomattox and at the end of the Army of Tennessee with Joe Johnston.

Among those buried here are members of the 29th NCT, the 39th NCT, the 57th NCT, the 72nd NCT, the 9th Batt. NC Reserves (Senior?), and Thomas’s Legion. I am hoping to get in touch with the some of the folks who are working on a Confederate monument for the cemetery and see if we can get those names.

The picture here is of the grave of James Keeling.

Monday, March 26, 2007


It was great to see many of you this past Saturday and Sunday in Hickory and in Lenoir. It was also good to talk to Skip Smith of the 26th NCT.

I’ve been writing for about a decade now, full time for the past two and a half years, and the request for books never ceases to amaze for me. This past Saturday at Barnes and Noble, I got three requests to do something about Alexander County, and one request to do something on Burke County. The folks in Hanover County, Virginia, said last December that I could write about Hanover anytime, and the requests for more regimental histories is almost overwhelming. I think I’ve been fairly prolific over the past decade - my eighth book, a collection of essays on Avery County, will be released in May/June of this year. And, I’m working on that history of the 58th North Carolina right now. While I keep of list of ideas, maybe after the book on the 58th NCT is done I should take requests and put up a poll....

It was great to be with Tim Cole and Brad Foley, authors of the book on Collett Leventhorpe, this past Sunday.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Book signings

Just wanted to let everyone know that I will be at the Barnes and Noble in Hickory tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon, the Caldwell Historical Museum in Lenoir on Sunday afternoon, and in Mt. Airy at Ryan's Steakhouse for a discussion on the battle of Hanover Court House on Tuesday evening. I'd be happy to see you there!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Trust seeks help buying historic land

Folks - found this in the Raleigh News and Observer. If you are not a member of the Civil War Preservation Trust, please consider joining - they do great work. Not only are they seeking donations for this project, but also the 208 - Slaughter Pen at Fredericksburg. The later was ground fought over by Jame's H. Lane's brigade of North Carolinians.

Trust seeks help buying historic land
Acquisition boosts preservation

Peggy Lim, Staff Writer
The Civil War Preservation Trust recently appealed to its members across the country -- help us save about 188 acres at Bentonville Battlefield.

The trust closed on the land in December but still needs to raise $80,000 to get a $720,000 match from federal and state grants to pay for it.

The Battle of Bentonville, March 19-21, 1865, was the largest fought in North Carolina and one of the last clashes in the closing days of the Civil War. In 1993, Congress declared Bentonville one of the 11 most important battlefields for preservation. But until the late 1990s, only about 244 acres of its sprawling 6,000 had been saved.

Landowners, with deep roots in the southern Johnston County community, have helped turn that around in recent years. Total acreage preserved at Bentonville has grown to 1,103, said site manager Donny Taylor. In 2006 alone, the Civil War Preservation Trust was able to acquire 300 acres at Bentonville.

"Bentonville is one of the flagships of battlefield preservation," said Mary K. Goundrey, a spokeswoman for the trust. Only a few battlefields in Mississippi and Virginia have more preserved land, Goundrey said.

The acquisitions have given visitors to the Bentonville site a more vivid experience, Taylor said. The park added descriptive markers to a driving tour.

"Sitting at home, you can imagine," he said. "But here, you can get a good idea of what the troops had to fight through -- open fields, woodland."

History buffs are particularly excited about the trust's latest acquisition. The purchase gets land used on the third day of the battle, which saw "Mower's Charge" -- when the Union side captured the field headquarters of Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.

Charlie Davis, 64, who grew up on part of the 188-acre tract, said he sold the land as a memorial to his mother.

"It was her lifeblood," Davis said. She and Davis' grandmother had been active in early grass-roots fundraising efforts in the 1950s to buy a 51-acre tract, including the historic Harper House, which served as a hospital during the battle. His mother worked in a gift shop on the site until her health declined in the mid-1990s, he said.

Residents also sell to preserve a quieter way of life -- preventing hog farms, subdivisions or mobile home parks from moving in, said Philip Shaw, president of the Bentonville Battlefield Historical Association.

"It just stays farmland, and that's the main objective," said Tim Westbrook, 50 and a tobacco farmer, while tinkering with a greenhouse lawn mower on part of the Mower's Charge battleground. "You don't own it anymore, but you know it's going to be looked after."
Westbrook, who continues to live and farm on battlefields, sold about 80 acres to the Civil War Preservation Trust in June.

"When the state takes land, Bentonville is not going to grow in population," he said. "But we're willing to do that to keep it like it is."

Westbrook makes exception for the crowds, noisy cannons and hundreds of horses that turn out for major battle re-enactments once every five years. The one in 2005 drew about 40,000 spectators and 4,000 re-enactors. The events raise money for the community's volunteer fire department, which handles concessions.

And Westbrook said, "It helps unite the community."

Staff writer Peggy Lim can be reached at 836-5799 or plim@newsobserver.com.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

One more from Blandford

I thought I would share one other photograph from my trip to Blandford. I took this, from the car, while leaving the cemetery. No, I don’t have the soldiers name and no, he was probably not from North Carolina. But I thought the light was good.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Pvt. John Barefoot

A couple of days ago, I mentioned a lone, marked North Carolina grave at Blandford Church Cemetery. That marker is for John Q. Barefoot. He was "born in Johnson County where he resided as a farmer prior to enlisting in Sampson County at the age of 35." Barefoot enlisted (conscripted?) On May 12, 1862, in Company B, 56th North Carolina Troops. He was a private. On November 29, 1862, he was admitted to a hospital in Petersburg, where on December 8, 1862, he died of "cont[inued] febris." There were five other Barefoots in Company B.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Blandford Church Cemtery

Last week, I was in Virginia for a book signing. On my way home Thursday, I stopped at Blandford Church Cemetery in Petersburg. I have not been in the cemetery for several years, probably back in the late 1990s when I was working on the book on the 37th NCT.

I mainly went to photograph interesting gravestones for a class on cemetery iconography that I teach occasionally at local community colleges and historical societies, and I found several good tombstones to add to my collection of images.

I have visited many cemeteries in the past decade. Being at Blandford, and standing in the large, empty field where 30,000 Confederate soldiers are buried is a very humbling moment.
While there is no documented number of Confederates buried at Blandford, the City of Petersburg has maintained for over a century that over 30,000 Confederate soldiers are buried within the confines of the cemetery. Most of these men died in the last year of the war, when Meade’s army (under the watchful eye of Grant) encircled Petersburg and slowly squeezed the life out of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Blandford Church itself was constructed in 1735-1737, but stopped being a church in the early1800s. During the war, the windows-less brick building was used as a hospital. In the early 1900s, the church became a Confederate memorial chapel, with Tiffany stained glass windows from the different former Confederate states.

There is a good chance that if you had a North Carolina ancestor who was killed during the Petersburg Campaign, that he was interred at Blandford. Many of the Confederates who died during battle were first buried on the battlefields, and later re- interred at Blandford following the war.

However, of the 30,000+ Confederates buried in the cemetery, only 2,000-3,000 are known by name.

After you pass through the large memorial arch, there is a North Carolina section. (Towards the back, right before the curve). There is only one grave actually marked in this section: Pvt. John O. Barefoot, of Company B, 56th North Carolina Troops.

Everyone should visit Blandford if you have a chance: lots of good gravestone art, the beautiful stained glass windows, and to reflect as you stand amongst the graves of 30,000 Confederate soldiers.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

26th NCT monument vandalized

Greetings folks - I found this article from the New Bern Sun Journal this morning. This is just tragic.

Memorial went up just days before Thanksgiving 2006
Francine Sawyer /
Sun Journal Staff

March 2, 2007 - 12:00AM A Civil War memorial marks the area where Confederate and Union soldiers fought during the Battle of New Bern in 1862. Now the fight is on to stop vandalism of the 11 1/2-ton granite monument.

The New Bern Historical Society has been working for the past seven years to make the monument, located near Taberna, a part of the New Bern Battlefield Park. Mark Magnum, chairman of the battlefield committee, said someone used a hammer to chip at the monument last week. Thursday, he found someone had written profane language on it. "It's awful," he said. Magnum said the $45,000 monument went up just days before Thanksgiving last year. He said the amount of monetary damage to the monument is still being assessed.

The North Carolina 26th Monument commemorates the Civil War Battle of New Bern. That battle will be marked at a 145th anniversary celebration beginning March 10.

Magnum reported the first vandalism to police and updated them with a phone call Thursday on the latest incident. Anyone with information about the vandalism can call the New Bern police at 672-4100 or Crime Stoppers, which offers a reward, at 633-5141.