Friday, February 27, 2009

“Look here… I’m killed” part 1

When you finish writing a book, you are always worried that upon its publication, some fabulous pieces of information will come forth. No matter how much time you put into telling the community what you are working on, someone will call, or write, “I wish I knew that you were working on that. I have [insert here 100 letters, ten photographs, etc.]” Until this past Tuesday, I was fairly happy with my first book, the one on the 37th North Carolina. Sure, I have, since its release in 2003, come across a couple of photographs that I wish I had had, and I now have copies of the Horton Diary, but this past Tuesday, while doing some research in Lenoir at the library, I came across a piece I truly wish I could have found earlier and gotten into the book.

There is no date on this article, probably from the Lenoir Topic. Since one of the authors died in 1917, it must have been written before that time. The authors of the article are Peter W. Turnmire and George W. Triplett. In 1861, Triplett was living in Wilkes County, and Turnmire was living in Watauga County. Triplett joined Company B of the Thirty-seventh on September 14, 1861, and Triplett four days later.

If you have read my history of the regiment, or know anything about the regiment, you know that the Thirty-seventh was involved in several of the Seven Days battles in June and July 1862. During the battle of Gaines Mill, around 3:30 in the afternoon, Branch was ordered to send his brigade to the support of Gregg’s brigade. I’ll let Triplett and Turnmire pick up the story.

“We threw our pickets along the Chickihominy and crossed and marched up a hill in files of four. About one third of the regiment reached the top of the hill, when the enemy poured a volley into the end of our regiment and we fell back to the foot of the hill. There we formed again and marched up in file of fours; and again they poured a volley into us and again we fell back to the foot of the hill and formed in a line of battle and advanced to the top and dropped on our knees and began firing at the enemy and pretty soon it looked like the Minnie balls had trimmed all the bushes around me.

“I [Turnmire], during the engagement, was standing between Thos. Hodge on the right, and Vincent Greer on the left, a Minnie ball struck Hodge about the heart and I eased him down on the right and Vincent Greer was struck in the temple and I eased him down on my left. When the order was given for us to fall back for reinforcements, I did not hear the orders and Captain Horton came and slapped me on my back with a sword and said we were ordered to fall back. As we went down the hill where we formed in the morning, Riley Triplett’s son Calvin, went down the hill with us and a stray ball struck him in the heart and he pulled his shirt open and said, “’Look here! Capt. Horton, I’m killed,’ and fell back dead.”

More to come….

Thursday, February 26, 2009

You can help preserve the flag of the 58th NCT

Late last year, I talked to Skip Smith of the Society for the Preservation of the Twenty-sixth North Carolina about their 2009 preservation project. They were discussing a couple of different projects. If you will recall, back last May I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a program at the History Museum in Raleigh. That program was to welcome home the flags of the 26th NCT, 37th NCT, and artifacts that belonged to Bryan Grimes. The living historians and descendants in the reactivated 26th NCT facilitated those items coming to the North Carolina Museum in History. The great folks in the 26th NCT have raised numerous funds to help with various projects, like the monument on the battlefield of New Bern, and preservation of flags from other regiments, like the 47th NCT.

For 2009, they have chosen to concentrate their efforts on preserving the remnants of the flag of the 58th NCT, an effort that I wholeheartedly concur with.

The Museum of History in Raleigh has remnants of two different 58th NCT flags. The more traditional looking part of the flag comes from, what we believe, the canton of the Second National that the 58th NCT was issued sometime in 1863. The “58” and the “NC” come from a different flag, an Atlanta/Dalton depot issued flag the regiment received probably in February 1864. It would appear that neither flag was captured or surrendered during the war. Both of the above remnants were taken home by Maj. G. W. F. Harper at the end of the conflict, and remained in his family until donated to the museum in 1929.

In my mind, I have that the Atlanta/Dalton depot flag was cut up before the regiment surrendered at Greensboro in May 1865, each member of the regiment receiving a piece of the flag, and Harper taking the “58”and the “NC”. However, I cannot prove that at this time. It would be nice if this could be confirmed.

Would you not consider helping preserve the flag of the 58th North Carolina Troops? You can go here for more information.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A couple of notes.

The Raleigh Telegram has on article on a free program coming up at the North Carolina History Museum. The program, which is this Saturday, deals with the battle of Antietam and archaeology at the battlefield. You can read more here.

There is a upcoming program on North Carolina’s black Confederate pensioners at Zebulon Baptist Church. I could not find a time, but if you are interested, please contact the state archives. Article can be found here.

I also found a small mention on the roll of the United States Marine Corps and the battle of Fort Fisher at an article you can find here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Correction folks – the Caldwell County and the Civil War Round Table Discussion is on the evening of March 9, not the 10th. I hope to see many of your there.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Off topic - more Shameless Self Promotion

New Book

Folks, for the third time in three months, I am proud to announce the publication of a new book. Mitchell County, a part of the Images of America series, was released last week. This is the fourth book in this series that I have done (Avery County, Caldwell County, and Remembering North Carolina’s Confederates are the others).

Here is the blurb from the back of the book:
Nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina, Mitchell County was created in 1862 and named for Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a University of North Carolina professor who died in 1857 while re-measuring the mountain that now bears his name. Although the appropriately named mountain lies in adjacent Yancey County, Mitchell County has no shortage of claims to fame; it is well known for the Clinchfield Railroad, the Carolina Theater, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Penland School, and the infamous Frankie and Charlie Silver murder case. There is also much more to Mitchell County than its best known sites and figures. Mica and feldspar mining, the orchard at Altapass, churches, the Wing Academy, Bakersville, and Spruce Pine all have their own unique histories.

If you are interested in ordering a copy, please check out my web page at

Thursday, February 19, 2009

58th NCT update

Time for a little update. Last night, I finished up with the 58th NCT just getting to Branchville, South Carolina, trying to slow down, or stop, Sherman’s march through South Carolina. It took the regiment from January 22 until February 4 to travel from Tupelo to Branchville. That is two weeks.

Here is a little sneak preview from the book (this is still in draft form.) Tupelo was home for the Fifty-eighth for about a week. Orders had come down on January 15 for daily drills to begin again, when the weather permitted. On January 18, more orders came: Lee’s corps was ordered to make preparations to move east. The regiment was to prepare three days' rations, and to have at least twenty rounds of ammunition in the cartridge boxes. At Montgomery and Macon, an additional three days' rations would be available, and at Milledgeville, four days' rations were to await the troops. On the twentieth, the Fifty-eighth drew new clothing in Tupelo, and on the twenty-first, the men were waiting for the train. Finally, about dark on the twenty-second, with rain intermingled with sleet, the Fifty-eighth boarded the heatless freight cars, bound for Meridian, Mississippi. They reached Meridian at 9:00a.m. on Tuesday, January 24. They continued on to Selma, Alabama, arriving at 11:00 p.m., on the twenty-fifth. At Selma, they boarded a boat, which took them to Montgomery. At Montgomery, they once again boarded trains, arriving in Columbus, Georgia, on Sunday, January 29. They made good time the following day, and were in Macon by 4:00 p.m., and then near Milledgeville, where the railroad had been destroyed by Sherman, at 11:00 p.m. “Sandy country” full of “Long leaf pine” greeted the men on January 31. The regiment marched about sixteen miles, passing through Milledgeville during the day. Captain Harper paid someone twenty-five dollars to ride in a carriage on the first of February. At 9:00 a.m. on February 2, the Fifty-eighth was in Mayfield, where they boarded a train for Augusta, arriving at 4:00 p.m. Another two miles was covered that evening before going into camp. Several men were furloughed home on February 3, including Lieutenant Colonel Silver. This would have left Captain Harper in command of the regiment. That evening he moved the Fifty-eighth back to August, where they boarded another train. The next morning, they were in Branchville,South Carolina. (Harper, diary, 2:68-70; ORs, Vol. 45, 2:793)

As of today, the manuscript has 72,500 words, which includes text and notes, but does not include appendices. I have a lot of reading to do over the next few days, including Campbell’s When Sherman Marched North From the Sea and Barrett’s Sherman’s March Through the Carolinas.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shameless self promotion

Shameless self promotion – check out this article about my book signing tonight in Hendersonville Blue Ridge Now.

I hope to see you there!

Monday, February 16, 2009

More on Lincoln...

We seem to be awash in Lincoln material the past few days. I have been able to catch parts of the celebration of his birthday in the US Capital on Thursday. I only caught the politicians' speeches. I hope the rest of it was better. President Obama’s comments were abysmal. So the Confederates got to take home their guns to shoot crows? I’ll make sure that gets into the 58th NCT book! I also watched about two-thirds of National Geographic’s The Real Abraham Lincoln. Overall, not too bad. However, where were Major Rathbone and Miss Harris when Booth fired his shot? Nicely cast Booth, though. I will probably try and watch some of Stealing Lincoln’s Body this evening on the History Channel.

The North Carolina Biblical Recorder got into the act this week also. The Recorder was founded in 1830, and the issues for the War years (1860-1865) contain a wealth of information. When I did research for the book on the 37th NCT, I used several articles culled from the pages of the Recorder. On the back page of last week’s issue, the faith (or lack thereof) of Lincoln is explored. At least the article is straightforward about Lincoln’s beliefs, writing that “Most historians agree on this much: Lincoln was never baptized, never joined a church, and rarely, if ever, talked about Jesus.” I’ll also add that most historians agree that Lincoln did not become a “Christian” until about six months after his death. Well, Mr. President, that is a decision that must be made on this side of the equation.

This morning I read an article on the North Carolina State Department of Cultural Resources’ Civil War Sesquicentennial web site about the Tar Heel roots of Abraham Lincoln. The article, by Ansley Herring Wegner, looks into some of the lore that states that Lincoln was born in North Carolina, and that he and his mother, Nancy Hanks, were sent to Kentucky to cover up his illegitimate birth. The article mentions some of the research used in the 2003 book Tarheel Lincoln. The article can be found by following this link.

Lastly, Jerry Goodnight, the author of The Tarheel Lincoln, has written a follow up book, Looking for Lincoln: Amid the Rumors, Legends, and Lies. My work on the 58th NCT has kept me away from topics not related to the Army of Tennessee, so I have not had a chance to read this book. You might want to check it out. Find more information here.

Well, time to get back to the 58th NCT manuscript. The Army of Tennessee is getting ready to cross over the Duck River.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thoughts on Lincoln.

Last night, I had a chance to watch the PBS program on Lincoln. And, I was pleasantly surprised. Why cannot more documentaries be as even-handed as the one on Lincoln was? No, I did not agree with everything that was said; I seldom do. But it was great to see so many different sides of Lincoln presented. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., did a beautiful job weaving together the varied elements of the presentation, and he did what few documentary makers do: he gave his guests the opportunity to speak for themselves and did not skew his material to give the impression he wanted (like the newscasters who always find the most pathetic and uneducated person to interview, giving the impression that all the people in that community live under rocks…). He is to be commended. I hope I can say as much for the Diane Sawyer program on Appalachia scheduled for tomorrow. I am not holding my breath. My wife, who teaches Appalachian Culture, is already braced for more of the old “poor benighted hillbilly” stereotyping.

I have never liked Lincoln. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in a deep South that was not polluted by modern academia – my dad was the first in his family to go to college, and it was a seminary where perpetuating the Lincoln myth was not high on the minds of the professors. I grew up with the older folks who still remembered their parents, the ones whose homes lay in the path of Sherman and his cohorts. They did not think too highly of Mr. Lincoln, nor his minions. Was Lincoln a tyrant? possibly. Was he guilty of war crimes? probably. Did he overstep his constitutional bounds as president? most certainly. And, it was interesting to hear George W. Bush last night (and I paraphrase) “Lincoln was president during a unpopular war, and I am president during an unpopular war.” True, but the war is not here, in North Carolina, or in New York. Neither did Bush deny American citizens their constitutional rights by throwing people in jail who spoke out against his usurpation of powers.

No, I still don’t like Lincoln. I’ve read several books on him. I went through his letters while working on the Hanover Court House book. I’ve even been to the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. I did research there, and later toured the museum. As museums go, it was incredible. But I disliked the way it made visitors feel that Lincoln needs to be worshiped. If you have been, you probably know what I am talking about. There is a place where you come out of one of the exhibits, and there in front of you is a smaller (but still larger than life) copy of the Lincoln Statute from the memorial. Because of the lighting, and the way it is positioned, you feel like you need to drop to your knees and worship the “Great Emancipator.” That is just wrong.

Well, I’ve mused long enough. I’m sure I’ve given plenty of fodder to those who like to toss around labels.

I thought I would end with a few quotes from the Raleigh Weekly Standard, on how they felt about Lincoln:

Jonathan Worth, in a two hour speech, said “a revolution was upon us by the folly of Lincoln; that it was our duty as patriots to meet it firmly, and resist coercion to the last.” (15 May 1861)

Mr. Wilkerson, House of Commons: “we regard the election of Abraham Lincoln, by purely a sectional party, a great calamity…” (5 Dec. 1860)

Moore County – “That whilst we deeply regret to see a once happy country rent by intestine strife, and lighted up from one end to the other by a blaze of civil war; yet to a brave and honorable people such a prospect has not half so many terrors as are presented by the contemplation of outraged honor, rights assailed, justice withheld and trampled under foot, wrongs unredressed, self and sectional pride humiliated and contemned and the consequent tyranny and insolence of the Black Republic domination…”

No Author – “Our soil must not be polluted by the tramp of the invader. At any sacrifice or cost, the tyrant Lincoln must be vanquished. Hold up, ye brave men..” (25 Sept. 1861)

Sen. Clingman – described Lincoln “as an obstinate, ignorant and fanatical man, an apostle of the irrepressible conflict.” (26 Sept. 1860)

Editorial – “But… better that our State should be reduced to abject poverty, and that want, and famine, and pestilence should afflict and destroy our people, than that they should think even of submitting to the tyranny of Lincoln. Our brave troops are breasting that tyranny on the tented field, and are keeping the calamities of battle from our doors…” (28 Sept. 1861)

Editorial – “ Recently, we have tried to impress it upon our readers that there were no signs of peace – no prospect of a speedy termination of the war. We knew too much about the stubborn, uncompromising and fanatical spirit of Lincoln and his party, to expect anything but a blind and dogged persistence in their wicked designs.” (17 July 1861)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Upcoming events

It is about that time of year when I start going back on the road. I do not do much in the winter time because the weather here in western NC can be quite unpredictable. Please find below some of the events that I have lined up over the next few months. If you would like to me come and speak to your group, please drop me a line at or use the contact form to the right.

February 17, 2009
Henderson County Heritage Center (Old Court House)
Hendersonville, NC
Topic: NC Confederate Veteran Movement

March 10, 2009
Caldwell County and the Civil War
Round Table Discussion
Caldwell Heritage Museum, Lenoir, NC
Topic: Caldwell County and the Civil War

March 16, 2009
Mitchell County book signing
Spruce Pine Public Library, Spruce Pine, NC
Topic: Mitchell County

April 13, 2009
Watauga County Historical Society
Watauga County Public Library, Boone, NC
Topic: Gravestone Iconography

April 27, 2009
Fincastle Rifles Camp 1326, SCV
Roanoke, VA
Topic: 37th North Carolina Troops

June 6, 2009
Avery County Heritage Festival
Cranberry, NC
Topic: All day book signing

June 9, 2009
Brig. Gen. Micah Jenkins, Camp 1596, SCV
Rock Hill, SC
Topic: TBA

And, already for next year,
June 9, 2010
Central Ohio Civil War Round Table
Columbus, OH
Topic: Battle of Hanover Court House

Monday, February 09, 2009

Warren County

Today, I thought we would turn our attention to Warren County, located in the Northeastern piedmont part of the state. The county sits on the Virginia-North Carolina line. Warren County was created in 1779 from the now-defunct Bute County. The county, and the county seat, Warrenton, were named for Joseph Warren, a patriot and physician killed at the battle of Bunker Hill. Prior to the war, Warren County was one of the wealthiest counties in the Tar Heel State.

In 1860, Warren County had a population of 15,726 people, 10,401 of which were slaves. There 402 free blacks who lived in Warren County. In the 1860 presidential election, Warren County cast 890 votes for Breckinridge, 138 for Bell, and six for Douglas. Weldon N. Edwards, a former state senator and US Congressman, was also Warren County’s representative in the Secession Convention and served as president of the convention.

Warren County sent numerous companies into Confederate service. They included Company F, 8th NCST; 2nd Company C, 12th NCST; Company F, 12th NCST; Company K, 12th NCST; Company A, 14th NCST; Company B, 30th NCT; Company G, 43rd NCT; and, Company C, 46th NCT. One early history of the county estimated that 1,200 men served in the Confederate army.

While Warren County was the site of a skirmish in December 1864, the county is best known for who was born in the area. The Ransom brothers, Matt and Robert, were both Confederate generals. Also, Thomas and Braxton Bragg grew up in Warrenton. Braxton Bragg was a general in the Confederate army and very unpopular with Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Thomas Bragg was a United States Senator prior to the war and served as Confederate Attorney General in 1861 and 1862.

During the war, Warren County was home to John White, a Confederate commissioner who purchased blockade runners in England. His house still stands.

Also still standing is the Emanuel Episcopal Church, in which, in 1836, the not-yet=famous Horace Greenly married Mary Youngs Cheney. Greeley would go on to found the New York Tribune.

Probably the singular item that Warren County is best known for in Civil War circles is the final resting place of a daughter of Robert E. Lee: Anne Carter Lee. Anne had been a student at the Virginia Female Institute in Staunton in early 1862, when she took ill. Her family sent her to the sulphur springs in Warren County, in an effort to restore her health. She came down with a fever, and on October 20, 1862, she died while at the White Sulphur Springs. She was interred in the resort owner’s family cemetery. Lee visited the grave in March 1870, just a few months before his own death. In 1994, the grave was exhumed, and what little could be recovered was re-interred in the Lee family crypt in Lee Chapel in Lexington, Virginia.

Today, in Warrenton, there is a Confederate monument, erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1913.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Pettigrew-Trimble Charge at Gettysburg

Folks – Don Ernsberger was kind enough to email me the particulars of a book signing he is having in Raleigh at the Cameron Village Library on Monday, February 23, at7:00 pm. Don is the author of The Pettigrew-Trimble Charge at Gettysburg, a book that I really look forward to reading once I get my book on the 58th NCT finished. If you are in the Raleigh area, please drop by.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

News, notes, and happenings

Folks, I thought we would take a few moments to look around and check on current events relating to the War in the Tar Heels state.

There is an article in ENCToday about the plans to move the original CSS Neuse to new facility. You can read about it here.

This Saturday, living historians from the 1st North Carolina Cavalry will be at the Gov. Aycock birthplace museum in Fremont. For more info, check here.

Also this weekend, the Museum of the Albermarle will hold its annual Civil War Living History. For details, check here.

And, starting next week, and running for six days, the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh will be displaying three unique items in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday. One of those items is the original telegram that Lincoln sent Governor Ellis asking for troops from North Carolina to go into South Carolina and suppress the rebellion. Also, on February 12, the Museum of History is hosting a Symposium on Abraham Lincoln. If you would like more information, check here. (I wonder if my mountain will be thawed out enough for me to attend?)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

My other brother, Darryl

Companies in Confederate and Federal service were made up of men who knew each other. They came from the same locations and were often related. I had a breakthrough last night on my work on two individuals in the 58th NCT.

Andrew Jackson Harmon was born July 16, 1833. He was working as a farmer and living in Watauga County when he enlisted on July 7, 1862. On July 29, 1862, his company became Company D, 58th North Carolina Troops. Harmon was AWOL in March and June 1863, but returned the next month. He deserted on September 20, 1863 (walked off the battlefield at Chickamauga?). He later served as sergeant in Company E, 13th Tennessee Cavalry (US). He died on November 16, 1904 and is buried at the Zion Hill Baptist Church Cemetery in Watauga Count., North Carolina.

His cousin was, of course, also named Andrew Jackson Harmon. This Andrew J. Harmon was born October 20, 1839. He also was a farmer, living in Watauga County, when he enlisted on August 7, 1862. Harmon was mustered in as a private in Company I, 58th North Carolina Troops. On November 15, 1862, Harmon was given a furlough. He was reported absent on furlough in January and February, 1863, and was listed AWOL in May /June 1863. On January 20, 1864, he was dropped from the rolls of the 58th NCT. Prior to that date, he had enlisted in the 13th Tennessee Cavalry, serving as a sergeant in Company E. Harmon died November 15, 1913, and is interred in the Merideth/Daniels Cemetery in Avery County, North Carolina.

Up until last night, I knew that there was an Andrew J. Harmon buried at Zion Hill, but I did not know which one. After going through some old cemetery records, I found the other. Now, if I could just come to the same place with the four men named John Wilson or the three men named John Vance or the two named John Thompson. (There are also three William Smiths.)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Clay County

Folks, I started this county survey long before the holidays. I am just now finishing it. I could not find much that took place in Clay County during the war.

For this county study, we are going to turn our attention to the far southwestern corner of the state and look at Clay County.

Clay County was created in 1861 from Cherokee County and named for the Kentucky politician Henry Clay. The county seat, Hayesville, is built on the site of the former Cherokee village of Quanassee, and was not incorporated until 1913.

Clay County, population wise, was a small place during the war. Since the county was formed in 1861, there is no 1860 census. In 1860, the area of Cherokee County was listed with a population of 9,166, including 519 slaves. In 1870, Clay County had just 2,461 people living within its borders.

Men from the area served in Company G, 25th North Carolina Troops; Co. E, 39th North Carolina Troops; Co. B, 7th Battalion Confederate Cavalry (6th NC Cavalry); and a company in Walker’s Battalion in Thomas’s Legion.

There is not a lot of information about the war and Clay County. Apparently, the people in that corner of the state hard a hard time getting their mail during the war (see Raleigh Weekly Standard 30 Dec. 1863).

An interesting letter was in the Weekly Standard in July 1863. It read, in part, that crops were generally poor, due to the amount of rain and the lack of hands to work the land. The writer, “S.,” concluded with this:

Will you be so kind, Mr. Editor, as to inform Jeff. Davis and his Destructive coadjutors, that, after they make the next draw of men from this mountain region, if they please, as an act of great and special mercy, be so gracious as to call out a few, just a few of their exempted pets from Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina, to knock the women and children of the mountains in the head, to put them out of their misery. Assure Mr. Davis that his pets in such a campaign will be in no danger; the poor women and children will be so weak they can’t hurt them.

If I find more about Clay County, I’ll revise this post.