Friday, October 29, 2010

Upcoming events

Well folks, I’ll be on the road this next week. If you get a chance, stop by and say hi!

Sunday, October 31 – Caldwell Heritage Museum, Lenoir (Caldwell County) 3-5 pm.

Tuesday, November 2 - Sergeant John A. Lisk Camp No. 1502, SCV, Montgomery County Community College, Troy, NC – 7:00 pm

Thursday, November 4 – Watauga Historical Society, Tipton Haynes Historic Site, Johnston City, TN

Thursday, October 28, 2010

recusant conscripts

Lately, I’ve been reading Escott’s Many Excellent People: Power and Privilege in North Carolina, 1850-1900. It is an interesting book and I would recommend that you pick up a copy and give it a read.

On pages 79-80, Escott informs us that at least two North Carolina counties, Randolph and Caldwell, worked out deals with the bands of deserters in the last months of the war. In Caldwell County, six local citizens were authorized to appeal to Governor Vance “to allow the Home Guard of our County to remain home… and also allow the recusant conscripts to come in and join the Home Guard.” On April 22, 1865, a large group of magistrates met and adopted this resolution, that

Certain recusant conscripts, and other citizens of the county of Caldwell who are unwilling to perform Military service under the Confederate Government, and who to avoid the same are obligated to absent themselves from their Homes, on the one part; and a portion of the Military Authorities of the Confederate government, under command of Capt. N. A. Miller, on the other part, to the following effect: that the said Military Authorities or forces be withdrawn from service; that no further effort be made to enforce the conscription law in the county; that the said recusant conscripts and others be permitted to return quietly to their homes and pursue their lawful occupations unmolested; that restitution of all captured or stolen property be made, as far as possible, by both parties and that both parties shall hereafter demean themselves as quiet, orderly citizens. (From Caldwell County Court Minutes).

Hmm, I wonder how many other counties had such deals with the local “recusant conscripts”? Of course, since so many counties lost their records, it might be hard to prove. Has anyone else ever seen this for counties besides Caldwell or Randolph?

Monday, October 25, 2010

North Carolina Historian of the Year

As most of you have probably figured out, my weekends are usually really, really busy. Sometimes we go to re-eanctments, at times we have book signings, or maybe we head out to a battlefield or to install gravestones. This past weekend, I was in Mooresville at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Society of Historians. It was great to see some old friends, and to make some new ones ; Carroll C. Jones who wrote the book on the 25th North Carolina Troops was there, wining a Willie Parker Peace History Book Award for another project.

As somewhat of a surprise, the Society chose to honor me as the 2010 North Carolina Historian of the Year. I am truly, truly, grateful. Wow, me… North Carolina’s Historian of the Year…. This is a huge honor for me, especially as I look through the list of past winners and see in what lofty company that places me.

The photo above is of me receiving the award from Elizabeth Sherrill, North Carolina Society of Historians president.

Don’t worry, I won’t let it go to my head; buying new hats is expensive.

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Georgia website

I noticed this morning that Georgia has launched its 150th Civil War website -   I encourage you to check it out. Compare this events web page ( with North Carolina’s 150 Civil War website events page (  Nothing on the North Carolina page is current. Yet I know that there are events happening all over the place. Yes, I know, the Georgia site is hosted/sponsored by the the tourism department, but, one of the primary goals of the North Carolina site is to: “extend to the citizens of the state and others, via a layered and interdisciplinary approach, an understanding of the complexity of the issues surrounding the war and to transform the interpretation of the events for a new generation.” Virginia has a comparable site ( – it lists events all over the state. North Carolina needs to catch on and start listing events that going on in the Tar Heel state that will help interpreting “events for a new generation.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

News and Notes…

Been a while, but as many of you know, I’ve been a little busy. I will start off with this: I spoke to the Ross Camp, SCV, in Charlotte last evening. At my table was a 95 year old gentleman, who, in 1929, was a boy scout in Charlotte during the United Confederate Veteran Reunion. He recalled helping the old Confederate veterans around town, and on and off street cars. It was a real treat. On to the news.

The project by the state to get a count of the number of North Carolina soldiers who died during the war is still getting press. Check out this piece in the Fayetteville Observer here.

A portion of Cross Creek Cemetery in Fayetteville, where the first Confederate Monument in the state was erected, will be getting a new fence. Learn more here.

A brief mention of a few North Carolinians that served in the 1st United State Colored Troops, can be found in this article from the Charleston Post and Courier.

Interested in local history? Check out this great article on the local history collection at the library in Morganton/Burke County.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"everybody deserves to have a headstone" - Union graves in Richmond County

More news on the finding and marking of Union graves in Richmond County. The first is a press release sent to me by Tom MacCallum, and from the Richmond County Historical Society. The second is part of an article by Jim Dodson, and was found in The Pilot, a local newspaper. I hope you enjoy.

From Richmond County Historical Society

Representatives of Confederate and Union armies met once again Saturday on a farm west of Rockingham in Richmond County, this time as reenactors descended from Civil War veterans.

In what the Rev. James B. Watson called a “solemn duty,” five Union Army soldiers killed on March 7, 1865, were recognized with white marble, federally-issued tombstones on graves where they were buried in the Zion Community of the county after being killed there by Confederates during the war.

Local Confederate Army reenactors, dressed in both Confederate and Union uniforms, presented the unveiling ceremony with rifle and cannon salutes and stood watch as representatives of Union Army Sons of Veterans honored the soldiers with an American flag and white rose at each tombstone.

The event was sponsored, organized and produced by the Richmond County Historical Society.

Descending relatives of Pvt. Henry L. Sennett, 24, were present to recognize their ancestor, who along with the four other Union soldiers, had been lost for the past 145 years.

They included Thomas Shugars of Salix, Penn.; his son, Jim Shugars; and grandson, Ian Shugars.

Formally recognizing the other Union soldiers were Charles Augur of Lexington, N.C., of the Gibbon Burke Sons of Union Veterans; and Dennis St. Andrew of Cary, N.C., senior vice commander, Department of N.C., Sons of Union Veterans.

Sennett was a member of the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry along with Pvt. Calvin Simpson, 24; and Pvt. David Woods, 27; and Cpl. Reed Alcorn, 21, and Pvt. Mathew Ross, 20, both of the 8th Indiana Cavalry, when they were on a foraging mission as part of the Union Army in Richmond County.

The lost are found

Two years ago, the graves - marked only with large rocks - came to the attention of the Richmond County Historical Society through Paul Scholl, local contractor, who lives near the site. Irving Long, retired journalist living in Richmond County, included the information in his book entitled, “Sherman In The Sandhills.”

When he later mentioned the graves at a society meeting, Vietnam Veteran Bo Frye expressed the opinion the graves needed recognition. Long followed up with the suggestion, and in January proposed that the society provide markers.

“It really came down to they were serving their country, and everybody deserves to have a headstone,” Long told Joseph Cress of the Sentinel Reporter of Carlisle, Pa., when seeking information there on Union soldiers from that area.

“That feeling seems to trump any lingering bitterness that was left in the wake of Sherman’s march,“ Long said.

For the past 145 years, descendants of Confederate veterans stood watch over five large rocks marking the graves of Union soldiers buried on a farm west of Rockingham.

First it was the Lassiter family, descended from Daniel T. Lassiter. When he returned home as a Confederate Army veteran to find five graves dug a month or so earlier on his farm, he learned that the five Union soldiers were buried after being ambushed by what were believed to be members of the local Confederate Home Guard.

They were believed to have been buried either by an African-American family living nearby or Union soldiers who came upon the skirmish scene. The family told Lassiter about the skirmish and graves.

But, the identities of the Union soldiers were not known until this year. They were among at least 35 casualties the Union Army suffered while in Richmond County.

Saturday ceremony

In giving the background of the events leading up to the ceremony Saturday, James A. Clifton said from words passed down through families, “It is believed that Lassiter expressed sympathy for the death of the men. Although he had fought against their comrades, he had seen bravery on both sides and felt is should not be forgotten. The pledge was made to treat the grave site with reverence.“

That story - and land - was passed from Daniel Lassiter to his son, John Lassiter; and then to his grandson, Mason Lassiter. In 1974 Mason sold the land where the graves are located to Roy Moss, who continued the tradition of revering the site. Moss, 81, is a U.S. Navy veteran. His family lived in Richmond County during the Civil War, and his great-grandfather was a soldier in the Confederate Army.

Moss wanted to assist the project to protect the graves in perpetuity under N.C. law.

Ed Snyder of Cordova in Richmond County is a reenactor with the 26th S.C. Volunteers, Sons of Mars, Sons of Confederate Veterans. As a member of the executive board of the Richmond County Historical Society, he took on the task of identifying the Union soldiers and marking their graves, a task with which he has prior experience as a reenactor.

“I think all who serve this country in time of war should have a marked grave,” Snyder said, himself descending from a Confederate Army veteran. His great-grandfather was a captain in the Richmond County Confederate Home Guard. “I knew somewhere these Union soldiers had a family that might want to find them.” He said he believes that even though he is “a die-hard Confederate (son of) and Southerner” and still believes in the Confederate cause.

A personal quest

He personally knows the importance of such recognition. “My grandmother looked all her life for her grandfather, Pvt. David Deaton of the 14th N.C., and did not find him. I did find his resting place about 10 years ago in Winchester, Va.”

“The ceremony here means closure for an unfinished story,“ Snyder said. “I hope all of this work will tell the families and the people of the North that we do care, and hopefully they will do to same when they find Confederate soldiers’ graves.”

Sennett’s brother, Henry Sennett, came to Richmond County some 30 years after the Civil War searching for his brother’s grave, unsuccessfully.

It isn’t often that unmarked Union soldiers’ graves are found, Snyder said. His next project is to research two such graves in Wagram, in nearby Scotland County. “It means a lot to me as a reenactor,” he said.

Bruce D. Frail of Coventry, Rhode Island, a researcher and co-founder of American Civil War Ancestor, Inc., provided the identities of the soldiers and was sent by the historical society to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., for confirmation and information on each soldier. He was present Saturday.

“That information and persistence, which included help from Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC8), finally persuaded the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue the markers,” Clifton said in his remarks.

Before leaving the ceremony site beside the Moss pond to attend an unveiling of the tombstones in a nearby pine tree thicket, local Confederate reenactors fired a salute with Civil War vintage rifles and a cannon, followed by the playing of “Taps.”

From The Pilot -  “Five Union Soldiers Find Peace”

Shortly after 10 o'clock on a crisp Saturday morning two weeks ago, 75 folks solemnly clutching small American flags and digital cameras assembled in a grove of young pines at a modest farm in the Zion community, tucked into in the soft hills west of downtown Rockingham.

Their objective was to honor five forgotten Union soldiers who died in a skirmish only days before the end of the Civil War. Until now, the solders' remains have lain in hand-dug graves marked only by small piles of white stones for 145 years, their identities unknown.

The event, sponsored by the Richmond County Historical Society, was an unlikely memorial service to honor their service to country and unveil official grave markers for the newly identified deceased. Invited guests included ancestors of the dead soldiers from as far away as Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, plus local citizens and history buffs and even a color guard made up of the Sons of Confederate Veterans from both North and South Carolina.

As local historian James Clifton reminded the participants, what happened at Lassiter Farm on March 7, 1865, was only a tiny incident in the bloodiest conflict in American history, a vast conflagration that produced more than a million casualties including 620,000 soldiers - an estimated 8 percent of all white males from the North and 18 percent from the South. More American soldiers died in the Civil War than in the next six wars combined.

Ironically, it was only the honor of a Confederate soldier that kept the memory of the five Union deaths from vanishing forever into the ether.

The story goes that Daniel Lassiter returned home to learn of five fresh graves on his property just weeks after the guns fell silent. He learned the bodies in the graves belonged to Union troops who'd been on a foraging mission on horseback and wagon when they evidently encountered remnants of the Richmond Home Guard. Records show that more than 35 Union Army deaths occurred from running skirmishes and scattered house-to-house fighting that took place in Richmond County during the closing days of the war.

After hearing the story, it's believed Lassiter expressed sympathy for the deaths of his former enemies and their families, citing the need for the nation to heal its wounds. He pledged that the graves of his former enemies would be marked and never disturbed as long as his family owned the farm.

Lassiter's promise passed through several generations of his family. In 1974, a man named Roy Moss purchased the property, and he agreed to honor the graves of the unknown soldiers by leaving them undisturbed as well.

'Homecoming of Sorts'

Two years ago, during a casual conversation with a fellow member of the Richmond County Historical Society, former Richmond County Daily Journal owner Neal Cadieu Jr. learned about the presence of the graves. A campaign was undertaken to see if the men could be identified and their final resting spots properly marked with grave markers.

A Union Army historian named Bruce Frail undertook the research in Washington and turned up more than 300 pages of research on the five dead soldiers, including their names.

"This really amounts to a homecoming of sorts for the families who lost their ancestors and for those of us here who looked after these graves for so long," Cadieu said to me as we stood watching the color guard load their rifles. "In the larger scheme of things, it not a very big thing, I suppose, but to me it's a powerful commentary on human kindness and brotherhood - how one man ended a war and honored his enemies by giving them a proper resting place, a home."

After taps was played hauntingly by a lone bugler off in the October-lit pines and a three-shot volley was fired by the honor guard, family members and guests filed silently along a narrow pine-needled path to a clearing in the pines, where five new grave stones stood draped with Yankee blue cloths.

One by one, the new grave stones were revealed - in at least two cases by a relative who also planted an American flag.

As the silent, moving ceremony unfolded, a line from Homer's "Odyssey" slipped into my head: All I want and all I pine for is to go back to my house and see my day of homecoming.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Robnett Family

Back in October 2006 I wrote about the Robnett and Key families and the battle of Hanover Court House. I originally wrote that the Tar Heels killed in battle were probably disinterred and sent to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. I now believe that they are either still on the field, or were disinterred and reburied in the cemetery in Ashland, just up the road from Hanover. We will probably never know.

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to participate in a gravestone dedication service at the Three Forks Baptist Church in Alexander County. Three Forks is the final resting place for many members of Company G of the 37th North Carolina Troops. Four of the five stones that were dedicated were cenotaphs for the members of the Robnett family that were killed on the May 27, 1862 battle around Hanover. It was an honor to be a part of such a service, and thanks to the Rocky Face Rangers, Camp 1948, Sons of Confederate Veterans, for remembering these men. You can learn more about the camp here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On the road again...

Busy weekend –

I’ll be signing books today at the Avery County Historical Museum from 11:00 until 3:00 pm.

Tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon (3:00pm), I’ll be speaking at a dedication service at Three Forks Baptist Church in Alexander County. Among others, they have installed cenotaphs for the Robnett brothers of the 37th North Carolina Troops.

Tuesday, October 19, I’ll be speaking at the Ross Camp of the SCV in Charlotte. You can get more details here .

I hope I’ll see you around!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Returning to the NC G. A. R.

So, after some research, as well as emails with Wendell Small, Bruce Long, Doug Elwell, and Chris Meekins, I am ready to put together a summary on North Carolina and the Grand Army of the Republic. Tell me what you think… Am I right or wrong, or, where does this need more?

The Grand Army of the Republic was created in Indiana in April 1866. The G. A. R., founded upon the principles of “Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty,” was a fraternal organization for former Union soldiers. At the state level, the G. A. R. was organized into a department, and organizations in different towns and cities were known as Posts. At its zenith, the G. A. R. contained 490,000 members (1890), and every year, starting in 1866, held national encampments in a different city each year. The organization held its last national encampment in Indianapolis in 1949, and with the death of its last member, ceased to exist in 1956. In the 1880s through the 1910s, the G. A. R. was a major driving force in national politics. Many G. A. R. posts met in their own facilities, erected numerous monuments, and maintained homes for old soldiers.

The North Carolina Department of the Grand Army of the Republic was organized on July 11, 1868, with eight posts, including ones in Wilmington and Raleigh. The North Carolina Department was disbanded on December 2, 1872. Nationally, the G. A. R. itself almost ceased to exist. In the 1880s, under new leadership, the G. A. R. once again began to flourish. National leaders decided to form posts in North Carolina and Virginia into a department: the Department of Virginia and North Carolina. Starting in the late 1880s, new posts were created. Many of the posts were located in the coastal area where the Union had a firm grasp early in the war, or in the mountain areas to the west. In 1897, there were an estimated 400 G. A. R. members in North Carolina, spread out in seventeen posts. Some of the posts in the eastern part of the state were composed entirely of former members of the United States Colored Troops.

One of the most active (and long-lasting) G. A. R. posts in North Carolina was the Maj. Gen. John F. Hartranft Post in Charlotte. The Post was created in 1890 and continued to exist through 1931. The Hartranft Post seem to regularly meet with their Confederate counterparts in the United Confederate Veterans for activates on Confederate Memorial Day, and then the Hartranft Post annually made a pilgrimage to Salisbury on the Federal Memorial Day to decorate the graves of Union soldiers at the National Cemetery.

Like the United Confederate Veterans, the Grand Army of the Republic does not exist any more. All of the men that were eligible to join have long ago crossed over the river. However, just as there are organizations out there that continue to commemorate the Confederate Veterans, similar organizations also exist for the Union Veteran. North Carolina has its own chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans, with posts in Fayetteville, Charlotte, Asheville, Raleigh, and Morehead City. You can learn more about the North Carolina Sons of Union Veterans here .

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Two Sesquicentennial Events

Sorry for the lack of posts lately – 58th NCT books came in (have you ordered yours?) and I’ve been a little on the busy side.

I’ve received two different announcements in the past couple of days about two different events related to North Carolina and the War and the Sesquicentennial. The first event is in November and is a joint meeting between the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association and the Federation of North Carolina Historical Societies. The meeting’s focus will be on North Carolina during the War and Reconstruction. I surely wish I could go (it is in Raleigh), but I have two speaking engagements the week before and three the week after. Oh well. You can learn more here.

The second announcement came across the wire last night. “The Flags Over Hatteras” will take place in August 2011. It is actually a week-long program, starting off with a reunion of descendants who were involved in actions along the Outer Banks in 1861. This is followed by a conference that features James McPherson, Ed Bearss, and Craig Symonds, among others. This will be coupled with living history programs and special museum displays. I’m planning on attending. You can get more information here.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Tombstones mark graves of 5 Union Army Soldiers

I stumbled across this article this morning while on my daily web crawl. Anyone have any more information? Can someone send me the article from the Charlotte Observer?

Tombstones mark graves of 5 Union Army Soldiers

It is interesting the spin that WTKR puts on the circumstances of their deaths: “killed by Confederate soldiers while scouting for supplies.” Some of Sherman’s bummers? Hmm….

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

New Blogs

Usually, I don’t post updates to my blog roll. I figured you would rather read more about the war than blog roll revisions. However, I’ve added a couple that I want to talk a little about.

The two I’ve added to my blog roll this morning both have to do with events dealing with the upcoming 150th anniversary of the war. The first, listed as Fredericksburg 150, is technically called “The Civil War 150th in Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania” and is a sister site to Mysteries and Conundrums, a great blog put together by the Rangers and Staff at Fredericksburg et. al., Parks. Fredericksburg 150 is a blog to help keep people informed as to the events that are going on in that area.

The second blog is North Carolina Civil War 150 and is being written by the folks at the State Archives in Raleigh. Once again, the purpose of the site is to inform readers of “Civil War Sesquicentennial Events at the North Carolina Archives.” I look forward to watching these two sites and to learning more about the events.

Blogging is not easy. No, I don’t ever lack material to blog about. I do sometimes lack time. For example, the posts I put up about each county usually take two to four hours to research and post. But it helps me. Of course, the information about the 58th North Carolina comes from my research into the regiment. As I explore other topics, I’m sure that they translate into posts. What surprises me is that there are not more Civil War blogs, especially on the state level. Where is a blog about Alabama and the War, or Virginia and the War? There are plenty of materials… Yes, I had ancestors from both states during the war, but keeping up with one blog is enough. Of course, if someone wanted to start such a blog that dealt with other states, I would love to help contribute. The same would be true with a blog dedicated to the ANV…. But alas, I am not a full time blogger.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Just something for you to ponder…..

Recently, I was out with a friend cemetery crawling in Yancey County. And it was crawling. We were in some unmaintained cemeteries, looking for the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers. While at one of these cemeteries, we came across the graves of two men: William B. Biggs and Thomas D. Silver.

Thomas D. Silver, according to the Troop book series, “Resided in Yancey County and enlisted at the age of 17 on July 3, 1861.” He was mustered in as a private in Company B, 29th North Carolina Troops. Silver was “Wounded in the left shoulder at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on or about December 31, 1862. [He] Returned to duty on an unspecified date. Captured at Spanish Fort, Mobile, Alabama, April 8, 1865. Confined at Ship Island, Mississippi, April 10, 1865. Transferred to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he arrived on May 6, 1865. No further record.”

William B. Biggs also enlisted in Company B, 29th North Carolina Troops. According to his record, he “resided in Yancey County and enlisted at the age of 29, July 3, 1861. Transferred to Company K of this regiment September 16, 1861. Transferred back to this company on March 11, 1864. Last reported in the records of this company in November 1864.” Biggs appears in another regiment – the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry (US). He joined Company K of the 3rd Regiment in Burnsville on March 1, 1865, and was mustered into service in Knoxville, Tennessee, March 13, 1865. Biggs was promoted to the rank of 5th Sergeant in June 1865. It is interesting to note that he was promoted to fifth sergeant, but he could not read. It is also interesting to note that there are no discharge papers for Biggs. He simply disappears.

The more remarkable tie between Silver and Biggs is that they are buried not only in the same cemetery, but right beside each other (albeit with a tree in between). Biggs lies there with a Federal stone, and Silver, to his right, with a Confederate stone.

Just something for you to ponder…..

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Soldiers of the Old North State To Encamp at Bennett Place Oct. 9-10

DURHAM – In excess of 125,000 “Tarheels” served in the Confederate Army, more than of any other state, and over 32,000 North Carolina soldiers died during the four-year Civil War. Re-enactors portraying these soldiers will demonstrate camp life during free programs at Bennett Place State Historic Site.

Activities will include cooking, musket firings and talks on how North Carolina soldiers came to be known as “Tarheels” on Saturday, Oct. 9, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 10, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Some new recruits enlisted willingly, some by conscription. Stations in Hillsborough, Company Shops (Burlington), Graham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh served as training and recruiting stations for young and old who rallied to the Southern cause. They were trained to provide re info rcements and relief to soldiers already battling in Virginia , Georgia , Tennessee and along the North Carolina coast.

Visitors will learn about the unique style of equipment and uniforms produced by the state’s booming textile industry during the Civil War. Activities will be ongoing during the two-day event.

"These Confederate soldiers will bivouac -- camp out on the grounds -- the entire weekend,” Site Manager John Guss explains. “Visitors will see these living historians cook salt pork, corn and sweet potatoes over open fires, and mend their own clothing and demonstrate other necessities soldiers had to learn away from home.”

In the Visitor Center many exclusive Civil War-related artifacts interpreting the life of the Bennett family and North Carolina soldiers during surrender negotiations will be on view. The short film, Dawn of Peace, will be shown in the theater, and the recently commissioned painting, The First Meeting, is on display. Bennett Place -related collectibles and Civil War souvenirs will be sold in the museum shop to benefit preservation of this historic landmark.

Bennett Place is in western Durham at 4409 Bennett Memorial Road , Durham , NC 27705 . For more info rmation, call (919) 383-4345 or e-mail Bennett Place is administered by the Division of State Historic Sites within 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