Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So many regiments, so little time.

First, thanks to everyone who commented on my recent posts both here and on facebook regarding regimental histories. It seems that most people are interested in the regiment in which their ancestors served. Funny, I’ve never written about the regiments in which my direct ancestors served, but I did have numerous cousins in the 37th NCT and 58th NCT.

The consensus from my little, unscientific survey was that every regiment needs to have its service chronicled. The problem is that doing it right takes a great deal of hard work. No, we probably don’t need to know where the latrine was when a regiment was camped at Orange Court House or Tullahoma, even though there are probably some relic hunters who would like this information to be included. However, there are all kinds of little nuggets that are waiting to be found. Maybe I should teach a class on the subject…

It would probably come as a surprise just how few regimentals I own (this does not include the ones I read during my formative years). They include only six Federal: Pullen’s 20th Maine, Silo’s 115th New York, Jenkins’s 15th Kentucky, and Scott & Angel’s 13th Tennessee, Bumgarner’s 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, and Killan’s 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry. (Harry – I did order the book on the 57th Massachusetts). As far as Confederates go, I own almost everything on North Carolina, two Virginia, two Alabama, one Florida, one Tennessee, and one Missouri. This list does not include brigade histories, not does it include theses.

While my regimental collection might be small (and like I said, this list does not include others that I have simply read), I do have large amounts of books on how the army works, from common soldiers, to military justice, to the provost department, to armament. I think, in writing regimental histories, it is imperative to understand how a regiment worked. I will admit that I am no master of the subject, but I strive to understand these things.

And yes, I have decided what my next regimental history will be. I’ll have a big announcement here soon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

On the road…

Two book signings this week.

On Thursday night, December 2, I’ll be speaking to the Gen. James B. Gordon Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in Wilkesboro, North Carolina

On Saturday afternoon, December 4, I’ll be signing books at the Ashe County Museum in Jefferson, North Carolina.

I hope to see you at one of these events.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

State Capitol Hosts Free Holiday Open House, Civil War Christmas Encampment

RALEIGH – The spirit of the holidays will be present at State Capitol’s annual Open House on Thursday, Dec. 9, through Sunday, Dec.12. The halls will be decked with seasonal decorations, and local groups will perform traditional and contemporary holiday music in the rotunda at various times of the day.

Hours for the Open House are: Thursday, Dec. 9, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 11, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 12, 1-4 p.m.

A Civil War Christmas Encampment will take place on the Capitol grounds Saturday, Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Re-enactors from the 6th North Carolina State Troops will set up camp and conduct Civil War-era military drills. The encampment will give visitors an opportunity to compare the Christmas holiday during the early war period, when much was still the same as it had been prior to the war, with Christmas during the latter period of the war, when many things had become scarce. Re-enactors will also demonstrate how to dip candles and make simple Christmas ornaments of the period.

All events are offered free of charge.

The State Capitol’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history, architecture and functions of the 1840 building and Union Square . The Capitol is bounded by Edenton, Salisbury , Morgan and Wilmington streets. For more information, visit www.nchistoricsites.org/capitol/default.htm or call (919) 733-4994.
Administered by the Division of State Historic Sites, the State Capitol is part of 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 www.ncculture.com.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Regimental Biographies

You have probably already figured this out, but I spend a great deal of time thinking about regimental histories, or regimental biographies. Maybe it was all those year reenacting, or maybe…. Anyway, I’ve come across two different thoughts on regimental histories in the past twenty-four hours that might lead to some interesting discussion.

Last evening I started reading Richard Reid’s Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina’s Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era (UNC Press, 2008). In the introduction, Reid writes about the need and the process of creating what he calls “regimental biographies”: “The process of selecting a regiment to study and the act of writing the subsequent history runs the risk of bias. It almost inevitably favors the regiments whose ranks teemed with heroes created at critical junctures of the Civil War and whose battle flags carried the names of the war’s most famous engagements. Less studied are the units that broke at the first sound of musket fire or who saw little fighting…” (xiv)

Nick Kurtz, over at the blog Battlefield Wanderings, also discusses regimental histories in a recent post. Kurtz wonders if regimental histories “Should… be…. going forward… only… for regiments that did something extraordinary or whose service was unique? Or that fill a gap in the historiography?” And, “So is the goal of regimental histories to eventually fill in all the gaps so that every unit in every major army has a regimental history? And in this endeavor the Eastern Theater is well ahead and widens its gap every year.”

I would argue that every regiment is unique in some form or fashion. The 37th North Carolina lost more men (dead) than any other Tar Heel regiment; the 58th North Carolina was the largest Tar Heel regiment and lost more to desertion; the 26th North Carolina was Governor’s Vance’s regiment, and lost more men at Gettysburg; the 18th North Carolina mortally wounded Jackson; the 29th North Carolina suffered heavily at Murfreesboro; the 51st North Carolina repelled the attack at Battery Wagner; the 16th North Carolina was the first regiment raised in western North Carolina; Thomas's Legion was a mixture of whites and Cherokee Indians; the 1st North Carolina Volunteers fought (and won) the first land battle of the war… This list could go on and on.

So what do you think? Do regimental biographies only need to cover the regiments whose service might be deemed extraordinary (and what is the definition of extraordinary) or do they all need histories?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sesquicentennial Events

I have noticed in the past few days a plethora of North Carolina sesquicentennial events. Not only do we have the symposium at the Museum of History in Raleigh in May, but we have events going on at Fort Fisher, Somerset Place, and Fort Anderson in January; The Public History of the American Civil War, a Sesquicentennial Symposium at NC State in March; and, an event in Hatteras in August 2011. Surprising (or maybe not) about how all of this focuses in the eastern part of the state – along the coast or in Raleigh. Maybe the events in the western part of the state are just waiting for better weather. Maybe, since parts of my family were in western North Carolina about 1770, I am just a little partial

However, don’t fret. I’ve been working on a couple of events that I hope to have announcements on soon – events that will hopefully lead to a greater understanding of the War in western North Carolina.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lecture at Somerset Place Jan. 15 Examines Slaves’ Side of Civil War

CRESWELL – Somerset Place State Historic Site in Creswell will present the lecture "The Impact and Implication of the Civil War from the Enslaved Person's Perspective: Forced to Aid My Enemies' Cause," on Saturday, Jan. 15, at 2 p.m. Former site manager Dot Redford will speak.

For more info rmation, call (252) 797-4560.

Somerset Place is a representative state historic site offering a comprehensive and realistic view of 19th-century life on a large North Carolina plantation. Originally this atypical plantation included more than 100,000 densely wooded, mainly swampy acres bordering the five-by-eight-mile Lake Phelps , in present-day Washington County . During its 80 years as an active plantation (1785-1865), hundreds of acres were converted into high-yielding fields of rice, corn, oats, wheat, beans, peas and flax; sophisticated sawmills turned out thousands of feet of lumber. By 1865, Somerset Place was one of the upper South's largest plantations.

From Somerset 's earliest days through the end of the Civil War, pe opl e of different races and different legal and economic status lived on the property. A labor force of almost 200 men, women and children was assembled before 1790. They were black and white, enslaved and free. Over the life of the plantation three generations of owners, around 50 white employees, two free black employees and more than 850 enslaved pe opl e lived and worked on the plantation.

The present-day historic site includes 31 of the original lakeside acres and seven original 19th-century buildings. With the goal of accurately representing the lives and lifestyles of the plantation's entire antebellum community, the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources has acquired the reconstructed Overseer's House and reconstructed one-room and four-room homes representative of where enslaved families once lived, along with the plantation hospital.

The commemoration of North Carolina ’s Civil War 150th anniversary (http://www.nccivilwar150.com/ ) is sponsored in part by the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, 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. For more info rmation, visit http://www.ncculture.com/.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tar Heels Regiments in the ANV

Lately, I’ve been working on a summary of the role of Tar Heels regiments in the war, and I’ve made, at least to me, an interesting observation. Prior to the battle of Seven Pines, the principal Confederate army in Virginia (Joe Johnston’s Army of the Potomac), contained just 18 North Carolina regiments. These regiments were scattered thoughout the army, save for Branch’s brigade – the only all Tar Heel brigade with the army.

Of course, many of you know the rest of the story. Johnston is wounded at Seven Pines, and Jefferson Davis places Robert E. Lee in command. Lee brings forces from all the Southern Confederacy to build the army. By the time of the Seven Days battles, Lee’s army has 38 Tar Heel regiments. Not only does Branch command an all- Tar Heel brigade, but so do George B. Anderson, Samuel Garland, Robert Ransom, and, save for the 2nd Arkansas Battalion, William D. Pender.

Just something to ponder.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A look around the Old North State

It appears that a United States flag that flew above Fort Fisher in 1865 is coming up for auction. You can learn more and see some pictures, here.

The Greensboro News and Record has an interesting article on Stoneman’s Raid, and the new book by Chris Hartley. Check it out here.

Also related to Stoneman’s Raid is a story from Statesville about a missing marker, one of the markers recently installed as a part of the North Carolina Civil War Trails program. It seems that the Statesville Convention and Visitors Bureau chose not to pay the $200 a year fee and the Program came and got the marker. Wow, a Visitors Bureau not that interested in doing things that brings visitors… Check out the article here.

A very interesting article on Thomas F. Drayton, a Confederate officer, and his brother, Percival Drayton, a US Navy Officer, can be found here. Thomas Drayton moved to Mecklenburg County after the war. The brothers fought against each other at the battle of Port Royal, South Carolina.

Local Reenactors and SCV Members held a living history for McDowell County students recently at the Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort. Learn more here.

An article that looks at the dismal lack of funding for the Civil War Sesquicentennial can be found here.

The Triangle Business Journal has an article about upcoming Sesquicentennial events in North Carolina. You can learn more here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Civil War ‘Christmas in the Carolinas ’ at Bennett Place Dec. 11-12

DURHAM – A merry and measured Civil War-era Christmas will be celebrated with pine cone and ribbon decorations, smoked ham and other seasonal delights on Dec. 11 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and on Dec. 12 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Bennett Place State Historic Site in Durham .

The “Christmas in the Carolinas During the Civil War” program will present Christmas in the modest fashion of James and Nancy Bennett on the family farm, and will allow visitors to capture the “Make History This Holiday” theme.

Costumed living historians will demonstrate the preparation of packages and letters to send to soldiers off at war. The local duo of Morrison and Southern will perform banjo and fiddle music of the 1860s. The traditional roasting of a hog’s head and apple pressing, unique to the Bennett Place holiday observance, will again occupy the front yard. A military encampment of Confederate soldier re-enactors will share their experiences of a simple but meaningful Christmas.

The farm’s kitchen house will be a delight, filled with the aromas of fried apples, pumpkin pie, onion soup, biscuits and smoked ham. The open-hearth cooking will inspire additional sentiment and warmth. Visitors can warm up with a cup of hot apple cider and enjoy holiday cookies. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

Bennett Farm was the homestead of yeomen farmers and the site of the largest troop surrender of the Civil War. Visitors also can see artifacts interpreting the life of the Bennett family and Civil War soldiers, the short film “Dawn of Peace” and the recently commissioned painting “The First Meeting,” depicting the start of negotiations between Union Gen. William T. Sherman and Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston.

For more info rmation call (919) 383-4345 or visit www.bennettplace.nchistoricsites.org.

Bennett Place is located in western Durham at 4409 Bennett Memorial Road , Durham , NC 27705 . 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 at www.ncculture.com.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On the Road…..

This is probably the busiest week that I have lined up for the rest of the year. I hope you get to make one of these events. I’ll be speaking about the 58th NCT at each of these.

Monday, November 15, 2010, 7:00 pm - Mitchell County Historical Society, Old Mitchell County Courthouse, Bakersville, NC

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 – 6:30 pm – Col. John B. Palmer Camp, SCV, Burnsville Town Center, Burnsville, NC

Thursday, November 18, 2010 – 6:00 pm, Zebulon Vance Camp SCV, Ryan’s Steakhouse, Asheville, NC

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stoneman's Raid

A late announcement – fellow historian Chris Hartley will be speaking about Stoneman’s Raid at Black Bear Books in Boone this afternoon (Saturday, November 13, 2010). If you live in the area, take a few moments to stop by. The program begins at 2:00 pm.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thoughts on western North Carolina and the War

Over the past few days, I’ve had a couple of encounters that have forced me to really think hard about the war in western North Carolina. The first is an article that I am working on for Tar Heel Junior Historian, an article about the war in western NC. The other encounter stems from a question from the Roanoke Civil War Round Table this past Tuesday evening. The question asker thought that western Virginia (aka West Virginia) and western North Carolina were very similar, or of like-mind during the war.

Having reflected upon this, I think I might have hit upon something, maybe new, maybe not, but something I plan to work on in the future. So often when people talk about western North Carolina and war, everyone thinks that our portion of the state was stanchly Unionist in its feelings. I don’t think that’s really true, and I believe research that is being done will (or already has) totally disproved that. I think the story of Unionism in western North Carolina must take a distant third place to story of Confederate support, followed by the story of dissidents. I’m going to define dissidents like so: those who cared neither for the Confederate government nor the Federal government.

If western North Carolina was so pro-Union, why didn’t more men join the Union army? Let’s look at the 58th North Carolina as a test case. There were 707 confirmed deserters, out 2,032 men. To be honest, there were probably 1,000 deserters from the regiment, but the records are pretty bad. Out of the 707 confirmed deserters, only 177 joined the Union army, and several of those I could build a compelling case as to why they were impressed or enlisted unwillingly. But, given the confirmed numbers, that's only 25%.

I’ll give you another set of numbers. Of the 987 men (and one woman) who enlisted from Watauga County, only 104 served in the Union army. That’s only ten percent. How about another set: Terrell Garren, in his book Mountain Myth: Unionism in Western North Carolina, states that there were 27,282 men from western North Carolina that served in the Confederate army, while only 1,836 served in the Federal army. That is only 7% region-wide.

Going back to the 58th North Carolina Troops, why did only 177 of the 707 confirmed deserters join the Federal army? If they were so Unionist in their beliefs, why did not 300 or 400 or 500 join? I think the real story is that they cared for neither government. They truly wished to be left alone.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

On the road again...

Greetings folks – only one road trip this week – I’ll be speaking to the Roanoke Civil War Round Table this evening in Roanoke, Virginia. You can check out their web page here. If you are in the area, stop by and say hi!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Thoughts on Lincoln’s election, pt. 2

Many of the residents who lived in the more metropolitan areas knew of Lincoln’s election by the morning of the eighth. However, it would take days for the news to travel to the more remote parts of the state. I thought we would look at some post-election coverage this morning.

“That event, so dreaded by all true patriots, from Washington down to the present day-the prevalence of a purely sectional party-is upon us. Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin have been elected President and Vice President of the United States.” Fayetteville Observer 3 Nov. 1860.

“Coming events, ‘tis said, often cast their shadows before, and although we foresaw, and predicted this dire result months ago, yet we speak a simple truth when we say that such is the monstrosity of the idea, we cannot, now, fully realize it! It appear to be a fixed fact, nevertheless, and the grave question nor forces itself upon our minds, what is to be done…. If Lincoln has been fairly elected according to the provisions of the Constitution, and the Laws, then we, for one, are willing to give his administration a fair trial.” The Weekly Raleigh Register 14 Nov. 1860.

“Dark and gloomy as appearances may be, there is one bright spot in the horizon. The Black Republican victory will be a barren one, for a Democratic Senate and a hostile majority in the House, will control Lincoln and his Cabinet and leave them utterly powerless for evil.” – Warrenton News (reprinted in Weekly Standard, 14 Nov. 1860)

“We fear that our worst apprehensions have been realized… The people of this community received this intelligence of the first geographical triumph which had taken place in this country, with a feeling of mingled sadness and determination. For our part our motto is, Watch and Wait. North Carolina will never permit Mr. Lincoln of his party to touch the institution of domestic slavery. Her people are at least a unit on this point. They may not advise or approve secession, but they will not submit to the slightest indignity or the slightest encroachment at the hands of the black Republican party.” Weekly Standard 14 Nov. 1860.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Thoughts on the election of Lincoln

As many of you are aware, tomorrow is the 150th anniversary of the election of Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States, which did not stay united. Some of you also know that Lincoln did not appear on the ballot in North Carolina. Even with Lincoln not on the ballot, it was still a three- way race in the Tar Heel state. We will talk more about that soon. Today, I wanted to look at some of the opinions of the “leading men” in regard to the upcoming election.

B. F. Moore, writing from Raleigh on October 13, 1860, thought that the dissolution of the Union on the “event of Lincoln’s election” as “supreme folly as well as the supreme wickedness…” “Why should we manifest such inbecoming fears of Lincoln? He can turn neither the Army nor Navy upon is, while we sit under the shield of the Constitution. He can command no legislative powers to harass us by oppressive laws. He can claim no power above the Constitution, and we can defend ourselves under it. If he should be elected, I, for one, do not fear him…” The Daily Register, November 3, 1860.

Former governor William A. Graham wrote on October 15: “But if it shall please Providence to afflict the country with the election of Lincoln, while we shall regard it as a calamity deeply to be deplored, and shall increase our vigilance over the rights of our section, and he at any moment prepared to defend them, it will be our duty to prevent a dissolution of the Union and the destruction of the Government bequeathed to us by our Fathers, for that cause alone. The President of the United States is not a sovereign – we are not his subjects. Our government is not an elective monarchy, but a representative republic. High as this office may be supposed to exalt the man, he is at last but the servant of the people, and clothed with powers only to do good. If these powers are perverted to our injury and oppression, resistance will be made with united hearts, and with the hope of success; but who can prepare a declaration of independence, appealing to a candid world for its approbation and sympathy, upon the grounds that we have been out-voted in an election, in which we took the chances of success, and a candidate has been elected, who, however obnoxious, we did not deem unworthy to compete with us for votes?” The Daily Register, November 3, 1860.

W. W. Holden, writing on November 7, believed that “If the result has been favorable to Lincoln – if the people have chosen him President, the excitement, already great, will be increased tenfold; but if no election had been made by the people, the fact that the contest must be decided by the House of Representatives will not tend to diminish existing apprehensions. In either event we may as well prepare at once for exciting and stormy times between this and the 4th of March.” Weekly Standard, November 7, 1860.

An anonymous writer, under the name of “try again,” believed that “if Lincoln and Hamlin be elected, the people of the United States will have passed through a perfect revolution, a bloodless revolution, however, at the ballot box, for there are three of sacred guaranties granted us in the constitution of our common country, disregarded by a great sectional party of the North and West.” Weekly Standard, November 7, 1860.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Two Anniversaries

Ok – you probably really want me to get back to talking and writing about North Carolina and the War, which I will do really, really soon, maybe even this afternoon. But, I’ve something else I want to share this morning.

November represents two anniversaries for me. This November represents my fourth year of blogging about North Carolina and the War for Southern Independence. I’ve enjoyed sharing with you some of the things that I have found, and some of the questions that I’ve encountered. Thanks for sharing in this adventure with me.

Probably more important is the other November anniversary. Twenty-eight years ago this month, by uncle took me to my first Civil War re-enactment. It really ignited something that was already there – I had purchased (with my own money) my first book about the war a month earlier. I’ve been hooked ever since.

So, thanks for reading and thanks for letting me share a part of my life with you.

Monday, November 01, 2010

It happened here, too…

What a weekend… I won’t give you all of the details, but I have made an observation that I want to share. This past weekend, I participated in two living histories and one book signing.

Friday morning started with me at the old Cranberry High School in Avery County. I was asked to be a part of the (new) Cranberry School’s Appalachian History Day, and I was honored to participate. I worked with four groups of about fifteen eighth graders each. Some of the talk was standard: this is how a soldier dressed, the equipment he carried, this is what battle was like, how post-battle wounds were treated. But what I really wanted to impress upon students was what had happened locally, and there was probably not a better place, for we could look out the window and see across the field the old Cranberry Mines, where iron-ore had been mined for the Confederacy during the war, and where a raid in June 1864 destroyed the facility.

Saturday morning found me setting up a camp in neighboring Yancey County with some very good friends and fellow interpreters. We had been asked by a home schooling group in Yancey County to have a living history for their students. We established seven stations: small arms, common soldiers, artillery, children’s lives and toys, cooking, soldier care packages, and local history. I had the privilege of doing the local history talk. About a mile from where we were (on Jack’s Creek), there had been a skirmish between dissidents and members of the home guard in October 1863.

On Sunday, I was at the Caldwell Heritage Museum in Lenoir, signing copies of my book on the 58th North Carolina Troops. It was great seeing many of you and hearing your stories. The museum has a good local Civil War collection that I encourage you to visit. What is more interesting is that the museum sits about a block away from St. James Episcopal Church, which was used by Gen. George Stoneman as a prison during his 1865 raid into western North Carolina.

So, three sites in three days, with three links to Civil War history. What I tried to impress upon my students is what happened here, at this site, or right up the road from where we were. Studying battlefields like Gettysburg and Chickamauga is great, and I encourage everyone to visit the parks, but you don’t need to drive to Virginia or Tennessee to glimpse Civil War history. It happened here just like it happened at those places.