Friday, December 31, 2010

The top secessionist.

There has been a recent trend in Academia to downplay the role of Unionism of western North Carolina. For decades , the academic party line was that the region was entirely pro-Union. Now, finally, scholars are beginning to take a more balanced approach. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for that trend to be come to fruition. I could not tell you how many times that I’ve given lectures, and during the question time, the ideas of a Unionist western North Carolina come out. I’ll say it again: western North Carolina was strongly pro-Confederate, with a few pockets of Unionism, and, as the war progressed, a lot of disinterest in the war, and both of the sides fighting it.

I was looking through Sitterson’s The Secession Movement in North Carolina a few days ago, and came across an interesting little side note. On pages 182-183, Sitterson gives a list of leading Unionists and Secessionists in the state House and Senate. Those who were Unionist in the House were as follows: D. D. Ferbee of Camden County; P. T. Henry of Bertie County; A. K. Simerton of Iredell County; and J. D. Wilkerson of Person. In the state senate, we have Bedford Brown of Caswell County; Josiah Turner of Orange County; John M. Morehead of Guilford County; David Outlaw of Bertie County; and J. D. Ramsey of Rowan County. Those considered the leading secessionists in the House were: John F. Hoke of Lincoln County; Samuel J. Person of New Hanover County; and Robert R. Bridgers of Edgecombe County. And in the state Senate, we have W. W. Avery of Burke County; Marcus Erwin of Buncombe County; Eli W. Hall of New Hanover County; and, V. C. Barringer of Cabarrus County.

What is interesting to note is that there were no leading Unionists in this list who were from western North Carolina, while leading Secessionists include Hoke of Lincoln County, Avery of Burke, and Erwin of Buncombe.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Zeb Vance thought we should do?

Zebulon Baird Vance, still a representative in the US House, wrote local lawyer Walter W. Lenoir in Caldwell County on December 26, 1860. His letter outlines what Vance thought the states should do in regard to the dissolution of the Union:

“Many think we could do better, and the method is to form a great middle confederacy, composed of the border slave and border free states. In this way we could preserve this Capital, the public lands, the form and prestige of the old government, secure greater homogeneousness, and finally re-organize and reconstruct the whole Union around this grand and over-shadowing nucleus! … And I think the only way that the Union can be reconstructed and these cotton states be brought to treat us with proper respect, is this idea of a great Central Confederation. It could dictate terms of compromise which Georgia would be compelled to accept, and the withdrawal of Georgia would break the back bone of the whole seceding Kingdom. As for New England, we would kick it out if it refused to secede, and would never let it back unless as the single state of New England, with only two Sumners in the Senate to play the blackguard. What do you think of it?”

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A look around the Old North State

Well folks, this will probably be the last look around we do for 2010, and, there are lots of stories around.

The site of the C. S. S. Peedee was recently discovered by archaeologists. You can learn more here.

More battlefield land has been preserved in and around Kinston, NC. You can check out an article here.

There are some interesting thoughts from Rob Neufeld about some of his recent comments regarding his post on the sacking of Asheville, a post you can read here. You can read the original post here.

There are a couple of posts around about a new cannon being installed at Fort Macon near Morehead City. You can read these posts here and here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tar Heel thoughts on the Secession of South Carolina

As many of you know, yesterday was the day – Secession Day. 150 years ago, South Carolina seceded from the Union. I chose not to post yesterday for one very large reason: most North Carolinians, 150 years ago, would have had no idea what had happened in South Carolina for days. Yes, there were a few places like Wilmington and Raleigh that were connected to the telegraph so their citizens knew that the Union was being torn asunder, but the rural folks across the state would be without the news for days.

For those places that did receive the telegraphed news, the information quickly lit a fire. Wilmington is a good example. As soon as the news arrived that the Palmetto State had withdrawn from the Union, the Wilmington Minute Men, a local militia group that had organized in November, began firing a 100- gun salute along the waterfront. This was answered by the schooner Marine, anchored in the Cape Fear River, that “answered the salute gun for gun.” Wilmington was not the only town to offer up the salutes. There were 100-gun salutes also in Mobile, Alabama; Pensacola, Florida; and Montgomery, Alabama.

This is not to say that everyone in Wilmington was thrilled with the idea. On December 21, the Wilmington Daily Herald published a piece entitled “The Fearful Leap Taken” believing that “It may be a dreadful civil war, a civil war such as the civilized world has never seen...” The Daily Herald also believed that the number of American flags flying from ships at anchor in the river actually grew as the salute went on.

Just because there were some in the state who were supportive of the secession of South Carolina, there were many others opposed. An oft-repeated story is of a North Carolina mountaineer attending a secession meeting and shouting, “For God’s sake! Let South Carolina nullify, resolute, secess, and be damned!”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book signing this Saturday in Boone.

Given that I’ve had to cancel my past two engagements (due to the weather) I’ve been hesitant to post this. But, I think we are going to be able to get this in. On this Saturday, December 18, I’ll be speaking about the 58th NCT and Watauga County and the War at the Watauga County Public Library at 1:00 pm. Make sure you get there early to get a seat.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Just who is Colonel Draughon?

It is unusual to come across a Confederate tombstone with so little information on it. However, if you visit Cross Creek Cemetery in Fayetteville, you will find this stone. So, just who was Col. Walter Draughon?

Draughon was born in Sampson County, North Carolina, ca. 1811, and at some point moved to Cumberland County. It was Draughon, then a general of the state militia, whom Governor Ellis ordered to capture the Fayetteville Arsenal in 1861, which he did. On September 26, 1861, Draughon was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 30th North Carolina Troops. However, when the regiment was organized in May 1862, Draughon was defeated for re-election and returned home. It appears that he later enlisted in Company F, 2nd Battalion North Carolina Defense Troops, and was mustered in as a private. At the end of the war, he had been promoted to sergeant. He died ca.1880.

Draughton is buried in the old section of Cross Creek Cemetery. Interestingly, his Confederate stone gives his rank as colonel, has no regimental information, and has only one date: 1880. Why do you think this is? Were his descendants who erected the stone uninformed? or maybe he harbored ill feelings regarding his defeat for reelection? We will probably never know.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Travis Lecture at Ft. Anderson on Jan. 18 Details Battles for Coastal Forts

WINNABOW – Brunswick Town /Fort Anderson State Historic Site in Winnabow will present local historian Jack Travis, who will speak on "Jumping the Gun: The January 1861 Captures of Forts Caswell and Johnston" on Tuesday, Jan. 18, from 7-9 p.m. Travis is the author of “Men of God, Angels of Death: A History of General Lee’s Premier Artillery Battery.” For more information, call the historic site at (910) 371-6613.

A major pre-Revolutionary port on North Carolina 's Cape Fear River, Brunswick Town was razed by British troops in 1776 and never rebuilt. Colonial foundations dot the present-day tour trail, which crosses the earthworks of the Confederate Fort Anderson. In 1861 the Confederate States of America decided to build a large fort on the old village site as part of the river defense of Wilmington . The Cape Fear was an essential route for supplies moving by rail from Wilmington to Petersburg and Richmond for General Lee's army.

The Confederate army used manual labor to construct the large sand fortification originally called Fort St. Philip's. There were two batteries, each with five cannons overlooking the shipping channel and providing protection to blockade runners.

In February 1865, following the fall of Fort Fisher at the mouth of the river, Union forces repositioned to attack Fort Anderson . Federals attacked from the land and river. After three days of fighting, the Confederates evacuated the fort at night. Union gunboats started firing at first light, unaware that Federal soldiers were breaching the walls of the fort. The infantry frantically waved sheets and blankets to stop the deadly fire from their own forces. There was a one-day fight north of the site at Town Creek before the Federals occupied Wilmington on George Washington's birthday, Feb. 22, 1865.

The commemoration of North Carolina ’s Civil War 150th anniversary ( ) 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 information, visit

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Schedule change

Well folks, as can be the case for this time of year, I am going to be forced to cancel a lecture and book signing. I was scheduled to go to Salisbury tonight to speak to their SCV Camp, but I am not going to make it due to the weather. We are looking at rescheduling in the spring.

You know, signed books make wonderful Christmas presents. If you are interested, drop me a line or visit my web page to order a copy of the new book on the 58th North Carolina Troops, or maybe the book on the 37th North Carolina Troops.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

“be it Resolved”

Public political meetings used to be much more frequent than they are now. I’m not sure why, maybe someone has done a study of it, or maybe it is just my perception. At the political meetings in the 1860s, men (and women) would meet, someone would be appointed president, someone secretary, and then a resolution committee would be formed. As the committee met, there would be music, and speeches, to entertain the crowd. Once the committee drafted its resolutions, the chair of the committee would report the resolutions, which the crowd would vote upon. The resolutions would then be sent off to the newspaper to be printed. It seems, once Lincoln was elected, meetings become much more frequent. Some were pro Union meetings, some were pro-secession meetings. Some counties had both. Cleveland county had a secession meeting November 12, 1860, in Tarboro a couple of days later, and Wilmington on November 19, 1860.

The Wilmington Resolutions stated that the election of Lincoln, “upon grounds purely sectional… cuts off the last hope of the preservation of the present Union…” “That a Convention of the people of North Carolina, should be called without delay, for the purpose of deliberating upon the best mode of maintaining the dignity and honor of the State…” and that “we consider it the imperative duty of our Legislature, to proceed speedily to enact a law to organize and arm the Militia of the State.”

There were Union meetings in Ashe County in October, Wilkes County on November, Fayetteville around the first of December, Charlotte on December 21, 1860, and in Caldwell County toward the end of the December.

However, don’t let the title “Union meetings” mislead you. The resolutions of the Fayetteville meeting read in part: “Therefore, be it Resolved, That the election of Abraham Lincoln, the candidate of this party, to the Presidency of the United States, should be productive of serious consideration and unceasing vigilance upon the part of the South, and although not in itself cause for the dissolution of the Union, yet any attempt upon his part to carry out the policy of his party, will meet with our most determined resistance. “

As an interesting side note, the meeting in Fayetteville also produced a minority set of resolutions. These resolutions proclaimed that the “repeated acts of aggression on the part of a purely sectional party of the Northern State on the rights of the South… and the election of Abraham Lincoln… requires on the part of the Legislature and people of the State an immediate preparation for the defence of the rights of North Carolina. [Resolved 2nd] That the Constitution of the United States is a compact of sovereign, independent States, and that the right of secessions exist whenever it is necessary to protect the property of persons from legislation, or when there is failure on the part of Congress to recognize and secure to the Southern States their rights under the Constitution.

These meetings continued unabated all over the state throughout the winter months of 1861. We’ll look at that more in the future.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Fort Fisher Presents “Glory Enough For All” as Part of Civil War 150th

“Glory Enough for All,” a day-long event commemorating the kickoff for the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War in North Carolina , will be held Saturday, Jan. 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Fort Fisher State Historic Site in Kure Beach . The program will focus on post-war reunions and efforts to memorialize the battle.

“Glory Enough for All” will include a new temporary exhibit featuring a United Confederate Veterans uniform and a blue-and-grey reunion button from 1907. Visitors will enjoy speakers, artillery demonstrations, infantry demonstrations and thematic tours. Offered only during this event will be a special tour of Battle Acre and the United Daughters of the Confederacy monument that was placed at that location in the 1930s. The program is free and open to the public.

At the dawn of the American Civil War, the Confederacy took control of a neck of land in southern North Carolina near the mouth of the Cape Fear River and constructed what was to become the largest and most important earthwork fort in the South. Two major battles were fought there, and many Union soldiers received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their gallant participation in that fighting. Today only a few of the mounds remain, since much of the fort has been eroded by the ocean.

Until the last few months of the Civil War, Fort Fisher kept North Carolina 's port of open to blockade runners supplying necessary goods to Confederate armies inland. By 1865, the supply line through Wilmington was the last remaining supply route open to Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. When Fort Fisher fell after a massive Federal amphibious assault on Jan.15, 1865, its defeat helped seal the fate of the Confederacy.

Visitors are invited to tour the remains of the fort's land face featuring an impressive reconstruction of a 32-pounder seacoast gun at Shepherd's Battery . Shaded by gnarled live oaks, a scenic trail leads tourists from the visitor center past the gigantic earthworks and around to the rear of the fort. Guided tours and wayside exhibits provide historical orientation. Other exhibits include items recovered from sunken blockade runners.

The commemoration of North Carolina ’s Civil War 150th 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

Friday, December 03, 2010

A few thoughts on writing a regimental history.

Y’all are probably tired of me talking and writing about this, but I’m going to beat this horse for one or two more posts.

What kind of resources does a person need to write a regimental history? I would say that the answer to this question covers a broad range ofsubjects. This list is not in any order.

First, a collection and then a study of period manuals. From Hardee’s Infantry Tactics, to US or CS Army regulations. Some folks will try and tell you that you should look at other Infantry tactics manuals beside Hardees, but don’t be fooled. Unless you find someone writing saying that he was using something else, use Hardee's. It was the overwhelming choice among Southern Regiments. I also have several military handbooks, military law books, and dictionaries (all 1860 reprints) that I have acquired over the years. Some of these are online. Reading and studying these manuals will help greatly with understanding what they are talking about in the Official Records.

Second, spend time with a good reenacting group. Borrow the clothes and other gear and spend the weekend being drilled and learning what a soldier would have learned in the 1860s – how to stand, how to march, how to load and fire the weapon. Go a mile in their shoes (or maybe without) carrying what they carried. I would probably recommend a living history over a small reenactment. Now, if you can attend a national event (battle reenactment), do that. Being in line with five or six thousand other reenactor soldiers will definitely give you a different perspective.

Third, visit the battlefield. If you are writing about a regiment that fought in a lot of battles, this will be a challenge. I learned this through my work on the 37th NCT – they were involved in 35+ battles and skirmishes during the war. I went to all of these save one: Ox Hill. Not much left but modern houses. The same is true for the 58th NCT. I went to all of their fields of battle save some of the stuff when they were in the works at Atlanta. I did not visit this area for the same reasons as I skipped Ox Hill--covered by houses--and for a few events, I’m still not sure where they were. Studying maps and walking in the spots where they fought will help with your narrative. Just make sure you take lots of pictures and corresponding notes.

Fourth, books, books, books. For the eastern theater, there are so many good books on the different battles and campaigns. Reading these will help give you a good grounding on what took place. For the regimentals that I have written, I often read the secondary sources, take notes on the parts of battles they were involved in, and then compare this to the primary sources. Sometimes they match up. Other times, they do not. When they don’t match, I figure out why and then write an endnote about how why they don’t, how what the soldiers wrote disagrees with what other historians have written. I have an article, which has been accepted by one of the Civil War magazines, that largely disagrees with what Gordon Rhea wrote in his book on the battle of Spotsylvania Court House regarding the role of Lane’s brigade. The article is based upon a post-war letter written by James H. Lane that adds new details to the events. I surely wish this would appear in print. Also, do not neglect books that explore the supporting elements of the army, like books on military justice, the provost marshal’s department, and chaplains.

Fifthly, look everywhere for sources. Yes, the traditional places are a given: libraries, museums, and archives. But, do not neglect local historical societies, and especially the family history section at local libraries. So many times you can find a letter, (or ten or twenty), that great grandpap wrote home that got passed down that someone included in a family history book. In my history of the 58th NCT, I found several letters from the Bailey family in a set of Bailey family history books. The same is true with a letter from a McBride in the 58th NCT. It was Volume 1 of the Heritage of Watauga County. Yes, it is time consuming.

Sixth, use the internet. There are numerous books, newspapers, and collections that have good, documentable information on what you might be working on. Yes I know, some it might not be true. For the longest time there was a picture of flag reportedly belonging to the 58th NCT. It was a Hardee’s Corps flag (blue field with a white disk) with crossed cannons. For a variety of reasons, this is not a flag that the 58th NCT would have received. Also, try and use a resource like WorldCat to look for information. When I was working on the 37th NCT book, a search of the words “37th North Carolina” did not pull up the letters of Maj. Jackson L. Bost. However, I when I went through and typed in every single officer into a WorldCat search, it did pull up Bost's letters at Duke University. There are several war-time letters which were of importance, especially in the last year of the war. Also, do not be afraid to use family surname groups like rootsweb and genforum to solicit information. I have ten sets of letters listed as “private collections” in the bibliography of the book on the 58th NCT that largely came from internet searches.

Lastly, find a couple of readers. Get someone who has a really good understanding of the War to read the text, and then get someone who is a master of grammar to proof the text before sending it to the publisher. No book is perfect, but do not expect a publisher to catch things. One of the greatest complaints you will see in reviews today (outside of the cost of a book), is poor proofreading. And it is something that can be fixed. There are companies and individuals that do this. If funds are tight, hire grad students from a university’s English grad department. They’ll be happy to have something to put on their resumes.