Monday, February 27, 2012

"Mr. Vance, Again"

Of all of North Carolina political figures, none rarely rank above Zebulon B. Vance. This US Congressman, Governor, and US Senator, who led North Carolina through the war years, was revered by many after the war. He is still highly esteemed today, and a bronze likeness of the governor is one of two North Carolinians in Statuary Hall in the US Capitol.

But, Vance was not always so highly esteemed. He opposed secession in the early days of the war, a position that won him few friends. This piece gives us a glimpse inside how many people felt about Vance in 1861. It come from the Western Democrat, January 29, 1861:

Mr. Vance, Again - We stated some weeks ago that Mr. Vance, the member of Congress from the Mountain District, was franking Andrew Johnson's coercion speech into this state. We are informed that Mr. Vance says he sent but one copy into the State, and that was to a gentlemen who requested it. We make this statement simply because we desire that no erroneous charge shall go out in our paper uncorrected, and not because we consider the gentlemen too patriotic to do as we charged if he thought he could increase his chances for promotion thereby. He belongs to the small-fry, monkey-acting, Jim Crow class of politicians anyhow. He voted for the motion of a Black Republican to lay on the table an anti-coercion resolution offered by Mr. Pryor of VA--A man who would do that will bear watching.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bentonville Battlefield's Medical Program Compares 19th Century

FOUR OAKS - Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site will present a weekend program, March 17-18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., demonstrating the trauma of wartime injury. The free program entitled "War So Terrible" will offer numerous medical care comparisons of the death and injury surrounding the Civil War to what is now experienced on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. 
Modern day military representatives will be on hand throughout the weekend, along with with numerous historic site staff and Civil War re-enactors, to answer questions and showcase the advances in combat medicine. Sailors and marines from the 2nd Medical Battalion of Camp Lejeune, airmen from the 43rd Aero-medical Evacuation Squadron, and soldiers from the 3274th U.S. Army Hospital at Fort Bragg will be available .

An additional program on the evening of March 17, 7-10 p.m., will graphically reflect the hospital care one might experience during the Civil War era. Discretion is advised for younger guests, and the cost to attend is $5.

During the 1860s, the Civil War happened as weaponry was becoming more accurate and deadly. Unfortunately, the advancement of medical care was not as successful. A dose of chloroform, a shot of whisky, and a likely amputation were standard treatment for the wounded. In fact, during the Civil War limbs were frequently shattered by bullets and artillery projectiles, resulting in 75% of all surgeries being amputations.

To further present the hardships of a Civil War amputee, research historian Ansley Wegner will give a Saturday presentation based on her book,"Phantom Pain" The book examines in detail North Carolina's implementation of an artificial limb program, the first in the South. Visitors will be able to view a Civil War era wooden leg on permanent display at the Bentonville Battlefield Visitor Center.

The Battle of Bentonville was fought March 19-21, 1865 and was the last Confederate offensive against Union Gen. William T. Sherman. During the three day seize, 80,000 combatants fought across 6,000 acres. Approximately 4,200 casualties resulted.

In addition to the battlefield, the home of John and Amy Harper was converted into a field hospital by the Union Army. The home stands today and is furnished as a Civil War field hospital. The site also includes a reconstructed kitchen and slave quarters.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tar Heel Tars in the famous duel between the Monitor and the Virginia.

One of the sections of the new Civil War Charlotte book includes vignettes of several of the soldiers from the greater Charlotte area. A story that I've uncovered recently that will be one of these vignettes is the tale of  three Tar Heels from Mecklenburg who served on the CSS Virginia.

Most of you know the story of the USS Merrimack/CSS Virginia, so I won't go into minute details of the destruction of the Merrimack and the building of the Virginia. We will pick up the story with the Virginia just about finished, and in need of a crew. J. Thomas Scharf, writing in the 1880s in his History of the Confederate States Navy, gives us this information: "There had been no merchant marine at the South to supply experienced sailors and but few of the sailors of the U. S. Navy were in Southern ports when the rupture of the Union occurred. To meet  that pressing exigency, Leiut. Wood visited Gen. Magruder's army at Yorktown..." (156) Scharf goes on to tell us that a large group of sailors in a regiment from New Orleans were recruited to crew the new ship.

But the Louisianans were not the only crew members. There were men from Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina, along with a handful of North Carolinians. There were eight men from the 14th North Carolina State Troops. The 14th NCST was in the Yorktown area, and all of these transfers took place mid-February 1862. Among those who transferred were:

William Craig, a 23-year-old shoemaker from Buncombe County (Company F)

Elijah W. Flake, a 21-year-old farmer from Anson County (Company C)

Howell Harrison, a 21-year-old hireling from Wake County (Company E)

William Little, a 21-year-old laborer from Wake County (Company K)

James A. Puttick (or James A. Patrick), a 19-year-old printer from Wake County (Company K)

William R. Powers, a 21-year-old farmer from Buncombe County (Company F)

Alfred A. Stroup, a 23-year-old farmer from Cleveland County (Company D)

Samuel W. Smith, a 24-year-old farmer from Wake County (Company K)

The navy recruiter also visited the 13th North Carolina State Troops, also in the area at the time. From the ranks of the 13th NCST, the recruiter pulled the following men, also in mid-February 1862:

John C. Baker, a 22-year-old farmer from Mecklenburg County (Company B)

Jacob Brown, a 22-year-old laborer from Rockingham County (Company H)

James C. Davis (or Josiah C. Davis), a 24-year-old Mecklenburg County farmer (Company B)

Brice Harrelson, a 31-year-old Caswell County merchant (Company A)

Joseph Hedgepeth, a 19-year-old farmer from Edgecombe County (Company G)

Seth A. Hotchkiss, a 19-year-old farmer from South Carolina (who enlisted in Mecklenburg) (Company B)

Henry F. Johnston, a 18-year-old farmer from South Carolina (who enlisted in Mecklenburg) (Company B)

William W. Lyon, a 26-year-old carpenter from Rockingham County (Company A)

Richard A. Mitchell, a 26-year-old laborer from Alamance County (Company E)

William M. Price, a 25-year-old carpenter or cabinetmaker from Edgecombe County (Company G)

James M. Sheffield, a 35-year-old "tobacco mcf" from Mecklenburg County (Company B)

William H. Ward, a 21-year-old laborer from Alamance County (Company E)

Levin H. Wood, a 28-year-old grocer from Caswell County (Company A)

Sidney R. Wright, a 26-year-old painter or carpenter from Caswell County (Company D)

In looking over these men, they were mostly young, but not many of their occupations, like that of a farmer, grocer, or tobacco merchant, seem to strike me as the material sought after for a sailor.

Finding out what happened to these men after their famous duel with the USS Monitor is a challenge. James Sheffield survived the war, and died at the North Carolina Confederate soldiers home in Raleigh. Information regarding other men is equally scarce. But there you have, 22 men, Tar Heel tars, members of the crew that fought the famous battle in Hampton Roads on March

Friday, February 10, 2012

What's wrong with this picture?

If you were to Google "Travel Charlotte," the second link you find is a wikitravel blurb, a portion of which reads:

Civil war
Thankfully, Charlotte was mostly spared the wide-scale destruction of the Civil War. The city contributed troops to the Confederate effort, many of whom are buried in the Confederate graveyard at modern-day Elmwood Cemetery. Curiously, landlocked Charlotte briefly became the home to the Confederate Naval Yard near the end of the war, as a result of its railroad connections. Also, the city was host to the final full meeting of the Confederate Cabinet, and Jefferson Davis was standing on Tryon St when informed of Lincoln's assassination (Davis' widow later retired to Charlotte). Generally, though, Charlotte was fortunate to play a relatively minor role in the devastating conflict. Its main casualty was the loss of the Mint, which was shut down for obvious reasons by the Union government.

 Ok, let's pick this apart.

The city contributed troops to the Confederate effort, many of whom are buried in the Confederate graveyard at modern-day Elmwood Cemetery
While there are many Confederates buried in the Confederate section at Elmwood Cemetery, very few of them came from Charlotte. Most of those interred there were originally buried near the Wayside hospital, and come from other parts of North Carolina, and from other states.

Curiously, landlocked Charlotte briefly became the home to the Confederate Naval Yard near the end of the war, as a result of its railroad connections.

Charlotte became the Confederate Naval Yard in 1862, not near the end of the war. At least the info on the railroad connections is right.

Also, the city was host to the final full meeting of the Confederate Cabinet, and Jefferson Davis was standing on Tryon St when informed of Lincoln's assassination (Davis' widow later retired to Charlotte).

Ok, that's true, until you get to part about Davis's widow retiring to Charlotte. Never happened. Stonewall Jackson's widow did move to Charlotte, twice, but not Davis's.

 Generally, though, Charlotte was fortunate to play a relatively minor role in the devastating conflict.
Not really true. Charlotte was the site of the Confederate Naval yard, a major component to the War effort. There were the acid works, medical laboratory, warehouses of war materials, the gunpowder manufacturing facility, the hospital, and for a short time at the end of the War, a prison. Then, once you add the railroad, well, Charlotte was a pretty important part of Confederate War effort.

 Its main casualty was the loss of the Mint, which was shut down for obvious reasons by the Union government.
The Mint was captured by the Confederates in 1861. It was reopened after the end of the war by the Federal government, but not in its original capacity. I guess this could almost be true.

 Ok - I know some of you are saying "But we expect this from Wiki-related products". True. We do. However, most people, especially school-aged children, take anything Wiki related as gospel.


Wednesday, February 08, 2012

“A Spelling Book in One Hand, a Musket in the Other: African Americans in Civil War North Carolina”

Join us at the NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 3:00 PM, when Dr. Jeffrey Crow, Deputy Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, will offer a presentation on African Americans in North Carolina during the Civil War. More than 300,000 African Americans were in the state by 1860. Existing laws precluded slaves from learning to read, and more stringent restrictions were put in place during the Antebellum period. The Civil War and Union occupation were the avenue for freedom. Enslaved people escaped to Union forces and picked up arms for their rights and liberty. As an award-winning author, Crow has published “The Black Experience in Revolutionary North Carolina” and “A History of African Americans in North Carolina.” Join the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort for its Civil War Lecture Series the second Saturday of each month at 3 p.m. Discover a variety of topics by gifted authors and historians from around the state as they commemorate the Civil War. All lectures are FREE.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

On the road...

Friends - I'll be on the road the next few days. Thankfully, the weather is really lovelyright now. Everyone thinks that we'll pay for this nice winter weather later. I like to think that this is the payback for the horrible past couple of years!

Thursday, February 2, 2012 - Watauga Historical Association -

Tipton Haynes Historical Site, Johnston City, TN

Saturday, February 4, 2012 - Lee-Jackson Banquet

General Morgan Inn, Greenville, TN

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - Caldwell County and the Civil War

Caldwell County Public Library, Lenoir, NC

From the Mail Bag...

Friends, I thought I would share a response to a recent post I made. The post was from "Scarlett"; she wrote:

I think it's interesting that you call yourself a historian yet you refer to the American Civil War as the War for Southern Independence. At least you didn't opt for the classic, yet equally subjective, "War of Northern Aggression." Kudos.

Historians don't deny that African Americans "served" (and I'm using that term loosely) in the Confederate Army as physical laborers, cooks, or even soldiers. However, they do recognize that African Americans were were often threatened or coerced into serving in these roles. Historian Bruce Levine claims that “many of those who today make the Black-Confederate cause their own do so as part of a larger effort to vindicate the Confederacy and to honor their own southern ancestors…The claim of a massive black presence in southern armies is meant to accomplish something else as well: to demonstrate once and for all that the Confederacy did not stand and did not fight for slavery.” Could this be what you're doing, Mr. Hardy?

Try again to convince me that a people who were enslaved - who were the PROPERTY of another living person - fought in DROVES for a government that, at that time, didn't even consider them human. Did an African American ever willingly fight for the Confederacy - probably (it would be foolish to say no). But it is equally foolish to say they were a common occurrence.

First, thanks for the post, Scarlett. If you had read a little more deeply on this blog, you would discover that I have never believed (much less written) that there were “droves”—a dehumanizing, livestock-oriented, term in itself, mind you—of blacks (slave and free) who took up arms and marched under the Southern banner during the war.  That being said, after 29 years or research and reading,  I cannot deny that there were some, a few, who did so. My title for the blog post was aimed at those who ignore these documented individuals and steadfastly believe that there were absolutely none (and yes, there are “historians” who actually do believe this). To completely deny that there were a few blacks (slave and free) who voluntarily took up arms and fought is simply ignoring historical facts and denying these people their individuality and complexity as human beings.

You obviously have some predetermined agenda to suggest that I might deny that the war was fought over slavery... once again you have failed to read at any great depth into my many books and articles. Certainly, the institution of slavery played a great part in the discussion. The South was concerned that if Congress could limit or abolish slavery, then other rights and laws guaranteed by the Constitution would fall victim to the radical, or better termed liberal, politicians.  The North, under the battle cry of "the Union must be preserved" also fought to preserve the institution of slavery. How else could the burgeoning industrial revolution in the Northern States survive without the slave-picked Southern cotton? (Of course, it did survive, largely due a new exploitable workforce of freedmen and immigrants, but the Northern industrialists did not know that in 1861.) So, in 1861, North and South both went to war to preserve the institution of slavery.

It would appear that you aim to classify me as a neo-Confederate. Alas, others have tried launching those slings and arrows, falling victim to the temptation to thus stereotype any historian who does not unconditionally vilify the Confederacy and praise the Union. It is simply my intent to be fair and honest, unbiased in my quest to truly understand and to help others understand one of the defining points of American History. I'm sure that there are many who would agree with my intent.

Lastly - if you would conduct a little thoughtful research into the time period, specifically into what Southerners wrote in the 1860s (and not merely the writings of modern academics), you might understand the reference to "War for Southern Independence." That is how Southerners in 1861 defined the conflict they were fighting. The Southern States desired an independent nation, and, like their fathers and grandfathers, resorted to a revolution, albeit a failed one, to obtain a nation based upon the ideals of the founding fathers. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Civil War events in Caldwell County

During the month of February, the Lenoir branch of the Caldwell County Public Library and the Caldwell Heritage Museum will join together with the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources to display a series of Civil War photographs at the Lenoir Branch of the library. Entitled “Freedom, Sacrifice, Memory,” the exhibit is traveling the state through spring 2013 as part of the 150th anniversary commemoration of the Civil War.
The photos will be on exhibit during the library’s regular hours from February 1 through Feb. 29.
In addition to the photo exhibit, two programs, sponsored by the Friends of the Library, are being presented. Both of the programs are free to the public.
February 7, 2012 – 7 p.m.
Michael Hardy will be speaking on Caldwell County’s role in the Civil War, based on his latest book, “North Carolina in the Civil Warm,” which was released in July 2010. The program will be on the main floor of the library.
February 21, 2012 – 7 p.m.
Kay and Patrick Crouch American Folk Music will present a program of Civil War era music on guitar, banjo, fiddle, flute, whistle, vocal, bugle, and percussion. They will concentrate of music relevant to the Western North Carolina mountain folk. The program will be in Room 6 on the Library’s lower level.

So I was humming along yesterday, reading through the applications sent by Mecklenburg County citizens after the war to President Johnson, asking for presidential pardon, when I found something really interesting.  On May 27, 1865, Johnston extended pardon to all former Confederates unless they fell into one of fourteen classes of citizens. Most of you are probably familiar with these classes. They included those who held the rank of colonel or above, those who held appointed or elected posta, like tax collector or post master. And then there are those who had $20,000.00 or more in property/real estate in 1860. There are 39 folks from Mecklenburg County who applied for a pardon. One was an army officer (D. H. Hill), fifteen worked for the postal department, and twenty-five fell under the $20,000 or more class.

As I am working my way through the list, going over each file, low and behold, I find an application for Mrs. Margaret M. Withers. I'll confess early: I don't recall ever coming across in my research a woman applying for a presidential pardon. So, I did some digging. Out of15,000 (or so) requests for pardons received by President Johnson from Southerners, only 389 were from women. Of that 389, only twenty-one were from North Carolina.  I'm not sure who the other twenty were, but I find the case of Withers intriguing.

Withers applied under the $20,000 or more section. She stated that her husband, Samuel M. Withers, enlisted in 1863 and died in 1864. I have not found his regiment, yet. She was asking Johnston for a "special pardon with restoration of rights of property in behalf of herself and infant children."

The author of an article I found on the subject ("Not Intended to Dispossess Females: Southern Women and Civil War Amnesty" by Bradley R. Clampitt) believes that women were afraid that their property would be confiscated at the end of the war, divided up, and given to African-Americans. I find all of this very interesting. Have you come across this? Drop me a line and let me know.