Friday, June 29, 2012

Anyone interested in talking about the War?

Ok - I know up front that there are already organizations called "Civil War Round Tables." I  have spoken at quite a few of them. But for the lack of a better term, I've been calling a program that I've been working on for the past couple of years "________ County Civil War Round Table." This past Tuesday evening, I moderated the Burke County and the Civil War Round Table discussion at The History Museum of Burke County.  This event was a stunning success. There were around 75 to 80 people present, and we talked for about two hours about the War, and about Burke County and the War.

For the past four or five years, I've been working on having similar discussions at several other libraries and museums, in Watauga, Caldwell, Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey Counties. They usually likewise meet with success. At one in Avery County a couple of years ago, Dr. Allen Spear of Lees-McRae College brought his entire Civil War class to the discussion.  

Most of these discussions are very rich, and the subject matter varies, even at times when the event has been held in the same county repeatedly. Sometimes the groups of participants are small, just a dozen or so people. At other times, there are 30 or 40, or even 80 people. Not everyone participates in the discussion, but I believe everyone takes something away, or learns something new. I know that I do - I learn something new every time I moderate one of these discussions. Hopefully, it gets people thinking.

The way the program works is like this. At the appointed hour, I open the meeting (sometimes I get introduced), but  after a few opening remarks - there is only one rule: we are not going to talk about anything modern - just about the War or Reconstruction. After the one rule, I give a few other remarks. In Burke County, I talked briefly about what a deep war-time history Burke County has, about Col. Isaac Avery, about Camp Vance, and about Stoneman's Raid. This usually lasts five or six or seven minutes. Then, I sit down. Participants can ask me anything about the War. That in itself is nerve-wracking. By no means do I even know everything about just North Carolina and the War. But after 29 years of research into the War, and the past seventeen just about North Carolina, I'm pretty confident that I've encountered it in some form or fashion. And hey, if I don't know, maybe someone in the crowd does. That is the beauty of the discussion: it often gets people talking to each other about local and regional history.

So, I have decided to try and hold this type of meeting in every county in at least the western part of the North Carolina, even though I am receptive to the eastern counties as well. If you are involved in a historical group or library, and would like to be involved, please drop me a line. Some of these meetings are co-sponsored. The event in Avery County is usually co-sponsored by both the Col. John B. Palmer Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Avery County Historical Society and Museum, and held at the Avery-Morrison Public Library in Newland.  So there is a lot of opportunity to work together.

I am also open to a new name. Maybe something just as simple as "Avery County Civil War Discussion." What do you think?

Please drop me a line (you can use the form to the right) or comment back here if you are open to helping put something together. I am going to email a standard letter to all of the libraries/historical societies and groups in the western half of the state. To be honest, I might hear from one or two. So, it takes you to help me get the word out.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Burke County

Tomorrow night, I will be heading up the Burke County Civil War Round Table at the Burke County History Museum, so I thought we might spend some time surveying Burke County and the War. By the way, the program, on June 26, 2012, begins at 6:00. Everyone is welcomed.

Burke County, in the western portion of the state, was created in 1777 and named for Thomas Burke, delegate to the Continental Congress and governor of North Carolina from 1781-1782. The county is the parent county of Alexander, Buncombe, Caldwell, Catawba, Madison, Mitchell, McDowell, and Yancey counties. The county seat is Morganton, incorporated in 1784 and named for Gen. Daniel Morgan, who led the Patriot forces during the battle of Cowpens.

In 1860, there were 9,237 people who lived within the confines of Burke County. This included 2,471 slaves, and 276 free persons of color.

One of the Burke citizens was local politician William W. Avery. Avery had served in the General Assembly, and in 1856, was speaker of the Senate. Avery ran for the U. S. Congress in 1858, but lost to Zebulon Baird Vance. In 1860, Avery chaired the committee which introduced the resolution that split the party, leading some members to walk out of the meeting. He later served in the Provisional Confederate Congress, but was defeated for election. Avery returned to western North Carolina, and was in the process of recruiting a cavalry battalion when he was killed.

Avery County men cast 470 votes for Breckinridge, 447 for Bell, and 4 for Douglas in the 1860 presidential election. In the February 1861 call for a convention to consider a secession convention, Burke Cast 718 votes for, with 273 against the convention. Surprisingly, the voters elected Dr. John Calhoun McDowell, who opposed secession, as the local representative, over lawyer Burgess S. Gaither. McDowell's brother, Dr. Joseph A. McDowell, also served in the convention, representing Madison County.

Local men served in Company G, 1st North Carolina State Troops;  Company D, 6th North Carolina State Troops; Company D, 11th North Carolina State Troops; Company E, 16th North Carolina State Troops; Company B, 46th North Carolina Troops; Company H, 6th North Carolina Cavalry;  Company G, 3rd North Carolina Junior Reserves, and Company G, 8th Battalion North Carolina Junior Reserves. There were also a few men in the 2nd and 3rd North Carolina Mounted infantry (US). Several of the Avery slaves also served in the 40th United States Colored Troops. Overall, Terrell Garren in Mountain Myth, writes that there were 1,450 men from Burke County who served in the Confederate army, and 28 men who served in the Union army. Of the Confederate forces, 308 died while in service.

Probably the most famous soldier from Burke County was Isaac Avery, colonel of the 6th North Carolina State Troops and brother to W. W. Avery. Colonel Avery, after being mortally wounded on day 2 of the battle of Gettysburg, penned the hauntimg words "Major, tell my father I died with my face to the enemy." This blood-spattered letter is a part of the collection at the North Carolina Museum of History. Another Avery brother, Col. Clarke Moulton of the 33rd North Carolina Troops, was killed the following year during the battle of the Wilderness. A fourth Avery brother, Maj. A. C. Avery, led a cavalry battalion, known as Avery's Battalion, during the war. A. C. Avery was a brother-in-law to Stonewall Jackson.  

Confederate officials established Camp Vance in Burke County, to the east of Morganton not far from where the railroad terminated, in mid-1863. The camp was a base for the efforts in western North Carolina to deal with new soldiers (such as the junior reserves in 1864), and for conscripts rounded up in periodic sweeps through the area. Men were taken to the railroad depot and sent further on, back to their regiments or to Salisbury prison. Camp Vance contained several buildings, such as a jail, barracks, and a hospital. In June 1864, Capt. George W. Kirk, of the 2nd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, led a raid out of east Tennessee, through the mountains of western North Carolina, and attacked Camp Vance. The camp was forced to capitulate, and the Federals captured over 200 men. Kirk's band, after burning a train, boxcars, and other supplies, along with the buildings of the camp, set out back to east Tennessee. They fought three different skirmishes in northern Burke County. In one skirmish, Kirk used some of his prisoners as human shields, and then laughed when the local home guardsmen shot and killed Confederate soldiers. In another of the skirmishes, W. W. Avery was mortally wounded. Kirk, wounded himself, was able to make it back to Federal lines. Camp Vance was rebuilt.

The war was never far from Burke County. Numerous small raids were conducted through the area in 1864 and 1865. In April 1865, a large contingent of Federal soldiers, conducting what has become known as Stoneman's Raid, arrived in Burke County. On April 17, Union soldiers battled with the  local home guard at Rocky Ford along the Catawba River. After holding the Federals at bay for several hours, the local home guardsmen began to run low on ammunition for both small arms and their one artillery piece. Also, a large Federal force soon attacked at Flemmings Ford, pushing aside the defenders. The main defensive force at Rocky Ford was forced to withdraw. Federal cavalry was soon in Morganton. Homes, barns, and smokehouses were ransacked. Louisa Norwood wrote that the Federal soldiers "tore everything to pieces... and put pistols to the ladies' heads, drove them out of the house and took what they liked, guided by a negro boy." Some homes were burned, including that of Dr. Felix Dula, and the records from the courthouse. On April 19, the Federal cavalry headed west toward Asheville.

Following the war, a permanent post for the Federal army was established in Morganton, and continued in operation for a number of years. On June 22, 1918, a Confederate monument was dedicated on the grounds of the Burke County Court House. There is also a Civil War Trail Marker at Rocky Ford and Morganton.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Press Release--High County Festival of the Book Civil War Symposium

Featuring Douglas Southall Freeman award-winning author Rod Gragg and Patrick Schroeder, Historian of Appomattox Court House National Battlefield and noted author/publisher. Additional speakers include authors Patricia Garber, Dr. Judkin Browning and Dr. Andrew Slap. On Saturday we have a Civil War panel discussion as part of our larger book festival with authors, Michael Hardy, Johnny Pearson, Rod Gragg, and Patrick Schroeder.

The Symposium is part of the High Country Festival of the Book. The cost for the Symposium is $50 and includes lunch and invitation to the evening opening ceremony with NC Poet Laureate, Fred Chappell (a portion of the entry fee is tax deductible). The events on Saturday are free and opened to the general public for more information on the Book Festival and Symposium tickets:

On the website click on the Civil War Symposium link on the left hand side for further information.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

CSS Neuse Moves to Downtown Kinston

KINSTON - After many years of planning and preparation, the CSS Neuse will move to its new climate controlled home in downtown Kinston on Saturday, June 23. The 141 foot remains of the vessel will be loaded onto moving dollies at sunrise to begin the short journey from Vernon Avenue to downtown. The 260 tons will travel at the dizzying speed of one mile per hour and should arrive at its destination after two hours.
The ironclad CSS Neuse was a new class of warship built with iron plates attached to protect her crew. Because of her weight and the receding Neuse River, she saw little military action and was scuttled and burned by her crew in 1865. For nearly 100 years, the remains rested on the bottom of the Neuse River. Since 1964, the vessel has been part of the CSS Neuse/Governor Richard Caswell State Historic Site. This is the only commissioned Confederate ironclad that remains above water.
In addition to climate control, the new space at 100 N. Queen St. has a 12 inch slab below floor to hold the vessel, and the tall beams needed to support the ceiling. Because of the size of the ironclad, construction on the building will be completed after the Neuse is positioned inside.
The Caswell Memorial will remain open during the period of the move, but tours of the CSS Neuse have been suspended as preparations for the move are underway.
For additional information, call (919) 807-7389. The CSS Neuse/Governor Caswell State Historic Site is part of the Division of State Historic Sites within the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Now taking orders!

Now taking orders for signed copies of Civil War Charlotte: Last Capital of the Confederacy. This new book, the only look at Charlotte, North Carolina, and the war, will be released next week, and orders will be shipped then. The books are $18.00 each, plus $3.00 shipping and handling. Books can be ordered via my website,, or a check or money order mailed to Michael C. Hardy, PO Box 393, Crossnore, NC   28616. If you have any questions, please drop me a line.

Monday, June 11, 2012

News and notes...

Friends - I thought we would look around the Old North State and see what is going on - in the news, that is. I hope you enjoy.

The Union County Historic Preservation Commission has moved to allow a new Confederate monument, one honoring slaves, to be erected at the Old County Courthouse in Monroe. You can read more here in this article from the Charlotte Observer or here at Fox News.

The Associated Press is running a piece nationally today, looking for help on identifying some images held by the Museum of the Confederacy. One of those photos is labeled "An unidentified man found in a tent somewhere in North Carolina during the war." Check it out here.

There is much in the news surrounding the Confederate monument in Reidsville. You can read stories here, here, and here.

In Anderson, South Carolina, three Confederate headstones were recently dedicated to three Confederate soldiers, including one Tar Heel. Check it out here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Off to the east coast.

Folks, I'll be on an east coast swing the next few days. I'll be speaking Thursday, June 7, to the 47th Regiment NC Troops SCV Camp in Wake Forest. They meet at Forks Cafeteria at 6:30 pm.

On Saturday, I'll be Fort Fisher Historic Site, below Wilmington. I'll be speaking at 1:30 pm.

On Sunday, June 10, I'll be speaking to the Columbus County Volunteers SCV Camp. They meet at the NC Forestry Museum (at 2:00 pm, I believe).

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

State Capitol to Bring Civil War Home Front to Life

RALEIGH - The State Capitol will host a living history event to demonstrate what life was like for citizens of Raleigh living on the Civil War home front in the summer of 1862. The free event will take place Saturday, June 9, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Visitors can visit a re-created Confederate post office, learn about Raleigh's several hospitals from a re-enactor playing the part of a surgeon, or attend a soldiers' benefit concert in the historic House Chamber performed by the Huckleberry Brothers string band. Costumed interpreters will demonstrate and help patrons try their hand at many of the skills women carried out to aid the war effort, including knitting, sewing, spinning, carding wool, bandage rolling and more.
The 6th North Carolina State Troops reenactment group will operate a Confederate recruitment station on the grounds while demonstrating drilling and parade instruction typical of a soldier's earliest lessons upon joining the service.
This event is part of the North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial, a commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in North Carolina. The event is also part of the Department of Cultural Resources' 2nd Saturdays summer programming series which showcase North Carolina's culture, heritage, and arts. For a complete schedule of more than 100 2nd Saturdays programs across North Carolina, go to or call 919-807-7385
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 or call (919) 733-4994.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Help Wanted [from the Bennett Place]

We [the Bennett Place] are now in the process of redesigning our museum exhibits (first designed in 1983) to better tell the story of the end of the American Civil War. However, we need your help. Funding is extremely limited for the purchase of artifacts to tell this important story of our American history. We are seeking donations of original artifacts of the both Union and Confederate Armies, which ...were part of the Army of Tennessee, CSA and Maj. Gen. Sherman’s Armies, USA.

Some of the artifacts we are seeking:

-Cavalry related-Saddles, bridles, stirrups, Blanket rolls, canteens, sabers, pistols, uniforms, and other related cavalry gear

-Infantry soldier personal effects: cartridge boxes, cap boxes, canteens, haversacks, knapsacks, dice, playing cards, Bibles, books, toothbrushes, combs, tin ware-cups, plates, eating utensils, shoes, socks, hats, uniforms, and other related infantry gear.

-Photographs of individual soldiers in these armies

***Full Credit will be given publicly to each individual or group who donates the artifact.

**Monetary donations are also graciously accepted.

Thank you for helping contribute to YOUR museum.

If interested please send response to:

Bennett Place State Historic Site
Attn. Site Manager
4409 Bennett Memorial Road
Durham, North Carolina 27705

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Note on Hanover

Busy, busy, busy. I've been traveling, speaking, and tackling some home improvement projects, so not much time to blog lately. But I did want to take a few moments to give you a recap of one of the places I've been.

Last Sunday, I had the chance to stand on the ground in and around Hanover Court House. It was really a special occurrence, as last Sunday was the 150th Anniversary of the battle. The Historic Hanover Tavern put together a lecture and a tour of the battle site. I gave the lecture part of the program, while a little over 45 guests ate lunch. This was followed by a tour led by Robert E. L. Krick. We loaded on buses and visited Slash Church, the Kinney Farm, and the site of the fight between the 18th and 37th North Carolina Regiments, and the 2nd Maine, 25th and 44th New York regiments. A special addition was a visit to historic Dundee, a favorite haunt of JEB Stuart during the War.

Overall, it was a fabulous way to spend May 27, 2012.

The photo - part of the tour group on the ground of the Kinney Farm. This is where the 28th North Carolina was positioned on May 27, 1862.