Tuesday, February 28, 2017

On a personal note

Not long ago, I was listening to a podcast, and the host confessed that he had yet to watch any of the PBS series Mercy Street. The host stated that he really didn't "do history" when he left his office and headed home. Isn't that odd? I do history all the time, not only in my office, but I find people wanting to talk history at the post office, at the gym (yes, I go almost every day), at the grocery store. And to be honest, I love the banter and the questions, and I'm always learning something.

For the past twelve years (or maybe more), I've served on the board of the Avery County Historical Society and Museum (the Avery Museum). I've seen the Museum grow, adding a Depot and Caboose, and I've seen the quality of the exhibits improve. Hopefully, I've been able to contribute, helping people both local and from around the nation understand just a little bit about what makes Avery County great. Two and a half years ago, I became chair of the board. Tonight, I submitted my resignation as chair. I've come to the conclusion that I really don't have the time to devote to the administrative side of being chair. I want to research, and write, and share pieces of the past. It's what I am good at doing. It is what I enjoy. I'm not leaving the Avery Museum - I'll still be there from time to time, sitting at that desk, ready to answer your questions, or maybe point you in the right direction. I'm also going to continue to write my bi-monthly column in the Avery Journal-Times. To date, I've written somewhere around 160 articles, and there are still pieces of the local past that I want to explore.

For the first time in, I don't know how long, I'm not actually serving on any board for any museum or history-related organization. I've had the opportunity to work with some fine folks over the years at a number of sites or groups.

So what am I going to do with all of this "free time?" Dig deeper, write more, and share more history. It's what I love to do, and thanks to you, it is what I am blessed to do every day. My history of the Branch-Lane brigade (General Lee's Immortals: The Battles and Campaigns of the Branch-Lane Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia) is scheduled to be released this fall, and I continue to work on a book about the War as it repeatedly crossed the North Carolina-Tennessee border. There are several historic sites where we plan to volunteer this year. History has always been more than words on a page for me, and I believe that historic interpretation is a vital tool for getting young people interested in our past.

So there is the scoop.  I look forward to sharing more history and meeting you in the field.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Confederates beyond the War - Governors

One of those questions floating around my mind on Sunday as I drove to Raleigh was how many governors in North Carolina had Confederate service behind them: several, it turns out. An even greater question is how the military experience of these men influenced their lives and hence the direction of the state. We'll save that one for another post.

William W. Holden (1865) was appointed military governor at war's end by US President Andrew Johnson. He was a newspaper editor and had no military experience.

Jonathan Worth (1865-1868) was elected in late 1865. He was a strong Unionist and never really supported the war. Worth was appointed state treasurer by the General Assembly in 1862, and he held the post until elected governor.

William W. Holden (168-1871) was elected to serve a regular term, but was impeached in 1871.
Tod Robinson Caldwell (1871-1874) took over after the impeachment of Holden. The new state constitution of 1868 provided for a lieutenant governor, and Caldwell was the first to hold the position. Like Worth, Holden was a Unionist, but had served as a solicitor of Rutherford County during the war years.  

Curtis Hooks Brogden (1874-1877) was state comptroller during the war years. He was a Democrat at the start of the War and supported Vance for governor, but like Holden and Worth, moved toward the Republican party once the war ended. Brogden was Caldwell's lieutenant governor, and took over the governorship when Caldwell died in office.

Zebulon Baird Vance (1877-1879) was the first Confederate military officer to hold the position of governor after the War ended. Vance had served as a company officer in the 14th North Carolina State Troops, and as colonel of the 26th North Carolina Troops, before being elected governor in 1862. He was reelected in 1864, but arrested in May 1865, and unable to hold political office for a number of years after the end of the war. His third term as governor only lasted a couple of years, he was sent to the United States senate in 1877.

Thomas Jordan Jarvis (1879-1885) was originally a private in Company L, 17th North Carolina Troops, joining on May 4, 1861. Two weeks later, he was appointed a lieutenant in the 8th North Carolina State Troops and transferred. Jarvis was captured when Roanoke Island fell on February 8, 1862, but was back with the army by November 1862. In April 1863, he was promoted to captain of Company B. He was wounded in the right shoulder at Drewry's Bluff in ay 1864, and reported absent wounded the rest of the war.

Alfred Moore Scales (1885-1889) was elected captain of what became Company H, 13th North Carolina Troops on April 30, 1861. In October, he was elected colonel of the same, replacing William Dorsey Pender, who was appointed colonel of the 6th North Carolina State Troops. Scales was wounded in the right thigh at Chancellorsville, and then promoted to brigadier general on June 13, 1863.  Scales was again wounded at Gettysburg, then fought through the Overland Campaign, but appears to have been sick the last months of the war.

Daniel Gould Fowle (1889-1891) was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 31st North Carolina Troops on September 19, 1861. He was also captured when Roanoke Island fell in early 1862. Fowle was defeated for reelection when his regiment was reorganized in September 1862. Fowle served in the General Assembly, then as adjutant general, then was back in the General Assembly after a disagreement with Vance. He also died in office while serving as governor.

Thomas Michael Holt (1891-1893), lieutenant governor, filled the unexpired term of Fowle. Holt does not appear  to have served during the war. Instead, he stayed and managed part of his family's textile interests, namely the Granite Mill on the Haw River.

Elias Carr (1893-1897), as the story goes, was a private in Company G, 3rd North Carolina Cavalry, serving from September 1861 through June 1862. He was then called back to North Carolina to manage his very large farm. It appears that Carr later served as a sergeant in Company K, 67th North Carolina Troops, and possibly as a private in Company A, 8th Battalion North Carolina Partisan Rangers.

Daniel Lindsay Russell (1897-1901) was appointed a 1st lieutenant in the "Lamb Artillery" on May 5, 1862. The battery was also known as Company G, 2nd North Carolina Artillery. He was promoted Captain in January 1863, but was court martialed for assaulting another officer. He was later restored to his command, but resigned in February 1865. He was also a Republican.

Russell was the last Confederate veteran to serve as governor of North Carolina.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Quakers and Salt

   No discussion about salt and the War is complete without some mentions of the Quakers, Moravians, and Wesleyan Methodists in central North Carolina.
   All of these were religious sects that were pacifist in their beliefs. They believed that war and violence were wrong, and refused to serve in the Confederate army when the war came. This of course, created a problem when the Confederate government passed the Conscription Act in early 1862. The Convention Committee adopted a resolution early in May 1862 that exempted the Quakers. It read: "That members in good standing in the Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers, who shall produce a regular certificate of membership, shall be exempt from performing militia duty and military service: Provided, That as an equivalent for such exemption from military service, when called for by the proper authorities, they shall pay sums of one hundred dollars, to be collected by the Sheriffs of the several counties, as the other State taxes are collected, to be for paid into the State Treasury for the general purposes thereof, and in case they shall be unable to pay the same, the governor shall have power to detain them to assist in the manufacture of salt or to attend in the hospitals in the State." (The Raleigh Register May 31, 1862)
   In October of that year, the government enacted a $500 exemption fee. If a Quaker paid this fee, he was exempt from military service. Some Quakers paid, some did not. Some refused to pay the exemption tax, believing it was "the price exacted of us for religious liberty." By the end of the war, the superintendent of the Bureau of Conscription reported that 342 men from North Carolina had been exempted as conscientious objectors. The aforementioned John M. Worth, state salt agent, allowed Quakers to work at the state salt works near Wilmington, according to William A. Auman.
   Quakers were originally told that there was little danger while working at the salt works, and that the sea breezes were healthy. Anyone who has spent time in the Wilmington area in the summer knows that it can actually be very stifling hot, and at dark, the mosquitoes and sand fleas are unbearable.
   Records of individual Quakers are scattered. Calvin G. Perkins of Kinston made salt in New Bern until he was captured. J. M. Prevo worked at the state salt works in Wilmington. James Newlin, Abner Lamb, and Nathan Pearson reportedly worked in the salt works. Michael Cox, Thomas Hinshaw, Amos Hinshaw, and Clarkson Allen were also assigned to salt-making duty. Each chose instead to pay someone else fifteen dollars to take his place. Clarkson Allen and Amos Hinshaw then escaped to the west.
   There were many opposed to the Quakers and their not being in the army. General William Whiting, in charge of the defenses around Wilmington, complained in July 1864 to the Confederacy’s  Secretary of War:
   I have at length positive information that at least two thirds of the Conscripts at the State Salt works, belong to the treasonable organization called "H. O. A." [Heroes of America] Their mode of communicating with the Enemy has been ascertained... I recommend strongly that the whole force be turned over to the Conscript Camp for distribution in the Army and their places be supplied by free negro or slave labor. (Salt, That Necessary Article, 143)
   The State salt works in Wilmington employed somewhere around 250 men in 1864.
   There is undoubtedly more to learn about this subject. I feel that this short piece has just scratched the surface. (Or maybe I've exhausted it, who knows?) For sources, I examined:
William, Isabel M. and Leora H. McEachern Salt: That Necessary Article (1973)
Auman, William T. Civil War in the North Carolina Quaker Belt (2014)
Zuber, Richard L. "Conscientious Objectors in the Confederacy: The Quakers of North Carolina." Quaker History, vol. 67, Issue 1 (1978)
Cartland, Fernando G. Southern Heroes or, the Friends in War Time. (1895)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Restoring a North Carolina flag

Preserving old textiles is no easy feat, especially when they are made of silk. My friends in the Yadkin Gray Eagles Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, decided back in the fall to tackle the preservation of a company-level Confederate silk flag now located at the North Carolina Museum of History.

The Yadkin Gray Eagles was the local designation of group of men who enlisted in Yadkin County in May 1861, before North Carolina had even left the Union. John K. Connally was the first captain. The Yadkin Gray Eagles was mustered into service as Company B, 11th North Carolina Volunteers, a designation that was changed to the 21st North Carolina Troops in 1862. The flag was made by local women, and Miss L. M. Glenn presented the flag to the men before they marched away. The flag resembles a First National, and on the observe is the phrase "We Scorn the Sordid Lust of Self & Serve Our Country For Herself."

The flag was supposedly carried throughout the war, but not surrendered at Appomattox. Instead, it was returned to Miss Glenn. The flag was eventually donated to the North Carolina Hall of History.
For decades, the flag had been in storage, and no one was quite sure what to expect when it was unrolled in 2016. But the great folks at the North Carolina Museum of History believe that it can be conserved. So many times, the silk flags from the time period are found in little pieces.

The price tag is $30,000, far more than the cost to conserve a bunting (wool) flag. I do not know of a web page or gofundme page, but if you are interested in helping, please contact my friend Greg Cheek at ghcheek@earthlink.net.

To learn more, check out this article

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Trying to find the Shelton Laurel Officers

For the past couple of weeks, I've been poring over the various accounts of the Shelton Laurel event in January 1863.

A little background: in late 1862 and early 1863, there was a band of rogues based in the Laurel community of Madison County. They were rooming the countryside, robbing and shooting at will. On January 8, 1863, they attacked Marshall, then moved back to the Laurel community. Something had to be done. The militia from surrounding counties were mobilized and sent into the area. Then, Henry Heth, commanding the Confederate district East Tennessee, sent Brig. Gen. William Davis to the area with some troops to clean the tories out. Davis set up his headquarters at Warm Springs. With Davis came 200 members of the 64th North Carolina Troops (three companies), a company of cavalry under Capt. Thomas N. Nelson, and thirty Indians from Thomas's Legion mission. Later, William H. Thomas was dispatched to the area with an additional 200 Cherokee to work in Madison, Haywood, and Jackson counties. The three companies of the 64th North Carolina Troops were under the command of Maj. William N. Garrett. 

According to the Official Records, the three companies of the 64th North Carolina are not the ones that entered the Laurel community. It is the cavalry, and Nelson is credited with killing 12 tories on his sweep.

Do you know who is never mentioned in the official accounts? Col. Lawrence M. Allan and Lt. Col. James A. Keith. Allen's participation in the events is very suspect. He was undergoing a court-martial in Knoxville at the time. Keith, on the other hand, is largely blamed for the tragedy. THEORY ON MY PART: is it possible that Keith was acting beyond the limits of authority with a small band of picked men? Some of them might have been in the 64th NC; some of them might have been from other regiments. 

After the elements of the 64th NC returned to east Tennessee, several officers were called before a board for examining officers. Phillip Paludan, in Victims: A True Story of the Civil War, writes: "As the investigation began, it appeared that the officers of the Sixty-fourth were feeling justice hurrying near. Governor Vance had asked Seddon to begin the investigation in late February, and by the end of the month Captain Deaver of the Sixty-fourth had been relieved of command. By mid-April three more junior officers had appeared before investigatory boards. Two of them offered their resignations; the other was relieved of command. For a time, all four of these men remained in the army awaiting action by their superiors." (104)

Paludan, in a note, gives the names of those men as: A. M. Deaver, William Keith, Thomas Keith, and S. E. Erwin. 

So, let's take a look. First, Paludan writes: "For a time, all four of these men remained in the army awaiting action by their superiors." That is actually not unusual. When Lt. Reuben M. Deaver submitted his resignation, it had to go up, through the chain of command, all the way to the Secretary of War, before it was finally approved. I've actually written about this in the past, and you can check it out here. Deaver submitted his resignation on July 15, 1863, and it was accepted on August 6, 1863. I assume that Paludan's A. M. Deaver is Lt. Adolphus E. Deaver, who submitted his resignation also on July 15, 1863, and it was likewise accepted on August 6, 1863. Captain William Keith resigned on April 20, 1863, and it was accepted on May 2, 1863. Lt. Thomas Keith resigned on August 14, 1863, which was accepted on August 29, 1863. Captain Samuel Erwin resigned on July 15, 1863, which was accepted on August 4, 1863. We can infer that Paludan believed these four were involved in the incident on Laurel in some way.

 Let's look at Erwin first. He was actually from Washington County, Tennessee, and enlisted in September 1862. His company, Company K, was stationed at Jacksboro in Tennessee, and is not believed to have been involved in the Laurel incident. There is no muster roll record for January and February 1863, so it is not possible to say where he was. In his resignation, Erwin writes that when he appeared before the officer examination board in Knoxville in April 1863, he was "relieved from further attendance before the board and allowed to report to my com'd. for duty whare I have been ever since..." Erwin then adds on odd statement: He considered it "my duty and [in my] interest to have the service rid of all incompetent officers (according) to the [examining] board's opinion."

Company G was one of the three companies sent to Madison County. Two of those mentioned by Paludan, who supposedly lost their positions due to the Laurel incident, do not appear to have been with Company G at the time. Adolphus Deaver was originally a private in the 16th North Carolina Troops, but did desert in August 1862. He does not reappear until he is appointed a lieutenant in the 64th NC in March 1863. Deaver resigned July 15, 1863, which was accepted on August 6, 1863. He stated in his resignation letter: that like Erwin, he had to go before the examination board. While there, he was "relieved from further attendance before the Board and was allowed to report to my Co for duty where I have been ever since. On Yesterday, July 14th I received a copy of Special Order No 71, suspending me from command... feeling it my duty as a friend to the cause to vacate the position I hold (if not competent to discharge the duties of the Office) I .... most respectfully tender my resignation..." 

The case is likewise with Thomas W. Keith, a 2nd lieutenant. He was also with the 16th NC, until he deserted in September 1862. He was appointed a lieutenant in the 64th in April 1864. And he also resigned on August 14, 1864, because he had failed the examination before the officer examination board and was "unprepared to take it a second time."

Lastly, Capt. William M. Keith. He resigned on April 24, 1863, stating he really did not feel confident in taking the test whom Paludan singled out, we can't actually place three of them in Madison County as a part of the Laurel incident. It is entirely possible that they truly were not qualified to be Confederate officers, hence their resignations. And William Keith refused to even stand for the examination. Or, maybe all four were on Laurel Creek in late January 1863, and were given the opportunity to resign, under the context of being incompetent. We'll probably never know.