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What Lee and Grant didn’t bother to debate

Lee. Grant. Appomattox. The three names have become almost shorthand for an end to four ghastly years of a war, all of whose casualties were Americans turned against one another. It is worth revisiting the correspondence and other documents of April 8, 9, and 10,...

A few Southern perspectives on the Civil War

Near the end of the 19th century, author-journalist Cornelia Ann Phillips Spencer lost patience with what she considered Yankee revisionist history and decided to set the record straight. The result was a North Carolina history textbook that offered a full-throated...

Every good story deserves an audience

Snippets from a war story:      Being outnumbered and flanked on our right (Sherman’s left), we fell back in good order to Line No. 3, hundreds of yards from Line No. 2, and there Hardee’s entire corps, so far as I could tell, held the enemy in check until night.    ...

Have a boxful of history? Share the wealth!

Thousands of North Carolina boys and men began their Confederate service as members of local militias, some of which had colorful names such as “Scotch Tigers” and “Cumberland Plough Boys.” The names, and the men, were sometimes lost to view as those units disappeared...

Olmsted cast New Eyes on the Old South

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) was in the front rank of this country’s landscape architects, and many consider him the best. But he was other things, as well – farmer, journalist, public works administrator – and he approached all his work with the same vision,...

To Make Them Live Again

“Why are you so interested in history?" Oh, for a dollar for each time I've been asked that. My initial answer went something like this: "I was bitten by the bug when my grandparents took me to an old battlefield close to home." Later, I changed it to, "The people of...

Waterloo and The Civil War

A few days ago, I finished reading an outstanding book about the battle of Waterloo. Titled “WATERLOO: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles,” it was written by Bernard Cornwell. If you know anything about historical fiction, you've probably...

The first to fall for North Carolina

He was only 19. Fate or plain bad luck had brought him to a fight at Big Bethel Church in Virginia, in June of 1861. The young man had enlisted back in April, less than a week after the bombardment of Fort Sumter. The Tar Heel State had not initially joined...

The long road ends at Durham

For more than nine months, some 50,000 troops in the Army of Northern Virginia were dug in at Petersburg, in a situation that none other than Robert E. Lee had early on described, in writing, as “untenable.” During the long face-off, their contributions to the war...

Averasboro, and a civilian view

They're making this easy for me. The week ended with distant artillery at Fort Bragg jarring the foundations of this old house. Then, on Sunday, gunners in the reenactment at the Averasboro Battlefield Museum a few hundred yards south let go a couple of rounds with...

Old myths frustrate modern hopes

If you grew up white, Southern and embedded in the successor class to the Antebellum gentry, you've likely heard it -- more than once: "I was always told that they treated them like family." "Them" meaning slaves. It wasn't a lie; that was in fact what they -- the...

The Day Joe Johnston Stopped the War

The day after I became a teenager in 1960, Look magazine published a piece by American novelist MacKinlay Kantor, titled, "If the South Had Won the Civil War." At the time I found the title intriguing, but the substance eluded me. Having had more than half a century...

Gen. Sherman’s critical turn of events

As the summer of 1864 gave way to autumn, Maj. Gen.William T. Sherman was restless. What remained of Atlanta was under Union control. Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood had by Sherman's reckoning lost his enthusiasm for head-to-head fighting. Instead, Hood busied himself...

Matters of time and timing

If a 19th-century Time magazine had picked a Person of the Year for any of the war years, Abraham Lincoln would have been impossible to ignore. The mere fact of his election in 1860 stirred South Carolina to declare the Union dissolved and begin expropriating U.S....

Hard times on the home front

Monroe is in the Hospital somewhere sick. Our 1st Lieut. is now Capt. and myself 1st Lieut. J.D. Currie 2nd Lieut. and Toler holds 2nd Lieut.'s place though he is not with us. He is at home, has hemorage (sic) of the lungs. Bill Davis died on his way to the Co. with...

Help tell it like it is, and was

Laws, Ian Fleming's villainous Goldfinger scoffed to James Bond, are merely "the crystallized prejudices of the community." That's harsh, and not entirely accurate. But it makes the useful point that our code of laws, no matter what the credits and credentials of...

Missing some of your history? Check this

Have you hit a dead end in trying to piece together your ancestors’ stories? Has an old cemetery gone missing? Can't find the will, birth or death certificate, or tax record you want? You could be looking in the wrong place. Maybe a county jumped out from under you....

When assets suddenly became liabilities

Not quite two years after the Civil War ended, John C. Smith of Cumberland County found himself in the same predicament as other planters suddenly confronted by the prospect of having to pay the help. The land that had made his grandfather, his father and John himself...

Soldier’s Life Saved by a Hymn

Levi Hefner, my maternal great-grandfather, was a Confederate soldier from Hickory in Catawba County. Levi enlisted in Company C, 28th NC Regiment of the Confederate States Army at the outbreak of the Civil War and fought in the infantry on Virginia battlefields. He...

Tar Heel war stories need a binder

Some call the endless fascination with the Civil War puzzling -- silly, even. They should rethink that. There are no reliable figures for those who were wounded or maimed, or those whose health was wrecked. No one can quantify the grief and privation of families...

The Cave Man and the Confederates

Jeff Brady, my great-great-grandfather, was a farmer near High Falls in Moore County at the outbreak of the Civil War. He lived there with his wife, Mary Ann Moore Brady, and several children. Jeff Brady was a Quaker. He and Mary are buried in the cemetery of the...

Last at Appomattox

My great-great-grandfather was Private George W. Chandler. He was born Jan. 4, 1832, the son of Pleasant and Martha Chandler. He was married to Elizabeth Ligon Boswell Nov. 5, 1857. They owned land, lived and reared their nine children, died and were buried on a...

A Galvanized Yankee went west

A Galvanized Yankee On May 19, 1862, John Henry Smith of Catawba County was mustered into the Confederate army. He was only eighteen years old. Little is known about his experiences as a soldier, only that he was a member of Hoke’s Brigade of the 54th North Carolina...

Blood and Water and Mercy

Levi Herman, my great-grandfather, appears in the Civil War Roster books as Levi Harmon. He also appears on the Federal census with the same name. But when you look at the locations in Catawba County, North Carolina, where he lived, his family’s names, etc. you know...

Oliver Larkin Stringfield

Reminiscences of Oliver Larkin Stringfield (1851-1930): "My great-grandfather was a Virginian of Dutch descent, a soldier in the Revolutionary War -- married Miss Fellows, of Duplin County, NC. Settled there, raised six children. My grand-father, Joseph, married Miss...

Isaac Deal, Confederate soldier

Isaac Deal, the son of William Deal and Malinda (Linda) Pickett, was born on June 12, 1840 in Duplin County, where he resided as a farmer. Isaac married Hannah Susan Henderson in New Hanover County on Sept. 16, 1860. On July 8, 1862, at age 21, he enlisted for the...

Kinsman died in a D.C. prison

My first cousin, five generations removed, was a man by the name of Granville Simpson Holt. He enlisted as a private in Company K of the 6th North Carolina Infantry Regiment on June 21, 1861, at age 35. Like many others in the regiment, he was a farmer by occupation....

“Going home to die no more…”

My great-great-great-grandfather Joseph “Joe” Huneycutt (also spelled Honeycutt) was born about 1823 in Stanly County's Almond Township. He was a family man, farmer and cobbler who, owing to his ability to make shoes for the Confederate army, avoided service for most...

Rockford Inn and Arron Burr

In my research I found a story. As a boy, my great-great-great-grandfather, Watson Holyfield of Surry County, hung out at the store and inn. It was written and handed down that Aaron Burr, while traveling to Asheville, stopped at the inn to stay. There he befriended...

William J. Chisholm, Confederate veteran

William J. Chisholm was born Sept. 6, 1843 in Troy (Montgomery County) North Carolina, to John and Mary Chisholm, the descendants of Scottish immigrants. John’s occupation was listed as both a farmer and a mechanic. William enlisted in Montgomery County on March 1,...

William King White

William King White, CSA Here is the text on William King White from our old Civil War exhibit. (By the way, an image of him, his wife, and two children is in our newly opened chronological exhibit. The state Archives has the image if you have not seen it before.)...

Soldier wanted clean water for all

Levi Herman, my great-grandfather, appears in the Civil War Roster books as Levi Harmon. He also appears on the federal census with the same name. But when you look at the places he lived in Catawba County, his family’s names, etc. you know you have the correct man....

Russell Daniel Lord enlisted at age 23

Russell Daniel Lord enlisted at age 23 on 26 Sep 1861 as a private in Company A, Georgia, 38th Regiment. He fought in many conflicts from the Seven Days' Battles to Cold Harbor and was active around Appomattox. He received a head wound at the Battle of Fredericksburg...

Brigadier General William Henry Sebring

William Henry Sebring was born December 25, 1840 in St. Louis, MO. His early years were spent on a farm before he enrolled in an academy in St. Louis. At 18 years of age he became a resident of Memphis, TN where he read law under Thomas D. Eldridge. During the War...

The Hidden Confederate

My great-aunt, Julia Haughton Bryan, recounted how during the War Between the States a female family member was asked to hide a Confederate from the Yankees in her house. The lady rolled the young man up in a rug and stuffed him under a bed. When the Union command...

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