Raleigh Civil War Round Table -- "The same rain falls on both friend and foe."

Raleigh Civil War Round Table

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"The same rain falls on both friend and foe."

Upcoming meeting of the Raleigh CWRT:

January 12, 2019 Event Features Ed Bearss Speaking on "The Siege of Vicksburg"   

Our upcoming meeting will be on Saturday, January 12, 2019 at 12:30 pm in Daniels Auditorium of the NC Museum of History in Raleigh.   This is our annual "big" meeting and will feature Ed Bearss speaking on “The Siege of Vicksburg” (with the program beginning at 1:00 pm).   The 2019 T. Harry Gatton Award winner will also be announced.   Admission is $10 for this meeting as it is a fundraiser for our projects.   No advance registration is necessary.

Edwin C. Bearss is one of the most respected Civil War scholars alive today and is considered by many to be a national treasure.

Ed served as Chief Historian of the National Park Service and was featured in Ken Burns’ PBS series, The Civil War, as well as Arts & Entertainment Channel’s Civil War Journal.

He is an award-winning author, having written or edited more than 20 books in addition to more than 100 articles.   Among his many works are The Battle at Wilson’s Creek, Forrest at Brice’s Cross Roads, Hardluck Ironclad, and The Vicksburg Campaign.   Ed also provides the overview in the Raleigh Civil War Round Table’s documentary film on the 1865 events in NC.

In 1983, Ed received the Department of Interior’s Distinguished Service Award, its highest honor.   Ed also was the first recipient of Civil War Preservation Trust’s most prestigious national award, which is now named after him.   In November 2005, he was identified in Smithsonian Magazine’s cover story, “35 who made a difference.”

In 2008, the Raleigh Civil War Round Table awarded Ed our first T. Harry Gatton Award for “his tireless efforts in support of the preservation of countless Civil War battlefields and the memory of those who fought and died on them.”

Ed served in the Pacific theater with the Marine Corps during World War II, and was severely wounded by machine-gun fire.

Ed's topic at our January meeting is especially appropriate because Ed began his National Park Service career as an historian at the Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

At Vicksburg, Ed did the research leading him and two friends to the long-lost Union gunboat U.S.S. Cairo.   He was promoted in 1958 to Southeast regional historian, working out of Vicksburg.   He served as Chief Historian of the National Park Service from 1981 to 1994 and is currently Chief Historian Emeritus.

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The Story of the USS Cairo

The U.S.S. Cairo was one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers.   They were built by river engineer James B. Eads, whose bridge over the Mississippi River at St. Louis is still in use to this day.   Cairo was constructed at Mound City, Illinois, and commissioned in January 1862.

On Dec. 12, 1862, while conducting operations on the Yazoo River 7 miles north of Vicksburg, the Cairo’s hull was breached by two explosions.   It sank (with no loss of life) within twelve minutes, becoming the first ship in history to be sunk by an electrically-detonated torpedo.

From the study of contemporary documents and maps and using a pocket compass and iron probes, Ed Bearss, assisted by Don Jacks and Warren Grabau, located the vessel in 1956.   It was raised in three sections in 1964.   Over the next eight years, it was cleaned and restored.   The Cairo was transported to Vicksburg in 1977 and partially reconstructed on a concrete foundation near the Vicksburg National Cemetery.   It and its restored artifacts can be seen at the USS Cairo Museum.

See the National Park Service's webpage USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum.

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Snowball Wars

Because there was relatively little fighting during the dead of winter during the Civil War, both Union and Confederate soldiers participated in snowball fights amongst themselves to relieve winter boredom.   Soldier's diaries show four memorable fights within the Confederate ranks but only one within the Union flanks.   This may have been because snow was more of a novelty among southern soldiers.

On the Confederate side, troops from Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia and North Carolina battled nobly.   On Jan. 28, 1863, a large encampment of Confederate troops in Virginia's Rappahannock Valley received two feet of snow.   On the 29th, a snowball fight broke out between several Texas regiments.   The fighting "snowballed" until over 9,000 combatants were involved.   Because many soldiers sustained slight injuries, it was reported that General James Longstreet banned future snowball fighting among his troops.

Another noted snowball fight took place between Confederate troops near Rappahannock Academy in the vicinity of Fredericksburg, Va., on Feb. 25, 1863.   Diaries show that 8 inches of snow fell on Feb. 19.   Two days later, 9 more inches of snow fell.   On Feb. 25, 1863, the troops were greeted with sunny skies and milder temperatures.   The snow on the ground softened until the ideal conditions for snowball-making prompted the encamped soldiers to act.   Participants say some 10,000 men were engaged.

Gen. Robert F. Hoke’s North Carolina soldiers marched toward Col. W.H. Stiles’ camp of Georgians.   The attacking force was comprised of infantry, cavalry and skirmishers.   The fight began with a “severe pelting” of snowballs.   Reinforcements from the commissary rushed to assist the brigade under attack.   History does not record who won.

In one of the few Union engagements of note, troops of the Third & Fourth Vermont fought the Twenty-sixth New Jersey.   This led to numerous black eyes and bloody noses but, as in the case of the Confederate battles, was good for morale.

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An Opinion by Dr. Chris Fonvielle on the "Silent Sam" Controversy

In the wake of the mid-2018 toppling of the "Silent Sam" statue at UNC-Chapel Hill, Dr. Chris Fonvielle, Jr., History Professor emeritus, UNC, Wilmington, has written an opinion in StarNews Online that can be accessed by clicking on the following link:   Historic Context Vital for Confederate Monuments.

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Member-Produced Civil War Documentary Film Available

Andrew Ballard, editor emeritus of The Knapsack, has produced a documentary film on behalf of the Raleigh Civil War Round Table covering the end of the Civil War in North Carolina.   It is available for donations to the RCWRT and the proceeds are being used for educational and preservation activities related to North Carolina and the Civil War.   Our current preservation project involves a NC State flag belonging to the 30th NC Regiment which we have "adopted".   So far, we have raised $6,830 toward our goal of $8,000 to cover the cost of preservation.   All donations earmarked for this project are appreciated.

The film features historians and authors speaking on the major events of 1865 including:
  • Ed Bearss (Overview/Monroe's Crossroads)
  • Chris Fonvielle (Fort Fisher/Fort Anderson/Wilmington)
  • David Waller (Wyse Fork)
  • Andrew Duppstadt (CSS Neuse)
  • Wade Sokolosky (Averasboro)
  • Mark Bradley (Bentonville)
  • Chris Hartley (Stoneman's Raid)
  • Ernest Dollar (Raleigh/Morrisville)
  • Bob Farrell (Logan)
  • John Guss (Bennett Place)

The experts were all filmed at the applicable historical sites and re-enactment footage from the sesquicentennial events at Fort Fisher, Fort Anderson, and Bentonville is included.

Music by the Liberty Hall Drum & Fife Corps and the 26th North Carolina Field Music/Carolina Fifes and Drums, artwork by Stephen McCall, Martin Pate, and Darrell Combs, and maps by Mark A. Moore and Hal Jesperson are also in the documentary.
DVD's will be available at our monthly meetings for donations of $10 or more.   Checks should be made out to the Raleigh CWRT.

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