Union prisoners were grim sight indeed

On this day in 1865: A.O. Abbott, first lieutenant in the 1st N.Y. Dragoons, recalls the arrival in Goldsboro of a trainload of 700 fellow Union prisoners, these from Salisbury and Florence, S.C.:

“They had ridden all night in open flatcars, without a particle of shelter or fire. It was . . . a bitter cold, damp night, and, scantily clothed as they were, they had suffered beyond account. Three had died during the night, and were still on the train. Not one of them had a whole garment on, while nearly all were destitute of shirts or coats. A ragged or patched pair of pants, and a piece of an old blanket, constituted the wardrobe of the majority. Their faces were blackened by the pitch-pine smoke from the fires over which they had cooked their rations, while traces of soap and water were lost altogether. Hair and beard in their natural state. Yet all of this was nothing compared to their diseased, starving condition.

“In short, no words can describe their appearance. The sunken eye, the gaping mouth, the filthy skin, the clothes and head alive with vermin, the repelling bony contour, all conspired to lead to the conclusion that they were the victims of starvation, cruelty, and exposure to a degree unparalleled in the history of humanity.”

Sidestepping the Sports Illustrated cover jinx

This is only peripherally about North Carolina, but the recent death of Jack LaLanne reminded me of his visit to Charlotte in 1981. He was promoting both his chain of fitness centers and his belief in intense physical exercise.

The latest issue of Sports Illustrated had profiled him, showing him posing with a statue of himself. The headline read, “Look, Mom, I’m an Institution.” He was 67 years old.

LaLanne had almost made the SI cover, he told me. “It was nip and tuck. They ended up putting that football coach on the cover. Yeah, Bear Bryant. I’m glad. They say when somebody gets his picture on the cover of Sports Illustrated, he goes downhill.”

Barely a year later Bryant was dead of a heart attack at age 69.

LaLanne lived to be 96.

President’s daughter seeks lost voice in Asheville

On this day in 1920: Nearing the end of a national tour, Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the U.S. Army during World War I, arrives in Asheville. Despite an influenza quarantine, hundreds are on hand to see Pershing’s private rail car, attached to the Carolina Special, pull into Biltmore station.

During his three-hour stay he tours the Oteen hospital for tubercular veterans and is greeted at the Grove Park Inn by Margaret Wilson, daughter of President Woodrow Wilson, who is trying to recover her voice after singing for Pershing’s troops in Europe.

If link dump had a budget, we’d protest cutting it

“Wisconsin of the South”? Does that make us pimiento-cheeseheads?

— Speaking of cheese, how about a Hatcher Cracker?

A lady of uncertain age shows up on Hatteras Island.

— Come 2061, will we still be hearing paeans to blacks in gray? But reality triumphs — grownups, take note — in a seventh-grade classroom.

— What astronaut and poet laureate have in common: cold shoulder from Guilford County schools.

One star (story) among many

Glee and Mandolin Club Poster

This poster (or, at least, a facsimile of it) is one of the many items in our recently opened exhibit “From Di-Phis to Loreleis: A History of Student Organizations at UNC.” And, like many of the items on display in the North Carolina Collection Gallery, there’s an interesting story that goes with it.

The 1897 Commencement Concert marked the debut of “Hail to the Brightest Star,” with lyrics by Glee Club tenor William Starr Myers. The composition would later take its name from the first few lyrics, “Hark the sound,” and, with a few minor changes, become the UNC alma mater. Myers set his lyrics to a popular college tune at the time, “Amici.” The young poet and singer, who would go on to teach political science at Princeton and serve as a speech writer for Herbert Hoover, wrote “Hark the sound of loyal voices. But in the decades that followed those loyal voices became Tar Heel voices. No one is quite sure when that happened. And there’s many a UNC grad who would point out that loyalty to “N.C.U.” (as Myers refers to UNC in a later verse) comes the day an individual first steps foot on campus.

Some have suggested that Myers’ classmate Francis Anthony Gudger wrote one of the verses and that Gudger debuted the song as a soloist. Gudger’s authorship is possible. Myers, Gudger and several others reportedly spent some time at their 50th class reunion in 1947 discussing who penned each verse. But Myers’ diary seems to cast doubt on the song’s debut as a solo. In an entry dated June 2, 1897, Myers wrote “The Glee Club sang a song–‘Hail to the Brightest Star’–the words of which I wrote, the tune being the old college song ‘Amici.’ “

1897 Glee and Mandolin club performance program

As this first page from the Commencement Concert program reveals (you’ll need to click on the image), the June 2 show featured a mix of musical genres and performance ensembles. The 1897 yearbook, The Hellenian, records that the pairing of the Mandolin and Glee clubs in a concert meant that the Glee Club “could do its part better, while at the same time greater variety and interest were given to the concerts.” In an apparent nod to contemporary music, the Mandolin Club treated concertgoers to a string rendition of John Philip Sousa’s “El Capitan March,” written just a year before, in 1896.

The exhibit “From Di-Phis to Loreleis: A History of Student Organizations at UNC” is on display through May 31 in the North Carolina Collection Gallery.

Silent Sam’s stony-faced band of Confederates

Tom Vincent, records management analyst at the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, is the latest historian to take on the task of tallying the state’s Civil War monuments (and the first to have compiled a searchable database).


Tom, how many “standing soldier” Confederate monuments have you recorded?

Fifty-four, out of a total of 110 Confederate memorials. Seven are in cemeteries; the remaining 47 are at more public locations such as courthouse lawns.

The database also  includes the monument to the United States Colored Troops in Hertford, a monument to Union troops in Hendersonville and the monuments in the National Cemeteries in New Bern and Salisbury.

Where did these statues come from?

Many were ordered from catalogs. Companies such as McNeel Marble Co. (Marietta, Ga.) and  American Bronze Co. (Chicago) often advertised in “Confederate Veteran” magazine.

Cooper Bros. of Raleigh supplied some of the stone bases. I’m not sure if Cooper Bros. provided any of the actual monuments.

Was marble the predominant material? Cast concrete? Bronze?

I have file folders full of newspaper articles about the dedications, but I haven’t really collated what the monuments were made of. I think more were granite than marble. Some were bronze, and some were hollow metal skins on a frame (like the Statue of Liberty, I guess). Some of the more inexpensive ones were cast concrete.

How long ago was the last standing soldier dedicated?

The monument in Taylorsville (Alexander County) was dedicated in 1958, which made it a bit of an outlier. Before that, the last was Beaufort (Carteret County) in 1926.

Are you still turning up statues?

I’m reasonably confident I’ve found all the standing soldier monuments in North Carolina, but the database is a work in progress, subject to change. People are still dedicating memorials, though, usually of the “slab” type, like an oversize gravestone. Here is one from 2000 in Surry County.

And the General Johnston monument, on private land near the Bentonville Historic Site, was dedicated on March 20, 2010.

Is “Silent Sam” the only one that provokes calls for removal?

There have been protests against the Confederate monument in front of the Pitt County courthouse in Greenville.

And J. Peder Zane in the Feb. 22, 2009, News and Observer [sorry, link eludes me] called for removal of the Confederate monument in front of the Capitol.

Google has North Carolina’s number(s)

Ore samples of North Caroliniana inexpertly mined from the Google Public Data Explorer:

Population density is increasing more rapidly in North Carolina than nationwide.

— In the first half of the 20th century, men outnumbered women in the U.S.  — but not in  North Carolina, where the sex ratio was virtually equal. Explanation, anyone?

— Note the small sample size (1999-2005), but North Carolina’s age-adjusted cancer rates don’t seem headed in the right direction.

North Carolina Budget: The Game

I’ve read lots about financial situations in North Carolina during my time working in the North Carolina Collection…pro-tax hikes, anti-tax hikes, printing more paper money in Revolutionary War-era NC, the gold standard, layoffs, hiring…and so on, and so on. However, Governor Perdue’s “Balance the Budget Challenge” has to be one of the most interesting things I’ve ever seen. Take a look at it and let me know what you think:


Watch out for Charlie…those sad Plott Hound eyes make the game a bit harder (that and the fact that the numbers and situations are real-world stuff).

Putting North Carolina in “Jeopardy!”

Thanks to the fan site J! Archive we know that since 1985 North Carolina has been mentioned on “Jeopardy!” in answers or questions at least 258 times. For instance…

1.  “Hawk” Eyes for $1,200 (Feb. 9, 2011)

“This aircraft carrier named for a North Carolina site has been nicknamed ‘Battle Cat.’ ”

2. The CW for $1,000 (Nov. 10, 2009)

“Chad Michael Murray & Hilarie Burton might be gone, but North Carolina holds plenty of drama on this series.”

3. The Bible Belt for $1,000 (May 9, 2005)

“It’s Jerusalem to Isaiah, a peaceful ‘land’ to John Bunyan & small ‘ville’ in North Carolina.”

4. Stamps for an $1,800 daily double (Feb. 8, 2010)

“The Distinguished Marines series honors the man for whom a North Carolina Marine Corps base was named.”

Answers Questions:

1. What is the USS Kitty Hawk?

2. What is “One Tree Hill”?

3. What is Beulah? [The Duplin County town is spelled “Beulaville.”]

4. Who is John Lejeune?

When contestant Nick ventures “Who is… MacArthur?” Alex Trebek responds, “No.  Who is Lt. Gen. John Lejeune, hence Lejeune Camp.”

“Lejeune Camp”? Alex, we’re consulting the judges on that one.

Chapel Hill and the Civil War

Come to the library’s first gallery talk about our recently installed exhibit, “Homefront on the Hill: Chapel Hill and the University During the Civil War.” Ernest Dollar, director of the Chapel Hill Preservation Society, will discuss Chapel Hill during the war on February 16, from 3 to 4 p.m.

To read more about this gallery talk, upcoming talks, and the exhibit in general, please see:

Chapel Hill and UNC During Civil War To Be Topic of Exhibit, Lectures