Governor exempts link dump from hiring freeze

— “Ruth’s hit carried at least 600 feet…  certainly a record that will stand for all time in Winston-Salem.”

— Amnesia? A faked death? Or what?

— “A preservationist by nature” from Durham blows his Maine chance.

Scavenged from Monitor repair job — and turned into a doll cradle!

— So what comes after ZZZ?

Getting beyond Republic of Virtue vs. Evil Empire

The Daily Progress in Charlottesville says “America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation” “turns over nearly virgin historical soil.” The Los Angeles Times calls it “a monumental new appraisal of the war.”

Herewith a few (if more than usual) words with its author, David Goldfield, history professor at UNC Charlotte:

You begin, “Can anyone say anything new about the Civil War?” At what point did you decide, “Well, yes, I think I can”?

When I wrote “Still Fighting the Civil War” [2002], the crucial role of evangelical religion in framing memories of the war particularly impressed me.  Considering that evangelical religion was a national movement during the first half of the 19th century, I wondered whether it had played an important role in the origins of the war.

I also had the advantage of not being a Civil War historian.  I’m a Southern historian.  I think when you study a subject for a long time and very deeply, there is the danger of becoming locked into certain patterns of thought and interpretation.

Before the 1960s, the prevailing interpretation of the war was that the issue of states’ rights played a key role in bringing about the war, that both sides fought nobly for their respective causes and that the Reconstruction era was an unfortunate time of Yankee oppression and black misrule.  Since the 1960s, Civil War scholarship has focused on slavery as the major cause of the war, the war itself as a war of liberation – the battle cry of freedom, as one historian called it — and the Reconstruction era as a failure primarily because African-Americans did not achieve equal citizenship.

None of this is wrong, but I get a rash when historians tend to agree almost unanimously.  Rather than reading historians, I read the letters and diaries of the people of that era, and I came away with a point of view that differed from both the older and the newer interpretations.  That, combined with my research on evangelical religion, enabled me to see the origins of the war, the war itself and the Reconstruction era in a new way.

“The infusion of evangelical Christianity” that you see as leading the way to war — how did that play out in North Carolina?

By the 1850s, the three major evangelical denominations – Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians – dominated the Protestant faith for both blacks and whites in North Carolina.   Southern evangelicals, including North Carolinians, emphasized the centrality of individual conversion: the importance of accepting Jesus Christ as their personal savior.  Northern evangelicals believed this, too, but they also believed they had a mission to reform society as a whole, and if this could not be done through religious persuasion alone, then it was incumbent on evangelicals to promote public policy toward that end which, ultimately, would lead to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Can you imagine a way that North Carolina, given its relative lack of dependence on slavery, could have avoided secession?

North Carolina, of course, did avoid secession until the very last moment.  Even after Lincoln called for troops to put down the rebellion in South Carolina, North Carolinians hesitated for more than a month.  There was considerable Union sentiment in the state, especially in the Piedmont and mountains.  But it was not likely the state would raise an army to invade and kill their neighbors across the border.

Any response yet from the Sons of Confederate Veterans?

The Confederate heritage groups have been more understanding of “America Aflame” than of “Still Fighting the Civil War” [which provoked disruption during at least one bookstore signing].

One of the problems with the newer historical interpretations of the war is that it sets up the North as a Republic of Virtue and the South as the Evil Empire.  This was not true, as I demonstrate in my book and, incidentally, as Lincoln noted in that Second Inaugural Address.

Slavery was a national institution.  The entire nation benefited from it.  And both sides were responsible for bringing on the war and carrying it through to its bloody conclusion.  And Reconstruction wasn’t a failure.  “Failure” implies that bringing full citizenship to African-Americans had a chance after the war.  It didn’t.  Racial prejudice, just like slavery, was not only a Southern phenomenon, it was part of our national culture.

Check out what’s new to the North Carolina Collection

Several new titles just added to “What’s New in the North Carolina Collection?” To see the full list simply click on the link in this entry or click on the “What’s New in the North Carolina Collection?” link under the heading “Pages” in the right column. As always, full citations for all the new titles can be found in the University Library Catalog and they are all available for use in the Wilson Special Collections Library Reading Room.

Wrong about TB, right about Chimney Rock

“[Some] TB reformers offered stereotypical explanations for variations in susceptibility. A North Carolina sanatorium superintendent, Lucius Morse, writing in the Journal of the Outdoor Life [February 1919], noted that ‘primitive people’ in their natural state did not have tuberculosis and that once they were exposed to it by contact with Westerners, they often succumbed quickly. He attributed higher rates among American Indians and African Americans to their relative lack of exposure. In contrast, the Jews, ‘a people who for 2,000 years have been city dwellers,’ enjoyed a ‘well-known circumstance of racial immunity.’ ”

— From “The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women, and the Microbe in American Life” (1998) by Nancy Tomes

Fortunately Lucius Morse’s legacy transcends his speculation about TB. This from

“Born in 1871 in Missouri, Dr. Morse was a practicing physician when diagnosed with tuberculosis. Advised to seek a more healthful climate, he made his way to Western North Carolina. He loved to wander, often riding horseback down to Chimney Rock. He paid a man 25 cents to take him by donkey to the top.

Surrounded by panoramic vistas, he conceived his dream here, not only of the Park but also of Lake Lure and the town of the same name.”

Pictured: Recent promotional button

Jerseys-apoppin’! (alas, not Tar Heels’)

On Dec. 23, 2000, after his team had come back from 19 points behind against North Carolina, point guard Earl Watson grabbed the front of his jersey with both hands and displayed the “UCLA” to the Pauley Pavilion student section. Thus was born, or least popularized, the custom of “jersey popping.” (The Tar Heels won, 80-70.)

Joey Rodriguez popped his “VCU” after KOing Kansas, but I didn’t notice any Kentucky players pausing to pop Sunday night. During the game, however, Darius Miller made a spectacle of himself — basketball’s latest on-court fad.


Raleigh women challenge pols, claim rights

On this day in 1920: Without warning, women show up at all Democratic precinct meetings in Raleigh and read statements demanding they be allowed to participate. Elsie Riddick, assistant executive secretary to the N.C. Corporation Commission, contends that since 35 states have already ratified the Nineteenth Amendment “and it is a certainty that we will vote in the next election . . . we have [the] right, therefore, to vote in this precinct meeting — just as any young man would who will become 21 years old prior to the next election.”

“The unexpectedness of the stroke gave the male Democrats no time to formulate any answers. . . . ” according to The News & Observer, and the women are allowed to vote.

Elite 8? Link dump already down to its final 4

— Did Civil War actually claim more Virginians than North Carolinians? Don’t miss this one — keen reportage by Cameron McWhirter of the Wall Street Journal.

— Won’t you come home, George Washington?

— Asheville’s monumental forgetfulness

— Pa, you can cancel that tsunami insurance….

The war was over, but death marched on

“Two weeks after the Civil War ended, N. J. Bell, a railroad conductor, enjoyed a layover in Wilmington, North Carolina. A small boy and a little girl who lived on the edge of the railyard came up to him asking for something to eat. He gave them whatever bread and meat they could carry away. The children were very thankful. Their father had been killed during the war, and both their mother and grandmother were sick. Bell returned to Wilmington two months later. Lounging in the railyard, he inquired about the fate of the boy and girl. He learned that their mother had died and the children had starved to death.”

From “America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation” by David Goldfield (2011)

“America Aflame” receives  smashing praise in tomorrow’s New York Times Book Review, and I’ll soon be posting a Q-and-A with its author, who teaches history at UNC Charlotte.

Support the Lost Cause, marry a handicapped vet

“Nearly a quarter of the men of military age in the South were killed, and perhaps another quarter returned home wounded. To make up to the men for what they had lost, Southern girls were urged to do their part by marrying handicapped veterans.

” ‘Girls have married men they would never have given a thought of had it not been thought a sacred duty,’ wrote a North Carolina woman whose daughter had just taken the plunge. ‘You would never believe how our public speakers… excite the crowd to this thing.’ ”

— From “America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines” by Gail Collins (2003)