Cornwallis pondered army of former slaves

“More than any other British field commander, General Charles Cornwallis considered creating an army of former slaves. Although he ultimately rejected that course, during his drive through North Carolina Cornwallis transformed the black people who trailed his army into foraging units.

“They did their work too well, and he ordered that ‘no Negroe shall be Suffred to Carry Arms on any pretence’…. At last Cornwallis called a halt to the ‘Shameful Maurauding’ and ‘Scandalous Crimes,’ [but] the mobilization of black stragglers had already had a powerful effect….One North Carolina slaveholder was certain Cornwallis could have raised an army of ‘500 Negroes’ in Wilmington alone.”

— From “Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America” by Ira Berlin (1998)

Jesse Helms once found a lot to like in Harvey Gantt

On this day in 1963: Jesse Helms, editorialist for Raleigh’s WRAL-TV, reacts to Harvey Gantt’s entrance into Clemson University:

“He has stoutly resisted the pose of a conquering hero for the forces of integration. He simply wants, he says, to be an architect — and Clemson is the only college in South Carolina that can teach him how to be one.

“He has rejected the fanfare and trappings of the NAACP. He has turned away from the liberal press and television networks which would glorify him. He has refused to make pompous speeches and statements.

“If ever a man put his best foot forward, Harvey Gantt has done so. His conduct will not cause South Carolinians to relish court orders relating to integration. But he has done a great deal, probably more than he himself realizes, to establish respectful communications across sensitive barriers in human relations.”

Helms goes on to cast Gantt and James Meredith, who desegregated the University of Mississippi in 1962, as “a study in contrasts. Meredith as a man handpicked as the showpiece of forced integration, Meredith as a man who never quite persuaded anybody that he was really interested in an education, Meredith as a man constantly and piously parading before the microphone and television cameras . ”

By 1990, when Gantt runs for Helms’ U.S. Senate seat, Meredith’s idiosyncratic career path will have led him to a job in Helms’ Washington office.


Check out what’s new to the North Carolina Collection

Several new titles just added to “New in the North Carolina Collection.” To see the full list simply click on the link in this entry or click on the “New in the North Carolina Collection” tab at the top of the page. 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.

Creek chieftain reunites with captive he freed

“Curious crowds gathered in the hamlets and towns along the route [of Creek chieftain Alexander McGillivray, traveling from Georgia to New York in 1790 to negotiate a treaty with President Washington]. No incidents marred the journey, although many of the Carolina settlers had suffered from the forays of McGillivray’s warriors.

“Indeed, at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, a woman broke from the spectators and approached the chief. Recognizing her as a captive he had freed, McGillivray embraced her tearfully to the applause of the crowd. ‘The meeting was truly affecting,’ recorded [his escort, Colonel Marinus] Willett.”

— From “The chief of state and the chief” by Gary L. Roberts, American Heritage, October 1975

Morphine addictive? No, says N.C. doctor

“Some experts… believed that injected morphine was not addictive, though it was when taken orally. One North Carolina doctor told [researcher H.H.] Kane in 1880 in perfect innocence: ‘On one patient I have used the hypodermic needle between 2,500 and 3,000 times in a period of 18 months, and so far I see no signs of the opium habit.’ He obviously arrived with his needle before the onset of withdrawal symptoms.”

— From “Drugs in America: A Social History, 1800-1980” by H. Wayne Morgan (1981)

The 300th Anniversary of North Carolina Stepping Out on Its Own

Our colleagues at NCpedia remind us that today marks the 300th anniversary of the Carolina Proprietors’ official appointment of Edward Hyde as governor of the northern half of the Carolina province.

As William S. Powell writes in North Carolina Through Four Centuries:

Unhappy over the chaotic conditions in their province, the Lords Proprietors decided on 7 December 1710 to appoint a governor of North Carolina ‘independent of the Governor of Carolina.’ They selected Edward Hyde, a distant relation of Queen Anne through the Proprietor of the same name. A year passed before his instructions were ready and the appointment was approved by the crown. His commission was dated 24 January 1712. This marked the separation of Carolina into two parts–North Carolina and South Carolina.

Viva la separacion!

Esse quam videri, per Machiavelli and the Great Impostor

Stephen Colbert isn’t alone in kissing off the noble concept of North Carolina’s state motto.

“It is not…necessary for a prince to have all the above-named qualities,” Niccolo Machiavelli advised in “The Prince” (1532), “but it is very necessary to seem to have them.”

And then there was Ferdinand Waldo Demara (1921-1982), who out of self-described “pure rascality” skillfully masqueraded as a monk, a surgeon, a civil engineer, a PhD psychologist and a prison warden.

In “The Great Impostor” (1959), biographer Robert Crichton noted that in one episode Demara “made sure to cover every one of his papers with a note written on small, expensive, discreet stationery….

“At the top of the [embossed seal] was his name, at the bottom his profession of psychologist and in the middle his motto: Esse Quam Videri… the most splendid joke of all.”

‘Yankee ship… came so close I could see the Captain’

The ill-starred and ill-steered Costa Concordia was dominating cable news when this liftout quote on the back cover of the latest Windows grabbed my eye: “We can see the Yankee ships all the time. [T]he other day one came so close I could see the Captain….”

Letter writer William Cain, 25th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, was stationed near Wilmington at Camp Davis. Cain’s letter to his mother, dated October 18, 1861, is posted in full on the Civil War Day By Day.

The Gazetteer briefly mentions this Camp Davis as “a Civil War training camp” in western New Hanover County. Better remembered is the  Camp Davis in Onslow County, a bustling anti-aircraft training base during World War II.


Seeking Sainthood for Father Thomas F. Price, First Tar Heel-Born Catholic Priest

Father Thomas PriceThe Catholic Diocese of Raleigh plans to seek the beatification and canonization of Reverend Thomas Frederick Price, the first North Carolinian to become a Catholic priest. Born in Wilmington in 1860, Price joined the priesthood at the age of 26. From 1886 to 1910 he served Catholics in such eastern North Carolina towns and settlements as Goldsboro, New Bern, Chinquapin and Halifax. In 1899 Price helped establish an orphanage for boys at Nazareth, a small community near Raleigh. He joined with Reverend James A. Walsh, a Boston priest, to establish The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America in 1911. More commonly known as the Maryknolls, the group was the first missionary order established by the Catholic Church in the U.S. The Maryknolls’ first missions were to Hong Kong and other areas in southern China. Price died there in 1919 after undergoing an operation for appendicitis.

The Maryknolls published a short biography about Price in 1923. Price was also the subject of John C. Murret’s Tar Heel Apostle, Thomas Frederick Price : Co-founder of Maryknoll, published in 1944. An abridged version of Murret’s biography of Price was published in 1953. NC Catholics magazine featured a profile of Price in its January/February 2011 edition.

The inquiry that could lead to the beatification and canonization of Price is expected to take several years.

Bear cubs: Some assembly necessary?

“In the Colonial era, as in every era, natural history information was, in part,  passed along in what are known as travelers’ tales. These tales could be quite astonishing.

“In one, John Brickell, an Irish physician living in North Carolina, described how bear cubs were initially lumps of white flesh, ‘void of form,’ and only took on the shape of a bear as the result of their mother licking them, essentially molding a cub from a lump of formless flesh. For good measure… the same description noted that ‘the young cubs are a most delicious dish.’  ”

— From “Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose: Natural History in Early America” (2009) by Lee Alan Dugatkin