Will you need a tax receipt for that, General Sickles?

“In 1861, [Dan] Sickles organized militia for the Union effort, and the next year was appointed brigadier general under Gen. Joseph Hooker in the Army of the Potomac. He rose to major general… and notoriously defied his commanding generals’ instructions at key battles. At Gettysburg, a cannonball mangled Sickles’ right leg, and it had to be amputated.

“Sickles donated his leg, soaked in whiskey as a preservative, to the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C., where it became exhibit No. 1335.

“ ‘For years afterward,’ Reid Mitenbuler writes in his book, ‘Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey,’ ‘on the anniversary of the amputation Sickles would visit his leg at the museum to remind everyone of his heroic sacrifice, using it to revive a political career that lasted until he’d died at the age of ninety-four.’

“This is the man who ran Reconstruction in North Carolina….”

— From “African-American news reflected 1860s Asheville” by Rob Neufeld in the Asheville Citizen-Times (Feb. 25)

And then there’s Stonewall Jackson’s arm….


New in the collection: chitterling strut poster

Chitterlings/chitlins, a notoriously pungent exemplar of Southern cuisine, are seldom seen (or sniffed) these days.  (None too soon, my mother would’ve said. Not my father, who took advantage of her absences to boil up a bucket of hog intestines and have his pals over to share.)

One early reference to the chitterling strut, as a dance step, appeared in the Asheville Citizen (June 30, 1926): “The Chitterling Strut, the Breakfast Bounce and the Rolled-Sock Dance are the latest terpsichorean novelties in Asheville’s darktown…. Wallace Walker had been charged with operating a dance hall without a license but was released when it was found that the cost of chitterling strutting was only 15 cents a head….”

The step may be long forgotten, but its name lives on most prominently in the annual Chitlin Strut in Salley, S.C.

Thanks to whoever thought this undated marker-on-cardboard poster was worth saving. Karen Brann at the Caswell County Public Library has lived in the county since 1987 but has no recollection of Fat-boys. Any Miscellany readers who can fill us in?


‘Fat as a pig’ were reassuring words from soldier’s wife

“Sarepta Revis was a 17-year-old newlywed when her husband left their [Henderson County] North Carolina home to fight in the Confederate States Army. Neither had much schooling, and writing did not come easily to them. Still, they exchanged letters with some regularity, telling each other how they were doing, expressing their love and longing. Once, after Daniel had been away for more than six months, Sarepta told him in a letter that she was ‘as fat as a pig.’ This may not seem like the way most young women would want to describe themselves, but Daniel was very happy to hear it.

“Civil War soldiers and their families had abundant causes for worry. The men were exposed to rampant disease as well as the perils of the battlefield. Women, running households without help, often faced overwork and hunger. Letters bore the burdens not just of keeping in touch and expressing affection but also of assuaging fear about loved ones’ well-being….”

— From “The Civil War Art of Using Words to Assuage Fear and Convey Love” by Chrisopher Hager at Zócalo Public Square (Jan. 15, 2018)

Thirty-one of the Revises’ letters can be found in the State Archives.


So you think you know North Carolina…. No. 8

1. Which of these is not true about Pineville native James K. Polk?

A. He was the first president to retire voluntarily after his first term.

B. He was the only president to have served as speaker of the House.

C. He died sooner after leaving office than any other president.

D. He was the first presidential candidate referred to as a “dark horse.”

2. Evel Knievel, the late motorcycle daredevil, played for what Charlotte sports team in 1959?

3. “As my husband says, you don’t have to be a dentist to remove the plaque.” What legislator, now a prominent state official, gave this explanation for a 1998 prank?

4. True or false: Daniel Boone lived longer in North Carolina than in any other state.

5. The largest black bear ever killed in North Carolina weighed 440 pounds, 660 pounds or 880 pounds?

Answers below…






1. All are true. (Polk died barely three months into retirement.)

2. The Charlotte Checkers. Then 20 years old and still known as Robert Knievel, he found minor-league hockey unpromising and after a few exhibition games returned home to Montana.

3. Catawba County Rep. Cherie Berry, now labor commissioner. Angered by President Clinton’s admission of lying about Monica Lewinsky, Berry swiped a plaque on the lectern commemorating Clinton’s 1997 speech in the House chamber. When the clerk threatened to examine film from security cameras, she gave the plaque back.


5. 880 pounds. In 1998 Coy Parton of Sevierville, Tenn., shot the bear after hounds had chased it into a thicket in Craven County. (Yes, he’s a cousin of Dolly Parton.)


New in the collection: anti-HB2 pinback button

As everywhere else in the state, public opinion on HB2 in Forsyth County was starkly split.

In a one-day special session on March 23, 2016, the N.C. General Assembly had reversed a Charlotte ordinance  expanding gay and transgender protections — most controversially, the right to use public restrooms based on gender identity. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill that night, making it a central issue in his unsuccessful campaign for reelection.

On March 30, 2017, after a year of national boycotts and other protests against the “bathroom bill,” the legislature approved a compromise  that repealed HB2 but restricted anti-discrimination ordinances in cities and counties. Gov. Roy Cooper signed the measure into law.


So you think you know North Carolina…. No. 7

1. True or false: After the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917, more than 100 percent of eligible N.C. men signed up for the draft.

2. Until the mid-1950s blacks were barred from Freedom Park in Charlotte, unless the men were laborers or the women were — ?

3. During a 1987 promotional tour a Concorde supersonic jet landed in what city — and was stranded by an 11-inch snow?

4. What controversial song was first performed in Fayetteville in 1969?

5. Although best known as a Pulitzer-winning playwright and creator of the outdoor drama “The Lost Colony,” Paul Green also worked as a Hollywood screenwriter. A line he adapted for Bette Davis in “The Cabin in the Cotton” (1932) she called her favorite. What was it?

Answers below….







1. True. Many young men, eager to be included, apparently lied about their age.

2. Nannies of white children. Black children were never permitted. Among Harry Golden’s suggestions for addressing segregation: the “Rent-a-White-Baby” plan, allowing blacks to visit parks and to attend events such as concerts.

3. Asheville. After an overnight delay, the one-time charter flight took off for London.

4. “Okie from Muskogee.” The name of the town had caught Merle Haggard’s eye while on tour, and he quickly spun it into a semi-serious tribute to “a place where even squares can have a ball” and where “We don’t burn our draft cards down on Main Street.” It went over big with his test audience: Fort Bragg’s NCO club.

5. “I’d like to kiss you, but I just washed my hair.” Green picked up the line from the novel of the same name by Harry Harrison Kroll.


New in the collection: Gloria Steinem poster

Can’t beat this poster for capturing its era, both in content and  design. Signed by “Bellows” — ring a bell with anyone?

Gloria Steinem visited campus as part of a 1974 Women’s Festival. “All feminists are viewed as angry and difficult, but they’re not,” she told a press conference. “We enjoy the movement; it makes us better people. It’s joyful.”

Afterward, according to the Daily Tar Heel, she “strolled into 205 Union flicking her long brown hair away from her famous purple goggle glasses.”

Drama ensued, however, at the evening’s banquet: “Steinem carried her salad outside the Carolina Inn and dumped it on the ground in a demonstration of solidarity with the United Farm Workers lettuce boycott. A line of 10 sign-carrying pickets cheered….”


So you think you know North Carolina…. No. 6

1. The term “Final Four” was first used to describe the NCAA basketball championship held in what city?

2. True or false: Chautauquas, a popular adult education movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s, owe their name to an Indian village in North Carolina.

3. In Bruce Springsteen’s “Cadillac Ranch” (1980) who is “runnin’ thru the woods of Caroline”?

4. On June 13, 1956, Oren Pruitt of Charlotte became the first fatality on a Piedmont Airlines flight. How did he die?

5. What 1831 event led the city of Raleigh to put all free blacks under arrest and a grand jury there to indict abolitionist editor William Lloyd Garrison for sedition?

Answers below….







1. Greensboro. A recap of the 1974 season appearing in the annual Official Collegiate Basketball Guide mentioned Marquette as “one of the final four in Greensboro.”

2. True. Chautauqua was the name of the Tuscarora settlement that preceded New Bern. Tuscaroras who migrated to upstate New York gave the name to Lake Chautauqua, where the first community assemblies were held.

3. Junior Johnson.

4. Traveling with his wife on a honeymoon trip to Asheville, Pruitt had been drinking. Finding the restroom in use, he opened the DC-3’s rear stair door by mistake and fell 6,500 feet into a Shelby cemetery.

5. The Nat Turner Rebellion, in which slaves in Southampton County, Va., just over the state line, killed more than 50 white men, women and children.


New in the collection: Oxford tobacco license plate


As early as 1913, North Carolina municipalities were empowered to collect local taxes by issuing license plates. The most recent I’ve seen: Blowing Rock 2010.

Most only named the town, but some took the opportunity to self-promote. Take that, Wilson and Tarboro and Rocky Mount!


How Nell Battle Lewis kept her cred

“In the 1920s, the journalist Nell Battle Lewis of North Carolina never questioned the absolute need for racial segregation even as she criticized the violence committed in the name of Jim Crow. Staying in the racial fold, she was afforded the opportunity to blast her state’s regressive labor and gender politics. Being a white supremacist, even a liberal one, meant that she remained part of the conversation.”

By the 1950s, Battle had dramatically reversed course on “so-called ‘liberalism,’ which so often, like mine was [during the Gastonia strike of 1929], is not only ignorant and neurotic, but very dangerous.”