1862: Mail call’s leftovers make for a movable feast

On this day in 1862: Private D.L. Day, Co. B, 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, writes in his journal while on duty in New Bern:

“We were right glad to once more get back to camp, where we could clean ourselves up and get a change of clothing, but were much more glad to find mail and express matter from home. We were not, however, overjoyed to find an order awaiting us to be ready early in the morning to start on a long and rapid march, but having become accustomed to adapting ourselves to circumstances, the order was soon forgotten and we were absorbed in our letters and papers, after which the contents of the boxes were attended to. There was a generous quantity of goodies from the loved ones at home, some of which are of a perishable nature; what shall we do with them?…There are no taps tonight, and the candles burn long and well, so we sit down and gorge ourselves until we can eat no more, putting aside what we think will keep until we get back and crowding as much as we can that remains into our haversacks.

“By morning we are ready. I wear my best clothes, thinking if I should happen to become a guest at the Hotel de Libby [the Confederacy’s notorious Libby Prison in Richmond], I should like to appear respectable.”


Black job-seekers’ exodus from N.C., circa 1890

“Communities in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia watched as huge crowds of local blacks gathered at railroad stations to await transportation to the Mississippi Delta, the Louisiana rice or sugar fields, or the turpentine camps of the piney woods.

” ‘At the depot an interesting spectacle presented itself in the huge mass of luggage piled on the platform,’ a New Bern, North Carolina, newspaper reported in 1889. ‘Old meat boxes, various other boxes, barrels, trunks of all shapes and sizes, were piled 10 feet high. The train could not accommodate all who wanted to go.’

” ‘The negro exodus now amounts to a stampede,’ David Schenck of Greensboro wrote in his diary in 1890. ‘Nineteen passenger coaches filled to the doors, nine cars filled with baggage, 1,400 negroes… on their way to Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana.’ ”

— From “The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction” by Edward L. Ayers (2007)

Ayers writes that states of the Upper South such as North Carolina suffered the greatest relative loss of blacks in search of work. Despite the awestruck accounts from  New Bern and Greensboro, most headed north rather than west.

Link dump shrugs off Iowa straw poll, heads to N.H.

— Captured battle flags returning to N.C. coast  (and not everybody is happy about it).

— Tidbits of Tar Heelia tucked in David McCullough’s latest.

— For Colored Agricultural Fair, “The whole city participated, just like Bele Chere.”

Nitrate negatives yield a (slow-loading) gallery of “Old Wilmington Mystery Photos.”

— Who would steal Mitch Easter’s storied guitars?


In black neighborhoods, carriers deliver more than mail

” ‘Here comes Uncle Sam!’ is what I used to hear on my mail route in west Durham. Mostly I heard this from older African Americans — along with the usual jokes about bills, junk mail and checks. Almost one-fifth of my customers received Social Security checks, and many of them relied on me to deliver their medications, including on Saturdays.

“What I didn’t fully appreciate until later was the reassurance they got from seeing their letter carrier and the connection I represented to the Postal Service and the federal government. For them, the post office was also quite likely a place where a relative had found employment — enabling a middle-class lifestyle, homeownership and college tuition for the kids.”

— From “What we’ll lose if we lose the post office” by Philip F. Rubio in the Washington Post (July 29) 

The Postal Service’s list of proposed closings includes 20 locations in North Carolina, from Raleigh and New Bern to the Appalachian Trail.

Who was North Carolina’s last man standing?

The widely noted death of Frank Buckles made me wonder: Who was North Carolina’s last surviving veteran of World War I?

Depending on how strictly you define “North Carolina’s” and “World War I,” he seems to have been either

David Samuel “Tex” Little,  born in Catawba but moved to Texas after the war and died in Jackson, Wyoming, at age 103 in 2006. He trained troops at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, and didn’t make it overseas. Or…

Robert Hodges, born in Bath and died in New Bern, at age 115 in 2003. He served in France.

The digital evidence on this distinction doesn’t inspire my confidence. Maybe the North Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs can provide something more authoritative.

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.