North Carolina: Confederate Flag at old Capitol Draws Anger 

RALEIGH, N.C. — A Confederate battle flag hung inside the old North Carolina State Capitol to mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War is raising concern with civil rights leaders.

The flag was raised inside the House chamber last week as part of an historical display intended to replicate how the antebellum building appeared in 1863.

A Confederate flag is seen on display at the old Capitol, which houses the governor’s office and still hosts numerous government events, Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Raleigh, N.C. State Historic Sites Director Keith Hardison says the flag raised last week inside the House chamber is part of a historical display replicating how the antebellum building appeared in 1863. (AP Photo/Michael Biesecker)

A Confederate flag is seen on display at the old Capitol, which houses the governor’s office and still hosts numerous government events, Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Raleigh, N.C. State Historic Sites Director Keith Hardison says the flag raised last week inside the House chamber is part of a historical display replicating how the antebellum building appeared in 1863. (AP Photo/Michael Biesecker)

State Historic Sites Director Keith Hardison said Thursday the flag should be viewed in its proper historical context.

“Our goal is not to create issues,” said Hardison, a Civil War re-enactor and history buff. “Our goal is to help people understand issues of the past. … If you refuse to put something that someone might object to or have a concern with in the exhibit, then you are basically censoring history.”

North Carolina NAACP president Rev. William Barber was shocked Friday when he was shown a photo of the flag by The Associated Press.

“He is right that it has a historical context,” Barber said. “But what is that history? The history of racism. The history of lynchings. The history of death. The history of slavery. If you say that shouldn’t be offensive, then either you don’t know the history, or you are denying the history.”

Sessions of the General Assembly moved to a newer building a half-century ago, but the old capitol is still routinely used as a venue for official state government events. Gov. Pat McCrory’s office is on the first floor, as are the offices of his chief of staff and communications staff.

The governor was in the House chamber where the Confederate flag hangs as recently as Thursday, when he presided over the swearing in ceremony of his new Highway Patrol commander.

McCrory, a Republican, was not immediately available for comment Friday, a state government holiday.

The presentation of the Confederate battle flag at state government buildings has long been an issue of debate throughout the South. For more than a decade, the NAACP has urged its members to boycott South Carolina because of that state’s display of the flag on the state capitol grounds.

Prior to taking his current job in North Carolina in 2006, Hardison worked as director at the Mississippi home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, which is operated as a museum and library owned by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The group has led the fight in the South for the proud display of the Confederate flag, which it contends is a symbol of heritage, not hate.

Hardison said the battle flag is displayed with other flags described in the diary of a North Carolina woman who visited the capitol in 1863. A large U.S. flag displayed in the Senate chamber is reminiscent of a trophy of war captured from Union troops at the Battle of Plymouth.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to recreate this,” Hardison said. “I think we were all thinking along the same vein. … The Capitol is both a working seat of government, in that the governor and his staff has his office there. But it is also a museum.”

A placard near the entrance of the House and Senate chambers describes the history of the flags on display, and Hardison said a brochure with more information is available at the front desk downstairs. Guides giving daily tours of the building have also been briefed to recount the history of the flags to visitors.

Hardison also pointed out that the national flag used by the Confederate government, with its circle of white stars and red and white stripes, is still flown over the State Capitol dome each year on Confederate Memorial Day. The more familiar blood red battle flag, featuring a blue “X” studded with white stars, was used by the rebel military.

The battle flag is set to be on display in the House chamber until April 2015, when Hardison said plans call for ceremoniously replacing it with the Stars and Stripes to re-enact the arrival of Union troops in Raleigh 150 years earlier.

David Goldfield, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and author of the book “Still Fighting the Civil War,” said the battle flag is a potent symbol that can hold starkly different meanings depending on a person’s social perspective.

“The history of the Confederate battle flag, how it was designed and formulated, how it has been used through the years, clearly states that it is a flag of white supremacy,” Goldfield said. “I know current Sons of Confederate Veterans would dispute that, saying ‘Hey, I’m not a racist.’ But the fact remains that the battle flag was used by a country that had as its foundation the protection and extension of human bondage.”

Barber said if someone wants to display the Confederate battle flag across the street at the N.C. Museum of History, he has no objection. But to display the flag where the governor has his office is over the line, Barber said.

“That flag does not represent our democracy,” Barber said. “It represents division. Underneath that flag, bodies were hung. People were terrorized. The people who marched under that flag deliberately violated the fundamental principles of freedom in our Constitution, to keep radical discrimination in place. It should come down.”

–MICHAEL BIESECKER, Associated Press


Texas: Confederate Flag Flying Along I-20 Raises Controversy

ROSCOE, Tx. — Driving along Interstate 20, it’s hard to miss the large Confederate flag just east of Roscoe.

It is on private property west of US 84 where it joins I-20.

Confederate battle flag flying near Roscoe raises controversy.

Confederate battle flag flying near Roscoe raises controversy.

Over time, the flag has been viewed as a controversial symbol. Many relate it to negative, racially-fueled events in American history. Others say it’s only a symbol of southern pride.

The flagpole was resurrected last August. The flag flying now was put up about a month ago. It is the most recognizable flag from the Civil War, originally used as the battle flag for the Army of Tennessee.

“I can see where people would be offended by it, but I’m not,” said one Odessa native passing through the town.

“It’s just people speaking out for America. Wanting things to go back the way they used to be,” said one man from Munday.

“I think we’re past that now. Well we should be anyways,” said a Roscoe resident.

“I don’t agree with it myself because of the heritage that’s behind it,” said another man from Roscoe.

While the flag might bring up negative feelings for some, others say it’s just a part of United States history.

Gaylan Harrison of Coahoma is part of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He said the flag was put up in the Roscoe cotton field to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.

“This is part of my heritage. Why should i sweep mine under the rug because somebody doesn’t like it?” Harrison said.

He said he’s especially connected to the flag, as many of his ancestors fought in the Civil War.

“I have a lot of affection for that flag. I know what those men went through. I know what they did. I know what they sacrificed,” Harrison said.

Harrison said he is tired of his organization being associated with groups he said have misused the flag.

“We’re not any part of any of those organizations. The clan, the skinheads. That’s not us. This was the flag of the soldiers,” Harrison said. “It was for those men who went into battle so they could tell where their troops were.”

As a former teacher, Harrison said he hopes it will spark conversations and encourage people to learn more about our country.

“I wish that everyone would do a little studying before they make decisions about whether things are good or bad,” Harrison said.

That particular flag has been flying for 30 days, but the group switches them out to various other flags that represent the South.

 –Jenna Rogers,


South Carolina: School Policy to Ban Confederate Flag Upheld

COLUMBIA — A federal appellate court on Monday upheld a South Carolina school district’s decision to bar a student from wearing shirts with the Confederate battle flag on campus, ruling that school officials need to keep order and promote education.

“Although students’ expression of their views and opinions is an important part of the educational process and receives some First Amendment protection, the right of students to speak in school is limited by the need for school officials to ensure order, protect the rights of other students, and promote the school’s educational mission,” the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote.

In 2006, the North Carolina-based Southern Legal Resource Center filed a federal lawsuit against the Latta School District on behalf of Candice Hardwick, then a 15-year-old high school sophomore. Hardwick had been forced to change clothes, turn shirts inside-out and was suspended twice for Confederate-themed clothing in middle school. Hardwick’s attorneys argued that a ban on wearing the Confederate emblem violated her right to free speech.

Three years later, a federal judge in South Carolina tossed out that notion, ruling that Hardwick’s attorneys didn’t have enough evidence to succeed with their case. U.S. District Judge Terry Wooten wrote that district officials, fearing possible disruptions if Confederate-themed clothing were allowed in the racially diverse schools, acted reasonably in banning such items.

The appellate court also dispensed with arguments that the school’s dress code was too vague.

Kirk Lyons, an attorney for the Southern Legal Resource Center, did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Monday.

Lyons’ group had argued that a 2002 decision from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals involving a Kentucky high school student is central to Hardwick’s situation. In 1997, Madison Central High School student Timothy Castorina sued after he was suspended for wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt. A federal judge tossed out the case, saying T-shirts aren’t a form of free speech. An appeals court overturned that decision, and the school settled.

Hardwick’s family has said the teen’s desire to show Confederate pride by sporting T-shirts, belt buckles and cellphone covers bearing the red flag crisscrossed with blue stripes and white stars is a family thing.

When Hardwick kicked off the last week of school in May 2006 by staging a protest march into the high school, her father said two of his great-great grandfathers had been Confederate veterans — including one who was wounded at Gettysburg.

–MEG KINARD, Associated Press


Georgia: Civil War Cemetery Restored, Preserved

ROME, Ga. — Unusually cold March winds blow through the lonely gravestones and silent trees in the New Armuchee Baptist Church Cemetery just off Hwy 27 in Armuchee.

There are no massive plots here or elaborate family crypts. But this hill is steeped in history — this was the site of a Civil War skirmish and Confederate soldiers rest beneath the soft grass here — and the names engraved in stone represent families that have been as much a part of the Armuchee community as the land itself, names such as Burk, Fincher, Bohannon, Salmon, Yarbrough and Shellnut.

New Armuchee Baptist Church members have been stewards of the cemetery for over a century and have recently made some restoration efforts. They hope the community will help support their work.

The cemetery’s historical significance includes this monument and graves dedicated to soldiers of the 12th Alabama Cavalry who were captured and killed during a Civil War skirmish here at Farmer’s Bridge.

The cemetery’s historical significance includes this monument and graves dedicated to soldiers of the 12th Alabama Cavalry who were captured and killed during a Civil War skirmish here at Farmer’s Bridge.

According to church member Lewis Evans, the cemetery has stood on this hill — just past the traffic light at Armuchee Elementary School — for over 150 years. It was once called Farmer’s Cemetery, a privately owned graveyard. But about 100 years ago, the church took over its care and management and have maintained the grounds ever since.

The cemetery is not large. In actuality, it is a single hill. The oldest graves are located at the very top of the hill and as more were added, they started working their way downward and outward.

Over time, many of the older graves began submitting to the effects of wind, rain, sun and even snow. Some were even vandalized.

“Some of the graves were turned over, some of the tomb stones were sunken all the way in the ground and some had shifted and moved from their original location,” said Evans who is on the Cemetery Committee at New Armuchee Baptist. “We have limited funds but we thought it was proper to make sure the graves and stones were restored.”

So the church hired Kevin Snyder of Rome Monument Company to do what he could to restore the cemetery to some of its original beauty.

Aside from the headstones themselves, the cemetery also faced destructive habits of locals. Evans said people would drive past and throw trash onto cemetery grounds. They’d use the road through the cemetery (now gated) as a place to hang out and throw cigarette butts, beer cans, food and other trash onto the hallowed ground of the cemetery.

But thanks to the efforts of the church and Snyder’s company, the result was more than could have been hoped for. Now all the headstones and graves are clean, upright and in their proper place. Many are not even legible since time has worn away at their engravings, but they still stand proud and erect.

“It took about five months to do all that and the church paid for it,” Evans said. “But we need help to maintain it and in our efforts to hopefully expand and acquire additional space.”

Evans said the Cemetery Committee is appealing to Armuchee families who may have loved ones buried at the cemetery to help in efforts to clean, maintain and expand the site.

New Armuchee Baptist Church Cemetery isn’t just the final resting place of community residents, however. Confederate soldiers from the 12th Alabama Cavalry rest here. The soldiers held this ground at Farmer’s Bridge (whose remnants can still be seen from atop the cemetery). Ten were killed and six captured. The slain soldiers are buried here and their courage has not been forgotten. Their headstones stand side by side as the men did in life, and a large monument was erected by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to honor their courage.

“So there’s a lot of history here,” Evans said. “A lot of local history and even some Civil War history. We need to care for this place and keep it maintained properly.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the cemetery or donating to its upkeep and maintenance can call the New Armuchee Baptist Church Office at 706-232-2195.

–Rome News-Tribune


Mississippi: Liquor Prohibition Ending

Eighty years after Congress repealed prohibition, some cities in Mississippi have decided to permit the sale of hard alcohol.

Of the 82 counties in the state, 34 are dry (represented as yellow in the map below) and four are split half and half. But the legislature last year amended state law to allow for cities in dry counties to lift their liquor bans.

The state law applies to spirits and wines with an alcoholic content above 5 percent.

In March, the city of New Albany, with a population barely over 8,000, became the third municipality to go wet in a dry county.

A growing number of localities across the South have loosened their alcohol laws in the last decade, said Ben Jenkins, a spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. That trend also applies to loosening prohibitions on selling alcohol on Sundays and whiskey tastings at restaurants, bars and package stores, he said.liquor_map

Between 2002 and 2012, Kentucky held 113 local elections in cities, counties and precincts that removed alcohol bans, according to the Spirits Council. Since 2004, 491 localities in Texas have done the same.

Some states still have dozens of dry counties, such as North Carolina (37) and Kansas (32). A tally by the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association in 2011 found 380 dry counties in 18 states. But reporting by USA Today in 2010 showed that the number of dry counties is dwindling even in places that were once the bedrock of prohibition.

Local governments in the South are choosing to lift alcohol bans because it generates new revenue without raising taxes, Jenkins said.

As per Mississippi’s 2012 law, not just any city can go wet — only county seats and cities with a population of 5,000 or more. At least 20 percent of registered voters must sign a petition asking for an election. Since December 2012, two other Mississippi cities — Corinth and Senatobia — have lifted their liquor bans. One city, Ashland, voted against a liquor sales proposition.

New Albany Mayor Tim Kent, who did not take a position on allowing hard liquor sales in his town, said he expects to see population growth as a result of the new law. In the past, some restaurants wouldn’t consider moving to his city with the liquor ban in effect, he said.

“It’s going to be an increase in revenue because of the [sales] taxes associated with it,” said John Young, a real estate developer who advocated for bringing whiskey into town in hopes of attracting new business. He owns property along U.S. Highway 78 and says he would like to sell land to motels that operate restaurants with full bars.

Mississippi state Rep. Margaret Rogers, whose district includes New Albany, opposed the recent change to state law. People who disagree with the sale of hard alcohol see it as a moral issue, Rogers said. Churches were a driving force behind defeating similar countywide votes to allow hard alcohol in 2008 and 2011. In the past, rural parts of Union County — led by church groups — outweighed strong support in the city itself.

Alan Cousar, a used car salesman in New Albany, organized fellow members of the First Baptist Church to hand out flyers and knock on neighbors’ doors in opposition to the liquor proposal. He said he worries about upticks in alcoholism and drunk driving in his city, but his bigger concern is a moral one. “The Bible teaches against it,” he said, referencing an excerpt in the King James edition:  “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Still, other community leaders say that allowing alcohol sales is beneficial to the local economy — and the dry towns may not have been all that dry to begin with. Senatobia, where voters in January approved beer, wine and liquor sales by nearly a three-to-one ratio, had been a dry spot surrounded by five wet counties. Prior to the January vote, says Mayor Alan Callicott, residents would drive to other jurisdictions to buy alcohol; the mayor recalls seeing the occasional discarded beer can on the side of the road. “We were not really a utopia where there was no drinking.”

With the ban lifted, Senatobia residents might spend their money at local retail stores, he said. “From an economic development standpoint, we wanted to be competitive with our neighbors.”

— J.B.Wogan,


South Carolina: Man Who Apologized for Racist Past Dies

ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina man who publicly apologized for years of violent racism, including the beating of a black Freedom Rider who went on to become a Georgia congressman, has died. He was 76.

Judy Wilson says her husband, Elwin, died Thursday at a hospital. He had been suffering from the flu after years of heart and lung problems.

Wilson gained nationwide attention in 2009, when he apologized for a racist past that included beating up Freedom Riders at the Rock Hill bus station in 1961. Among them was Georgia Rep. John Lewis.

Lewis told the Herald of Rock Hill on Saturday that Wilson’s story is a powerful one that must not be forgotten.

Judy Wilson says her husband seemed at ease about his past when he died.

–Associated Press


Maryland: Civil War Historian Brings Our Emotional Side of Civil War

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — There was “Crazy Betsy,” a Richmond, Va., woman who pulled off her job as a successful Union spy by acting like an insane woman whom no one would ever get close to.

Or the story about “Old Abe,” an Eagle that was a mascot for the 8th Wisconsin infantry in the Civil War.

James I. Robertson Jr., one of the most distinguished authors of Civil War history, was invited to join the Hagerstown Civil War Round Table on Thursday night at the Homewood Suites on Pullman Lane.

James I. Robertson Jr., one of the most distinguished authors of Civil War history, was invited to join the Hagerstown Civil War Round Table on Thursday night at the Homewood Suites on Pullman Lane.

The bird was kept on perch by soldiers and it endured about a dozen battles.

And the story of an 11-year-old girl from Upstate New York who wrote a letter to President Abraham Lincoln to tell him that he was a very ugly man. The girl told Lincoln in her letter that she believed Lincoln would be more appealing to voters in his 1860 presidential campaign if he grew a beard.

Lincoln agreed to grow a beard and carried the girl’s letter with him for years.

James I. Robertson Jr., one of the most distinguished authors of Civil War history, said those are types of stories people need to hear to better understand the war between the states.

Stories like those and others are contained in Robertson’s new book “The Untold Civil War: Exploring the Human Side of War.”

Robertson was invited to join the Hagerstown Civil War Round Table on Thursday night at the Homewood Suites on Pullman Lane to talk about the book. The round table is a group of local men and women interested in the study of the Civil War.

Robertson was executive director of the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission and worked with Presidents Truman, Kennedy and Johnson in marking the war’s 100th anniversary, according to the Virginia Tech, where Robertson taught Civil War history for 44 years.

Robertson has written 20 books on the Civil War and his biography of Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson was used as the base for the movie “Gods and Generals,” scenes from which were shot in the Tri-State area.

Robertson said before his appearance at Thursday’s event that he believes too many history teachers today are moving away from human emotions associated with the Civil War and that there is too much emphasis on statistics and demographics.

“Unless you understand the emotions present in the Civil War, you will never understand the war,” said the 82-year-old Robertson, who said he often brought his students to tears in his college class.

“I worked hard at it. I think they need to feel the pain and hurt,” Robertson said.

Robertson said 8th Wisconsin soldiers kept Old Abe’s wings clipped so the Eagle could not fly away in battle. Robertson explained how the bird would be “flapping his wings and screeching and hollering” as the battles ensued.

“They said Confederate sharpshooters by the hundreds tried to pick him off but they couldn’t,” Robertson said.

The successful Union spy from Richmond was Elizabeth Van Lew and she wore hideous clothes and threw fits in public, Robertson said.

“Everybody steered clear of her,” Robertson said. Meanwhile, Van Lew was gathering Confederate intelligence and passing it onto the Union, Robertson said. Van Lew was eventually recognized as the best source of information for the North, Robertson said.



Virginia: Richmond Bread Riots Remembered

VIENNA, Va., March 27, 2013 — The women of Richmond wore no fancy antebellum gowns, their hair was not piled fashionably atop their heads, and they were not out for a social function such had existed prior to “the late unpleasantness.”

These women had another goal in mind, one far more realistic for the time. They were hungry and so were their families. It was April of 1863 and the War had been going on for a year and a half and the economy was struggling to a dangerous point. Invading armies had destroyed the fields and crops upon which families relied.

Two etchings of Richmond women taking to the streets.

Two etchings of Richmond women taking to the streets.

Congress had enacted a new law, an “Impressment Act,” as well as an additional tax law that resulted in speculation and outright hoarding, at least for those living in an urban area such as the capital city of Virginia.

Richmond’s population was a little over 100,000 by that time, rents had escalated and even the most basic of needs were out of range for families. On top of it all, 1863’s winter had been extraordinarily harsh. It had snowed appreciably at least twenty times, and some of the snowfalls resulted in snow a foot deep in Richmond.

Getting Food in the Spring Was Impossible

As the snow melted with the warming temperatures, the basic roads were soon muddy paths, and it was almost impossible for food stuffs, groceries and even fuel to reach the inhabitants. Women – even Richmond’s Southern-style women – had had enough.

On April 1, 1863, a large group of women whose husbands worked at Tredegar Iron Works as well as in other places met in a local church to see what could be done.

Two ladies,  Minerva Meredith and Mary Jackson, came up with a plan.  The women would descend upon Capitol Square on April 2 in an endeavor to get their needs and concerns heard by Governor John L. Letcher.

Bright and early the next day, they met at the George Washington statue and proceeded to the Governor’s mansion. To no one’s surprise, he refused to meet with them, though some accounts say he did. Either way, whatever response he theoretically gave them did not suit them, and the growing crowd of protesters left the Capitol and took aim at Ninth Street, where the business section could be found.

Women Demanded “Blood or Bread!”

As the little procession wound its way down the street, the inevitable happened, and more and more women joined in the throng, each demanding some respite from the lack of food and necessities. At one point, according to eyewitnesses of the time, a very thin, gaunt lady raised her wasted, almost emaciated arm and screamed, “We celebrate our right to LIVE!  We are STARVING!”  Still others maintain there was almost a chant of “Bread or blood!”

In a scene reminiscent of contemporary protests, the group, now a full-fledged mob, started attacking government warehouses where supplies and food might be stored, as well as regular stores along the street. In addition to food, the angry group began stealing clothing, jewelry, as well as necessities – bacon, flour, sugar, and other foodstuffs.

The city’s mayor, Joseph Mayo, arrived on the scene and literally (as the saying now goes) read “the Riot Act” to them. They simply ignored  him. The governor came, along with Jefferson Davis, President of the fledgling Confederacy, but they appeared to have little effect on the raging mob.

A letter written from Beauvoir by Varina Davis indicated that the women had already attacked provisions stores and bakeries, and that “while they had completed gutted one jewelry store and had also ‘looted’ some millinery and clothing shops…,”  they were still attacking other businesses.

Jefferson Davis Faces Off Against the Women

In a New York Times article, the reporter stated that when President Davis got there, he climbed upon an overturned wagon, and said to them, “You say you are hungry and have no money. Here is all I have; it is not much, but take it.”  Then emptying his pockets, he threw all of the money in them to the crowd, and then took out his watch and told them they had five minutes to disperse.

Most of the crowd drifted away at a safe distance, in spite of a warning that a cannon would be posted in the streets. The rioting was not as flagrant or as effective as at first, and soon the city authorities met with them to see if the severest needs could be helped in any way.

Some were punished for their activities with fines and prison terms, but in a discriminating manner. The women who came to the trials dressed well and who seemed more ashamed and apologetic for their actions, were punished less severely than those who appeared to be in the working class or who were identified as “leaders” of the cause.

The Richmond riots were not isolated, and when the Confederate press could manage publication, similar outbreaks were reported in Atlanta, Columbus and Macon, Ga., as well as in Mobile, Ala. and even in North Carolina.

Who could blame them when food prices were ten times higher than they had been in 1861? Truly, an agricultural economy in the South had produced farmers and families who were going hungry.

Follow the column on Face Book or LinkedIn at Martha Boltz, and by email it’s Read more of Martha’s columns on The Civil War at the Communities at The Washington Times.


Virginia: Civil War Battlefields Win Funding to Preserve 460 Acres

RICHMOND, Va. — Civil War battlefields in Virginia and West Virginia are getting a federal assist to ensure their preservation for years to come.

The National Park Service has announced more than $2.5 million in grants that include the Cool Spring Battlefield in Virginia’s Clarke County and Summit Point Battlefield in West Virginia’s Jefferson County.

The grants from the Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program total $300,000 for the Virginia property and $2,187 for the West Virginia land.

The grants are for conservation easements intended to protect the Civil War acres from development. For both states, they total about 460 acres.

Most of the grant money went to Georgia’s Marietta Operations Battlefield. That grant total is $2 million.

–Associated Press