Monday, June 18, 2018

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Yankees published this 4-column extra May 6, 1865, while they occupied Athens.

 If you are reading The Stoneman Gazette on your phone or tablet (like many in our audience), we invite you to try us the way newspapers were meant to be read—with multiple columns.
 Open our page on an old-fashioned computer screen (or switch your iPhone to "View web version") and you'll discover a right-side column that features a search engine, a timeline that guides you day-by-day and town-by town along the path of the raid, and birthdays and biographical links for hundreds of folks who have graced our pages. This is also where we give proper credit to all the fine historians whose work we've plundered.
 Our broadsheet edition also features section tabs where you can explore topics we've covered, such as Faith, Music, Sports, Tech, and Travel. Looking for a table of contents? Start here.
 In other words ... there's more to The Stoneman Gazette than meets the iPhone.
  
 
(If you're not pun-shy, you're also invited to visit my other blogTom Layton)

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THREEDOM OF THE PRESS: The Athens newspaper (above) was one of three issues published by Union troops during Stoneman's Raid. Others were in Salisbury, N.C., and Spartanburg, S.C.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Boone honors its fallen 'Home Yankees'

New stones mark the graves of John Maricle, Henry Evans, and William Bradley in the Boone Cemetery. The haversack and canteen on Evans' grave were placed by the George Stoneman Camp #6 of the Sons of Union Veterans as part of memorial service used a century ago by the Grand Army of the Republic.










BOONE, N.C.
 Three blue-eyed Yankees who died in Boone during the final days of the Civil War were honored Sunday, April 8, when new military gravestones were unveiled in the cemetery where they were buried 153 years ago.
 Historian Eric Plaag said the memorial ceremony was "an occasion to do right by these three men, by whom history and local sentiment have often not done right."
 Two of the Union soldiers were from North Carolina and the third was from Kentucky. They died of sickness while serving with the 2nd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, a Union regiment which occupied Boone in April 1865 in the days after Stoneman's Raid.
 Many Southerners felt betrayed by such "Home Yankees" and never forgave them for the hardships their families suffered during and after the war. The three were buried in a segregated section of the Boone cemetery, and over the years their original gravestones have been vandalized and stolen.
 These veterans deserved better. They were loyal to their country, had no stake in slavery or secession, and were not involved in the raid of Boone on March 28, 1865, when Stoneman's troops killed three local men, injured six others, and captured 68.

 The three Union soldiers are buried less than 50 yards from Jacob Mast Councill, whose father Benjamin Councill owned the land that became the town cemetery. Dr. Plaag explained the significance: "In late March 1865, Mr. Councill hauled up this hill the coffin containing the body of his son, Jacob Mast Councill, who had been murdered in cold blood by Union occupiers. Two weeks later, Mr. Councill consented to his land being used for the burial of three other men, this time from the same army that had killed his son. May we all be accorded such respect."

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Attorney & general: Little sister's big day

Kate Stoneman became the first female lawyer in New York
 Twenty years after the Civil War, George Stoneman was the governor of California. Meanwhile, back in New York where the general was raised, his little sister Kate was making her own mark in the Statehouse.
 That’s why the Albany Law School celebrates March 27 as Kate Stoneman Day. Catharine “Kate” Stoneman was a longtime teacher who, in 1885, became the first woman to pass the bar exam in New York. Then she was banned by a three-judge panel who ruled that there “no precedent … and no necessity” for women to practice law—not unless the state legislature voted otherwise.
Kate Stoneman immediately proved her legal skills by personally shepherding a bill through the legislature and convincing the governor to sign it, making it legal for women to practice law. On May 22, 1886, at age 45 she became the first woman admitted to the New York bar, and 12 years later she became the first female to officially graduate from the Albany Law School.
 Gen. Stoneman’s relationships with his sisters reveal a softer side of the hard-driving Yankee, whose troops terrorized parts of the Carolinas and Virginia during the closing days of the Civil War.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Emma's War: Teaching the Yankees a lesson

This illustration by Steve Jenkins portrays Emma Rankin grabbing the reins of a Union cavalryman as she protects the Carson House, where she was employed as a teacher. Mary Carson stands defiantly on the porch, and I presume that's her husband Col. Logan Carson on the left, though he stayed in the shadows during most of the four days and three nights that Stoneman's troops looted the plantation. If you've never heard of Miss Emma, you really ought to read her story. If not for her tenacity and courage, the Carson House might not have survived Stoneman's Raid. The 225-year-old house near Marion, N.C., now stands as a museum to antebellum life in the Blue Ridge foothills. Want to tour the Carson House? The 2018 season opens April 4.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Revisiting the death of Jacob Mast Councill

 History has given us conflicting accounts of the death of Jacob Mast Councill, the Boone civilian who was one of the first casualties of Stoneman's Raid. My friend and co-worker Terry Harmon has sorted through the details in a Facebook thread you can read here.
Councill was one of three local men killed when the Union troops invaded Boone on March 28, 1865. Some think he was part of the local Home Guard and died defending the town. Others say he was farming when the Yankees rode up and executed him as he pleaded for his life.
 The names Mast and Councill are prominent in Watauga County. Boone was originally known as Councill's Store, named for Jacob's uncle, Jordan Councill Jr. 
 Jacob's home was located in downtown Boone on the same block where the Mast Store now stands. Jacob and his infant daughter (who died previously) were the first two people buried on a hilltop that is now the Boone town cemetery. Within a month, three Union soldiers were laid to rest nearby
The Stoneman Gazette is indebted to Terry for sharing his historical and genealogical research with us. He is the author of Watauga County Revisited in the Images of America series, as well as other collections of local history.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Putting heads on Civil War tales

 They don't make headlines like they used to.
 As dying newspapers lay off their ink-stained copy editors, we may never see another headline quite like this verbless wonder written by Vincent Musetto for the New York Post in 1983—the most unforgettable head in the history of journalism.

 Headline writing is an art. It may be a dying art—a victim of malnewstrition—but the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) still has a Headline of the Year contest to recognize the finest examples. Here are links to the winners for 2016 and 2015
 At The Stoneman Gazette, we take pride in our headlines and have never laid off a copy editor. If ACES ever adds a prize category for anachronistic online newspapers, we'd like to nominate a few of the following favorites.
 If you feel enticed to click on any of these blue links, go hug a headline writer. 

Rebels and their bridge fall for Yankee-pranky
If you're ever caught in a headline fight, remember that the pun is mightier than the sword. This story describes a ruse involving a Union captain (a 27-year-old teacher with the eminently punable name of Erastus Cratty Moderwell) who impersonated Gen. George Stoneman to fool and intimidate Confederate forces who had him outnumbered. The rebels unwittingly surrendered the Nation Ford railroad trestle connecting the Carolinas, and the Yankees burned it down before Jefferson Davis could cross it.

Here's my double-headed homage to Vincent Musetto (who died four weeks after we ended the daily run of The Stoneman Gazette). When the Yankees headed south out of Asheville and crossed the Blue Ridge at Caesars Head, they looked down on rebellious South Carolina in more ways than one. While they were descending, they were also condescending. (And don't blame me for the genitive apostrophe missing from Caesars Head. That's the style established by the U.S. Bureau of Geographic Names, page 30.) 

If a headline can't be cute, it needs to be profound. It should make the reader feel personally invested in the story. In this case, we thought our fellow Americans would want to know that Uncle Sam is still paying for the Civil War—and the monthly checks are being cashed by the daughter of one of Stoneman's veterans. In a different era, this 1938 Gettysburg headline about her father also did a good job of enticing readers:

The longest raid begins with a single debt
Headline writers often start with a familiar phrase and then twist it like one of Sherman's neckties. You can understand why we wrote raid instead of journey, and here's why we changed step to debt: After rebels captured Gen. Stoneman in 1864, he became the highest-ranked prisoner in the South and a laughingstock in some parts of the North. So when he got a chance to vindicate himself with a thousand-mile raid in 1865, he declared, "I owe the Southern Confederacy a debt I am anxious to liquidate."

The story includes a quote about s-e-x from Myles Keogh, a debonair Yankee officer and international man of mystery. We resisted the temptation to use that cheap clickbait in our headline, because it would have been beneath our dignity. Instead, we'll tease you with it here—beneath our headline.

The Kingston Trio and Doc Watson were also part of this story, but the title characters were both fiddlers, and young Tom fiddled around in more ways than one. In fact, he had a harem of cousins. For headline writers, a double entendre is the triple crown. 

Pyres in Salisbury, but a pyrrhic victory for rebs
It's a rare headline that can pair two pyr-words. It almost makes me want to go back and rewrite the story in inverted pyramid. Almost.

Four days in a den of Yankee lions
I like to include Bible allusions in my headlines. With Stoneman's cavalry fast approaching the Carson House, Miss Emma Rankin wrote that she still made it to church on Easter Sunday, "and our blessed old pastor gave us all the hope and strength he could gather from the Bible, reminding us that there were lions in the way, but God could shut the lions' mouths."

"If it's a good headline, we'll make it fit," Phil Batson used to say. But blogs, like newspapers, have fixed widths for columns and pages, and the challenge is to say a lot in a few words (in this case: 34 counts). This headline sums up a flurry of messages between Gen. Stoneman in Knoxville and two of his cavalry brigades in Asheville.

How to stop the U.S. Cavalry? With a winefest
The purpose of a headline is to get you to stop and read the story. Clickbait, they call it nowadays. I think this one clicks. The bacchanalian story comes from my hometown of Anderson, S.C.

Scoop! Sly Stoneman chides rebel church
The little story behind this headline was lost to history until The Stoneman Gazette dredged it out of the The New York Times digital archives. "Chides" is just such a great headline word. Otherwise, our headline might have been Education of black children vs. edification of white Presbyterians. Sly readers of my generation may read something else into that headline.

Tell Mama! The Civil War is finally over
A month after Lee's surrender, the war and the raid were still dragging on. So was the daily run of The Stoneman Gazette. We needed a way to finish strong, and I think we found it in our Mothers Day issue, which featured heartfelt quotes from the likes of Abe Lincoln, Stonewall Jackson's mother, and Mark Twain. Some newspapers don't like exclamations in headlines, but we're different, and moms are special.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day: 'Your Dear Son is Dead'

Union private Oliver Stebbins
 The Civil War was nearly over when John and Charlotte Stebbins of Three Rivers, Michigan, sent their oldest son Oliver to join the Union Army.
 He enlisted Feb. 17, 1865, in the 11th Michigan Cavalry, which was one of the eight brigades assigned to Stoneman's Raid. They rode out of Knoxville, Tennessee, on March 21, 1865—Oliver's 18th birthday.
 For the next four weeks, Stoneman's troops were beyond the reach of mail or telegraph, so we can assume that Stebbins' family heard nothing from him. They must have rejoiced to hear of the fall of Richmond April 2 and the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee April 9—certain signs that the war was ending and that their son would soon be coming home.
 Then came the following heartbreaking letters, the first two from a fellow Michigan soldier named John Schroder. [The crude spelling and wording is preserved from the original letters. I have inserted a few explanatory notes in brackets.]

Chattanooga, Tenn. April the 23 1865

Mrs. Stebbins,
I will let you know about your Oliver he is sick in the Hospital here. he was brought here with the Measles he has got over the Measles and has got Nuemonia in his side and the Bronchetis in the other side it is a hard case I have been here sick with the Measles and am just getting over them I am doing all that I can for your Dear Son he is very thirsty and wants watter every little while I watched him all last night and if he was in his right mind I assure you he will get well my bed is right beside his if he wants any thing he cals on me but I dont know whether he is in his right mind or not I see that he has something to eat every meal for I giv it to him myself I belong to the same regiment that he does. I will write you again in two or three days No more at present
John Schroder Co J 11th Michigan Inf Chattanooga, Tennessee

Monday, May 1, 2017

Reasons for the war? How quickly we forget

This is not the first time a new president has needed a history lesson on the Civil War.
 It also happened in May 1865, when the war was as fresh as cavalry dust and the Yankees were still chasing the fugitive Confederate president Jefferson Davis across Georgia.
Here's a link to our original story in The Stoneman Gazette, where Union Gen. William Palmer wrote a passionate and eloquent letter intended for President Andrew Johnson. Palmer was alarmed to hear that the administration might delay the full emancipation of slaves, now that Lincoln was dead. Gen. Palmer wanted the new president to know what he was hearing from Southerners and why emancipation was non-negotiable.
 Our original story also includes links to the "Declaration of Causes," where several seceding states explained why they left the Union.
 If we're honest, we all have questions about the real reasons for secession and the Civil War (which are not necessarily the same), not to mention the complicated motives of individual soldiers on both sides.
 However, the declarations of those who voted to secede are undeniable. For example, read what the delegates from Mississippi wrote:

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Joan Baez: 'Till Stoneman's Cavalry came'

This marker was erected Jan. 19, 1988 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
They probably didn't mean to celebrate a Yankee birthday, but the ceremony
was held just one day after the 150th birthday of Major Abram B. Garner.
I know Garner's birthday because it's the same as mine. Tom Layton, editor 

The Stoneman Gazette congratulates Joan Baez on her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her biggest hit, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, references Stoneman's Raid:
Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train,
till Stoneman’s cavalry came, and tore up the tracks again
.
 Songwriters Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm (who were inducted into the Hall of Fame with The Band in 1994) conjured up Caine to narrate historical events at the end of the Civil War.
 In the winter of '65, the Confederacy was just barely alive, and the purpose of Stoneman's Raid was to finish it off. After Stoneman's cavalry destroyed the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad, the rebels' final lifeline was the Piedmont Railroad between Danville and Greensboro.
 After Richmond fell, both of those towns served as temporary capitals of the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis presided April 3-10 in Danville, until he heard that Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered April 9 at Appomattox. Then he fled to North Carolina, where he hoped that Gen. Joseph Johnston's army would be able to continue the fight.
 Davis was aboard one of the last trains that made it to Greensboro before the Reedy Fork trestle was destroyed April 11 in a daring raid ordered by Stoneman and led by Maj. Abram Garner. At the time, the Yankees were unaware of Lee's surrender or Davis's flight.
 Davis stayed April 11-16 in Greensboro and then eluded Stoneman's cavalry on his way south through Charlotte, past the smoldering bridge at Nation Ford, and across South Carolina. He held final meetings in Abbeville and Washington (Ga.) before catching up with his family and being captured by Michigan troops May 10 in south Georgia. 
This bridge crosses Reedy Fork at the same place as the original timber trestle destroyed by Stoneman's cavalry. (Photo by Royce Haley).

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Remember when N.C. voted to save the Union?

 Four days before the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, North Carolina held a statewide referendum to decide whether to secede from the Union. 
 You might have thought that was a foregone conclusion. Seven southern states had already exited.
 Yet at the end of February 1861, voters across North Carolina rejected secession and chose to remain in the Union. The vote was close, and it wasn't binding for long, but it remains a refreshing history lesson for our generation as we deal with another polarizing presidency and an increasingly fractious society.
North Carolina Standard, March 20, 1861
 This referendum was news to me when I began researching Stoneman's Raid and learned about it from the books of North Carolina historian Michael C. Hardy. I looked it up in old newspapers and found this county-by-county table in the North Carolina Standard published March 20, 1861 in Raleigh. The referendum was held February 28 (156 years ago today), but back then it took a couple of weeks to compile all the votes.
North Carolina voters faced two questions:
  1. Should the state hold a constitutional convention to consider secession?
  2. If the convention is approved, who would you vote for as your delegate?
 In effect, a vote against the convention was a vote for the Union.
 North Carolina rejected the convention by a margin of just 661 votes, 47,333 against and 46,672 for. That made the second question moot, but if the delegates had convened, they would have been 83-37 in favor of the Union.
 Many of the counties that would be raided by Stoneman in 1865 were overwhelmingly loyal to the Union: Watauga voted against a convention 536-72, Caldwell 651-186, Wilkes 1,890-51, Yadkin 1,490-34, Forsyth 1,409-286, and Guilford 2,771-113.
 Among counties ready to secede were Rowan 1,150-882, Catawba 918-158, Lincoln 708-86, Mecklenburg 1,448-252, McDowell 638-217, and Buncombe 1,219-389. Most of the support for secession was in eastern North Carolina, where slavery was more widespread.
 While North Carolina was still counting votes, Lincoln gave his inaugural address on March 4 and made one last eloquent plea to save the Union:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
So if North Carolinians were loyal to the Union, how did we wind up in the Confederacy?