Saturday, June 6, 2015

Meet 'the better angels' of our narrative

     As I look back over the 150th anniversary of Stoneman's Raid, here are some of my favorite personalities who brightened the pages of The Stoneman Gazette.
     I sought every perspective I could find, and those we have here represent slaves and presidents, preachers and teachers, journalists and journalers, generals and privates, fiddlers and flatpickers, pacifists and hawks. 
     Even if you don’t care about the Civil War in general or Stoneman’s Raid in particular, I bet you will enjoy these tales.

ALFRED 'UNCLE TEEN' BLACKBURN at age 106
Hamptonville NC
North Carolina’s last living Confederate veteran was born as a slave and owed his freedom to a war he lost. And boy did he exercise his freedom, walking 150,000 miles on the job and living almost 110 years. Because we published his story on April Fool's Day, some thought it was a joke or a myth, but I wouldn't have run it if I didn't think it was all true, mostly.
GOV. WILLIAM GANNAWAY BROWNLOW
Knoxville TN
Before he became governor of Tennessee, “the Fighting Parson” was a firebrand publisher who skewered the Confederacy in a federally funded newspaper called the Rebel Ventilator. If you have ink in your blood and remember when newspapering was fun (or if you are a fellow Methodist) you'll enjoy his story.
ENG & CHANG BUNKER
Mount Airy NC
The original Siamese Twins probably went into hiding when Stoneman’s Raid came through Mount Airy, the iconic little town where they raised 21 children and owned 30 slaves. But what if they got into one of their occasional arguments and one of them betrayed the other? Mark Twain was amused by the possibilities, and according to one account, so was Gen. Stoneman.
JOHN C. CALHOUN (1849 daguerreotype by Mathew Brady)
Abbeville SC, Washington DC, Clemson SC
Could the "Father of Secession" also have been the father of the president who defeated secession? That would give a whole new meaning to the Civil War slogan "brother against brother."
CONFEDERATE LT. CHARLES CONNOR
Terrell NC
Was he a daring hero? Or an innocent bystander? The Stoneman Gazette sorts out the facts and legends about one of the richest men in Catawba County, N.C., who may have been the last Confederate officer killed in combat.

CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT JEFFERSON DAVIS
with daughter Maggie, wife Varina, and grandchildren in Biloxi MS
The last fortnight of Stoneman's Raid was essentially a manhunt for Jefferson Davis. Yankees called him the “Prince of Traitors,” and rebels never exalted their president like they did their generals. The Confederacy and his administration were doomed from the start. But Davis turned out to be more of a sympathetic character than I expected. He did not seek the presidency of the Confederacy but served out of a binding sense of duty that became blinding (literally and figuratively) in the end. Jimmy Carter and Congress restored Davis' citizenship in 1978. In this era when gender-hopping is considered courageous, shouldn't we pardon him for one episode of cross-dressing?
CONFEDERATE PVT. "TOM DOOLEY"
Ferguson ("Happy Valley") NC
Doc Watson and Grayson’s nephew chime in on the murder mystery made famous by the Kingston Trio. Tom Dula was in a Yankee prison when Stoneman's Raid came through the valley where he was raised, and he might-a lived happily ever after if it hadn't-a-been for the girls back home. 
UNION COL. MYLES KEOGH
County Carlow, Ireland, and Fort Lincoln ND
Gen. George Stoneman’s right-hand man was an Irishman recruited from the Pope's guards who led the charges into Boone and Salisbury and later died with Gen. George Custer in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. "My great weakness," he once said, "is the love I have for the fair sex, and pretty much all my trouble comes from or can be traced to that charming source." The Stoneman Gazette found a soap-opera picture to prove it. 
U.S. PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN 
entering Richmond April 4, 1865 (drawn by Thomas Nast)
Seven-score and fourteen years later, America needs to heed the closing words of President Lincoln's 1861 inaugural address: “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.”
UNION GEN. WILLIAM J. PALMER
Philadelphia PA and Colorado Springs CO
The Quaker general was the good guy of Stoneman’s Raid, respected even by Stonewall Jackson's widow and Jefferson Davis' daughter. "Palmer is worth a whole brigade of cavalry," one of his commanders said. After the war, Palmer received the Medal of Honor, founded Colorado Springs, made a fortune in railroads, and helped educate thousands of slaves’ children. If you have ever ridden the Durango & Silverton or Cumbres & Toltec scenic railroads, you have experienced a bit of Palmer's vision.
EMMA RANKIN
Lenoir and Marion NC
Stoneman’s Raiders never met a feistier rebel than Miss Emma Rankin, a teacher who wrote a little book about her four-day ordeal at the hand of the Yankees. In the spirit of 19th-century journalism, The Stoneman Gazette presented excerpts as a serial:
EMMALA REED
Anderson SC
The Scarlett O’Hara of Stoneman’s Raid, Emmala Reed was pining for her Confederate beau when Yankees raided Anderson, SCher hometown as well as mine. Fortunately for us, she kept a journal that Robert Oliver edited into a book called A Faithful Heart, and The Gazette excerpted as a three-part serial.
LITTLE SORREL
Lexington, VA
Horses were the unsung heroes of the thousand-mile march of Stoneman's Raid. Many wore out after a few hard days of cavalry duty in the mountains. Frank the Warhorse went the distance and was rewarded with his own headstone. Meanwhile, the most famous prisoner of the raid is still saddled up for the South. 
UNION GEN. GEORGE STONEMAN
(portrait in Harper's Weekly, 1862)
Busti NY, Washington DC, San Marino CA
General Stoneman personally led the first half of the raid and had a very personal reason to excuse himself from the rest of the march. People in Salisbury were thankful that Stoneman was not as incendiary as Sherman. Beyond that, I'll let you decide what to make of him.
IRENE TRIPLETT
Wilkesboro NC
The Wall Street Journal identified Miss Triplett as the last person receiving a Civil War pension. Her father Mose Triplett served on both sides of the war and was a member of Stoneman's rear guard that terrorized Boone in April 1865.
MARK TWAIN
(portrait by Carroll Beckwith)
Hannibal MO, Elmira NY, Hartford CT
The great storyteller made America laugh with an outrageous tale rooted in Stoneman’s Raid. But Samuel Clemens also had blood on his hands from his brief days as a Confederate soldier in Missouri, and his Private History of a Campaign that Failed is so true that it hurts: "All war must just be the killing of strangers against whom you feel no personal animosity, strangers who in other circumstances you would help if you found them in trouble, and who would help you if you needed it."

DOC WATSON
Deep Gap NC
It's always good to listen to Doc Watson. On his debut album 51 years ago, he shared his family's own memories of Tom Dula and the days of Stoneman's Raid.
UNION CAPT. HENRY WEAND
Norristown PA
I commissioned Capt. Weand as the war correspondent for The Stoneman Gazette. Many of our stories quote from his journal, which details the daily events of Stoneman's Raid.
CONFEDERATE PVT. THOMAS WHEAT
Rome GA
Did this Georgia farmer really start the Civil War? That's what he confessed when he was captured near Winston-Salem by Stoneman's cavalry. "I had nothing against the Yankees," he said, "but I was in for anything that promised a little sport."
UNION PVT. JOHN JERVIS WICKHAM
Beaver, PA
Long before he became a Pennsylvania Superior Court judge, Wickham was a 21-year-old "cypher expert" who tricked a Confederate telegraph officer into divulging the troop movements of Robert E. Lee. 

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK: Stoneman Bridge
Though he had the perfect name for a marble bust, you won't find Stoneman among the pantheon of Civil War statues. However, dozens of monuments mark his path from the Carolinas to California.

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