Short Takes

Earlier I did a couple of posts on Tom Dooley and his defense counsel Zeb Vance. Now Dooley has come to the stage here in Burnsville, NC, in a locally-produced musical, Tom Dooley.

The Kingston Trio gave this tale national, if not global, visibility, but the story of Tom Dooley is based on historical events in Wilkes County. The facts are few, the legends many, and Asheville resident Brenda Lunsford Lilly has taken yet another tack in writing the book for this new musical production.

Here’s what we know: Tom Dula (aka Dooley) was a young Confederate soldier just back from the war. He was romantically involved with at least two women in his home community, one of whom was later found stabbed to death. Tom was tried for murder, and although his defense attorney was none other than famed Civil War-era governor Zeb Vance, Dooley was convicted and hanged.

But there are many skeptics who believe that others were involved in the death of Laura Foster. And the creative team that produced “The Ballad of Tom Dooley” brings in new dramatic elements to thicken the brew.

The Wall Street Journal has a review of a book about Confederate general Jo Shelby, his flight into Mexico to avoid surrender, and his postbellum career.

At war’s end, Shelby led an embittered expedition of perhaps a thousand men to Mexico. Their number included about 200 of his former troopers, soldiers from other Confederate commands and what must have seemed like half the Confederate government, including the governors of Missouri, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas.

Shelby and the others didn’t enter Mexico with military action in mind; they were simply determined to make a new start far from the hated Yankees. But the ex- Confederates rode into the middle of another civil war. As Mr. Arthur relates, Shelby’s ragtag group ran a gantlet of bandits, Apaches and Mexican rebel forces-including those at Matehuala-as it headed to Mexico City to offer the emperor military assistance. Maximilian received Shelby cordially but astutely judged that aligning himself with former Confederates would only inflame the U.S., which already resented France’s incursion in Mexico.

Georgia archeologists have located the remains of Camp Lawton, a POW camp that functioned briefly in 1864 and still holds a lot of interesting artifacts.

About 1/4 mile away, on adjacent land owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they used a metal detector to find something else: a pre-Civil War penny about the size of a half-dollar. They were surprised nobody had beaten them to it.

“We thought, holy cow, in order for us to find an artifact like this, this site has to be undisturbed,” Chapman said. “To find a Civil War site that hasn’t been looted is extremely rare.”

Other artifacts soon followed. The tourniquet buckle was stamped with the name of a New York company that manufactured surgical equipment in the 1860s. The clay pipe bore the name of its maker in Glasgow, Scotland.

There was a literal half-penny – a coin cut in half to buy things costing less than 1 cent – and three other coins including a German-made game token stamped with George Washington’s profile.

And finally, a group of market analysts take a look at the Confederate prospects for victory as seen by European investors (PDF).

Using a unique dataset of Confederate gold bonds in Amsterdam, we apply this methodology to estimate the probability of a Southern victory from the summer of 1863 until the end of the war. Our results suggest that European investors gave the Confederacy approximately a 42 percent chance of  victory prior to the battle of Gettysburg/Vicksburg. News of the severity of the two rebel defeats led to a sell-off in Confederate bonds. By the end of 1863, the probability of a Southern victory fell to about 15  percent.


One response to “Short Takes”

  1. Michael C. Hardy Avatar

    Fred – saw the play last Friday night. Check out my short review here:


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