Short Takes

The militia is gathering here in NC. No, it’s not those weird guys in camo, it’s a group reenacting the historic North Carolina militia.

The Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace State Historic Site is hosting the annual fall militia encampment Saturday and Sunday.

The event, which has happened in one form or another at the site since the late 1970s, highlights the early years of United States history, when citizens banded together to form local militias to protect their lives and property, said David Tate, historic site manager at the Vance Birthplace.

“One of the reasons we do this event is because it gives us an opportunity to showcase some of the activities that Zebulon’s father and grandfather would have been involved in,” Tate said, adding that those two men were both officers in the local militia.

Zeb Vance was NCs wartime governor, and I’ve mentioned his role before as defense council for the ill-fated Tom Dooley.

Speaking of militias, law professor Glenn Reynolds has a good post on the differences between militias, state defense forces, and the national guard. It’s also worth remembering that under the common law “the militia” was all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45, who might or might not be organized into drilling units. I looked at the role of militia companies in the Civil War and the run-up to it a while back.

And in Walker County, GA, some residents aren’t happy about the display of the old Georgia flag with the Southern Cross (not the “Stars and Bars” as incorrectly stated in the article).

A number of residents felt using the old flag was disrespectful to the memory of Theresa Parker and her surviving family members.

Speaking of flags, it’s the 200th birthday of the Republic of West Florida, which as it turns out was actually in what is now Louisiana.

While Texans are fiercely proud their state was once its own republic, and California celebrates the same former status on its flag, relatively few Louisianans know that a group of their forebears overthrew Spanish rule to carve out a tiny, independent nation 200 years ago. With the bicentennial coming up Thursday, historians and descendants of the rebels are hoping to change that.

Yup, although it was soon annexed by the United States, it was an independent country for a brief period just like Texas and California. As it turns out the Louisiana purchase did not include the territory east of the Mississippi. That, all the way to Atlantic, remained Spanish, at least until…

In the early morning hours of Sept. 23, 1810, 75 armed rebels slipped into the Spanish fort at Baton Rouge, and in what was described as a “sharp and bloody firefight,” subdued the garrison. They lowered the Spanish flag and raised the Bonnie Blue Flag – a single white star on a blue field – that had been adopted for the new nation they called West Florida.

This, so far as I’m aware, was the first use of the Bonnie Blue Flag, which was later used by the Republic of Texas and of course the Confederacy. It survives today in the flags of Texas and here in North Carolina, and inspired one of the most rousing songs of the Civil War period. The new republic extended to the Pearl River in present-day Mississippi, so ironically not a foot of it was in what we now call Florida. Louisiana is even planning a bicentennial celebration.

The Wall Street  Journal has a review of James Swanson’s new book Bloody Crimes about the hunt for Jefferson Davis after the fall of the Confederacy.

Halfway through his 2006 best seller, “Manhunt”—which chronicles the pursuit of John Wilkes Booth following the murder of Abraham Lincoln—James Swanson mentions “another sensational manhunt” that was just then getting under way. But he says almost nothing else about the flight of Jefferson Davis. It began in Richmond, Va., on April 2, 1865, and ended 38 days later with the Confederate president’s capture in rural Georgia.

Speaking of chief executives, former president Jimmy Carter says that the country is more divided now than any time since the Civil War. Significantly, as a Southerner, he calls it the War Between the States. I’d ask where’s Bleeding Kansas, and where was he during the nineteen-Sixties? Also caught a short part of an interview of Oliver Stone by Joy Behar. When asked what we should do if the Tea Partiers took over in November, Stone snapped “secede!” Some things never change.


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