Short Takes

by Fred Ray on November 9, 2010 · 0 comments

The city of Harrisburg, PA, held a Civil War Grand Review Saturday to honor Black soldiers in the Civil War. The event itself is a re-enactment of a similar review held in the fall of 1865 for Colored regiments that were unable to participate in the Grand Review in Washington.

Hari Jones, curator of the African-American Civil War Museum in Washington D.C., busted the popular notion that the U.S. Colored Troops were not welcome at the official Grand Review in Washington one month after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Va.

In fact, he noted, a handful of colored regiments assigned to Army corps that were done with their duties did participate in Washington.

More to the point, Jones said, is the fact that many of the colored regiments, having played key roles in the war’s latter campaigns, were still on duty as part of occupying forces in Charleston, S.C., Tallahassee, Fla. and other places. Several more helped defeat Texas, the last hold-out of the seceded states.

With video clip.

Speaking of Black history, one of the more unusual slaves here in North Carolina was Omar ibn Said, who has generated a great deal of academic interest. He now has his own historical marker and a mosque named in his honor.

A religious scholar and teacher, Said wrote a brief Arabic manuscript that stands as the only autobiography in a native language by a slave in the United States. In her essay posted on the state Archives and History website, Wegner writes that Said “was likely the most educated slave in North Carolina and one of the best documented practicing Muslim slaves in America.”

His Arabic Bible is preserved in the Davidson College Library’s rare book room.

Said was said to have been a prince and Islamic scholar, but his narrative, like most others, must be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism. As a modern article notes, “modern scholars have doubted the accuracy of many details in the autobiography. Omar was noted for being obscure and evasive when speaking about his life in Africa.” He converted to Christianity, refused emancipation to be sent back to Africa as a missionary, and died in 1864 at an advanced age.

Max Borders has an article in the Washington Examiner on “North Carolina: The strangest beast in all of politics.

If history was to be a guide with respect to the Democrats’ lock on the N. C. General Assembly, history was a no-show this November. The N.C. legislature should have remained in the hands of a party that had not let go of power for more than 100 years. Ignoring their appalling ethics, one had to admire the sheer tenacity of Tar Heel Democrats who — despite all manner of corruption charges and accusations — had managed to keep the state in their clutches through scandal after scandal (since the horse and buggy age).

I’ve lived here for over thirty years and can say that while Tarheel politics vary from weird to downright incomprehensible, they have been up until last week firmly Democratic.

The modern Democratic Party in North Carolina arose out of opposition to so-called “radical” reconstruction efforts led by the Republican-controlled federal government in the 1860s and 1870s. The Conservative Party, a coalition of former Democrats and Whigs who opposed federal intervention in state affairs, won control of the General Assembly in 1870 and began to reverse some of the laws and policies established by the Reconstruction-era Republicans. In 1876 the Conservatives changed their name to Democrats and popular Civil War governor Zebulon Vance was returned to the state’s highest office. In the eyes of many white North Carolinians, the state had been “redeemed.”

Under the encouragement of the Democrats, whose policies aided business interests, the state began a rapid process of industrialization. Textile mills were built throughout the Piedmont, and the state’s tobacco and furniture industries grew quickly.

Strange, since NC is now listed as one of the worst states to do business in. In any case the Democrats have been firmly in control since Reconstruction except for a brief period, and I think a two-party system has to be beneficial.

Heritage Auctions has the diary and papers of Union Captain James M. Randall (21st Wisconsin). The diary dates from Stones River in 1862 until the Confederate surrender.

Randall’s first major engagement of the campaign was at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in June 1864, but days before the battle, his company was ordered “to advance our line of skirmishers through an open field and occupy a ridge fortified and held by the enemy. I gave the order move forward. The boys go with a will. But as soon as we gain the open field we can at once see that The enemy are too strongly posted in their Rifle Pits to be driven out by skirmish line. Accordingly we fall back under cover of wood.” On the 27th, the day of the main battle, he records, “Today a grand charge is to be made at 10 oclock A.M. by Hookers (20th) Corps assisted by Jeff. C. Davis 2d Divisions of the 14 Corps The charge is . . . [illegible] with very heavy loss to us and only in part successful. . . . We receive orders to be ready to move out and relieve the 2d Brigade of our Division who are in front. We will move at dark.” The Rebels, though, retreated before fighting resumed.

Would be nice if they end up with someone who’s willing to share them instead of in a safe.

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