Wednesday, March 23, 2011

N.C. historian Tweets the Civil War

Two months before the start of the Civil War, a North Carolina belle named Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston tapped out a frustrated message about her secession-opposing sibling in a tweet to her followers: “Sister Frances is a terrible Unionist!”

She might have tweeted, that is, if Twitter had existed in 1861, writes the Washington Post.

Instead, Edmondston and other long-dead North Carolinians from a bygone era are having their social networking done for them posthumously. A Raleigh-based historian is using the popular service to bring the home front of a war to modern day audiences nearly a century and a half later.

“We’re not imposing any of our words. This is purely from men, women, and even teenagers who stayed at home and fought the war in their own ways,” said LeRae Umfleet, the historian who manages the collections at the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

A very interesting read. If you want to follow Umfleet, follow @CivilianWartime. The tweets are the words of an escaped slave, a woman whose husband owned a plantation and others. The tweets are moving roughly in chronological order along with the war, meaning that so far the messages mostly express the foreboding and uncertainty of people in North Carolina as they watched war clouds build.

“I have just seen the President’s message,” Umfleet tweeted in the March 11, 1861 words of Mary Bethell. “Mr. Lincoln, I think he intends to coerce those seceding States.”

The Twitter account is part of the ongoing effort of the cultural resources department’s ongoing effort to mark the 150th anniversary of the bloodiest conflict in American history. It seeks to highlight the experiences of those who remained at home while others went off to war — a conflict ever more dire as the battles drag on.

“By the end of the war, we will have seen conflict on North Carolina soil, and we’ll have heard from people with firsthand knowledge of that,” Umfleet said.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nothing to fear along N.C. coast

From the Toronto Sun:

Cape Fear. The mere name conjures images of shipwrecks, churning seas and plundering pirates. Indeed, this rugged coastal region of the United States delivers all three, plus more -- an ideal playground for vacationing families.

Located about one hour north of the hustle and kitsch of Myrtle Beach, S.C., North Carolina's Cape Fear coast offers a quieter version of wide beaches and pounding Atlantic surf, paired with an eclectic history of sunken ships, smugglers and genteel southern charm.

Early settlers named the coast for the havoc it wreaked on approaching ships. Shifting sand shoals made it tricky for merchant vessels to navigate the Cape Fear River, which snakes inland from the Atlantic to Wilmington (once a major trading centre), striking fear in the hearts of captains and crews. Pirates in shallow-draft boats took advantage of the wrecks, plundering the ships and selling the pilfered goods in street markets.

One of Cape Fear's most feared pirates was the infamous Stede Bonnet, known as The Gentleman Pirate because of his vast collection of books aboard his pirate ship. Bonnet was hanged for his crimes in 1718, but not before escaping prison at least once dressed as a woman!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This just in: Tourism is big biz in N.C.

The license plates used to say, "Variety Vacationland" as a tribute to the many vacation spots in North Carolina. (Still not sure why they no longer do, but that's another blog post.) In short, tourism has been big business in this state for a long time.

Turns out, maybe we should really focus on it.

"Visitors to North Carolina spent a record $17 billion in 2010. This is an increase of 9 percent from 2009, according to a report released this week," said the NCNN.

Lynn Minges, the Assistant Secretary of Tourism with the North Carolina Department of Commerce, said tourism is a significant part of the North Carolina economy. "Tourism is generating or pumping everyday $2.6 million into state tax coffers. As our legislature and decision makers are rustling with the state budget, this is an industry that is pumping dollar into the general fund on a daily basis," said Minges.

Visitor spending directly generated a total of more than $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenues. State tax revenues from visitor spending increased 12.6 percent and have increased 16.2 percent since 2007.

Stock car racing could be state sport

I'm certainly no NASCAR fan, but there's no arguing the impact that the sport has had on the state of North Carolina -- or the impact the state has had on the sport.

So it's not surprising that the General Assembly -- in its effort to tab something as the state "sport" -- is thinking of honoring stock car racing. Less surprising is that the effort is coming from the Heart of NASCAR country: Mooresville.

"Two new bills introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly last week came directly from the people — 13 elementary-school students, to be exact," said the Mountain XPress. "The Mooresville self-designated 'pit crew' worked secretly at first on their proposal to make stock-car racing the official state sport, according to 'That’s Racin’' in The Charlotte Observer, so as not to tip off enthusiasts of any other sport. Then they obtained the cooperation of Rep. Gray Mills, Mooresville Republican, who became the primary sponsor of HB 333. Across the aisle, a familiar Western North Carolina racing enthusiast, Buncombe County’s Democract Martin Nesbitt Jr., was joined by Hendersonville Republican Tom Apodaca in introducing a companion bill (SB 322), and the race was on. ..."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

ACC Tourney nostalgia

The first day of the ACC Tournament is behind us, but does the tourney still hold the luster it once did?

Our buddy James over at has an excellent piece on the impact the tournament once had -- especially if you were a school child in the state of North Carolina.

The ACC Tournament as I knew it ended when they stopped wheeling TVs into the classrooms on Quarterfinal Fridays.

Now, I'm sure there are a few pockets in the state where in-class watching of the tournament is still done. Pockets of the state the transplants haven't discovered yet or don't dare venture into; where the average age of folks borders on AARP Qualifing Age; where time has stood still since 1980 and creeps along at a snail's pace relative to the world around it.

If you're a teacher in one of these pockets who insists on still watching the tournament in class, God bless you.

But the practice has largely died off because—unlike it was in the 80s and 90s—the ACC Tournament's slow slide into "meh" status no longer justifies teachers sacrificing class time to keep tabs on it.

It didn't use to be this way.