Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to all and to all, a good night!

My favorite holiday is finally here! The parties, events and trips to the mall are done. For every person on my list, I have searched near and far for the perfect gift. For 24 hours, starting about 6 pm tonight, family will be central with Mom's big Christmas Eve party tonight (and a bit of cards and rum for the boys at my home), lunch on Christmas Day at my Grandmother's (there's over 80 folks!), ending with Christmas Evening with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew (Spider-Man! Spider-Man! Does whatever a spider can!). However, this time of the year means even more as we celebrate the birth of someone that caused quite a stir in his day but as he lived, gave us an example of how we should live our lives every day. It's also about family and friends, about relationships both new and old. It's a time to reflect on both the past year and the year yet to unfold. It's about looking back and counting your blessings and giving thanks for both answered and unanswered prayers. Yes, Christmas is very special for so many reasons. To everyone, I wish for you a Very, Merry Christmas and hope the jolly fat man (not me but the man in the red suit!) is good to you!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I'm dreaming of a Halifax Christmas......

Well, actually I haven't been dreaming of a Halifax Christmas but did get the opportunity to experience it as the 5NC Regiment of the Continental Line (with a few guests) participated in Historic Halifax's Annual Christmas festivities this past Saturday. First off, I must say that we were provided one of the most outstanding backdrops anyone could ask for as they allowed us to make the "Tap Room" our headquarters for the day (the Tap Room is an actual tavern, circa 1760-1810, that has been recreated complete with tables, chairs and a period-correct bar). We conducted musket and swivel gun demonstrations on the Market Square (which actually served as the parade ground during the American Revolution) with myself, Andrew Duppstadt and Will Jarman and Myron Ralston manning the swivel gun while Bill Barber, Ken Sewell, Myron Ralston (serving double-duty) and our good friend from the 6NC, Hank Brown, took care of the musket duties. Inside the Tap Room, we set up a recruiting table, played games while Chris Barber (one of our distaff) displayed an excellent selection of dishes that would have been prepared during the American Revolution for Christmas. The crowds were a bit light (100 or so visitors) but they seemed to be interested in our presentations as they were not bashful about asking questions. This being our first visit to Historic Halifax, I see no reason that we won't be back. The site staff were extremely helpful and very gracious and it is not often you get to play in a sandbox such as we were blessed with Saturday. What a way to start the Christmas holidays!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Day at the Mariner's Museum

I'm tired! Rather than spending my Friday after Thanksgiving hunting, shopping (I hope someone would have shot me to put me out of my misery if I did go shopping ) or enjoying other pursuits, I decided to help out the folks at the Mariner's Museum by filling in as an Monitor Center interpreter (paid no less!). After talking with my friend, Al Mitchell, who is one of the regular interpreters, we figured it would be a slow day with most folks out doing the shopping day. Boy were we wrong! Even though I wasn't supposed to go on duty until 11am, I went ahead in the exhibit area and began work early as I noticed that there were a lot of people already in the Monitor Center. That flow of people never stopped until 5pm and even then we had to escort people out. By 3pm, over 800 people had been admitted to the museum and while the flow wasn't as brisk, folks kept coming in. I don't know what the final count was but I suspect in was close to 900 people. As for guests I engaged, they came from all walks of life. I met retired Navy captains and their wives, Master Chiefs on vacation, history teachers enjoying time away from their students, Sub commander's wives amazed at the size of Worden's cabin. As part of my duties, I was supposed to give a twenty minute talk on a related subject (I chose Ericsson and the construction of the Monitor) but very few folks slowed down long enough to listen. As I left, I felt tired but also renewed and reinvigorated. Sometimes, I get the feeling that most people don't appreciate history and what's being done to preserve it for future generations. However, Friday renewed my belief that what musuems, historic sites and living historians do actually matters. If you haven't been to the Mariner's Museum, take a day out of your busy life and visit them. You'll not only get to visit one of the greatest exhibits in terms of the Monitor Center by also a wonderful tribute to Lord Nelson, boats of various points in time as sell as other fun displays. I had a truly rewarding experience and I hope to get to help out again some day soon!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Upcoming 2007 CSS Neuse program (Annual Chance to Drool)

This weekend marks my 7th year attending the CSS Neuse's Annual Civil War program. I remember my first visit as it was my original group's first year of existence with the program marking our third outing. We camped along the riverbank in the "Hotel Albemarle", a hospital wall tent on loan from the place we got started, the Port O' Plymouth Museum. The Tidewater Maritime Living History Association (Tmlha) was our gracious benefactors at the time, as they were one of the established CW navy units in the Va/NC area that did living history. Boy were we green! I also remember that first visit as it marked my introduction to Andrew Duppstadt and Jim Greathouse, two of my kindred spirits and the Marines from Fort Fisher who are just a great bunch of guys.

Time certainly has passed since then with my old group metamorphosing into a pretty potent Confederate Naval Artillery unit. In September, 2004, I retired as CO of this group with an express desire to focus on living history exclusively. What started as an invitation to friends to "come play in my sandbox" whenever they could, ended up evolving into a new group of living historians, the Ship's Company of the Roanoke. The CSS Neuse event was the second event for this merry band and we haven't looked back.

Now, I am assuming you are wondering what I will be drooling over this weekend. Artifacts, folks! It is a rare chance to get a look at some of the most well-preserved artifacts from a Confederate ironclad. Their collection of brooke shells and bolts is by far one of the most impressive I have ever seen in terms of both numbers and condition. Now, do you understand why I drool with each visit.

Why don't you come and visit us this weekend? If you have the kit, I might let you play in our sandbox!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

North Carolina's Benedict Arnold - Michael Quinn

This weekend, the North Carolina Maritime History Council held their annual meeting in scenic and historic Edenton, NC. Lectures included shipwrecks, tombstones and noted figures from Edenton's past. However, one lecture that caught my eye was presented by Dr. Larry Babits with ECU's Maritime History Department and Josh Howard with the NC Department of Cultural Resources titled "Our Captain Quinn: The British Raid in 1781 on Edenton". Dr. Babits' portion of the presentation dealt with the wreck of one of the ship's raided by the General Arnold, a row galley commissioned by the British and captained by Captain Michael Quinn, formerly of the NC Continental Line. Josh took over at this point and told the history of Captain Quinn, detailing how he went from an officer in the 5NC to switching sides and commanding a boat that terrorized Edenton and the surrounding area during 1781. Why did he switch sides? As he served during a period of British successes, he may have felt that the American cause was doomed and wanted to make sure he was on the winning team. This and other questions remain a basis of supposition with nothing written in stone. What is written in stone is the fact that after he was captured in Edenton bay and subsequently imprisoned at Halifax, NC, he was eventually murdered by guards under the command of a Continental Line officer who had served with Quinn. Murder and mayhem, who knew it happened in our backyard! Keep a lookout in future issues of the NC Historical Review for rest of Josh's story!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On the road to after Williamsburg

I had a ball! I'm sore in places I didn't know existed as we marched and marched and marched...well, you get the picture. That being said, it all had purpose. The activity that stuck out in my mind was participating in the Battalion drill as part of the Carolina Brigade. It was the first time since beginning reenacting that I could get a real sense of what it was like to be in the midst of battle. While we weren't engaging the enemy, marching along side of artillery pieces that were firing at the same time you were was outstanding. Realize when I say this, I am usually teaching rather than out "burning powder". This was truly a learning experience for me. As for the remainder of the activities, they were well planned. For the weekend, the 5NC fell in with the 6NC who opened their doors to our meager few and made us feel like part of their family. Thank you's go to Tom Bojanski, Richard Avery, Hank Brown, Carol Sherwood as well as the rest of the 6NC for making this happen! The funny thing is, I felt almost as much at home as I do with my merry band of brothers. Their camp was very open to visitors and many of their members didn't hesitate to engage the public, answering their questions and correcting the myths that have been taught in the schools for years. It was truly a good blend of both living history and reenacting. I've been bit folks! I can't wait until the next event.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Williamsburg " A Prelude to Victory"

I'm heading up to Williamsburg for their "Prelude to Victory" program being held this weekend. My fledgling AmRev unit, 5NC, has graciously been invited to fall in with the 6NC by one of our friends, Hank Brown. I am really looking forward to the program as Williamsburg is just too cool, I get to place faces with a whole bunch of names that I have interacted with via the phone or email and we get to hone our skills under the tutelage of some great living historians. Doing infantry has been a challenge for me as up to this point my focus has been on learning how to navigate ships, construct ironclads or blow up the enemy with "infernal machines". While I have been exposed to the manual of arms of the WBTS, the drill, whether it be the British 1764 or Steuben's, is more complicated and definitely different. However, those differences actually make it a much more attractive drill to watch being performed (especially the 1764). We actually began to work on our drill in August at the Caswell program but it will take many, many painstaking hours to really become proficient. Stay tuned next week for a run-down on all the happenings.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

How many Yankees does it take to have a battle? (Or Tarboro's Battle of the Town Commons)

All in all, Saturday was a good day at Tarboro. For the third year, my shipmates and I from the Ship's Company of the Roanoke set up living history displays describing and demostrating things such as small arms, ropework, torpedoes and navigation. Our shipmate, Gary Riggs, set up a Confederate army hospital complete with amputations and the like (another shipmate likes to call him "Granny Grossout"). Our justification for potraying CSN sailors here was that an "Albemarle" class ironclad was being built here and was burned in the stocks before she was afloat. In terms of specators, we feel that we probably engaged well over 1500 people which kept us very busy throughout the day. For the most part, the event was ok even when taking into account an 18th century to early 19th century vessel being berthed beside us and 1870's Buffalo Soldiers camped across the green from our displays, both being the only non-civil war setups at our location (the latter done to placate the local town council who were afraid of a racial backlash). The only thing that disturbed me was a skirmish (and I use this word loosely) at our location that involved too much Confederate artillery (Note: I know all the units and consider them all friends. This should not be taken as an affront to them!) and too little Union calvary. If you don't have the proper mix of troops and the proper numbers to make it look at least somewhat realistic, just don't do it. Call it a demonstration not a "skirmish". Another issue involved too little preparation in terms of safety (no barriers whatsoever). My compatriot, Andrew, and I were trying our best to keep people out of harms way from our side of the commons but sometimes folks just don't understand that horses will hurt you and cannons are loud and will deafen you! I think that this year grew so much from the previous years that they were not prepared for the logistics. Hopefully, next year will be better.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fourth Museum of the Confederacy Site Announced

Here's the press amongst yourselves!

Museum of the Confederacy Announces Fourth Proposed Location
Fort Monroe Under Consideration
The Museum of Confederacy has announced a fourth proposed location in its aim to establish a statewide system of visitor sites. Earlier this month the museum released its plan to operate a system of museums---the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond and new museums in Appomattox and Chancellorsville. Fort Monroe, a U. S. military installation set to close in 2011 in Hampton, Virginia has now been identified as a fourth site.
“We are excited about the opportunity to work with the communities of Hampton Roads and help keep this historic treasure a part of the Virginia visitor experience,” stated S. Waite Rawls III, President and CEO of the Museum of the Confederacy. “Fort Monroe played a major role in the Civil War. Our artifacts of the Confederate Navy could provide a major addition to the fort’s interpretation.”
The construction of Fort Monroe was supervised by young U.S. Army Lieutenant Robert E. Lee and completed in 1834. Named for President James Monroe, the site is a six-sided stone fort completely surrounded by a moat and is the last of its kind in the United States. Fort Monroe played a major role in U. S. military history. In March 1862, the naval Battle of Hampton Roads took place near Fort Monroe between the first ironclad warships, CSS Virginia and USS Monitor. Confederate President Jefferson Davis was also held at Fort Monroe for two years after his capture in May 1865.
The proposed museum system will advance the Museum’s educational mission by broadening the reach of its extensive artifact collection. The visitor sites will reach across the state, concentrating on and complementing existing flows of both historical and recreational travelers. The plan is contingent on support and financing.
The Museum will retain its headquarters, marketing and development functions, research library, and collections storage and conservation and preservation efforts in Richmond. Plans call for the current museum building to remain operational and open to the public for the next five years. The new facilities will be built in time for the Civil War Sesquicentennial (2011-2015).
CONTACT: Megan Stagg 649-1861 ext. 13

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

Roanoke River Lighthouse Dedication

Last Saturday, I played a part that was totally new to me....Lighthouse Keeper. I've done US Navy (Age of Sail thru WBTS), Confederate Navy and Age of Sail Privateer. I was roped into this job when I was contacted by friends with the Roanoke River Lighthouse and Maritime Museum in Plymouth, NC. Initially, they wanted me to set up my typical navigational display and talk about commerce on the river. I said I would and suggested that they also needed someone to portray the lighthouse keeper since they had the perfect setting. My friend quickly told me that since I suggested it, why didn't I do it. Not being quick enough to shove it off on someone else, I said yes. So, over the last 30 days I acquired period correct buttons and a hat device using them to convert one of my US Navy sack coats to the keeper's coat. Then, I found myself scouring the internet for all sorts of tidbits on lighthouse keepers. Last week, I even acquired a fourth order fresnel lens (scale replica) for show and tell. Saturday morning, I assumed my post inside the lighthouse and from 11am to 4:30pm, I didn't get a break until the dedication ceremony. I don't know how many folks visited with me but I would gander to say approximately 500 people. For those interested in the lighthouse and its history, go to

Monday, September 10, 2007

Digging for the Truth, Monday night 9/10/2007 @ 9pm

All hands! Make sure you watch tonight's Digging for the Truth as it spotlights the H. L. HUNLEY. Also, keep a look out for my friend, mentor and partner in crime, Mike Kochan, who will help show how the HUNLEY did the voodoo that it did so well!

My goodness, What is happening to the Museum of the Confederacy?

Last week, I received an email from the Museum of the Confederacy containing a press release which outlined a rather unique direction for the Museum. For some time now, all WBTS enthusiasts have been waiting on the edge of their seats for the MOC board and management to unveil where exactly they would be moving the museum so as to make it a much more visitor-friendly location. As I began to read the press release, I was a bit surprised! They decided to create a branch system with Appomatox and Chancellorsville being two of the three locations. This was totally unexpected. So, I got on the phone to someone in the museum with whom I am acquainted to verify what I was reading. After a few days, he called and told me I understood their plan correctly. The feeling was that if they were trapped in Richmond by the medical school, why not bring the artifacts to the people. I asked if the sites would be limited to three and he responded that three was the number at the present but the future could bring other sites once they were able to get the initial three up and running and if funds were available to constuct and operate other branches. I asked then if he knew the third site's name and he said that I had to wait like everyone else to find out the last branch location. Now, I know that certain factions will be ripping this plan apart. However, I think this plan could work. Bringing the artifacts back to the battlefields on which they had been over 140 years ago is almost like reuniting kindred spirits. So my thoughts are these.....GIVE THEM A CHANCE TO ROLL OUT THIS PLAN!!!! At least at these battlefield locations, folks won't have to fight for a parking place, endure a long walk several blocks to the museum and dodge all the construction workers. Let's keep watching as the picture they are painting becomes clearer. Just my thoughts.....

Friday, August 31, 2007

Who are we and why are we here?

These questions are taken from the Ross Perot campaign of 1992. In a Vice Presidential debate, Perot's running mate, retired Rear Admiral James Stockdale started things out by saying, Who am I? Why am I here?". At the time, I like other folks tuning in, scratched our heads and muttered, "is this guy all there?" and probably laughed really loudly thinking he was just a senile gentlemen with a bit of a sense of humour. Well, as I have gotten older and involved in different activities outside of my job, I have found myself asking the same questions. Andrew (Seig Heil!) beat me to the punch and did a very nice breakdown of each event, analyzing the pros and cons. As I began going through his breakdown of living history events, I found myself asking, "Who are we? Why are we here?". Well, upon answering those questions, I found that the major driving force for the reason we do the things we do revolves around educating the public in regards to the maritime history of the area. At every event (even the pure reenactments), our group does educate the public by either directly engaging folks in attendance or by trying to paint them a picture of what it was like in the time period we are portraying. With those primary objectives evaluated, then it was time to review the perks provided by each host site, whether those be monetary based or intangibles. It's not like we are all about the Benjamins but it is nice to be compensated with stipends, food, access to collections or pure honest-to-goodness southern hospitality. You know what we found, with exception of two events, every host site treats us well. Some differently than others but in the end, we receive some compensation for everything we do. I think this was a healthy process and should be applied to our everyday life.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

How do you do everything you want to do?

Last week my comrade in arms and our navy group's President (Seig Heil!) were beginning to discuss next year's calendar (Yes, Margaret, we do start this early thinking of next year's campaign!). We decided that maybe it is time to put all events we attend under the microscope and weigh out the pluses and minuses of participating. I think this is warranted as we want to satisfy as many of our crew's wants and wishes, especially when it comes to our Age of Sail folks. But I ask the question, how do you begin? I suspect once we begin, we will find that it's going to be hard to choose between events to begin. Check in from time to time and follow our progress. If you have any suggestions, I bring it to the floor for discussion. Thoughts?

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Caswell Event....The Day After

The Caswell Event has come and gone. The days were hot with light visitation by the public. I really feel the public would have been educated as the crew of the Continental privateer Bellona, the 5th NC Continentals, the 64th Regiment of Foot, the 33rd Regiment of Foot and folks from Tryon Palace provided excellent displays and discussions. Also, the Continentals crewed the 3 pounder from Alamance Battleground and my 1/2 pounder swivel gun on both days. Artillery demonstrations went swimmingly with my lil' baby suprising people with her "loud voice". The new Caswell exhibit in the visitor center was really well-done except that I do take a bit of issue of Caswell being portrayed in a Continental Line officer's uniform when he served very little time in the Line. Caswell spent the majority of his time as a militia officer so I feel that gentleman's clothing would have been more appropriate. I guess the exhibit designers wanted more sparkle than accuracy. It's a shame when history is not portrayed correctly. Overall, I think everyone of my bunch (the Bellona and the 5th) had a good time. I know that the 5th enjoyed themselves as they got introduced to Steuben's Drill so as to begin to prepare to take the field (finally) for the first time. Other than work, my task today is to get a copy of the swivel gun drill from the National Park Service so I can become familiar enough to teach it to my shipmates and my Continental Line brothers.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Celebrating Richard Caswell

Tomorrow, I'll be off to Kinston in the wee hours of the morning to celebrate NC's only five term governor, Richard Caswell. Both my navy group, the Ship's Co of the Roanoke, and my Continental Line unit, the Fifth NC Regiment will be in attendance. For the weekend, I will be doing the infantry thing, as we need to get in some training before heading off Colonial Williamsburg and Camden, SC later in the fall. One neat thing I will be unveiling is my new bronze swivel gun. My Dad and I have been working on her (I purchased her unfinished), sanding all the cast marks, etc. Last Saturday, we fired a couple of shots and she sounded nice! I can't wait to put her into action this weekend. As for the Gub'na and his celebration, I am glad to see that the Kinstonians and State of North Carolina are recognizing his contributions to our beloved old north state. However, some folks in Kinston are referring to him as "the father of our state". Personally, I think that this is carrying it a wee bit too far as there are many other folks that could fall into that category. Let's not forget folks like Samuel Johnston, James Iredell, John Harvey, Josesph Hewes, William Hooper and many others that played major roles in the formation of our state and our country. That being said, Richard Caswell was a great man and I am glad he is finally being honored. Next week, I'll give a report of all the happenings over the weekend

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

And so it begins.........

Welcome to Albemarle Soundings! Honestly, I never thought I would have a blog. However, a friend and another acquaintance started their blogs and I realized what a neat way to create an online journal of one's adventures. Primarily, this blog will deal with the history of Eastern North Carolina as history is my hobby. I will tend to focus on the American Revolution all the way thru the American Civil War but there might be some tidbits from other eras as well. I hope you enjoy reading about my exploits and research while tolerating my rantings and ravings.