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The Siege and Burning of Washington, April 1864

This Day in North Carolina History - 12 hours 36 min ago

The shelling of Washington. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On April 30, 1864, Federal troops partially burned the town of Washington in Beaufort County.

Washington was first occupied by the Federals in March 1862 following the fall of New Bern. Although many of the inhabitants fled before troops arrived, those who remained were generally strong supporters of the Union.

In March 1863, Confederate Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill laid siege to the town in an unsuccessful effort to recover it for the Confederates.

As a result of Brig. Gen. Robert F. Hoke’s capture of Plymouth on April 20, the garrison received orders to evacuate the town on April 26. Hoke’s forces laid siege to Washington on April 27. Beginning that night and continuing for the next three days, Federal troops looted and vandalized the town.

As the last of the troops prepared to board ships on the afternoon of April 30, fires broke out across the town. At least half of the settlement was destroyed, leaving many of the inhabitants destitute and homeless.

The conduct of the departing Federal garrison was harshly condemned by both the Confederates and by Brigadier General Innis Palmer, Federal commander of the District of North Carolina.

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The Fall of Saigon and Ambassador Graham Martin

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/29/2016 - 06:30

Americans evacuating South Vietnam on April 29, 1975. Image from Hugh van Es/UPI.

On April 29, 1975, the last Americans, including Ambassador Graham Martin, were evacuated from Saigon just hours before the city fell to the communists. A few days earlier, President Gerald Ford declared that the Vietnam War was “finished as far as America is concerned.”

Although military involvement in Vietnam had come to an end, the U.S. still had to evacuate all of the Americans who remained. It was the biggest helicopter rescue of its kind in history—an 18-hour operation that carried more than 1,000 Americans and well over 5,000 Vietnamese to safety.

Martin speaks to the press aboard the USS Blue Ridge shortly after evacuating Saigon. Image from Dirck Halstead/Getty Images.

Born in Mars Hill in 1912, Martin served as a U. S. Army Intelligence Officer during World War II. He began his diplomatic career in 1947 in Paris and served as the U.S. Representative to the United Nations and as the American Ambassador to Thailand and to Italy before he was appointed Ambassador to South Vietnam in 1973.

The helicopter that carried Martin to safety is on display at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego. Martin died in 1990 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

An urgent telegram from Martin to the White House and a cable from Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Martin, both concerning the evacuation, are available online from the National Archives.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Carnival Worker Preserved, Abandoned in Laurinburg

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/28/2016 - 06:30

Concippio’s grave marker

On April 28, 1911, Forenzio Concippio, also known as Concetto Farmica, died in Laurinburg.

Concippio, a musician, was murdered by a fellow carnival worker after an argument when he was hit in the head with a tent stake. The carnival and the attack took place in McColl, just over the border in South Carolina, but the injured man was taken to the hospital in nearby Laurinburg.

Doctors operated on Concippio in attempt to save him, but he died about 12 hours later. The body was removed to McDougald Funeral Home in the small Scotland County town.

The story becomes somewhat murky after that. Some say that a decision was made not to try the case due to the expense and the fact that both men were foreigners. Others say that the assailant was actually acquitted.

Regardless, Concippio’s body was left at the funeral home where it had been embalmed.

A couple of weeks after his death, a man reputed to be his father came to the funeral home and paid an installment to have his son buried and promised to send the rest.

He was not heard from again, so Concippio’s body remained in the funeral home for 61 years until it was finally buried in 1972 in Hillside Cemetery in Laurinburg.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


The First of the Roanoke Colonies

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 04/27/2016 - 06:30

A map of the Roanoke region made by John White. Image from the British Museum.

On April 27, 1584, Captains Arthur Barlowe and Philip Amadas sailed from the west coast of England in two ships “well furnished with men and victuals” to begin a four-month exploration of the New World.

The expedition was the first English exploration of Roanoke Island and was commissioned by Sir Walter Raleigh. The report which Barlowe produced on the expedition was written for Raleigh’s benefit.

After sailing through the Caribbean via the Canary Islands, the group arrived in present-day North Carolina in July 1584. First landing somewhere between Ocracoke Island and the Oregon Inlet, the party made their way to Roanoke Island in smaller boats.

The expedition developed friendly relationships with Native Americans through trade, gift exchanges and a mutual hospitality. The goodwill fostered between the groups led the Algonquian Indians Manteo and Wanchese to return to England with the group when they departed toward the end of the year.

The wealth of information provided by Amadas and Barlowe and the fascination with Manteo and Wanchese in England helped encourage Raleigh in his plans to colonize North America.

Barlowe’s report of the expedition describes the region and people in vivid, admiring detail. John White, a member of the mission who would be the governor of the ill-fated “Lost Colony,” added pictures of the Native Americans as well. A phrase describing North Carolina’s soil captures the spirit of the document well:

the most plentifull, sweete, fruitfull and wholesome of all the worlde.

The text was ultimately published in The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation, by Richard Hakluyt, who used Barlowe’s admiring words to help encourage colonization.

Visit: Roanoke Island Festival Park and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, both in Manteo, interpret this rich part of our state’s history.

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The Marines of Montford Point

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 06:30

A trio of Marines training at Montford Point. Image from National Archives.

On April 26, 1942, the United States Marine Corps opened Montford Point at Camp Lejeune, specifically for the training of African American recruits.

Before President Harry Truman’s 1948 executive order that ended segregation in the armed forces, blacks who served did so in segregated units, like the one at Montford Point. In the era of strict segregation, interaction between white and black Marines during training was practically nonexistent.

The larger base, Camp Lejeune, had been established one year earlier as part of mobilization for World War II.  Shortly after that time, the Corps constructed barracks and support facilities including a chapel, mess hall, steam plant and recreational area on the 1,600-acre peninsula that became Montford Point.

More than 19,000 black Marines served in World War II, all in units trained at Montford Point. Among the units organized there were the 51st and 52nd Defense Battalions, which were dispatched to the Pacific but saw no combat action, and 11 ammunition and 51 depot companies that did see action.

The 51st Battalion Band, led by musician Bobby Troup, lent to the sense of esprit de corps.

The facility became obsolete after Navy Secretary Francis Matthews ordered the end of racial division in the Navy and Marines in June 1949.

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Meadowlark Lemon, Basketball’s Court Jester

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 04/25/2016 - 06:30

Meadowlark Lemon delights entranced youngsters at Nickerson Recreation Center. in Los Angeles, circa 1972. Image from the Los Angeles Public Library.

On April 25, 1932, Meadow Lemon III was born in Lexington County, South Carolina. He moved to Wilmington at age 6.

A fan of basketball from an early age, Lemon used to tell the story that his first basketball ensemble was a hoop made from an onion sack and a coat hanger with a Carnation milk can as a ball. After seeing the famed Harlem Globetrotters in a movie theater newsreel, he ran home to tell his father that he planned to join the team. In 1954, he did just that.

Lemon changed his name to Meadowlark in the late 1950s, but he was also widely known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball.” Though a slick player with phenomenal ball-handling skills and a long-distance hook shot that rarely missed the hoop, it was his cheeky comedy on the court that propelled him into the spotlight.

The best-known Globetrotter, Lemon became a television star, portraying himself in television shows like Gilligan’s Island and in cartoons including Scooby Doo.

Lemon retired from the Globetrotters in 1979, became an ordained minister in 1986 and established Meadowlark Lemon Ministries in 1994.

Inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 200, Lemon died in 2015.

Visit: Meadowlark Lemon’s Globetrotters uniform is among the hundreds of sports-related artifacts on view at the N.C. Museum of History’s North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame exhibit.

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Wartime Need for Salt Inescapable

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 06:30

A sketch showing what a Revolutionary era salt works might have looked like. This one is from Massachusetts, circa 1776. Image from The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.

On April 24, 1776, North Carolina’s Provincial Congress ordered that a salt works be established in the colony for use during the Revolutionary War.

Before the war, North Carolina and other southern colonies had relied largely on salt imported from Great Britain to preserve their meats, flavor their foods and feed their livestock. It was a vital commodity.

At the war’s outbreak in 1775, Great Britain severed all trade with the fledgling American government, causing fear of a salt shortage. To ensure availability, the Provincial Congress initially set price caps on salt, rationed the existing supply and offered bounties to encourage its manufacture.

Not until April 1776, when the colonial government authorized four men to spend up to 2,000 pounds of public funds to establish a salt works, did work begin.

Robert Williams and Richard Blackledge both began construction near Beaufort that spring. Williams’s operation at Gallant’s Point, which used solar evaporation, soon failed. But Blackledge’s plant on Core Creek succeeded, using a furnace to boil saltwater in iron pans until the water evaporated and only the salt remained.

Although Blackledge died in 1777, his salt works continued to operate throughout the Revolutionary War.

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Winston-Salem’s Reynolds Building, 1929

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 04/23/2016 - 06:30

The Reynolds Building stands out in downtown Winston-Salem, circa 1940. Image from Digital Forsyth.

On April 23, 1929, the newly-completed 22-story office building for the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem was officially opened for business. The public enjoyed access to the retail and commercial shops on the lower levels off the elevator lobby, including a barber shop, restaurant, pharmacy, telegraph office and a railway ticket office.

When the skyscraper opened, the Reynolds Company occupied half of the building, and insurance firms, brokerage firms, attorneys, architects and developers leased the other half of the space.

Looking down at the Reynolds Building from the Wachovia Building, circa 1960s. Image from Digital Forsyth.

Reynolds president Bowman Gray, Sr., commissioned New York City architects R. H. Shreve and William F. Lamb to design the dramatic corporate headquarters in the popular Art Deco style. The $2 million limestone faced tower became the tallest building in the South, surpassing the 1923 Jefferson Standard Building in Greensboro.

Shreve and Lamb, with new partner Arthur Harmon, went on to design Manhattan’s Empire State Building, completed in 1931. The two buildings share a sleek, streamlined exterior with a distinctive stepped ziggurat roofline.

Historic rehabilitation of the building for apartments and a hotel is underway.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Librarian of Congress Lawrence Mumford of Pitt County

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/22/2016 - 06:30

L. Quincy Mumford (left) views an exhibit on the printing of the Constitution with Archivist of the United States James B. Rhoads. Image from the National Archives.

On April 22, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated Lawrence Quincy Mumford for the post of Librarian of Congress. Mumford was the eleventh person to hold the office and the first trained as a professional librarian.

Born near Ayden in Pitt County in December 1903, Mumford began his education in a one-room school house and continued at Duke, where received an M.A. in English in 1928. He earned a B.S. in library science from Columbia the following year.

He worked first at the New York Public Library, where he also did work for the Library of Congress, before moving to the Cleveland Public Library, where he became director in 1950.

Confirmed by the Senate in July 1954, Mumford began his tenure at the Library of Congress under a dark cloud for the institution and its leadership. At his confirmation hearings, Congress expressed dissatisfaction with the library’s increasing public service role as a national library beyond its original mission as Congress’s legislative library.

Despite this and other tensions, Mumford’s 20 years at the Library saw extraordinary growth in its appropriations, completion of the Madison Building, adoption of the first computer-readable format for library catalog records and continued expansion of the its national role.

Mumford retired from the Library in December 1974 and died in Washington, D.C. in August 1982.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Moonwalker Charles Duke’s Rare Distinction

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/21/2016 - 06:30

Charles Duke salutes the American flag during his moonwalk. Image from NASA.

On April 21, 1972, Charlotte-born Charles M. Duke became the youngest man to walk on the moon at age 36.

After graduating and receiving a commission from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1957, Duke embarked on a career in the Air Force as a pilot. His dedication to aeronautics and advanced education at MIT made him an ideal candidate for NASA, which selected him and 18 others in April 1966 to form Astronaut Group Five.

Before visiting space himself, Duke served as the capsule communicator for the Apollo 11 crew, the first crew to land on the moon. The Earth-based capsule communicator’s job was to keep constant contact with the crew in space.

During the Apollo 16 mission, Duke was the lunar module pilot alongside mission commander John Young and command module pilot Thomas K. Mattingly. On April 21, Duke and Young stepped out onto the lunar surface, becoming two of only 12 people ever to walk on the moon. They spent 71 hours in the Descartes Highlands, a rugged region of the moon.

In just over 20 hours of moonwalks, the pair carefully surveyed the moon’s surface, collected samples and deployed scientific equipment. Duke was one of nine North Carolina-born astronauts.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Hydroelectric Power Introduced, 1898

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 04/20/2016 - 09:10

Idol’s Dam and Fries Power Station, circa 1898-1900. Image from the Digital Forsyth.

On April 20, 1898, the Fries Manufacturing and Power Company transmitted electrical power 13 miles from the generating plant to the Fries-owned Arista textile mill.

The transmission, which originated near the Yadkin River bridge west of Clemmons in Forsyth County, was North Carolina’s first long-distance transmission of electricity.

Long interested in the use of electricity to power industrial machinery, Henry Fries of Salem founded the company to harness the hydroelectric capability of the river.

Construction on the power plant began in 1897 and it soon became known as Idol’s Hydroelectric Station, after a ferry that was once located on the same site. The dam built for the station was 482 feet long and the reservoir covered about 35 acres. The flow of the dam generated about 2,500 horsepower.

The station later provided power for other textile and grain mills, fertilizer plants, the Winston-Salem electric railway, electric street lights and wood and metal working shops in Winston-Salem.

Fries sold his power company in 1913 to Southern Public Utility Company, which was purchased by Duke Power in 1914. Duke Power, now Duke Energy, operated the Idols station until 1996. The station burned two years later.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


States’ Rights Champion, Governor and Senator David Reid

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/19/2016 - 06:30

Then former Governor David Reid (in top hat, center) in front of the State Capitol, circa 1861. Image from the State Archives.

On April 19, 1813, David Settle Reid, governor and member of both houses of Congress, was born in Rockingham County.

Reid was raised in a community that in time became the city of Reidsville, named for Reid’s father. After first holding public office as a state senator at age 22, Reid won his second bid to the U.S. House of Representatives at age 30. Reid was elected governor in 1850, calling for sensible internal improvements, support for public schools and states’ rights.

Image from the State Archives.

Reid’s two terms as governor were marked by expanded internal improvements; appointment of Calvin H. Wiley as the first Superintendent of the Common Schools; initiation of a statewide geological survey; and confirmation of land titles held by Cherokee Indians who had remained in North Carolina.

In late 1854, the General Assembly elected Reid to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate. Reid in turn transferred his duties as governor to Warren Winslow. Reid served only one term in the Senate, where he championed the defense of states’ rights.

After being defeated for reelection in 1858, Reid retired to private life. He suffered a severe stroke in 1881 that left him paralyzed. He fought failing health for a decade before dying in 1891. He was buried in Reidsville.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Battle of South Mills, April 1862

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 04/18/2016 - 06:30

A map of the Battle of South Mills. Image from the British Museum.

On April 18, 1862, Federal forces landed in Camden County to begin a two-day march and fight directed at finding and destroying the locks on the Dismal Swamp canal system. Closing that system would prevent Confederate naval forces from sending ships from a shipyard in Virginia to the Albemarle Sound.

The landing action, now known as the Battle of South Mills, involved about 3,000 Union soldiers commanded by General Jesse L. Reno and 900 Confederates commanded by General Ambrose R. Wright. The battle was part of the Burnside Expedition, which had the wider goal of reclaiming northeastern North Carolina for the Union.

After the federal troops landed and moved toward locks on the canal, one group of men took a wrong road on the advice of their guide. That misstep led to an unplanned 10-mile march, and by the time the stray group reunited with the larger force, they found their fellow soldiers hotly engaged by entrenched Confederates.

The confusion prevented Union troops from reaching the locks, so the federal forces broke off the engagement allowing the Confederate troops to retreat from the scene. Both sides claimed victory—Union forces for retaining the field of battle and the Confederates for preventing the locks’ destruction.

Purportedly, Federal forces executed the guide who took the circuitous road.

Visit: Dismal Swamp State Park preserves land near where the battle was fought.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Electrification Boost to Rural North Carolina

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 06:30

Power lines crisscross the skies above downtown Kernersville, circa 1940. Image from the State Archives.

On April 17, 1937, the first switch was thrown at the Eason-Tarboro substation, jumpstarting rural electrification efforts in North Carolina.

As part of his New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in May 1935 with the dual goals of helping rural areas get electricity and providing work to the unemployed. High startup costs and anticipated low returns on investments made existing electric companies unenthusiastic about entering rural markets, so communities turned to cooperative ventures instead.

North Carolina’s first co-op—the Edgecombe-Martin County Electric Membership Corporation, or EMC-EMC—was formed by citizens in the northeastern part of the state. After receiving a $32,000 loan in June 1936, work quickly began to bring electricity to the region.

The switch was thrown on April 17 at the Eason-Tarboro substation and electricity began to flow. The plant is still in operation today.

Before the EMC-EMC, North Carolinians had long been interested in rural electrification. The state actually established its own Rural Electrification Authority in April 1935, one month before Roosevelt’s REA.

North Carolina’s progressive attitude toward rural electrification helped to make the EMC-EMC more than a flash in the pan.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


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