North Carolina explores its role in the Civil War with exhibitions

Carol Timblin

Though North Carolina had fewer plantations and fewer slaves than any other southern state when the Civil War broke out in 1861, the Tar Heel State sent more men to war and sustained more losses. (The North Carolina troops were especially valiant during Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.)

The last southern state to secede from the Union, North Carolina suffered not only many human losses, but great losses of property during the war. Union troops seized New Bern on the coast during the first year of the war and controlled it until the surrender in 1865.

However, Confederate forces were able to hold on to Fort Fisher until January 1865. Called “The Gibraltar of the South,” the fort protected the Port of Wilmington, thus enabling blockade runners to keep military supplies and weapons from foreign countries flowing into Wilmington for distribution to other parts of the South during most of the war.

After Union Gen. William T. Sherman presented the city of Savannah, Ga., to President Lincoln as a Christmas present in December 1864, his troops marched north through South Carolina and into North Carolina in early 1865.

During Sherman’s occupation of Fayetteville, March 11–14, 1865, his troops burned textile mills and the newspaper office and upon their departure destroyed the city’s arsenal, housing what remained of the Confederacy’s military arms. After the Union army defeated the Confederates at the Battles at Averasboro (March 14) and Bentonville (March 21–22), Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Sherman at a farm called Bennett Place near Durham, N.C., on April 26, 1865.

In early January, descendants of Union and Confederate soldiers who fought at Fort Fisher met at the site to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1864 and 1865 battles, with storytelling, historical lectures, tours, music, and reenactors. Visitors can learn more about the Civil War in the Wilmington area by taking a Civil War Cruise with Chris Fonveille, a noted historian and author, aboard The Wilmington on March 22 or April 26. (Wilmington Water Tours, 910-338-3134 or wilmingtonandbeaches.com)

Fayetteville’s Transportation and Local History Museum is hosting Cumberland County Goes to War through the end the year. The exhibit features artifacts, pictures, documents, and educational panels that explore the county’s war experience on the battlefield and the home front. The North Carolina Civil War History Center, to be built on the site of the former Fayetteville Arsenal, will be the first museum in the nation to address the difficult topics of the Civil War and Reconstruction from the perspective of a single state and its people. (nccivilwarcenter.org)

North Carolina’s largest Civil War reenactment will feature encampments, speakers, and battles on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville, March 21–22. The celebration will continue with special programs such as “A Day in the Life of a Civil War Soldier” on June 13, a summer artillery program on Aug. 29, a fall festival and living history event on Oct. 19, and “A Civil War Christmas” on Dec. 5. (150thbentonville.com)

All these events will lead up to the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Surrender at Bennett Place, April 17–26, featuring guided tours, exhibits, living history exhibits, and reenactments. There will be a “Road to Surrender” bus tour from Raleigh to Greensboro on April 20 (reservations required). Reenactors will set up camp at the Bennett Place on the evening of April 24, followed by the arrival of the generals and negotiations of the surrender on April 25–26. The last day will also feature military drills, Johnston’s farewell address to his troops, the stacking of arms by the Tennessee Army, the issue of paroles, and the Unity Monument Ceremony honoring the sacrifice of Americans. (bennettplacehistoricsite.com)

Downton Abbey comes to Biltmore

More than 40 costumes from the popular PBS series make up the Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times exhibit, which runs through May 15 at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.

The exhibit adapts the recent successful one held at the Winterthur du Pont estate in Wilmington, Del., to the Biltmore estate of the Vanderbilts. Exhibit themes include the Evolution of Fashion, Nuances of Etiquette, the Changing Roles of Women, and the Life of Service Staff. According to ExploreAsheville.com, “The wave of social change in the early 1900s had a large impact on the Vanderbilts and their servants, and new stories will be shared about George W. Vanderbilt, his wife Edith, and their daughter Cornelia, who lived in the 250-room house.”

While in Asheville, you might want to check out the lively food scene. The city is home to more than 250 independent restaurants, more than 20 breweries, 14 farmers markets, three craft hard
cideries, two craft sake breweries, two honey bars/boutiques, two creative doughnut shops,
and two new locations for bean-to-bar local
chocolate. (exploreasheville.com/food)

Special passes

Beginning this month, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum will join the New York CityPASS program, sharing a brand-new option ticket in the CityPASS booklet.

New York CityPASS provides discounted entry to six of the Big Apple’s most iconic attractions — including the Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, the Statue of Liberty, and others — while saving travelers nearly half off regular combined admission prices and allowing them to skip most main-entrance ticket lines. New York CityPASS is $114 for adults (a value of $196) and $89 for children, ages 6 to 17. Ticket booklets can be purchased online or at any of the participating attractions and are valid for nine consecutive days, beginning with the first day of use.

CityPASS ticket booklets are also available for Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, and Toronto. (citypass.com)

Eurail has introduced a variety of new products to its Eurail Pass portfolio. Joining Eurail’s Global Pass offer this year are Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Poland, and Serbia, bringing the total to 28 countries that can be explored with the rail pass. The border connections created by this expansion add even more possibilities to the already vast itinerary options.

With the new Children Travel Free initiative, children ages 4 to 11 can ride for free with a family member or friend who is traveling on an adult Eurail pass. Up to two children per adult can travel free.

Carol Timblin welcomes travel information at ctimblin@gmail.com.

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