I spent the last few days in the great state of North Carolina, and was treated to a wonderful time by my hosts. On Thursday I flew into Raleigh-Durham airport where I was met by friend Teej Smith, Civil War author and researcher and the program director for the Rufus Barringer Civil War Round Table in Pinehurst. Awhile back Teej invited me to speak to the group, and that invitation led to starting this blog, so for that alone I’m indebted to her.
Our first stop was Chapel Hill, home of Teej’s alma mater, the University of North Carolina. On the mall I caught a glimpse of (James Johnston) Pettigrew Hall and the ubiquitous “Reb of Freedom”. I got my souvenir shopping done in the student bookstore and we bought some coffee and sat in the infamous “Pit”, home to young, healthy, attractive, smart and/or well-to-do 18-22 year olds with a seemingly unlimited supply of things to be pissed-off about. A great place to sit and watch.
Next up was the Wilson Library (below), where the special North Carolina collections are housed. We were graciously led into the curator’s office to take a look at former valedictorian Pettigrew’s portrait (below – this photo is driving me to purchase a digital SLR), and with Teej’s help I was able to get a copy of an address given at the presentation of a portrait of Colonel Fisher of the 6th NC, killed at First Bull Run. Lots of good stuff in it, but it will require separation of wheat from chaff.
After that we got a bite to eat at The Four Corners restaurant; then we drove to Pinehurst to get ready for the program, which kicked off at 7:00. A nice group of about 30 were in attendance at the Southern Pines Civic Center, and I did my thing from 7:30 until about 8:45. Everyone seemed interested, and I didn’t hear any crickets. Only one question was asked at the end, though several folks came up afterwards to speak with me, one of them a cousin of the voice of my Pittsburgh Steelers, play-by-play man Bill Hillgrove. Thanks to Teej and president Al Potts for a very nice time.
Still, I can’t shake the feeling that I was off my game. I didn’t think my transitions between stories were particularly smooth, and I had to pause for a few seconds once or twice to find information in my notes (my presentaiton is not a prepared speech, but there are quite a few quotes I use). Maybe I was tired from the flight and all, I don’t know. But I did get further along than last time, and am considering eliminating the battle recap completely from the presentation. Teej suggested I provide handouts such as the campaign maps: people love to have something they can hold in their hands and look at. I think she’s right about that.
On Friday we paid a visit to the Malcolm Blue farm (below), where BG Judson Kilpatrick spent the night before the little fight at Monroe’s Crossroads. We spent some time organizing Teej’s library, which is very impressive in quantity and quality. We went to lunch in Pinehurst (in the village, near Pinehurst #2), then Teej drove me to Cary where I met up with my in-laws, with whom I stayed Friday night. I got back home on Saturday in time to see my Nittany Lions fall to the hated maize and blue. A bad end to an otherwise great trip.
I don’t have another speaking gig set up until March in Columbus, OH. I’ll continue to fine-tune the program, and as always if you’re interested in booking me you can do so via this site. I have no qualms about speaking to round tables: I don’t anticipate making a living or even a profit from it, and do it only because I enjoy it and because someone asks. I’ll stop whenever either of those things changes.