New Bern, NC – Thunder in the East, the Civil War in Eastern North Carolina: a sesquicentennial symposium takes place in New Bern Next Friday Evening and Saturday afternoon. The New Bern Historical Society is sponsoring the event, which highlights the 150th anniversary of the Battle of New Bern. Executive Director Lyn Harakal described the keynote speaker, Ed Bearss, as being an encyclopedia of civil war knowledge.
"He was the civil war historian for the department of the interior for years and he has a very broad overview and perspective of research and knowledge of the civil war."
The speakers will also present particular topics of interest on a variety of subjects such as reconstruction after the war, U.S. colored soldiers, and the blockade runners of Wilmington, among others. One of the speakers Chris Fonvielle, an associate professor of History at UNC Wilmington, will be lecturing on the blockade runners of Wilmington. The symposium will focus on other battles that took place in eastern North Carolina. On March 14, 1862 The Battle of New Bern was fought. It was part of the Burnside expedition, the particular efforts of union forces in North Carolina to stop the confederate forces from receiving supplies at North Carolina ports. Richard Sauers, a well known historian, is an expert on the Burnside Expedition and will be speaking about it. During the Battle of New Bern, confederate troops were largely outnumbered by Union soldiers, and equipped with second-rate weaponry. After only four hours of fighting, the Confederates retreated to Kinston. Union forces held New Bern for the rest of the war, and it eventually became the headquarters for the District of North Carolina. The victory also allowed the slave population a safe haven. Many of them would end up joining the Union army. New Bern Historical Society Executive Director Lyn Harakal.
"a large number of the us colored troops were formed in New Bern because New Bern being union occupied became a place where slaves fled too."
The curator at the African American civil war memorial and museum in Washington, D.C, Hari Jones, will be sharing the story of the U.S. colored soldier at the "Thunder in the East" symposium.
"the African American story in the civil war was one that was not being told in the master narrative that narrative that was directing scholarship in our schools."
Jones spoke about the feelings of African Americans before the war began.
"within the African American community there wan ongoing forecast that the civil war was coming at least sixty years before it happens."
He went on to express the importance of bringing together historians and their sources to arrive at new understandings of the war.
"One of the things I would say about the civil war that with the primary sources that we have today there's no need for any controversy this is the age of understanding so I would actually say with these various sources we can better understand the course of events during the civil war it's the beauty of history its having organizations like institutions like the national archives records administration or the archives of the state of North Carolina."
The African American troops, many just out of slavery, decided to take up arms with the union and fight for their freedom. Almost 2000 African American and union troops in North Carolina lost their lives. At the end of the war around 37-thousand union and confederate troops, from North Carolina had died. Josh Howard, a research historian with the office of archives and history in Raleigh, will speak about the soldiers killed. Howard's lengthy study is based on an 1866 congressional report, which spurred his interest.
"and we started looking at how the report was compiled and we realized there was no way it could actually be accurate because it was relying entirely on after action reports and no one it appears had looked at the original muster rolls of the north Carolina troops they were simply looking at reports done after engagements and those almost exclusively are wrong men were listed as killed who were wounded men were listed as killed who were captured and vice versa."
Also speaking will be Mark Bradley, author of the This Astounding Close: The Road to Bennet Place. His presentation will focus on the reconstruction period following the Civil War. After the six historians present their lectures there will be a forum involving the audience and their own comments and questions to create a better understanding of the events that shaped the country.
Thunder in the East begins Friday, March 9 at 7 p.m. at the historic Attmore-Oliver House in Downtown New Bern. You will have an opportunity to see civil war artifacts and meet the speakers. The next morning, you can hear the speakers discuss the civil war at The North Carolina History Center in New Bern. Other weekend activities include a special exhibit at the New Bern Academy Museum, and costumed interpreters at the Stanley and Dixon Houses. You can find more info about next week's events at Public Radio East o-r-g on the ENC events calendar. Stephen O'Connell, Public Radio East.