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Recovery of the Modern Greece 100 Years After Its Sinking

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 01:00

On March 15, 1962, archaeologists began diving on the wreck of the blockade runner Modern Greece. The wreck, which had been hidden on the sea floor for nearly 100 years, was discovered after a storm uncovered it. Divers found much of the vessel and its cargo intact. Historians and archaeologists with the state of North Carolina and U.S. Navy teamed up to recover more than 11,500 artifacts from the site.

The British-owned steamer Modern Greece ran aground near Fort Fisher while attempting to run the federal blockade in June 1862. The crash came after the vessel was pursued by U.S. Navy ships for three days. It was heavily laden with war materiel for the Confederacy and civilian goods. Although a portion of the cargo was salvaged by the crew, the vessel was intentionally sunk with most of its cargo still aboard.

Work on the site had a profound effect on the field of underwater archaeology. When private companies started trying to salvage artifacts, the state stepped in, asserting North Carolina’s sovereign right to unclaimed shipwrecks. Research on the Modern Greece also led the state to establish one of the nation’s first underwater archaeology programs.

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The Battle of Guilford Courthouse—A Prelude to Yorktown

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 01:00

On March 15, 1781, American and British forces clashed near Guilford Courthouse. The battle was the culmination of several months of hard campaigning by the armies of Nathanael Greene and Lord Charles Cornwallis.

Early in the day, Greene deployed his army in three lines. The first and second lines were North Carolina and Virginia militiamen, with Greene’s Continental soldiers composing the third. Veteran Virginia and North Carolina riflemen and Continentals were also posted on the flanks of the first line.

After a 30-minute artillery barrage by both sides, the British broke through the first and second lines, but suffered severe casualties in the advance. Despite their losses, Cornwallis’s army pushed on to the third line, where they engaged the Continental soldiers.

Unwilling to the risk the destruction of his army and realizing that he had inflicted massive casualties on the British, Greene withdrew his army; the battered British did not pursue. Twenty-seven percent of Cornwallis’s army lay dead or wounded on the field.  By comparison, Greene lost only 6 percent of his force, the majority of whom were North Carolina and Virginia militiamen who had fled shortly after the battle began.

In October Cornwallis surrendered his army to George Washington at Yorktown.

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Edenton’s Hugh Williamson, Signer of the Constitution

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 01:00

On March 14, 1787, Dr. Hugh Williamson was appointed a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. 

Williamson was born in 1735 in Pennsylvania. After studying medicine in Philadelphia and Europe, he opened a medical practice in Philadelphia and tinkered with astronomy and natural sciences in his spare time.

In 1773, while enroute to England, Williamson’s vessel stopped in Boston where he witnessed the turmoil caused by the Stamp Act and the Boston Tea Party. In London, Williamson relayed the news to the Privy Council that, if the government did not alter its course, civil war or revolution was imminent. 

While in Britain, Williamson also became close friends with Benjamin Franklin and wrote a letter to Britain’s chief justice, entitled “Plea for the Colonies.”

In late 1777, Williamson settled in Edenton. He volunteered his services to Governor Richard Caswell and began vaccinating North Carolina Continental troops for smallpox. He was soon appointed surgeon general of the entire North Carolina militia.

Before becoming Surgeon General, Williamson had pursued a political career and represented the state at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. A strong Federalist, he worked hard for the ratification of the Constitution. 

Williamson later wrote A History of North Carolina, the first post-Revolutionary history of the state.

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Gen. Ambrose Burnside and the Fall of New Bern, 1862

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 01:00

On March 14, 1862, the Battle of New Bern was fought. The Battle was second of three major engagements in an expedition led by Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside. The first was at Roanoke Island in early February. After capturing the Island and securing the region, Burnside set his sights on New Bern, a strategic port.

The advance on New Bern was a strategic success and provided a boost to Burnside’s reputation. He threw all available resources into the effort. Leaving a single brigade to guard Roanoke Island, Burnside’s fleet sailed on March 11, stopping at Hatteras where they were joined by an additional 13 gunboats, amassing a combined force of 11,000 men. On March 12, sailing in two parallel lines, the fleet entered the Neuse River.

Anchoring at the mouth of Slocum’s Creek, the force shelled the shoreline and disembarked early on the morning of March 13. No Confederates were posted there but sentries upriver set bonfires to announce the Federals’ approach. Despite thick mud, Burnside’s army pressed on to New Bern, encountering token resistance from the Confederate along the way. The town fell to Union soldiers the next day and remained occupied for the rest of the war.

Tryon Palace will commemorate the 152nd anniversary of the battle this weekend with Civil War encampments, cannon drills, crafts, historic interpreters and more. The Palace will also open a new exhibit, called “Face to Face,” Saturday in the New Bern Academy Museum which explores life in occupied New Bern.

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Wildlife Preserve on the Alligator River

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 01:00

On March 14, 1984, the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge was established on mainland Dare and Hyde counties to protect and preserve the forested wetland habitat called “pocosin” and its associated wildlife species.

In the late 1970s, biologists were growing concerned by the rapid loss of wetlands in eastern North Carolina as pocosins were drained and old-growth cypress and Atlantic white cedar trees were destroyed for logging and farming operations. Several conservation organizations and state and federal agencies worked together to preserve these fragile wetlands.

The Prudential Life Insurance Company donated the refuge’s first 118,000 acres, and congressional appropriations eventually allowed it to expand to the more than 150,000 acres it covers today. The preserved area is bordered by the Alligator River and Intracoastal Waterway; Albemarle Sound; Croatan and Pamlico sounds; and the Long Shoal River and corporate farmlands.

In 1986, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated the Red Wolf Recovery Program to reestablish the endangered red wolf population in the wild. Today, about 100 red wolves roam the refuge. It is also an important habitat for black bear, American alligators, river otters and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Two hundred species of birds have been recorded in the refuge.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has also launched a number of projects designed to restore habitat and monitor wildlife populations, including restoring historic water levels, banding wood ducks on the refuge and replanting Atlantic white cedars.

The refuge is open to the public year-round for hiking, kayaking, photography, birding, fishing and hunting in season.

Visit: Accessible throughout Dare and Hyde Counties, the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge‘s visitor center in Manteo is great place to discover all there is explore.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Sailors Beware on Old Quork’s Day

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 01:00

On March 16, most likely in the 1780s, an odd and offbeat mariner from Ocracoke Island known as Quawk or Quork went to sea in his small fishing skiff despite warnings of impending foul weather. He never returned.

The sailor was said to be a loner, and was, by some accounts, the sole survivor of a shipwreck on the island. He was called Quork because of his voice, which was said to be like that of the “quawk,” the colloquial name for the black-crowned night heron.

The day became known as Old Quork’s Day, a day of bad luck or misfortune for seamen who might fall victim to quick-forming storms that could catch a mariner unwary. On Ocracoke Island and as far south as Carteret County, cautious fisherman and old salts still stay ashore on March 16, for only the foolhardy go out on Old Quork’s Day.

North Carolina storytellers and raconteurs have kept Quork’s tale alive for more than 200 years. In Morehead City during the 1970s, “Old Quork’s Day” was held as a promotional activity on a Saturday in mid-March to open the vacation season.

Check out North Carolina Legends from N.C. Historical Publications for more.

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.

Edenton Residents Rally to Save Historic Home

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 01:00

On March 10, 1918Edenton residents formed the Cupola House Association, the earliest community preservation effort in North Carolina. The association hoped to save the structure from further demise after the owners sold interior woodwork to the Brooklyn Museum.

Originally built for Francis Corbin in 1758, the Cupola House is widely considered one of North Carolina’s most significant early dwellings. In 1777 Corbin’s heirs sold the home to Dr. Samuel Dickinson, whose heirs lived there for 141 years. Over time the house fell into disrepair as family funds became more limited and the environment took its toll.

After the association was formed on March 10, funds were solicited from local residents, and the association was able to buy back a portion of the woodwork the very next day. By April 25 the association had acquired the house and most of its property. In time the association was able to restore the house, which was used as a county library, tearoom and museum.

The house became a National Historic Landmark—the highest status that the National Park Service bestows on historic buildings—in 1971.

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Fort Dobbs Decommissioned, 1764

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 01:00

On March 10, 1764, Governor Arthur Dobbs consented to a request from the Assembly of North Carolina that all remaining military stores at Fort Dobbs be removed.

The fort, named in honor of the governor, was the only permanent frontier fort in the colony of North Carolina. It served as the military headquarters for a company of approximately 50 men and as a safe haven for settlers during the French and Indian War. The post had not been garrisoned with soldiers since December 1761.

Walter Lindsay, a local militia officer, served as caretaker for the fort between 1761 and 1764. With the global war between France and England over and the alarms caused by Pontiac’s Rebellion in the north quieted, Fort Dobbs quickly deteriorated. It was described by the next governor, William Tryon, as “a ruin” in 1766.

Today, the archaeological site of Fort Dobbs is preserved and operated as one of North Carolina’s state historic sites. The site hosts several living history events throughout the year and plans are underway to reconstruct the blockhouse fort.

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Kilpatrick’s “Shirt-Tail Skedaddle”

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 01:00

On March 10, 1865, Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton surprised Union Gen. Hugh J. Kilpatrick at Monroe’s Crossroads. Kilpatrick’s 3rd Cavalry Division was protecting the left flank of Gen. William T. Sherman’s army as troops headed north.

On the night of March 9, Kilpatrick’s division camped at Monroe’s Crossroads, in what is now Hoke County. Confederate cavalrymen led by Hampton approached the camp from behind and found the rear of it completely defenseless. They retreated to plan a surprise attack.

The next morning, Kilpatrick woke up early and stepped outside of the house in his nightshirt. At that point, Confederate cavalrymen charged through the camp. Groggy Federal soldiers rose from their bedrolls, clumsily took their weapons and headed for shelter. Still only in his nightshirt, Kilpatrick ran across the yard in his bare feet, mounted a horse and escaped.

In just a few minutes the Confederates had overrun the camp. Union troops regained control when a lieutenant reached the unguarded Confederate artillery pieces and fired them into a mass of Confederates. By 9 a.m., the Confederates had retreated.

Today, the battlefield site is an artillery impact area at Fort Bragg. The gravestones of Union and Confederate soldiers who lost their lives that day are hidden throughout the woods.

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Zelda Fitzgerald Casualty of Hospital Fire, 1948

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 01:00

On March 10, 1948, the central building of Highland Hospital in Asheville was destroyed by fire, which swept from the facility’s kitchen through the dumbwaiter to all four floors.

Nine women, including Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald, were killed.

Rescue attempts saved 11 women but others were trapped on the upper floors. According to one employee, she and her supervisor first rushed to save the helpless patients, hoping that the others would save themselves. Two women brought down by firemen died within a short while. All of the city’s fire equipment was called out to fight the fire, along with most of the off-duty personnel.

Originally known as “Dr. Carroll’s Sanatorium,” Highland Hospital was founded by psychiatrist Dr. Robert S. Carroll and treated people with mental and nervous disorders and addictions. In 1939, Carroll gave his facility to the Neuropsychiatric Department of Duke University.

Duke closed the unit in the 1980s and the complex is now an office park and shopping plaza.

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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..