Blueberry Muffins

Yesterday morning  my friend, Woody Ragan, and I were at the The City of Raleigh Museum, in our Federal uniforms, where we had been invited to present a  program for children who had just read “Emma and the Civil Warrior“. In attendance were about half a dozen enthusiastic children and their supportive parents.

Our role was to try to give them a little background on the causes of the Civil War, perform a “show and tell” of our uniforms, weapons and equipment and then take a walk down the street to the North Carolina State Capitol, where we both volunteer as docents, and point out some of the places mentioned in the story.

Why did we have a Civil War? I have been studying this period of history for over a quarter of a century and have only concluded that there is NO simple answer. Having experience leading tours and speaking in public on this topic, I am well aware of the “simple” answer that comes to most peoples minds…Slavery. I do not deny that this was a factor but it is not THE sole cause any more than hamburgers are THE cause of America’s burgeoning crisis with obesity.

I struggled to find a simple analogy that I could relate to school children that would help them understand that the American Civil War, like all wars, sprung forth from a complex mix of many issues, many of them, ultimately, with economic roots. I did not want to get into the complicated and emotional issue of slavery, but I also did not want to leave the impression that I was trying to avoid the issue. I am happy to delve into an intellectual discussion on this topic, but it does not really fit into a 10 minute overview of the Civil War for 8 and 10 years olds on a sunny Saturday morning.

I finally hammered out an analogy in my head that  I thought would be simple to understand and get my point across. Let’s say we all chipped in a dollar and we used that money to buy a couple of pizzas and everyone got an equal share. Would that be a fair way to split up our pooled resources? I pictured youngsters shaking their heads in agreement while imagining a steaming slice of pizza. Now…I would continue, lets say we gave the money to one of the group to go buy the pizza and he decided to buy his favorite…Pizza with anchovies, which no one else really likes…would that be fair? I imagined the look of disgust coming across the young faces as they heard mention of anchovies, hoping they  knew what anchovies were! No! they would say, we don’t like anchovies!

I would continue by proposing we used our pooled resources to buy… Here I struggled  not to be sexist, but when I was a kid I could have said something like baseball gloves for the boys and dolls for the girls. To continue the analogy I would suggest that if everyone got their fair share they would be satisfied, but what if we pooled our money and one group got more than the other, to illustrate in simple terms how unfair it is to one side if they contribute to the pool of money, but don’t get an equal share of what it is spent on. Anyway, I knew it wasn’t perfect but I thought it might be workable and I trusted to luck that I would make sense of it during my presentation.

On Saturday morning we were introduced by the City of Raleigh Museum’s Assistant Director Kimberly Puryear. I launched into a discussion of the Civil War as it related to the book they were reading, events that occurred right here in Raleigh and North Carolina, and then began my discussion of Civil War 101.

“What do you  think were some of the major causes of the Civil War?” I quizzed my alert students.

Hands shot up and I called on a young lady.

“Slavery” she predictably said, to which the other heads, including the proud parents nodded in unison.

I smiled knowingly and said “well…not exactly…” and made the point that there were many factors including economics, states rights, and the election of Lincoln.

“How would you feel if you voted for the next president, and the man that won, was not even on the ballot in your state?” Because that is what North Carolinians faced after the 1860 election.

I launched into my brilliantly thought out analogy of the Pizza. “Let’s say we all chipped in a dollar and we used that money to buy a couple of pizzas and everyone got an equal share. Would that be a fair way to split up our pooled resources?”

Some of the childrens shook their heads in agreement, but my young antagonist folded her arms firmly across her chest and politely said, “NO! I can’t eat Pizza.”

I glance over to Woody who smiled as my analogy fell apart. “well, forget Pizza” he exclaimed “make it Ice cream cones”.

Big smiles appeared on the other children’s faces as heads rapidly shook in agreement.

“I don’t eat Ice cream.” declared the young lady. The adults in the back smiled in amusement. This was not exactly what I had in mind.

“What DO you like then?” I blurted out.

“Muffins!”

“OK, Let’s say we all chipped in a dollar and we used that money to buy a couple of MUFFINS and everyone got an equal share. Would that be a fair way to split up our pooled resources?”

“Sure” they all agreed

“Now, lets say we gave the money to one of the group to go buy the muffins and they decided to buy their favorite…blueberry muffins, which no one else really likes…”

“But I like Blueberry” exclaimed my young friend ” they’re my favorite”

“OK, so then it was YOU that we sent to get the muffins” I wearily exclaimed,  “and YOU bought YOUR favorite but what about everyone else?”

The parents chuckled as I struggled to regain control and get my point across.

In the end we discussed many themes including economics. I tried to weave some of these themes into the book’s story line. We agreed that Emma was a Confederate, but I asked them to consider why? Did they think Emma understood all the issues that led to the Civil War (N0) or was she influenced by her father being a Confederate soldier and her friends and neighbors?

In the story Emma smuggles medicine in her doll for the wounded soldiers. Is smuggling good or bad, I asked? Bad they agreed. But in this case wasn’t it really good? I could see the wheels tuning in their young minds.

I asked them to think about reading an account of a battle or an article about President Lincoln in a Raleigh newspaper. Would the story would be the same or different if we read it New York newspaper? I could see the spark of recognition ignite on their attentive faces. They understood that newspapers may have a slant, both in 1861 and still today.

I explained as historians, we need to look at the issues from all sides to understand what really happened and not be misled by only one point of view.

Lt. George C. Round at the North Carolina State Capitol

The kids where great listeners and eager to learn.  We concluded by walking a couple of blocks down to the capitol. We stopped across the street and I pointed to the green metal dome describing how signal officer Lt. George C. Round climbed to the top. I had them look up and down Fayetteville Street, the very street where thousands of Yankee soldiers entered Raleigh 148 years ago. We walked through the Capitol grounds and looked at Christ church, Where Emma’s mother worked as a nurse in the Confederate hospital there. Across the street, where the North Carolina Museum of History now stands, was once the residential neighborhood where Emma’s fictional house once stood. They could see how close it was to the Capitol and how natural it would have been for her to use it as her playground.

We returned to the museum to conclude the program with a talk by the book’s author, Candy Dahl. She talked a little bit more about her fictional characters, and Lt. Round, whose impressive actions inspired her to write the book.

Walking back to my car, I recapped what we talked about and was satisfied that I got my learning point across. The Civil War was the result of many causes that built up in the decades preceding the war. I felt confident that these junior historians where sufficiently intrigued to continue reading and learning. They are fortunate enough to live in an area that offers so many nearby Civil wars sites, like Bentonville battlefield and Bennet place.

My stomach growled as I got into the car. It was lunch time.and I was hungry. I was going to need something more substantial than a blueberry muffin.

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Who was William G. Ray?

Copyright (C) 2013 by Frederick Walton

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As we begin the Labor day weekend, the Sesequntinial anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg has already been relegated to the far recesses of our minds. Only two short months ago the climax of years of planning and anticipation exploded in, not one, but two reenactments that received national attention for two weeks around the July 1-3 anniversary. But that is ancient history now.  And yet, 150 years ago, the battle was far from over in late August and early September. It wasn’t until July 22, 1863 that the first casualty reports for the 6th North Carolina were published in the “Raleigh State Journal”(1). Can you imagine being a worried parent, spouse or sibling, waiting to hear if your loved one was killed or wounded, or worse yet, captured, during the horrible battles that took place in far off Pennsylvania?

Among the 178 names listed (k-20, W-128, M-30) for the 6th North Carolina regiment we find the following: “Company B. Killed–Sergt W G Ray”. Perhaps this was how his mother first received this sad news. Perhaps a friend or relative read it and conveyed it to her while offering sympathy. Perhaps a comrade of her son sent a letter home. However she heard about it, it must have been heartbreaking news.

Of the 20 names listed as killed, you may wonder why I singled out Serg’t Ray? Simple, I found his obituary in the August 26, 1863 edition of the “Hillsboro Recorder”. Having searched through hundreds of newspapers and seeing thousands of North Carolina casualties listed on page after page, it is very unusual to find an obituary for a specific soldier. Sometimes tributes are written for famous officers, but rarely is one written for an “ordinary soldier”. Here is what his said:

Obituary.

Was killed in battle at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863,

Sergeant WILLIAM G. RAY, of Company B, 6th N. C. 

Troops. Aged about 23 years. Thus has a noble 

youth fallen in defense of his country. At the com-

mencement of hostilities he volunteered his service 

and soon earned distinction as a brave and generous 

hearted soldier. At the first Manassas battle, com-

manded by and at the fall of the lamented fighter, he 

was slightly wounded (2). This wound detained him 

from service but a short time. At the battles before 

Richmond he was again wounded on a [xx xxx] from a

charge from the enemy’s breastworks (3) . from the ef-

fects of this wound he lingered at home some months,

 but inspired by patriotism and a love for his comrades 

in arms, he returned to his command before he was 

entirely recovered. He was in all the battles up to 

the time of his fall, fought by the memorable Sixth 

N. C. Regiment. He fought with firmness, bravery 

and determination, never faltering from duty, in camp, 

on a march or the battle field ever ready to bear his 

portion of the burdens of warfare. He was a gentle-

man, a good soldier, and a devoted Christian. Always 

modest and unassuming, he seldom passed for his true 

worth only with those with whom he was intimately 

acquainted. He was a consistent member of the Pres-

byterian church at Little River. The church has lost 

a devoted member, the army a good soldier, and his 

mother a humble and submissive son.He leaves 

an aged and afflicted mother (4), five brothers (three of 

whom are in Illinois and two in Confederate ser-

vice) and five sisters (two of whom are in Illinois 

and three in North Carolina) (5) too mourn their irre-

placeable loss but they mourn not as those that have no 

hope, for their loss is his eternal game.

                                                                                J. W. M.

My curiosity aroused, I searched out William G. Rays record in the roster of both the “Bloody Sixth”, the regimental history, and “North Carolina Troops 1861-1865 a Roster”. In both cases the soldiers record were somewhat less detailed than I would normally expect to see:

 RAY, WILLIAM G., Sergeant

Resided in Orange County where he enlisted at age 19, May 25, 1861, for the war. Mustered in as Private and promoted to Corporal on September 28, 1861. Promoted to Sergeant on January 1, 1863. Killed at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1, 1863. (6)

 This led me to research his slim compiled service record, which contained a few muster roll records, his roll of honor commemoration and his mother’s name, Emily, on a register of claims made after he was deceased.

So, who was William G. Ray? Turning back to the obituary raised more questions than it answered. It mentioned he was twice wounded, yet neither wound is mentioned in his Compiled service record or his roster entry. Searching a little further I found his name mentioned in newspaper casualty records and was able to confirm those wounds. This tells me that you can’t always trust Compiled service records to be complete records.

Going further back, I looked him up in the 1850 Census. He was a member of a large family. His parents were farmers, yet he lists his occupation in the 1860 census as laborer. His father was deceased by 1860 but his mother is still listed as farmer. Could this mean he is working elsewhere, perhaps for Charles Frederick Fisher’s North Carolina Railroad? If so, this may explain how he came to be a member of the 6th North Carolina.

I wondered who was the author of the obituary? It wasn’t his mother Emily or any of his siblings because their names do not match the initials. It’s probably not a comrade either, since there is no J.W.M. in Company B or in officer roles in the 6th NCST. The author would appear to be someone close to him, with intimate knowledge of his siblings and church membership. Perhaps a cousin or member of his church, although no obvious name popped out during my brief investigation 150 years after it was written.

Whoever J. W. M. was, he thought enough of Sergeant Ray to have a nicely written obituary written and placed in a widely read public newspaper. If we know nothing else about Ray, we have been assured by J. W. M. that he was a brave and committed soldier (his record confirms that) and that he was a devoted Christian and loving son. I don’t doubt the later, but have no way to confirm it.  Wouldn’t J. W. M. be amazed to know his tribute has now been immortalized on the world wide web!

My last bit of research was to identify William G, Ray’s grave. I have a list of places he is Not buried, but in the end I was unable to locate where his remains lie. If he was buried on the battlefield he may never be found. In 1871 the Wake County Ladies Memorial Association arranged for the remains of North Carolina’s Gettysburg dead to be returned and buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. 137 remains were returned (7). Sergeant Ray was not listed among them, although 14 are unknown. He may rest close by, but wherever he is buried, may he rest in Peace.

Notes:

1 C. Mebane, Adj’t 6th N. C. Regiment, “Sixth Regiment”, Raleigh State Journal, Raleigh, N. C., July 22, 1863, RaSTJw-1 microfilm at the North Carolina State Archives researched on June 14, 2008 by Rick Walton.

2 “Lamented Fighter” refers to Colonel Frederick Charles Fisher who fell leading the 6th NC troops in their first battle, Ray is listed in the August 1, 1861 “Richmond Daily Dispatch” list of casualties in “Col. Fisher’s regiment” (6th NCST) as “slightly wounded”. Not mentioned in his Compiled Service records.

3 Listed in June 18, 1862 North Carolina Standard as “Slight” wound under 6th NCT casualties from the May 31st battle of Seven Pines. Not mentioned in his Compiled Service records.

4 The name “Emily Ray, Mo” [mother] appears in his compiled service record on a register of claims of deceased soldiers from NC which were filed for settlement in the office of the Confederate states auditor for the war department.

5 1850 census (11/22/1850) for first district in the county of Orange, NC list the following: William D Ray, 53, farmer, Emily 48, Eliza 23, Peter 21, Isaac 19, George 16, Hugh 14, Margaret 11, William 9, Henry 7, Emily 4. All born in NC. William SR., Peter, Isaac and George list their occupation as Farmer. Isaac and everyone younger except emily is listed as having attended school in the last year.

The 1860 (8/26/1860) census lists the following: Emily Ray 57 farmer with personal estate worth $1300, Eliza 25 (should be 33), Margaret 21, William 18 laborer, Emily 13. They live in the Veasey Household

6 Jordon Jr., Weymouth T., “North Carolina Troops 1861-1865 A Roster”, Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC, 1973, Pg 290, second column.

7 Purser, Charles E., “A Story Behind Every Stone”, Scuppernog Press, Wake Forest, NC 27588, 2005, Pg 19-21.