Monthly Archives: April 2012

Keeping up with the Carters

Yesterday I finally took care of a nagging bit of unfinished business.  Being an aficionado of the Rev War and the Tennessee frontier, I’ve always had a soft spot for Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area, but I’d never visited Carter Mansion, the historic house museum just a few miles away operated by the park as a satellite site.

Built sometime around the Revolution, either by John Carter (one of the first settlers in what would become Tennessee and leader of the Watauga Association) or his son Landon (a veteran of the War for Independence and an important political figure on the frontier), the house is one of the oldest and most important structures in the region.

I’d wanted to see it for a long time, but it had been closed every time I’d visited the park, so when I found out about a living history event at the house this weekend, I jumped at the chance to make a special trip.  I took my cousin along; he’s a fellow history enthusiast who accompanied me on my last visit to the park.

If this doesn’t fit your idea of a “mansion,” bear in mind that most houses of that time and place were simple cabins; painted siding and brick chimneys weren’t the sort of architectural features you saw every day.

Where the house really knocks your socks off, though, is its elaborate interior.  The carved panels, crown molding, chair rails, and fluted columns of the first-floor walls put this home in a different class altogether from the rough dwellings typical of the eighteenth-century frontier.  Incredibly, some of the walls still have the original stain, visible above this fireplace in the parlor.

I’ve seen more than my share of historic house museums from the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, and this is one of the most beautifully restored and furnished of the whole lot.

Some members of the Carter family are buried on the grounds…

…although I could’ve sworn I saw John Carter himself treating some of the local militia to a patriotic libation.

A gang of Tories broke up the party by showing up uninvited, more than a little irate that their property had been confiscated.  The negotiations didn’t turn out well.

A good time was had by all—except for the Tories, I suppose—and I can finally scratch Carter Mansion off my bucket list.  Totally worth the wait.

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Filed under American Revolution, Appalachian History, Museums and Historic Sites, Reenacting, Tennessee History

Pilgrims, iPods, and everything between

A new exhibit at the National Museum of American History covers pretty much everything from the first English colonies to the present day.

Highlights include Benjamin Franklin’s walking stick and a genuine Kermit the Frog puppet.  Anyone who wields both items simultaneously cannot be killed in battle, save by the hand of the Archangel Gabriel.

You can read more about the exhibition at the Smithsonian’s website.

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Filed under Museums and Historic Sites

Two posts from my neck of the woods

Appalachian History just posted two stories in a row that are both pretty close to home, at least for me—one about a bloody labor incident here in my home county, the other about Middlesboro, KY, which is just over the state line.

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Filed under Appalachian History, Tennessee History

Walking in Knox’s footsteps

Two guys from the magazine Patriots of the American Revolution are walking the entire 300-mile route along which Henry Knox hauled captured artillery from Ft. Ticonderoga to Dorchester Heights.  I’d never be able to pull off something like this.  If I do a day hike at Cumberland Gap, I feel like I should get a medal afterwards.

National Archives

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Filed under American Revolution

Record visitation at Ft. Sumter

This year’s levels may even surpass those of last year, which was the 150th anniversary.

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Filed under Civil War, Museums and Historic Sites

Sweet!

I’m both surprised and pleased to inform you that the folks at Civil War Talk have picked Past in the Present as one of the best ACW-related blogs of 2012.  Click here to read the complete list of honorees.  It’s pretty nifty to be included in a list of such fantastic websites.  Thanks, guys!

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Filed under Civil War, History on the Web

Flash forward, Ft. Sanders edition

Here’s some more virtual time travel.  This is Fort Sanders on the western outskirts of Knoxville, TN.  It was the site of a failed Confederate attack in November 1863, but I think the photo is from 1864.

Library of Congress (LC-B811- 4008)

Now the site of the fort is well within the city.  Here’s the same view, give or take a block or two.

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Filed under Appalachian History, Civil War, Tennessee History

Princeton Battlefield Society sues to stop construction

From Planet Princeton:

Opponents of the Institute for Advanced Study’s plan to build faculty housing have filed a lawsuit to block the project, arguing it will destroy the site of Washington’s counter-attack in the Battle of Princeton, the historic battle that changed the course of the American Revolution.

The lawsuit, filed in Mercer County Superior Court by the Princeton Battlefield Society, also claims the project is barred under the terms of a 1992 settlement agreement between the Institute and Princeton Township.

“The development, intended to provide housing for 15 faculty members, will completely obliterate the Battlefield site that has remained untouched for the last 235 years,” said the group’s attorney, Bruce Afran. “The Institute housing plan will destroy what is probably the most significant Revolutionary War site left in the United States, along with critical archaeological and historical evidence.”

The suit alleges that the construction, intended to build housing for 15 Institute faculty members, is barred under the terms of a 1992 settlement that the Institute reached with Princeton Township that was intended to preserve the Battlefield site from future residential development.

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Filed under American Revolution, Historic Preservation

Lots of Americans had Civil War stories

…but not many had stories like this guy’s.

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Filed under Appalachian History, Civil War, Tennessee History

Just right content material!

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Filed under History on the Web