A Student of History

February 13, 2008

A year from now at the North Carolina Museum of History

Filed under: NC History — John Maass @ 10:31 am

February 12, 2009 — at the North Carolina Museum of History.  A program to commemorate the 200th birthday of the sixteenth President and contrast leadership styles of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Speakers slated are Dr. Paul Escott of Wake Forest University, Dr. Jospeh T. Glatthaar of UNC-Chapel Hill, Dr. Loren Schweninger of UNC-Greensboro, Dr. John David Smith of UNC-Charlotte, Dr. William Harris of N.C. State University, and Dr. Heather Williams of UNC-Chapel Hill. This program will be offered in cooperation with the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. Dr Jeffrey J. Crow, Deputy Secretary, Archives and History, is North Carolina’s state liason to this commission.

February 5, 2008


Filed under: Early America,NC History,Wars — John Maass @ 1:23 pm

My paper topic at the 2008 Society for Military History meeting at Ogden, UT in April will be “An Extreme Violent Spirit: War, Peace and Enmity in Revolutionary North Carolina.”  Here’s my introduction:

More than anything else, the struggle for American independence in North Carolina was a civil war, especially after the British concentrated their Southern offensive there in late 1778.  This was not only a traditional military contest between regular armies in the field, but a bloody internal struggle marked by plundering, property destruction, violence and murder as well.  These concurrent conflicts created great difficulties for Patriot military and civilian leaders in all of the nascent southern states in their attempt to establish and maintain order and stability.  The need to secure the state was of paramount importance for North Carolinians, who recognized even before 1783 the necessity of ending uncontrolled violence among the citizenry as the most imperative part of this process.  Patriot leaders during this period had to balance the need for an end to violence as the war ended, with the strong desire among many Whigs to seek vengeance and reprisals against their disaffected enemies.  Although moderates sought to limit the retributive violence and calls for punishment during and after the war, and worked to foster a spirit of conciliation in order to bring peace, prosperity and order to the state, this was a position not universally shared by all supporters of the American cause, which frustrated efforts to insure leniency toward Tories as the state moved from war to peace.

January 25, 2008

Rare NC Currency

Filed under: Early America,NC History — John Maass @ 12:40 pm

This note is printed on fine quality period white laid paper, and was recently offered for sale at auction.  N.C. currency from the Revolution or colonial era is very rare, primarily because so much of it was printed on poor quality paper, or was burned upon redemption through taxation.  This note is very nice….

By the way, James Davis was N.C.’s first state printer.  According to an article on-line, In August 1751, Davis published the first North Carolina newspaper, The North Carolina Gazette. The weekly was published until 1761. Several years later, Davis began a second newspaper, The North Carolina Magazine: or Universal Intelligencer. Foreign news dominated the paper. Ads were mostly merchants’ lists of goods, legal notices and notices seeking runaway slaves.

The publication title returned to The North Carolina Gazette in 1768 and finally ceased publication in 1778, when his son, Thomas, his primary helper, went to fight in the Revolutionary War. The newspaper lasted longer than any other early paper – 10 years.

Davis, born Oct. 21, 1721, also printed currency, legislative journals and session laws. He printed at least 100 titles during the 33 years he served as public printer. Although most of the titles were official government books, he published the first nonlegal book written by a North Carolinian and published in the state, Clement Hall’s “A Collection of Many Christian Experiences.”

He served in the General Assembly as a representative and was elected to the Council of State. Before he died in 1785, Davis also served as county sheriff, justice of the peace and commissioner of the Port of New Bern. Davis also was selected to open the state’s first post office in 1755.

Davis’ son, Thomas, became state printer in 1782. He also started his own newspaper in 1785 in Hillsborough, The North Carolina Gazette.

November 27, 2007

“The Cure for All Our Political Calamities”

Filed under: Early America,NC History — John Maass @ 2:19 pm


An article I submitted in September to the North Carolina Historical Review has been accepted, and will be published in July 2008.  It is entitled “‘The Cure for All Our Political Calamities’: Archibald Maclaine and the Politics of Moderation in Revolutionary North Carolina.”  Maclaine was a moderate attorney from the Wilmington area, whose son-in-law George Hooper, a merchant, was a lukewarm Loyalist forced to leave the state in 1781 for his shallow support of independence.  Maclaine opposed such measures as property confiscation and banishment as punishment for loyalists’ activities, but faced staunch opposition from state “radicals” or “democrats” such as Thomas Person and Griffith Rutherford, whom Maclaine called “bloodthirsty.”

This comes from one of my eleven dissertation chapters, and will be the first of my work to see the light of day as far as publication.  I hope to publish one more chapter as well, and am waiting to hear about that one.  I previously published an article on N.C. and the Seven Years’ War in NCHR, back in 2002, so I am pleased to be working with editor Anne Miller again.

October 22, 2007


Filed under: Early America,NC History — John Maass @ 7:37 am

I just came across this at The Coastal Carolina Indian Center:

8/31/07 – Great news! CCIC is happy to announce that we have secured permission from the Historical Publications Division at North Carolina Archives to publish some wonderful historical research articles that have appeared in the North Carolina Historical Review over the years, including: “The Tuscarora Ascendancy” by Thomas Parramore (1982);  “In the ‘Scolding Houses’: Indians Before the Colonial Courts in North Carolina, 1684-1760” by Michelle LeMaster (2006); and “‘All This Poor Province Could Do’: North Carolina and the Seven Years’ War, 1757-1762” by John R. Maass (2002).

The website says that CCIC is committed to being the number one resource for educators, parents, students or any individuals interested in learning about the Indians of North Carolina’s coastal plain — past and present.  CCIC firmly believes that being able to preserve and educate others about the history of the Original People of Coastal Carolina is cause for celebration.  CCIC will engage in, as well as offer support and assistance to, research projects that focus on the history, culture and traditions of the Indians of Coastal North Carolina, including the documentation of such history.

October 16, 2007

Was Thomas Burke a Catholic?

Filed under: Early America,Ireland,NC History — John Maass @ 5:53 am


During my dissertation research, I became very well acquainted with North Carolina Governor Thomas Burke, a fascinating man who tied all too early in his life, at the end of the Revolution (1783).  Given my connections with Ireland, I was particularly interested in Burke, as he was born in Co. Galway.  As I began to get deeper into the sources, I started to come across some stray references to Burke as a Catholic.  That is very striking, in that during the colonial and revolutionary period, Catholics were barred from high office (among other disabilities.)  How could Burke be a Congressman and a governor if he had been a practicing Catholic?  Where would he have worshipped in NC, given the paucity of parishes or priests there at the time? 

After 3 years and more of research into NC during this period, I came across no primary source references to Burke being a Catholic at all.  Not a single one!  Just because one comes from Galway, does not mean one is a Roman Catholic, but for some reason, writers and a few historians have stated in print that Burke was a Catholic.  The on-line Catholic Encyclopedia’s entry for North Carolina states: “Though there are few Catholics in the state, an unusual proportion have [sic] occupied prominent official positions. Thomas Burke was governor.”

 Wikipedia, not a reliable source, states that “Burke was unusual for being a practicing Roman Catholic who succeeded politically in an era when Catholics held little political power and were often discriminated against.”  The source? The on-line Catholic Encyclopedia, which gives no specific citation, and Stephen Beauregard Weeks’ Church and State in North Carolina (1893), which doesn’t name Burke at all. 

There are plenty of 19th century and early 20th century histories of North Carolina, all of which tend to be loosely cited, to say the least.  One of the most prominent is Samuel A. Ashe’s Biographical History of North Carolina from Colonial Times to the Present (1905). This book notes Burke’s Irish roots, stating as well that Burke “was Roman Catholic in religion,” but frustratingly does not give a source for it. 

 Interestingly, there’s a Thomas Burke chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Raleigh.  This is a VERY Catholic organization, so they must be convinced that Burke was Catholic himself.  Can you imagine the furor if they found out he was a Orange!!  I could find nothing on their website regarding foundation for Burke’s alleged Catholic faith. 

If anyone can provide some hard proof of the link between Burke and Catholicism, I would love to have it.  Perhaps if I am in Galway again, I can look for some baptismal records……..

October 2, 2007

Caswell Honored by NC

Filed under: Early America,NC History — John Maass @ 6:49 am

Back in the late 1700s when North Carolina was still an unsettled wilderness dotted with a few small settlements and its capitol was moving from place to place, Richard Caswell was elected governor a record five times, more than any other in the state’s history. A Revolutionary War hero who walked with Washington, Jefferson, and Adams, Caswell is now known as the “Father of the State.” To honor him as well as recall NC early history, the CSS Neuse/Richard Caswell Memorial State Historic Site in Kinston opened new exhibits on the governor, Revolutionary War hero, and Kinston’s founder on August 17th.

Caswell was born in Harford (now Baltimore) County, Md., August 3, 1729, and moved to North Carolina in 1746.  Appointed deputy surveyor of the colony in 1750 and clerk of the court of Orange County 1752-1754, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1754 in Hillsboro, N.C.  He was a member of the colonial house of delegates 1754-1771, and served as speaker the last two years. Caswell commanded the right wing of Governor Tryon’s army at the Battle of Alamance in 1771.  He served in the state’s militia during the Revolutionary War, was a Member of the Continental Congress in 1774-1775 and commanded the patriots at the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge, North Carolina, on February 23, 1776.  Was also delegate to the State constitutional convention and its president in 1776; Governor of North Carolina 1776-1780; commanded the North Carolina troops at the Battle of Camden in 1780; comptroller general in 1782; member of the State senate 1782-1784 and served as speaker; again elected Governor in 1785 and served until 1787; appointed delegate from North Carolina to the convention that framed the Federal Constitution in 1787, but did not attend; member of the State convention at Fayetteville, N.C., that adopted the Federal Constitution in 1789; member and speaker of the State house of commons in 1789 and served until his death in Fayetteville, N.C., November 10, 1789; interment in the family cemetery on his estate near Kinston, Lenoir County, N.C. 

For more information contact Guy Smith at (252) 522-2091 or Mary Cook at (919) 733-7862.

June 17, 2007

NC Gov. Manipulates History

Filed under: NC History,The past that is still with us — John Maass @ 4:04 pm

Click here to read about North Carolina’s version of airbrushing people our of photographs like Stalin did.

Most politicians would love a chance to edit their page in the history books.

Gov. Mike Easley’s staff actually did.

Last year, members of Easley’s press office heavily rewrote an entry on him in a book by state-employed historians on North Carolina’s governors.

Over several drafts, they deleted a reference to a failed U.S. Senate bid, speculation that he dislikes campaigning and a note that he had a boyhood reputation “for making mischief.”

They added a quote from Easley about patriotism, a line about how he successfully led the state to a “new global economy” and the fact that USA Today once named him one of the country’s top drug busters.

June 16, 2007


Filed under: Historic Places,NC History — John Maass @ 2:27 am

Interesting piece here on Fox News on using DNA to help solve the lost colony mystery of N.C.

“I don’t know what we’ll find in the end,” an expert told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “Part of the big question for me is, did the Lost Colony survive? Who is their family today? And where did they go?”

June 14, 2007

NC & American Revolution

Filed under: NC History,Wars — John Maass @ 8:18 pm

Update:  8/29/2008:  my article on NC and the Loyalists during the Revolution just came out in the N.C. Historical Review.

The North Carolina Historical Review

Anne Miller, Editor
Historical Publications Section
4622 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4622
Phone: (919) 733-7442
Fax: (919) 733-1439


FYI, I just updated my dissertation page with a more detailed introduction to it.

Artist’s inaccurate depiction of the battle of Guilford Courthouse (1781) showing American troops in far better uniforms than they would have worn at the time of this engagement.

May 24, 2007

Still a Hoax after all these Years

Filed under: NC History — John Maass @ 6:40 am

In the Charlotte Observer from 5/20, there is an article on the so-called Mecklenburg Declaration, which purportedly declared the county independent over a year before the Continental Congress did on July 2, 1776. 

The problem is that there is no contemporary evidence of the Meck-Dec at all, just confused memories from the early 19th century.  A society now in existence claims the evcent happened like this:

On May 20, 1775, a group of Mecklenburg leaders met at the county courthouse at the crossroads of Trade and Tryon. They declared themselves independent from Britain in several documents, the foremost of which is a document known today as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (or “MecDec”). It was a reaction to the news that colonists had been massacred by the British at Lexington. On May 31, they drafted a second document—a set of resolves further outlining their independence and organizing their new governance.

A young tavern owner, Captain James Jack, volunteered to carry the documents 600 miles to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. It was a courageous act. He knew that if he were caught in possession of such seditious documents, he would be hanged. On horseback, Captain Jack slipped past British regulars and Tory spies. When he arrived in Philadelphia, he demanded that the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence be read into the record at the Continental Congress.

May 20th became a monumental date—it is displayed prominently on the North Carolina state flag and has been celebrated with great fanfare since the early 1820s. While the authenticity of the MecDec is questioned by some, the Spirit of MecDec is beyond doubt.

Either way, the article is an interesting read.

May 23, 2007

Join the Tanks!!

Filed under: NC History,Wars — John Maass @ 9:53 pm

Two striking World War I posters from the Poster Collection of the N.C. State Archives are available for purchase from the Historical Publications Section of the state Office of Archives and History. Each poster is enhanced with information about its purpose and about its artist.

The “Treat ۥEm Rough! Join the Tanks” poster (ca. 1917) was created by the artist August William Hutaf (1879-1942), an advertising executive best known for his commercial artwork. It was used as a recruiting poster for the U.S. Tank Corps. The dramatic poster, which measures 25½ x 40 inches, features an attacking cat leaping over a tank, which became (and remains) the trademark of the Tank Corps. The stark, colorful graphic design elicited strong emotions and remains a vivid reminder of the First World War.

Order from Historical Publications Section, Office of Archives and History, 4622 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4622.

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