For Cumberland!!!

Lewis Armistead was born into a military family in 1817 in the town of New Bern, North Carolina. His father and all of his uncles were soldiers. One uncle, George, was the commander of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. Uncle George’s successful defense of the fort inspired a song called “The Star Spangled Banner.” You may have heard about it.

Needless to say, Lewis was destined to be a soldier, and like most military brats, he went to West Point. He didn’t do well in French class, and he broke a plate over the head of another cadet, so he was kicked out of the Academy. But he remained in the Army, serving honorably across the country, and when the Civil War broke out, he chose the Southern side and served as a Brigadier General.

On July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Armistead had the good fortune of being right in the middle of a charge ordered by Robert E. Lee and lead by General George Pickett. You may have heard about it:

When your day begins at a place called “Seminary Ridge” and ends at a place called “Cemetery Ridge,” you have good cause for concern. But Armistead, the son of soldier, got to it.

His pre-game speech lives on in Civil War glory (at 3:00):

For your lands, for your homes, for your sweethearts, for your wives!

For Virginia! Forward! March!

Armistead hit all the high-notes with this one and got his men right in their hearts. Fight for your home and those you love. What else do you need for motivation? It reminds me a lot of this one:

Sam “Stonewall” Jackson was talking about Richmond, CA, not Richmond, VA, but you get the point. These speeches always work, and Armistead got all the caps in the air:

And so he and his men marched, then ran, uphill in a open field into a barrage of artillery fire. Note the consternation on the man’s face:

Armistead made it all the way to the top of Cemetary Ridge (the exact worst possible place a human being could be on Planet Earth on July 3, 1863).

His men were the only Confederate troops to break the Union Lines, at a place called “The Angle” (see map above). For a minute, victory was in sight. Their valor and glory would live in infamy:

But the Union troops quickly closed the lines, and defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory. As soon as Armistead laid his hand on a Union cannon, he was shot:

Armistead died of his wounds two days later. He’s now buried next to his famous uncle.

His death is a testament to the power of high ground, both moral and practical. You might say that he, like many others on that ridge in grey suits, were destined to fail.

Cumberland on the Front Lines

A few months ago, I wrote a piece entitled “Museums, Vetoes, and How the Sausage Gets Made” where I analyzed how Republican legislators in North Carolina are adding “pork” to the budget to encourage swing Democrats to override Governor Cooper’s expected veto.

Well, as predicted, Governor Cooper vetoed the budget, and Republicans are looking to pick off votes for an override. In his press release, Cooper argued the Republican Budget didn’t expand Medicaid, didn’t give enough to public education, and harmed lower and middle class citizens while favoring the wealthy.

Image result for roy cooper budget veto

Cumberland County is now on the front lines of this budget battle, and local business groups are piling on the pressure. One group called “Vision 2026” is taking out ad space, encouraging legislators to vote for the budget. One ad includes a list of earmarks for Cumberland County, the largest and most notable being the Civil War Museum:

Their battle cry is very similar to General Armistead’s: “Fellow Citizens,” it says. “This is not about party, this is about our community.”

Attached to the ad was a list of supporters that includes the veritable “who’s who” of the political and business community in the area:

And so our Democratic legislators are faced with some difficult choices:

Where do their loyalties lie? With their Party? With their Governor? With Cumberland County? Are state-wide problems more important than a Civil War museum?

Do these legislators represent the citizens of their district or all of North Carolina?

If they “Fight for Cumberland,” will they face a primary challenge by another Democrat for not being loyal to the party. If they “Fight for North Carolina,” will they face scrutiny and lose support “back home?”

Will they die on the hill next Spring, like Armistead?

Where’s the High Ground???

It’s an interesting question, and there’s no easy answer.

Democrats were elected in 2018 under a promise to “break the super-majority” of Republican rule in the North Carolina Legislature. They succeeded, in the face of overwhelmingly-gerrymandered districts that were rigged against them. They made it up the hill. So what was it all for???

Are they breaking their promise to voters if they vote for this budget? Or are they simply doing what’s best for Cumberland County?

I’ll put it to a vote:

If you’re a Democrat and you had to think twice about a “yes” or “no” question, you understand the problem. No matter what happens, someone is going to end up angry. That’s how you know this is an important issue.

And in case you’re wondering, Armistead’s last words were an apology to Union General Winfield Hancock, his close friend and the commander of the forces that had destroyed Armistead and his men on Cemetery Ridge:

Thanks for reading.

A Hunley Torpedo – Civil War Center Poll

The H.L. Hunley was one of the first submarines used in American war, created by the Confederate Army in Charleston, South Carolina. It was designed to sneak up on an enemy ship and stab a torpedo into its hull. The crew would then back the craft away and detonate the torpedo using a rope.

The Hunley sank twice in training exercises, killing one crew of five and another of eight. After each failure, it was raised from the bottom and adjustments were made.

Eventually, the Confederates succeeded, kind of. A third crew managed to sneak up on a Union Blockade ship outside of Charleston Harbor and detonate the torpedo, sinking the Union ship. The problem was the Hunley was too close to the torpedo when the crew set off the bomb, and they sank their own submarine. Another eight-man crew died.

The Hunley was raised off the bottom in 2000 and now sits in a museum in Charleston:

Image result for hl hunley

Speaking of museums and torpedoes…

Yesterday afternoon, I published a post about the budgetary politics surrounding the North Carolina Civil War History Center in Fayetteville.

In light of Senator Ben Clark (D-Cumberland/Hoke) voting for the Republican-drafted, Senate budget that did not include funding for the Civil War museum, I wrote the following:

If this is going to get done, someone from the Cumberland County delegation is going to have to use political capital to make it happen. Either (Representative John) Szoka has enough swing within his own party to get the museum funded, or some Democratic legislator from Cumberland will agree to override Cooper’s veto if the money’s included. Senator Clark has already used up his capital by voting for a budget that didn’t include the funds for the museum, so look elsewhere.

It was apparent to me that Clark was not going to go out on a limb in support of the museum. What I didn’t expect was that he would try to torpedo the project a few hours later:

Clark gave an interview with the Fayetteville Observer calling into question the financial validity of the project. He argued that the City of Fayetteville and Cumberland County did not have to give $7.5 Million (each) in promised funds to the project because the museum had failed to reach benchmark fundraising goals from private and state sources.

When you combine Clark’s comments with Mayor Colvin’s recent criticism of the use of state funds for the museum, it is apparent there may be an effort in the community to sink the project.

This was not unexpected. You do not take an issue as politically charged as the Civil War, combine it with millions of tax dollars, and expect smooth sailing. It’s difficult to get state and local government officials on the same page for any project.

So I want to know what you think. In light of these developments, here’s some polling. Please vote. It’s anonymous.

Image result for hunley torpedo
Casing of Hunley’s Exploded Torpedo

Museums, Vetoes, and How the Sausage Gets Made

There are many balls in the air right now in the North Carolina legislature. Where several will land depend upon the whims of “moderate” democratic legislators. These men and women are the new “swing votes” that are needed by House and Senate Republicans to override a veto of any bill by Governor Cooper.

With this power comes great….well….power.

Image result for ben clark

We saw this play out in Cumberland County this week. African American and Democratic State Senator Ben Clark voted in favor of the Republican budget in the Senate. Why did he do it? A few lines from Paul Wolverton’s recent column may shed some light:

“On Facebook, Clark outlined things that drew his favor:

– $2.5 million for infrastructure at Fayetteville State University.

– $1 million to build an annex for the Hoke County Courthouse.

– Public School Construction money — $35 million for Cumberland County and $18 million for Hoke County.

– $20 million for construction at Fayetteville Technical Community College and $6.5 million for Sandhills Community College.

“It’s notable that neither the Fayetteville State University money nor the Hoke County Courthouse money were originally in the budget. Clark said he requested those two items.”

In sum, Clark got “his” or “his District’s” (whichever way you want to think about it) and was satisfied enough to vote with Republicans. A pessimistic person might say that Clark “sold out.” A practical person might say that’s how the sausage is made and Hoke and Cumberland could use a little pork right now.

Regardless, we have a lesson in how Republicans can accomplish their major priorities and weaken Governor Cooper by throwing bones to swing Democrats.

Now take that lesson and apply it to a bigger project with more money on the line: The Civil War Museum planned for Fayetteville:

Image result for nc civil war museum legislation fayetteville

Representative John Szoka introduced legislation to fund the museum back in April ($55 million over the next two years). Not much has happened with his legislation. More importantly, there’s no mention of the museum in the current Senate budget online.

If this is going to get done, someone from the Cumberland County delegation is going to have to use political capital to make it happen. Either Szoka has enough swing within his own party to get the museum funded, or some Democratic legislator from Cumberland will agree to override Cooper’s veto if the money’s included. Senator Clark has already used up his capital by voting for a budget that didn’t include the funds for the museum, so look elsewhere.

If you’re frustrated, the mayor of Fayetteville shares your concerns:

I wrote about Colvin’s about-face on the museum project in an earlier post. In light of what is happening in this year’s budget process, Colvin’s starting to make a lot of sense. His suggestion for our local delegation: use your political capital wisely on things we absolutely need, and we have lots of needs in Cumberland County right now.


It will be interesting to see whether local Democrats can join forces with Szoka and get the $55 million for Fayetteville. Maybe the more important question is what they will trade in the process. Does it mean siding against their Governor, effectively stripping him of his veto power? We’ll know soon enough.

Image result for sausage making

Whether you like it or not, this is how deals get done on Jones Street. Now’s the time to place your bet on how much cash trickles down I-40, merges onto 95-South, and finds a place at the top of Haymount Hill.

A Civil War Around the Center

This site has been live for over a year now.   I have posted over 80 different articles covering a range of topics, many controversial in nature.  To this point, I have only taken down one.  It was a post entitled “Leave it in the Dirt” in which I criticized the new Civil War Center being built in Fayetteville.  I took it down because it angered and upset certain people who support the museum.  For context, here’s how the post ended:

Instead of reading the tea leaves that say, very clearly, that young people are fed up with North Carolina’s celebration of the confederacy, Fayetteville has chosen a new path in the exact same direction.   Yes, we’re going to take this emotionally charged, painful history and put a shiny new cover on it and tell “both sides of the story” in our “museum of the future.”

The problem with the “museum of the future” is that it celebrates the past when it’s way past time to move forward.  It’s way past time to move on.

Leave it in the dirt where it belongs.

I take some pride in standing by my opinions, but I didn’t in this case.  The conflict didn’t seem worth it, and I retreated with a click of my mouse.  But I knew the battle would go on, and so I was not surprised when the museum found its way back into the news this week.

Colvin Steps into the Breach

On April 30, the mayor of Fayetteville stirred up a skirmish over the new museum, questioning the project’s funding on his Facebook page:


Colvin’s argument is that the state’s money could be better spent on more pressing issues.  He was interviewed about his comments by local news sources, and here’s some of the media coverage that ensued:

Fayetteville Mayor Criticizes State’s History Center Proposal (Fayobserver)

Fayetteville Mayor: State Funding For History Center Overlooks Community Needs (WUNC)

$46 million proposal for Civil War museum draws concern from city leaders (WTVD)

Representative John Szoka, the sponsor of the legislation funding the center, said he was “perplexed” by Colvin’s position because the Fayetteville City Council had unanimously supported the project in the past.  Szoka’s correct.  Here’s Colvin with a golden shovel in his hand (along with Rep. Szoka and others) at the groundbreaking ceremony a year ago:

EP-180417886Szoka was quick to defend the project’s economic impact.  He believes the museum will be a tourist destination, drawing visitors from across the state.

Colvin didn’t back down from his new position.  Apparently liking the sting of this battle, he doubled down last night with another Facebook post:colvin-2-e1556889100169.pngFirst, let me point out how profound this is politically.  There is a bill in a state legislature to give a municipality over 55 million for a construction project in the municipality.  This is free money.  Just, here you go, have 55 million dollars.

The mayor of that municipality is now publicly chiding the expenditure, saying the money should be spent on other things like Florence relief and infrastructure.  He’s basically telling state legislators how to do their job, a “thanks, but no thanks,” if you will.

“Increase Our Divide”

At the groundbreaking ceremony that Colvin attended, Former Governor Jim Martin told the crowd that he prayed the museum “would be an instrument of healing through our part of a divided country.”  Colvin himself stated “this was something that will bring us together, not increase our divide.”

So why is Colvin now challenging the project after publicly supporting it?

There are two ways to look at Colvin’s actions, one is the raw political take, the other is the human side:

It’s easy to see Colvin’s actions as political hedge.  This project has been controversial in the African American community from the start.  It’s going to be built on the top of  Haymont Hill, the site of the old Confederate Arsenel.  By criticizing the project without really challenging it, Colvin is giving lip service to those critics.  He’s also giving red meat to Hurricane Florence victims who are fed up with government in general right now.  You could also argue that Colvin is trying to change the narrative, shift blame, or rally people to his side.  It could be any of these things.

But I think it’s deeper than all that.

I think Colvin, like me, is personally conflicted about the entire project.  He admitted at the groundbreaking ceremony that it was “difficult” for him to embrace the museum initially, but he came around when he learned that it would tell the full story of the war and its aftermath, including its impact on African Americans.  Now he’s trying to “unembrace” it.  Unfortunately, politicians (unlike bloggers) don’t get to “unembrace” ideas with the click of a mouse.

And so I’m left with the same take I had when I wrote about this project a year ago.  This museum, although it has admirable goals, will not bring people together.  The Civil War, by its nature, cannot do that.  It is and always will be about race.  We cannot “tell both sides” without making a moral judgment about one of them, and there is only one right side of this history.  Fayetteville wasn’t on it in 1860.

Charlottesville, Chapel Hill, and recent presidential politics have demonstrated that our nation is still grappling with this debate, and our state and local leaders have made a policy decision to bring the debate, front and center, to Fayetteville.

Maybe Colvin’s right that our resources could be better spent on other things.  I guess he should have left that golden shovel in the dirt where it belongs?  Instead, he’s using it to dig a trench between our community and our state delegation.

The Cross Creek Divide just got a little bit wider.  But don’t worry, there’s still “very fine people on both sides.”

The Weight (NC-09)

After months of trying to convince North Carolinians and the State Board of Elections that his victory in the 9th Congressional District was legitimate, Mark Harris did an about-face and called for a new election at the tail end of a multi-day hearing that was investigating the fraud in his campaign.

The State Board unanimously agreed with Harris, so we’ve got a “do-over” coming up in southern North Carolina.  The question has arisen whether Harris will run again.  After all, he’d be the favorite in a special election against Democrat Dan McCready, despite all that’s happened.

Harris won’t run again, and the reason is weight:

Politics is a cutthroat, vicious game.  At times, it can turn into a disease, and the disease (like cancer, alcoholism, or depression) has a way of affecting everyone around it.  Real values are put on hold for a few months in an “ends justify the means” game to get elected.  After all, we’re the ones fighting for what’s right, right?

Harris’s son stood up to the game at the Board of Elections hearing and said, “enough!”    He testified under oath that he warned his father about McRae Dowless’s history, contradicting his father’s story that he didn’t know about the man’s past or that his ballot scheme was illegal.  Harris, overwhelmed, cried at the end of his son’s testimony:

This isn’t something you see everyday, and it was good political theater for state and national news.  But this wasn’t acting.  This was a man calling out his father, asking him if he wants to win at all costs, asking him if he’s willing to go that far, and perhaps more importantly, whether he practices what he preaches.

In short, this was weight, and you saw it all come down on a man, a father and a Minister.  And then he gave into it:

“I believe a new election should be called,” Harris said. “It has become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the 9th District’s general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”

Harris, citing recent strokes and other health concerns said he isn’t sure what he will do.


You can almost feel that weight, can’t you?

It’s too much for any decent man to carry.