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Historical Civil War encampment opens Friday Oct. 11

By Robert Kelly - Goss

The Daily Advance

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The Civil War wrought havoc throughout the region, and Currituck County was no different.

When Union forces swept through the Albemarle, the region became occupied territory, rife with skirmishes that would take lives and destroy communities.

It is a dark period in the history of the region, and the nation. It’s something that will be commemorated next weekend in Currituck County.

According to Currituck’s director of tourism, Diane Nordstrom, the county is anticipating a large turnout next weekend at an event that will encompass the grounds surrounding the historic county courthouse, edging up against the Currituck Sound.

Currituck County historian Barbara Snowden says it will be an event that highlights the history, but does not commemorate any one battle, or event, such as the Battle of Elizabeth City.

“There was not a fight,” explains Snowden. “There were skirmishes. There was one at the Coinjock Canal, Indian Creek and Moyock.”

The fall of Currituck came along with the rest of the region. First there was the battle at Hatteras Island. That area fell to Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s troops.

Then Burnside’s Expedition, as it was know, made its way to Roanoke Island and the Union took that. They made their way through the canals and backwaters, up to Elizabeth City where they took that town as well.

Along the way Union troops settled into the Currituck County Courthouse, the location of a Confederate Army recruiting station prior to the occupation.

The event next weekend, known as Two Flags Over Currituck, will be spread out along the green across from the courthouse, next to the courthouse and down to the ferry dock along the sound.

There will be a Union and Confederate encampment, occupied by re-enactors from Virginia. The troops will set up and live on site, as they would have in 1863.

There will be a cavalry unit from Virginia. They will demonstrate the equipment used by horsemen during the war.

Another re-enactment group will represent Borough’s Partisan Rangers, a guerilla group that operated out of Knotts Island.

A man from Rocky Mount will portray famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady.

“He will display prints,” says Snowden. “He will talk about Brady.”

He will also show equipment and explain how Brady took the early photographs using glass plates.

There will also be a cooking demonstration, a storyteller and there will be man singing sailor songs.

“There will be a variety of exhibits in the old jail,” said Snowden, who will be on hand to talk about the history of the jail and the courthouse.

Although the encampment will represent members of the regular army from both the North and the South, Snowden explains that while the Union’s regular troops occupied the area, for the Confederate’s part, it was primarily a guerilla war fought by irregular, or partisan troops.

Guerilla Island in Currituck Sound is one example, she says, of the places where these Confederate partisans would hide and fight.

The area was also known far and wide for its salt production and that made it invaluable to both Union and Confederate forces. Salt was the primary source of preserving much needed meat.

The salt would be boiled from local saltwater and separated. The union troops would raid the area looking for these operations, resulting in those small skirmishes.

The biggest skirmishes, says Snowden, took place at Indian Town.

In the Virginia Military Institute Archives exists a collection of letters written by Currituck County’s Joseph B. Morgan to his son, VMI Cadet Patrick Morgan during the war. The Morgans were from Indian Town.

“The enemy occasionally makes raids upon us and plunder and destroy our property,” Wrote Joseph Morgan on Jan. 28, 1863. “A few weeks ago they came over to Indian Town and burned all the buildings on Dr. Marchant’s place, opposite where he used to live, together with the academy and plundered several citizens, taking horses, carts, salt and corn. They have since removed from Shiloh and have made their headquarters at E. City.”

Other letters by Morgan describe the killing of Tom Cox and his family in Pasquotank County, and the “desperate and the inhuman conduct of our enemies,” that, he wrote, drove men to become guerilla fighters.

The collection has other letters by Morgan describing the times. They can be found by going to www.VMI.edu and typing “Currituck” into their archives search option.

The commemoration of such events won’t be as solemn and dark as the times themselves. They promise, says Snowden, to be an enlightening look at a pivotal point in the history of the United States.

The entire event is free. Snowden says parking will be available at the Judicial Complex located on Highway 168. A shuttle will be provided to and from the parking area.

She recommends that people bring lunch since no vendor had been secured for the sale of food.

Two Flags Over Currituck happens Friday through Saturday and opens at 10:30 a.m. each day. For more information go to www.visitcurrituck.com.