History geeks will love what’s coming up next weekend. Not only will there be the annual display of living history in front of Museum of the Albemarle, but a very significant artifact is being permanently introduced to the “Our Story” exhibit.
According to information provided by MOA curator Wanda Stiles, back in 2000 archeologists from the North Carolina Underwater Archeology Unit and East Carolina University’s Maritime Studies program looked deep into the murky waters of the Pasquotank River. What they eventually found were artifacts from the Civil War Battle of Elizabeth City, most specifically the gun carriage from the Confederate ship, Black Warrior.
After the Confederate defeat at Roanoke Island, their navy’s “Mosquito Fleet” gathered at the mouth of the Pasquotank River to meet the Union ships once again. The fleet was a collection of disparate ships drafted into service by the Confederate army.
The Black Warrior was a 92-foot, 144-ton two-masted schooner. It had previously been named the M.C. Etheridge.
The schooner was outfitted with two, 32-pound navy smoothbore guns.
The cannon fire along the Pasquotank River echoed through the region on the morning of Feb. 10, 1862. The U.S. Navy led by Com. S.C. Rowan and 14 Union ships quickly defeated the six Confederate ships led by Flag Officer William F. Lynch.
The Battle of Elizabeth City, off of what was then known as Hospital Point – the location of Riverwind Apartments – saw all but two Confederate ships sink or captured. The crew of the Black Warrior, in an effort to not be captured, set fire to the ship and swam to shore.
After the discovery of a ceramic shard that could be dated to the time of the battle, the archeologists continued their search for artifacts. The gun carriage was found just off “Hospital Point,” in seven feet of water, standing upright.
Museum of the Albemarle wanted to recover the gun carriage. The artifact would have to be hoisted from the water and conservation efforts would have to be employed to preserve the wooden cannon cradle.
After extensive conservation efforts, the carriage returned home to Elizabeth City several weeks ago. It will have a permanent home in the “Our Story” exhibit, in the Civil War display.
The unveiling of the gun carriage will happen next Saturday during the museum’s annual living history event, commemorating this region’s role in the War Between the States. The entire day kicks off at 10 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m.
In addition, the “Under Both Flags” exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War will be open. And the Members of the Tar Heel Civilians, a North Carolina Civil War reenactment group, will present programs that bring the civilian aspect of the wartime era to life. The group will explore the hardships and depravation of the war by featuring living history presentations by navy and artillery, and civilian re-enactors.
Union and Confederate historians will explore life during that tumultuous period. Throughout the day, visitors will have the opportunity to gather with the troops and practice drills.
There will be displays and discussions by local collectors and historians, including Union identification badges, rare Confederate firearms, photographs, medical equipment, local battles and the role of military in the war.
Tents will be set up, offering memorabilia and 1860 clothing for sale.
There will be a sing along with the Tar River Dulcimers. They will perform from noon until 3:30 p.m. Junior docents will be leading visitors in period dances and games.
There will also be a series of lectures and book signings beginning at 11 a.m.
Camden County’s “unofficial” historian Alex Leary will present “The Mosquito Fleet,” at 11 a.m. Leary is a former high school history teacher and expert on local history with an emphasis on Civil War history.
Brenda McKean will sign her book, “Blood and War at My Doorstep: North Carolina Civilians in the War Between the States.”
Young adult readers can meet writer Deanna Klingel. She is the author of “Avery’s Battlefield” and “Avery’s Crossroads.” Also on hand will be author John Bushmore with his book, “Boy in Chains.”
Elizabeth City native and historian with the State Archives of North Carolina, Chris Meekins, will present “The Murder of Thad Cox: A Tale Re-Told.”
Cox died on Feb. 9, 1863. The story has been told over the last century and a half as a cautionary tale about a traitor and a coward. Thad’s crime? He was a North Carolina Union volunteer.
Meekins began researching for the book and slowly the story presented itself as a challenging narrative. To find out what happened to Cox, come to Meekins’ presentation at 1:30 p.m.