The Killing Field Where Corporal Welborn Died

A period rendition of Racoon Ford on the Rapidan River, Harpers Weekly online.

Interpretative marker at Payne's Farm battlefield.
News clip from the High Point, N.C. Enterprise, 1953, telling of historic significance of the Bell-Welborn cemetery.

Edge Of Obscurity:  Tracking The Ailing Confederate
Go to main page for this latest blog posting.  Copyright, B.J. Welborn

Today, row homes watch over the former
site of  Winder Hospital in Richmond, Va.
Possibly nothing remains of the hospital after 150 years
but a couple of renovated wards used as residences.
Local historians, however, debate whether any trace
of Winder has survived modern development.
The Virginia Home, a long-term,
residential care facility, rises above
this community between Robert Byrd Park
and Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
Nearly 5,000 sick soldiers were being treated
on any given day during the Civil War
in this area along the James River where
Winder Hospital once stood.

This  public specialty school represents everyday life today
in the neighborhood Winder Hospital once occupied.
Residents this writer interviewed during a recent
visit were unaware that the Confederacy's largest
 hospital operated 150 years ago where they now live.
Nothing officially marks the hospital site.  
Civil War hospital wards often were crowded
and full of misery and boredom, as was Winder
Hospital.  My ancestor, William Welborn, was
recuperating from an illness in December 1864, when
he wrote a letter to his father in Randolph County, N.C.
This photo was taken in April 1865 at
a hospital near Alexandria, Va. Photo, courtesy
Library of Congress.

Finding Sherman Amidst The Lions And Tigers And Bears
Go to main page for this latest blog posting.

Another view of the ruins of the
Columbia Cotton Mill along the
Saluda River, Columbia, S.C. The
1834 textile factory turned out goods
for the Confederate cause during
the American Civil War.
The Saluda River flows tranquilly under the pedestrian/tram bridge
at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden recently. The bluff where
Sherman's troops encamped lies at the upper left. Evidence of
15,000 years of human habitation have been found in the
Saluda River Valley.  Photo looks northwest.
This monument to Union General Sherman
stands watch in New York City's Central
Park. The bronze tribute is one of many
across America, including one in Washington,
D.C. Photo,  Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.    
The "General Sherman" towers over the other trees
in Sequoia National Park in California.  The giant
sequoia is the largest known, living single-stem tree
 on Earth. The tree was named after Gen. William
Tecumseh Sherman in 1879
by the naturalist James Wolverton,
who had served as a lieutenant
in the 9th Indiana Cavalry under Sherman.
Photo, National Park Service.


"Sherman Sites" bus tour guide Tom Elmore tells Civil War
enthusiasts about Sherman's Rock recently.  The Riverbanks
Zoo and Gardens near Columbia, S.C. now protects
the granite ledge where the Union General might, or might not, have slept before descending on the S.C. capital in 1865.
Photo, Barry Ahrendt.  

From Earlier Blogs:
Second page of the autographs of surviving
WWII Tuskegee Airmen I collected in 2004
while attending a vintage air show in Camden, S.C.
See latest blog (Dec. 2012) for first page of signatures.

Misty Battlefields And Myths of Lesser People

Aerial view of the Tuskegee Airfield, where
the Tuskegee Airmen trained during World War II
in rural Alabama, 1943. Photo, U.S.
Army Airforces via Wikipedia. When I visited
the now privately owned airfield several
years ago, surviving buildings were falling
into ruin amid eerie silence. 
The memorial to Col. Robert Gould Shaw by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Shaw, of Boston, led the 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment, which suffered heavy
casualties during the Civil War.  The story of the regiment's unsuccessful attack on Confederate-held
Fort Wagner near Charleston, S.C., is told in the movie, "Glory." 

Booker T. Washington, a former slave and famous proponent
of education for African Americans. Washington helped found the Tuskegee
Normal and Industrial Institute, known today as Tuskegee University,
in 1881. When the memorial to Col. Robert Shaw, who led the 54th Massachuetts
Colored Regiment during the Civil War, was dedicated in Boston in 1897,
Washington delivered a moving address to the crowd. The Tuskegee Airfield
is located near Washington's educational institution and home, The Oaks, in Alabama.
The Oaks, a National Historic Site, was built of bricks made by Tuskegee
students and faculty. The National Park Service restored the 1899 house in 1980.
Washington, who wrote "Up From Slavery," died in The Oaks in 1915.

Gravestone of my ancestral cousin Robert Welborn Pickens, and his wife,
Kate Wigington, to whom Pickens was married 65 years. Widower Pickens wrote a poem
titled "Lonely and Bereft," in Kate's memory. (See LETTERS page.) He also claimed that as a teen,
he guarded the legendary "Confederate Gold" in Anderson, S. C.  Pickens,
born Aug. 31, 1847, died at age 100 on Feb. 19, 1948. He reportedly was the
oldest surviving Confederate soldier in the Upstate when he died. 

'Lonely And Bereft' Soldier Burnishes His Legend
This historic marker shows where Confederate veteran
Robert Welborn Pickens is buried. Pickens wrote to his mother's
Welborn relatives that he could see this cemetery,
where his American Revolution
ancestors were buried, from his home near Easley, S.C.
Photo: Find-A-Grave, thanks to Herb Parham III
View of the Pickens family cemetery
in Upstate South Carolina
Photo, Find-A-Grave
Col. Robert Welborn Pickens at home in rural
Upstate South Carolina,  circa 1945. Pickens burnished
his legend and the legend of the "Confederate Gold" when
he told a local newspaper that as a teen, he guarded kegs of
the rebel treasury hidden in a train car in Anderson, S.C. 
Confederate President Jeff Davis
fled from Virginia through the Carolinas
to Georgia as Lee surrendered to Grant
in April 1865. This marker near Abbeville, S.C.,
 and other markers along Davis' escape route testify to this part of
American Civil War history. But where lies the legendary
Confederate Gold that might have accompanied Davis?

Suffering and Death: Civil War Prisons
A period drawing of the infamous Andersonville Prison in remote
Georgia, where 13,000 men died. Late in war, after the end of prisoner exchanges,
prisoner-of-war camps like this one became cauldrons of deprivation, disease and death,
horrendous conditions worse that on the battlefield.
Today the National Historic Site is home to a national cemetery.
Photo, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. 

The "Deadline" at  prisoner of war camps
stood about 17 feet from the prison walls.
 If a prisoner crossed the deadline, guards
would shoot him on sight. My Confederate ancestor
Robert Welborn likely wrote
 about a prisoner crossing the deadline
at Confederate Camp Weldon in a letter to his father
Joseph in 1864.  The term "deadline," it seems,
was first used in America during the Civil  War.  I took
this photo when I visited Andersonville a while back. 
Graves of known and unknown warriors
fill the landscape at the former Confederate
prison in Salisbury, N.C. It was reported that
nearly 12,000 prisoners died here during
the Civil War, but later research claims
the true number was closer to 5,000.
 The Salisbury Confederate Prison Association
has more facts.  Photo, National Park Service.
I found this monument at the Salisbury Confederate Prison site particularly moving when I visited recently. The monument says 11,700 former POWS are buried in 18 trenches on the grounds, a number rivaling the high death rate at the infamous Andersonville Prison.  Scholars dispute that death toll, publicized about eight years after the Civil War's end.  I recently visited Salisbury Confederate
Prison and Historic National Cemetery, off I-85 in central North Carolina, once guarded by young
soldiers of the N.C. Junior Reserves.  My ancestral cousin, Robert Welborn, drafted into the
Junior Reserves in 1864, likely left active duty before that time. Little remains of the prison today.
Union  Gen. George Stoneman burned down the empty prison and buildings in 1865. Photo, B.J. Welborn.
Plaque at Salisbury (N.C.) National Cemetery.  About 400,000 men
suffered in prisoner-of-war camps, many hastily erected, in both the North and the South.
At Elmira prison in Upstate New York, it's estimated that 25 percent of the men imprisoned there died,
also close to the estimated 29 percent of prisoners who died at Andersonville. Photo, B.J. Welborn.

The Claustrophobia of the Confederate Sub Hunley
The model of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley
dominates the third floor of the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia.
The model was built largely according to the image captured in the
famous 1863 oil painting by Conrad Wise Chapman.  The actual iron
submarine, rescued from the ocean floor in 2000, is slightly longer.
The bow, seen here attached to the top of the model's nose, actually was
fastened at the bottom, below the water surface.  The bow carried the "spar torpedo"
that the sub rammed into he hull of the Federal blockader Housatonic in February 1864.
The Housatonic sank within three minutes. 
If you look carefully, you'll see a mannequin, clad in a Confederate sailor uniform, atop
the model of the Hunley, looking as if he is about to enter the submarine
via one of its two cast-iron hatches. Learn more about South Carolina State Museum exhibits
and activities planned for the Civil War Sesquicentennial by clicking here

Searching for Civil War Truth, James River, Virginia
View of James River, south of Richmond, today. The red buoy,
 about 300 yards downstream from the foot of Drewry's Bluff,
 marks where Confederates built obstacles to deter Union
gunboats in the Civil War.  Confederates drove
rows of pilings into the riverbed. Then they sunk huge crates of stone
and scrap iron between them to form barriers across the river, wider than
a football field at this point.  In the 1862 Battle of Drewry's Bluff,
 the frustrated Federal navy suffered a barrage
 of gunfire from the bluff and retreated.
Historic Civil War photo of Confederate quarters at Drewry's Bluff.
Union soldiers dubbed the battery "Fort Darling." 
A display at the Richmond National Battlefield Park visitor center,
    in the former Tredegar Iron Works building, shows destruction
        of the Confederate capital near the end of the Civil War.

A Tale of Two Southern Cities
Historical photo of the
Confederate White House, Richmond.
The Confederate capital, Richmond,
during the American Civil War. 
Depiction of the U.S. arsenal in Fayetteville, N.C., during  the Civil War, when it was used by the  Confederacy. Sherman's troops reduced the arsenal to rubble in 1865.  Construction of a highway loop in 1988
nearly finished off the site, now part of the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex.  
The 1832 Market House stands at the center of a rotary dominating Hay Street.  When I was growing up in nearby
Dunn, N.C., we called the historic structure that once served as Fayetteville's Town Hall "the old slave market." 
The former Tredegar Ironworks along the James River today serves as headquarters for
Richmond National Battlefield Park.  Tredegar in the 1860s was the most important supplier
of rail products, bridge sections, munitions and cannon to the Confederacy.  It also
produced armor plating for two ironclad gunships, the CSS Virginia II and the CSS Fredericksburg.
My ancestor, David Lindsay Welborn, wrote a letter to his father, Joseph Welborn,
while serving aboard the Fredericksburg in 1864. (More on PREVIEWS page.)

My Friday Evening in Georgetown

One of many tree-lined streets in the historic seaport,
Georgetown , South Carolina.  I gave a presentation titled
"Gray Ghosts" here  on a recent Friday night.

Prominent architect Robert Mills
designed Georgetown's  historic courthouse,
built in 1823-1824.  I talked to a crowd
of about 75 history lovers in the
old courtroom upstairs.

Early arrivals wait to hear about my Civil War Odyssey
in Georgetown's historic courthouse recently.

The Blood-Stained Chair In Dearborn
Scene from Greenfield Village historic
park in Dearborn, Michigan

The Lincoln assassination in Ford's Theater
depicted by  Currier and Ives.  President Lincoln sits
in the famous rocking chair now displayed
at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.
Mary Todd Lincoln, center; John Wilkes Booth
at right.
John Wilkes Booth, courtesy Library of Congress.
The Long Shadow of Fort Sumter
From a display at Fort Sumter National Monument
Battered interior of Fort Sumter
150 years after bombardment. (National
Park Service photo)
Charleston, S.C., waterfront as seen from boat
heading to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor (top).
Bottom: You can learn of Fort Sumter's dramatic story
through many displays at the fort's remains. 

One Soldier's Matter of the Heart

This monument to Lyndon Welborn's great-grandmother,
Martha McGee Bell (Pa Joseph's grandmother) dominates
the Bell-Welborn family cemetery near Lyndon's grave. Martha Bell
functioned as a Patriot spy in the American Revolution.
The Welborn family marker in the historic Bell-Welborn Cemetery
in rural Randolph County, N.C.

                              Not All "Southerners" Lost The War

Slave States and Free States. Map courtesy Lincoln 
Home National Historic Site. Information 
for the map was obtained from the Abraham 
Lincoln Historical Digitization 
website at 
(Scroll for more photos.)


Sojourner Truth, a
freed slave, asked
crowds, "Ain't I A

Surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon determined the borders
 of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and W. Virginia, then part
of Virginia to settle a border dispute (1763-1767).
The Mason-Dixon line came to symbolize a cultural border.   

Ready. Aim. Fire!

Reenactment of Union Gen. William T. Sherman's Troops firing on State House in Columbia, S.C. See ARCHIVES,  Feb.
 blog post for details on "Columbia's Longest  Days."

Union re-enactors fired from the west bank
of the Congaree River in downtown Columbia.

For more on Sherman in Columbia, go, as well as

America Remembers Lincoln

Tributes to our 16th President Abraham Lincoln dot America from coast to coast.  From Washington, D.C. to Gettysburg, Penn., to Hodgenville, Ky., to  Keystone, S.D., to Long Beach, Calif., you'll find that  some of the most impressive monuments on the continent were erected to honor the man who guided the Union through the Civil War.
Here's a sampling:
The Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Ill.
preserves the house where Lincoln lived for 17years. For
more go to
Above:  Sign at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania.
Mount Rushmore in the  Black Hills of South  Dakota depicts
the heads of four U.S. presidents and tells the story of
America: Washington (founding), Jefferson (growt),
Roosevelt (development), and Lincoln, far right, (preservation).
Gutzon Borglum, who designed Stone Mountain in Georgia
to honor Confederate heroes, carved the monument.
Go to

To learn about the two dozen or more sites along the multi-state Lincoln Heritage Trail, check out my book America's Best Historic Sites:  101 Terrific Places To Take The Family (Chicago Review Press 1998).  Go to

The Lincoln Tomb north of Springfield, Ill.,  houses the
graves of Lincoln and his family.  The obelisk towers
117 feet above the granite tomb, which
visitors can enter. It's said that if you
rub the nose on the bronze Lincoln head
at the entrance, you'll have good luck. Go to
The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site near Hodgenville, Ky., right, has 56 granite
steps, one for each year of the President's life.  Photo at left shows replica of Lincoln's log cabin boyhood home at nearby Knob Creek, Ky.  Go to

Wilkesboro, N.C.: Stories of Blue Ridge Past
I visited Wilkesboro, N.C., about an hour west of Winston-Salem in the Blue Ridge hills, to discover more about my Confederate ancestors.  My thanks to the folks at the Wilkes Heritage Museum, housed in the 1902 Wilkes County Courthouse building, and to Faye Byrd at the James Larkin Pearson Library of Wilkes Community College. 

Here are a few things that might interest you about the town, population about 3,200, famous for its history of moonshine and stock car racing. The museum, at 100 E. Main St, will kick off a Civil War exhibition April 1, 2011.

The Old Wilkes Jail (1860) was new when my Confederate ancestor, Lyndon M. Welborn, volunteered for duty in the Wilkesboro public square. Lyndon was a private in Company B, First Regiment of North Carolina Troops. A monument,  outside the jail today honors Wilkes' Confederate Dead.  The monument stands outside the old jail, near settler Robert Cleveland's log home (1780s).  Cleveland fought in the American Revolution. The 1790 Census shows
 24 people living on Cleveland's premises, including 10 slaves.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church (1849), where I surmise Lyndon Welborn
and his fellow Confederate volunteers - all said to be more than
 six feet tall - might have worshiped before heading to Raleigh,
N.C., state capital, for training. The captain of Lyndon's regiment,
J.B. Gordon, is buried on the church grounds. For more, go to
Something I found in the
James Larkin Pearson Library
of Wilkes Community College. To
hear the Confederate Anthem, go to

Eng and Chang Bunker, the seminal "Siamese Twins," who retired to Wilkes County.  For more go to or

Tom Dula's grave in Wilkes County is not open to the public. Dula,
an impoverished Confederate veteran, was convicted of brutally
murdering his lover, Laura Frost. He is immortalized in a folk
song "Tom Dooley" by the Kingston Trio. Hear the sixties tune at 

Columbia, S.C.: Symbol of A Fading Confederacy
NOTE: These photos reflect only a small number of reminders of South Carolina's Civil War past. I'll post more photos as the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War progresses. 

First Baptist Church downtown, where S.C. leaders met to debate secession in 1860.

Confederate Woman's Monument
erected 1912, south side of S.C. State House

Two of the six bronze stars on exterior of S.C. State House marking hits by Sherman's cannons in 1865. (Center and beneath right window.)

Statue of Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton III, right, at State House. Robert E. Lee Tree, left, is a Southern magnolia tree on S.C. State House lawn.

Former Confederate Printing Plant at Corner of Gervais
and Huger Streets Near State House

I took this photo (left) of my brother, Ed Welborn Jr., when he was 21. The right photo is of my father, Ed Welborn, upon graduation from high school.  I imagine my Confederate ancestor, Lyndon McGee Welborn, looked somewhat like them.

I’ve pored over Homer’s paintings in Civil War books with a magnifying glass, thinking, is one of these soldiers Lyndon?  Is this guy tall enough?  Does he have the Welborn eyes? – From book-in-progress, Dear Father I’m Sorry To Tell You.

Header photo information: Black and white photos in the blog header were taken by Matthew Brady, courtesy The U.S. National Archives.