North Carolina woman still receives Civil War pension

irene triplett 1

More than 150 years after the end of the War Between the States, the US government continues to pay out pension money connected to the Civil War.

Irene Triplett, a Wilkesboro, NC, woman and the 86-year-old daughter of a Civil War veteran, collects $73.13 each month from her father’s military pension.

Triplett’s father was Mose Triplett, born in Wilkes County, NC, in 1846. He joined the Confederate army in May 1862 as a member of Company K of the 53rd North Carolina Infantry Regiment, at age 16. In 1863, he transferred to Company C of the 26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment.

Later that year, he fell ill with fever and was admitted to a Confederate hospital in Danville, Va. He escaped from the hospital on June 26, 1863, and deserted.

Triplett’s decision to turn his back on the Confederacy enabled him to miss the Battle of Gettysburg, which began less than a week after he slipped out of the Danville hospital, and likely saved his life.

The 26th North Carolina suffered unparalleled casualties at Gettysburg, losing 734 of the approximately 800 men it went into the battle with, according to the David H. McGee’s regimental history of the 26th North Carolina.

The losses suffered by the 26th North Carolina at Gettysburg were the highest of any regiment in a single battle during the 1861-65 conflict.

Mose Triplett's pension card.

Mose Triplett’s pension card.

Triplett is said to have made his way to Knoxville, Tenn., where he joined the 3rd NC Mounted Infantry, a Union regiment, in the summer of 1864. He began receiving a pension of his own in 1885, as an invalid.

Triplett’s first wife died without the pair having any children.

At age 78, Triplett married Lydia “Elida” Hall, who then 28. They had five children, three of whom did not survive infancy. But Irene, and her younger brother Everette, did. Mose Triplett was 83 when Irene was born and nearly 87 when her brother Everette came along.

Mose Triplett, who lived into his early 90s, eventually made it to Gettysburg, attending the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1938. But he died a few days after returning from the event.

With the Great Depression still lingering, times weren’t easy for a single mother with two children. In 1943, Elida and Irene went to live in public housing, while Everette ran away, according to the website theveteransite.com.

Sadly, Irene Triplett, who was born disabled, did not have a happy childhood, she told The Wall Street Journal in 2014.

“I didn’t care for neither one of them, to tell you the truth about it,” she said referring to her parents. She noted she was often abused. “I wanted to get away from both of them. I wanted to get me a house and crawl in it all by myself.”

Elida Triplett died in 1967. Everette Triplett died in 1996.

When US News & World Report recently reached out to the Department of Veterans Affairs for updated information on Triplett, a spokesman indicated the family did not wish to be contacted.

(Irene Triplett with historian Jerry Orton in 2010. Photo credit: The Daily Telegraph.)

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Recalling an honest man, ‘the noblest work of God’

old waxhaw graveyard

A number of notable individuals are interred at Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church Cemetery in South Carolina’s Lancaster County, just south of the North Carolina state line.

These include Andrew Jackson Sr., the father of the seventh US president; William Richardson Davie, who led American troops in the Revolutionary War, served as governor of North Carolina and is considered the founder of the University of North Carolina; and James Witherspoon, lieutenant governor of South Carolina from 1826-28.

One individual who doesn’t garner the recognition of the above but is certainly worthy of acknowledgement is William Blair, who came from Ireland to the US in the early 1770s.

Like many of the men buried at Old Waxhaw, Blair served the American cause in the Revolution. His contributions are etched onto the horizontal slab that sits atop a “chest tomb,” a brick and mortar edifice constructed over his grave.

Blair’s epitaph contains more than 300 words, engraved in fine script that must have taken a stone carver a fair bit of time to craft.

It details the date of Blair’s birth and death, that he arrived from County Atrium at age 13 and that he was preceded in death by his wife Sarah, who rests next to him.

What’s of particular note, however, is the description of Blair’s involvement in the American Revolution, and his life afterward:

“He was a Revolutionary Patriot: – And in the humble Stations of private Soldier and Waggon master. it is believed he Contributed more essentially to the Establishment of American Independence than many whose names are proudly emblazoned on the page of History. With his Father’s waggon he assisted in transporting the baggage of the American Army for several months. – He was also in the battles of the Hanging Rock. – The Eutaw, Ratliff’s bridge, Stono – and the Fish dam ford on broad river. …”

View of William Blair's gravestone at Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Click to see bigger image.

View of William Blair’s gravestone at Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Click to see bigger image.

The engagements referred to are the battles of Hanging Rock, Aug. 6, 1780; Eutaw Springs, Sept. 8, 1781; Ratliff’s or Radcliff’s Bridge, March 6, 1781; Stono Ferry, June 20, 1779; and Fishdam Ford, Nov. 9, 1780.

Given that there were more battles and skirmishes fought in South Carolina than any other American colony during the Revolution, it’s almost a certainty that Blair saw action at other encounters, as well.

Just as interesting is what follows after the details of Blair’s service:

“In one of these battles (it is not recollected which) he received a slight wound: but so far from regarding it, either then or afterwards, when it was intimated to him that he might avail himself of the bounty of his Country and draw a Pension (as many of his Camp associates had done) he declared that, if the small Competence he then possessed failed him, he was both able and willing to work for his living; and if it became necessary, to fight for his Country without a penny of pay. He was in the Language of Pope, The noblest work of God – an honest man. ‘No farther seek his merits to disclose, Or draw his frailties from their dread abode; (There they alike in trembling hope repose) The bosom of his Father and his God.’”

Blair died on July 2, 1824, at age 65. He and his wife Sarah had seven children, including one son, James, who served four terms in Congress.

Today, Americans remember the likes of George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette and John Paul Jones when they’re able to recall any military leaders from the Revolution War at all.

But were it not for William Blair and thousands of others like him, men who served dutifully during the conflict and then quietly went about the business of building a nation, it’s difficult to imagine that the Founding Fathers’ ambitions would have ever been realized.

(Top: View of Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Lancaster County, SC.)

A memorable finale not always all it’s cracked up to be

John King 2

Some desire an impressive demise, that they may be remembered by posterity. Sometimes, though, a conspicuous passing not only comes at a heavy price, but leaves a melancholy shadow for future generations.

Take John King. He’s buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte, NC. His grave marker depicts an artfully designed elephant and palm tree carved into a marble shaft. It reads:

“Erected by the members of the John Robinson Circus in memory of John King. Killed at Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 27, 1880 by the elephant CHIEF. May he rest in peace.”

King was an elephant trainer and Chief one of seven elephants that were part of the John Robinson Circus, a family-owned circus that toured the country from 1842 until 1911.

Chief, described as a large bull elephant, was apparently a handful and not fond of King. However, all the other elephants in the circus were said to love their trainer, who was quite accomplished at his trade, according to a story the New Orleans Picayune ran more than a quarter century after the event, based on a 1907 interview with an individual who was on hand when King was killed.

One elephant in particular, named Mary, was said to be “crazy” about King, and would “trumpet with delight whenever she saw him approaching,” Ed Cullen told the New Orleans paper.

Mary was far bigger than Chief, and her weight and power gave her the right to shine in the role of the wife who wears the trousers, but for all Mary’s Amazonian tendencies she was not a flirt, and gave Chief no cause for jealousy. But Chief early took a dislike to King, the trainer, for no other reason, I believe, than that Mary showed great affection for the man, and there were times that if King ever came near Chief the elephant would give unmistakable signs of anger and a dangerous gleam would show in his mean little eyes.

Once Chief lashed out at King with his trunk when the trainer was sweeping Mary’s sides with a broom, and the swing of the blow just missed the man. King jumped to one side, and as he did so Mary, with a bellow of rage, smashed the smaller elephant a blow on the head with her trunk that brought Chief to his knees. Mary was ready for a charge, her big head lowered to serve as a battering—ram, and Chief would have fared badly that had not King acted promptly. He knew that he could trust Mary. And, springing in front of the big beast, extended both his arms, and cried: ‘Get back, girl: there now!’ His order was obeyed, and Mary, wheeling around, went off quietly to her place, and so a panic in the elephant house was averted.

The John Robinson Circus traveled not by train but by using its elephants and horses to move its animals and wagons from town to town, Cullen recalled. Mary was particularly adept at keeping the other elephants in line, moving wagons out of ruts on hard country roads, carrying tent poles in their trunks or handling other manual labor as needed.

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Aging monument recalls calamitous era of sea travel

Pulaski

Amid the picturesque graveyard surrounding Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island in the South Carolina Lowcountry is a marble obelisk blackened with age. It’s a memorial not only to a handful of parishioners who died in one of the 19th centuries worst sea disasters but a reminder of just how dangerous travel by ship was at one time.

Eight names appear on the 15-foot marker, including that of Rev. James Joseph Murray, 43; his wife Mary, 38; daughter Elizabeth, 15; and son William, 11, victims of the sinking of the steamship Pulaski on June 14, 1838.

In addition to Murray and his family, Margaret Seabrook Mikell, 31; Joseph Edings Seabrook, 15; Sara Ann Edings, 27; and Sarah Josephine Edings, 5, are also listed. They were among approximately 130 individuals who died when the ship, which started from Savannah, Ga., June 13 en route to Baltimore, Md., was rent by a boiler explosion and foundered 30 miles off the North Carolina coast.

The death toll was said to have been the greatest suffered to that point by a steam-powered vessel.

Murray, Mikell, Edings and Seabrook are common names throughout both the graveyard and the region, and it’s likely the loss of the Pulaski touched most, if not all of the church’s parishioners in one way or another.

To give an idea of how common major maritime disasters were a century or more ago, the loss of the Pulaski doesn’t even rank among the top 80 deadliest ship disasters of the 19th century. In fact, if one looks at Wikipedia’s list of 19th century maritime disasters ranked by lives lost, the Pulaski isn’t mentioned at all, which leaves one wondering just how many other significant tragedies of that era have been forgotten.

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Sword of first Citadel graduate coming home after 153 years

Charles Tew sword

A Civil War sword that belonged to the first graduate of The Citadel, a Confederate officer killed at the Battle of Antietam in 1862, will be returned to the Charleston, SC, school by a Canadian group.

The sword, which belonged to Col. Charles C. Tew of the 2nd North Carolina State Troops, has been missing for 153 years, since Tew was killed Sept. 17, 1862, during the bloodiest single-day battle in American history.

It is being returned by the 33 Signal Regiment Foundation of Ottawa, the charitable arm of the 33 Signal Regiment of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, Canadian Army.

The sword was placed in the care of the 33 Signal Regiment in 1963 but was positively identified only recently as belonging to Tew. Members of the regiment worked very hard to unravel the mystery of the sword after it was “rediscovered,” according to the 33 Signal Regiment Foundation.

“We’re delighted to return this most important artifact,” said Michael Martin, chairman of the 33 Signals Regiment Foundation. “As this is the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, we believe it is only fitting to see that the sword is returned to the hands from whence it came.”

Tew was not only the first individual to receive a diploma from The Citadel, which was established in 1842, but he was the first honor graduate and the first president of The Citadel Alumni Association, according to Lieutenant Col. David Goble of The Citadel.

Tew, a native of Charleston, was one of the first 20 cadets initially admitted to the new South Carolina Military Academy, now known as The Citadel.

He graduated first in his class in 1846, becoming both the first graduate of the school and the first honor graduate.

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Basilica of St. Lawrence: beauty amid Blue Ridge Mountains

North Carolina July 2015 134

Asheville, NC, is renown for its eclecticism, so it’s hardly surprising that amid the community designated as one of the “Top 25 Small Cities for Art” sits the striking Basilica of Saint Lawrence, a Spanish Renaissance-style Roman Catholic church that stands out in a region noted for architectural beauty.

Formally named the Minor Basilica of St. Lawrence the Deacon & Martyr, the church was designed and built in 1905 by Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino.

The building is remarkable in that, despite its size, it was constructed with no wood or steel; all walls, floors, ceiling and pillars are of tile, granite, stone or brick. The roof is of tile with a copper covering.

This, even though the basilica’s dome has a span of 58 feet by 82 feet and is said to be the largest freestanding elliptical dome in North America.

Guastavino (1842-1908) came to Asheville to work on the famed Biltmore House in the mid-1890s and opted to remain in the region even after his work on the impressive structure was completed.

He had immigrated to the US from Barcelona in 1881. Prior to his arrival in the US, Guastavino had been successful in his home country, designing large factories and homes for Catalan industrialists.

Guastavino is credited with reviving an ancient tile-and-mortar building system that had once been used extensively in Spain. It involved using layers of thin tile bedded in layers of mortar, creating curved horizontal surfaces, according to Basilica of Saint Lawrence literature.

In the basilica every horizontal surface is made using this title-and-mortar technique.

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Cold snap leaves curious ice decorations in North Carolina

ice grill

The above is the sort of image one expects to see in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, or Bangor, Maine – not Greenville, NC.

The ice imprint of the front grill of a Jeep Cherokee was discovered in the visitor’s parking lot at Vidant Medical Center Tuesday afternoon.

The ice was attached to the curb.

The image first appeared on the website of Greenville television station WITN. A second image can be seen here.

The station speculated that the owner of the Jeep let their vehicle run to warm up the motor, which likely loosened the ice on the front. The imprint was then left when the Jeep was backed out of the parking space.

(HT: Twisted Sifter)