Salisbury Confederate Prison Symposium set for April 4-6

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 24, 2014

SALISBURY ­— The 17th Annual Salisbury Confederate Prison Symposium will be held April 4-6.
Sponsored since 1998 by the Robert F. Hoke Chapter No. 78 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the symposium is dedicated to preserving, sharing and expanding the history of the prison and those who were there.
Symposium Chairman Sue Curtis has announced a slate of seven speakers for this year’s event. Topics always connect to the Salisbury military prison or individuals who were there.
The speaker at April 4’s Friendship Banquet at the Landmark Church fellowship hall will be historian Bill Weidner Jr. of Pennsylvania. Weidner, a long-time researcher of the Civil War, was a U.S. Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War and is a retired Pa. state trooper.
His presentation will feature his research on the emptying of the prison in February 1865; the march of the prisoners of war to Greensboro, where they boarded rail cars; and the exchange at the Northeast Ferry near Wilmington. This is a subject that has had limited exposure.
Weidner has a particular interest in the 190th and 191st Pa. Regiments, which were captured at the Weldon Railroad near Petersburg, Va., and sent to Salisbury. He has had an article on these “Bucktails” published in “America’s Civil War” magazine and spoke on this subject at the 2004 Symposium.
The Saturday, April 5, lectures will be given in the Tom Smith Auditorium at Catawba College.
As is customary, Dr. Gary Freeze, professor of American history at Catawba, will present the first talk, providing insights into the history of the Salisbury prison and its impact on the local area.
Freeze holds all of his degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead Scholar and graduated with a Phi Beta Kappa key. He has authored two books on Catawba County as well as a history book for eighth-grade students.
Dr. Lawrence Lohr of Michigan is a native North Carolinian and received his bachelor’s degree from UNC. He received his doctorate in physical chemistry from Harvard University and is emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Lohr has an interest in Southern state history and has published several articles on the subject with a particular interest on mail from the Salisbury Confederate Prison. In 2009 he spoke at the Symposium on “Soldiers of Fortune: Union Officers at Salisbury Prison in July 1862.”
This year Lohr will talk about some of the first POWs sent to Salisbury who were captured on the steamer USS Union, which ran aground on the North Carolina coast. This is another topic about which there has been limited research.
Peter Carlson of Maryland is a journalist and author of books on American history. He is a New York native and graduated from Boston University with a degree in journalism. He worked as a reporter, feature writer and columnist for the Boston Herald and People magazine and for 22 years at the Washington Post.
His most recent book, “Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy,” tells of the experiences of New York Tribune writers Junius Browne and Albert Richardson who were Civil War correspondents. These reporters were captured in Mississippi and spent time in several southern prisons, including Salisbury.
In his talk at the symposium, Carlson will emphasize their Salisbury experiences including their escape.
Historian Greg Cheek of North Carolina holds a bachelor’s degree in forestry and natural recreation resource management from N.C. State University and an associate degree in information technology/computer science from Forsyth Community College.
He has over 30 years experience in the IT field. His interest in the study of the Civil War history has led him to participate as a reenactor with the 28th N.C. Troops. His presentation will feature Capt. George Washington Alexander, who was the seventh of the 10 prison commandants.
Cheek will give biographical information on Alexander, who served in the U.S. Navy before resigning his commission to join the Confederacy.
Aldo Perry of North Carolina is a retired project engineer with the IBM Corporation. He will use his 25 years of research for his 2012 book, “Civil War Courts-Martial of North Carolina Troops,” as a basis for his talk on Confederate prisoners sent to Salisbury.
He will give particular emphasis to the Salisbury prisoners who had commuted death sentences.
Matthew Bumgarner of North Carolina is a railroad and Civil War historian and author of a number of books on these subjects including “Carolina & N-W: The Legacy of the Carolina & North-Western Railway,” “The Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway,” “The June Bug Line,” “Kirk’s Raiders” and “My Face to the Enemy.”
He will address the subject of railroads that were used to transport prisoners, guards, troops, and supplies into and out of Salisbury. Bumgarner is a graduate of N.C. State University with a degree in electrical engineering.
The Sunday, April 6, morning memorial services are open to the public. Infantry and artillery reenactors in Blue and Gray will participate.
The first service will be held at 10 a.m. in the Historic Salisbury National Cemetery for Union POWs who died at the prison. The second service will start at 11 a.m. in the Old Lutheran Cemetery to remember Confederate soldiers, including some guards who died in Salisbury during the war.
For those who are registered symposium attendees, there will be a tour of the prison site in the early afternoon.
Cost for the symposium is $65 per person through March 15, $75 afterwards. Checks should be written and addressed to the Robert F. Hoke Chapter No. 78, P.O. Box 83, Salisbury, NC 28145-0083.
For additional information contact Chairman Sue Curtis at 704-637-6411, or
Hoke Chapter members raise funds during the year to provide an economical registration fee for attendees. Speakers have ranged from professional lecturers and noted authors to descendants who spoke at the symposium for the first time about their ancestor who was at the prison.
This event offers an opportunity to learn more about the only military prison that was located by the Confederate Government in North Carolina. Between December 1861 and March 1865, there were at least 15,000 guards and prisoners in Salisbury from 32 states and the District of Columbia.