Friday, March 18, 2011

Tweets Show North Carolina’s Civil War Home Front, 140 Characters at a Time

Over the next four years, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources historian LeRae Umfleet will use new technology to tell an old story. Through a Twitter account she is tweeting the words of North Carolina civilians who witnessed the triumphs and tragedies of the war. An accompanying blog will contain the full citation for each Twitter message.

"This is of particular interest given Durham's broad involvement in so many pivotal areas of the war," said Shelly Green, President and CEO of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau.  "Visitation by Civil War enthusiasts has always been steady in Durham.  The largest troop surrender of the war--which essentially ended the war--took place here at Bennett Place, so Durham figures large in this ongoing remembrance and anniversary," she added.

“This is a great tool to understand the impact of war in their words, not ours,” said Umfleet, who is the Collections Management Chief for Cultural Resources. “We hope that students, history buffs and cultural travelers will sign up for the tweets and the blog as the stories unfold.”

A tweet from the first week of the project, “I fear there will be civil war,” comes from the diary of Mary Jeffreys Bethell, which is part of the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The corresponding “CivilianWartime” blog entry helps put the tweet in context:

March 11, 1861
“I have just received a letter from my daughter Mrs. Williamson in Ark, says they are all tolerable well, she wrote a very cheerful letter it done me good. Mr. Bethell wrote that he would be at home in a few days, he left here the 5th. of Feb. I have just seen the President’s message, Mr. Lincoln, I think he intends to coerce those seceding States. I fear there will be civil war, and our happy and peaceful Country laid in desolation and ruins, every Christian should unite in fervent prayer to God, in behalf of our Country.”
The Twitter account and blog are extensions of the work of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources to observe the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. For more information about the sesquicentennial commemoration, visit  For more information about Durham's role in the Civil Ward visit

The Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau will be working with Bennett Place and other Civil War-related features in Durham as well as the NC Departments of Cultural Resources and Tourism to commemorate the sesquicentennial.

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