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Local History Notes

Notes about the history of Iredell County by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian.

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Dec 30

John Chandler Griffin and the Silent Heroes of the Civil War

Posted on December 30, 2019 at 3:39 PM by Jenny Levins

Historian Dr. John Chandler Griffin will be returning to the Iredell County Public Library on Wednesday, July 27, at 7 p.m. to discuss his new book, “Silent Heroes: Lancaster County in the Civil War.” Dr. Griffin holds the honorary title Distinguished Professor Emeritus with the University of South Carolina.  He is a recipient of the state of South Carolina’s highest award, the Order of the Silver Crescent, presented to him by then Gov. Jim Hodges. 

Dr. Griffin is the author of 21 books including, A Pictorial History of the Confederacy, Lt. Bill Farrow: Doolittle Raider, Mr. Lincoln and His War, The History of the Confederate Flag, and Memories of Thomas Wolfe: A Pictorial Companion to Look Homeward Angel. His 1996 biography of Thomas Wolfe won the History Book of the Year Award from the North Carolina Historical Society, while his 2001 biography of noted black author Jean Toomer won the Adele Mellen Award.

Of his latest book Dr. Griffin says, “I feel really good about this book. For example, Lancaster County raised eleven companies during the war, a total of about 1,300 young men. After much research I found the rosters for all eleven of those companies. I typed every one of those names and what happened to those boys in the war, whether they were killed, died, wounded, captured, and so-on. Believe me, very few of those boys ever came home again. I included a great many stories those boys told when they came home. Some really fascinating stories. I can’t believe what heroes our young men were. And there are a great many letters they wrote home from the front, some truly heartbreaking letters.”

Silent Heroes is 325 pages long and features some 350 Civil War photos. It was based on materials that the great-grandchildren of those heroes brought to Dr. Griffin’s attention. “I included accounts of those Union POW camps up north, which were really nothing more than death camps. They’d rival anything the Japs thought up during World War II. Over 30,000 of our boys died up there, victims of sickness, starvation, and mistreatment.”

On General Sherman’s visit to Lancaster County Dr. Griffin says, “Yes, Lancaster County will long remember General Kilpatrick and his cavalry’s weeklong stay here. Murder and robbery were the orders of the day. I found numerous stories in old copies of The Lancaster Ledger published in the 19th century detailing the hardships of our citizens when the Yankees came through. Our women and children would go out and look for corn the Yankees had dropped on the ground when feeding their horses, and they’d take that home and cook it. It was all they had, but it kept them from starving to death. Several of our citizens were murdered when they wouldn’t reveal where the family gold was hidden. Of course, they had no gold.”

Dr. Griffin lives with his wife in Lancaster, South Carolina where they are members of the First Baptist Church.  He is active in the local Sons of the Confederate Veterans camp and is an avid sports and history enthusiast.  Copies of his book will be available for purchase at Wednesday night’s free program and Dr. Griffin will be happy to autograph copies. “I’m sure people in the audience will have lots of questions and comments. I’ll be glad to respond to them as best I can.” For more information contact Joel Reese at the library at 704-878-3093.


Joel Reese, Local History Librarian

Iredell County Public Library

This article was published in the Statesville Record and Landmark in July 2011