He had few friends with his sarcasm and sharp tongue. Fellow officers said he offended many and conciliated few. But what really got him assigned to a command in North Carolina was that he dared to criticize General Robert E. Lee, the savior of The South.
General Daniel Harvey Hill was a colorful character, a noted pessimist, brother-in-law to Stonewall Jackson and the man who led Confederate forces in the Siege of Washington 150 years ago. Next week, Civil War re-enactor Doug Batson will bring the historic figure to life in a living history performance at the North Carolina Estuarium.
Batson, a Defense Department geographer and Desert Storm veteran, will take on the role of a man who, Batson said, had plenty of tactical prowess but made no friends with his critical nature.
“Who didn’t he criticize? He criticized Lee, the Confederate Congress, President Jefferson Davis, the War Department, the Ordinance Department,” Batson said. “He said they couldn’t win the war.”
As history has proven, Hill also happened to be right.
On March 12 at 7 p.m., Batson, along with his wife Terri playing the role of Hill’s wife Isabella, will bring the Hills’ story to Washington from their home in Northern Virginia, literally following the general’s footsteps through North Carolina after he took the command a century and a half ago. Prior to their Washington performance, the Batsons will participate in “The Keepers of the Town,” a weekend-long commemoration of the Union occupation of New Bern, including re-enactments and a ball, to be held at Tryon Palace. Following their Washington performance, they will travel to Goldsboro where Hill was headquartered during his command.
While Batson has been “a passive participant” in Civil War history for 30 years — he has higher degrees in history and education — he said it was the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War that spurred him to bring Hill’s character to life. Of course, since Hill wasn’t a particularly popular Confederate figure, no one had taken up his character on the re-enactment scene, Batson said.
“He was in the doghouse all the time,” Batson laughed.
The Estuarium program marks the first of sesquicentennial events in Washington, according to Lynn Lewis, Washington Tourism and Development Authority’s director. Officials have set aside the weekend of April 12-14 to commemorate the Siege of Washington with a variety of events: Civil War re-enactors, music, lectures and walking tours, with most taking place at Festival Park and the Estuarium.
“(Batson’s performance) is a great lead-in to doing this weekend event,” Lewis said.
For more information on General D.H. Hill, visit Batson’s website atwww.dhhill.org to listen to a recent podcast of his interview on “Civil War Talk Radio,” a weekly, hour-long Internet talk show hosted by Gerry Prokopowicz, acting history chair at East Carolina University.
Lewis said to check in with the TDA’s website — www.littlewashingtonnc.com — for updates on sesquicentennial events.
The North Carolina Estuarium will charge a $2 fee for Batson’s program.