This soldier fought for the North, for the South and for freedom
In his latest book, Galvanized: The Odyssey of a Reluctant Carolina Confederate, Michael Brantley ’12 tells the story of his great-great-grandfather, a private from Nash County who fought for the Union and Confederate armies.
The book was published in May by the University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books. He ran across Wright Batchelor while doing other research. Since Batchelor is his mother’s maiden name, he looked for a connection and found more than just a family tie.
“This guy had several lives,” Brantley said of Batchelor. And the fact he was a private and not a general or governor or wealthy landowner added to the story. “To me, if you want to get people interested in history, that’s what people can connect with – telling them stories of the ordinary people.”
Batchelor opposed slaveholding and secession, but fought with the South, was taken prisoner and then joined the Union forces as a way to get out. Fearing he would be hanged if
Confederates captured him, he then deserted the Union Army and walked hundreds of miles to Petersburg, Virginia, where he rejoined the Confederates.
Once the war ended, Batchelor walked to his farm, became a Radical Republican – a faction that pushed for equality for freed slaves – and later was involved in a bizarre hometown murder on the steps of the county courthouse.
Brantley graduated from Southern Nash High School and has a bachelor’s degree from Barton College, a master’s in English from ECU and a master of fine arts degree from Queens University in Charlotte. He teaches journalism, English and creative writing at Barton. He also advises the student newspaper, The Collegiate.
Brantley got his start in the writing business at 15 covering sports for the Nashville (N.C.) Graphic. After college, he served as editor of the Spring Hope Enterprise, worked in public relations then ran an award-winning photography studio for 18 years while freelancing for magazines.
He said the Civil War presents conflicting thoughts. Confederate statues don’t belong on courthouse lawns, he said. But judging people from the past by modern standards is messy. In the book he quotes historian and professor Lynn Hunt’s idea of presentism: “Interpreting the past in terms of present concerns usually leads us to find ourselves morally superior. … Our forebears constantly fail to measure up to our present-day standards.”
“But,” he added, “if you’re offended, you’re offended. You can’t be told to ‘get over it.’ These things are not uncomplicated.”
Galvanized has been nominated for the Ragan Old North State Award for Nonfiction, given by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.
Before writing Galvanized, Brantley published creative nonfiction, fiction and poetry in numerous publications, including the First Day, Dunes Review, Broad River Review, WordRiver, and Broadkill Review. He is the author of Memory Cards: Portraits from a Rural Journey.
He and his family live in Spring Hope on the farm where he grew up. Keep up with him at michaelkbrantley.com.