Civil War towns deftly captured

Blog: Civil War Odyssey.

Site: http://civilwarodyssey.blogspot .com .

What you'll find: Well-written and informative essays from B.J. Welborn about the Civil War that focus on the Carolinas and Virginia experience. Welborn, who lives in Columbia, is author of "America's Best Historic Sites" and "Traveling Literary America." On the blog, her skills as a writer come through.

The blog coincides with the 150th anniversary this year of the start of the conflict, but her more personal prompt is her book-in-progress, "Dear Father I Am Sorry To Tell You." The title comes from a letter Lyndon McGee Welborn, a relative, wrote his parents after he enlisted in a North Carolina regiment in 1861.

The blog (and eventual book) chronicle her quest to make sense of the war - what caused it, its ongoing hardships, what it means today - and her personal odyssey takes her to locations around the Southeast. Some essays deal with her trailing her relatives, others with the human aspects of the war. Welborn has a fine eye for detail, irony and impartiality.

She recently served a meal from recipes culled from a book about Civil War "cookery." The result - brown flour soup, pork with sauerkraut, "rosten ears" of corn and blackberry mush - appeared briefly on her dinner table before largely heading down the garbage disposal.

From the blog: "If you tune out the cars, trucks and motorcycles that corrupt Warrenton's tree-shaded Main Street today, and if you ignore the latte-serving coffee shops, gasoline stations and Wi-Fi hot spots that inhabit historic buildings, it seems little has changed in this picturesque municipality since the turbulent 1860s.

"Soon after the Civil War broke out, Warrenton, ten miles south of Virginia, became a hornet's nest of activity. At nearby Fort Edwards, North Carolina's first Confederate troops organized before marching north to banish the enemy from their homeland. In July 1861, my ancestral cousin Lyndon trained with his new regiment at a horse racetrack just outside of town. Two weeks later, the regiment was ordered to Richmond. To find out more, I set out for Warrenton.

"I traveled I-85 through the Carolinas. Just below the Virginia border, I took Highway 158 east toward Warrenton. The asphalt ribbon meandered through forests of skinny loblolly pines, family farms with American flags waving from porches, and trailers scattered like weeds on manicured lawns. Abandoned tractors gawked from baking tobacco fields. I steered the Odyssey past the 1890 Browns Baptist Church near Boney Lambford Road, a housing development named Sherwood Forest, and a sign warning that cows might cross the road ahead. On the outskirts of town, the ubiquitous Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Highway took me to Warrenton's historic business district.

"Tiny Warrenton's eight hundred residents want the world to know their town's big history. Warrenton's official website offers a virtual tour of fine old homes, quaint shops and notable churches. Tasteful brochures promote a downtown walking tour and a driving tour of the county. ..."