Posts Tagged ‘Robert E. Lee’

Why are North Carolinians Tar Heels?

December 3rd, 2011 by Judy Horn

December is the month for parties, so if you’re looking for some ice-breaker trivia, look no further. When the conversation need a little pick-me-up, you can pose the question: ‘Ever wonder why North Carolinians are called Tar Heels? Then, be a smarty pants and tell ‘em the story:

The origin of the nickname comes from the fact that North Carolina has an abundance of pine forests that for centuries were our country’s chief source of tar, pitch and turpentine used for painting, caulking and preserving the wood and ropes used in navel and merchant vessels. By 1768, North Carolina produced 60 percent of the colonies’ supply of these three products. Production involved heating pine lumber in charcoal beds to extract and collect a black ooze. This was a messy process that often caused the soles of the workers’ shoes to be coated with tar. Popular legend says that after a Civil War battle in Virginia in which the Virginia troops fled while the North Carolinians stuck to their positions, as if held fast by tar, Confederate General Robert E. Lee is said to have exclaimed, “God bless the Tar Heel boys.”  The story goes on to say that Confederate President Jefferson Davis asked jokingly if there was a surplus of tar available from North Carolina for other commanders to use to smear it on the shoes of their soldiers’ heels to help them hold steadfast against the Union attacks.

While it is unproven that Robert E. Lee actually coined the Tar Heel nickname, he certainly popularized the term and gave it a positive meaning. North Carolinians have been proud to be called Tar Heels ever since.

It’s no surprise that the pine is the state tree of North Carolina. There is a spectacularly tall long needle pine tree in the front corner of the yard at the Troy-Bumpas Inn in Greensboro. While the age of the tree is unknown, it towers over the inn, which is three stories tall. This tree has no doubt been witness to a lot of history. Greensboro is a great city for history buffs. Come see for yourself, and we welcome you to stay at the Troy-Bumpas Inn, 114 S. Mendenhall St., Greensboro, NC.
The tall Troy-Bumpas Inn pine tree

This long needle pine tree
has towered over the Troy-Bumpas Inn
for many years.