Dr. Tommy Hailey, associate professor of archaeology and anthropology at Northwestern State University, was honored by The Civil War Round Table of Central Louisiana who presented him with the Arthur W. Bergeron Jr. Award in recognition of his efforts to preserve Louisiana’s Civil War history. Hailey received the honor from Richard H. Holloway, president, during a May 3 presentation/performance for the group. He later repeated the presentation for the Natchitoches Rotary Club.
Hailey’s presentation, Lucy Fortner’s “Southern Boy in Northern Blue,” combined history and family folklore to tell the story of his distant relative John Elisha Fortner, born in Catahoula Parish, who decided to fight for the north during the Civil War.
“Despite his youthful enthusiasm and idealism, things did not go well, and John Elisha was never to return to kith and kin,” Hailey explained. “Instead, as the story was told, he lost his life fighting in a battle along the Red River and was laid to rest in the National Cemetery in Alexandria, Louisiana. This romantic and tragic tale was passed down through the generations, but what was the truth behind it? Initial genealogical research using primary sources indicated that all was not as it seemed. Facts and fallacies were sifted through as the historical trail was followed to its conclusion, revealing the kernel of truth in the old family story of John Elisha Fortner, and perhaps an even more poignant tale of idealism and loss, a tale that in turn inspired a song, ‘Southern Boy In Northern Blue.’”
Hailey is director of the Cultural Resource Center at NSU and director of the NSU Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. He is also a member of the Louisiana Folklife Commission.