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Bankers in blue and gray

Reenactors swap pinstripes for Civil War uniforms and roles

Bankers in blue and gray
The Civil War reaffirmed the Union, and left a legacy in many areas, including banking.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency was created then, in part to help finance the war.  The very term “greenbacks” that we use today for U.S. currency goes back to the conflict, when the federal government issued notes that gained that nickname. What became known as the National Bank Act was born during the war and to this day underlies the regulation and supervision of banks with national charters.

Today thousands of Americans, feeling a deep interest in the war, now beginning its 150th anniversary, participate in or watch reenactments.

And some of the reenactors are bankers. ABA Banking Journal’s Steve Cocheo recently spoke with four for a special edition of our monthly column “First Person.”

Two bankers--Everett Stiles of North Carolina and Mark Taylor of  Alabama--were profiled in the July edition of ABA Banking Journal. (The online version of Stiles’ profile goes into more detail.) 

Two additional profiles--of Caleb Benefield of Alabama, and Joe Smotherman of Tennessee--appear here.

Three of the bankers intend to attend a major anniversary reenactment at Manassas, Va., July 23-24, and we’ll be adding “diary” entries from that event later this summer.

Our thanks to Thad Woodard of the North Carolina Bankers Association and Bruce Whitehurst of the Virginia Bankers Association; ABA’s John Blanchfield; and Robert Szabo, webmaster at, for their help finding these bankers.

Profiles Of Bankers In Blue & Gray

Click on the reenactor’s name and unit to read their story.

• Living history isn’t a hobby: Everett Stiles of the N.C. 25th Infantry Regiment

“This helps the young people see what a terrible, dark part of the nation’s history the Civil War was,” says Stiles, former community bank president and director, Old Town Bank, Waynesville, N.C.

•   •   •

• Reenacting innocent—and not so innocent—civilians:
Joe Smotherman, soldier, postmaster, sutler, period journalist, and black marketeer

“I’ll be up at 4:00 AM every morning cooking in the July heat,” says Smotherman, Citibank, who’s going to the 150th anniversary reenactment at Manassas as a reenactor-cook

•   •   •

• Far from a “farby”: Caleb Benefield, 48th Alabama Infantry Reenactors

“There’s reenactors and then there’s reenactors,” says Benefield, BBVA Compass, who is a “campaigner”--a stickler for historical accuracy.

•   •   •

• When playing both sides is OK: Mark Taylor, The Independent Rifles

“I don’t know that I can fire three aimed shots, but I can get off three shots in a minute,” says Taylor, Synovus, whose group, like many reenactors, portrays both Union and Confederate roles.

• Diehard buffs may also like to read the 2007 ABA BJ article about Ohio banker Howard Boyle, a veteran reenactor whose exploits as a sergeant of Union artillery were covered in “Tramping with the Boyles of war.”
Read how a Tennessee banker saved a Civil War battlefield in the 2010 First Person column by William Streeter, "Slice of History Preserved."
Bill Streeter

Bill Streeter has been a full-time business journalist for 40 years, 34 of them with ABA Banking Journal. During his time with the magazine, he rose from Assistant Managing Editor to Editor-in-Chief. He has guided the magazine’s editorial direction since 1985 and has been an observer of momentous changes in banking, from the introduction of ATMs to the 2008 financial crisis and passage of the Dodd-Frank Act. In 2012 Streeter became Editor & Publisher, responsible for the Banking Group overall including the magazine,, and related e-newsletters.

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