A Skater’s Life

Henry London’s skates are among the treasures given to and kept in UNC’s North Carolina Collection. (Carolina Keepsakes photo)

Diary, Feb. 5, 1863: “Went skating and broke in.”

Broke, presumably, through the ice on a pond not far from campus. While a squirrel gun might have been the more common companion of a UNC student in mid-war, Henry Armand London brought his ice skates, fashioned from iron, on the short trip from his home in Pittsboro.

Leather straps, now long gone, were attached to fastening rings to hold them in place. Multiple entries in London’s diary show that he knew the places around Chapel Hill where the ice was likely — though not certain — to hold him up.

London left Carolina in November 1864, just shy of his graduation, and enlisted. He was a courier, and he carried the order directing Gen. William R. Cox’s brigade to cease firing because Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox.

London was one of three veterans who took up UNC President David Swain (class of 1825) on an offer of a bachelor of arts in exchange for a single oration for members of the class of 1865 who had gone to war. London took a second degree in 1868.

He became as prominent a citizen as any in his hometown — in fact, in his state and region. Merchant, lawyer, journalist and historian, he founded The Chatham Record and served in the state Senate, and as a UNC trustee from 1901 to 1917.

Snow covered his grave shortly after he was buried at the church in which he grew up, on a January day that might have been good for skating.

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