04/21/16

Adding Insult to Injury

Civil War enlisted men on both sides were responsible for the proper care and maintenance of arms, equipment, and munitions issued by their respective governments. The cost of items lost, damaged, or otherwise unaccounted for was to be deducted from the offending soldier’s monthly pay. In addition, this accountability was shared with the responsible commanding officer, as stated in Article #40 of the Articles of War: “Every captain of a troop or company is charged with the arms, accouterments, ammunition, clothing or other warlike stores belonging to the troop or company under his command.” The incident described below exposes the plight of a single Federal infantry lieutenant in this regard. It is presented as an instance of when adherence to the regulations was sometimes taken to the extreme. Consider the case of Lieutenant Michael Vreeland of the hard fighting 4th Michigan Infantry.

Don Troiani's painting "Saving the Flag" vividly depicts the struggle for possession of the 4th Michigan's colors at Gettysburg. Lieutenant Vreeland was seriously wounded in the fray. Image courtesy Historical Art Prints.

Don Troiani’s painting “Saving the Flag” vividly depicts the struggle for possession of the 4th Michigan’s colors at Gettysburg. Lieutenant Vreeland was seriously wounded in the fray. Image courtesy Historical Art Prints.

In the bloody fighting in The Wheatfield on the second day’s battle at Gettysburg, the 4th Michigan was surrounded on three sides and lost its colonel and its colors in a vicious hand-to-hand melee. This action has been memorialized in modern artist Don Troiani’s vividly graphic painting “Saving the Flag.” Also among the casualties was Lieutenant Vreeland of Company “I,” who suffered gunshot wounds to the left breast and right arm and was clubbed in the head with a musket. Only timely intervention by a Confederate officer prevented him from being bayoneted to death. In addition, all 22 men of Vreeland’s company were either killed wounded, or captured.

Vreeland fortunately survived his wounds after a lengthy hospitalization. He was even commissioned Brevet Brigadier General in 1865 for his gallantry at Gettysburg.  But then further troubles began, courtesy of the Federal government he had so faithfully served. Because of his infirmities, Vreeland was physically unable to complete the appropriate Form 1, listing quarterly ordinance and property returns for his company. Regulations required these reports to be filed “within twenty days after the quarter.” Inasmuch as all of his men were casualties, Vreeland was charged $370 for the cost of his men’s lost equipment!

Lt. Michael James Vreeland of the 4th Michigan Infantry. Photo courtesy Find A Grave.

Lt. Michael James Vreeland.  Photo: Find A Grave.

It was deducted from his future pay. In his defense, Vreeland later sought to explain: “I certify on honor that on the 2nd day of July 1863 at Gettysburg Pa. The stores enumerated below were lost under the following circumstance; The right wing of the regiment to which my company belonged was surrounded by the enemy; of my company five killed, ten wounded, and the remainder taken prisoners. The arms and accouterments carried by these men were left on the field and not recovered.”

The gallant Michel Vreeland passed away in 1876. Until his dying day he sought to recover the $370 from the U. S. government. His wife maintained the effort until 1900. They were unsuccessful. In more ways than one, Lieutenant Vreeland paid a heavy price in the service of his country.

The Wheatfield at Gettysburg, looking towards the Rose farm. This area was the scene of vicious hand-to-hand fighting on July 2, 1863. Photo by author.

The Wheatfield at Gettysburg, looking towards the Rose farm. This area was the scene of vicious hand-to-hand fighting on July 2, 1863. Photo by author.

By Bob Williams

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04/8/16

The First Staff Ride?

A National Park Service historian explains troop movements to officer candidates during a modern day Staff Ride on the Chickamauga, <a href=

Staff rides have been officially used by the United States Army to enhance the training of military professionals since the early 1900s. At that time, they were introduced by Major Eban Swift into the curriculum of Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The term “ride” stems from the fact that these exercises were initially conducted on horseback. Yet, whatever the means of locomotion these immersion style training sessions have proved invaluable over the years in developing the next generation of military leaders and planners.

Staff rides generally include a guided tour led by a qualified military historian of a particular battlefield (often Civil War) with emphasis on leadership, tactics, and decision-making. But unlike a general tour, participants are required to play an active role in explaining and interpreting, among other things, how battlefield topography and terrain affected key decisions made by unit commanders during various phases of the battle being studied. Also analyzed are such variables as weaponry, force structure, logistics and backgrounds/personalities of key leaders involved. Exploring the actual terrain also underscores the importance of preserving yesterday’s fields of conflict as active proving grounds for young army officers and NCOs of today, linking past insights to present realities.

Major General Jacob D. Cox and members of his staff.

Major General Jacob D. Cox and members of his staff.

At least one Civil War commander was well aware of the educational value of such instruction when, in 1865, he conducted what was certainly one of the US Army’s first bona fide staff rides. That man was Union General Jacob D. Cox. Although born in Montreal, Cox established educational and business credentials in Ohio and was commissioned brigadier-general of that state’s volunteer forces in 1861. Active service in West Virginia, the Maryland Campaign of 1862, and the battles for Atlanta earned him both reputation and rapid promotion. By late 1864 he led the Federal XXIII Corps as Major-General and capably fought his way thru Tennessee and eastern North Carolina. At war’s end he was appointed occupation commander of the Greensboro Military District of North Carolina. His herculean mission was to effect a peaceful transition in Guilford and adjoining counties while collecting war material from and issuing paroles to surrendered soldiers of General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate forces.

Once things settled down a bit under Cox’s steady guiding hand, the inquisitive General sought to acquaint himself with the surrounding area. As a military man, he was obviously well aware of the region’s role in the American Revolution and the nearby battlefield of Guilford Court House. There the patriot forces under General Nathaniel Greene, although tactically defeated, inflicted staggering losses on the British army of Lord Cornwallis. So, gathering some key members of his veteran staff together, Cox organized what was certainly a precursor of what would become the latter day “Staff Ride.” His observations of that excursion, as described in his highly readable memoirs, are both trenchant and prescient:

“A summer ride which a party of us took to the battlefield of “Guilford-Old-Court-House” may be worth noting as an encouragement to believe that our descriptions of the scenes of our own engagements need not become unintelligible even in the distant future. Among the combats of our Revolutionary War, Guilford Court House ranks high in importance; for the check there given to the invading British army under Lord Cornwallis by the Continental forces under General Greene was the turning-point in a campaign. Greensborough is the present county-seat of Guilford County, and the “Old Court House,” a few miles distant, has disappeared as a village, a few buildings almost unused being the only mark of the old town.
Natural topography, however, does not change its material features easily, and in this case a cleared field or two where the forest had formerly extended seemed to be the only change that had occurred in the past century. With General Greene’s official report of the battle in our hands, we could trace with complete accuracy every movement of the advancing enemy and his own dispositions to receive the attack. We could see the reasons for the movements on both sides, and how the undulations of surface and the cover of woods and fences were taken advantage of by either commander.

Military principles being the same in all times, we found ourselves criticizing the movements as if they had occurred on one of our own recent battlefields. It brought the older and the later war into almost startling nearness and made us realize as perhaps nothing else could have done, how the future visitor will trace the movements in which we have had a part; and when we have been dust for centuries, will follow the path of our battalions from hill to hill, from stream to stream, from the border of a wood to the open ground where the bloody conflict was hand to hand, and will comment upon the history we have made. It pointed the lesson that what is accurate in our reports and narratives will be recognized by the intelligent critic, and that the face of the country itself will be an unalterable record which will go far to expose the true reasons of things,–to show what statements are consistent with the physical conditions under which a battle was fought, and what, if any, are warped to hide a repulse or to claim a false success.

Nature herself will thus prove the strongest ally of truth.”

Ironically, the validity of General Cox’s last statement is still being tested on the Guilford Court House National Battlefield today. During the last twenty years, based upon period first-person descriptions of the battlefield, the NPS has revised its markers denoting the actual position of General Greene’s famous “Third Line.” It was here that the Maryland regulars clashed with the British Guards regiment in a hand-to-hand melee. The new interpretation places the line 1/4 mile distant from the old one on land not under the ownership of the National park Service. Some students of the battle accept this; some don’t. But in this case, the accuracy of “reports and narratives” describing battlefield features, as noted by Cox above, seems to have trumped other evidence.

Who knows what future “staff rides” by amateur historians, military professionals or plain old battlefield trampers will uncover on other historic grounds?

A period map of the Guilford Court House battlefield from the memoirs of British Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Union General Cox may have used such a map in his staff ride. Map courtesy NPS files.

A period map of the Guilford Court House battlefield from the memoirs of British Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Union General Cox may have used such a map in his staff ride. Map courtesy NPS files.

by Bob Williams

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03/25/16

Duties of C.S. Ordnance Officers

It has been a while since I added something to this blog and I appreciate those of you who have thrown rocks at me for not doing so. I also value the feedback and correspondence I receive from readers outside of the 26th North Carolina who have found their way to this site and seem to like it. For the information contained in the following post I am particularly indebted to one such individual, Mr. David Jarnagin of Corinth, MS. David is co-owner of C & D Jarnagin, well known purveyor of reproduction uniforms, leather accouterments, footwear, and tinwear covering the period 1750-1865. He is also a respected expert on 19th century accouterments, leather tanning and care and co-author of the following article: http://www.jarnaginco.com/reenactor%20leather%20care%20article.pdf.

Of late David and I have swapped various bits of information on Confederate manufacturing and supply. One item he shared is this particularly interesting description of the duties of Confederate ordnance personnel, gleaned from the rare publication General orders from Adjutant and Inspector-General’s Office. Written by Colonel Josiah Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, it provides revealing insight into the duties of this obscure but valuable service function.

“Instructions to Ordnance Officers in the field:
1st. The chief of Ordnance of an army corps and ordnance officers of separate commands, will correspond with the chief of the Bureau of ordnance relative to supplies of ordnance and ordnance stores with the commands to which they are attached. Requisitions made, whether for money of stores, will be approved by the General commanding.

Colonel Josiah Gorgas, C.S.A. Image courtesy University of Alabama

Colonel Josiah Gorgas, C.S.A.
Image courtesy University of Alabama

2d. The division ordnance officers will correspond with the Chief of Ordnance of the army corps to which the divisions are attached, and obtain supplies through him. They will be responsible for the property under their charge and may have ordnance officer or military storekeeper to assist in the care and responsibility of the property.
3d. Division ordnance officers will obtain one or more wagons for each regiment in their division as ordnance wagons. These wagons will separate from the train of wagons for reserve ammunition, and will be marked with the name with name of the regiment to which they are assigned, and will be placed in charge of the ordnance sergeant of the regiment. The wagon will be covered, if possible, with painted cloth cover for security against with weather, and each wagon will be supplied with a spare tarpaulin. These wagons will habitually follow their respective regiments.
4th. On the eve of battle the division ordnance officer will, under direction of the Chief or Ordnance of the army, station the ordnance wagons at the point selected for the division field depot of ammunition under charge of his assistant; each train of brigade ammunition wagons under charge of the senior ordnance sergeant of the brigade. He will keep himself acquainted with the movements of brigades, and cause the wagons of any brigade which may be detached to follow the movements of the brigade.

Regulations specified sturdy wagons such as these to transport ammunition to the front

Regulations specified sturdy wagons such as these to transport ammunition to the front

5th. The ordnance sergeants, together with the details habitually assigned to them for their regiments, will constitute a cops devoted as well to the preservation of the captured and other ordnance stores as to the supplies of ammunition of the various regiment, to ascertain its wants and communicate with the field depot. The habitual details from each regiment should be augmented before a battle to not less than six men from each regiment. The ammunition wagons, their loads temporarily removed, will, as circumstances favor, he employed to carry to the rear such arms and other captured stores as are left upon the battle-field.
6th. Especial care must be taken in selecting competent, prompt, and efficient men for the duties of ordnance sergeants. They may be removed for cause, and new appointments ordered, on the application of the division ordnance officers, through the Chief of Ordnance of the army corps, by the Commanding General.
7th. The ammunition wagons to each regiment will not supersede the necessity for division supply trains.

Duties of Ordnance Sergeants.
1st. To obey the directions of the division ordnance officer, or of the brigade ordnance officer (if the brigade is a separate command), in all relative to care and preservation of arms, and duties connected therewith.
2nd. To take charge of all supplies, arms, and ammunition of the regiment, and make returns of the same according to “Ordnance Regulations.”
Issues to be made on written requisitions approved by the colonel, or commanding officer of the regiment; which requisitions are to be filed with his “return of property.”
3rd. To take charge of the ordnance wagon or wagons attached to each regiment, and to see that it always contains at least fifteen rounds per man of the regiment – surplus arms or accoutrements to be turned over to the brigade ordnance officer.

The bewildering variety of arms of various calibers often within the same unit placed a real strain on regimental ordnance sergeants.

The bewildering variety of arms of various calibers often within the same unit placed a real strain on regimental ordnance sergeants.

4th. To supervise the condition of the arms of the regiment, and get a detail of at least two mechanics to assist him the necessary repairs to the arms: an account of these repairs to be kept, as far as possible against each man of the regiment. Repairs to be made on the order of the colonel of the regiment.
5th. To take charge of the arms and accoutrements of the sick of the regiment in hospitals, which will be kept until the sick are sent to the general hospital, when their arms will be turned over to the brigade or division depots.
6th. In battle, it will be the duty of the ordnance sergeants to remain with the ammunition wagons, and act with the detail assigned to them from the regiments, under the orders of the ordnance officer, in supplying the troops with ammunition, collecting arms of the killed and wounded, and securing captured arms and ammunition.
Approved
J. Gorgas, Colonel, Chief of Ordnance
G. W. Randolph, Secretary of War

Thanks again, David, for sharing this great information.

By Bob Williams

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02/13/15

That Most Indispensible Item: Confederate Shoes

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At no point during its illustrious career was the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in more wretched condition than following the Maryland invasion of 1862. On October 9, 1862 the Richmond Daily Dispatch made editorial comment on this subject: “Posterity will scarcely believe that the wonderful campaign which has just ended with it’s terrible marches and desperate battles, was made by men, one-fourth of whom were entirely barefooted, and one-half of whom were ragged as scarecrows . . . We cease to wonder at the number of stragglers, when we hear how many among them were shoeless, with stone bruises on their feet.” Indeed, even before General Robert E. Lee began his northward march a Maryland newspaper correspondent reckoned that the army was already short 40,000 pairs of shoes. Whether or not this estimate is exaggerated, it does serve to highlight a basic fact: keeping the troops adequately shod was a problem that plagued Confederate authorities from first to last.

As early as August 1861 Acting Quartermaster-General A. C. Myers was struggling to meet demands from troops in the field. To General Joseph E. Johnston at Manassas Junction he wrote: “We have sent to Europe for shoes, and I have officers all over the Confederate States purchasing shoes, making contracts with tanners for leather and with manufacturers for making leather for shoes.” Yet, since army regulations specified the issuance of four pair of shoes per year, Myers wryly added: “The resources of our country are far too limited for the great demand an immense army creates for supplies of every kind. The demand is double what it would be from the same population in times of peace.”

Confederate low quarter brogans from the collection of the North Carolina MOH

Confederate low quarter brogans from the collection of the North Carolina MOH

Initially, Myers’ words rang only too true. But as the war progressed the Confederate shoe industry gamely managed to limp along. In October 1862 Congress gave President Jefferson Davis power to detail as many as 2,000 “skilled” men then serving in the ranks to the quartermaster department for shoe manufacturing. Yet, shortages were often more an issue of logistics than supply. Since marching wore out sole leather, acute deficiencies in shoe stocks coincided directly with seasons of active operations. Through a combination of heroic state and central government production efforts, importations, battlefield gleanings, civilian confiscations, and sheer improvisation measures including canvas shoes and rawhide moccasins, periods of abject need among the soldiers were usually of short duration.

What type of foot covering did the average Southern fighting man wear in the field? Clothing accounts of the 7th Louisiana Infantry, kept during the winter of 1862-63, list a combination of “English shoes,” “canvas shoes,” “Confederate shoes,” and “wood sole shoes.” For a unit that had seen as much close combat as the 7th, the absence of “Federal shoes” is noteworthy. While clearly not a statistically valid method of interpretation, interesting insight into the most common patterns and shoe styles worn by CS soldiers can be gained through studying surviving examples and examining known contemporary images, mostly battlefield death studies. The photographic record clearly demonstrates that the average Southern fighting man wore shoes of Confederate manufacture. While the variety of types are endless, their production characteristics generally follow two main patterns: (A) a low-quarter civilian style of inferior make, generally roughly finished, and (B) a high quartered Oxford shoe of solid construction of the style worn by laborers of the period.

Sturdy shoes issued to M. Page Lapham of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans

Sturdy shoes issued to M. Page Lapham of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans

Low-quartered shoes may have been the most common style of Confederate shoe. They generally sported only 2-3 rows of eyelets and often had only a single sole. While some collectors call these “Georgia shoes,” that is probably an oversimplification. They were likely produced throughout the South. The higher quartered Oxford shoes are also commonly seen, although not in as great number. These brogans exhibit a somewhat rounded toe and 4-6 pairs of eyelets. Vamps are usually sewn over the quarters with two rows of stitching. Their double soles are held together by two rows of wooden pegs. They were quite durable. An excellent example of Confederate Oxfords exists in the Museum of The Confederacy in Richmond. They are identified to Private M. Page Lapham of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans.

Concerning the quality of shoes furnished to his army General Robert E. Lee had this to say in January, 1864: “The Chief Quartermaster of the Army brought me this morning a sample of shoes recently sent from Richmond. One pair was of Richmond manufacture and another from Columbus, Georgia. They were intended to be fair samples of each lot and were selected with that view. . . . In the Richmond shoe the face of the skin next [to] the animal was turned out, which is contrary to the practice of the best makers and contrary to the arrangement of nature . . . The Columbus shoe was not half tanned and the shoe was badly made. The soles of both [pair were] slight and would not stand a week’s march in mud and water.” Little wonder that one Rebel soldier concluded that his government-made shoes were “pitiable specimens indeed.”

CDV of Confederate shoes attributed to the State of South Carolina

CDV of Confederate shoes attributed to the State of South Carolina

As indicated above, Great Britain was also a major shoe supply source beginning as early as late 1861. While some recipients complained about the quality of imported footwear, surviving examples are generally well-made and suited for hard service. A common style English shoe is known as the Blucher pattern brogan. Made of fine leather, it boasts two pair of brass eyelets, sewn soles, and herringbone twill “pull loops.” They were often adorned with hobnails to increase mileage. English shoes are also frequently noted in battlefield studies from 1863 onward By late war, many, many Confederates were wearing English made shoes uniforms as well.

Another expedient to relieve the acute shortage of footwear in the Confederacy was the introduction of canvas shoes. First issued in late 1862, these innovative foot coverings were the forerunner of the modern day jungle boot. They were made of two layers of sewn canvas with leather reinforcements on the toes and tops. A member of the 63rd Virginia who received such a pair in February 1863 opined: “The government has lately furnished – for the lack of leather no doubt – canvas shoes. The soles are good, and they would answer very admirably for summer wear, but it will readily appear how insufficient they must be at this season.” A deserter notice later that year for a soldier in the 42nd Virginia also provides the following description: “[Private Samuel H.] Peay [of Company F] is about 6 feet high 28 years old, auburn hair, blue eyes, pale complexion; had on when he left grey jacket and pants, broad brim straw hat covered with black cloth, and cloth shoes.”

A distinctly “colorful” side note to the lore of cloth shoes is provided by Richmond hospital matron Phoebe Pember: “When the quartermaster-general issued canvas shoes [to the recovering patients] there was a loud dissatisfaction expressed in constant grumbling until “some genius dyed the whitish tops by a liberal application of pokeberries . . . and for many months crimson shoes were the rage and long rows of unshod men would sit under the eaves of the wards, all diligently employed in the same labor and up to their elbows in red juice.”

A typical pair of Confederate made brogans. Photo courtesy the History Network

A typical pair of Confederate made brogans. Photo courtesy the History Network

No study of Confederate footwear would be complete without acknowledging the vital contributions of the United States Quartermaster Department. That Southern soldiers gleaned much-needed shoes from many a battlefield and captured Federal supply depots has been stated too often to bear repeating here. Yet, the photographic evidence indicates that liberated Union shoes were not as commonly worn as one might expect. Often, it was a matter of “time and place.” For instance, images of Confederate dead on the Antietam battlefield show many of the men wearing Federal style brogans in near-new condition. Likely, they are part of the large shoe stocks acquired with “Stonewall” Jackson’s capture of Harper’s Ferry.

Some final insights into Confederate footwear may also be of interest. While hobnails were fairly standard on English shoes, they are also frequently noted on more generic shoe types. Additionally, shoes were not only tied with leather thongs, but frequently with ribbon or lace. English made buckle shoes also saw much use. And lastly, Confederate soldiers did blouse their trousers on occasion, as many photographs show. Please left click on images for larger views.

A pair of buckle style English made shoes. Southern soldiers generally described imported footwear as being "excellent" in quality

A pair of buckle style English made shoes. Southern soldiers generally described imported footwear as being “excellent” in quality

Brass eyelets on the shoes of a Confederate casualty at Petersburg identify these shoes as being of English manufacture. Photo from LOC

Brass eyelets on the shoes of a Confederate casualty at Petersburg identify these shoes as being of English manufacture. Photo from LOC

by Bob Williams

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02/5/15

Southern Underwear: The Cotton Mills of Franklin(s)ville, NC

Deep River

In our earlier blogpost dated 12/28/14 about the Crenshaw Woolen Mills mention was made of the reciprocal manufacturing arrangement that developed between the Richmond, VA based Crenshaw facility and the cotton mills at Franklinsville, NC along Deep River. Regimental member Dennis Brooks of Siler City kindly brought to my attention much additional information on the Randolph County mills and the vital textile manufacturing support they provided to both the State of North Carolina and the Confederacy. Further research on the subject soon proved this to be a little known story well worth the telling. Read on.

Quaker Levi Coffin, founder of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company

Quaker Levi Coffin, founder of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company

Deep River has its headwaters in northwestern Guilford County and flows in a generally southeastwardly direction. Along its 125 mile length the often rocky tributary passes through High Point, Ashboro, Franklinville and Haywood. There it joins the Haw River to form the Cape Fear River which thence flows onward to the sea. Beginning in the early 1800s numerous artisians and manufacturers harnessed the stream’s swift current for various business enterprises. One of these entrepreneurs was a dour, disenfranchised Quaker [he dared marry a Presbyterian!] named Levi Coffin who in 1838 established a Randolph County mill he christened the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company, named for a former governor. Coffin and his initial investors were strong abolitionists but as the years passed profit motives and business pragmatics seemed to temper their idealism.

The little community grew rapidly. A large brick “Factory House” was completed in 1840 that was the largest structure in Randolph County at the time. Dwelling houses for workers sprung up around the mill. Coffin’s initial success prompted him to organize another manufacturing company one-half mile further north, including his sons in the venture. The second factory was similar in appearance to the first but had a fourth floor lighted by a clerestory roof, a feature widely used in English and New England factories. These two facilities came to be known as the “upper” and “lower” mills, a distinction that still exists. The more than 40 worker dwellings supporting these enterprises soon merged together resulting in the incorporation of Franklinsville by the state legislature 1847.

The 1850s were a tumultuous time for the Franklinsville mills due to economic downturns, management changes, acquisitions, labor unrest, mergers, residual political differences over slavery, and even a major fire. By the end of the decade the upper mill was incorporated into the nearby Cedar Falls Manufacturing Company and the lower mill was named Randolph manufacturing Company. Coffin soon turned operational management of the companies over to a skilled textile expert named George Makepeace. The Massachusetts-born Makepeace had worked for Coffin since 1839. By that time the corporation had over 70 employees including many women. Its capital stock was valued at $30,000. Thanks to Makepeace’s guidance the revitalized manufacturing facilities were well positioned to provide high quality spun cotton goods to supply enthusiastic volunteers when sectional hostilities began in 1861.

Cotton undergarments such as this were manufactured by the tens of thousands in Franklinsville

Cotton undergarments such as this were manufactured by the tens of thousands in Franklinsville

The Franklinsville factories quickly emerged as North Carolina’s chief supplier of shirts and drawers to the Confederate States quartermaster. The cotton was spun and woven into sheeting and then cut and sewn by local seamstresses in piece goods fashion with material, thread, and buttons being supplied. The completed clothing items were then baled and transported by ox cart to nearby High Point on the North Carolina Railroad. From there they were shipped to Raleigh where government authorities distributed these garments to the troops. In 1862 Makepeace reported the factories “have been furnishing the State Government for the past year with a large amount of its manufactures for the use of the Army and is now under contract to supply fifty thousand shirts and drawers for the army.”

The Franklinsville mills furnished more than cloth to the Confederate war effort even though Randolph County was predominantly Union in sentiment. Directors of the Cedar Falls Company sponsored, organized, and equipped a company of infantry from the surrounding area. Known as the “Randolph Hornets,” the eager volunteers drilled at Middleton Academy, a local college preparatory school near Franklinsville. Both mills declared a holiday when the “Hornets” marched off to war on July 10, 1861. They became Company “M” of the 22nd North Carolina Troops and served throughout the conflict in the excellent Pender/Scales brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia. A unit of Home Guards was also formed early on to protect the valuable mills from the “Abolitionists and Lincolnites among us.” Threats had been made to burn the Cedar Falls complex once the first volunteers left the county although this did not happen.

A yarn bundle label from the Randolph "lower" mill

A yarn bundle label from the Randolph “lower” mill

As the war progressed the Federal naval blockade of Southern ports soon put a squeeze on spare machine parts, oil, and other specialty materials required for textile production. Blockade running efforts by intrepid sea captains only partially alleviated these shortages. Here is where reciprocal arrangements such as those with Richmond’s Crenshaw Mills proved valuable and necessary to maintain production demands. As cotton warp previously obtained from England became more difficult to procure, Richmond turned to the Franklinsville mills where an “ample supply, nearly as excellent in quality as British warps” was obtained. Likewise, the Cedar Falls Company obtained “woolen warps necessary for their business” from the Crenshaw firm. This would seem to indicate that Franklinsville included woven jeans uniform cloth among its products. The conscription of military age males also caused labor shortages that were in part alleviated by shifts, longer working hours, and an increased number of female workers.

Because of the value of the Franklinsville mills to the Southern war material production they were prime targets for Federal raids, roving bands of deserters, and saboteurs. As a result, the facilities were usually guarded by various Home Guard units. While many of the factories along Deep River were destroyed during the final weeks of the war by either Stoneman’s raiders or Sherman’s advancing armies the Cedar Falls and Randolph installations fortunately escaped overt military mayhem.

Ruins of the Cedar Falls manufacturing Company, also called the "upper mill."

Ruins of the Cedar Falls manufacturing Company, also called the “upper mill.”

Another view of the "upper mill" ruins

Another view of the “upper mill” ruins

Nonetheless, the Civil War left the factories, resources, and population of Randolph County in a sadly depleted state. Like much of the Old South the area soon rebounded with a new spirit of growth and the mills managed to soldier on until finally shutting down in 1977. As if to go with the changing times, Franklinsville officially changed its name to Franklinville in 1917. Fortunately for posterity Franklinville has preserved more of its manufacturing environment and structures than any comparable mill town in the state. Since 1984 its historic district has been officially listed on the national Register of Historic Places. A visit to this nearly forgotten mill town is truly like passing through a time warp (pun intended) for a look into North Carolina’s rich textile manufacturing history.

Thanks again to Dennis Brooks for bringing this fascinating subject to the fore and for his valuable input to this article. Kindly left click on images for larger views. All modern photos of Franklinville used here taken by author February 2015.

by Bob Williams

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01/27/15

A Regular for the Confederacy: John S. R. Miller, 1st NCST

[Author’s Note: An earlier version of this article first appeared in the November/December 2003 issue of Military Images magazine. It has been updated with additional research for inclusion in this blog]

Many Southern born officers and enlisted men actively serving in the United States Army wrestled with conflicting loyalties in the months preceding the outbreak of the Civil War. Among these was a 30 year-old North Carolinian named John Starke Ravenscroft Miller. Stationed at Ft. Laramie, Nebraska Territory, Miller wrote his father back home in Caldwell County on February 5, 1861: “I am placed in a peculiar position; as a soldier I must bear allegiance to the Federal Government. I have sworn to serve the United States against all her enemies and opposers whatsoever. If called upon I might be compelled to battle against my own friends and relations and unless I am free of the Army, although it would be bitter indeed, I will not swerve from the path of duty.”

John S. R. Miller as a trooper in the elite 2nd U. S. Dragoons, ca. 1860. Photo courtesy Skip Smith, Lenoir, NC

John S. R. Miller as a trooper in the elite 2nd U. S. Dragoons, ca. 1860. Photo courtesy Skip Smith, Lenoir, NC

Miller had joined the 4th Regiment, U. S. Infantry on October 6, 1857. The reasons prompting his enlistment while in his late twenties are not known. Miller soon transferred to the cavalry arm and served with the 2nd Dragoons under Albert Sidney Johnston on the Mormon Expedition. Soldiering agreed with the young man, and he progressed rapidly. An estimation of his value to the service is shown by his promotion to Sergeant Major on May 11, 1861. Yet, after North Carolina seceded from the Union, Miller chose to align himself with his native state. In what was clearly a painful move, he requested his discharge from the U. S. Army and returned home.

Miller wasted no time in putting his prior military experience to use. He was initially appointed 3rd Lieutenant of the newly formed Washington Volunteers, which became Company “G” of the 1st North Carolina State Troops. However, his soldierly qualities quickly drew the notice of Naval Academy graduate Montfort Sydney Stokes, Colonel of the First. Miller was named 1st Lieutenant and regimental adjutant to date from May 16, 1861.

John Miller had four brothers who also served the Confederacy during the war: Captain Nelson Miller, Co. C, Avery’s Battalion; Pvt. Elisha Hamilton Miller, Co. F, 3rd NC Cavalry; Pvt. Julius Sidney Miller, Co. A, 22nd NCT, and Sgt. Anderson Mitchel Miller, Co. E, 6th NCST.

When the 1st N. C. was sent to Virginia following the Battle of Manassas, Adjutant Miller struggled to bring his unit to fighting trim. In a letter dated August 14, 1861 from near Richmond, he noted with some frustration: “I have been continually employed preparing the Regiment for action and bringing everything into working order. No one has drilled the Regt. at all but myself and the officers (Subalterns & Captains) are so incompetent (with one or two exceptions) that we will be in bad condition or order for an engagement. Our Lt. Col & Major know comparatively nothing of military affairs [and] Col. Stokes is away . . .” Miller proved relentless in his efforts. A brother officer in the First avowed: “As adjutant, in all the army, he had but few equals and no superiors in his position. He was not only theatrical but practical, and all the minutiae of his office seemed perfectly at his command. Years of drill in the ranks made him perfect in his bearing as a soldier and his appointment to the highest non-commissioned rank had given him the style of an officer that added to his well-proportioned form, dignity and grace.”

Miller was severely wounded while assaulting strong Federal positions along Beaverdam Creek near Mechanicsville, VA on June 26, 1862. The 1st NCST suffered heavily here. Modern photo by author.

Miller was severely wounded while assaulting strong Federal positions along Beaverdam Creek near Mechanicsville, VA on June 26, 1862. The 1st NCST suffered heavily here. Modern photo by author.

At Mechanicsville, Va. on June 26, 1862, the 1st North Carolina faced the test of crossing a makeshift bridge over the Chickahominy River and performing its first deployment while under fire. A private remembered how “the quick eye of Adjutant John S. R. Miller, who had served in the regular army, took in the situation and he galloped to the front, with drummer boys following with markers to indicate formation line [while] Ensign Obed Scott promptly placed [the regimental] colors . . . then the regiment double-quicked into position by companies just like on dress parade.”

The First proceeded to move forward against a formidable Federal line posted behind Beaver Dam Creek and was summarily slaughtered. Colonel Stokes was mortally wounded and every field officer in the regiment either killed or severely injured. Adjutant Miller was so badly wounded that it was thought for a time he would be forced to resign. He was not able to rejoin his unit until after the Maryland Campaign. In October, Miller was awarded the captaincy of Company “H.”

He was present with his company at both Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. On June 10, 1863, as the Army of Northern Virginia again prepared to move northward, Miller outlined his prospects for the upcoming campaign in a letter to his mother: “I scarcely think we will have a general engagement as the Yanks are disposed to play ‘shy’ as they have been so roughly handled that they can scarcely make up their minds and when they do they soon become [so] terror stricken that they show no courage or determination . . . Our troops are so accustomed to victory that it would be impossible to whip them. You need have no uneasiness about us at home as we are perfectly confident and with Lee to guide us are certain of success.”

Miller as Captain of the 1st North Carolina State Troops. Photo courtesy UNC Chapel Hill and Greg Mast

Miller as Captain of the 1st North Carolina State Troops. Photo courtesy UNC Chapel Hill and Greg Mast

Five days later, Captain John S. R. Miller was killed at the Battle of Stephenson’s Depot, Va., while pursuing General Robert Milroy’s fleeing Federals down the Shenandoah Valley. A note in Miller’s combined service record could well be his epitaph: “Universally admired as a gallant officer.” He is buried in his family cemetery at Mary’s Grove, N. C.

Of interest to collectors is Captain Miller’s surviving red-striped, bluish gray North Carolina issue blanket, now housed in the collection of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond.

by Bob Williams

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12/28/14

The Crenshaw Woolen Mills

Until its destruction by fire on May 15, 1863 The Crenshaw Woolen Mills in Richmond, Virginia was one of the chief producers of Confederate uniform cloth and blankets. It was situated in a five story building on the grounds of the Tredegar Iron Works. One of its best known products was a blue-grey woolen broadcloth often used for officer’s uniforms that came to be  known as Crenshaw gray. The following article, entitled “CITY INTELLIGENCE – THE CRENSHAW WOOLEN COMPANY” appeared in the October 17, 1861 edition of the Richmond Enquirer and provides an interesting overview of the facility’s vital capabilities:

“Second in importance as an auxiliary to Southern independence, scarcely to the Tredegar Iron Works, and the Virginia Armory, is the Crenshaw Woolen Company, the factory of which immediately adjoins the Tredegar works, presenting in strong and proximate contrast the arts of peace and of war – the labors of the anvil and of the loom, made equally subservient to the success of a people engaged in an arduous struggle for their liberties.

Ruins of the Tredegar Iron Works, 1865. Arrow denotes the shell of the Crenshaw Woolen Mills which was converted to a pattern house for the Richmond Arsenal

Ruins of the Tredegar Iron Works, 1865. Arrow denotes the shell of the Crenshaw Woolen Mills which was converted to a pattern house for the Richmond Arsenal

The fabrics manufactured by the Crenshaw Company, chiefly the light, blue and grey cloths, adopted for the regulation uniform of the Confederacy; broad cloths and blankets, although lacking, it may be, somewhat of the high finish of those made in Northern mills, are certainly far superior in every other respect. This superiority is especially observable in the weight and strength of the material, and in the firmness of its color. Where Yankee cloth may be torn by the slightest exertion of force, it requires the exercise of considerable muscular power to rend that manufactured by the Crenshaw Company. The marked inferiority of the former in this respect, is due to the almost general introduction into Yankee manufactures, as a substitute for wool, of the material technically known as shoddy, which, while it cheapens the manufactured article nearly 25 per cent., without detracting in the slightest degree from its appearance to the inexperienced eye, renders it comparatively worthless for actual use. . .

Another fraud upon purchasers, extensively practiced by Northern manufacturers, is in the adulterated character of the dyes used in the manufacture of broad cloths, principally log-wood and chloride of tin, the effect of which is to give to the cloth a highly glossed color, superior even in appearance to that obtained from indigo – the proper dye – but which fades away before a few days of exposure to the weather. In this respect, also, the cloth of the Crenshaw Company is superior to much the greater portion of that which finds its way to this market from the North, and is seized upon with eagerness by inexperienced purchasers, willing to sacrifice substance to show. We have ourselves witnessed a practical comparison, by means of chemical tests, between the cloth of the Crenshaw Company and a specimen of that from Northern mills, the result of which was to establish beyond cavil the excellent – we may say – the honest coloring of the former, and the thoroughly Yankee – i.e., tricky and unreliable – nature of the colors employed in the latter. Even English manufacturers, we are told, use the spurious dyes.

Crenshaw Grey uniform coat worn by Lt. Charles Ellis Munford of the Letcher Artillery. Munford was killed July 1, 1862 at Malvern Hill. Photo courtesy the Virginia Historical Society www.Virginia Historical.org.

Crenshaw Grey uniform coat worn by Lt. Charles Ellis Munford of the Letcher Artillery. Munford was killed July 1, 1862 at Malvern Hill. Photo courtesy the Virginia Historical Society www.Virginia Historical.org.

The sudden blockading of the ports of the South bade fair for awhile to terminate, or very much cripple, at least, the operations of the Crenshaw mills, as far as the manufacture of broadcloths was concerned, by cutting off the supply of logwood; but fortunately the much talked about ship Tropic Wind, which ran the blockade in April, brought within available distance of Richmond a full cargo of the necessary material, found on board a wreck which was encountered on the coast of Cuba. The Crenshaw Company are now enabled to furnish their less fortunate manufacturing friends throughout the South with as much logwood as can be needed for months to come. Some difficulty was also at first experienced in procuring the cotton warp necessary for manufacturing purposes, and which prior to the war had been usually brought from England, but an ample supply, nearly as excellent in quality as the British warps, is now obtained through the agency of a manufactory established at Franklinsville, N.C., under the direction of Coffee, Foush & Co. The woolen warps necessary for their business are here made in the mills of the Crenshaw Company.

The finest wool used in these manufactures is brought from South America, but the Merino wool raised in Fairfax county, in the vicinity of the now classic locality of Manassas, and the Texas wool, are very nearly equal to the South American, requiring perhaps, but care and systematic attention to render it fully so. At all events, the Virginia and Texas wools are far superior to that elsewhere to be found within the limits of North America, and are quite good enough to meet the chief requirements of the finest manufactures.

The Crenshaw Company – the only one, by the way, in the South now engaged in the manufacture of broadcloths – employ at present 25 broad looms, and an addition of 15 more are now in the course of construction; 5 sets of carding machines – three in each set – and 8 spinning jacks, comprising about 270 spindles in each. About 130 work people in all are employed, 25 of whom are females, the latter earning wages to the average amount of about $7.50 a week each. Several children ranging in their ages from 10 to 12 years, are also employed in the light and simple labor of filling shuttles. The male employees are principally foreigners, from the English, Irish, and German factories. Their labors are superintended by experienced overseers from England.

There are 8 dye vaults in the establishment, with an aggregate capacity equal to about 2,000 pounds per day; and 4 double fulling mills, in which the cloth, in its rough state of manufacture, is shrunk, to render it firm preparatory to receiving the final finish. The operation of raising the nap of the cloth, is an exceedingly simple one, and is performed upon a gig mill of a German mill.

CrenshawThe Crenshaw Works are now exclusively engaged under a Government contract, in the manufacture of regulation cloth for army uniforms, blankets, and stocking yarn, all for the use of the army. About 5,000 yards in all of cloth is manufactured weekly, and about 450 blankets. The latter, of which large numbers have already been furnished to the army, are quite equal to the English army blanket, many of which are made of shoddy, and superior to those of the Yankees. The blankets of the Crenshaw Company are 60 by 80 inches in dimensions; are made wholly of wool, and weigh but 3 7/8 pounds.”

Today the surviving structure of the old Crenshaw Mills building serves as a visitors center for the Richmond National Battlefield Park. Please left click on images for larger views.

by Bob Williams

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12/19/14

The Hardee Hat Pin

One of the most attractive insignia items utilized during the Civil War period was the enlisted man’s brass “Eagle” cap and hat ornament, often called the “Jeff Davis” eagle or Hardee Hat pin. This device,  initially prescribed in the 1851 Army Regulations, was intended to be a metallic rendering of the Arms of the United States, to wit: “the escutcheon on the breast of an American eagle, displayed, proper, holding in his dexter talon an olive branch, and in his sinister a bundle of thirteen arrows . . . and in his beak a scroll, inscribed with this motto: “E PLURIBUS UNUM . . . over the head of the eagle, which appears above the escutcheon, a glory breaking through with a cloud, proper, and surrounding thirteen stars, forming a constellation, argent, on an azure field.”

Photo courtesy Cowan Auctions

Photo courtesy Cowan Auctions

The pin was to be made of “yellow metal,” sometimes called “pressed brass.” Its original purpose was to serve as a pompom eagle on the Model 1851 shako cap. However, in 1858, when the tall, black felt Hardee hat replaced the shako as the standard headgear for the U. S. Army, other uses were found for the brass eagle device. The 1858 dress regulations stipulated that for mounted services the brim of the hat was to be “looped up on the right side, and fastened with an eagle attached to the side of the hat.” For infantry and artillery, hats were required to be looped and pinned on the left side. However, during the war, as the army changed from Scott’s to Hardee’s tactics, many infantrymen turned up the hat’s right side in order to better facilitate the new “Shoulder Arms” position.

While the reproduction eagle hat pins offered today have two long brass wires soldered on the reverse for attachment purposes, the original devices were constructed quite differently. Specifically, soldered to the reverse of the brass eagle near the top and middle were two wire loops, which were “pegged” by means of a leather thong to the side of the hat. Below these loops, at the bottom of the eagle, was a small hook of brass or iron wire. The purpose of this hook was to engage an “eye,” either of black metal or looped thread that had been sewn to the underside of the hat’s brim. Thus, the hat brim could be turned up or down “at will,” without altering the insignia’s position on the hat. And it made the hat much more utilitarian in blocking the rain and sun.

Photo Courtesy Cowan Auctions

Photo Courtesy Cowan Auctions

How much field service did the Hardee hat pin actually see? In the famous Iron Brigade at least, even as late as January 1864, one of it’s regiment’s was receiving “hats, together with bugles, eagles, cord and tassels, and feather,” but it is unlikely that the eagle devices saw much use after that time, except on dress parade. As a matter of information, there are as many as a dozen different die variations of the eagle hat pin, and while on most stampings the eagle faces to the left, right facing eagles have also been noted. Additionally, photos of the period show that soldiers sometimes exercised creative license and wore these pins on other headgear including forage caps. While not typical, it did happen. C’est le guerre!

by Bob Williams

HPIVHP I

12/9/14

Silent Sentinel: Confederate Fort Stevens

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The roughly twenty mile segment of Interstate 95 that runs between Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia provides easy access to some of the most extensive Confederate earthworks remaining in America today. If one looks closely,  entrenchments can be seen nearly everywhere in the woods along this route. Many are from the Howlett Line that guarded Bermuda Hundred and include Battery Dantzler and Parker’s Battery. Additionally, atop nearby Drewry’s Bluff along the James River, stand the well preserved and foreboding ramparts of Fort Darling. Here, in May 1862, Southern artillerymen thwarted an attempt by the Federal navy led by the famous Monitor to ascend the James and capture Richmond.

Several sections of both the Richmond inner and outer defense lines also remain, including a hidden little gem of a fort that played a key role in the little known 1864 Battle of Drewry’s Bluff. This three-gun Condederate earthwork is known as Fort Stevens. It lies in a small park by that name in a quiet residential neighborhood just off the Willis Road exit of I-95. Back in 1864, Fort Stevens anchored the intersection of Richmond’s outer and inner defense lines south of the city. When Federal troops under General Benjamin F. Butler seized much of the abandoned outer line on May 14th, the earthwork assumed strategic importance. It soon became storm center of heavy Union artillery and sharpshooter fire as Confederate defenders sought to blunt further advances of Butler’s army.

A graffiti marked interpretive sign in Fort Stevens gives a good idea of its appearance on May 14, 1864.

A graffiti marked interpretive sign in Fort Stevens gives a good idea of its appearance on May 14, 1864.

Fort Stevens itself is a plump semi-circle of earth with a deep ditch in front and a traverse to the rear that does not completely enclose the work. Inside are two ground level positions for heavy guns and three elevated ramps for light field pieces. On May 14, 1864 the sand-bagged interior of the fort was manned by four guns belonging to Captain James D. Hankins’ Virginia battery, also known as the Surry Light Artillery. They were supported by elements of the 27th South Carolina Infantry of General Johnson Hagood’s brigade. That afternoon the Federals positioned portions of several batteries within fairly close range and attempted to reduce the bastion with concentrated artillery fire. They were unsuccessful despite the fact that two of the Surry battery’s limbers were exploded and the muzzle of one cannon struck. Additionally, Union sharpshooters concealed in the abatis of the abandoned exterior line made it difficult for the grey cannoneers to work the guns. Narrowly escaping a bullet in the head was QM Sergeant Servetus M. Williams, great-grandfather of your blog host. Another member of Hankin’s Battery opined: “Twelve hours under continued fire is enough to test the endurance of the strongest and hardiest of men.”

QM Sgt. Servetus M. Williams of the Surry Light Artillery. While resting against a cannon wheel in Fort Stevens a sharpshooters bullet took out the spoke above his head.

QM Sgt. Servetus M. Williams of the Surry Light Artillery. While resting against a cannon wheel in Fort Stevens a sharpshooters bullet took out the spoke above his head.

Surprisingly, the following day was quiet as Confederate forces under General P. G. T. Beauregard marshalled for an attack against Butler’s tentative legions, which seemed to be mostly content with making defensive preparations. In a dense fog on the morning of May 16th, Beauregard launched his expected counterstroke. Fort Stevens served a pivot for the two pronged Southern offensive led by North Carolina Generals Robert F. Hoke and Robert Ransom, Jr. Initially the fog produced considerable confusion among the two Confederate wings. Yet the assault was vigorous and persistant enough to convince the defending Federals to call it quits. Butler soon withdrew to his defenses at Bermuda Hundred and Richmond was saved. For many reasons however, it was not the stunning Confederate victory it might have been.

Fort Stevens saw no further combat during the war and slowly faded into obscurity. Thanks to fairly recent efforts The Chesterfield (VA) County Department of Parks it remains today preserved for posterity, along with several nice interpretive markers. While visitors other than recreational ones are few, it’s definitely worth a look by any serious history buff. And as an added enticement, there is a very good local BBQ place close by! Please left click on images for larger view.

By Bob Williams

The star on this interpretive marker shows the position of Fort Stevens in relation to other Confederate defensive works.

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12/6/14

The 2nd Virginia Infantry at the 1st Battle of Kernstown

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Editorial note from your blog host: This article was originally prepared several years ago as pre-reading for a campaigner-style event in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. It was first published in “Rebel Boast.” Rather than consign this research to oblivion I have chosen to preserve it for posterity here in the hope that readers might find this information useful at some point.

By Spring of 1862,  the men of the 2nd Virginia Infantry had experienced as much real war as any unit in Confederate service at that time. Composed of Scotch-Irish stock from the northern Shenandoah counties of Berkeley, Clarke, Frederick, and Jefferson, the 2nd was built around the nucleus of a pre-war Virginia Militia regiment. It was ably led by Colonel James W. Allen. In late April 1861, the 2nd was brigaded at Harper’s Ferry with other Virginia units under an eccentric ex-professor from VMI named Thomas J. Jackson.

Samuel T. Cowley, a representative member of the 2nd Virginia Infantry. Note small size pre-war "US" belt plate. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Samuel T. Cowley, a representative member of the 2nd Virginia Infantry. Note small size pre-war “US” belt plate. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Under Jackson’s stern eye, the Valley men received much needed military instruction. They also soon earn the sobriquet “Innocent Second” because of their discipline and comely deportment in camp. First engaged at Falling Waters in July, the 2nd would gain eternal fame at Manassas for the brigade’s (and its commander’s) gallant performance in this signal Southern victory. Henceforth, Allen’s regiment along with the 4th, 5th, 27th and 33rd Virginia would be members of the “Stonewall Brigade.”

When Jackson was given command of all Confederate forces in the Shenandoah in November, leadership of his old brigade was given to Richard B Garnett. A series of ill-considered winter campaigns conducted by Jackson in freezing weather reduced his new army more severely than several major battles might have done. The 2nd VA and all of “Jackson’s Pet Lambs” suffered as severely as any but their devotion to their leader remained constant.

In early March 1862 Union General Nathaniel P. Banks advanced from Harper’s Ferry against Jackson’s base of operations at Winchester. Grudgingly, “Stonewall” withdrew his vastly outnumbered army southward, ever vigilant to a chance to strike the slowly pursuing Federals. Sensing hesitation on the part of Banks, he found his opportunity on May 23rd. After a grueling 20-mile march, Jackson attacked the Federals near Kernstown, just south of Winchester.

Three companies of the 2nd Virginia infantry were deployed as skirmishers and assisted Confederate cavalry in developing the Federal position along the Valley Pike. Finding this sector strongly defended, Jackson ordered the balance of Garnett’s brigade to support an advance ½ mile farther to the left. Fighting grew intense as Garnett moved to the assistance of another Confederate brigade. Nowrejoined by its skirmish companies, Colonel Allen described the actions of the 2nd VA: “ [A staff officer] ordered us forward and after crossing [a] ridge the fire of musketry began on our left and front . . . I brought my regiment into line by the right flank . . . Seeing a wall in front in possession of the enemy, my object was to get possession of it; but owing to the rapid firing of the enemy and the thick undergrowth only the right succeeded in reaching it, which they held until the order to retire was given at 6 p.m. Thus the men were exposed to a severe fire for nearly an hour, during which time they did not lose an inch of ground.”

Federal forces drive Garnett's brigade from their position behind the stone fence. Painting courtesy Keith Rocco.

Federal forces drive Garnett’s brigade from their position behind the stone fence. Painting courtesy Keith Rocco.

They did, however, begin to run out of ammunition. The arrival of large contingent of Federal reinforcements rendered the Stonewall Brigade’s position further untenable. Garnett wisely ordered his men to fall back before they were completely engulfed. Yet Jackson was furious and vainly sought to rally the fugitives. He not only berated Garnett but later placed the brigadier under arrest. It was with tremendous regret that Jackson ceded the field, and the victory, to the Federals, but not before every wounded man had been retrieved.

Map by Hal Jesperson showing movements of 2nd Virginia during the battle.

Map by Hal Jesperson showing movements of 2nd Virginia during the battle.

Truthfully, at Kernstown, Jackson had bitten off more than he could chew. His impetuosity combined with a lack of proper reconnaissance cost him more than one-fourth of his little army. The 2nd Virginia’s losses alone totaled 6 killed, 33 wounded, and 51 missing. Yet for “Mighty Stonewall” and the 2nd Virginia there would be other days, other battles, and other victories. Several were just weeks away.

by Bob Williams