08/9/13

The Blue and the White?!

Jacket worn by J. J. Appler of the 1st Missouri Infantry during the Battle of Champion Hill. Photo courtesy Missouri Historical Society.

Jacket worn by J. J. Appler of the 1st Missouri Infantry during the Battle of Champion Hill. Photo courtesy Missouri Historical Society.

Just prior to the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas in March 1862, the 1st Missouri Regiment of Sterling Price’s Southern army received its first government-issue uniforms. “The cloth was of rough and coarse texture,” one member recalled, “and the cutting and style would have produced a sensation in fashionable circles: the stuff was white, never having been colored . . . [and] the wool had not been purified by any application of water since it was taken from the back of the sheep. In pulling off and putting on the clothes, the olfactories were constantly exercised by the strong odor of that animal. . Our clothes, however, were strong and serviceable, even if we did look somewhat sheepish in them.” These drab jackets came with large wooden buttons which appeared quite distinctive when offset with black cartridge box belts.

Undyed uniforms of this type seem to have been quite commonly furnished to Confederate troops, particularly those serving in the western and Trans-Mississippi theaters of operation. The 2nd Texas Infantry wore similar white uniforms into the fight at Shiloh, prompting one Federal prisoner to ask: “Who were those hellcats that went into the battle with their grave clothes on?”

The elite 3rd Louisiana nearly rebelled when they received an issue of uniforms “made of coarse white jeans” in March 1863. At first they refused to wear them, except by special order. Later when the regiment was ordered on a forced march, “some of the men suggested the propriety of wearing the new white uniforms on the approaching expedition, which would be among the swamps of the Yazoo valley. The suggestion was universally adopted, affording a rare opportunity to give the new clothes a thorough initiation into the mysteries of a soldier’s life. Thus the regiment assembled the next morning arrayed as if for a summer’s day festival.” The Third continued to wear these garments thru the Vicksburg Campaign, and fought valiantly.

Undyed clothing also saw some usage in the eastern Confederate armies as well. One Federal soldier viewing the battlefield of South Mountain in 1862 observed: “All around lay the Confederate dead – undersized men mostly, from the coast district of North Carolina, with sallow hatchet faces, and clad in “butternut” – a color running all the way from a deep, coffee brown up to the whitish brown of ordinary dust.”

Cotton jeans jacket worn by Private J. Prentice of the 38th Arkansas.

Cotton jeans jacket worn by Private J. Prentice of the 38th Arkansas.

While surely not the only source, one supplier of undyed cloth was the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. There, inmates were put to work looming and weaving millions of yards of jeans cloth for indigent Texans and the Confederacy as a whole. Most of the material was not dyed after manufacture in order speed production and reduce the cost of manufacture. Large quantities of this durable “stuff” were made into jackets and trousers. Its inherent light weight made such clothing extremely suitable for wear in the heat and humidity of the Deep South. Much of Bragg’s army was said to have been attired in this “penitentiary clothing” at Chickamauga.

While not positively identified examples of the Huntsville output, several excellent specimens of undyed Confederate jackets survive today. One is attributed to Private James Prentice of the 38th Arkansas Infantry. Another, worn by J. J. Appler of the 1st Missouri Infantry, is in the collection of the Missouri Historical Society. Appler was wearing this jacket when severely wounded at Champion Hill in May 1863.

This distinctive clothing proves, once again, that the Civil War was more than the “Blue” vs. the “Gray.”

By Bob Williams

07/29/13

Sidney E. King: Premier Historical Artist

Gallant charge of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery at Petersburg, June 18, 1864

Gallant charge of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery at Petersburg, June 18, 1864

Historical art prints of famous scenes from the War Between the States and other conflicts are all the rage now. Countless paintings by such fine artists as Don Troiani, Rick Reeves, Dale Gallon, Dan Nance, Mort Kunstler, Dale Gallon, Keith Rocco and others are readily available to history buffs. Thoroughly researched and superbly rendered, these works have done much to help us visualize how a particular battle or historic event may have played out. They have also helped refine our understanding of how the average fighting man of the time might have truly looked.

Yet, well before all the artists listed above came along there was a fellow by the name of Sidney E. King. If the name is not familiar, many of his works will be. They grace most of the National Park Service historic sites in the eastern United States. In fact, during his lifetime, King produced over 200 mural style paintings for the NPS. His story is an interesting one.

Born in Massachusetts in 1906, King knew from early on he wanted to be a painter. Those plans were nearly thwarted by the Depression. After losing a studio he had established the young artist eventually found a job as a sign painter. During WWII King camouflaged combat planes at Quantico, VA and designed aircraft insignia. Settling near Fredericksburg, VA, he continued to paint and eventually found gainful employment with the National Park Service. After that, his work commissions came fast and furious from many directions. King soon firmly established himself as an outstanding muralist noted for his meticulous research and historical accuracy. He proved a master of oils, acrylics, and water colors.

"Shoot and be damned!" The capture of Ft. Gregg, Petersburg, April 2, 1865

“Shoot and be damned!” The capture of Ft. Gregg, Petersburg, April 2, 1865

King became perhaps best known for his series of paintings of the Jamestown, VA settlement which were on display as early as 1957, when Queen Elizabeth II visited the US on the colony’s 350th anniversary. He also produced an outstanding series for the Yorktown National Battlefield Park. His Civil War related works include numerous murals for the Richmond, Petersburg, Manassas, Kennesaw Mountain, Gettysburg and Fredericksburg Battlefield Parks. Several of those paintings accompany this blog post. They are highly detailed and show actual occurrences and participants of the battles depicted.

King is also known for painting the largest mural ever to be rendered in the United States. Titled “Creation,” it measures 400 feet long by 75 feet high and covers the encircling walls of the dome on Mormon Temple Square in Salt lake City, Utah. He also illustrated many magazine articles and books including W. W. Hassler’s Colonel John Pelham: Lee’s Boy Artillerist and A Pictorial History of Jamestown by J. Paul Hudson.

Until the age of 92 the prolific Sidney King continued to paint six days a week and held two shows a year at his studio near Bowling Green, VA. He also taught art at Rappahannock Community College in Warsaw, VA. When he passed away at age 95 in Caroline County, VA, a true prodigy was lost.

So, next time you visit an eastern National Historical Park take a look around. There you are sure to find at least several superbly rendered paintings with the bold signature “S. E. King” standing as fitting memorials to this wonderful but little known historical artist.

The capture of Casey’s Redoubt at the Battle of Seven Pines, May 31, 1862

The recapture of Ft. Steadman, Petersburg, March 25, 1865

The recapture of Ft. Steadman, Petersburg, March 25, 1865

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bob Williams

07/22/13

The Homefront Connection

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One vital but often overlooked source of clothing for the Confederate soldier in the field was, of course, the “folks at home.” In fact, except for elaborately dressed militia companies that existed in various locales prior to the war, home produced clothing was the rule rather than the exception until state and Confederate manufacturing facilities could swing into high gear.

References to clothing from home in contemporary letters are frequent. On August 2, 1861 a Georgia private made this request: “I wish Ma would send me a coat; let her make it of gray woolen cloth she once made me a hunting coat from . . . It must be a jacket, buttoning all the way up the front military fashion, with a short collar to stand up; buttons either brass or silver, oval shape, nearly half inch in diameter; put a short tape 1/3 inch wide upon the shoulder, running front to back. Let it be warm, pockets inside and on both sides.”

Another Georgian in the 35th Regiment placed an even heavier order to help him survive the upcoming winter of 1862-63: “[Send me] 1 close bodied coat made in uniform style. 2 pairs of jeans pants lined. Be careful not to make them too large. 4 shirts, 2 nice and 2 plain. 2 pair of drawers. 3 or 4 pair of socks. One pair of heavy home made boots as the winter is severe . . . Also a head cover to sleep in. My pants and coat I want made of gray cloth or one pair of the pants gray and the other pair brown. Also a good heavy vest. You may think it strange of me for sending for so much but I am tired of being unclothed.”

One enterprising Virginian even set up an 1860’s version of Men’s Warehouse by selling his home made clothes. To his wife he wrote” I have sold my pants, vest shoes, and drawers for sixty-one dollars so you can see I am flush again . . . You will have to make me more pants and drawers, if you can raise the material make two pair of pants and four pair of drawers and I will have a pair of pants and two pair of drawers for sale and in that way will get mine clear . . . If you could make up a good supply of pants, vests, shoes, and drawers I could be detailed to come after them.”

This mailing of clothing was not always one-way. An Alabama soldier soldier sent some of his government-issue clothing home, commenting: “I send you a couple of shirts and a pair of drawers. Use them as you please. I had rather wear your make. The reason I drew them was that they are so much cheaper than you can make them. You can use them in making clothes for the children.”

The practice of wearing home made clothing persisted throughout the war. Even as late as 1863 an English observer noted: “I was told that even if a [Confederate] regiment was clothed in proper uniform by the government, it would become parti-colored again in a week as the soldiers preferred wearing the coarse homespun jackets and trousers made by their mothers and sisters at home.”

By Bob Williams

07/22/13

A Common Militia Belt Plate

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Independent state militia companies were very much a part of early American life in the years immediately following the Mexican War. As such, a number of enterprising and reputable businesses provided stock and custom uniforms and equipage to many of these organizations. Some units were extremely prestigious and wealthy; others were not. It is therefore not surprising that many unique accouterment items of varying quality were produced which later saw field service on both sides during the Civil War.

While the various styles of militia belt plates run into the dozens, one particularly interesting two piece design seems to have been adopted with some frequency by military organizations on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. This “standard” buckle is of the interlocking pattern, with an ornately scrolled Victorian design on the wreath, and a spread winged eagle on the tongue. It is neither particularly attractive nor very well made. Its maker is unknown. Nevertheless, it was extremely popular design among many well-appointed New England Militia companies, and others. Photographic evidence shows at least some members of the 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, 18th Massachusetts Infantry, 44th Massachusetts Infantry, and 8th New Hampshire wearing this plate. There is also a museum piece documented as being worn by a soldier in the “Volunteer Maine Militia.”

On the Southern side, this same plate is seen upon the person of a member of the Petersburg City Guard (later of the 12th Virginia Infantry) and an unidentified North Carolina infantry lieutenant. They appear to have seen use both as sword belt plates and on enlisted men’s waist belts. An excellent example on its original belt is in the Gettysburg NBMP museum collection.

This style plate was extremely popular with many military bands. However, instead of the eagle motif, such monikers as “Boston Brigade Band,” “German Band,” “Band, 2nd R. I. V.,” and “Woodstock Coronet Band” (later part of the “Stonewall Brigade Band”) were displayed on the tongue portion. Other variants of this plate had specific company names inscribed on them, including “Richardson Lt. Guard,” “Charleston City Guard,” or the “Sutton Light Infantry.” The tongue portion of a “Richardson Lt. Guard” [5th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, a 9 month regiment] pattern was dug from a Federal camp on Hilton Head Island many years ago. One specimen with assumed North Carolina provenance bears the letters “GLG” and is attributed to the “Gaston Light Guard” of New Bern.

Various examples of these type plates are not uncommonly found in camp and battle sites up thru the mid-war period. They comprise a unique part of mid 19th Century militaria and of this country’s militia heritage.

By Bob Williams

06/28/13

A Self-Guided Tour of Confederate Ft. Harrison

The Fall of Fort Harrison, September 29, 1864 as depicted by artist Sidney E. King. Photo by Author

The Fall of Fort Harrison, September 29, 1864 as depicted by artist Sidney E. King. Photo by Author

In a continuation of our series of posts providing walking tour maps and guides to Civil War sites, we offer this close up look at Confederate Fort Harrison, a key work on the defense lines east of Richmond. Federals captured this large earthen fort on September 29, 1864 in a surprise pre-dawn assault. Although lightly defended, the small Confederate garrison waged a brisk defense, costing the attacking Union forces heavily. While the Federals maintained control of the fort they were unable to further exploit the dent in Richmond’s defense perimeter as Southern troops from other sections of the line heroically plugged the gap. It was, as they say, a near run thing.

Considering the recapture of Fort Harrison vital, General Robert E. Lee launched a counterattack the following day aimed at ousting the Unionists. The attacking Rebels never really stood a chance. Many of the defending Federals were armed with seven-shot Spencer carbines that poured out a literal sheet of fire. Casualties among the Confederate forces, including the North Carolina brigades of Kirkland, McKethan, and Scales, were devastating. Lee was forced to call off the assault as a bad enterprise.

In the end, Fort Harrison remained in Federal hands and was considerably strengthened into a fully enclosed earthwork. It was renamed Fort Burnham, in honor of Union Brigadier General Hiram Burnham who was killed in the September 29th attack. Confederate forces meanwhile constructed a secondary defense line in their Chaffin’s Farm defenses that effectively sealed off the breach. They made one further attempt to repair the broken line on October 7th but it too failed. However, it was not until Richmond fell on April 3, 1865 that Union troops ever reached the city.

Fort Harrison/Burnham today is well preserved, along with many secondary works, as part of the Richmond National Battlefield Park. Presented below is an excellent walking self-guided tour of both the Confederate and Federal sections of the fort. This brochure was printed in 1961 and has been long out of print. Your blog host is pleased to make this excellent tour map once again available to enhance your battlefield experience when visiting this fortification. Please left click on images for enlarged views.

FHI 001FHII 001FHIII 001

By Bob Williams

06/6/13

Fred Olds, faux Confederate

Anyone with even a passing interest in North Carolina history owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Fred A. Olds. An inveterate and unapologetic collector of the first order, Olds’ passion for acquiring and preserving artifacts and documents related to the Old North State was boundless. By the end of the nineteenth century he had amassed a huge collection that included land grants, marriage bonds, portraits, photographs, military relics, and other assorted records. These he generously donated in 1902 to the state of North Carolina as the core of its Hall of History exhibit, then located in the state library. For the next thirty years Olds served as “collector” for the state and built the foundation for today’s North Carolina Museum of History.

Old’s was regarded with considerable disdain by professional historians of the day. To many, he was more of an acquirer than a true historian or curator. One scholar, perhaps not without a tinge of jealousy, declared Old’s work “a horrible example to be avoided.” He was often accused of playing fast and loose with facts in order to stimulate interest and enthusiasm. Yet, whatever his shortcomings, Old’s had a tremendous ability to infect others with his love of North Carolina’s rich historical past. He would freely admit that his purpose was as much to entertain as it was to instruct. He was considered a modern day Pied Piper to school children across North Carolina. He also conducted tours of the Hall of History to such visiting dignitaries as King Albert of Belgium and Marshal Foch.

Perhaps as part of his showmanship, Old’s posed at some point for a series of photographs showing him wearing various Confederate uniform examples from the hall’s vast collections. Readers of the blog may recognize some particular items of clothing and equipment including General Johnston Pettigrew’s uniform coat! Taken altogether, these images provide an interesting glimpse of the North Carolina Confederate soldier as he may have looked and fought. They also capture a bit of the warmth, charm, and enthusiasm of Fred Olds, dapper father of the North Carolina Museum of History. All photographs are from the museum’s collections. Readers may left click on photos for enlarged views.

Olds NC jacket1 Olds NC 3 Olds Pettigrew OLds NC7

Olds NC2 Olds NC4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bob Williams

 

05/22/13

A Soldier’s Vest

Readers of this blog may be interested in seeing photographs of an unusual civilian-style summer weight vest in my possession with identified Confederate provenance. This unique item of clothing was handed down to me by my late paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Clyburn Williams of Richmond, Virginia. The vest has a standing collar with front panels and interfacing made from a white cotton pique (pronounced pea-kay) of intricate raised design. It is completely hand sewn with nine exquisitely rendered buttonholes down the left front. No buttons remain although some of the original attachment threads do. The back panel and interior lining are of coarsely woven cotton homespun. The vest is pieced on the left side interior in two places, a trait seen on many items from this period. The accompanying photographs provide additional detail. Please left click on images for enlarged views.

Accompanying this garment is a note in my grandmother’s handwriting certifying: “This vest was worn by one of Grandmother Vaughan’s brothers – during the Civil War.” Said “Grandmother Vaughan” was originally Anne Elizabeth Yancey of Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Anne Yancey had four brothers, three of whom had known Confederate service records. They are:

Edward Bozeman Yancey: Wright’s Co. Halifax (VA) Artillery. Enlisted as private at age 23 in Halifax Co. on 3/18/1862. Promoted to Ordnance Sergeant and served at Franklin Depot from Jan.-June 1863. Transferred to Ordnance Department at Petersburg on unknown date. Battery played key role in Battle of the Crater. Captured in retreat from Richmond/Petersburg and paroled at Farmville 4/21/1865. Died at South Boston, VA, 4/23/1918.

James K. Yancey: 1st Virginia Infantry. Enlisted at age 36 on 1/23/1863 in Halifax Co., VA in Company “I.” Occupation listed as shoemaker. Wounded at the Battle of Clay’s Farm [on the Howlett/Bermuda Hundred lines] on 6/16/1864. Admitted to Chimborazo Hospital No. 5 on 6/20/1864. Died of wounds 9/23/1864.

Patrick Henry Yancey: 20th Virginia Infantry. Enlisted at Clover Depot, Halifax Co., VA as a private in Company “H” [Clover Rifles] on 5/28/1861.Described as being 5’10” tall, having a light complexion, and blue eyes with light hair. He was 5 feet 9.9 inches tall. Pre-war occupation shown as clerk. Made POW on 7/11/1861 when entire company captured at the Battle of Rich Mountain, WV. Paroled on 7/17/1861 at Randolph County, WV. Reenlisted in Company H, 20th Virginia Infantry Regiment on 5/28/1862 after parole deemed invalid. Regiment disbanded October 1862. Subsequent war service undetermined. Yancey Street in South Boston, VA is named after him.

William F. Yancey: No definite Compiled Service Record found. Born 7/12/1833. Anecdotal family record indicates death by fever in Corinth, MS, date unknown.

Unfortunately, we will likely never know which of the men above owned this vest or the extent of its actual war usage. Nonetheless, it remains a splendid example of Civil War era material culture.

1vest front 2vest interior4vest piecing

5vest pocket6vest buttonholes

By Bob Williams

05/11/13

Bartering in the Civil War South

Faced with frequent fluctuation of commodities prices and unstable currency values, Southern businesses out of necessity chose to barter with civilians for “operating capital” rather than shut down. The Orange County (N.C.) Factory Cotton Mill at one time refused Confederate script and would accept only wool or cotton in exchange for yarn, which poorer women did not have. Citizens needed the yarn to make socks and other garments which could be sold to earn money to purchase food. The mill later also bartered for bacon, tallow, or lard in exchange for cotton yarn. Always in short supply, raw wool was also requested by many mills from individuals.

barteringFrancis Fries, owner of the Fries Woolen Mills in Salem, N.C., offered to trade cotton yarn for corn. One citizen father writing to his soldier son informed him: “I hauled my butter…to the factory and bartered for thread and cloth…they paid fifty cents per pound in cash for the balance. They gave me one bunch of thread for ten pounds of butter, one yard of cloth for a pound of butter…they paid me thirty cents per pound of cheese, two dollars per bushel of chestnuts…”

People of Watauga County, N. C. cut hickory saplings, bundled them, and traveled to Saltville, Va. to trade wood for salt. The hickory was used to make barrel hoops. Notices desiring barter appeared in nearly all newspapers. “I will exchange fruit trees, roses, grapevines, and other nursery stock for cotton, at market prices,” advertised Thomas Carter. “The North Carolina Rail Road wants persons to deliver 100-200 cords of wood. This newspaper will pay 20 cents a pound for clean cotton and linen rags, delivered to this office.”

Another publisher posted this announcement: “For the use of the hands in our office, we desire to obtain bacon, meal, potatoes, and any other article of food which can be spared. In exchange we will give envelopes, paper, pens, ink, books, power, caps, tobacco, shoe tacks, and many other useful goods; or will pay cash as may be preferred. We want these necessities of like for the use of our employees only . . .”

There are many interesting examples of various barter mediums. One lady employed by the commissary department received tobacco in place of currency. Women working at the Arsenal in Fayetteville took home Alpaca cloth in lieu of money. A female diarist penned that she send some lard to a merchant in exchange for spun thread. The Richmond Dispatch noted that ten-penny nails were being passed in the Upper Piedmont of Virginia as equal to five cents each. Families combed old out buildings for these nails to trade. Proprietors of boarding houses and hotels sometimes demanded food instead of rent money. “Our landlords will not board except for provisions, putting board and provisions both at old prices, or what will buy them, which runs board up to $150 per month . . .”

Even the North Carolina quartermaster general was willing to barter with civilians. The state had plenty of factory-made cotton yarn but lacked wool. A notice appeared in one newspaper from H.A. Dowd, AQM, that he was prepared to exchange cotton yarn for wool at one bunch of yarn for three pounds of washed wool and one bunch for four pounds of unwashed wool. One bunch was considered equal to five pounds of factory cloth which could be made into fifteen yards. A hank was 840 yards of cotton thread, which weighed one pound. One pound of yarn cost 75 cents to one dollar and would make four pairs of socks.

Agents were appointed to make exchanges at Oxford, Tarboro, Catherine Lake, Kinston, Concord, Rockingham, Pittsboro, Asheville, Hendersonville, Louisburg, Fayetteville, Statesville, and Colerain. In 1860 according to the Agricultural Census, the state raised just over one-half million sheep with Randolph County the highest number and Carteret County the lowest. Sheep had become a necessary animal just like the mule.

00747vApproximately 80 percent of the southern cotton supply was sent to Great Britain in the decade before the war. In 1850, England bought nearly two million bales of cotton from the South. King Cotton provided four to five million jobs to them. When the South first seceded, they initially withheld cotton from England which at that time had a stockpile. After two years of Federal blockade, shipments permanently decreased and 40 percent of English mill workers lost their jobs. This became known as the cotton famine.

Antebellum North Carolina had thirty-nine cotton mills and seven woolen mills. In November of 1861 Governor Henry T. Clark asked proprietors of these cotton mills to make an exclusive contract with the state, break existing contracts with private individuals, and sell only to the government. The mills were to receive no more than a 75 percent profit. Agents roamed in and out of the state to buy wool and raw materials. It was at this point that civilians had to revert to making their own cloth if they could not afford the high prices for fabric. This homemade cloth was known as “homespun.” It could be made of only cotton, only wool, only linen, or a mixture. The “jeans” cloth known in the war era was generally a weave of both cotton and wool.

By Brenda McKean, author of  Blood and War at my Doorstep: North Carolina Civilians in the War Between the States.

04/27/13

The 21st North Carolina Infantry at First Winchester

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The 21st North Carolina Infantry was organized at Danville, VA in June of 1861. Its twelve companies were composed primarily of recruits from Davidson, Forsyth, Guilford, Rockingham, Stokes, and Surry Counties. Commanded by Col. W. W. Kirkland, the unit left Danville on July 15th to join General Joseph Johnston’s army around Manassas Junction. They were positioned along Bull Run Creek but were not actively engaged in the subsequent Confederate victory there.

Kirkland’s Tar Heels remained in Northern Virginia throughout the balance of 1861 and in October were assigned to General Isaac Trimble’s brigade, which also included the 21st Georgia. The winter was spent doing routine camp chores and “arduous picket duty.” It was a relief to the regiment when orders were received in early March of 1862 to break camp and join the command of “Stonewall” Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley.

Jackson wasted no time in committing his force against an invading Federal army under the command of General Nathaniel P. Banks. Stationed near Strasburg, VA, Banks was fearful of the legendary Southern general. On May 23 the Union commander decided to retreat northward towards Winchester. Ever audacious, Jackson determined to cut off Bank’s withdrawal before the protective defenses of Winchester might be reached.

As part of General “Dick” Ewell’s division, Trimble’s brigade and the 21st North Carolina marched relentlessly in pursuit. Bank’s immense supply train was overtaken near Middletown by portions of Jackson’s force on May 24th. However, delay occasioned by the plundering of this rich prize enabled most of Banks’ army to reach Winchester safely. Jackson was furious but urged his infantry onward. The Confederates gamely marched all night and around 4 a.m., lay down in the cold dew to rest.

Battle-of-First-Winchester-ed_jpgDawn of May 25th found Banks’ forces defensively positioned on a range of protective hills just south of the town. Jackson launched assaults on both Federal flanks and immediately encountered fierce resistance. On the Confederate right, near the Front Royal road, Trimble ordered his “two Twenty Firsts” to charge a strongly positioned Union regiment. A member of the 21st North Carolina described the ensuing charge: “With a wild cheer the regiment moved swiftly towards the enemy’s line behind stone walls, and was met by a most terrific fire of infantry and grape shot. The regiment moved right on to the stone wall, from which the enemywere pouring forth a perfect storm of canister and minie balls from right and left–cross-firing upon us.” Despite initially wavering in the intense fire, the Carolinians regrouped and joined their brothers in the 21st Georgia in driving the Federals from the field.

Across the battlefield, Confederate forces were equally successful. The surrounding hills resounded with the Rebel Yell as retreating bluecoats fled through Winchester in what became a general stampede. They would not halt until safely crossing the Potomac, more than 30 miles distant. Despite Jackson’s most strenuous efforts, the exhausted and equally disorganized victors could only mount a half-hearted pursuit. The citizens of Winchester were overjoyed at the Union withdrawal and wildly greeted Jackson’s troops as “liberators.” For the time being at least, the Shenandoah Valley was safe.

The carnage on the field at Winchester was shocking despite the battle’s short duration.. “The sight which there presented itself can never be forgotten,” recalled a participant. “Around stood several pieces of artillery deserted by the enemy. Many Federals and Confederates lay dead, wounded and dying around me. Colonel Kirkland, while waving his sword and cheering on his men, was shot through the thigh but did not leave . . . Never were men more mangled or pierced with so many balls.” Indeed, its baptismal engagement cost the 21st North Carolina Regiment roughly 21 killed and 60 wounded.

For these gallant volunteers from the Piedmont, First Winchester was just the beginning of a long and bloody war.

By Bob Williams

04/20/13

A Walking Tour of Cold Harbor

Cold Harbor

In June of 2009 the reactivated 26th North Carolina Infantry held a living history event on Cold Harbor National Battlefield Park, located in Hanover County, VA,  a few miles east of Richmond. Here in June of 1864 the Federal armies under general Ulysses S. Grant were handed bloody and decisive repulse by Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. The regiment was allowed to camp just behind the well-preserved main line of Confederate earthworks at veritable “storm center” of the famous June 3rd assault. Weekend activities included living history in the trenches and the usual drill and firing demonstrations.

As part of the program I was asked to provide a walking tour of key points on the NPS property and relate events of the battle that occurred at those locations. More than 50 years studying and exploring the fields of this famous engagement provides me some credentialing. To assist in this interpretation I used as a primary map an excellent survey of the Cold Harbor trench lines rendered by author Earl Hess in his book Trench Warfare under Grant & Lee: Field Fortifications in the Overland Campaign. This map was the basis of our guided walking tour. Quotations from actual participants highlight events at key stops on the tour.

Since that time I have had several unit members ask for copies of this map and descriptive text. Assuming this information may be of interest to newer members and blog readers who might wish to tour the Cold Harbor battlefield in the future, it is being reproduced here in its entirety. You won’t find this anywhere else. Please left click on map for enlarged view suitable for printing. Happy battlefield tramping!

26th NC Cold Harbor Tour

 (1.) CS TEMPORARY LINE (KERSHAW’S SALIENT): “On examining the line I found it bent back at almost a right angle the point of which rested on a body of heavy woods . . . The right face of the angle ran along a slope with a small marshy stream behind and higher ground in front . The works had evidently been built just where the troops found themselves at the close of the fight [on June 1st ] . . . I proposed to cut off the angle and build a new line across its base which would throw the marshy ground in front. I procured a hatchet  . . . with an armful of stakes [and] went out after dark located the line and drove every stake upon it. The troops were formed on it at once and before morning the  [new] works were finished . . . the men having leveled the [old] works as much as possible before leaving them.” Gen. E.M. Law

 (2.) FALLIGANT’S LONE GUN: “ One of Calloway’s guns . . . under the command of Lieutenant Robert Falligant [Pulaski Georgia Artillery] . . . held and carried the right flank of  [Kershaw’s] brigade . . . After Falligant’s horses were shot . . . it was considerably in advance of Wofford’s left with which it was not connected at all . . . There [was not] at any time a Confederate soldier to the right of this piece, nor a spadeful of dirt, except the little traverse we threw up to protect the right of the gun . . . I have never witnessed more gallant action than this of Lt. Falligant and his dauntless cannoneers.” Maj. Robt. Stiles, Cabell’s Arty. Bttn

 (3.) JUNE 3rd KILLING FIELD (MUDDY RUN): “So far as the 18thCorps is concerned in this mornings assault Gen. Martindale’s Division moved down a ravine in the center of the 18th Corps lines; Gen. Brooks  moved in on the left of Martindale connecting with the right of the 6th Corps . . . They charged into an angle  . . . and were badly cut up losing a thousand men . . .  The right of our Regiment [13th NHV] here rests near a muddy and very wet bit of swamp called Muddy Run . . . It is not fortified excepting by a few logs and to pass up and down the line there requires much care.”  Lt. S. M. Thompson, 13th NHV.

 (4.) US MAIN LINE: “The skirmishers and pickets who preceded us on this line holding it after the charge of  . . . June 3rd, had seized it and made little pits but no regular entrenchments . . . Our men add to these with tin dippers and bayonets . . . The bodies of the Rebel dead lying about and the bodies of some  Union men also are piled up for a barricade , but separately, [and] a few logs and sand thrown upon the whole – anything to keep the Rebel bullets back . . .  Muddy run at our right opens a gap . . . for the enemy’s fire and we run traverses across the ditch of our entrenchments for every few men to prevent his enfilading any part of the curving line of our trench. . .  We could count 170 dead bodies lying unburied in the open field close in front of our entrenchments  . . . Our trench is about five feet thick and more than that thick.”  Lt. S. M. Thompson, 13th NHV.

 (5.) THE PINE: “ The center and left of our Regt. rises and entrenches on a small knoll but quite high . . .  Our entrenchments bend around a large pine tree standing near the highest point of the knoll . . .  possibly it stands fifteen feet in rear of the parapet .This tree is about 75 feet high and 2 and ½ feet in diameter and the boys call it “Our Pine.” This pine . . . is struck by hundreds of bullets and is the special target for every Rebel gunner in this part of the Confederacy.” Lt. S. M. Thompson, 13th NHV.

 (6.) CHARGE OF THE HEAVIES: “The field in front of us . . . was indeed a sad site . . . The 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery, a new regiment 1800 strong, had joined us a few days before the battle. Its uniform was bright and fresh; therefore its dead were easily distinguished where they lay. They marked in a dotted line an obtuse angle, covering a wide front with its aped toward the enemy, and there upon his face, with his head towards the works . . . lay the brave and genial Col. Elisha S. Kellogg.” Gen. M. T. McMahon

 (7.) JUNE 1st BREAKTHROUGH (BLOODY RUN): “Everywhere [on June 1st] the enemy were driven back promptly & decidedly except at the 50 yard gap between Hoke & Kershaw through which flowed a small stream bordered with woods and thicket. The enemy’s dense columns filled this wood which sheltered them from our view entirely & penetrated the gap & suddenly appeared on the flanks of the brigades on each side. Here they captured about 500 prisoners & a little of each end of the breastwork.”  Col. E. P. Alexander

 “The Yankees charged us and our left was entirely unprotected by the moving of Hagood’s brigade to the right . . .  [and] the enemy got completely round our left in overwhelming numbers. The 8th North Carolina on our left was almost completely surrounded but managed to get off . . . I rallied some men about 100 yards in the rear . . . when I received a tremendous blow which struck me about the knee making me fall like an ox..” Captain W.H.S. Burgwyn, 35th North Carolina

 (8.) CS GUN POSITION:  “Every night each gun was ordered to be double shotted for instant use . . . One of Cabell’s Napoleons had its wheels so cut and torn by bullets one evening it was thought best to put on new ones. This was done & the breech of the gun was elevated and 37 musket balls fell out which had gone down the muzzle during the day.” Col.  E. P. Alexander

 “Artillery was placed at both ends of the new line abreast of the infantry.” Gen. E. M. Law

 (9.) CS COMMAND POST: “General Gregg’s headquarters . . . consisted of a hole in the ground about 3 feet deep and about 8 by 4 in dimension. It was located about 20 feet in the rear of our main line trench which was here only about 150 yards from the Federal line on the edge of a wood. . .  A little narrow trench from one end led obliquely into the infantry line in front.” Col. E. P. Alexander

 (10.) CS MAIN LINE: “We now entered into eight days of life in the trenches which I think were the greatest eight days of hardship the army ever endured . . . the baking down of the summer sun became so unbearable that the men would canopy the whole trench with their blankets . . . [every] four men would reverse their muskets  . . . and let the hammers pinch down on the four corners of a blanket . . . Imagine how thick four men with canteen, blankets, and haversacks must lie to one single blanket, conceive that vermin . . . and all the nuisances attendant upon a great & crowded aggregation of humanity . . . and you begin to have a picture of the Cold Harbor trenches. To pass along the lines . . . I would have to literally have to crawl under every blanket and over every set of fours.”  Col. E. P. Alexander

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By Bob Williams