11/7/13

Period Descriptions of North Carolina Soldiers

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Of all the Confederate States, North Carolina arguably did the best job in uniforming her troops while in the field. Yet, active campaigning quickly thwarted even the best attempts at a smart military appearance. The following contemporary descriptions are enlightening for their revelations on the North Carolina soldier in the field as he really looked and fought:

Prisoners of Branch’s NC Brigade taken at Hanover C.H., VA, June 1862:
“The scene within [the prisoner’s compound] . . . reminded me of the witch-scene in Macbeth, or pictures of brigands or Bohemian gypsies at rendezvous, not less than five hundred men, in motley, ragged costumes, with long hair, and lean, wild, haggard, faces . . . Some were wrapped in blankets of rag-carpet, and others wore shoes of rough untanned hide . . . Some appeared in red shirts, some in stiff beaver hats; some were attired in shreds and patches of cloth; and a few wore the soiled garments of citizen gentlemen; but the mass adhered to homespun suits of gray, or “butternut,” and the coarse blue kersey common to slaves . . . They came from North Carolina . . . In a corner, lying morosely apart were a Major, three Captains, and three Lieutenants, – young athletic fellows, dressed in gray cassimere, trimmed with black, and wearing soft black hats adorned with black ostrich – feathers. Their spurs were strapped upon elegantly fitting boots, and they looked as far above needy seedy privates, as lords above their vassals.”
George A. Townsend, Campaigns of a Non-Combatant, pp. 104-105

Casualties of Garland’s NC Brigade at South Mountain, MD, September 1862:
“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.”
Battles &Leaders, Vol. II, p. 558.

Pender’s Division on the march to Gettysburg, PA, June 1863:
“The soldiers of this division are a remarkably fine body of men, and look quite seasoned and ready for any work. Their clothing is serviceable, so also are their boots; but there is the usual utter absence as to color and shape of their garments and hats: gray of all shades, and brown clothing, with felt hats, predominate.”
The Freemantle Diary, p. 180

Lane’s NC Brigade at Cold Harbor, VA, June 1864:
“On the road stood a couple of Rebel officers, each in his gray overcoat [i.e. frock coat], and just behind a group of some twenty soldiers – the most gipsy-looking men imaginable, in their blue gray jackets and slouched hats; each with his rusty musket and well filled cartridge box.”
Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman, etc., p.154

McRae’s NC Brigade at Ream’s Station, VA, August 1864:
“Numbers of our men . . . were wearing the flashy uniforms of the Yankee artillerists and the fine hats of officers a few days after the battle.”

by Bob Williams