A Northern Born Greek-American Tar Heel Confederate

Patterson_GeorgeThe Civil War produced more than its share of colorful characters. Many earned their reputations through glorious deeds of battle, high-flung oratory, or both. Others served quietly behind the scenes but through sheer uniqueness of personality and their influence on others were fondly remembered by their comrades. One such person was the Reverend George Patterson, Chaplain of the 3rd North Carolina State Troops. He might well qualify as the most diverse soldier to serve the Confederacy.

Born in 1828  Boston, Massachusetts of Greek-American parentage, George’s initial surname was Papathakes. This was changed at baptism to its Americanized counterpart, George Patterson. He received his early education in Wisconsin but later attended the University of North Carolina. Patterson also pursued his pastoral training in North Carolina and was ordained deacon in 1852 and priest in 1856. He served as rector of Grace Church in Plymouth, NC and from 1852-1861 acted as missionary to the slaves of massive Somerset Plantation in Washington County. Strangely contrary to his New England religious upbringing, the Reverend Patterson strongly supported the institution of slavery. In 1856 he published anonymously in Philadelphia a pamphlet entitled The Scripture Doctrine with Regard to Slavery. In it Patterson used numerous Biblical references to support his premise that there was scriptural justification for the practice.

It is therefore not surprising that Reverend Patterson responded to the tocsin of war by enlisting in 1861 to defend the new Confederacy. He was named chaplain of the 3rd North Carolina State Troops. Recruited primarily from the coastal plains of the state, the regiment compiled an enviable combat while serving with the Army of Northern Virginia. Patterson was deeply revered by the men of the regiment for his down to earth manner and willingness to share in all the vicissitudes of campaign. He was also known for his affinity to wear sturdy homespun butternut jeans. It was Patterson’s unfortunate lot to provide succor and last rites to 10 men of the 3rd NC executed for desertion near Orange, Virginia in late 1863. On a more uplifting note, the Reverend also performed supposed last rites on severely wounded Colonel Hamilton A. Brown of the 1st North Carolina following a major battle only to encounter the plucky Colonel several weeks later alive and well. Speaking of the chaplain one acquaintance noted: “Some of Reverend Patterson’s war stories surpassed anything in humor and pathos we ever heard, but his manner was so unique and his laughter so absolutely delicious that it would be impossible to tell them as he did.”

ChimbIn recognition of his distinguished war service Patterson was named in late 1864 as post chaplain of the huge Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond. His contributions to the spiritual well-being of the patients there earned him the notice of Varina Davis, wife of the Confederate president. She personally made for him a hand embroidered shawl which he wore and treasured for the rest of his life.

At war’s end Patterson settled in Wilmington  where he served successively as rector of two Episcopal churches from 1865 to 1881. The following year he moved to Tennessee and became financial agent for the University of the South at Sewanee. He then performed four years missionary work in Tyler, Tex., before returning to Tennessee in 1885.  There he served until his death in 1901 as beloved rector of Grace Church in Memphis. Patterson never married, having taken an oath of celibacy upon entering the ministry. The words of a close friend furnish a fitting epitaph for this colorful but little known Northern-born Greek American Tar Heel Confederate: “In his private conversations with people his ready wit and kindly way of saying things very plain made him a power . . . He did not hesitate to tell the whole unvarnished truth and although it cut to the quick sometimes, his way of doing it disarmed resentment.”

by Bob Williams




“Inspired by Noble Patriotism (Part II)”


Posted below are additional entries related to the deaths of soldiers in the 26th North Carolina Regiment as gleaned by author Brenda McKean from the pages of the Fayetteville Observer. These notices do not chronologically follow those as posted in Part I of this blog since Brenda uncovered some earlier entries published while the unit was stationed along the Carolina coast. The heavy hand of illness surely took its toll among these early volunteers. Thanks again, Brenda,  for sharing your research.

November 11, ’61: “Died at Carolina City, on the 23rd of October, Robert W. Goldston, Esq., Postmaster at Prosperity, Moore County, in the 30th year of life.  He was a volunteer in Capt. Martin’s Company—a lieutenant—and on joining the Regiment was appointed commissary of the 26th Regiment of N.C. Volunteers.  He was acting in discharge of those duties when attacked with fever, and being of a frail and delicate constitution, fell a victim to its ravages.  He has left a devoted wife, an aged father two brothers and four sisters, and a numerous train of relatives to mourn his loss.  He was a consistent member of the Methodist Church, and died in full faith of a blissful immortality beyond the grave.  His remains were sent home to the family burial ground, accompanied by Lt. C. Dowd, E.S. Cagle, and A.B. Marsh .”

“Died on the 3rd inst., in the hospital at Carolina City, after a protracted illness, Sergeant J.F. Waters, of Co. C, 26th Reg’t N.C. Volunteers, aged 24 years.”

December 09, 1861: “Died at the private residence  of Mr. Grainger, in Morehead City, Nov. 22nd, after an illness of three weeks, Oliver Newton Hadley, of Co. E., 26th Reg’t, N.C. Volunteers. He was in the bloom of life, having just entered his 22 year.  For more than two years he has been a consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Pleasant Hill, Chatham County, his native place, and during his last illness he repeatedly expressed his entire resignation and willingness to depart to be with Christ.”

January 06, ’62: “Died at Carolina City, on the 7th ult., of typhoid fever, Private Orren H. Smith, of Co. E., 26th Reg’t N.C. Troops, in the 19th year of age.”

January 27, ’62: “Died at Carolina City, on the 23rd Dec. 1861, of pneumonia, John F. Turner, son of Wm. D. Turner, Esq., a member of the Wake Guards, Co. D., 26th Reg’t N.C. Volunteers, in the 23rd year of his age.”

April 21, ’62: “Died at the hospital in Kinston, on the 14th, of typhoid fever, Orderly Serg’t Benjamin McLauchlin, son of Duncan McLauchlin of Cumberland Co. in the 18th year of his age.  He was a member of Capt. Caraway’s Anson County, Company K, 26th Reg’t; his remains were brought to this county for internment in the family burial place.”

May 05, ’62:“Died a the hospital in Goldsboro, on the 23rd March, Private G.F. Ellington, of Co. E., 26th Reg’t N.C.T.”

“Died at the hospital at Kinston, on the 18th ult., Private W.M. Smith, and on the 23rd, ult., Private H.H. Bray, both of Company E., 26th Reg’t N.C.T.”

June 02, ’62: “Died at his father’s in Wake County, on the 11th ult., Paschal Segraves, aged about 23 years, a private in Capt. O. R. Rand’s Company, 26th Reg’t. N.C. Volunteers.  He was in the battle below Newbern and fought to the last.”

June 23, ’62: “Died at Kinston, of pneumonia, 2nd, inst., in  his 48th year, Private John Hardy, of Company A., 26th Reg’t N.C.T.”

October 12, ’63: “Died on David’s Island, N.Y. on the 7th Sept., 1863, 2nd Lieut Marion J. Woodall, of Wake County, N.C., belonging to Company D, 26th N.C. Troops.  He was wounded in the battle of Gettysburg, in the left knee, and taken prisoner and carried to David’s Island.  The ball lodged near the bond and had to be cut out.  Afterwards mortification ensued, and the leg was amputated; but the system had been so weakened that he could not survive, and he expired afterwards of two months of intense suffering.  But his sorrowing widow and suffering little ones have the consolation to know that he died as he had lived for years before the war, a faithful Christian.  Let this blessed consolation bind up their bleeding hearts and cause them to resolve to meet him in the Christian home.” *

Nov. 2, ’63: “Messrs Editors: Permit me to announce the death of Corp’l Neill McDonald, of Company H, 26th N.C.T., he having fallen in the battle of Bristow Station, Va., on the 14th of October 1863.  He was a dutiful and brave soldier, beloved by all his comrades.  He was a native of Moore County, and enlisted at Carthage on the 3rd of June 1861 for twelve months.  About the first of March 1862 he re-enlisted for two years or during the war.  He fell while charging the enemy’s lines behind the railroad.  We feel that we have lost one of our best comrades.  He was a pious and Christian-hearted soldier, and I hope it at rest where the sound of cannon and the rattle of musketry will be heard no more.  A Friend.”

Nov. 9, ’63: “Among the many noble sons of the South that have given their lives to be sacrificed on the altar of their country, none are perhaps more worthy of their names being immortalized than Privates James M. Sheriden and Alson G. McCoy, Company G, 26th N.C.T., who fell in the destructive charge at Bristow Station, October 14, 1863.  Sheridan leaves a tender wife and four little daughters to mourn their great loss; to them they are almost sole [solely in need of] human help.  We commit them to the care of Him who has promised to be a husband to the widow and a father to the fatherless.  McCoy, more fortunate leaves an affectionate father to sorrow for the early death of his cherished son, but knowing his devotion to the cause of the South, we feel assured that he will give him up without a murmur.”

“Killed in the battle of Gettysburg, Jul. 1st 1863, Private Lemrie Wicker, Company G, 26th N.C.T. in the 34th year of his age.  He was a native of Chatham County, N.C., son of the late Benjamin Wicker.  He was among the first to volunteer after Lincoln’s proclamation.  Thus has fallen one of the South’s best soldiers—fighting enemies of his country and  home. In him his parents have lost an excellent son, his wife and children a true and loving husband and father, and North Carolina, one of her best sons.”

“Killed in hospital at Gettysburg, Pa., July 3, 1863, Sgt. W. P.(Preston) Kirkman of Company G, 26th N.C.T., aged 23 years.  He was a native of Chatham County, N.C., son of Dr. George Kirkman.  He fell mortally wounded July 1st, and died the 3rd.  the writer of this had been a playmate of his in their boyhood days.  He was kind and affectionate to all his playmates, and especially to his fellow soldiers.  No one who knew him could say aught against him, for none could know him but to love him. If there ever was a man more blessed with the meekness and patience of that good of patriarch Job, it was Sgt. William P. Kirkman.  Never was he heard to murmur, no matter what his trials were.  On our march to Pennsylvania he was our Orderly; thus he was up nearly all night dividing the rations and attending to other duties of his office, and I have known him to walk over the camp carrying a  small piece of meat and bread that was left to see that each man had his share.  He leaves a kind father, mother, sisters and brothers to mourn his loss, but blessed be God, they need not mourn as those that have no hope.  W.A.L. [perhaps William A. Lineberry}”

November 23, ’63: “Died in Hospital No. 9, Richmond, the following N.C. soldiers: Private K. Williams, Company D, 26thRegiment, on November 13th.”

December 21, ’63: “Died in hospital at Chester, Pa., 29th July, of wounds received at Gettysburg 1st July. Allen Shields, ages 26, of the 26th Regiment.”

“Killed at Gettysburg on the first day, Auley M. McAuley, of Montgomery County, Company H, 26th Reg’t, in his 20th year.  He volunteered in Martin’s Company from Moore County of which he was sergeant.”

“Died in camp at Wilmington H.W. McAuley, of Montgomery County, brother of Auley of the 25th Reg’t.”

“I am much pained to announce the death of my brother, Neill T. Smith, who died of wounds received at Bristow Station on the 15th ult.  He was born in Moore County, July 25th, 1836.  He survived only one day after the battle.  He was a member of Company H, 26th Reg’t N.C.T..  he volunteered when first his country called, and has ever been found at his post.  He leaves an aged father, doting mother, loving wife (Jennet), fond sister, and one sweet little daughter to mourn their loss.  We were looking for him home when the news came that he was no more.  Oh! How happily we would have welcomed him to the home he left in ’61, to which he never again returned.  His name must be added to the catalogue of heroes who have lain down their lives for the country.  ‘Though nations may combat, and wars thunders rattle, he hears not, he fears not, he’s free from all pain.’  He has gone home to Jesus, where joy and peace forever reign, where sorrow never comes.”

January 25, ’64: “N.L. Page volunteered in Co. E, 26th N.C.T., the 2nd Company that left Chatham Co., and there remained until he got an honorable discharge from an affection of the lungs and died at home Aug., 4th, 1863, aged 23 years.”

February 15, ’64: “E.C. Page, Company E, 26th Regiment N.C.V. received a mortal wound in the battle of Gettysburg, Pa.  he was removed to Winchester, Va. Where he lived and bore his wound with much fortitude until the 29th of July, 1863, when he ceased to be a member of our band.  He volunteered in May, 1861, was a true and patriotic soldier, always at his post, and shared his part of danger in many terrific battles.  Our company has lost one of its brightest stars, and we deeply sympathize with the bereaved wife, child and kind father, who since the war has lost three sons and in the last few years has buried the seventh child.”

“Killed instantly at Gettysburg, Penn., July 1st, 1863, William A. Garrett and Henry B. Garrett, aged 18 of Company G. 26th Reg’t, N.C.T., and sons of Rev. Jacob and Anna Garrett, of Chatham County, N. C..  They both fill an honored soldier’s grave in the grove fronting Gettysburg.”

March 14, ’64: “With profound regret we announce the deaths of Sgt. J.N. Ellis, J.W. McDaniel, and W.J. Crutchfield, Company E, 26th N.C.T.  Serg’t Ellis escaped uninjured, and after the battle of Gettysburg he was detailed by the Dr. to wait on the wounded soldiers who fell into the yankees’ hands.  He was good and kind to them and his anme will ever be fresh in their memory.  He was taken to Point Lookout, Md. Where he died.  McDaniel and Crutchfield were taken at Gettysburg and died at Point Lookout, Md.  So have three of our brightest stars passed away.  They died in glorious cause.”

April 04, ’64: “Willis Philips died in the 29th year of his age, at his residence in Chatham County, March 1st, ’64.  His disease was chronic diarrhea, from which he suffered severely for several months before his death.  He left an aged mother, an affectionate wife, and three little sons to mourn his loss.  When this war was inaugurated, with the courage of the true Southern man, he left his home, with all its endearments, and gave his service to his country’s call.  He volunteered under Capt. Webster, at the commencement of the war, and was a member of Company F, 26th Reg’t. N.C.T.  he participated in the battle of Newbern, also in the seven days’ fight around Richmond.  He was ever ready to discharge every duty that devolved upon him as a soldier.  His company has lost one of its best members, and his country a true patriot.”

May 16, ’64: “Died in General Hospital Richmond, November 26th, G.W. Hood, in the 24th year of his age.  He was wounded at Bristow, was from Caldwell County, a member of Company F., 26th regiment.”

May 30, ’64: “The reported death of Lt. Col. John T. Jones, of the 26th Reg’t, N.C. T., (formerly Vance’s) has been confirmed.  He was well known to the writer as a young man of more than ordinary promise, and among the first of those choice spirits who left the University of North Carolina and entered the ranks as privates in a Company from Chapel Hill in April, 1861; was in the battle of bethel; after serving out the period for which they had volunteered, youn Jones immediately entered the army again, and has closed his brief but honorable career; by a sacrifice of his life for his country.  He was a young man of high moral character, was a candidate for confirmation in the Episcopal Church; yielded to the decree of God not only willingly, but,  as a by-stander remarked, cheerfully saying, ‘It’s all right.’”

August 8, ’64: “Died at Gordonsville, Va., on the 23rd April 1864, of pneumonia, William Henry Patterson of Company H., 26th N.C. Reg’t, in the 21st year of his age, and only son of J.D. and M.J. Patterson of Moore County.  A few days before he died he said to Chaplain Owen of a Mississippi regiment, ‘I am not afraid to die; I can trust Jesus for my salvation.’  He often quoted from the scriptures many of the sweet promices [sic] therein contained, during his short but painful illness and repeated verses of several hymns.”

August 15, ’64: “Killed in the battle at Gettysburg, Pa., July 1st, 1863, Marshal Brown, aged 25 years 8 months and I day.  He was a member of  Company G., 26th Reg’t N.C. Troops.  He was killed while nobly doing his duty on the battlefield.”

“Serg’t Nathaniel Foster, Company E, 26th N.C. Reg’t, died at Chimborazo Hospital Richmond, VA., on the 7th of June 1864, of typhoid fever.  Enlisting in May, 1861, he was ever since found at his post, none doing their duty more cheerfully then he.  He participated in some of the most severe battles of war, was wounded at Gettysburg, but as soon as able for the field was at his post again, ready to assist in driving the invader from our soil.  He passed through the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania unhurt, when he was seized with disease which terminated fatally. He has left a father, mother, brothers, and sisters and a large circle of friends and relations to mourn their loss.”

August 22, ’64: “Died on 22nd September 1863, from wounds received in the battle of Gettysburg, Pa., William Henry Clay Reaves, Company G., 26th N.C.T., in his 21st year.  He has left an affectionate father and mother, kind brothers, loving sisters, and numerous friends to mourn their irreparable loss.”

August 29, ’64: “Fell mortally wounded in the bloody battle of the Wilderness, Va., on the 5th of May 1864, Private W. P. Blue of Company H,  26th N.C. Troops, in the 23rd year of his age.  He was a native of Moore County; volunteered into the Confederate service on the 18th of  May 1862; and since that time has ever responded to the call of duty, until he received the fatal blow.  He had passed through many hard struggles, receiving a slight wound in the left hand on the bloody fields of Gettysburg, Pa.  He was an obedient son and most kind and affectionate brother.  He has made a sacrifice of his dear body upon the altar of liberty.”

November 28, ’64: “Died at General Hospital No. 4, Wilmington, on the 27th ult., of typhoid fever, Private Aaron Lockamy, of Company D., 26th Reg’t N.C. T.  A few short weeks ago he was in our midst in the full enjoyment of health; but alas, he has gone.  Never more shall we see his kind face upon earth nor listen to the soft secrets of his gently voice; but he is not forgotten. His modest, retiring manners and courteous deportment will be remembered long after his form shall have mingled with its mother earth.”





“Inspired by Noble Patriotism”


While conducting some of her usual diligent research SBS member and author Brenda McKean has come across the names and incidences of the deaths by wounds or illness of miscellaneous members of the 26th North Carolina Troops. These death notices are from the pages of the “Fayetteville Observer “ and are listed chronologically . Brenda has generously transcribed and shared this information in the hope it may shed light on some of your ancestors in the gallant 26th NCT. Because of the length of these notices they will be published in two separate blog posts. These entries make sad reading and serve to personalize the true extent of North Carolina’s terrible sacrifice during the war. Brenda is author of the two volume collection Blood and War at My Doorstep: North Carolina Civilians in the War Between the States. http://bloodandwaratmydoorstep.com/ Thank you, buy viagra doctor Brenda.

“List of wounded/died from the Fayetteville Observer”

July 21, 1862: “Died in the hospital at Richmond, unhealthy on the 9th, inst., after a brief illness of fever, William A. McLauchlin, son of Duncan McLauchlin of this county, aged about 20, of co. K, 26th N.C. Volunteers. This is the second son of Mr. McLauchlin , who has perished by fever in the army, whilst another, Capt. J.C. McLauchlin, to whose company they belonged, had a narrow escape in the late battle at Richmond, being slightly wounded in the head by a fragment of a shell.”

July 28, 1862: “Green D. Cox, died at Kinston on the 30th of May, ’62, after having served his country faithfully as a soldier, nearly twelve months in Capt. Martin’s Co. 26th Reg’t North Carolina Volunteers.”

“Drury’s Bluff, July 12, ’62 Mr. Duncan Kelly, a member of Co. H, 26th Regiment N.C. Troops, died in the N.C. Hospital at Petersburg, 20th June, ’62 in the 21 year of his age. He left College, gave up home and all its scared endearments, to participate in the great contest for liberty and independence. He acted the part of a brave man during the battle of Newbern. He came to Virginia to aid in driving back the invading foe, but fell a victim to disease and died in a few days after he left his native State. He will no longer be aroused by the sound of the drum, but he will live long in the hearts of his fellow comrades, and all who knew him.”

August 4th, ’62: “Died at Drury’s Bluff, S.W.C. Siler of Chatham County, of Co. G, 26th Reg’t.” Sept.15, ’62: “Died in the hospital at Petersburg, August 22nd, Aaron C. Downs, Co. I, 26th N.C.T.”

Sept. 22, ’62: “Died in Petersburg, August 9th, Martin A. McKinnon, of the ‘Moore County Independents,’ Company H, 26th Reg’t., aged about 25. He was unhurt in the battles of Newbern and Richmond, and died of typhoid fever.”

November 10, ’62: “Died at Petersburg 2nd October, of typhoid fever, Sergeant Daniel G. Beckwith, of Wake County, in the 22nd year of his age, of Company D., 26th regiment.”

November 24, ’62: “James M. Dorsett departed this life at the Hospital in Petersburg, Va., on the 8th inst., in the 21st year of his age. He was a member of Co. E., 26th Reg’t. N.C.T.. He left a father, mother, and sisters some eight months since, to enlist in his country’s service; but alas! He has been called hence to meet God.”

December 15, ’62: “Died of typhoid fever at the residence of Mrs. Griffins, in Petersburg, Va., on the 28th October, after an illness of 2 months and 22 days, Capt. T.L. Ferguson, of Co. C., 26th Reg’t. N.C. Troops. He had for a long time previous to his death, been a consistent member of the Baptist Church, and his godly walk and conversation proved to all who knew him that his treasure was not of this earth, but he sought ‘a city not built with hands eternal in the Heavens.’”

January 19, ’63: “Died at the 1st N.C. Hospital, Petersburg, 10th inst. Isaac N. Johnson, of Chatham County, and a private in Company E., 26th Regiment N.C. Troops. The deceased had just attained his 18th year, and without waiting to be enrolled he went at once to camp to join with his friends and associates in beating back the invaders of our soil. After a very fatiguing march in Eastern N.C., he was taken with measles. The exposure to which he was subjected brought on typhoid fever, which proved fatal.”

April 27, ’63: “Died in Petersburg, of measles, William T. Triplett, of the 26th regiment.” [note: there are two WT Tripletts; the other listed as dying in Weldon in the 37th Reg’t.]

July 27, ’63: “Killed in the battle of Gettysburg, Hamand H. Wilcox, a private in Co. H., 26th Reg’t. thus has fallen another one of our brave and noble comrades while fighting gallantly for the freedom and rights of his country. Scarcely 17 years had passed over his youthful head when he, being inspired by noble patriotism, seized his musket and went forth to share the fate of his fellow soldiers. Although he sleeps upon the far distant plains of Gettysburg, far away from his home and friends, he is not forgotten, but will ever live fresh and bright in our memory. In his death we all feel that we have not only lost a true son of Carolina but also a true friend, for he was loved and esteemed by all who knew him.”

August 31, ’63: “Died the 2nd of July, from a wound received the 1st of July, in the battle of Gettysburg, Pa., A.F. Muse, of Moore County, a private in Company H, 26th Reg’t N.C.T., son of Jesse Muse, Esq., aged 21 years 6 months and 4 days. He was a moral character; he was a dutiful son and a kind brother. He embraced religion in the 17th year of his age and was baptized in the fellowship of the Baptist Church at Bethlehem; he was of uncommon zeal to the cause of Christ; he spent his whole time while out of school, warning sinners to repent and flee the wrath to come. He was a student in the Academy at Jackson Springs. He was in feeble health, but notwithstanding, he returned home and laid aside his books and volunteered April, 1862, in defense of his country. He fought through the battles around Richmond and in Eastern N.C.; he endured many fatiguing marches; he would often be seen after a battle on his knees prating for the wounded, and pointing them to the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world; he would always remark in his letters to his parents that if he fell in the midst of the enemy not to grieve for him for he put his hope and trust in God; when He sees fit to call I am ready to go, yes, I am ready. In the first day of the charge at Gettysburg, Pa., he received his death wound on the second day in the evening. He called a friend to sit down by him; he said, ‘I am going to die, and I want you to promise to write my father, and tell him I was wounded, mortally, in the battle of Gettysburg, while fighting for the independence of my home and country, and I died near the battlefield; tell him I am not afraid to die, for all is well with me…’” [note: there is a 4 stanza poem printed with this obit by his sister M.J. Muse]

Sept. 21, ’63: “William M. Person, a member of Company H, 26th Reg’t N.C.T., was wounded the first day of July at Gettysburg and died at Winchester, Va., the 3rd of August…He did his duty like a true man and patriot. Long and nobly did he battle for his country on the bloody field of Gettysburg. After the hottest of the fighting was over, he turned round to me with the blood streaming from his breast and said, ‘I am killed, tell my wife and children good bye for me.’ I saw him the next day and had hopes that he would recover, but the fatal bullet had done its work too well.” [note: the author of that sentence was not mentioned in the newspaper.]

“John B Martin, a member of Company H, 26th Reg’t N.C.T. , died at Winchester, Va., the 1st day of August of wounds received at Gettysburg. He was an honor to his Company and Regiment, an honor to his country, a model soldier and a most worthy man.” [later note says he was 30 yrs. old]

“James A.N. McLeod, a member of Company H, 26th Reg’t N.C.T., died near Gettysburg, the 3rd day of July, of wounds received on the 1st. to those who knew him well nothing need be said. Father, mother, sister, friend, yours was a great sacrifice upon the altar of your country. The brave, gentle, and unassuming soldier is gone, but you know where you may meet the true Christian again. I loved him almost as my own gentle youthful brother , who fell and sleeps near him. The thunder of 300 cannon was their lullaby. They sleep in a strange land, but they will sleep sweetly there as if in their own land and church yard. A Friend.”

“Lieut. John R. Emerson of Chatham Co., N.C. member of Company E, 26th Reg’t, received a wound that proved to be mortal, at the battle of Gettysburg, Pa., on the 3rd day of July.”

To be continued . . .


“Cross Dressing” Rebs

Nothing is more grating to us armchair historians than watching an old “Grade B” Civil War movie and noting all the glaring inaccuracies contained therein. Here comes a column of Federals carrying M1873 Trapdoor Springfields! And yonder comes the Reb artillery clad in dirty gray jackets with blue collar and cuffs, while the infantrymen have yellow bands on their caps. Jeez! I mean anybody knows that infantry trim was blue, cavalry yellow, and artillery red. Right?!

Confederate Army of Tennessee artilleryman wearing blue-trimmed Columbus pattern shell jacket

Confederate Army of Tennessee artilleryman wearing blue-trimmed Columbus pattern shell jacket

Well, while the regulations did indeed specify such a branch of service color designation, the excengencies of war which the CS Quartermasters faced often produced an entirely different outcome not unlike the Hollywood portrayals. Take for instance the comments of the inspecting officer for the Army of Tennessee’s artillery batteries in August, 1864: “On very few occasions have I seen articles of clothing issued to the artillery with the proper (red) trimmings for that branch of the service. In nearly every instance it has been the uniform of the infantry, although occasionally I have seen jackets with artillery trimmings in the infantry.”

Just how common was this disregard of conformity to branch of service trim regulations in the issuance of clothing? Research seems to indicate that necessity generally prevailed over fashion in this regard. Geoff Walden’s excellent research on the so called Columbus Depot pattern shell jacket provides some interesting insight into this subject. The Columbus Depot was a principal supplier to the Confederacy’s western armies, and jackets attributed to that facility are noted for their blue collar and straight line blue cuff trim. Walden documents thru photographic evidence as well as extant museum examples that these blue trimmed jackets were indeed commonly issued to artillerymen and cavalrymen, along with their infantry bretheren. Such jackets are identified to members of the 1st Mississippi Artillery and 6th Louisiana Cavalry, among others. In addition, the Virginia Historical Society has in it’s collection the jacket of artilleryman Thomas Jefferson Beck of Fenner’s (LA) Battery. Thought to be a product of the Demopolis, Alabama depot, this jacket also has a collar trimmed with blue jeans material. So in the Army of Tennessee at least, the artillery inspector’s observation cited above does appear to ring true.

This red-trimmed kepi worn by a member of the Richmond Howitzers utilizes block "I" style infantry buttons

This red-trimmed kepi worn by a member of the Richmond Howitzers utilizes block “I” style infantry buttons

In the eastern theatre, the Richmond Depot seemed to circumvent this intrinsic identification problem by making “generic” jackets that generally had no branch of service trim after mid 1862. However, many of these jackets did include brass “Richmond pattern” buttons marked with a block style “I,” “A,” or “C” for the appropriate service arm. Once again, “the material evidence” indicates no real adherance to regulations. A surviving Richmond style jacket attributed to Joseph P. Lyle of the 63rd Tennessee Infantry sports “Block A” artillery buttons. Cavalry Brigadier General William Fitzhugh Payne wore an English grey jacket with “Block I” infantry buttons. A surviving red artillery kepi worn by a member of the Richmond (VA) Howitzers is adorned with regulation block “I” infantry buttons. Most interestingly, archeological evidence by relic hunters of a Confederate winter camp in the Fredericksburg, VA area found sets of buttons from the same “dropped jacket” which included “Block I’s” and “Block A’s” mixed together.

State seal buttons and buckles also saw indiscriminate use regardless of the wearer’s affiliation. Officers of the 1st Florida Infantry Battalion purchased South Carolina State seal buttons for their new uniform coats while stationed near Savannah in 1863. Artifacts in various museum collections document that Captain Edward Owen of the Washington (LA) Artillery wore a two piece Virginia belt plate, while Frank Hume of the 21st Mississippi Infantry wore a Maryland rectangular pattern sword belt plate. And a great photo in Bill Turner’s Even More Confederate Faces depicts Private R. N. Read of Tiller’s (GA) Light Artillery wearing a Georgia seal oval belt plate and a frock coat with South Carolina buttons!

This late war jacket with Script "I" buttons was worn by Confederate artillery officer William Blakemore. The red trim was added post-war.

This late war jacket with Script “I” buttons was worn by Confederate artillery officer William Blakemore. The red trim was added post-war.

By now you get the picture. The point of all this is not to encourage a gross non-conformity to uniform regulations when portraying a typical Confederate soldier, but rather to illustrate how the rigors of war often forced Johnny Reb to “make do” with whatever he could get in the clothing/equipment line. So, the next time you feel like critiquing the accuracy of some cheesy Hollywood Civil War flik, just remember that it could be unwittingly correct!

By Bob Williams


Notes on Confederate Staff Officer Uniforms

“There is a need of an abundance of competent staff officers by the generals in command. Scarcely any of our generals [have] half of what they [need] to keep a constant and close supervision on the execution of important orders.” So Confederate artillery Colonel E. Porter Alexander viewed the essential importance of a having viable command staff organization to manage and maintain a large army in the field. 

While the regulations regarding staff positions were vague in terms of how many and what types of officers should be required, buy viagra there was at least some specificity in terms of how they should be uniformed. Confederate clothing regulations issued in 1861 ideally prescribed staff officers to wear a double-breasted frock coat of cadet gray cloth with buff facings. Rank would be denoted both by collar insignia and sleeve braid. Trousers were to be dark blue in color. Buttons were to be of “bright gilt’ with a raised eagle in the center, surrounded by stars. Appropriate headgear was detailed as a dark blue forage cap “similar in form to a French kepi.” Yet, in truth, there proved to be wide disparity between the desired status versus what staff functionaries actually adopted in the field. Since officers were required to furnish their own clothing until 1864, the myriad of supply sources resulted in a “look” that seldom met CS central government regulations.

Some came mighty close. Major Heros von Borke, on the staff of J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry division, described the uniform he purchased in Richmond in 1862 as follows: “A light gray frock-coat with buff facings, dark blue trousers, and a little black cocked hat with sweeping ostrich plume . . . which is as picturesque as it is suitable for active service.” He further validated this as “the regulation dress for staff officers.” Fortunately for posterity, von Borcke had his photograph taken in a variation of above described uniform as shown.

Lt. McHenry Howard of Maryland served on General Charles Wilder's staff in 1862

Lt. McHenry Howard of Maryland served on General Charles Wilder’s staff in 1862

For most new staff officers, acquiring a uniform was more evolution than revolution. McHenry Howard of the 1st Maryland Infantry provides a glimpse of this metamorphosis in his delightful post-war recollections. Howard was serving as 1st Sergeant in the elite border-state unit when he was appointed in March 1862 to the staff of General Charles Winder. His uniform at the time being described as “shabby,” Howard proceeded to Richmond where he “ bought a plain gray [civilian] coat, without sign of rank, to replace my soldier’s jacket.” He wore this through the Valley Campaign. In late May, a Baltimore acquaintance “gave me and sewed on my shoulders a pair of first lieutenant’s epaulets (though Federal) so that while not in regulation Confederate uniform I had now sufficient marks of rank.” Not until after the Seven Days did Lt. Howard obtain finer raiment in which he too had his likeness struck. This surviving photograph shows him resplendent in a gray double-breasted officer’s pattern frock coat, gray trousers, and a dark blue forage cap.

Another young man who received staff appointment at the same time as Howard was fellow-Marylander Randolph W. McKim. Formerly a color sergeant, McKim recalled with some embarrassment having no proper uniform during his early days serving as AAG for General George H. Steuart. Following the Battle of Port Republic McKim repaired to Stanton, VA for the purpose of obtaining a new uniform. This he did, which consisted of a gray six-button shell jacket, dark blue cap with gold braid, and high riding boots. He carried a borrowed Federal staff officer’s sword captured at Manassas with a decorative ”US” on the hilt. McKim averred that said markings stood for “United South.”

Since many staff officers advanced from positions in line units it was only natural that they continued to wear the uniforms made according to the regulations put down by their respective states. The state “Army” regulations for Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina all called for the use of grey single-breasted frock coats with a seven or nine button front. Rank was to be designated by Federal-style shoulder boards or straps. Officers from South Carolina wore similar uniforms of dark blue cloth as prescribed for “Volunteer Forces” of the Palmetto State.

Confederate staff officer Gilbert Moxley Sorrell in regulation uniform.

Confederate staff officer Gilbert Moxley Sorrell in regulation uniform.

Other photos and surviving examples document the frequent wearing of double-breasted frock coats, at least for studio portraits. Cadet gray broadcloth and gray satinette seem to be the most commonly used fabrics but coats made of various colors of jeans cloth are not unknown. This “regulation” uniform is well illustrated in the above photograph of Georgia Colonel G. Moxley Sorrell of General James Longstreet’s staff. Later in the war, stout blue-gray English kersey wool also came into wide usage. In most cases, rank insignia was confined to the collar only since sleeve braid was both expensive and difficult to obtain.

Lt. James B. Washington and friend. Washington served on the staff of general Joseph E. Johnston and was captured at Seven Pines, VA.

Lt. James B. Washington and friend. Washington served on the staff of general Joseph E. Johnston and was captured at Seven Pines, VA.

While the regulation frock was undoubtedly the desired garment for dress occasions, comfort, practicality, and plain old economics drove many staff officers to adopt other forms of dress while in the field. Thus shell jackets, sack coats, single breasted frocks, and even pleated tunics became commonplace among CS staff officers as the war progressed. It is perhaps worthy to note that in the Museum of the Confederacy’s Uniform collection for company and field grade officers, 83% are double breasted frocks, 12% are shell jackets, and 5% are single breasted frocks. Of the frock coats, 73% are of Cadet Grey broadcloth or English kersey while the remaining 27% are of either jeans or satinette. Of course, since dress coats were often reserved for “extra” occasions, their high survivability rate cannot be considered statistically representative.

The wearing of shell jackets in the field was likely much greater than the above sampling would indicate.  There is the surviving 1862 image of Lieutenant James B. Washington of General Joseph Johnston’s staff shown here. His uniform exhibits a decidedly personal flair with large “patch” pockets and dark tape trim around the periphery of his jacket.

Later in the war staff officers were allowed to draw uniform items direct from the CS Central Government clothing depots. As such, their attire reflected what was in general use within the armies they served. One documented late-war staff officers jacket was worn by B. F. Pendleton of the Stonewall Brigade. Pendleton’s jacket is a government issued imported jacket made by Peter Tait & Co. of Limerick, Ireland. Although an infantry command, the blue-grey kersey jacket of English army cloth sports a red collar and a mix of infantry and staff buttons. Two other surviving jackets made of similar material worn by staffers also survive. One has a Trans-Mississippi provenance and the other a Coastal North Carolina affiliation.

Late war Peter Tait jacket worn by B. F. Pendleton as part of the Stonewall Brigade staff. Note absence of rank markings.

Late war Peter Tait jacket worn by B. F. Pendleton as part of the Stonewall Brigade staff. Note absence of rank markings.

Headgear, buttons, and trousers were whatever an officer could readily obtain, and that included liberal use of captured Federal items. Many early war staff officers who had seen previous Federal service wore their blue regulation uniforms into the field. One particular item that saw extensive usage by CS line and staff officers throughout the conflict was the “muffin style” Federal eagle staff button. Confederate manufactured staff buttons are generally found only on late war issued uniforms and sites.

Swords were nearly universally carried by staff officers, more as a symbol of rank and authority than for personal defense. While both the U.S. Army and the Confederacy produced so called “staff officers swords,” edged weapons actually used in the field were of every conceivable type and pattern. By way of research, a listing of Confederate swords by type, manufacturer, and owner currently in the collections of the Museum of the Confederacy:  https://www.ctsi.net/~moc/oldsite2/images/swordlist.pdf.

In closing it should be noted that Confederate staff officers were, in general, men of education, wealth, achievement, influence or all of the above. As such they represented themselves as gentlemen and dressed and behaved accordingly. Even when on extended campaign they sought to maintain a neat, clean, and soldierly appearance.

By Bob Williams


A Dam Fine Park

image064The only engagement worth noting during General George McClellan’s so called Siege of Yorktown, VA in 1862 occurred on April 16th along the banks of the Warwick River, several miles southwest of the old Colonial port town. Known variously as the Battle of Lee’s Mill or Dam Number One, this spirited skirmish was instigated by four companies of the 4th Vermont Infantry making a bold probe of Confederate defenses along the dammed up river. Taking advantage of shallow water just below the dam the Federals waded across at a point where the defensive lines were incomplete, initially scattering working parties of the 16th Georgia. When the nearby 15th North Carolina came to the Georgians defense, they too were manhandled and their young Colonel Edward McKinney killed.

Sensing the upper hand, local Federal commanders turned the supposedly limited incursion into a broader attack. They added the remaining companies of the 4th Vermont along with the 6th Vermont Infantry to the assault force. The breach of the Confederate defense line was widened, but not for long. After about an hour the Vermonters found themselves hard pressed by a number of revenge seeking Confederate units who poured a vicious converging fire into the erstwhile attackers. The beleaguered New Englanders had no choice but to recross the swampy river under a scathing fire and seek the safety of their own lines. In the end, the gallant Vermonters lost 44 men killed and 148 wounded. They gained nothing. Soon the minor skirmish at Dam Number One and the Siege of Yorktown passed to nothing, remembered only by locals and close students of The War. One participant called it a “Dam Failure.”

View of Confederate works captured by the 3rd Vermont after crossing dammed up river in background.

View of Confederate works captured by the 3rd Vermont after crossing dammed up river in background.

Fortunately for us the locals did something to memorialize the site of this unique little battle. Back in the 1960s the City of Newport News, VA found itself taxing its water supply. To alleviate the problem the city purchased several lakes in the Lee Hall/Warwick River area and established a watershed. The preserved area, which became Newport News City Park in 1966, included not only the site of the Battle of Dam Number One but miles and mile of some of the best preserved Civil War earthworks remaining in America today. Thank you Newport News City fathers!

Including over 8000 acres, the park is one of the largest city parks in the U.S. In addition to the usual recreational amenities considerable effort has been put into marking and identifying key historical sites. The intricate Confederate trenches for miles along the dammed up Warwick River are wonderfully preserved. Trails allow the visitor to see where the Vermonters crossed, where Colonel McKinney fell, and generally follow the course of the battle of April 16th. Another trail leads to the extensive fortifications guarding Wynn’s Mill, a key Confederate strong point during the Yorktown siege. Additionally, the park’s interpretive center offers a wonderful display of battle relics, including some rare Confederate buckles, uncovered within the park’s boundary under the direction of historically minded rangers. Relic hunting is not allowed. To paraphrase the battle participant cited above, it is a “dam fine park!” Give it a visit.

Colonel McKinney of the 15th NC was killed in this area while rallying troops to resist the Federal incursion.

Colonel McKinney of the 15th NC was killed in this area while rallying troops to resist the Federal incursion.

The extensive Confederate fortifications near Wynn's Mill remain heavily guarded to this day!

The extensive Confederate fortifications near Wynn’s Mill remain heavily guarded to this day!

By Bob Williams


Confederate Quartermaster Stores: Savannah Coastal Defenses


During a past visit to Old Fort Jackson in Savannah, GA,  I rediscovered a report by an unidentified Confederate inspection officer.  It details CS Quartermaster stores on hand in Savannah as of October 31, 1863. Since the Port of Savannah closed with the Federal capture of Fort Pulaski in April 1862, supplies for defense of the city had to be obtained from domestic sources or from the ports of Wilmington and Charleston. This missive provides a wealth of insight into the Confederate Quartermaster system in general as relates to procurement, variety, and quality of supplies on hand, etc. It also gives some wonderful insight as to the actual sources from which these supplies were obtained. There are some real pearls here! It is quoted verbatim below, allowing for some editing on my part to facilitate readability.

“The clothing on hand consists as follows:
Infantry Jackets: A lot [of 1300] made of English cloth, with metallic buttons, a good article and strongly put up; a lot [of 2600] made of Georgia jeans, from the Richmond [Georgia] factory, with wooden buttons, an inferior article compared to the first.
Pantaloons: A lot [of 150] made of English tweed pants, a good article (the artillery in and around Savannah has been provided with these pants for the last six months); a lot [of 800] made of Georgia homespun, manufactured in Savannah, a strong article of light gray but rather thin for winter; a lot [of 6,700] made of Georgia jeans, a pretty good article, off light gray. Besides the above, the Quartermaster has on hand a lot of 1400 jackets and pants of Georgia homespun which were turned over to him by the state of Georgia and which, as a last resort, might be used for the troops. It is a poor article, however, thin for the season, and almost white.
Drawers and Shirts: [A lot of] 8000, of white cotton. These shirts and drawers are made in Savannah, under supervision of the Quartermasters, who employ for that purpose the wives and female relations of Ga. soldiers.
Shoes: A lot of 150 pairs of shoes of different patterns; a lot of 200 pairs French army shoes of strong materials, but most of them do not match. Said lot hardly fit for issue.
[Miscellaneous:] 6000 pairs cotton socks; 2000 blankets. The QM has also a lot of 18 second handed blankets fit for use and another lot of 36 damaged, rotten blankets, entirely unfit for use. Oil cloth caps about 175; gray cloth caps [about] 300. Thread: 10,000 spools. Bone buttons for drawers and shirts 600 great gross; metallic buttons 700 gross; shirt buttons 400 gross.

Major George Robertson is the Chief Commissary of Subsistence at Savannah. He has on hand: bacon – 250,000 lbs. sides; sugar – 108,000 lbs; flour – 1,500 barrels; meal – 328,286 lbs; hard bread -587 furnaces making about 117,000 lbs. in all; vinegar – 1,600 gallons; candles – 7,600 pounds including 4,000 lbs. that were expected daily from Atlanta; soap – 14,000 lbs. on hand and 9,500 expected from Atlanta; whiskey – 5,000 gallons; molasses – 2,700 gallons; salt – 283 bushels (the commisary keeps but a small supply of salt on hand as he gets it readily from the Government Salt Works, seven miles from Savannah); fresh beef – 4,620 lbs. (this beef, says the Commissary, is unfit for slaughter). The corn stores and warehouses are kept in very good order, in large ventilated halls.”

Plain jackets such as this one with wooden buttons [reproduction] were included in Ft. Jackson's stock of supplies. Photo courtesy Andrew Kasmar.

Plain jackets such as this one with wooden

buttons [reproduction] were included in

Ft. Jackson’s stock of supplies. Photo courtesy Andrew Kasmar.

By Bob Williams


A Few More Paintings by Sidney E. King


The house where Jackson died. Guinea Station, VA, May 1863.

Back in July we provided our readers a brief biography of renowned historical artist Sidney E. King along with a few examples of his Civil War art. Since that time we have run across some additional wonderful paintings by King that beg to be shared. All illustrations are courtesy of the National Park Service. Please left click on images for an enlarged view. Enjoy!

The Battle of Drewry's Bluff, May 15, 1862. Confederate batteries in Ft. Darling resist an attempt by Federal gunboats to ascend the James River near Richmond, VA.

The Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, May 15, 1862. Confederate batteries in Ft. Darling resist an attempt by Federal gunboats to ascend the James River near Richmond, VA.

The death of General John Sedgwick at Spotsylvania Court House, VA, May 9, 1862.

The death of General John Sedgwick at Spotsylvania Court House, VA, May 9, 1862.

Lee and his generals watch the opening of the Seven Day's Battles from Chickahominy Bluff overlooking Mechanicsville, VA, June 26, 1862.

Lee and his generals watch the opening of the Seven Day’s Battles from Chickahominy Bluff overlooking Mechanicsville, VA, June 26, 1862.

The Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862. Confederate gunners on Willis Hill pound away at attacking Union columns.

The Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862. Confederate gunners on Willis Hill pound away at attacking Union columns.

By Bob Williams


Period Descriptions of North Carolina Soldiers


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


Some Common “Confederate” Uniform Buttons

On March 13, 1861, the Raleigh North Carolina Standard reported: “O. S. Baldwin, Esq., of Wilmington, N. C., has placed upon our table a specimen of the military button, recently advertised in our paper, having embossed the coat of arms of our State. Knowing little of heraldry, we can not see much in the coat of arms to admire, but as to the mechanical execution of the button itself, we can truly say it is decidedly neat and in good taste.” Indeed, the attractive North Carolina button is among the most commonly found state seal type buttons found on battlefields and in Confederate campsites today.

An even more common button utilized throughout the war by Southern soldiers from all states was the lowly “flower” or “coin” button. In May, 1861, The Wilmington Journal advertised that the firm of Leon and Swarzman was selling military buttons for 66 and 2/3 cents per dozen: “These buttons are perfectly plain, as Messrs. L. & S. inform us that they have not been able to get the dies made yet so as to impress them with the State arms.”

These common flat and "flower" buttons of the mid-19th century were often used on Confederate uniform coats. These are often referred to today as Golden Age buttons. Image courtesy OZ Militaria.

These common flat and “flower” buttons of the mid-19th century were often used on Confederate uniform coats. These are often referred to today as Golden Age buttons. Image courtesy OZ Militaria.

Any brass button in the 1860s was considered a “military button,” and in the rush to clothe troops in the early months of the war, metal buttons of all types adorned early uniforms. They are either one or two piece in construction and range in size from the cuff variety to over an inch in diameter. Many of the buttons were brass or gold plated. They exist in an unending array of designs. Modern collectors refer to them as “flower,” “Golden Age,” or “geometric” pattern buttons. Other buttons of the “coin” or “flat” variety have their origin in Colonial days. Still others of the “Sportsman” variety have dogs, eagles, or bears on them. The late Mac Mason, an ardent Virginia collector, used to travel to various relic shows with a huge display of hundreds of different flower and coin buttons he had found in many years of relic hunting. These are “true” Confederate buttons, and non dug examples can often be found at relic and antique shows if one knows what to look for. “Stonewall” Jackson’s famous old blue forage cap even sports flower buttons on the side, as do many other caps privately made for Confederate officers.

When the 6th NCST went off to war, its early sack coats were adorned with a particular type of domed two-piece with a unique floral display. Buttons of this pattern were unearthed in considerable quantity from the Sixth’s 1861 winter camp around Dumfries, VA. This writer dug one of this type of button, and has found two non dug specimens in pristine condition at antique shows. Most people would never presume these buttons to have CS affiliation. Prices generally range from $2-$5!Usage of these type buttons continued even through Appomattox, as archaeological evidence indicates. They form a unique and part of Confederate material culture.

An even more homely but truly Confederate button that saw extremely wide usage was the plain, ordinary wooden variety. These buttons were produced in large quantities to circumvent the shortage of brass and stamping dies, and saw use in every theater. Their size was generally from ½” to 1” in diameter and they came in both two hole and four hole pattern. They may well be the most common Confederate manufactured uniform button.

As described by Dr. S. H. Stout: “While on an inspecting tour in Columbus, Ga. in the winter of 1862-63, I was informed that wooden, horn and bone buttons were being manufactured there, and I visited the plant. The factory was owned by a former lieutenant of the Confederate army, who had lost an arm in one of the early battles. The motive power of his factory was an engine of moderate horsepower that had been used to run a printing press. So complete were the saws, borers, and drying kilns that in the final process of their manufacture the completed buttons dropped into the hoppers with as much rapidity as nails from a nail making machine.”

These two Southern stalwarts wear Richmond Depot issued jackets closed with plain four-hole wooden buttons.

These two Southern stalwarts wear Richmond Depot issued jackets closed with plain four-hole wooden buttons.

Even as early as 1862 the 1st Missouri Brigade received white wool uniforms with large wooden buttons which appeared quite distinctive when offset with black crossbelts. Numerous photos of North Carolina Troops (and others), particularly those wearing Richmond Depot jackets issued in the late summer of 1862, show four hole wooden buttons. In late 1863, the Savannah garrison reported having on hand: a lot [of 2600 jackets] made of Georgia jeans, from the Richmond factory, with wooden buttons, an inferior article.” Furthermore, a Reb prisoner captured around Richmond in late 1864 had a “jacket [of] dirty white coarse flannel the cuffs and collr dark blue and the buttons, large wooden very rough looking . . .”

Additionally, numerous museum collections house surviving examples of Confederate uniform jackets with crude wooden buttons. The Gettysburg National Park Museum owns two fine examples. While most of these are of coarse woolen jeans with a provenance to Deep South depots, examples of fine English wool kersey jackets with wooden buttons, one identified to a member of the Richmond “Otey” Battery, are also known.

This is not to say that these wooden buttons were popular with the troops. They broke easily and were replaced as quickly as resources permitted with more durable buttons, preferably of brass. Southern hospital matron Phoebe Yates Pember describes how her patients developed a button mania: “Men who had never had a dream or a hope beyond a horn convenience to keep their clothing together, saved up their scanty means to replace them with gilt, and made neat little wooden shelves with a slit through the middle into which the buttons slid, so that they could be cleaned or brightened without taking them off, or soiling the jacket.”

It is no surprise that buttons of Federal origin were very commonly used on Confederate garments. These buttons came from a number of sources.

Large quantities of pre-war stocks were acquired when seceding states seized Federal arsenals. As a result, buttons of the Eagle “I,” “A,” “C,” “R,” and “V” patterns adorned the uniform coats of many young Southern volunteers. They are frequently recovered by relic hunters from Confederate camps. Gravesites attributed to the 8th Louisiana Infantry near Centerville, VA yielded a considerable number of eagle “letter” buttons. In fact, Union buttons are much more commonly found on CS sites than those of Southern manufacture or European import. Additionally, early war photographs of North Carolina soldiers likewise document the usage of Federal buttons well before the North Carolina State seal button came into common usage.

Additional Federal buttons were also gleaned from battlefield captures, particularly at 1st Manassas, Shiloh, and the Seven Days. Not just eagle buttons, but Federal state issue patterns as well, found their way into Confederate ranks. A late war jacket belonging to E. F. Barnes of the Richmond Howitzers, utilized buttons of both the Virginia and New York State types. It is in the Confederate Museum in Richmond The North Carolinia Museum of History houses a “camp uniform” worn by General Robert Hoke that sports New York, eagle, and flower buttons.

Union eagle buttons on the jacket of a dead Confederate soldier, ca. 1865.

Union eagle buttons on the jacket of a dead Confederate soldier, ca. 1865.

Federal buttons were also acquired in trade from Union prisoners. Ezra Hoyt Ripple of the 52nd Pennsylvania, in his fascinating memoir of prison life called Dancing Along the Deadline, describes the button market at Andersonville: “When money and trinkets of varying kinds were exhausted, we had to fall back on something else as a purchasing power. Luckily for us we had buttons, and buttons were in great demand among the rebs. I do not know what the Confederate Army regulations were in regard to buttons, but I do know there seemed to be no limit to the number a Reb would put on his coat if he had them. The buttons were of several grades in value, the lowest being the regulation button, the next the New York State button, and the highest the Officers and Staff buttons . . . I have seen private reb soldiers with four rows of buttons in front and a corresponding number on cuffs and coat-tails.”

Actually, the Federal Staff or Eagle Officer’s button is the most commonly noted button on Confederate officers uniform coats, as is documented by the superb MOC uniform collection. Several officer’s coats in the NCMOH attributed to members of the 26th NCT also use buttons of the Federal staff type.

By Bob Williams