Thursday, February 19, 2015

The ages at which they died.

As many of you know, I've been reading (slowly) through Joseph Glathaar's General Lee's Army. On page 394, I came across this statement: "Younger men, usually more aggressive and less concerned with mortality or injury, lost their lives more frequently in battle. Men born after 1835 were more likely to die in battle while those born before 1835 succumbed more often to disease."

So, I thought I would conduct my own little study to see if this played true. I selected five companies from the five regiments that comprised the Branch-Lane brigade. My five companies were not randomly selected. Three of the five came from rural areas: Company B, 33rd NCT was from Edgecombe and Pitt Counties; Company B, 37th NCT came from Watauga County, and Company F, 28th NCT, came from Yadkin County. The other two companies, Company D, 7th NCT, from Mecklenburg County and Company I, 18th NCT, from new Hanover County, came from places that might be seen as more urban. My search subjects had to have records both for their age, and the reason for their death. If one of those criteria was missing, he went into the unknown column. From the five companies, I had a total of 87 unknowns. I also listed those who died of wounds as being killed in battle.

Let's look at Professor Glatthaar's  statements. "Men born... before 1835 succumbed more often to disease." I found this statement to be true in my five test companies: 51 of those aged 26 years or older, died of disease, while only 33 of those over 26 years old died in battle.

"Men born after 1835 were more likely to die in battle...." I found this statement to be false. Of my five test companies, 69 of those aged 26 or younger also died of disease, while 57 died in battle.

In my five test companies, men were more likely to die of disease regardless of age, than to die in battle. Given that the majority of the unknowns were also more likely to have died of disease, that fact becomes more established.

Has anyone else ever looked at the ages at which men died on a regimental or brigade level? 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Details or just the facts?

I am extremely blessed that I get to spend my days with some great writers and historians. Recently, ITo Antietam Creek. It is a fantastic examination of the days leading up to the battle of Sharpsburg, including Harper's Ferry and South Mountain. Likewise is Tom Clemens's editing of the Erza Carman manuscript. Carman was a Federal soldier who fought at Antietam, and later in life, compiled a 1,800 page manuscript on the battle. He went to great lengths to talk to his fellow veterans, and his final work, along with his collection of correspondence, is quite possibly the most definitive collection of information on any Civil War battle. I finished out my work this week by reading Thomas McGrath's Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign, September 19-20, 1862.I also liked this book a lot. I would have liked it even more had there been more about the Confederate side of the battle, but, that information may not exist. Added to this are books by Mike Priest, Joseph Harsh, and Stephen Sears.  While there are more books on Gettysburg, the quality of the tomes on Antietam are, in my opinion, unbeatable.
finished reading Scott Hartwig's

All of this leads to my real reason for posting. I have noticed in the past few months quite a few "book reviewers," especially on Amazon, disliking various books because they are so detail-oriented. I've seen this with my own books, and with fellow authors, like Eric Wittenburg. What gives? I dislike books because they  are not rich in details. If I am reading a battle history, or a regimental or brigade history, I want those details. Have we descended to a mediocrity in intelligence where the educated reader simply wants to get by with just the big facts? Would you, the reader, prefer me to write "that there was hand-to-hand fighting around the farm house," or, would you prefer to hear it from a survivor of the battle? For example, during a portion of the battle of Hanover Court House, a member of the 25th New York  chronicled that Sgt. Harry Clark, a New York City Fireman, “was wounded, and the rebels thought to take him a prisoner; he resisted, as it is supposed, for he was found lifeless over the dead body of a rebel, having put his bowie knife through the rebel's throat.” ?

What I like about Hartwig, Harsh, Carman, and many others, is the level of details that put the reader there. I guess that not everyone is up to that level of history. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Civil War Living History Day

Civil War Living History Day

Saturday, February 14

10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Learn about life during the turbulent 1860s with reenactors, historians and Junior Docents. See demonstrations of life on the home front and in the military. At 1:00 p.m., Marvin Jones, Chowan Discovery Group, will present Fathers, Farmers, Fighters, Leaders: The Robbins Family at War.  

Carriage rides ($5 per person, with Carolina Carriages) and pony rides ($3 per child, with Circle S Stables) will be available. Visit the Museum Gift Shop for Civil War-related books, souvenirs, and memorabilia.

I will be showing enlarged photos of Forts Hatteras and Clark as well as engineering diagrams made in 1861 and 1863, not to mention the earthworks Brig. Gen. Thomas Williams had built in October 1861 to defend against a land attack.

Visit Civil War in NE North Carolina at:

Monday, February 02, 2015

The lifespan of a Confederate colonel.

There are many different ways to examine the men who served as colonels of Confederate infantry regiments: age, education, pre-war occupations, social standing, etc. How about looking at how long they maintained their position during the War? Since I'm living the life and times of Branch-Lane brigade, I've chosen to look at the 15 men who served as colonels of the five regiments that made up the brigade. Now the fine print: there were brigades and regiments who fought less, or saw less of the War than the five regiments in this Tar Heel brigade. John B. Palmer was the only colonel of the 58th North Carolina Troops. He was elected in July 1862, and on paper, still commanded his regiment in May 1865 when he was captured. While Palmer served as commander of the Department of Western North Carolina starting in late 1863, he was never promoted to brigade general, and the 58th North Carolina never got a new colonel.

There were five regiments in the Branch-Lane brigade.
The 7th North Carolina Infantry had three colonels.
Reuben Campbell was elected in May 1861 and was killed at Gaines Mill on June 27, 1862.
Edward Haywood was promoted to colonel on June 27, 1862, was wounded at Second Manassas and Chancellorsville, and resigned on July 22, 1864.
William Davidson assumed the position on November 28, 1864, and commanded until the end.
Col. John D. Barry

 The 18th North Carolina Infantry had the most, with four men serving as colonel.
James Radcliffe was elected on July 18, 1861, and defeated for re-elction on April 24, 1862.
Robert Cowan defeated Radcliffe, and served as colonel until resigning on November 11, 1862.
Thomas Purdie assumed command next, and was killed at Chancellorsville.
John Barry was promoted colonel to rank on May 3, 1863, was absent due to a wound from July 1864 until January-February 1865, and surrendered with the regiment.
Col. James H. Lane

The 28th North Carolina had three men to serve as colonel.
James H. Lane had the post from September 21, 1861, until promoted to brigadier general on November 1, 1862.
Samuel Lowe assumed the position next, while a prisoner of war, not assuming command until January 1, 1863. After his wounding at Gettysburg, he apparently never resumed command, and was retired to the invalid corps on July 8, 1864.
William Speer was next, and served the shortest amount of time as colonel, occupying the post for only two months until he was mortally wounded at Reams Station on August 25, 1864.

Col. Robert Cowan
The 33rd North Carolina had three men who were colonels.
Lawrence Branch was elected on September 20, 1861, and promoted to brigadier general on January 17, 1862.
Clark Avery replaced Branch, serving from January 1862 until he died of wounds on June 18, 1864. Yet Clark was a prisoner of war from March 14, 1862, until sometime in November 1862. Avery was wounded at Chancellorsville and was out until November 1, 1863. He missed 14 months of service (at least) .
Robert Cowan replaced Avery on June 18, 1864, and rode out of camp on April 10, 1865, without surrendering.

The 37th North Carolina Troops had only two men to attain the rank of colonel.
Charles C. Lee was appointed colonel on November 20, 1861, and was killed at Frayser's Farm on June 30, 1862.
William Barber was elected colonel on June 30, 1862, and died of wounds on October 3, 1864. Yet Barber was wounded at Chancellorsville, captured at Spotsylvania Court House, and wounded in August and again in September 1864. He missed eight months.

Looking at the time we know the men missed due to being wounded, or as prisoners of war, the average length of service was about 11 months. A man appointed colonel in a regiment in the Branch-Lane brigade would only hold the position for about 11 months. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Thoughts on Ft. Fisher

A week ago, I was just getting home from the Fort Fisher event. I had meant to post some thoughts earlier, but book proofs and other things got in the way. So, here are my thoughts:

Overall, it was a fantastic event, and, I believe, a model for others to emulate. The mix of speakers and historians, the living historians and re-enactors, and various other groups, all came together to produce a great event.

We arrived on Saturday morning and got checked in, and began to scope out the area. Having been to the Ft. Fisher State Historic site on several occasions, I was familiar with the area. Talks started at 10:00 am, and I had a chance to sit in on the portions of the lectures delivered by several, including Rod Gragg and Chris Fonvielle. Pat McCory, Governor of North Carolina, spoke at the monument at Battlefield Acre shortly after 11:00 am on Saturday, followed by Ed Bearss. The battle portion of the reenactment started at 1:00 pm on Saturday with a shot from the Fort's 32-pounder. Saturday evening concluded with a lantern tour. Estimated visitor count on Saturday was placed at 12,500 folks.

Late Saturday night and into early Sunday morning, the rains blew through the area. Despite the sogginess, there were still throngs of visitors at the site. The reenactment scheduled to begin at 10:00 am was pushed back to 12:00. I spoke again at 1:30, and about 3:30, we started back toward the mountains.

As I mentioned before, it was good to see the reenactors and sutlers, the living history displays, listen to the lectures, and visit with the Friends of Ft. Fisher and the various Sons of Confederate Veterans camps set up. Kudos to the George Davis Camp, SCV. They had brought their notes and records, along with their North Carolina Troop books, and were helping people look up their Confederate ancestors. There was also a reunion during the weekend for people whose ancestors had originally served on the Confederate or Union side during the war at Ft. Fisher.

Overall, it was a fantastic event.

There are many other events coming up in the next three months, including reenactments in Wilmington and at Ft. Fisher, Averasboro, Bentonville, and the Bennett Place. I know I will be at Averasboro and the Bennett Place. I look forward to seeing you out and about.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fort Fisher this weekend.

Many of you know I don't make trips off the mountain much in the winter time.  The weather is unpredictable, and the months of December, January, February, and March are my writing time. I'm making an exception this weekend and heading to the 150th commemoration of the fall of Fort Fisher. The Friends of Fort Fisher and the staff at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site have put together a superb event. If you are in the area, I hope you will join me!

There will be a slew of things to do. Opening ceremonies kick off at Battle Acre at 11:00 pm. Ed Bearss is scheduled to speak, as is Gov. Pat. McCrory. There are living history demonstrations throughout the day in different areas, and a re-enactment of the assault on Shepherd's Battery at 1:30 on Saturday and at 10:00 on Sunday. A speakers' tent will hold lectures by Rod Gragg, Chris Fonvielle, Richard Triebe, Ray Flowers, and Michael C. Hardy (hey, that's me!). A host of other activities, including a candlelight tour Saturday evening.

This event kicks off the final years of the sesquicentennial events, a year in which the war really comes home to North Carolina. I look forward to seeing many of you out and about at these events.

The picture? This is the Armstrong Gun captured at Fort Fisher, on display at West Point after the war.  

Friday, January 09, 2015

One mystery solved - the reorganization of the 18th North Carolina Regiment

As part of the Conscription Act of April 1862, regiments that re-enlisted for the war were allowed to re-elect their commanding officers. Most regiments replaced a handful of officers. The 18th Regiment, replaced almost everyone. You might think I exaggerate, but I do not. The colonel, lieutenant colonel, and adjutant were defeated for re-election, while the assistant commissary of substance chose to resign on the day of the election (April 24, 1862). Seven of the ten company captains were replaced and in some companies, all the officers lost their bids for re-election.

My question, however, is this: how did the adjutant, which is an appointed position, lose his position through an election?

According to Confederate regulation, "The commander of a regiment will appoint the adjutant from the subalterns of the regiment...." (Article XII, section 68, Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States, 1862)

Prior to becoming adjutant of the 18th NC, Charles D. Myers was mustered in as a 1st Sergeant of the Wilmington Light Infantry on April 15, 1861. Myers was elected 1st Lieutenant on June 21, 1861, and in August 1861, appointed adjutant and transferred from Company G to the field and staff. (As an aside, Myers was born in New York City, was a 26-year-old merchant, and lived in New Hanover County.)

Ah, but wait, there is more. I was simply basing my assumption on the North Carolina Troop book (Vol. 6, page 306). When I went and looked up Myers's compiled service record on Fold3, I did find one record that stated Myers was "Not re-elected at reorganization." The card before that tells a different story. It reads: "Declined appt. at reorganization." That makes 1,000 times more sense. Since the colonel (James D. Radcliff) who gave Myers the job of adjutant was defeated for re-election, Myers refused to serve as adjutant under the new colonel (Robert H. Cowan). Of course, I cannot explain the too different entries in the Compiled Service Records. I also cannot explain why the editor of the troop book chose to go with "Not reelected at reorganization" and not "Declined appt. at reorganization." Maybe it is something as simple as the editor's not knowing adjutants were appointed and not elected....

Well, I believe this one mystery is solved. Only a million or so more to go now... Thoughts?