Thursday, June 25, 2009

58th NCT update

Someone asked me the other day what my interest in the 58th North Carolina Troops was – did I have an ancestor in the regiment? No, I’m not a descendant of a soldier who served in the 58th NCT. I am distantly related to several of the men, like Lt. Col. William W. Proffitt (and any other Proffitts in the regiment), the Laws in Companies G and K, and the Hamptons in Companies C, M, and G. Distant as in those are cousins several times removed. So what interests me in their story? I guess it is their story, a story that needs to be told. Research into the lives of North Carolina regiments that served outside of the state, or outside of the Army of North Virginia, is woefully lacking. I hope to fill that hole with this book.

Also, I’ve had a couple of run-ins with different members of the regiment. No, I really don’t believe in ghosts, so let me explain. Growing up in central Florida, I used to traverse Palmer Avenue there in old Winter Park. The road goes over Palmer Creek. Little did I know then that what I know now: that Palmer Avenue and Palmer Creek are named for Colonel John B. Palmer of the 58th NCT. Since 2001, I have lived four or five miles from where Colonel Palmer lived from 1858 until 1864. So twice in my life I have lived close to where Colonel Palmer lived. Of course, I hope this trend does not continue. I have no desire to live in Detroit, or Columbia, or even upstate New York.

At a re-enactment once I got to meet and talk to the granddaughter of General Westmoreland (I don’t even remember her name – sorry, Dear!). That would be William Childs Westmoreland. The young John Eben Childs of Company H of the 58th, the one killed at the battle of Chickamauga, was Westmoreland’s great-uncle (I think I have that right).

I also got a chance to meet Clayton Stamey six or seven years ago. Clayton was the son of Elias Stamey, a member of Company A of the 58th North Carolina. He was a little over 100 years old when I met him. Clayton was in an old folks home in Marion, and I talked with him for about half a hour about his dad and even Colonel Palmer. The Palmers and the Stameys were neighbors. The chance to sit down and talk to someone whose dad was a Confederate (or Union) soldier is almost gone.

There is not time nor space to make mention of all of the great descendants of members of the 58th NCT that I have run into over the years. They have told me their family stories, and on occasion, allowed me to hold artifacts that their family has passed down since the War. It is an incredible honor to be the person to have chronicled the story of the 58th NCT.

So maybe I should give you an update on the project. I’ve decided to include two more chapters. These chapters were originally going to be a part of the appendix, but I have decided to bump them up into the chapter area. Chapter 14 will provide an overview of the regiment, its strengths and its weaknesses, namely desertion. I’ll compare the regiment to other regiments and talk about why desertion was such a problem. I could never really find a place to work this into the chronological history of the 58th NCT that I have written. This chapter has been started, and should not be too long. The last chapter, Chapter 15, is entitled “Looking for the Fifty-eighth Today” and is a brief look at some of the places the Fifty-eighth North Carolina fought during the war. This chapter is maybe 2/3 finished, maybe a little more. The entire project should come in at around 130,000 words. For those who have my book on the 37th NCT, that project was 150,000 words.

So, that is where I am – trying to finish these last two chapters and trying to go back through and integrate some materials that I did not have I wrote earlier chapters. Then the big edit starts, maybe the first of next week.

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