Sunday, January 24, 2010

An interview with Colonel Tate

It would be difficult to express the amount of times I have wish I could talk to the old veterans of the war. Questions about positions, flags, uniforms, camps, and reasons would flow from my tongue. However, they are all gone, and have been gone for a very long time. Today, I give you an interview from Colonel Tate of the 6th North Carolina State Troops concerning the a visit he made to Gettysburg after the war, marking the position of his regiment during the fight. While my questions would be a little different, these nonetheless are informative, and I hope you enjoy.

“Tate at Gettysburg: The Colonel Marked the Position of North Carolina Troops.” The News and Observer (Raleigh) 15 Aug. 1894

Colonel S. McD. Tate returned yesterday from Gettysburg battlefield where he has been since Thursday last to assist in locating the position gained by North Carolina troops during the memorable battle of July 1863.
Colonel Tate was accompanied by Col. Thomas S. Kenan, of this city, also by Gen. W. Gaston Lewis, who went on his way to his home in Goldsboro.
These three gentlemen, together with the three National Commissioners, Col. J. B. Bachelder, of Massachusetts, Col. Nicholson, of Pennsylvania, and Major Robbins, of North Carolina, were the only ones engaged upon the work in hand.
“It was a matter of love with us who went from this State,” said the Colonel in the Yarborough House yesterday. “I have been there two or three times for the purpose of trying to maintain for the soldiers of this State the credit that is due them. Up to, say three years ago, the so-called ‘rebel’ positions had received no attention, while on the other hand, there was a forest of monuments, most beautiful, to mark the Union line of battle.”
“People came there from the world over, and the first question that came to them was: ‘What where you Union men shooting at?’ For there was nothing in sight except an old field against an army of monuments. Then it was that the esprit de corps was arrested in the yankee breast and they reasoned among themselves this: ‘Let us mark out the host that was against us.’ Thus was this work of justice to the South and to History set on foot.”
“Did you not have some trouble after all this lapse of time in picking out spots accurately?”
“Well, no: Gettysburg is a curiously marked field, not so that as it impressed me during the war. In settling upon one point, I found that we had pretty surely come certainly within ten feet of it. A Mr. Culp, a German farmer who now owns a part of the battle ground was with us at the time all of us being on his place. Said I ‘Mr. Culp, was that fence standing at the time of the battle?”
‘Yes” said he, ‘it is the same fence.’
“ ‘Well, was not these a clump of apple trees near here?’
“ ‘Yes’ he replied, with a hearty laugh, ‘but the bullets caused them to die, and I had to cut down, there is the spot.’
“I remember those apple trees, because I had sat down under one of the, during one part of the fight. Then I found the point I sought without difficulty.
“How about the position, Colonel, gained by your regiment on Cemetery Heights?”
We marked that, too, and the stake is there fast for the site of the monument that will make the story of those men’s valor imperishable.”
“You want to know about that flag? No I did not take it personally from the man who was shot down while carrying it: I should not have disgraced my men by refusing them the honor. But they took it up one by one as each one fell until it was rescued and brought back to me. It was my men who did it,” the Colonel added with a mingled ring of modesty as to himself and pride as to his brave fellows.
“Yes, they brought it back, and I kept it until three weeks ago, when I sent it Christian Reid, at Salisbury. The Salisbury Military Company had already asked me for it, but I could not think of sending it to them.
“Do you not think it belongs in the Historical Library?”
“Yes, but Christian Reid said I could not refuse her and these were the circumstances: She was the daughter Frances, of old Judge David S. Caldwell, and afterward married Col. Chas. Fisher. She and the Colonel’s sister, Christine Fisher, made that flag out of an old blue silk India shawl that belonged to the mother of Frances. The needle work was minute, elaborate, exquisite, and it was a gem among all the army flags. Now she has it, tattered as it is with bullet holes, but one strange thing about it was that the coat of arms which was worked so richly in embroidery was not scratched, and the legend is plain and unharmed upon it now, ‘Deeds, not Words.’
“Yes, we had every courtesy, shown us, both by the officers of the Commission, as well as by the others. For there are now these 8,600 Pennsylvania troops encamped, and last Saturday Governor Parrison with staff and a troop of cavalry came in, looking like real soldiers, dusty after a ride of fifty-two miles from Harrisonburg to Gettysburg. We received distinguished consideration from the Governor, and came away happy.”
“Has Gettysburg changed much?”
“Yes, it has prospered and is a snug little town of 3,000. The difference between that and Florida is that one lives on dead Yankees and the other on live ones.”
“Do the National Commissioners live there?”
“Yes, they will probably be at work for five years yet at $10 a day, according to the latest appropriation. This was the change made after Col. Bachelder had sold the plans he made just after the war to the government for $50,000, and was thought to be the cheapest way out. The gentleman engaged are charming men and seem to be animated only by a spirit of liberality and fairness.”
The Colonel looked well and walked out of the hotel to his office in the Capital.

PS – this is post #400!!!

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