Monday, August 23, 2010

Reflections on the 58th NCT and 37th NCT.

This weekend, I wrapped up the proofs for the book on the 58th NCT (more details on release date to come soon). That makes two regimental histories that I’ve written. The first was on the 37th North Carolina Troops, which served in the Army of Northern Virginia. I did not know when I began that project that the 37th NCT lost more men than any other regiment from North Carolina during the war – a little more than 800. I kind of thought that when I finished the project, and it looks like that those numbers are true.

The 58th North Carolina Troops was remarkably different in several ways. I have read that the 58th NCT was the largest regiment fielded by North Carolina during the war. The numbers that I came up with make it only slightly bigger than the 37th NCT. Both regiments had over 2,000 men. The 58th NCT was a Army of Tennessee regiment, really only one of two Tar Heel regiments to serve in the AofT, the other being the 60th NCT. The 29th NCT and 39th NCT both served in the Army of Tennessee, but they also served in other armies as well. While the 58th and 60th (consolidated) were surrendered at Greensboro, the 29th NCT and 39th NCT finished out the war in Alabama. The 58th NCT will also probably be recorded as the regiment with the most deserters, and possibly the most deserters to join the Union army. I often joke with a couple of pards about how the 58th NCT was just a stop for men who later “transferred” to the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry (US).

In the end, I came up with 355 men of the 58th NCT who died during the war. That number is low, possibly 100 men low. There are just way too many men in the 58th NCT whose records end when they arrived in a hospital in some place, never to be heard from again. I probably could have taken the census records for the individual counties and spent years comparing them to the rosters, trying to track down those who did come home. But I did not. As I said, that would have taken years. And I have already spent years on the project. I started collecting information on the 58th NCT about the same time I started working on the 37th NCT – which was in 1996. I did spend three years of starts and stops actually writing the book on the 58th NCT.

So what is next? Well, as I have already written, I have a contract for a concise, well-illustrated history of North Carolina and the War. I also have three other projects that I have been researching for years just lying about here around the office. Am I going to take up my pen and write about another regiment? Sure. Which one? I’m not sure. I was at a cookout on Saturday evening with some friends and a few were trying to take collections to prompt me in a few different directions. The leaders in the discussion that evening were the 7th NCST and the 29th NCT. We’ll see. Since four of the top thirteen regiments to suffer the most losses came from the Branch-Lane brigade, and since I have already written about one of those regiments, I’m probably leaning in that direction. But you never know… And to be honest, until I pick up my pen, neither do I.

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