Thursday, September 02, 2010

Leventhorpe biography

My march through the literature concerning North Carolina and the War continues. Over the past weekend, I finished D. H. Hill, Jr.’s Confederate Military History of North Carolina. Since it is an older book, and since many of you have probably already read it, I don’t have much in the way of comments. The book is largely a history of North Carolina’s regiment in the Army of Northern Virginia, with token mentions of the Tar Heel regiments in the Army of Tennessee and the War within the Old North State itself.

I next picked up J. Timothy Cole and Bradley R. Foley’s biography of Collette Leventhorpe. I have written a fair amount about Leventhorpe as well, with biographical articles that have appeared in North and South and Gettysburg Magazine.

Leventhorpe was a British-born, British army-trained Confederate officer. He migrated to the state in the 1840s, and settled in western North Carolina. Leventhorpe was first colonel of the 34th North Carolina Troops, and then later colonel of the 11th North Carolina Troops – the Bethel Regiment. Leventhorpe was wounded at the battle of Gettysburg and then captured on his return after the battle. He resigned from the 11th North Carolina and become a brigade-general of Home Guard forces in the eastern portions of North Carolina. In the last weeks of the war, Leventhorpe was appointed a Confederate brigadier general and assigned command of Clingman’s brigade. Leventhorpe declined the promotion. After the war, he moved frequently between Rutherford, Caldwell, and Watauga Counties, New York, and Great Britain. Leventhorpe passed in 1889 and is buried in Caldwell County.

Cole and Bradley have done a really good job of combing through numerous sources, both on this side of the Atlantic, and on the British side. Their work should be commended. They have produced a well-documented biographical piece that will be a benefit for future generations. I do not much care for the way they introduce new characters by telling you what happened to them later on. Take for instance when Henry King Burgwyn is introduced in the story: “Col.Burgwyn, the commander of the 26th NC, would later fall at the head of his regiment on the first day of Gettysburg.” (92) Well, Burgwyn first appears in the story in December 1862. Why not let the story evolve instead of having to jump back and forth? Maybe this is just a pet peeve.

A little more serious is the treatment of the Home Guard. Yes, Leventhopre was appointed by Governor Vance a brigadier general in August 1863 and assigned to command home guard forces in the central and then eastern portions of North Carolina. However, in no place in the text is it mentioned that Leventhorpe was actually the second home guard brigadier general. The first was John W. McElroy, who was appointed in July 1863, and assigned command of the 1st Brigade of North Carolina Home Guard. The 1st Brigade was made of up battalions from the western portions of the state. Not acknowledging that there was another home guard brigade, and another Home Guard brigadier general, leads to a few moments of confusion later on in the text. For example, in February 1865, Leventhorpe and the home guard were ordered to report to Raleigh and to Governor Vance. Was this both brigades of Home Guard, or just Leventhorpe’s brigade? (page 158)

Overall, this is a great book and I encourage you to get a copy and check it out.

So, what’s next? Hmm, maybe McKinney’s biography on Vance?

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