Monday, October 24, 2011

Six footers

We often hear that people back during the war years were smaller, not as tall as people today. I've often argued against that, largely due to the fact that I found a number of people in the 37th NCT who were each over six feet tall. Earlier today, while working through the Charlotte Observer (12/16/1899), I found this piece. Both Marks and Leon served in the 53rd North Carolina Troops:

An Old Confederate Here. 
   Mr. Sam Marks, of Shelby, is here, attending court. Mr. Marks is about six feet six inches high. There were in his company -- Capt. Joseph Harvey White's-- 81 men over six feet. He, messers. Louis Leon and W. R. Cochrane were in the same company. Mr. Marks and Mr. Cochrane saved Mr. Leon's life once in carrying him across the Potomac when all wasn't "quiet." Marks said yesterday: "If Lee had had 500 men like Louis Leon, Bill Cochrane and myself the war would have been going on yet.."


Virginia S. Wood said...

I read someplace (wish I'd known then what I know now about keeping track of references for a work of fiction)that the average height back then for men was 5'7". Heaven only knows what skimpy kind of data that was based on.

Roaming through enlistment records, however, one is struck by how similar the men's heights, when recorded, are to today's men.

The same (lost, to me, anyway) source noted that there were times in history when nutrition was actually better than in succeeding generations, and people would be taller for a while! So the old "people were shorter back then" thing is a gross over-simplification.

Josh Howard said...

Just found a reference in the North Carolina Argus (Wadesboro) to the killing of a deserter from Company E, 25th NC - Marshall Dunn, in upcountry SC in 1864. They went out of their way to note that he was 6 feet 4 inches tall in the death notice. Pretty nifty.

Michael Hardy said...

Virginia - I do believe that it is a " gross over-simplification" - thanks for the comment.

Michael Hardy said...

Thanks Josh. I found in my research on the 37th NCT that the average height (culled from the compiled service records) was five feet, eight and one third inches. I found over 90 men six foot or taller, with Jackson M. Gibbs the tallest, at six foot, seven inches. He was from Mecklenburg County. Eighteen of that 90 men were in Company C, from Mecklenburg County. I wonder if the lower Piedmont area produced taller men, while the more rural areas (even though Union-Gaston-Mecklenburg are still rural) produced shorter men. Sounds like a master's thesis to me.