Saturday, November 05, 2011

How a Boy Won His Spurs at Antietam

I came across this story a few days ago and I thought I would share. It is from Confederate Veteran, March 1913. This one makes me want to quit working on Civil War Charlotte and write a history of the 35th NCT...


Early in the morning of the battle of Antietam Colonel Ransom's brigade of North Carolina regiments was sent to the aid of Stonewall Jackson's hard-pressed lines. In this brigade, in the 35th North Carolina, was William S. Hood, the boy who won his spurs on that day. The incidents are detailed by Capt. W. H. S. Burgwyn, of the 35th:

"During a lull in the battle General Jackson, with Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, visited our lines, which were in the famous 'West Woods.' General Jackson had on an old worn uniform, his slouch hat was pulled down over his eyes, and he was riding Little Sorrel. He rode up to where Colonel Ransom was standing and said he wanted him to take a battery that was in sight. Colonel Ransom replied that he would try if ordered, but was afraid he would fail. Jackson replied that he had just witnessed his charge upon that battery, and he thought that if he would try again he could take it. Colonel Ransom said he had tried it, and when he got on top of the hill he saw what he thought was the greater part of McClellan's army behind it. Jackson asked: 'Have you a good climber in your command?' Colonel Ransom called for volunteers, and Private William S. Hood, of Company H, jumped up and said he could climb. Jackson picked out a tall hickory tree and told him to go up it. Hood pulled off his shoes in a jiffy and went up like a squirrel.

"When Hood was near the top, Jackson, sitting on his horse under the tree, asked him: 'How many troops are over there?' Hood, uttering an exclamation of amazement, replied: 'Oceans of them.' Jackson sternly said: 'Count the flags, sir!' Hood began, 'One, two, three, four,' etc., General Jackson repeating after him the numbers until he had counted thirty-nine, when Jackson said: 'That will do; come down.' All this time the enemy's sharpshooters were firing at Hood."

When this sketch appeared in the newspapers before its publication in the State's history (North Carolina regiments), it brought a communication from Capt. D. G. Maxwell, Company H, 35th North Carolina, of Charlotte, which is so creditable to the gallant boy, Private William S. Hood, that it is incorporated as part of the record of this regiment. It states:

"In regard to the battle of Sharpsburg there are several additional incidents I shall relate. When going into action that morning, Colonel Ransom himself carried the regimental colors, but was not wounded. His command captured the battery which they had charged, but were afterwards forced to fall back and take their original position at the foot of a hill in the woods. Just here a Yankee officer mounted on a bobtail horse rode up to the abandoned battery, apparently to view our position, when I suppose one hundred guns were fired at him. He sat unconcernedly on his horse, when Colonel Ransom cried out: 'Cease firing; don't shoot that brave man.' The Yankee officer withdrew as deliberately as he came.

"Shortly thereafter, the firing having ceased in our immediate front, and before Private Hood had volunteered to climb the tree for General Jackson, Colonel Ransom came and ordered me to detail the best man in my company to go forward and ascertain the position and movements of the enemy. Immediately young Hood sprang to his feet (we were all lying down) and asked permission to go; and as he struck a 'turkey trot' across the field with his gun at a trail, I could see a smile of admiration on the face of the old Roman as he asked the name of the boy soldier and commanded me to lie down and report to him on Hood's return.

"Hood was gone for at least an hour, which was a long time under the circumstances, so long that both Colonel Ransom and I were uneasy as to his fate. Finally he returned and gave such a satisfactory account of all he had seen that Colonel Ransom complimented him and ordered him to return to his company. Hood told me that on the field among the dead and wounded he found a Federal officer badly wounded and crying for water. He gave the officer his canteen. The wounded man offered to give Hood his gold watch and chain and all the money he had to carry him within our lines for treatment. Hood told him that it was an impossibility; but when he encountered the Yankee pickets he informed them of this officer's condition and proposed to conduct them to the place where he was lying, which proposition was readily accepted. The officer was placed upon a stretcher and carried within the Federal lines. Hood could easily have been captured; but his magnanimity to this wounded officer gained for him the admiration of the Federal pickets, who treated him kindly, gave him coffee, and allowed him to return.

"A short time after Hood's return General Jackson made his request for a man to climb the tree. Hood again volunteered, as Colonel Burgwyn states, except that he did not 'take off his shoes in a jiffy,' from the fact that he had no shoes on his feet, they being so sore that he could not wear any. He was not only barefooted but ragged and dirty. His condition, however, was not an exception.

"After our retreat across the Potomac, Gen. Robert Ransom left an order with me for Private Hood to report to him. Soon thereafter we resumed our march toward Martinsburg, Va. I saw nothing more of Hood until late in the afternoon, when General Ransom passed our regiment in a gallop, Hood following him on one of the General's horses, with spurs on his bare feet. He lifted his old cap and saluted as he passed. He remained with Gen. Robert Ransom as courier until Col. Matt Ransom was promoted to brigadier general. General Matt then took Hood on his staff of couriers.

"William S. Hood was only sixteen years old when he enlisted. He was a handsome boy with black eyes, long black hair, and fair skin—indeed, a noble type of a Southern lad. He wrote a beautiful hand, and was often detailed to assist in making out reports, pay rolls, etc. He was a son of A. I. Hood, of Mecklenburg County."
In the assault on Fort Steadman on March 25, 1865, Gen. Matt Ransom commanded his own and Wallace's South Carolina Brigade. In his report of this brilliant but disastrous attack General Lee said: "The two brigades commanded by General Ransom behaved most handsomely." The 35th lost largely in killed, wounded, and prisoners. Here Hood was killed. General Ransom clothed the body of the brave boy in a general's uniform and laid it tenderly in a grave far from the home of his childhood, in old Mecklenburg County

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