Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tar Heel Tars in the famous duel between the Monitor and the Virginia.


One of the sections of the new Civil War Charlotte book includes vignettes of several of the soldiers from the greater Charlotte area. A story that I've uncovered recently that will be one of these vignettes is the tale of  three Tar Heels from Mecklenburg who served on the CSS Virginia.

Most of you know the story of the USS Merrimack/CSS Virginia, so I won't go into minute details of the destruction of the Merrimack and the building of the Virginia. We will pick up the story with the Virginia just about finished, and in need of a crew. J. Thomas Scharf, writing in the 1880s in his History of the Confederate States Navy, gives us this information: "There had been no merchant marine at the South to supply experienced sailors and but few of the sailors of the U. S. Navy were in Southern ports when the rupture of the Union occurred. To meet  that pressing exigency, Leiut. Wood visited Gen. Magruder's army at Yorktown..." (156) Scharf goes on to tell us that a large group of sailors in a regiment from New Orleans were recruited to crew the new ship.

But the Louisianans were not the only crew members. There were men from Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina, along with a handful of North Carolinians. There were eight men from the 14th North Carolina State Troops. The 14th NCST was in the Yorktown area, and all of these transfers took place mid-February 1862. Among those who transferred were:

William Craig, a 23-year-old shoemaker from Buncombe County (Company F)

Elijah W. Flake, a 21-year-old farmer from Anson County (Company C)

Howell Harrison, a 21-year-old hireling from Wake County (Company E)

William Little, a 21-year-old laborer from Wake County (Company K)

James A. Puttick (or James A. Patrick), a 19-year-old printer from Wake County (Company K)

William R. Powers, a 21-year-old farmer from Buncombe County (Company F)

Alfred A. Stroup, a 23-year-old farmer from Cleveland County (Company D)

Samuel W. Smith, a 24-year-old farmer from Wake County (Company K)



The navy recruiter also visited the 13th North Carolina State Troops, also in the area at the time. From the ranks of the 13th NCST, the recruiter pulled the following men, also in mid-February 1862:

John C. Baker, a 22-year-old farmer from Mecklenburg County (Company B)

Jacob Brown, a 22-year-old laborer from Rockingham County (Company H)

James C. Davis (or Josiah C. Davis), a 24-year-old Mecklenburg County farmer (Company B)

Brice Harrelson, a 31-year-old Caswell County merchant (Company A)

Joseph Hedgepeth, a 19-year-old farmer from Edgecombe County (Company G)

Seth A. Hotchkiss, a 19-year-old farmer from South Carolina (who enlisted in Mecklenburg) (Company B)

Henry F. Johnston, a 18-year-old farmer from South Carolina (who enlisted in Mecklenburg) (Company B)

William W. Lyon, a 26-year-old carpenter from Rockingham County (Company A)

Richard A. Mitchell, a 26-year-old laborer from Alamance County (Company E)

William M. Price, a 25-year-old carpenter or cabinetmaker from Edgecombe County (Company G)

James M. Sheffield, a 35-year-old "tobacco mcf" from Mecklenburg County (Company B)

William H. Ward, a 21-year-old laborer from Alamance County (Company E)

Levin H. Wood, a 28-year-old grocer from Caswell County (Company A)

Sidney R. Wright, a 26-year-old painter or carpenter from Caswell County (Company D)



In looking over these men, they were mostly young, but not many of their occupations, like that of a farmer, grocer, or tobacco merchant, seem to strike me as the material sought after for a sailor.

Finding out what happened to these men after their famous duel with the USS Monitor is a challenge. James Sheffield survived the war, and died at the North Carolina Confederate soldiers home in Raleigh. Information regarding other men is equally scarce. But there you have, 22 men, Tar Heel tars, members of the crew that fought the famous battle in Hampton Roads on March

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