Thursday, January 30, 2014

Writing about Hanover Court House (again) and site visits.

For the fourth time in my writing career, I'm chronicling the events of the battle of Hanover Court House, fought May 27, 1862, just north of Richmond, Virginia. The battle pitted an augmented North Carolina brigade under Brig. Gen. Lawrence Branch against Fitz-John Porter's V Corps. I first wrote about Hanover in my 2003 book, The Thirty-seventh North Carolina Troops: Tar Heels in the Army of Northern Virginia. This was followed by an article on the battle that appeared in America's Civil War in 2006, and a book that same year entitled The Battle of Hanover Court House: Turning Point of the Peninsula Campaign. Since Hanover was the first official battle of Branch's brigade, it will feature prominently in this new history of the Branch-Lane brigade on which I am currently working.

To be honest, there might be more about the battle of Hanover in this new book than any other battle. After Hanover, Branch's brigade became an official part of the Light Division. At most battles after this, the brigade functioned as a whole. At Hanover, the Twenty-eighth Regiment was fighting near the Kinney Farm house, while the Thirty-third, Eighteenth, and Thirty-seventh Regiments were fighting a disjointed action near Peak's Turnout and the intersections of the New Bridge and Ashcake Roads. And, for the Twenty-eighth and Eighteenth regiments, this was the first time they experienced combat: lots of material to draw from.

Last year, I wrote a great deal about steps to take for writing a regimental history. One of those steps I might not have reiterated enough is this: when writing, it is extremely important to visit as many places as your regiment might have fought. Visiting sites gives you a greater understanding of the land on which these men fought. For the Thirty-seventh Regiment (and for the Branch-Lane brigade), I believe I have visited every battlefield, save Chantilly. From the maps I have seen, their portion of the field of battle is in a subdivision, likewise for the 58th NCT. I visited every field, save some of the non-existent trenches around Atlanta. While in some cases the fields themselves have changed (take the famous charge on July 3, 1863, at Gettysburg), visiting these places (with maps in hand) is really important.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What's so special about the 7th Regiment?

I recently sat down and looked through the rosters of the regiments in the Branch-Lane Brigade during the months (February - April 1862) that they were re-organizing, transitioning from twelve-month regiments to three-years-or-the-war regiments. Part of the Conscription Act was the provision that regiments could re-organize, electing new officers.

In the 33rd NCT, there was a small amount of movement, none of which I can say for certain was a part of the re-organization of that regiment.

In the 37th NCT, seven officers were defeated during the re-election process. The highest ranked was Maj. W. R. Rankin. Once again, this would not be any large-scale disruption.

Not so with the 28th and 18th Regiments: fifteen (15) officers of the 28th NCT were defeated, one resigned at election time, one resigned to go into medical service, and one other was court-martialed. The highest-ranked officer to loss his re-election bid was Maj. R. E. Reeves.

The 18th NCT wins the highest turnover award. Twenty-six (26) officers were defeated, while two resigned. Two others were transferred. Defeated were Col. J. D. Radcliffe, Lt. Col. O. P. Meares, and the adjutant C. D. Myers. Seven (7) of the ten (10) company captains lost their positions.

But, what has me stumped, is the 7th NCST. Not one of the regiment's field grade or company grade officers lost his position in that time frame due to being defeated during the re-election campaign. Did the 7th Regiment not re-elect new officers? Were they not eligible? Were they all totally amazing officers that the men adored? Time to go do some more reading and digging!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Underwriter Expedition Symposium and Navy Living History at CSS Neuse Feb. 1

KINSTON, N.C. – The CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center will host the USS Underwriter Expedition Symposium and Navy Living History Saturday, Feb. 1, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The program will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Underwriter Expedition. Registration is now open until Jan. 24 and has limited seating. A boxed lunch from Our Picnic Basket will be included in the $10 registration fee due by Jan. 24. Please call 252-522-2107 or email to register.

In this exciting expedition in February 1864, the Confederates sought to challenge Union control of New Bern. Since 1862 the Federals had occupied the coastal town and limited Confederate operations in the region. This spectacular naval attack on the USS Underwriter was the most daring undertaking of many of the crew of the CSS Neuse and proved that, even late in the war, Union control could be challenged.

The symposium will feature a presentation by Jeff Bockert at 10 a.m. about the larger campaign the USS Underwriter Expedition was a part. Andrew Duppstadt will speak about the naval attack and involvement of crewmembers from the CSS Neuse at 1 p.m. At 2:30 p.m., Matthew Young will address the attack on the USS Water Witch in Georgia, a similar operation to the Underwriter Expedition, in which CSS Neuse sailors had been involved. Registration is required.

The Carolina Living History Guild will provide Civil War naval displays, living history and costumed interpretation. The living history is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

At the CSS Neuse Interpretive Center, learn about the ironclad gunboat and watch as a new museum takes shape. The Confederate Navy launched the ill-fated CSS Neuse in a futile attempt to regain control of the lower Neuse River and the city of New Bern.

The CSS Neuse Interpretive Center is located at 100 N. Queen St., Kinston, N.C. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Gov. Caswell Center is located at 2612 W. Vernon Ave., Kinston, N.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. 4 p.m. The sites are closed Sunday and Monday, and most major holidays.

For information, please contact Holly Brown at 252-526-9600 ex. 222 or email Visit the site on Facebook at the “CSS Neuse” or “Gov. Richard Caswell Memorial State Historic Site” pages. The sites are administered by the Division of State Historic Sites within the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.