Monday, February 02, 2015

The lifespan of a Confederate colonel.

There are many different ways to examine the men who served as colonels of Confederate infantry regiments: age, education, pre-war occupations, social standing, etc. How about looking at how long they maintained their position during the War? Since I'm living the life and times of Branch-Lane brigade, I've chosen to look at the 15 men who served as colonels of the five regiments that made up the brigade. Now the fine print: there were brigades and regiments who fought less, or saw less of the War than the five regiments in this Tar Heel brigade. John B. Palmer was the only colonel of the 58th North Carolina Troops. He was elected in July 1862, and on paper, still commanded his regiment in May 1865 when he was captured. While Palmer served as commander of the Department of Western North Carolina starting in late 1863, he was never promoted to brigade general, and the 58th North Carolina never got a new colonel.

There were five regiments in the Branch-Lane brigade.
The 7th North Carolina Infantry had three colonels.
Reuben Campbell was elected in May 1861 and was killed at Gaines Mill on June 27, 1862.
Edward Haywood was promoted to colonel on June 27, 1862, was wounded at Second Manassas and Chancellorsville, and resigned on July 22, 1864.
William Davidson assumed the position on November 28, 1864, and commanded until the end.
Col. John D. Barry

 The 18th North Carolina Infantry had the most, with four men serving as colonel.
James Radcliffe was elected on July 18, 1861, and defeated for re-elction on April 24, 1862.
Robert Cowan defeated Radcliffe, and served as colonel until resigning on November 11, 1862.
Thomas Purdie assumed command next, and was killed at Chancellorsville.
John Barry was promoted colonel to rank on May 3, 1863, was absent due to a wound from July 1864 until January-February 1865, and surrendered with the regiment.
Col. James H. Lane

The 28th North Carolina had three men to serve as colonel.
James H. Lane had the post from September 21, 1861, until promoted to brigadier general on November 1, 1862.
Samuel Lowe assumed the position next, while a prisoner of war, not assuming command until January 1, 1863. After his wounding at Gettysburg, he apparently never resumed command, and was retired to the invalid corps on July 8, 1864.
William Speer was next, and served the shortest amount of time as colonel, occupying the post for only two months until he was mortally wounded at Reams Station on August 25, 1864.

Col. Robert Cowan
The 33rd North Carolina had three men who were colonels.
Lawrence Branch was elected on September 20, 1861, and promoted to brigadier general on January 17, 1862.
Clark Avery replaced Branch, serving from January 1862 until he died of wounds on June 18, 1864. Yet Clark was a prisoner of war from March 14, 1862, until sometime in November 1862. Avery was wounded at Chancellorsville and was out until November 1, 1863. He missed 14 months of service (at least) .
Robert Cowan replaced Avery on June 18, 1864, and rode out of camp on April 10, 1865, without surrendering.

The 37th North Carolina Troops had only two men to attain the rank of colonel.
Charles C. Lee was appointed colonel on November 20, 1861, and was killed at Frayser's Farm on June 30, 1862.
William Barber was elected colonel on June 30, 1862, and died of wounds on October 3, 1864. Yet Barber was wounded at Chancellorsville, captured at Spotsylvania Court House, and wounded in August and again in September 1864. He missed eight months.

Looking at the time we know the men missed due to being wounded, or as prisoners of war, the average length of service was about 11 months. A man appointed colonel in a regiment in the Branch-Lane brigade would only hold the position for about 11 months. 

1 comment:

James I. Metts, Jr. said...

The picture posted as Col. Robert Cowan of the 33rd Reg. N.C. Troops, is in fact that of my g.g. grandfather, Col. Robert H. Cowan of the 18th Reg. N.C. troops. J.I. Metts Jr.