Monday, April 30, 2007

Off yet again

Well, I’m off again. Tonight, I’m speaking to the Gen. James B. Gordon SCV Camp in Wilkesboro. Tomorrow night, I’ll be with the Piedmont Civil War Round Table in Charlotte.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Hart Brothers of Ashe County

A while back, I wrote about the Robinett brothers of Alexander County (37th NCT), and the members of the Key family, two brothers and a cousin (18th NCT), all killed at the battle of Hanover Court House on May 27, 1862. I recently came across this tragedy in my current research.

On July 20, 1862, Riley, Joseph, and Andrew Hart enlisted in Company L, 58th North Carolina Troops. They were all from Ashe County. Riley G. Hart was born on November 13, 1831, and when he enlisted, he was the father of five children. Joseph Hart was next, born August 3, 1840 or 1842. Andrew Hart was the youngest, born March 4, 1843 or 1847. They were all the sons of John Hart and Nancy Floyd Hart.

Given the date that they enlisted, July 20, 1862, the Hart brothers were probably all conscripts. Almost all of Companies L and M of the 58th NCT were conscripts, which would explain their massive amounts of desertions. All were mustered in at the rank of private.

On May 26, 1863, all three brothers deserted from camp near Clinton, Tennessee. They headed northeast, but did not make it far before being "captured by the enemy" in Hawkins County. The brothers were sent to Lexington, Kentucky first, then transferred to Camp Chase, Ohio, where they arrived on June 29. From there, they were transferred to Fort Delaware, where they arrived on July 14, 1863.

Both Joseph and Riley died on August 26, 1863, while imprisoned at Fort Delaware. Riley died of "rubeola." Joseph’s cause of death was not reported. Andrew fared little better. He lived (just how much living you did while in a prison camp is debatable) until September 2, 1863, when he died of "typhoid fever." The brothers are buried in the Finn’s Point National Cemetery in Salem, New Jersey

Monday, April 23, 2007

Home at last

My spat of idiotic racing over two states has come to an end. Here’s a breakdown of my recent travels.

On Wednesday afternoon, I drove to Virginia. Portsmouth is about seven hours from my house. I spoke at the Civil War Preservation Trust’s annual conference at Portsmouth on Thursday morning and had a great crowd. I left that afternoon and drove to Hanover, Virginia. Thursday evening, I spoke to the Hanover Dragoons Camp of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. The Hanover Dragoons meet at the Historic Slash Church, which served as General Branch’s headquarters during the battle of Hanover Court House.

I slept in on Friday, and then spent a couple of hours in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond before heading to a bookstore in Chapel Hill, and then back home.

Saturday morning found me in Wilkes County, speaking at gravestone dedications for two Confederate soldiers: William Garner of Company F, 37th North Carolina and Hillary Thomas Garner, of Company G, 54th North Carolina. Speaking about William was not easy. He enlisted in September 1861 at the age of 55. He was discharged on December 1, 1861. No reason was given for his discharge, but it most likely had something to do with his age.

Then, it was off to Burnsville, in Yancey County. There, my own SCV camp was conducting a two-day "find your Confederate ancestor" program. I had a chance to talk to many great folks and to get some good information for my upcoming book on the 58th North Carolina Troops. I was back in Yancey on Sunday afternoon for more of the same. After we packed up on Sunday, I and Michael Ledford drove over to a couple of cemeteries. I am working on an article for Confederate Memorial Day and wanted a couple of photographs of Iron Crosses on Confederate gravestones. We discovered that the Iron Cross on the grave of Sgt. Wilson Henry, CO. C, 16th NCT has been STOLEN. This Cross was located in the Gibbs-Proffitt Cemetery. Old timers recall seeing many Iron Crosses on the graves of local Confederates. With the loss of the Cross from Sergeant Hensley’s grave, that leaves only one so-marked grave in all of Yancey County. Removing Iron Crosses from graves is a CRIME!

I then headed back home, and spent last evening watching the program on Sherman on the Hitler (History) Chanel.

Today - back to work on the book on the 58th NCT.

By the way, the above photograph is my family (me, Elizabeth holding Isabella, and Nathaniel) on the front porch of the historic Nu-Ray Inn in Burnsville.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Three Federal North Carolina Regiments

This past Saturday, I got the opportunity to speak to the state convention of the Military Order of the Stars and Bars in Asheville. They were a great group of folks, and I enjoyed being there. After that, I wandered over to Books-a-Million. Someone had given me a gift certificate for Christmas and, since there is no Books-a-Million in Crossnore, and it could not be used online, I had not used it as of yet.

When I was leaving, I ran into Scott Nicholson, an Appalachian-horror writer who lives in Boone and has been kind enough to review some of my books for the Watauga Democrat. We got to talking about home yankees - those who were from North Carolina and joined Federal regiments. The three in discussion were the 2nd and 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry and the 13th Tennessee Cavalry. It is amazing how few people know anything about these regiments.

The 2nd North Carolina Mounted Infantry was organized in Knoxville, Tennessee in October 1863. The regiment was commanded by Lt. Col. J. Albert Smith, an Indiana native. A large number of men in the regiment came from Buncombe and Henderson counties. One of the company officers in the regiment was George W. Kirk, a Tennessee native. He set about to recruit his own regiment, and the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, with Kirk as colonel, was organized at Knoxville, Tennessee in June 1864.

The 3rd NCMI was likewise made up of North Carolina men, mostly from Yancey, Wilkes, Watauga, and Mitchell Counties. Many of these men were former Confederates. Fifty-four of the men of the 58th North Carolina Troops joined these two regiments after they deserted.

Both regiments pulled almost the same service. The 2nd North Carolina was

Ordered to Greenville, Tenn., October 16, 1863, and on duty there until November 6. Moved to Bull's Gap November 6, and was on duty there until December. March across Clinch Mountains to Clinch River. Action at Walker's Ford December 2. Gibson's and Wyerman's, Miss., February 22, 1864. Duty at Cumberland Gap and patrol duty in East Tennessee until April, 1865. Scout from Cumberland Gap January 23-27, 1865. Expedition from East Tennessee into Western North Carolina March 21-April 25, 1865. Moved to Boone, N. C., April 6, and to Asheville, N. C., April 27-30. Duty in North Carolina and East Tennessee until August. Mustered out August 16, 1865.

The 3rd North Carolina did

Scout and patrol duty about Knoxville, Tenn., and in East Tennessee until December, 1864. Scout from Morristown, Tenn., into North Carolina June 13-July 15, 1864. Camp Vance June 28. Russellville, Tenn., October 28. Big Pigeon River November 5-6. Moved to Paint Rock December 7. Expedition into Western North Carolina March 21-April 25, 1865. Moved to Boone, N. C., April 6, and to Asheville, N. C., April 27-30. Duty in North Carolina and East Tennessee until August, 1865. Mustered out August 8, 1865.

Likewise, the 13th Tennessee was of the same ilk. According to Jeffrey Weaver’s web site:
The 13th Tennessee Cavalry was formed based on authority granted by Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, and was mustered into Federal service at Strawberry Plains, Knox County, Tennessee between October 28 and November 8, 1863. The regiment mustered out of Federal service at Knoxville on September 5, 1865. The regiment was commanded by Colonel John K. Miller during its existence

The 13th Tennessee Cavalry saw limited action during the first year of its existence. In the late summer of 1864, however, the regiment was pressed into active field service. The regiment skirmished the Brigadier General John C. Vaughn's East Tennessee (Confederate) Brigade on several occasions, and participated in the abortive column sent to support General Stephen Burbridge's October 2, 1864 raid on Saltville, when the Confederates soundly defeated the Federals at Bull's Gap. Subsequent fighting in November also resulted in defeat for the Federals.In December, 1864, however, General George Stoneman replaced Burbridge in operational control of forces in the area. Stoneman was a more agreeable commander for most of the Federals, increasing their morale, supply situation, and overall esprit de corps. The Confederates, on the other hand, had moved many of the men defending the saltworks at Saltville to the Shenandoah Valley and Richmond in the interim. In mid December 1864, General Stoneman led a raid, including the 13th Tennessee Cavalry on the important mines and railroad in southwest Virginia, and succeeded in wrecking the Saltville saltworks, and destroying iron forges in Smyth County, and shops in Wytheville, and eventually the lead mines in Wythe County, Virginia.The remainder of the winter of 1864-65 was spent in quarters, and occasionally chasing the remnants of John Vaughn's Confederate Brigade. The next active campaign, the last of the war, was again with Stoneman, through Watauga County, North Carolina, into Wilkes County, into Surry, and back into Southwest Virginia. The war was basically over, and little of military importance was accomplished on Stoneman's last raid

There is no modern treatment of the 13th Tennessee Cavalry. A history of the regiment was published in 1903 and has been reprinted by Overmountain Press.
In 2000, we got two books on the 3rd North Carolina. The first, by Ron V. Killan, I do not have and cannot comment on. The other, Kirk’s Raiders, by Matt Bumgarner, makes mention of the 2nd North Carolina and contains a roster of both regiments. But this book has no notes and no index.

I’m sure that I as work through the 58th NC that there will be more posts about these three regiments.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I've been everywhere, man...

Folks - I will be on the road quite a bit over the next two weeks. Tonight, I’ll be in Burnsville. Tomorrow night, Salisbury at the Rowan County Library. Thursday night, in Forest City, Friday, at the Avery County Museum in Newland (from 1 until 4pm) and Saturday, in Asheville, speaking at the state MOS&B convention.
Next week is just as active. On Thursday morning, I’ll be speaking at the CWTP’s national conference in Portsmouth, Virginia, and that evening, at the Hanover Dragoons’ SCV Camp. They meet in the historic Slash Church. On Saturday morning, I’ll be at a 37th North Carolina marker dedication in Wilkesboro, NC, and that afternoon (and Sunday afternoon), I’ll be back in Burnsville.
Hope to see you around.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Col. John B. Palmer

Several of my blogging comrades (Eric Wittenburg and J. David Petruzzi) occasionally put bios of cavalry officers on their blogs. I thought I might join in, occasionally posting bios of North Carolinians. The first concerns Col. John B. Palmer. If you were to look at traditional sources, like Civil War High Commanders by the Eichers, you would not find much on Colonel Palmer. What you will read below has taken me a decade to put together, usually just one little fact at a time.

I hope you enjoy.

Col. John B. Palmer
© 2007, Michael C. Hardy

John B. Palmer was born in Plattsburg, Clinton County, New York, on October 13, 1826. His father, John Palmer, was a lawyer and two-term legislator from Clinton County in the United States Congress. His mother was Charlotte Theresa Sailly, whose parents came from France. Both John B. Palmer’s grandfather and great-grandfather were members of the 14th New York Militia during the American Revolution. His father died in 1840, and John B. went to Detroit, Michigan, where one of his brothers and one of his sisters lived.

In Detroit, Palmer quickly established himself, going into the mercantile business with his brother-in-law, James A. Hicks. Palmer also had an interest in the shipping business, and in 1849, was one of the trustees of the new Detroit Savings Bank. On October 12, 1852, Palmer married Miss Frances Marvin Kirby, the daughter of Colonel Edmund Kirby and Eliza Brown, of New York. Miss Kirby was the first cousin of Edmond Kirby Smith, became a lieutenant general in the Confederate army. Her brother, a Federal artillery captain named Edmond Kirby, was killed at Chancellorsville. Palmer continued to rise through the ranks of society. In 1856 he was one of the directors of the new Detroit Board of Trade, and a year later was elected president of the Detroit Young Men’s Literary Society. About this time, and possibly for health reasons, or because of a relationship with the famous Childs family, he began looking at western North Carolina as a new home.

Palmer settled on a tract of land in what was then Watauga County, and made arrangements to have a house constructed. A historian once wrote that Palmer "had built the finest house in all the area that became Avery County." Palmer called his estate "Grasslands." According to the 1860 census, John B. Palmer’s personal and real estate value was $105,000, making him one of the wealthiest men in western North Carolina, but he simply listed his occupation as "farmer." Palmer quickly became an important member of the region’s society. In June 1861, he wrote to North Carolina Governor Ellis requesting the General Assembly to call a special election to fill the seat of George N. Folk, who had resigned to raise a company for the new Confederacy. A few months later, Palmer was appointed as one of the commissioners to select a county seat for one of the newest counties in the state: Mitchell County.

December 1861 found Palmer raising a company for North Carolina’s contribution to the Southern war effort. Why Palmer joined the South in her quest for independence is a mystery. At the age of 35 in 1861, he was beyond the age for conscription. Both he and his wife also had many relatives who fought for the Union. Whatever his reasons for supporting the Confederate cause, on December 11, 1861, Palmer was elected captain of the "Mitchell Rangers." In early 1862, Palmer was authorized to raise "Palmer’s Legion." A legion during the Civil War was an organization composed of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Legions were falling out of favor with the Confederate government, but on May 13, 1862, Palmer was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 5th Battalion, North Carolina Partisan Rangers. Palmer created a training camp, called Camp Martin, on his property, and begin to recruit men. In July 1862, Palmer was promoted to Colonel and assigned to the newly created 58th North Carolina Troops, then forming at Johnson’s Depot (now Johnson City), Tennessee.

Colonel Palmer led the 58th NCT out of camp in August 1862 and headed for Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. At the Gap, Palmer was placed in charge of paroling recently captured prisoners. He was ordered into Kentucky in late 1862, but the 58th did not arrive in time to participate in the battle of Richmond. From Kentucky, Palmer led the 58th to various areas of east Tennessee, guarding railroads and supplies. In September 1863, Palmer and the 58th were ordered to Chickamauga, Georgia, and assigned to the Army of Tennessee. Colonel Palmer was wounded in the desperate fighting the 58th performed while routing the Yankees from their stubborn defenses. Colonel Palmer and the 58th gained great praise from their commanders. Major General Stevenson wrote that Colonel Palmer "performed his duties with such admirable zeal and efficiency that I have thought it due to so worthy an officer to add my humble merits." There was serious talk of promoting Palmer to the rank of brigadier general. Palmer returned to the 58th on November 1, 1863, and on November 19, 1863, was reassigned to command the department of Western North Carolina.

With his headquarters in Asheville, Palmer was given an area to defend and not nearly enough troops to do the job. There were constant raids from east Tennessee into western North Carolina, raids from both Federal soldiers and bushwhackers. It was during one of these raids in June 1864 that Unionists from Tennessee set out to raid the conscription camp near Morganton. On their return, the group burnt Palmer’s house at Grasslands. Palmer continued to do what he could with his limited forces, rounding up deserters in western North Carolina and helping with Confederate campaigns in Union-controlled east Tennessee. In the last days of the war, Palmer was given a field command, and the department was turned over to Brigadier General Joseph G. Martin. Palmer was paroled in Athens, Georgia, on May 8, 1865.

Colonel Palmer moved to South Carolina not long after the war, but continued to hold on to his property in present-day Avery County. He and his wife made several trips to Europe after the war. Colonel Palmer became president of the Charlotte, Columbia, and Augusta Railroad and president of the Southern Security Commission. He also served as president of two different banks in Columbia, South Carolina. In 1879, Palmer purchased 80 acres of orange groves in a new winter resort area in Central Florida: Winter Park. His property was located on Lake Maitland. Both a street in the new town and a canal were named after Colonel Palmer. In 1882 Palmer gave $50 towards the construction of a new depot in Winter Park for the South Florida Railroad. Palmer and his family continued to travel between Florida, South Carolina, and New York. On April 30, 1889, Palmer sold his Avery County property to George R. Watkins, who built the Watkins House. Colonel John B. Palmer died on December 10, 1893, possibly in Florida at his Winter Park estate, and was interred in the Elmwood Cemetery in Columbia, South, Carolina. His wife, known as Fannie, moved to New York City after his death and was known for her philanthropic work. She died in 1921 and is also buried in Columbia, South Carolina.