Thursday, January 29, 2009

58th NCT update

Update #1
I thought it was time for a little 58th NCT update. I finished writing about the battle of Jonesboro, GA, the day before yesterday. I thought yesterday I could breeze through most of September, since the Army of Tennessee did little, at least until the end of the month. But, once again, I appear to be stymied. All of the secondary sources (Connelly, Horn, Castel, etc.) write that Lee’s corps was charged with holding the McDonough Road open so the rest of the Confederates could evacuate out of Atlanta. That is pretty much the extent of their comments, no real ideas as to where exactly Lee was, or how he deployed his divisions, or how many times he made contact with the Federals. I was happy with just having Lee’s corps on the McDonough Road. However, the regiment sustained several wounded and captured on September 1: two captured and four wounded. There were another four captured on September 2, including one man that was wounded. So I have gone back to the Official Records, and I am trying to figure out just what Federals were nearby (Schofield’s corps and some cavalry) and if they wrote anything definitive about their actions. So far, nothing.

But I did come across this clue in the Official Records: On September 1, Lee laid out his order of march: Clayton’s division, Stevenson’s division, and Johnson’s division. On September 2, he was ordered to leave a brigade behind to cover the rear of his column. I surely wish I knew what brigade he chose...

Update #2
I was fortunate, not long ago, to receive copies of letters written home by Drum Major John C. Blair, of Caldwell County. Blair, for the battle of Jonesboro, records 27 killed and wounded. He mentions two killed: Maj. Alfred T. Stewart, regimental command, and “Lt. Estes of Co. E.” Stewart’s death is recorded in the NC Troop book that covers the 58th NCT. “Lt. Estes” is not. I believe that Blair is referring to Brevet 3rd Lieutenant Doctor W. T. Estes, “Doctor” being his given name. Estes last appears on the records of the 58th NCT on July 11, 1864. I looked carefully to find any mention of him after the war (like on census records), but I could not.

Update #3
Cenantua has been prodding me to examine the records of the 58th NCT who joined the Federal army. Out of the hundreds (maybe 1000+) deserters from the 58th NCT, I have 135 who joined the Federal army. Almost all of these joined either the 13th Tennessee Cavalry or the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry. I do have eight who joined an organization called the United States Volunteers. There were six regiments of the United States Volunteers, which were composed of former Confederates who took the oath and volunteered for service. These regiments were largely assigned to do duty out west, thereby relieving regular troops for service back east. Apparently, five of the eight former members of the 58th NCT who joined the US Volunteers did not much care for that organization. Here is the breakdown:

Eastridge, Barnabas Co. G, 6th USV, deserted May 20, 1865, from Golden Gate
Elliott, Stephen Co. H, 3rd USV, discharged Nov. 29, 1865
Fletcher, Thomas Co. C, 6th USV, deserted 26 Sept. 1865, from Ft. Kearny
Higgins, Amos Co. I, 2nd USV, (I could not find his record)
Howell, James H. Co. F, 5th USV, deserted 27 Aug. 1866, from Camp Collins.
Hughes, William J. Co. C., 6th UCV, deserted 4 May, 186, from Chicago, IL
Thomas, Hezekiah Co. C, 6th USV, deserted 21 Sept. 1865, from Ft. Kearny
Watson, Noah Co. G, 6th USV, mustered out on 10 Oct. 1866.

For anyone who thinks that the hundred, nay thousands of former Confederates who enlisted in the Federal army were doing so for noble, or “patriotic” reasons, the above list should help enlighten a little. Need further proof? Check out the words of one of the above, Hezekiah Thomas. He was captured at Jonesboro, Georgia on September 5, 1864, and soon found himself at Camp Douglas. He joined the Federal army on May 5, 1865, probably not knowing that the war was all but over. Thomas wrote after the war that he and “thousands more” were taking the oath and joining the Federal army because “we were all about to starve to death.” He was taken to Nebraska, “to make hay for the Government and while there some of the Government horses was stolen…” Thomas and another man were detailed to go and “hunt for the horses; so we followed the horses about 400 miles, and after we got there we decided to come home and we never went back to get our discharge. “

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Newland Maffitt

This morning, I found a interesting article on John Newland Maffitt (by Chris Fonvielle) on the Wrightsville Beech Magazine web site. You can check it out here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Two news items of interest, one good and one bad.

Bad News
I received an email over the weekend saying the marker honoring the 26th North Carolina Troops on the New Bern battlefield has once again been vandalized. It appears that last Thursday night or Friday morning, the North Carolina seal on the 26th NCT monument was removed. This is the second time that I can recall that the monument (which is what, two years old?), has been vandalized. I wrote about the other occurrence here.

Good News
The second is a bit of good news. It appears that the United States Senate recently approved legislation that will study the Shepherdstown, West Virginia, battlefield, with the intent of saving the battlefield. Shepherdstown was fought on September 19 and 20, a rear guard action as the Army of Northern Virginia attempted to cross the rain-swollen Potomac River. The battle involved a fair number of North Carolinians, including Pender’s brigade (16th, 22nd, 34th, and 38th NCTs) and Branch’s brigade (7th, 18th, 28th, 33rd, and 37th NCT), then under the command of Col. James H. Lane. A member of the 37th NCT, John B. Alexander, left this embellished view of the end of the battle some sixty-years after the fact. He wrote: “the 37th N. C. Regiment in command of the rear guard was ordered by Gen. A. P. Hill to about face and charge the enemy as they essayed to cross the river; one color-bearer after another was shot down, the flag staff cut away, [when Col. William M. Barber] seized the bunting and waved it aloft rushed into the thick of the fight; he was surprised by a slap on the shoulder by Gen. Hill, who asked what troops are these, he replied a part of Lane’s brigade, the quick rejoinder was ‘brave men-brave men.’”

You can read the actual press release from the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Society here.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obadiah Sprinkle - 58th NCT/US Navy

I believe that I have finished my search into the Widow Navy Pension records (on relating to men in the 58th NCT. There appear to be sixteen men who at one time served in the 58th NCT and later joined the United States Navy. Only three have files in the above source.

The last one that we will look at is Obadiah Sprinkle. Sprinkle’s file is huge – 349 pieces, and it has taken me about three days to get through it. The files of Felix Sluder and John W. Hilton contained some really good information. Both Sluder and Hilton had to give statements regarding their prior service in the Confederate army. There is no such document from Sprinkle. What we do have are statements from some of Sprinkle’s contemporaries.

Obadiah Sprinkle was from Wilkes County, North Carolina. It has been written that Wilkes was the strongest pro-Union county in all of North Carolina. That not to say that Wilkes did not have men in the Confederate army: it did, lots of them. Sprinkle was born in 1823. Prior to the war, Sprinkle was a store owner and postmaster.

In March or April 1861, as the story goes, Melton Sparks, Obadiah Sprinkle, and Obadiah’s son, had set fire to some of James Gwyn’s property. Sparks and the Sprinkles were captured by a “vigilant committee” formed by Gwyn. Sparks and Obadiah were “stripped… of their clothes and scourged…upon their naked backs…” Fletcher A. Harris, who was present, wrote that the men received twenty lashes. Barney, in his lackluster history of Walter W. Lenoir, writes that they received 39 lashes. Then, the two men had the half of their heads shaved, and were carted off to the Wilkes County jail. (The same jail that would later hold Tom Dula). The younger Sprinkle was released. Later, Sparks and Obadiah were sent to Wilmington, then to Fort Johnson, and finally Charleston, South Carolina, where Sprinkle was conscripted into Child’s Company of South Carolina Artillery. According to the compiled service records, Sprinkle was present in July 1861, but on November 5, 1861, had been discharged due to sickness.

We must assume that Sprinkle made his way back to Wilkes County. In 1863, Sprinkle would have been 40 years old and still liable for conscription. According to his wife, Sprinkle “was conscripted by the Confederate authorities[,] arrested and carried off in October or November 1863. [W]as carried to Raleigh, NC. There placed in what was called the Soldier Home. Then transferred to Gen. Braggs Division[ army,] the 58th or 60th NC Regiment….” Sprinkle was mustered into service at Camp Holmes on November 12, 1863. He was assigned to Company G, 58th North Carolina Troops, as a private. On November 25, 1863, during the battle of Missionary Ridge, Sprinkle was captured. He was taken to Louisville, Kentucky, where he arrived on December 11, 1863, and transferred to Rock Island, Illinois, where he arrived on December 14, 1863. On May 23, 1864, he took the Oath of Allegiance and joined the United States Navy. Sprinkle served as a landsman on the USS Ohio, Magnolia, and North Carolina, and was discharged from the service in May 1865, on account of disability.

Sprinkle, and his spouse and children, would claim that his treatment during the war led to his being permanently disabled. Sprinkle died on July 4, 1885, at his home in Rhonda, Wilkes County, North Carolina.

I am not sure how I am going to integrate the stories of Sluder, Hilton, and Sprinkle into the book. Much of the book is chronological in nature. Should they go right before the battle of Missionary Ridge, where all three men were captured? Or, I had thought about an essay in a special appendix that deals exclusively with the deserter problem in the 58th NCT. Heck, I could probably write an entire book just on the deserter problem in the 58th NCT.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

And the winner is….

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the little poll that I ran while I was gone.

The 18th North Carolina received the most votes. The 18th NCST’s claim to fame is that they were the regiment that mortally wounded General Jackson (whose birthday was yesterday) at the battle of Chancellorsville. In their defense, they did not know that Jackson and his staff were in front of them that night. As the regiment marched up that afternoon, they could see the remnants of the Federal cavalry charge, and they were nervous as they came on line that evening. There was already a lot of firing to their right, and well, Jackson and his staff were moving at a brisk rate in their front through the dry underbrush. No one, not the 18th NCST, nor their officers, nor Brig Gen. James H. Lane, were ever officially blamed for the mistake.

I guess the other interesting fact about the 18th NCST is the large number of immigrants within the ranks. Company A of the regiment was known as the “German Volunteers” and you will find men from Hanover, Wurttemberg, Prussia, Hesse-Cassel, Hesse Nassau, Konigsberg, Cologne, Oldenburg, Ludwighafen am Rhein, Lubeck, Garmstadt, Luxembourg, and Bremerhaven in Germany. Other countries represented in Company A include Prussia, France, Bavaria, Denmark, and England. Company B’s first captain, Robert Haft, hailed from Haddington, Scotland. Company E had a man from Ireland (Edward Stanton). Company F had a fellow from Italy (Lewis Capalini). Lt. James D. McPeake of Company G was from County Derry, Ireland, Pvt. Samuel I. Dyer was from Guernsey, England, and Henry Webb was from Stratford on Avon, England. Company K’s first captain was George Tait, from Haddington, Scotland, and Pvt. Daniel Sullivan was from County Cork, Ireland, not to mention men from Virginia, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, New York, Florida, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina.

Could there be a more cosmopolitan unit in the Confederate service--men from eight different counties and twelve different states?

Thanks again to everyone who voted.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Slightly off topic – new book!

Well, I have returned from the war. I actually split Saturday evening, and came home Sunday, but I did not feel like doing much on Monday. I had a great time. My 92-year-old grandmother fixed me breakfast on Friday! She lives in a mother-in-law apartment behind my mom and dad’s house. Mom and Dad were already gone, and when I went over to check in on her, she had already fried bacon and baked biscuits, and when I got there, she scrambled a couple of eggs for me. It’s not every day that you can say that your 92-year-old grandmother fixed you breakfast. We call her “Old Granny,” for obvious reasons. She was born in Wise County, Virginia, and spent many a year living in coal mining camps. She also lived in Elizabethton during WWII, working at a parachute manufacturing factory.

I was in the Sunshine state for the release of a new book that I co-wrote with my dad. The book is about the July 1864 Brooksville-Bayport Raid. The Raid was an attempt to cut the flow of cattle through Florida and into the Confederate armies in Georgia and South Carolina. Even more so, it was a raid in which several members of the Federal army were able exact a measure of revenge on those Hernando County Confederates that had driven them from their homes. The principals involved were two companies of the Second United States Colored Troops, two companies of the Second Florida Cavalry (US), and one company of the First Battalion, Special Cavalry (FL, CS). The raid started on the Anclote River, north of Tampa, and moved north, towards Brooksville. After dropping off the ground portion of the attack, the Federal navy moved on to Bayport, which they captured without a fight. The ground portion was involved in several skirmishes throughout the three days they were inland and burned several homes. They actually did not go to Brooksville, but turned off a mile from town and headed east to Bayport. Had they ventured on to Brooksville, they would have found the cannons from Bayport, and a shoe- manufacturing operation.

If you have ever been to the annual Brooksville Raid re-enactment, you know that it bears no resemblance to the above description. The actual raid involved about 240 Federals (not counting Navy), and an unknown amount of Confederates (70-100). The Raid celebrated its 29th anniversary this year, and drew approximately 3,500 re-enactors from all over the southeast. While the exact number of spectators is unknown, there were records set both days for attendance. I heard 4,000 for Saturday, and more on Sunday. We were all worried about the recession – but, it did not have an effect on the numbers we had.

It was a tremendous honor putting this book together with my dad. He commands one of the largest reenacting organizations in the south, with approximately 1,800 members.

The book is small, with just 58 pages, but includes a map and several illustrations. If you are interested in ordering a copy, please visit my web page.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What would you like to see?

Folks – I will be out of town for the next few days – I’ll be back Sunday night and we’ll see if I can get something posted on Monday.

I thought, as an interlude, we would take a little poll: which North Carolina regiments need a modern regimental history. The poll buttons are on the right.

Out of 70+ regiments, I chose these as serious contenders

1st North Carolina Cavalry
4th North Carolina State Troops (I have heard of three different people working on this)
7th North Carolina State Troops
14th North Carolina State Troops
18th North Carolina State Troops
26th North Carolina Troops (Covered with Glory, while a great book, does not count)
29th North Carolina Troops
33rd North Carolina Troops
49th North Carolina Troops
50th North Carolina Troops
60th North Carolina Troops
64th North Carolina Troops
Latham’s Battery

So what do you think?I look forward to reading your thoughts when I get back.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

John W. Hilton - 58th NCT/US Navy

The information that I found in the Navy Widows’ Pension Applications has intrigued me. So, yesterday I did a little digging. I have been able to find sixteen men who were members of the 58th NCT, and later joined the US Navy. Not all of them appear to have pension records. I have not gone through all of these, but I did find another yesterday: John W. Hilton.

According to the NC Troops (Vol. 15, pg. 411), Hilton’s date and place of enlistment are not recorded (probably in the autumn of 1863). [Possibly mustered in as a private in Company L, 58th North Carolina Troops.] Hilton was captured at Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863. Sent to Nashville, Tennessee. Transferred to Louisville, Kentucky, where he arrived on December 11, 1863. Transferred to Rock Island, Illinois, where he arrived on or about December 14, 1863. Released at Rock Island on or about February 5, 1864, after taking the Oath of Allegiance and joining the U. S. Navy.

I’ll let Hilton tell you his story (spelling is his):

“In March 1861 and from that time until August 28, 1862, I lived two miles from Thomasville, Davidson County, North Carolina, and during that period my occupation was Wagon and Buggy Manufacturer.

On said August 28, 1862, I was arrested and imprisoned in jail at Lexington, North Carolina, under accusation of entertaining principles and sentiments in favor of the United States government, was refused bail and kept in prison until the 4th day of November, 1862 when I was allowed to give bail and was released upon giving $5000.00 bond, conditional for good and peaceful behavior towards the Confederate Government.

Thereupon, I returned to my home and said business and resumed the same for about twenty days, when on November 25, 1862, after having planned with other union sympathizers to release Federal soldiers imprisoned at Saulsbury, North Carolina, and learning that the plot was discovered and that I was about to be arrested for complicity in it, I fled to avoid capture… to Forsythe County, North Carolina, and there lay in concealment under care of my friend Joseph Nott Singer, until June 1863.

About the last of June, 1863, while attempting to pass through the confederate lines on my way North, I was captured by confederate soldiers near Taylorsville, Tennessee
[present day Mountain City, Tennessee].

Six days after, I eluded my guard and laid concealed in various places, principally in Davidson and Forsythe counties, North Carolina, until September 15, 1863, when I started north again, and was recapatured on the 15th day of October, 1863, near Wytheville, Virginia, by confederate soldiers while enroute North, who deprived me of my money, knife, and valuables on my person.

I espaced from them the night that day and by circuitous route and managing to keep concealed during the time, I succeeded in reaching a point near Chattanooga, Tennessee; lair there concealed until after the battle of Lookout Mountain, where soon after, I voluntarily came to the Federal army at Chicamauga Station then in pursuit of Bragg’s army. whereupon I was placed in the custody of the Federal Provost Marshal, and in his custody returned with the Federal forces to Chattanooga, whence as a prisoner was sent to Rock Island… and there kept as such until my enlistment as landsman in the United States Navy on January 20, 1864…"

Hilton wrote the above in August 1891. The Pension Board wanted Hilton to clarify his Confederate service. Hilton appears to be a little more forthcoming in his reply in December 1891. Hilton writes:

“That on or about the last of October 1863, I was endeavoring to pass through the Confederate lines and while doing so was captured in west North Carolina near the Tennessee line by a body of North Carolina State Militia in the Confederate service and carried a prisoner to Raleigh, North Carolina, and while so a prisoner in said Raleigh was compelled by the Confederates authorities to join as a private, captain Eller’s Company L of the 48th North Carolina Regiment of Infantry, which was about the 14th or 15th of November 1863. That I continued as such private in said company L 13 or 14 days (and did not exceed 14) days and was sent back as an invalid to the supply train of General Bragg’s army at Chickamauga Station about the 29th or 30th day of November 1863. I made my escape from the Confederate authorities, sought and found the Federal forces and delived myself to them.”

The Captain that Hilton refers to is Capt. Calvin Eller, Company L, 58th NCT. While Hilton refers to the 48th NCT, the 48th was a Army of Northern Virginia regiment. It is interesting how Hilton changed his story. In the earlier version, he voluntarily went to the Missionary Ridge area, after escaping from Federal soldiers near Wytheville, Virginia. In the later version, he was actually captured, imprisoned, and forced into Confederate service.

After joining the US Navy, he was assigned to the USS Princeton. Hilton was later injured. It appears that he fell from a ladder and broke an ankle and banged his head. He was discharged in May 1865. Hilton later went to California, where he died on January 21, 1898. He is probably buried in Los Angeles.

I wonder what else I will be able to find in those Navy Widow Pension Records…

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Bern Battlefield Visitor Center

Three cheers for the folks in New Bern who dedicated their visitor center at the New Bern Battlefield this past weekend. For details, see article from the Sun Journal here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I was thinking about my research into the life of Felix Sluder. Private Sluder is just one of almost 200,000 North Carolina Civil War soldiers. Just one. And we know a lot about Sluder and his war-time experiences because of what he wrote after the war while trying to get his pension. We are not even sure of where he is buried.

When I wrote the history of the 37th NCT, I was excited that I had found the final resting places of about half of the regiment. Of course, that still left 1,000 men for whom I did not know the final resting place (there were 2,005 men who served in the 37th NCT). With the 58th NCT, I have much less, probably only 30 percent.

Most historians who write regimental histories do not include this type of information. Silo’s excellent history of the 115th New York does not, and Jenkins’s history of the 15th Kentucky (US) contains a few. I understand why – it is hard work, with a certain degree of uncertainty. For me, it gives a sense of closure.

I wish I knew where Rev. Alfred L. Stough was buried. Stough was a Baptist minister and chaplain for the 37th NCT. His wife, Ann Elizabeth Stough, is buried in the Sunset Memorial Cemetery, Cleveland County, NC. She died in 1888. Stough moved around quite a bit after the war. He pastored churches in Kinston, Pineville, and in South Carolina. There is even a Stough Memorial Baptist Church in Mecklenburg County. He appears to still be alive in 1900. I was never able to find his place of burial

For the 58th NCT, I know nothing about these:

Marcus J. Bearden who was assistant quartermaster.
Abram Shuford Edmisten, a Commissary Officer who was born in Caldwell County ca.1844.
Calvin Eller, a Captain of Company L, born in Ashe County ca.1830.
J. J. Goodwin, an assistant quartermaster.
Hamilton Griffin, the regimental surgeon from Kentucky. (I think he went to New York after the war and worked as a stage manager).
David S. Hall, a Commissary Sergeant from Yancey County, born ca.1837.
William White Harris, another regimental surgeon
Thomas J. Mitchell, an assistant surgeon
Robert C. Pearson, yet another assistant surgeon
Benjamin Perry Perry, adjutant
John W. Rabey, Chaplain, born in Caldwell County ca.1839
William Toxey, surgeon

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Grave of Felix Sluder

I did some more searching and it appears that Felix Sluder is probably buried in a grave marked only by a field stone (next to his wife) in the Roark – Price Cemetery in Ashe County. I am trying to track down some of the family to confirm this.

Cenantua - Do you think he would be a good candidate for a gravestone?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Felix Sluder - 58th NCT

Sorry for being away for so many days. I guess it is time to get started again.

I spent today trying to get caught up on email. I had one about a soldier in the 58th NCT, Felix Sluder. What I thought was going to take five minutes to answer developed into a morning-long affair.

Sluder lived in the North Fork District of Ashe County in 1860. He was a thirty-six year old farmer. Also in the house hold were his wife and two children. According to Sluder, on April 3, 1862, he was conscripted to serve in the Confederate army. It could be that he was in error about the date, since the first Conscription law enacted in early 1862 set the age limit at 35, and Felix Sluder would have been thirty-eightish. A revision to the law in September 1862 capped the age at 45. Regardless, Sluder was able to evade conscription officers for several months.

According to Sluder “on or about the last days of August 1863 I was captured on Roans Creek Johnston Co. Tenn by the Rebel home guard, while on my way through the lines to join the 4th Tenn. Infantry United States Army. as I had previously enlisted under one Joel Eastridge who were a recruiting officer of said Regt.” Sluder was taken to Camp Vance, and then on to Raleigh, before being sent to the 58th North Carolina. The 58th NCT was stationed near Missionary Ridge at the time. Sluder continued to refuse to join the Confederate army; “they then tried to force me to Enlist in the Confederate army.” Sluder wrote after the war; “and I willfully refused to do so. They then threatened to starve me until I did enlist in their service and I yet willfully refused. They then kept me under arrest until about the 26th day of Nov, 1863 and then about the same day they placed me in the breastworks at Mission Ridge and in the front of battle, where I were captured by the Yankees refusing all the while to enlist under any service for the Confederate authorities. and after bearing all the afore said punishment I still refused to enlist or render any service that ever for the confederates, and that I did not enlist in the Confederate army in no shape nor form.”

Sluder believed that he was placed on the front lines, in the breastworks, to be executed by the advancing Federals as the Confederates retreated. He wrote as much: “I [was] that day forced into the Breastworks so as to have me killed for refusing to enlist in the Confederate service” While this might be true, it smacks a little of the David/Bathsheba/Uriah story in the Old Testament. I find it hard to believe that the Confederates would have just left Sluder, knowing that he would desert. If the members of the 58th NCT understood anything, it was desertion.

As with almost all Confederate prisoners, Sluder was sent to Nashville, Tennessee. He was then transferred to Louisville, Kentucky, where he arrived on December 7, 1863. He transferred to Rock Island, Illinois, where he arrived on December 9, 1863. About six weeks later, Sluder was given the chance to join the Federals, which he did. He enlisted in the United States Navy on or about January 25, 1864, serving on board the USS Ticonderoga. In April 1865, Sluder was given a 10-day furlough. He felt that his health was so bad that he could no longer serve at sea. Towards the middle of April, he joined Company G, 57th Pennsylvania Infantry, and was mustered in as a private. He enlisted under the alias “John Malron, because he was sure that if he was captured by the Confederates, he would be executed for being a deserter. At the end of June 1865, he was honorably discharged from the United States army. Sluder returned to Ashe County where he died October 31, 1907. I assume he is buried in Ashe County, but I am not sure where.

I found most of this remarkable story in Sluder’s pension application. Sluder was not discharged from the US Navy at the end of the war, and was listed as a deserter. This “slight” on his record was later corrected in the 1890s and Sluder received his pension until he passed over.

The Sluder story has several good points that I plan to use in the book. It may not all be true, but will make for some interesting thoughts.