Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Another one of those "pesky" black Confederates.

 I came across this newspaper piece while researching Civil War Charlotte, and I thought I would share. Make sure you see my comments below.

Old Negro in Destitute Circumstances.

   William Winters, a mulatto about 70 years old and helpless, lies at his home on Poplar street, between Trade and Fourth streets, in destitute circumstances. Winter has had a rather interesting career. He was born a free negro and during the war was a soldier in the Confederate forces. He left home as the valet and cook for Col. Charles Fisher, of the Sixth North Carolina Regiment, who was killed in the first battle of Manassas. Winters was with Col. Fisher when he was shot and assisted in getting him off the field. He remained with the Confederate army during the war and afterwards cooked in Charlotte hotels and cafes until about 10 years ago when he became too feeble to work. He has always been a good negro and has had many friends among the white people, especially among the old veterans. (Charlotte Observer 01.04.1906)

Now I know that this type of story is not popular among certain groups of historians. Regardless of the predisposed assumption that there no blacks in the Confederate army, they did exist, as evidenced by the story above. Of course, I have frequently mentioned the Cousins/Cozzens brothers of Watauga County, who served in the 37th NCT. Franklin Cozzens a free mulatto, voluntarily enlisted in the Confederate army and was killed at Second Manassas in August 1862. Unlike Franklin and William Henry Cozzens,  William Winters does not appear to have a compiled service record. Many would argue that since he spent the war working as a cook, he was not a legitimate soldier. That's an old (obsolete?) argument. William Henry Cozzens served most of the War as a teamster, and when it came time to apply for a pension, he had no problems obtaining one. I could find no pension for Winters, nor do I know of the disposition of his remains. It will be an interesting story to follow.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Look Around the Old North State

It been sometime since I looked at what's going on in the news related to North Carolina and the War - sorry for being behind.

For information on North Carolina Civil War sites with holiday-themed programs, check out this piece from South Carolina here.

The Virginia Pilot recently reported here that the bell of the CSS Albemarle has been returned to North Carolina.

Information about arms manufacture during the War in the Jamestown area can be found here.

Interested in original Confederate imprints? Check out this article on a exhibit at UNC Chapel Hill.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Playing the role of tourist

Every once-in-a while, I get to go and play a tourist - I'm not out researching, or trying to give a talk, or selling a book. A couple of weekends ago, I got to spend a little time in Harrisonburg, Virginia. My darling wife was presenting a paper at James Madison University, and we got to tag along.

After a morning spent at children's museum in Harrisonburg, we headed up the interstate to New Market.  Often I drive up I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley and literally pass through the New Market Battlefield. I cannot recall if I had ever actually visited the area; if I had, it would have been in the mid- to late 1980s, possibly during the trip to Gettysburg in 1988.

On arriving in town, "Thing Two" was asleep in the backseat, and so we drove around and visited the two large cemeteries in town: Emmanuel Lutheran Cemetery, and then over to St. Matthew's Cemetery. Both are great old cemeteries and hold the remains of Confederates from the battle. St. Matthews has a large Confederate monument marking the burial spot for many Confederates killed or mortally wounded during the battle, and was also the final resting place of the cadets from the Virginia Military Institute before being reinterred on the campus of VMI.

Figuring that Thing Two had had enough of a nap, we headed to the battlefield. We toured the museum, looking at the uniforms and flags and different displays. It would have been nice to see a little more about the battle, but I understand that they are trying to reach a broader audience. We also watched "Field of Lost Shoes," the short documentary on the 1864 battle. Overall, it was really good, with great interpreters.  I was a little concerned with the whole slave running away bit - it seemed unnecessary and gives into the whole "the Union army got close and the slaves sought freedom" part of popular culture. Was this actually based on a true story from one of the local farmsteads? Is there proof that slaves did run away from their homes on the approach of the Union army getting ready to fight at New Market? How about information on the slaves that chose to remain behind and not run away? Or, is this simply a North Carolina phenomenon?  Oh well...

We spent time touring the battlefield and walking about the Bushong Farm. It was late in the day, and rather cool, so there will be other places to explore in the area on a return visit.

On Saturday, we had a chance to visit Dayton, Tennessee, and the area where Lt. John Meigs, the son of Federal general Montgomery Meigs, was killed. Meigs was out on a scout when he and his companion ran into Confederate scouts. In the very brief skirmish that followed, Meigs was killed. His fellow soldier returned to camp and informed the Federal command Phil Sheridan, that Meigs had surrendered and was killed later. Sheridan ordered one of subordinates, George A. Custer, to burn all the town of Dayton and all of the houses in a three mile radius of the site. Much of the town survived, but many of the farms in the area were torched.

Overall, a great weekend of just touring Civil War sites. Time to get ready for the next adventure.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, Catawba County Library Will Display Civil War Sesquicentennial Photography Exhibit in December

RALEIGH – Determination, commitment and pride are among many characteristics of North Carolinians depicted in the “Freedom, Sacrifice, Memory: Civil War Sesquicentennial Photography Exhibit” ( The exhibit commemorates the role our state played in the Civil War (1861-1865), a defining period in United States history. It will visit the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras and the Catawba County Library in Hickory from Dec. 2-29 on simultaneous eastern and western routes.

 “The Civil War was the first war widely covered with photography,” explains Deputy Secretary Dr. Jeffrey Crow of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. “The ‘Freedom, Sacrifice, Memory’ exhibit provides images of historic figures, artifacts, and documents that brought the reality of the war from the battlefront to the home front, then and now.”

Images gathered from the State Archives (, the N.C. Museum of History (, and State Historic Sites ( will illustrate valiant members of the Confederacy, African Americans fighting for freedom, and daring women dedicated to the South. A total of 24 images will be exhibited by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources ( in 50 libraries and four museums throughout the state from April 2011 to May 2013. A notebook will accompany the exhibit with further info rmation and seeking viewer comments.

 Among the photos is an image of Parker D. Robbins, who was listed in an 1850 census as a mixed-race mechanic (Chowanoke Indian, black, and white). He served in the 2nd United States Colored Calvary and later served as one of the first Black Republicans in the North Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1868.

For info rmation on the December displays call the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum at (252) 986-2995 or the Catawba County Library at (828) 294-2343. For more info rmation on the statewide tour visit or call the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources at (919) 807-7389.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Silver Dollars

Dug this out of the Charlotte Observer (02/01/1903) this afternoon - wish I would have came across it sooner, or maybe even found the Mexican dollar!

      Major G. W. F. Harper showed your correspondent a Mexican silver dollar, which was his pay for service in the civil war. As many know, the Confederates were paid off at the close of the way for their services, some receiving $1.25, while others only received $1.14; the latter amount being the price paid Major Harper. On this dollar, Major Harper has had engraved, "Bounty for G. W. F. Harper, Major, Fifty-eighth Regiment, April 1st, 1865, for three years' service in the Confederate States army."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Duke Homestead to Host Lecture About Slavery

Durham -- On Saturday, Nov. 19, at 2 p.m., Duke Homestead State Historic Site will host a lecture on the practice of slave leasing in the south as part of the Civil War 150 programming series. Professor Heather Williams of UNC-Chapel Hill will shed some light on this often misunderstood and under recognized part of the institution of slavery. This event is free.

 Williams holds undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University and is currently Associate Professor of History at UNC- Chapel Hill where she teaches several courses including U.S. History to the Civil War; African American Life and Culture in Slavery; and other courses relating to the antebellum and Civil War periods.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On the road (yet again).

Friends, I'll be out signing twice this week. Tonight (November 15), I'll be speaking to the Capt. Jonas Cook Camp, SCV Camp. They meet at the St. John's Lutheran Church near Mt. Pleasant, NC, at 7:00 pm.

On Saturday, November 19, I'll be speaking at the Ladies Tea at the Annual Raid on the Suwannee Reenactment, held at the Spirit of the Suwannee River Music Park in Florida. Not sure about the time yet. I'll be around at the event most of the weekend.

Monday, November 14, 2011

More please?

Col. L. O'B. Branch was given this order November 18th: "The Governor directs that you arrest Lieut. Col. Bowman, U.S. A., and confine him in some cell in the jail at Raleigh reserved for prisoners accused of infamous crimes and treat him as such so long as the enemy continues so to treat the prisoners of war captured by them at sea and now held for trail in new York as prisoners. You will release Lieut. Col. Bowman from his parole and execute this order with as much regard for his feelings as practicable." This came from the adjutant general' letter books, found in the Charlotte Observer on March 9, 1902. Sometimes you just want more of the story. Who was Lieut. Col. Bowman? And why was he in Raleigh?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Thoughts on Hanover

So what drew me to the story of the battle of Hanover Court House/Slash Church? When I was working on my work on the 27th North Carolina Troops, I came across this battle - it was the second battle that the 37th NCT fought, along with the other regiments in Branch's brigade. As I was working, all I could really find was an essay by Robert E. L. Krick on the battle and a master's thesis by Jerry Coggeshall from 1999. I believe that the story of this battle needed to be told. In reading larger histories of the Peninsula Campaign, Hanover barely got a mention - just a couple of paragraphs in Sear's treatment of the battle. As I was working through the role of the 37th NCT at the battle, I believe that this action had a greater role in the overall Peninsula campaign that which had been previously told. With a portion of Irvin McDowell's army advancing south from Fredericksburg, and Fitz John Porter's Corps sitting just a little to the northeast of Richmond, the capital city of the Confederacy stood poised to fall to the Federals. Who was there positioned north of the city and able to stop them? The demoralized brigade of Branch. Of course, we all know the outcome: McDowell returned to Fredericksburg and Porter was soon on his way back to the main elements of the Army of the Potomac.

I try and get back to the Hanover area once or twice a year, often just to sit and reflect about this battle, a battle overshadowed by Seven Days and then the bloodletting a month later. But I would argue that Hanover needs to be remembered. The sacrifices of the Confederate and Union soldiers around the Kinney Farm and just north of Peake's Turnout were just as real as those of later battles.

So the next time you are in Hanover County, traveling north along US 301 towards the Court House, and pass by the intersection of Peake's Road and Georgetown Road, remember those who fought at the battle of Hanover Court House.
Cannon from Latham's battery, captured during the battle of Hanover Court House. Photo taken in the camp of the 17th Michigan.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Battle of Hanover Court House reissued as softback.

Good news - The Battle of Hanover Court House: Turning Point of the Peninsula Campaign has recently been released in paperback.

Follow along as Federal general George B. McClellan advances north from the Peninsula and Irvin McDowell advances south from Washington, D. C., with orders to meet in Hanover County, Virginia. Sent to guard the railroad brigades in the area is the brigade of Brig. Gen. Lawrence Branch. His Tar Heel brigade is composed of the 7th, 18th, 28th, 33rd, and 37th Regiments of North Carolina Troops. These men, along with the 12th North Carolina State Troops and Latham's battery, pitch into the Federals of Fitz John Porter's V Corps. While the Confederates are heavily outnumbered, they fight valiantly, at times driving the Federals back. In the end, massive Federal reinforcements arrive and force the Tar Heels to retreat to Ashland, Virginia. Federal losses were 355; Confederate losses amounted to 798.

This is the only book-length treatment of the battle, and in 2007, won the Willie Parker Peace History Book Award from the North Carolina Society of Historians. You can order your signed copy today for $27.50 (plus shipping and handling) by visiting or through your local book seller.

As an aside, I've been contacted by some folks in the Hanover area about doing a tour of the area on May 27, 2012. Keep watching for more details.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

How a Boy Won His Spurs at Antietam

I came across this story a few days ago and I thought I would share. It is from Confederate Veteran, March 1913. This one makes me want to quit working on Civil War Charlotte and write a history of the 35th NCT...


Early in the morning of the battle of Antietam Colonel Ransom's brigade of North Carolina regiments was sent to the aid of Stonewall Jackson's hard-pressed lines. In this brigade, in the 35th North Carolina, was William S. Hood, the boy who won his spurs on that day. The incidents are detailed by Capt. W. H. S. Burgwyn, of the 35th:

"During a lull in the battle General Jackson, with Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, visited our lines, which were in the famous 'West Woods.' General Jackson had on an old worn uniform, his slouch hat was pulled down over his eyes, and he was riding Little Sorrel. He rode up to where Colonel Ransom was standing and said he wanted him to take a battery that was in sight. Colonel Ransom replied that he would try if ordered, but was afraid he would fail. Jackson replied that he had just witnessed his charge upon that battery, and he thought that if he would try again he could take it. Colonel Ransom said he had tried it, and when he got on top of the hill he saw what he thought was the greater part of McClellan's army behind it. Jackson asked: 'Have you a good climber in your command?' Colonel Ransom called for volunteers, and Private William S. Hood, of Company H, jumped up and said he could climb. Jackson picked out a tall hickory tree and told him to go up it. Hood pulled off his shoes in a jiffy and went up like a squirrel.

"When Hood was near the top, Jackson, sitting on his horse under the tree, asked him: 'How many troops are over there?' Hood, uttering an exclamation of amazement, replied: 'Oceans of them.' Jackson sternly said: 'Count the flags, sir!' Hood began, 'One, two, three, four,' etc., General Jackson repeating after him the numbers until he had counted thirty-nine, when Jackson said: 'That will do; come down.' All this time the enemy's sharpshooters were firing at Hood."

When this sketch appeared in the newspapers before its publication in the State's history (North Carolina regiments), it brought a communication from Capt. D. G. Maxwell, Company H, 35th North Carolina, of Charlotte, which is so creditable to the gallant boy, Private William S. Hood, that it is incorporated as part of the record of this regiment. It states:

"In regard to the battle of Sharpsburg there are several additional incidents I shall relate. When going into action that morning, Colonel Ransom himself carried the regimental colors, but was not wounded. His command captured the battery which they had charged, but were afterwards forced to fall back and take their original position at the foot of a hill in the woods. Just here a Yankee officer mounted on a bobtail horse rode up to the abandoned battery, apparently to view our position, when I suppose one hundred guns were fired at him. He sat unconcernedly on his horse, when Colonel Ransom cried out: 'Cease firing; don't shoot that brave man.' The Yankee officer withdrew as deliberately as he came.

"Shortly thereafter, the firing having ceased in our immediate front, and before Private Hood had volunteered to climb the tree for General Jackson, Colonel Ransom came and ordered me to detail the best man in my company to go forward and ascertain the position and movements of the enemy. Immediately young Hood sprang to his feet (we were all lying down) and asked permission to go; and as he struck a 'turkey trot' across the field with his gun at a trail, I could see a smile of admiration on the face of the old Roman as he asked the name of the boy soldier and commanded me to lie down and report to him on Hood's return.

"Hood was gone for at least an hour, which was a long time under the circumstances, so long that both Colonel Ransom and I were uneasy as to his fate. Finally he returned and gave such a satisfactory account of all he had seen that Colonel Ransom complimented him and ordered him to return to his company. Hood told me that on the field among the dead and wounded he found a Federal officer badly wounded and crying for water. He gave the officer his canteen. The wounded man offered to give Hood his gold watch and chain and all the money he had to carry him within our lines for treatment. Hood told him that it was an impossibility; but when he encountered the Yankee pickets he informed them of this officer's condition and proposed to conduct them to the place where he was lying, which proposition was readily accepted. The officer was placed upon a stretcher and carried within the Federal lines. Hood could easily have been captured; but his magnanimity to this wounded officer gained for him the admiration of the Federal pickets, who treated him kindly, gave him coffee, and allowed him to return.

"A short time after Hood's return General Jackson made his request for a man to climb the tree. Hood again volunteered, as Colonel Burgwyn states, except that he did not 'take off his shoes in a jiffy,' from the fact that he had no shoes on his feet, they being so sore that he could not wear any. He was not only barefooted but ragged and dirty. His condition, however, was not an exception.

"After our retreat across the Potomac, Gen. Robert Ransom left an order with me for Private Hood to report to him. Soon thereafter we resumed our march toward Martinsburg, Va. I saw nothing more of Hood until late in the afternoon, when General Ransom passed our regiment in a gallop, Hood following him on one of the General's horses, with spurs on his bare feet. He lifted his old cap and saluted as he passed. He remained with Gen. Robert Ransom as courier until Col. Matt Ransom was promoted to brigadier general. General Matt then took Hood on his staff of couriers.

"William S. Hood was only sixteen years old when he enlisted. He was a handsome boy with black eyes, long black hair, and fair skin—indeed, a noble type of a Southern lad. He wrote a beautiful hand, and was often detailed to assist in making out reports, pay rolls, etc. He was a son of A. I. Hood, of Mecklenburg County."
In the assault on Fort Steadman on March 25, 1865, Gen. Matt Ransom commanded his own and Wallace's South Carolina Brigade. In his report of this brilliant but disastrous attack General Lee said: "The two brigades commanded by General Ransom behaved most handsomely." The 35th lost largely in killed, wounded, and prisoners. Here Hood was killed. General Ransom clothed the body of the brave boy in a general's uniform and laid it tenderly in a grave far from the home of his childhood, in old Mecklenburg County