Saturday, August 21, 2021

How tall were Confederate generals?


 Have you ever noticed the W.B. Matthews lithograph of Confederate generals published in 1907? There stands Lee surrounded by some of the Confederacy’s best generals: Ewell, Bragg, Hampton, A.P. Hill, Joe Johnston, and many others. All the generals are about the same height, except Lee, who is a couple of inches taller than the others.  But how tall were they really? Was Lee really taller than all the others?  Here is a brief look. For some generals, they are simply described as being of medium height in their biographies, probably around five feet eight inches. Those who did not have an exact height listed are not included in this list. (For example, Earl Van Dorn is described as “About medium height,” and he is not included.)[1]


Who was over six feet tall?

James Longstreet, Lee’s Old War House, was an astounding six feet, two inches.[2]

Nathan Bedford Forrest was described as around six feet or six feet two inches tall.[3]

Wade Hampton, considered a “giant,” also came in at six feet.[4]

John C. Breckinridge, both general and cabinet member, stood six feet, two inches.[5]

James B. Gordon was thought to be between six feet three or four inches.[6]

Micah Jenkins was six feet two inches.[7]

Stephen D. Lee stood six feet tall.[8]

Collett Leventhopre, British born, “stood nearly six and one-half feet in height.”[9]

John H. Morgan “nearly six feet in height.”[10]

William N. Pendleton “was fully six feet in height.”[11]

Matt Ransom “stood a little over six feet in height.”[12]

Henry Sibley “Lean six feet.”[13]

Albert Sidney Johnson “was six feet and an inch in height”.[14]

John B. Magruder came in at six foot four inches.[15]

Robert F. Hoke – “Nearly six feet.”[16]


Who was a little taller than average, say between five feet ten and eleven inches?

Robert E. Lee was considered quite tall for the time, coming in at five feet ten and a half or five foot eleven inches tall.[17]

Stonewall Jackson was taller than Lee, “a little over five feet eleven inches.”[18]

Braxton Bragg, considered the most-hated man in the Confederacy, was five feet, ten inches in height.[19]

E. Kirby Smith was five feet, ten inches in height.[20]

Ambrose Powell Hill came in at five feet ten inches.[21]

J.E.B. Stuart was reported as five feet, ten inches tall.[22]

Patrick Cleburne stood about five foot, ten inches.[23]

Basil Duke was described as being five feet ten inches.[24]

Henry A. Wise was recorded as “five feet eleven inches.”[25]


Who was average?

Joseph E. Johnston was considered “of medium height: about five foot seven.”[26]

P.G.T. Beauregard “was five feet seven inches in height.”[27]

Richard Ewell was either five feet eight inches or five feet ten and one-half inches tall.[28]

Rowell Ripley “was five feet eight inches tall.”[29]



Who was below average?

Joseph Wheeler was considered “Small, only five feet, five inches tall…”[30]

Daniel Harvey Hill “was small in stature, barely five feet tall…”[31]

John B. Gordon was but five feet two inches. [32]

Thomas C. Hindman was “just barely five feet tall.”[33]

William Mahone was five feet five inches.[34]

Dabney Maury – five feet three inches.[35]



[1] Hartje, Van Dorn, 60.

[2] Wert, General James Longstreet, 24.

[3] Hurst, Nathan Bedford Forrest, 261; Wyeth, Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest, 628.

[4] Andrew, Wade Hampton, 28.

[5] Davis, Breckinridge,

[6] Hartley,  Stuart’s Tarheels, 417n.3.

[7] Fox, General Micah Jenkins and the Palmetto Sharpshooter

[8] Hattaway, General Stephen D. Lee

[9] Cole, Collett Leventhorpe, 238.

[10] Ramage, Rebel Raider

[11] Lee, Memoirs of William Nelson Pendleton, 10.

[12] Marlow, Matt W. Ransom, 17.

[13] Gilman, Henry Hastings Sibley, 20.

[14] Johnson, The Life of Albert Sidney Johnson, 72.

[15] Casdorph, Prince John Magruder, 2.

[16] Barefoot, General Robert F. Hoke, 76.

[17] Blount, Robert E. Lee: A Life, 170.

[18] Smith, Stonewall Jackson’s Little Sorrel, 40.

[19] Martin, General Braxton Bragg, 9.

[20] Parks, General Edmund Kirby Smith, 93.

[21] Hassler, A.P. Hill, 3.

[22] Pavlovsky, Riding in Circles, 559.

[23] Nash, Biographical Sketches of Pat Cleburne, 142.

[24] Matthews, Basil Wilson Duke, CSA, 165.

[25] Wise, The Life of Henry A. Wise, 38.

[26] Symonds, Joseph E. Johnston, 10.

[27] Williams, P.G.T. Beauregard, 51.

[28] Pfanz, Richard S. Ewell, 552n.30.

[29] Bennett, Resolute Rebel.

[30] Martin, General Braxton Bragg, 104.

[31] Martin, General Braxton Bragg, 270.

[32] Tankersley, John B. Gordon, 212.

[33] Neal, The Lion of the South, 33.

[34] Blake, William Mahone of Virginia, 271.

[35] Waugh, The Class of 1846, 64.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Guarding Confederate parolees at Camp Lee

In the past, I’ve referenced the small book Pen in Hand: David Parker Civil War Letters, edited by Riley Henry. Parker served in the 54th North Carolina Troops. (You can check out the other post here.) Recently, while re-reading this set of letters, I came across another interesting reference. Sometime around September 21, 1862, Company B, 54th North Carolina, was sent to Camp Lee to do garrison duty. On September 25, Parker writes that they are assigned to “gard prisoners.”[1] 

Harper's Weekly, August 9, 1862. 

First, a little about Camp Lee: organized as a fairgrounds prior to the war, Camp Lee was named in honor of Richard “Light Horse” Harry Lee in 1860. Camp Lee was a sixty-three-acre site dedicated to training Confederate soldiers. Jackson had marched the Virginia Military Institute cadets there in April 1861; William Gilham, who wrote an infantry manual, was the first camp commander; the grounds contained a hospital, quartermaster and commissary shops and rooms for surgeons and drill masters. It was also the site of executions for spies and deserters. Tens of thousands of volunteers and conscripts passed through the area during the four years of the war.[2]

It appears that Parker’s company was stationed at Camp Lee until the end of November 1862. In a letter written on October 1, Parker writes that he is not guarding Federal prisoners, but Confederates. “We are here garding paroled prisoners that has been taken by the north and paroled and sent here to be exchanged and thare has several run away and went home so we have the rest to guard.”[3]

An article in August in the Richmond Whig, making mention of a camp visit, tells readers that “A number of tents occupied by artillery companies, conscripts, and exchanged prisoners are scattered over the grounds.” The “prisoners” made mention of by Parker were probably part of a group of 20 men that arrived at Aiken’s Landing, on the James River, on September 28.[4]

But why guard Confederate soldiers? Why even put them in a camp? Why not send them to their respective regiments? All great questions. Usually, the parolees went into a camp until the “paperwork” was finished. Each former prisoner of war had to be swapped for a Federal prisoner of the same rank. Or, a certain number of privates could be swapped for an officer. While the former prisoners might be paroled, they were not officially declared exchanged until the paperwork was finished. They were not allowed to return to their regiments to take up their arms until the process was complete. The Confederate government needed a place to keep these soldiers, and Camp Lee was the spot in the east, not far from Aiken’s Landing on the James River. Pvt. Heglar P. Summit, Company C, 28th North Carolina Troops, was captured and confined in a Federal prison on September 14, 1862. He was paroled and transferred to Aiken’s Landing on September 27, 1862, but was not declared exchanged until November 10, 1862.[5] If the soldier was well, then he could be returned to his regiment once the paperwork was finished. If he was sick, then he could be sent home on furlough. Why were Confederate soldiers, in the case of David Parker, his entire company, sent to guard fellow Confederate soldiers? Parker answers this question for us: several had already “run away” and headed for home. Once at home, they were hard  to get back in the army.

While there are a lot of books about Richmond (check out this post), there seems to be only scattered information about Camp Lee. Hopefully, this post will add a little information to the mix.

[1] Riley, Pen in Hand, 33.

[2] Burns, Curiosities of the Confederate Capital, 54-64.

[3] Riley, Pen in Hand, 39.

[4] Richmond Whig, August 12, 1862, September 29, 1862.

[5] Jordan, NC Troops, 8:151.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Getting Wiley G. Woody’s service record correct


   Family histories and county heritages books are great resources. They contain family linages and histories, little pieces of the past that, coupled together, paint a large picture of the history of a place. However, many people writing these histories, while well intentioned, often communicate mis- information. The service of Wiley G. Woody, 29th North Carolina Troops, is a prime example.

   The entry for Woody goes like this: He was ““conscripted into the Confederate army, and was enrolled in Co. I, 29thth Regt. NC Inf. After a furlough of forty days to recuperate from illness, he rejoined his Regiment at Morristown, Tenn., where he was detailed to guard the commissary wagons. He deserted and went home where he was captured in the fall of 1863 and imprisoned in Castle Thunder… While being transported from Castle Thunder to his regiment in Wilmington, N.C., he escaped and went home, where he hid out in the ‘bushes; until he joined the Union Army at Bulls Gap, Tennessee, in Garrett Honeycutt’s Co., E, 3rd NC Mtd. Inf., on 3/25/1864.” (Bailey, The Heritage of the Toe River Valley, 1:466)

   Looking into Woody’s Confederate Compiled Service record, we find something of a different story. He was not conscripted in the Confederate army. Woody volunteered on July 11, 1861. (The Conscription law was not passed until April 1862). He was mustered in as a private in Company I, 29th North Carolina Troops. It appears that on February 21, 1863, Woody was detailed to work in the Quartermaster’s Department, making shoes, in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Sometime later, maybe in March 1863, he was transferred to the Confederate Shoe Shop in Columbus, Georgia. He was still there in August 1864. However, he had been listed as “diseased” on an inspection report on April 21, 1864, while working for the Quartermaster’s Department. That is the end of his Confederate Compiled Service Records from the National Archives.

   Did he desert twice? Maybe. Did he do time in Castle Thunder? Maybe. However, his Confederate regiment was never stationed in Wilmington. His Federal Compiled Service Record states he enlisted in Mitchell County, North Carolina, on March 25, 1864. More interesting was that he was not mustered into Federal service until September 23, 1864, at Bulls Gap, Tennessee. From March 25 to September 23 is a long time to not be officially mustered into service. It might be more likely that he was still in Columbus in August, working for the Confederate government, before making it home and then across the mountains into East Tennessee to enlist by late September. Woody was mustered in as a private in Company E, 3rd North Carolina Mountain Infantry (US). He was not reported on muster roll sheets until January 1865. On the March-April muster roll sheet, Woody is listed as a deserter, having left on April 2, 1865, taking his Springfield rifle with him. On April 30, 1865, he was dropped from regimental rolls. He was still absent when his regiment was mustered out of service on August 8, 1865. 

   In June 1866, former Federal soldier and local lawyer W. W. Rollins (see this link for more) wrote a letter to the assistant adjutant general, asking that Woody be restored to duty and honorably discharged. Rollins (who had also served in the 3rd NCMI, but later got in trouble for pension fraud) stated that Woody was “a good soldier, always ready for duty” and based upon the evidence in front of him, thought Woody a trustworthy man. Woody’s letter (in Rollins’s handwriting), dated June 29, 1866, also appears in Woody’s record. Woody’s excuse? While on picket duty in the Crab Orchard section of Washington County, Tennessee in April 1865? (Maybe Crab Orchard in Carter County?), his company moved on without him, heading to Salisbury, NC. (Actually, they never really moved further east than Watauga County, NC, one county away). Woody states he headed to his home in Yancey County (one county southwest), “hoping to hear… of my command…” At some point, he attempted to find his command, but owing to the rainy weather, could not get over the mountains. He apparently gave up. “I could not send any papers to my commanding officer then being no mails in this county.” He was willing to forego pay and allowances to be restored to duty. An affidavit in Woody’s support added that Woody was not only cut off from his command, but that he was also sick. In the end, Woody’s charge of desertion was removed. He applied for an Invalid Pension on April 29, 1869, which was granted.

   Did the author of this short biograph on the Woody family have all of the pieces I have just laid out? Maybe, or maybe not. Did someone purposely try and mislead people? Maybe, or maybe not. Did not including all of the facts (and maybe there are more in Woody’s pension application) hurt future researchers? Yes, they probably did. But for now, at least parts of the service of Wiley G. Woody have  been corrected.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Transferring prisoners across the South.

   According to the Library of Congress’s Civil War Desk Reference, there were 211,411 Federal soldiers taken prisoner during the war. Of those, 16,668 were not incarcerated. They were paroled without going to a prisoner of war camp. That leaves 194,743 who did time in one of numerous prisons across the South. Considering the prisoners of war camps were spread out across the South, how did the Confederate government move these prisoners from camp to camp?[1]

   After a Federal soldier was captured, he was taken to a secure location to the rear of the battlefield and corralled together with other prisoners. Charles Mattocks of the 17th Maine Infantry was captured on May 5, 1864, during the battle of the Wilderness. Mattocks wrote in his journal that he was sent to the rear “and delivered to the Provost Guard.” That evening, the group, composed of 10 officers and 150 men, was moved a mile and a half further back. The next morning, the prisoners were started on foot to Orange Court House. Their escorts were “Lee’s Body Guard,” the 39th Battalion Virginia Cavalry. Mattocks considered his escorts “very nice chaps. They showed us every favor possible and even allowed us to ride their horses when we were tired.” It was on the morning of May 7 that Mattocks writes of being searched by the Provost. On May 8, Mattocks and his companions were loaded on the railroad and shipped to Lynchburg, Virginia. Mattocks mentions almost escaping “owing to the smallness of the guard,” but the attempt was foiled. He was eventually moved via Danville, through the Carolinians, and then to Macon, Georgia. Mattocks says little of his guard while on his journey.[2]

   It appears that different regiments were utilized to escort prisoners to holding areas. The 16th Alabama Infantry was detailed to escort prisoners to the rear during the battle of Shiloh in April 1862.  A member of the 9th Alabama Infantry reported that his regiment escorted a large number of Federal prisoners to the provost marshal following the battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. Also following Chancellorsville, the 52nd North Carolina, late in arriving at the battlefield, was sent back to Richmond guarding 2,000 Federal prisoners. Following Gettysburg, Picket’s depleted division became a large provost escorting prisoners toward Maryland and Virginia, much to the chagrin of the Virginians.[3]

Train Of Prisoners Approaches Savannah River, Drawing is a drawing by Quint Lox.

   The 39th Battalion Virginia Cavalry was frequently used to transport Federal prisoners from the battlefield to a railhead. At Fredericksburg, Company A assigned to guard the prisoners actually boarded the train, continuing into Richmond. At Chancellorsville, Company D was reported escorting 650 prisoners to Guinea Station on the night of May 3. Following the battle of Spotsylvania Court House, the battalion moved with about 400 Federal prisoners in front of them, and corralled prisoners following the battle of Cold Harbor. It is possible that the duty continued through the siege of Petersburg, but the mundane assignment seldom appeared in their letters or diaries. The 39th Battalion Virginia Cavalry was not the only force to escort prisoners. Capt. Edward A.H. McDonald, 11th Virginia Cavalry, recalled escorting prisoners from the battle of Cedar Run, Virginia, in August 1862, to the rail station at Orange Court House.[4]

   It would be a common thought that the task of moving prisoners would fall under the duties of the Army Provost. However, Kenneth Radley tells us in his book on the subject that “Escorts for prisoners as they filtered back along the chain were only infrequently provided by the provost because of their severely limited strength; that duty had to be performed by whatever other troops were available.”[5]

   It is unclear if escort companies listed in the Army of Tennessee performed the same duty as those in the Army of Northern Virginia. It seemed that every division, corps, and army commander was listed as having such a company. For example, for the battle of Chickamauga in September 1863, two companies are listed as escort for Braxton Bragg: Dreux’s Company Louisiana Cavalry and Holloway’s Company Alabama Cavalry (Crocheron Light Dragoons), both under the command of Capt. Guy Dreux. After Bragg’s departure, Joseph E. Johnston retained both companies as escorts.

   Whole regiments were used to move prisoners. LeGrand J. Wilson, 42nd Mississippi, recalled being sent to guard prisoners on Belle Island, Richmond. The men found the duty “very disagreeable.” Finally, the prisoners were paroled and sent out to be exchanged. The 42nd Mississippi detailed 300 soldiers to escort the 5,000 prisoners to Varina Landing. The Confederates had to walk in front of the Federals, keeping a slow pace due to the heat. Even with those safeguards, several Confederates and Federals fell out, with several of the Federals dying.[6]

   At times, prisoners were moved through the interior of the Confederacy to other prisons. Railroads were utilized for these transfers. It was easier to secure the prisoners within box cars, thus reducing the amount of guards needed for each trip. Captain Benjamin F. Grigg, Company F, 56th North Carolina, was reported absent on detail “guarding prisoners” in January-February 1864. According to family, Grigg was in charge of a fifty-man detail escorting prisoners from Richmond to Andersonville. The 5th Georgia Reserves, or at least part of the regiment, escorted prisoners into Savannah. In December 1864, the 58th North Carolina moved 1,200 prisoners from Columbia, Tennessee, to Corinth, Mississippi. The trip was arduous, with the regiment (numbering about 311 men) moving their 1,200 prisoners partially on foot and partially via rail.[7]  

   There were undoubtedly many regiments, or portions of regiments, detailed to move Federal prisoners across the South during the war years. Some of these men might have welcomed the diversion, a chance to escape the boredom of winter camp or just to see a different part of the country. Others probably found the duty laborious and were happy to be free of their charges. One thing is for certain: this is a portion of the war that needs to be explored more.

This article is a part of a 2021 series exploring the fringes of military prisons in the South. You can check out the other articles below:

Federal Prisoner of War Camps in the South

Federal Prisoners and Southern Ministers and Chaplains 

The Types of Prisoners at Salisbury Prison


[1] Civil War Desk Reference, 583.

[2] Mattocks, “Unspoiled Heart”: The Journal of Charles Mattocks of the 17th Maine, 138-152.

[3] Barrett, Yankee Rebel, 102; OR, Vol. 10, 1:597; 15:969; Jordan, NC Troops,12:399.

[4] Hardy, Lee’s Body Guard, 23, 34, 60, 64; Rolph, My Brother’s Keeper, 94.

[5] Radley, Rebel Watchdog, 164-65.)

[6] Wilson, The Confederate Soldier, 93-94.

[7] Munson, North Carolina Civil War Obituaries, 158n.133; Speer, Portals to Hell, 268;  Hardy, The Fifty-eighth North Carolina Troops, 146-47.