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Histories of the several regiments and battalions from North Carolina, in the great war 1861-'65 online

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assignment of Regiments, Brigades and Divisions, and un-
happily, too often, to change commanders.

Because of this the solidarity of organization was to a
great extent lost ; the continuity of record of service was im-
possible, and at the close, in the matter of documentary his-

702 North Carolina Troops, 1861-'65.

tory scarcely anything except official reports of general oper-
ations, was saved for tbe historian.

But NortJi Carolina had no braver sons in the struggle than
those in the eight regiments in the armies of the West. As
glorious as is her record on the fields of Virginia and Mary-
land and Pennsylvania, it is equaled by that made by her
soldiers at Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Shiloh,
Dalton, Eesaca, Nevsr Hope Church, Atlanta and Benton-

It is well known that the equipment of the Southern troops
in the West, except in the matter of food, was greatly infe-
rior to that in the East. This was not because of favoritism,
but an unavoidable result of conditions which were well un-
derstood at the time.

It is a fact, also, that for the first three years of the war
the Federal armies in the West were far superior to^ those in
the East not only in the ability of their Generals, but in the
personnel of the soldiers. The men who composed them were
drawn from the farms and smaller towns of what was then
called the Northwest, but now known as the Middle-West —
Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois. They were of
pure American stock, many of them with Southern blood,
bold, hardy and as plucky as the fiery Southerner. When
those spirits met in battle the God of War was rampant, and
they who were victorious knew they deserved the victory.
It was only after General Grant was transferred from the
West and began to feed his army with recruits and reinforce-
ments from the veterans of the Ohio, that Lee and his invinci-
ble legions were called upon to- put forth all their skill and

Lieutenant Cathey, who served in the East xintil about the
end of 1862, when he was transferred with his company to
the Thirty-ninth Regiment, and served in the West until the
close of the war, in his admirable history of the Sixteeqith
Eegiment, points out this fact.

The story is told that, on the eve of the battle of Chicka-
mauga, when Longstreet's Corps arrived on the field, fiuslied
with the glories of its well-earned laurels won in the Vir-
ginia campaigns, one of its men hailed a member of Hardee's

Thikty-Ninth Regiment. 703

Corps with the welcome announcement that he "had come
down to teach the Western man how to fight"- — to which the
latter replied that he was exceedingly glad to see him and
have his help, as there was to be some bloody work to do soon.
And it was bloody work Longstreet's veterans had, with their
Western comrades, for the next two days; time and time
again they were repulsed on the slopes of Dyer's field and
Snodgrass Hill, and it was not until night had fallen on that
Sunday they were able to drive the enemy from the field.
When the battle was over it so happened these men met again^
when Longstreet's man said : "Look here ! Do you folks have
to fight that sort of people all the time ? Why, I never saw
such a fool lot of Yankees ; they don't know when to run."

The writer of this sketch has always regretted that his ser-
vice with his loved comrades of the Thirty-ninth Regiment
ceased in November, 1862, when he was assigned to another
field of action, and never met his old regiment again. He,
nevertheless, never lost his interest in the command and
watched with pride its splendid career as one of the "fight-
ing" regiments of the Confederate Army. And he especially
laments that the task — "a pleasing burden" — of preparing
this imperfect history of the regiment was not undertaken
by some comrade who was with the command until the end ;
who followed the flag in the assault, who stood "elbow to
elbow" in the lines and repulsed the attack, who endured the
march and participated in the glories of his regiment, who
could, not with more pride, but more fullness of detail chron-
icle the deeds and recall the incidents in the life of one of the
staunchest and most intrepid bodies of men that ever faced
a foe. He desires that it shall be kept in mind 'that the
names of the regimental and company officers given herein
are to be referred to the times of the original organizations.
They have been given from memory, from the "Roster of
Worth Carolina Troops" — unfortunately not a very accurate
compilation — and from such information he could gather by
correspondence with survivors of the regiment, now scattered
from the Blue Ridge to the Rocky Mountains. He has con-
sulted that voluminous and undigested publication by the
United States Government, "Rebellion Records" ; but, not-

704 North Carolina Troops, 1861-65.

withstanding, he can only furnish a sketch — a framework,
upon which he hopes some competent hand may yet construct
an historical edifice more worthy the achievements of our
comrades, living and dead. He is greatly indebted, and is
sure the old soldiers of the Thirty-ninth will join with him in
feelings of gratitude, to Lieutenant John M. Davidson, of
Company C, and now residing at Kingston, Ga., for his rem-
iniscences of the regiment which are appended, as an addition-
al sketch of the regiment. He was promoted from the ranks,
at the reorganization in 1862, and continued in active service
until the close of the Atlanta campaign when, because of i&-
dining health, he was invalided and put on light duty. En-
dowed with a bright mind, a cheerful disposition and unfail-
ing humor, a courageous soul, a tender and warm heart, he
was a general favorite with his comrades, and by his exalted
sense of duty and devotion he attracted the attention and
commanded the respect and confidence of his superiors.

The history of the Sixteenth Eegiment, by Benjamin H.
Cathey, First Lieutenant, Company A, (Vol. I, N. 0. Eegi-
ments, pp. Y51-Y69), contains much interesting and valuable
matter relating to the Thirty-ninth Eegiment — Lieutenant
Cathey's company having been detached from the Sixteenth
and assigned to the Thirty-ninth about the close of 1862.

The flag spoken of there is yet in the possession of J. Wes-
ley Shelton; and at all reunions of the men of the Thirty-
ninth it is carefully unfurled and its tattered folds flung
again on high and saluted with shouts of the grizzled veter-
ans, the old "Rebel Yell," that, in the stirring years gone by,
accompanied it as it swept through smoke and fire in front
of the line; then reverently, tenderly, tearfully often, it is
folded away and committed to the care of its btave bearer.

The Thirty-ninth Regiment was originally a battalion — ■
known as "Coleman's Battalion" — organized at Camp Pat-
ton, Asheville, N. C, in the Summer and Fall of 1861, com-
posed of five oonapanies, Lieutenant-Colonel David Coleman,
of Buncombe county, commanding.

Company A — Cherokee County — Captain, Benton A.
Strange, now residing at Georgetown, Texas ; First Lieuten-
ant, John R. Dyohe; Second Lieutenant, Arthur M. Dyche,

Thirty-Ninth Regiment. 705

subsequently promoted to Captain; Junior Second Lieuten-
ant, Anselra Rogers, now residing in Cherokee county.

Company B — Macan County — Captain, A. W. Bell ; First
Lieutenant, William T. Anderson; Second Lieutenant,
Joshua C. Bird ; Junior Second Lieutenant, William A. Hol-

Company C — Captain, Harvey M. Davidson, subsequently
promoted to LieutenantrColonel ; First Lieutenant, Samuel
S. C. Mount, subsequently promoted to Captain and killed
at Spanish Fort Mobile, Ala. ; Second Lieutenant, Paschal C.
Hughes ; Junior Second Lieutenant, Sylvester B. M. Farmer,
now residing at Quallatown, Jackson County, IST. C.

Company D — Buncombe County — Captain, Ambrose
Gaines; First Lieutenant, Jackson Shipman; Second Lieu-
tenant, William Allen, subsequently promoted tO' Captain;
Junior Second Lieutenant, Wm. M. Bearden.

Company E — Clay County — Captain, James Began;
First Lieutenant, George E. Bristol, subsequently promoted
to Captain; Second Lieutenant, Albert W. Leatherwood;
Junior Second Lieutenant, James W. Shearer.

Remaining in the Camp of Instruction, awaiting equip-
ments and being drilled, until November, 1861, the battalion
was moved to "Camp Hill," at the southern foot of Gooch
Mountain, five miles north of Asheville, where it continued
until about 1 January, 1862, when, because of the inclemency
of the winter and the lack of tents, it was removed to the old
Reems Creek Campground, now known as Weaverville,
some two miles fiirther north, where in the substantial
wooden "tents" erected by the devout Methodists of that re-
gion, for their annual encampment for the worship of the
"Prince of Peace," the soldiers of the "God of War" found
comfortable quarters, until their arms and other supplies
necessary for active service were received.

Here Companies F and G were organized from the over-
crowded Companies A and C, and from volunteer recruits
which were daily arriving from the Western counties. Na-
thaniel M. E. Slaughter, now residing at Robbinsville, N". C,
became Captain of Company F; John W. Rhea, killed at

706 North Carolina Troops, 1861-'65.

Murfreesboro, First Lieutenant; Andrew J. Cody, after-
wards promoted to Captain, Second Lieutenant ; and Joel A.
Sawyer, Junior Second Lieutenant.

Paschal C. Hughes, First Lieutenant of Company C, be-
came Captain of Company H, and was subsequently pro-
moted to Major; Felix P. Axley, now residing at Murphy,
]Sr. C, First Lieutenant; Hugh W. Eogers, Second Lieuten-
ant; and Enoch Voyles, Junior Second Lieutenant.

And here also the battalion was further increased by the
arrival of Company H, from Cherokee county. Captain,
David L. Walker ; First Lieutenant, Abraham Booker, subse-
quently promoted to Captain; Second Lieutenant, Miles D.
Kilpatrick; Junior Second Lieutenant, John A. Cotter.

W. A. Pierce was appointed Major, and in addition to his
duties in that position, acted as Adjutant of the battalion.

Early in February the battalion was moved to Knoxville,
Tenn., and ordered to report to General Stevenson, who then
commanded the right wing of Kirby Smith's Corps, Army
of Tennessee, and was confronting the enemy, who with a
strong force from Cumberland Gap and other strong positions
along the Cumberland Mountains was threatening the East
Tennessee Valley. Attached temporarily to General Led-
better's Brigade, the battalion was thrown forward to the
front and took position for a few days at Clinton, Tenn., on
the north bank of the Clinch river, but was soon withdrawn
to the south banlc, where it remained imtil spring. It was
here the command passed that ordeal to which all new organi-
zations are subjected, and which was often as fatal as battle.
The diseases incident to the radical change in the lives of the
men ; deficient hospital arrangements and camp equipments,
prostrated so many of the men that it was sometimes difficult
to secure details for ordinary camp duties. Measles, pneu-
monia, camp fevers and rheumatism became rampant, to
such an extent that before the health of the command had
been restored between seventy-five and one hundred men died,
and in addition a large number were sent home on furlough,
or to hospitals at Knoxville, tO' recuperate.

At this point Company I, of Macon county, was incorpor-
ated into the battalion. Captain, James G. Crawford ; First

Thirty-Ninth Regiment. 707

Lieutenant, John Eeid; Second Lieutenant, Robert H.
Smitli; Junior Second Lieutenant, Rufus S. Siler.

These nine companies, at the reorganization of the Con-
federate forces under the act of Congress, were on 19 May,
1862, organized as the Thirty-ninth Regiment, North Caro-
lina Troops, and as such began a career that made its name
illustrious in the annals of the Western Army, and kept high
the standard of the State of North Carolina from the Ohio to
the Gulf. Subsequently, as already stated. Company A, of
the Sixteenth Regiment, Captain Andrew W. Coleman, was
transferred and became the Tenth company (K) of the Thir-

David Coleman was elected Colonel, Harvey H. Davidson
Lieutenant-Colonel, and shortly afterwards Francis A. Rey-
nolds was appointed Major ; S. G. R. Mount, A. Q. M. ;
James D. Harden, Adjutant; Theo. F. Davidson, Sergeant
Major; Alfred A. Hatcher, Surgeon; Lewis Stephens, As-
sistant Surgeon; Allen Ammons, Chaplain.

In the reorganization there were many changes in Com-
pany organizations, which it is impossible now to note.

The campaign in Western Kentucky and Tennessee, in the
spring and summer of 1862, culminating in the battle of
Shiloh, absorbed the attention and concentrated the efforts of
both Federal and Confederate authorities to that region, and
operations in East Tennessee were directed to maintaining
the statu quo. The Thirty-ninth was moved back to Knox-
ville, where, encamped at the old Fair Grounds, it soon recov-
ered its health and continued the work of drill and prepara-
tion for the work before it. During July and August it
was assigned the duty of guarding the bridges, stores and
lines of communication from Bristol to Chattanooga. The
Valley of East Tennessee is wonderfully fertile and was for
the first two years of the war one of the chief sources of food
supplies for the Confederate armies. Its possession was also
regarded as of extreme importance by, both governments, in-
asmuch as it commanded one of the main, and the most direct,
lines of communication between Richmond and the South-
west, and furnished a most advantageous base of operations,
especially against the center of the Confederacy south of the

708 North Carolina Troops, 1861-'65.

mountains. Thus, like the Valley of Virginia, it became
during the entire war a constant battle ground, and almost
every part of it became the scene of most desperate struggles.
Unlike the Valley of Virginia, its population was almost
evenly divided upon the great questions involved. It is
probable more troops were furnished to the Federal army
than tO' the Confederate from this section. The result was
that a most bitter internecine conflict was waged between
these people for four years, with many of the usual incidents
of such unhappy conditions. "Bushwhacking" and all kinds
of warfare, civilized and uncivilized, cruel and unrelenting,
were prevalent; and a campaign in that country was accom-
panied by constant and sanguinary personal encoimters and
feuds. Althovigh more than a third of a century has elapsed,
an unhappy state of things may yet, occasionally, be found
to survive in some localities.


In September, 1862, the Kentucky campaign began, the
Thirty-ninth, with their neighbors in the Twenty-ninth,
being pushed forward and posted at Baptist Gap, on the
Cumberland, and on the left of Stevenson's Division, which
was closely pressing General Morgan, who with a strong force,
occupied Cumberland Gap~the key to the whole country. Here
the regiment received its "baptism of fire" ; and it was in con-
sequence of its operations, in connection with the other two
regiments with which it was acting, that General Morgan was
compelled to evacuate Cumberland Gap — theretofore believed
to be practically impregnable — and commenced his flight to-
wards the Ohio. The pursuit was vigorous and doubtlesswould
have been successful, but the pursuing column was withdrawn
and joined in the general advance upon Frankfort and Loiiis^
ville. General Bragg, with the greater portion of the army,
proceeded from his base at Chattanooga via Crab Orchard,
while Smith's Corps (in which the Thirty-ninth was serving,
having at Cumberland Gap been assigned to Raines' Brigade)
advanced by way of Lancaster, Barboursville, Richmond,
Danville, Harrodsburg; Lawrenceburg, and entered Frank-
fort about 1 October.

Thirty-Ninth Regiment. 709

General Bragg had, unfortunately, allowed the Federals,
under General Buell, to escape him at Mumfordville, Ky., and
though closely pursued, they succeeded in reaching Louis-
ville, and there finding heavy reinforcements and abundance
of supplies awaiting him, General Buell speedily resumed
the oifensive. Then began the retrograde movement, result-
ing in the hard-fought and drawn battle of Perryville and
almost daily engagements between portions of each army, ex-
tending until late in October and across the State of Ken-
tticky, and closing with the opposing armies occupying almost
the identical positions as when the campaign opened. Perhaps
no better organized army ever existed than that with which
Bragg entered Kentucky — the troops had become veterans,
were of the flower of the population of the Southwest; had
great enthusiasm for the cause and confidence in their lead-
ers and in each other; and whenever they were permitted to
fight they showed that they were far more than a match for
the enemy. The battle of Perryville was, and perhaps will
always remain, a mystery to most of Kirby Smith's Corps.
All that day with thirty thousand eager fighting men, it lay
inactive on the right of the Confederate line, hearing the
sound of that terrific conflict, witnessing some of the engage-
ment, having the weak, unprotected left wing of the Federals
in front, and yet it was not permitted to fire a gun ! Doubt-
less there was at the time some tirgent reason ; but from that
moment the men began to doubt the ability of their com-
manding General to handle an army, and such feeling is dif-
ficult to remove, and always has a demoralizing effect. On
the next day the corps was moved through Harrodsburg and
drawn up in line of battle a mile or two west of that town.
All day there was lively skirmishing with artillery engage-
ments, but notwithstanding Buell was offered battle, he had
been too badly crippled at Perryville tO' accept the challenge.
The retreat from Kentucky was deliberate. General Buell,
who had by this time a very largely superior force, for some
reason did not attempt to bring on a general engagement, but
contented himself with a series of rear-guard actions', some
of them quite spirited. The Thirty-ninth was in the rear
brigade (Raines') of Smith's Corps, and frequently was

710 North Carolina Troops, 1861-'65.

called upon to aid the cavalry, under General Wheeler, to
check the enemy. A few volleys usually were sufficient, and
the leisurely march would be resumed.

The Confederates brought out of Kentucky enormous quan'
titles of supplies, great herds of cattle, long wagon trains of
flour, meal and bacon ; besides, the teams and cavalry horses
were renewed.

In fact, the army was in these respects in better condition
when it returned to Tennessee than when the campaign be-
gan. It has been urged that General Bragg's anxiety to
avoid the risks of an engagement and the retreat from Frank-
fort, were due to the information he and the authorities at
Richmond had received, that the Federals had organized and
just developed the plan of assailing the Confederate center
from the lines of the Mississippi, the Tennessee and the
Cumberland rivers. This information was correct, and the
change of base, by both armies, transferred the scenes of war*
to Vicksburg and middle Tennessee. Upon return to East
Tennessee the Thirty-ninth encamped at Lenoir's Station, on
the E. T. & G. Railroad, about forty miles west of Knoxville,
where the men for several weeks enjoyed a much needed


There being apparently no active service expected before
spring, many furloughs were granted, as it was only a short
distance to the homes of many of the men. In November tbe
regiment was transferred to Reynolds' Brigade. But it soon
developed that there was to be a winter campaign. General
Rosecrans, who had superseded General Buell, was advanc-
ing from Nashville, and Bragg confronted him at Murfrees-
boro, where, on the last days of 1862 and the first of 1863,
the battle of MurfreesborO' — known to the Federals as the
battle of Stone river — was fought. While the Confederates
repulsed the Federals and technically won the fight, as they
kept the field for a few days, the practical substantial victory
was with the Federals, as General Bragg in a few days, fell
back slowly to TuUahoma, at the western base of the Cum-
berland Mountains.

Thirty-Ninth Regiment. 711

The Thirty-ninth Regiment arrived on the field about the
time the engagement began. It seems to have been the only
regiment of Reynolds' Brigade present, and was hastened for-
ward in response to Bragg's urgent demands for reinforce-
ments. Apparently it was thrown intO' the fight as an inde-
pendent command; at any rate, it became hotly engaged at
once. Very soon Colonel Coleman was disabled by a serious
wound in the leg, and carried from the field, and the com-
mand devolved upon Lieoitenant-Colonel Davidson. He too,
was almost immediately wounded, the ball shattering his
right arm, the use of which he never recovered. For some
reason, the explanation of which cannot now be given, the
command of the regiment devolved upon Captain Bell, Com-
pany A. As no official report of the regiment in this en-
gagement was ever made, or if made has been lost, it is dif-
ficult to locate precisely its operations. General Patton An-
derson (Walthall's Brigade) in his report says that "about
noon on 31 December, the Thirty-ninth North Carolina Regi-
ment, having become detached from its command, and all of
its field officers having been killed or wounded, then under
command of Captain Bell," reported to him and was assigned
a place in his brigade, and participated "most creditably in
the subsequent fighting." It is greatly to be regretted that a
fuller account of the conduct of the regiment in this battle
cannot now be furnished. Enough is known, however, to
satisfy us that the r^ment sustained its high reputation.
On that part of the field the Confederates were not only suc-
cessful in repulsing all advances of the enemy, but, assuming
the offensive, drove them for several miles. The heavy loss
in staff ajid field shows the serious work done by the Thirty-

In January the regiment was transferred to Manigault's
Brigade, but a few days thereafter was, at the request of Colo-
nel R. B. Vance (who was promoted from the Colonelcy
of the Twenty -ninth after the battle of Murfreesboro), it
became a part of his brigade. General Vance, however, was
soon prostrated by a most serious illness which incapacitated
him for service until the next summer, and he was thus de-
nied the pleasure of leading a brigade in which there were

712 North Carolina Troops, 1861-65.

the two veteran Worth Carolina regimeaits, the Twenty-ninth
and the Thirty-ninth. General Bate, now Senator from
Tennessee, assumed the command of the brigade.

In the spring of 1863 the Thirty-ninth was a part of the
troops sent to General Jos. E. Johnston in Mississippi, who
was organizing a force to oppose Grant on the Mississippi and
relieve Vicksbtirg. It was in the new field assigned to Me-
ISTair's Brigade, Walker's Division, and participated in all
the operations of that CEtmpaign.


In September following it was ordered to rejoin General
Bragg, who was concentrating in the vicinity of Lafayette,
Ga., to oppose Rosecrans who was again advancing from his
base on the Tennessee. The regiment arrived at Chicka-
niauga on Friday, 18 September, and was at once thrown
forward to the front and immediately became engaged with
the enemy, and during that and the next two days it was in
the front and the hottest part of one of the greatest and best
fought battles, not only of the Civil War, but of modern

Chickamauga was like Gettysburg in the fact that the
struggle continued for three days; that the Confederates as-
sumed the offensive; in the steadiness and fierceness of the
attack and the desperate character of the defence and the ap-
palling losses on both sides ; but in the result conditions were
reversed. JSTotwithstanding the ardor and splendid courage
of the Southern men, they were unable to overcome the enemy
at Gettysburg and were compelled tO' withdraw from the as-
sault and yield the enemy the field. At Chickamauga the
Southerners carried the positions of the enemy, drove him
from the field and back to his base, occupied every inch of
the ground he had held, captured thousands of prisoners and
enormous quantities of arms and other military trophies and
supplies. In short, they won the battle and the campaign.

It is a singular and interesting fact, illustrating the vary-

Online LibraryWalter ClarkHistories of the several regiments and battalions from North Carolina, in the great war 1861-'65 → online text (page 61 of 69)