Archive for the ‘Civil War’ Category

July 1, 1863.

July 1, 2013

NC Monument GettysburgKilled in the battle of Gettysburg, July 1st, 1863, Lieut. John H. Palmer, of the 22d Reg’t N. C. T., in the 24th year of his age.

He was a native of Randolph county, and among the first to volunteer in defence of his beloved country. Thus has fallen one so young, and promising, in the opening bud of manhood. He died a true patriot and soldier, fighting the enemies of his country and home. He was ever gay and lively; polite in his manners and strict in the discharge of his duties. Gallant in action, and heedless of danger—he feared not to follow where the colors went.

In him his parents have lost an excellent son, and North Carolina one of her brightest stars.

“He sleeps on Pennsylvania’s plains,
Amid the fallen brave,
The wild wind of her native hills
Sing requiems o’er his grave;
Deep toned notes of cannon’s roar,
Nor musket’s deeply rattle
Can rouse him from his sleep no more,
Nor wake him up to battle!
Green be the turf o’er his head,
And sacred be the sod;
Oh! may his spirit find a home
In glory, with his God.”

[Published in the Fayetteville Observer, September 14, 1863]

John H. Palmer was the oldest of the twelve children of Oron Alston Palmer (1813-1890) and Sylvania Selvina Staley (1817-1896) of the Long’s Mills community north of Liberty in Randolph County.  He was born October 21, 1837, and enlisted in Company I, the “Davis Guards,” of the 22nd N.C. Infantry, on June 5, 1861.

John’s younger brother Joseph N. Palmer, born July 16, 1841, enlisted in the same company at the same time, but “mustered out… at home” on December 17, 1861—that is, he died at home, probably of one of the diseases that spread through the camps in the early months of the war.  So the war had already taken at least one member of the family before Gettysburg.

John Palmer was promoted to Sergeant Major on July 31, 1861; to 3rd Lieutenant on June 14, 1862; and to 1st Lieutenant on July 18, 1862.  Lt. Palmer was not by any means the only loss from Company I that day.

Lutheran Theological Seminary's Schmucker Hall

Lutheran Theological Seminary’s Schmucker Hall

From the Greensboro Patriot, September 24, 1863 (also published in Fayetteville Observer)

Camp near Orange C. H., Va., Aug. 26, 1863.

At a
meeting held by the officers of the 22d N. C. Regiment, Capt. C. F. Siler was called to the Chair, and Lts. R. W. Winborne and S. G. Caudill were appointed Secretaries.

The Chairman having explained the object of the meeting to be for the adoption of resolutions expressive of the sorrow for the death of Lieuts. J. F. PALMER [sic- J.H. is correct]  and I. S. ROBBINS, Company I, 22d N. C. Regiment.

The following gentlemen were appointed a Committee to draft resolutions: Lts. B. W. Birkhead, G. F. Gardin and W. A. Tuttle, Sergts. T. J. Hooper and F. M. Birkhead.
WHEREAS, It has pleased Almighty God in His infinite wisdom to remove from our midst our beloved comrades in arms, Lts. J. F. PALMER and I. S. ROBBINS, of Co. I, who left their professions under bright auspices, at an early date and hastened to the rescue of their country, and fell on the bloody heights of Gettysburg, under the majestic folds of the banner of liberty, while bravely leading their company.

Resolved, That while we bow in humble submission to the ways of Divine Providence, in his dealings with men, we cannot refrain to mourn the loss of these brave and noble young men whose gallantry and skill as officers has been tried on every field that their company has been engaged in, and found to be of the highest order; whose gentlemanly bearings had reached the acme of perfection towards all those they became associated with, and won for them the confidence and admiration of all who knew them.

Resolved, That in their death their company and regiment has sustained an irretrievable loss, and our righteous cause two of its most noble defenders.

Yes! before that terrific fire was begun,
The mission of these noble men was done;
Ere the flowers of summer were in bloom,
The noble martyrs were laid in one tomb;
Secret, yet swift, the fatal missile sped,
And friends now weep over their early bed.

Resolved, That we wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days.
Resolved, That we extend our heart-felt grief to the bereaved families, and for comfort would point them to that Being who has vouchsafed all that is good for man.
Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be sent to the families of the deceased, and to the Greensborough Patriot, Catawba Journal and the Fayetteville Observer, for publication.

Lieut. B. W. BIRKHEAD, Co. I, }
G. H. Gardin, Co. B, }
W. A. TUTTLE, Co. A. ) COM.

Lt. R, W. WINBORNE,       } Secretaries.

Lt. S. G. CAUDILL, }

[This very formal expression of grief was a common feature of men’s clubs before the war- Masons, or social clubs would meet to eulogize a departed member, and write such flowery Victorian messages for publication in the local papers.  As time between battles permitted, the officers and men continued the tradition until the losses came too fast to keep it up.]

Isaiah Spurgeon Robins (b. 5-30-1837 ) was Company I’s 2nd Lieutenant.  His family history will be outlined in another post, but he enlisted in Company I on July 5, 1861, mustering in as 1st Sergeant.  He was promoted to Ordinance Sergeant in March 1862 and transferred to the regimental Field Staff.  On July 18, 1862 he was elected 2nd Lieutenant and transferred back to Company I.  How did the company lose both its lieutenants on July 1st?

On June 30th, J. Johnston Pettigrew’s brigade of eastern North Carolinians was sent into the little town of Gettysburg, PA, to look for supplies (“especially shoes.”)  They ran into John Buford’s Union cavalry and cocked the trigger for what became the turning point of the war.

A.P. Hill awakened his men to march into the town before dawn, and fortified them with an unusual allowance: any man who wanted an issue of whiskey at 5 AM was to receive one.  A five-mile march along the Chambersburg Pike brought them within sight of the town by 10 AM- and also within sight of federal artillery, which began a bombardment.  By 2:30 battle had become general along a front just west of the ridge where the local Seminary was located, and Robert E. Lee ordered Pettigrew’s 26th NC to press the federal line- which happened to be held by the famous Iron Brigade.  The federals were pushed back, but at a heavy cost- Pettigrew’s brigade suffered 40% casualties.

Dorsey PenderAbout 4PM Dorsey Pender’s troops advanced to relieve Pettigrew.  Pender’s Division of North Carolinians, including the 22nd NC Regiment, had led the march of A.P. Hill’s corps into Pennsylvania. They were in high spirits, impressing a British observer, who wrote “The soldiers of this Division are a remarkably fine body of men, and looked quite seasoned and ready for any work.  Their clothing is serviceable … but there is the usual utter absence of uniformity as to colour and shape of their garments and hats; grey of all shades, and brown clothing, with felt hats predominate.” [Lt. Col Arthur J. Freemantle, Three Months in the Southern States (London, 1863), pp229-230];  Dorsey Pender himself noted that “I never saw troops march as ours do:  they will go 15 or 20 miles a day without leaving a straggler and hop and yell on all occasions.” [ James I. Robertson, Jr., General A.P. Hill (1987), p204.]

His men charged right into a ferocious artillery barrage- 20 cannon spaced 5 yards apart threw iron at the Confederates.  One of the Union officers wrote that his cannon were “cutting great gaps in the front line of the enemy.  But still they came on, the gaps being closed by regiments from the second line, and this again filled by a third column which was coming over the hill.  Never have I seen such a charge.  Not a man seemed to falter.  Lee may well be proud of his infantry.” [Wainwright, Diary of Battle, quoted in Robertson, AP Hill, p212]

Gen. Alfred Moore Scales

Gen. Alfred Moore Scales

The brigade commanded by Alfred Moore Scales, a Rockingham County attorney, formed the extreme left of the attack.  The brigade, which included the 22nd NC, attracted a storm of musket fire from Union troops dug in at the Seminary in addition to the artillery, which fired case, canister and explosive rounds into the massed men.  The North Carolinians held, and pressed the attack, at horrific costs.   The color-bearer of the 13th NC his right arm blown off by an artillery shell, grabbed the flag with his remaining hand and pushed ahead shouting, “Forward, Forward!”  It was one of the fiercest artillery barrages of the war, and “virtually annihilated” Scales’ five North Carolina regiments.  Scales, himself wounded, reported that “only a squad here and there marked the place where regiments had rested.”  (McPherson, p. 212)  The brigade’s 500 casualties included every field officer. (id.)

How did Lts. Palmer and Robins die?  I’ve found no details- but the specifics can be imagined from the context.  Company I, the “Davis Guards,” their company, was at or near the center of the 22nd NC Infantry regiment, which was in the thick of the attack on Seminary Ridge by Scale’s Brigade, which was decimated by the Union artillery.  Other sons of North Carolina died there that day, and no doubt more Randolph County boys died with them.  We know these two, one 25 years old, one 26, and they can stand for them all.

Scales Brigade Monument Gburg


September 15, 2011

Union Balloon

Did a Randolph County artillery gunner really take down a Union observation balloon?  Probably not; but every other aspect of the story can be verified and the characters named in the story are inarguably real:  it shines a light on one of the county’s first and at the time, premier military units: Company I of the 22nd North Carolina Regiment.

Company I, known as the “Davis Guards,”[i] has not been as well known as Franklinville’s Company M, the “Randolph Hornets”.  But in 1861 the opposite was true:  the Guards, formerly known as the “Asheborough Guards,” were the long-time militia company of the county seat.  The Hornets were newly minted, freshly equipped, and backed by the largest corporation in the county.  The Guards were old school militia, traditionally uniformed, and serving under much of their antebellum leadership.

A notice of one of the quarterly musters of the Guards appeared in 1859 in the local newspaper:


You are hereby commanded to appear at Asheborough, on Saturday the 4th of July next, at 10 o’clock A.M.—armed with Gun, Shot-Pouch, Horn and Six Rounds of Powder.

Also, all persons wishing to join the C Company, are requested to come forward on that day.

By order of the Captain.

June 20, 1859.

S.G. Worth, Sergeant.[ii]

S.G. Worth tombstone in the Asheboro cemetery.

Shubal Gardner Worth (1836- 1864), the company Sergeant in 1859, was elected Captain of the company in 1861.  Worth was the son of Dr. John Milton Worth (1811- 1901) of Asheboro, and the nephew of wartime State Treasurer and future Governor Jonathan Worth.  At the outbreak of the war, S.G. Worth was serving as the Clerk of Superior Court of Randolph County, and resigned that office to raise the county’s first company for service in the Confederate army.[iii]  “Shube” Worth served as company commander for more than eighteen months,[iv] about half of which involved service along a line of hastily-built fortifications along the Potomac River.  The Washington Post recently rated this story of the Potomac blockade, which bottled up Washington, DC for much of the first year of the war, as one of the “most important yet overlooked” stories of the Civil War.[v]

Company “I” took up camp at Evansport, Virginia late in September, and was stationed there during the Autumn and Winter of 1861-’62.  Evansport, today better known as Quantico, Virginia, was the headquarters of heavy cannon batteries established on the west bank of the Potomac from the Occoquan River, just south of Mt. Vernon, to Quantico Creek, about 15 miles.  This series of gun emplacements prevented ships from passing up river to the capital, thus isolating Washington, D.C.  Three batteries were largely built and maintained by the 22nd North Carolina regiment, mounted with 9-inch Dalghren guns, smooth bore 32 and 42 pounders, and one heavy rifled Blakely gun.[vi] The batteries frequently engaged with federal gunboats and with Union batteries on the Maryland side of the Potomac, but combat casualties were few.

A "Quaker" Gun

Union soldier posing with the fake cannon after capture of Evansport.

Given the constant observation from the Balloon Corps, the Confederates shrewdly increased the number of visible guns by creating “Quaker Cannon,” tree trucks painted black and carefully situated in gun emplacements to look like additional artillery.  Balloon observers could not distinguish between the fake and the real cannon, and thus reports back to Union command consistently overestimated Confederate fire power.

Company I was detailed to man Battery No. 2 at Evansport during the entire Potomac blockade,[vii]  and once had several men wounded when a 42-pounder Dalghren gun burst.

One of the Gosport Dahlgrens.

Fifty-two 9-inch Dahlgren cannon had been rescued by the Confederates from the burned Gosport Navy Yard at Norfolk and brought to Evansport.  Dahlgrens, by far the most popular gun in the U.S. Navy, were soda-bottle-shaped, smooth-bore, muzzle-loading naval guns.  Commonly designated by caliber using Roman numerals (i.e., “IX”), the most common variety of Dahlgren IX was 108 inches long, weighed more than 9,000 pounds, and could throw an 80-pound solid shot or a 73.5-pound exploding shell.[viii]

A Blakely rifle is also known to have been at Evansport, and this is probably the one which would have been used to shoot at the balloons, as Blakelys were British muzzle-loading cannon which had rifled barrels.  Blakelys were very popular with Confederate artillery, and there were many different designs and sizes.  What they all had in common is that the rifled barrels imparted a spin to the shell which allowed longer and more accurate shots.[ix]

Parents of the Wood brothers, buried in the Asheboro Cemetery.

Randolph County’s lead actor in the balloon drama, Sergeant Thomas Jefferson (records alternatively say “Jones”) Wood of Company I, 22nd North Carolina Regiment, was born in 1 Mar. 1840 near Asheboro.  He and his older and younger brothers Franklin Harris Wood (1836-1913) and William Penuel Wood (1843- 1924) all served with the 22nd North Carolina.  The three boys were the only children of Penuel P. Wood (1813-1903) and his wife, Calista Birkhead Wood (1816- 1903) of Randolph County.  Franklin Harris Wood (1836-1913) served as the regimental Chaplain.[x]

W.P. or “Penn” Wood enlisted in January 1862 and joined his brother in Company on March 1st.  He was promoted to Full Corporal on October 1st, and to Full Sergeant on May 23, 1864.  Wood represented Randolph County in the state senate in 1901 and in the state house from 1905-1907; he was elected State Auditor in 1911, and served in that office until 1921.  He is buried in the Asheboro cemetery, just across the carriageway from J.M. Worth.[xi]

View of the Potomac from inside the Confederate gun emplacements.

The 22nd N.C. regiment remained in support of the batteries at Evansport until March, 1862, when the army was abruptly ordered to fall back from Manassas and the Potomac to the line of the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg.  The retreat was both so hasty and so quiet that it was not discovered by the Union spy balloons for almost a day.  When federal troops landed at the Evansport batteries on March 9th, “Two or three guns of the battery were found bursted.  All of the pieces had been heavily wadded, then crammed to the muzzle with sand and fires built under the carriages with the expectation that they would burn and the heat cause the gun to discharge and burst.  But this failed except in a few instances.  The guns were mostly rifled 7 and 9-inch Dahlgrens with one magnificent 120-pounder Blakely gun, which had been brought from England but a few months before.  This, with its fellows, was subsequently taken to the Washington Navy Yard, where they were all put in good condition and did much excellent service for the Union thereafter.”[xii]

The Confederate departure was so quick and confused that Company M of the 22nd Regiment, the Randolph Hornets, left its almost-new Company flag flying over its camp, soon to be captured without a shot being fired.[xiii]

T.J. Wood served throughout the war and was with General Robert E. Lee when he surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on Palm Sunday, April 8, 1865.[xiv]

[i] Almost certainly re-named in honor of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

[ii] North Carolina Bulletin, Asheborough, 27 June 1859.

[iii] S.G. Worth was appointed Clerk of Superior Court for Randolph County for Spring term Superior Ct– just in time for the storied trial of his cousin, State vs. Daniel Worth.  See the Greensboro Patriot, 4-6-60, p.2.

[iv] Appointed Lt. Colonel of the 5th Battalion of Home Guards by Governor Vance, Worth returned to Asheboro.  He subsequently resigned that command to raise another company, which served with the 19th N.C. Cavalry, in the brigade of Gen. W.P. Roberts.  Worth was regimental Adjutant when he was killed in the vicinity of Richmond on May 11, 1864 during the Battle of Yellow Tavern, the same day and place General J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded.  Worth’s life and career will be the subject of a separate post.

[vii] Ibid.

[x] Franklin Harris Wood was born in Randolph County 19 Aug 1836; he died at the home of his son George Thomas Wood (1874-1943) in High Point on 2 Oct 1913.  He married Frances Elizabeth Pearce (1852 – 1936).  F. H. Wood Wood is listed as “D.D.” without further explanation on genealogy websites, which traditionally means “Doctor of Divinity.”  His post-war career as a minister, if any, is not known.

[xi] William Penuel Wood (2 May 1843 –  1 Apr 1924), married Henrietta J. Gunter (1849-1893) and had the following family: Blanche Penn Wood (1873 – 1954) (who married J.O. Redding); John Kerr Wood (1875 – 1939); and Mabel Emma Wood (1879 – 1967) (who married William A. Underwood).  The  W.P. Wood House was located on the north side of the 300 block of East Salisbury Street in Asheboro, currently a playground for an adjacent daycare.

[xii] Pvt. Oliver C. Cooper, 1st Mass. Infantry, quoted in “Annals of the War: Chapters of Unwritten History Blockading the Potomac,” published December 20, 1879 in the “Weekly Times,” Philadelphia, PA.

[xiii] Ibid.  The story refers to a “handsome banner… of satin, bearing on one side the inscription, ‘The Randolph Hornets,’ and on the other, ‘Onward to VICTORY.’”  This is what allowed the identification and return of the flag to the county historical society in the 1960s.

[xiv] He died Feb. 4, 1923 in High Point.  He married Sara Sadie Christian (1843-1900), and had one son, William Marshall Wood (1868-1951), who died in Beaumont, TX.


August 29, 2011

The following story was published in the April, 1898 edition of The North Carolina Home Journal (Vol. I, Number V).  The monthly magazine cost fifty cents a year, and its editorial offices were in Trinity, Randolph County, N.C. [Very little is known about this Randolph County magazine.]


 After the battle of Manassas the Confederate troops occupied the southern bank of the Potomac for some time. The 22d Regiment of N. C. Troops were at Evansport between Aquia Creek and Mount Vernon, Federal Troops were encamped on the opposite side of the river, which is at that point about a mile and a half wide. From this camp balloons would ascend every day for the occupants to make observations as to what was doing on the Confederate side. One very large and beautiful balloon was named “The Belle.”  Every strip in the cloth, which seemed to be silk, was of a different color from the others. The Confederates had batteries along the river, and at Evansport was a long range gun which some of the members of the 22d Regiment were trained to handle. Thomas J. Wood, of Randolph County, was the gunner.

He acquired considerable proficiency in firing the gun, and one day asked his Captain to let him try a shot at that big balloon. The Captain could not give the permission, but suggested that he ask General Holmes, who was then in command of the brigade. Accordingly, the first time the General came around Wood sought the desired permission. Holmes after swearing at him awhile, and telling him he would better save his ammunition for he would likely need it in a few days, finally told him he could come down, and he might try it.


Two days after, a clear, bright, still evening, the balloon being up, the General came. J. J. Pettigrew, who was then Colonel of the regiment, and had had a splendid military education, was standing near the gun. Wood asked him to pass judgment of the distance. “About four miles,” Pettigrew replied. “Try your fifteen-second shell first, and if it falls short, take your twenty-two-second shell, which is made to go four miles and a half before bursting. Wood fired his first shell, and men with field-glasses watching, observed that it fell short. He then loaded with the twenty-two-second shell, adjusted his gun, and drew the lanyard. As the iron missile went singing through the air, all watched intently the result, and behold, when at last it exploded, the beautiful balloon collapsed and fell, her variegated coat torn to tatters by the fragments of the bursting shell.

This is an intriguing little vignette of the early war, discovered by local genealogist Barbara Newsome (“Bobbie”) Grigg and republished in 1981 in the Randolph County Genealogical Journal.[i]  However, there is a fundamental flaw with the whole story:  I can find no account of any federal observation balloon being shot down by Confederate artillery.  In fact, histories of the Balloon Corps say exactly the opposite.[ii]  But the story provides an entry point into a number of fascinating footnotes to the story of the War Between the States.

First, the United States Balloon Corps, a civilian organization established by President Lincoln in June, 1861 to provide aerial reconnaissance for the Union armies.  While ostensibly under the authority of the Union’s Bureau of Topographical Engineers, the Balloon Corps and its “Chief Aeronaut” Thaddeus S.C. Lowe were never trusted by Lincoln’s mediocre cadre of command generals, and was phased out of use after June 1863, despite providing useful and, sometimes irreplaceable intelligence on southern troop strength and movements.

The primary reason the War Department bureaucrats distrusted the Balloon Corps was probably what caught the attention of the President in the first place:  its flamboyant founder, a character who could have been the model for Professor Marvel, the failed balloonist who became Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz.  “Professor” Thaddeus Sobieski Constantine (or, sometimes he used the more impressive and mysterious “Coulincourt”) Lowe (1832- 1913), was a self-educated aeronautical enthusiast who made a living in the 1850s demonstrating hot air balloons at county fairs across the country.

Lowe made and wasn’t afraid to make use of influential friends such as Joseph Henry, the Director of the Smithsonian institution.  But what got the attention of the President was a stunt Lowe engineered under the guise of testing atmospheric wind currents for a trans-Atlantic balloon flight.  On April 20, 1861, Lowe made headlines North and South with a storybook aerial journey from Cincinnati, Ohio, flying 500 miles in just nine hours, sailing entirely over North Carolina to land in a field near Unionville, S.C.  Since this was just a week after the fall of Fort Sumter, the startled residents of South Carolina were more inclined to believe that the flying Yankee disguised in a formal Prince Albert tailcoat and silk top hat was some sort of spy.  They packed Lowe and his balloon, the Enterprise, off to the state capital where he finally managed to persuade the authorities to let him catch a train back to Ohio.

Whether or not Lowe started out to spy, by the time he got back to Cincinnati he had a firm grasp of the military value of his hobby, and a burning desire to use it in the service of the Union.  He had an influential friends arrange a meeting with President Abraham Lincoln at the White House on June 11, 1861 where Lowe outlined his vision for the military use of observation balloons.  A week later Lowe not only demonstrated the balloon-ship Enterprise 500 feet above the south lawn of the White House, but sent the President the world’s first telegram from the air to prove how easily aerial intelligence observations could be communicated to the ground.[iii]  Lincoln wasted no time in putting Lowe to work; before the end of June balloons took their place in military history when Lowe and a sketch artist ascended near Bull Run to observe the Confederate Army.  In August General George McClellan authorized Lowe to build seven balloons for the army,[iv] and Lowe invented a portable hydrogen generator to allow the balloons to be filled with gas on the battlefield.

On August 29th Lowe began providing McClellan with information on the Confederate fortifications being built on the Potomac five miles south of Washington.  Lowe’s daily observations of Confederate activities attracted immediate artillery and rife fire from southern troops, but at their regular altitude of 500 feet, they were usually out of range.  In November Lowe, observing across the Potomac from the airship Constitution,  reported to army headquarters that “We had a fine view of the enemy’s camp-fires during the evening, and saw the rebels constructing new batteries…”[v]   “A hawk hovering over a chicken yard could not have caused more commotion than did my balloons when they appeared,” Lowe wrote.  “As soon as it became inflated so the rebels could see it,” a young Union officer wrote, “they commenced throwing shells at it… [one] shell passed directly over our heads… and exploded the instant it struck the ground.”[vi]  Union soldiers made bets on whether the Southern artillerists would actually hit a balloon, but the closest shots only nicked the observer basket or the tether ropes.[vii]  The balloons were such enticing targets that Lincoln’s biographer Carl Sandburg called Lowe “the most shot-at man in the War.”[viii]  Despite being such a frequent target, there is no evidence that any Confederate shot ever pierced the silk envelope of a balloon; however, it may sometimes have appeared so.  Major Porter Alexander, Chief Engineer and Signal Officer of the Confederate army, wrote on September 8th that “We sent a rifle shell so near old Lowe and his balloon that he came down as fast as gravity could bring him.”[ix]  Perhaps something like this is the factual basis of the story.

Unfortunately, there is one other major discrepancy.   The federal Balloon Corps never had a multi-colored airship.  Lowe’s silk envelopes were evidently white or gray, emblazoned with the name of each balloon and decorated with appropriate paintings such a bald eagle, the United States flag, or a portrait of George Washington.[x]  Varnished and reflective, a Union balloon “glistened… like a ball of silver suspended in the air.”[xi]   In fact, the only accounts of brightly colored silk balloons are of the two Confederate balloons Gazelle and Nimbus, built in 1862.  The Gazelle was made in Savannah, Georgia by Capt. Langdon Cheves (1814-1863), who purchased silk dress material from local merchants without regard to color or pattern.  Its bright plaids and flowered designs gave the Gazelle a distinctive patchwork aspect that caused General James Longstreet in his war memoir to author the myth that the balloon had been sewn from “all the silk dresses in the Confederacy.”[xii]

Whether or not some important aspects of the story are verifiable, it still opens a window on a barely-remembered aspect of the war, in which Randolph County’s companies in the 22nd Regiment were heavily involved.  [ To be Continued in the next entry--]

[Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island involved the escape of Union POWs in a Confederate balloon… not made of silk dress material in this illustration!]

[i] The Genealogical Journal of the Randolph County Historical Society, Vol. V, No. 4, Fall 1981, p.35.

[ii] Gail Jarrow, Lincoln’s Flying Spies: Thaddeus Lowe and the Civil War Balloon Corps.  Honesdale, Pa.:  Calkins Creek, 2010, p. 70.

[iii] Thus the Enterprise was not only America’s first military airship, but the only Enterprise ever to have been an actual guest at the White House.  If Gene Roddenberry had only known…

[iv] Mixing naval history with pro-Union sentiments, Lowe’s airship fleet was made up of the Union, Intrepid, Constitution, United States, Washington, Eagle and Excelsior.

[v] “TSC Lowe’s Official Report,” in The War of the Rebellion, series 3, Vol. 3, p. 266.

[vi] Letter from Benjamin Steven to his parents in New Hampshire, 30 Nov. 1861.  Benjamin C. Stevens Papers, Duke University Library Special Collections, Durham, NC.

[vii] Jarrow, op.cit.

[viii] Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, Vol. 1 (New York, 1939), page 493.

[ix] Letter from E.P. Alexander to A.L. Alexander, 8 Sept. 1861, quoted in F. Stansbury Haydon, Aeronautics in the Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 1., p. 206.  (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1941).

[x] Jarrow, p. 45.

[xi] Gilbert Adams Hays, comp.  Under the Red Patch: the Story of the 63rd Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers (Pittsburgh, 1908), p.76.

[xii] James Longstreet, “Our March Against Pope,” in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol. 2, p.513.  (New York: Century Club, 1888).

The True Lost Cause: The Battle for Peace in February, 1861

April 11, 2011

Fort Sumter from the Battery in Charleston.

April 11, 1861 was America’s last day of peace.

On April 8th, President Lincoln’s envoy to the Governor of South Carolina announced the President’s intention to resupply the besieged garrison at Fort Sumner with food and water, threatening to prolong indefinitely the stalemate that had begun the previous December 26th.  The implication of Lincoln’s action was that, if war was to come, then the Southern firebrands who had advocated for a state’s right to leave the Union would have to turn push into shove.

The cascade of fear and anger that had begun with Lincoln’s election in November had almost run out of steam by April, 1861.  South Carolina, ever fast to take offense, led the way on December 20th, followed by Mississippi (Jan. 9), Florida (Jan. 10), Alabama (Jan. 11), Georgia (Jan. 19), Louisiana (Jan. 26), and Texas (Feb. 1).   But there the flood tide had run out, and in the months since it seemed that overwrought tempers and heated words had cooled and even begun to recede.

The rock on which the initial secession wave broke was the Upper South, the border states possessing a majority of the southern populace, natural resources and industry.    Even there the vocal minority of men of property and power had advocated for secession.   But Unionists held back the flood, pointing out that the United States had been created by state constitutional conventions, authorized by a vote of the people, which then ratified (or not, in the case of North Carolina), the U.S. Constitution.  They argued that secession, more simply known as “Disunion,’ could only be achieved by following a similar process.  They hoped this delaying tactic would provide time to think, consider the consequences, and allow the possibility of compromise and new understanding.

On February 9, 1861, Tennessee voted on whether to send delegates to a State Convention to decide on secession.  88,803 votes were cast for pro-Union candidates and 22,749 votes were cast for Secession candidates, but the actual proposal for a secession convention was defeated by a vote of 69,675 to 57,798.

On  February  13th a convention assembled in Richmond to determine whether Virginia should secede from the Union.  More than two thirds of the delegates refused to vote for secession.

On Feb. 18th, the day that Jefferson Davis was inaugurated president of the Confederate States, the citizens of Arkansas approved holding a convention to consider the question, but when an ordinance of secession was put to a vote on March 16th, it was rejected by a vote of 39 to 35.

Anyone reading the returns of the election of 1860 could have discerned the pro-Union sentiments of the voters of North Carolina.  When the final vote totals were published in the Greensboro Patriot on February 14, 1861, John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, the Southern Democratic candidate, had received the most votes (48,533); second was John Bell of Tennessee, the Constitutional Union nominee (44,039); and far behind was the Democrat Stephen A. Douglas (just 2,690 votes).   When their totals are combined, more than 97% of North Carolina voters arguably approved the pro-Union positions of Bell and Breckinridge.  (Abraham Lincoln probably didn’t get a single vote in Randolph County during the election of 1860; the new Republican Party had not garnered enough votes in the previous election to even be allowed on the North Carolina ballot.)

On January 29th the North Carolina General Assembly scheduled a referendum on whether to call a secession convention.  “Whereas, the present perilous condition of the country demands… that the sovereign people of this State should assemble in Convention to effect an honorable adjustment of existing difficulties whereby the Federal Union is endangered, or otherwise preserve the honor and promote the interests of North Carolina; and Whereas, this General Assembly, on matters of such grave import, involving the relation of North Carolina to her sisters in the Confederacy, is reluctant to adopt any settled policy without the sense of the people in whom, under our governance, all sovereignty resides, being first ascertained.” [The act was  published in the Feb. 14th edition of the Greensboro Patriot.   The Yoda-like sentence structure of its preamble is a potent combination of florid Victorian language and turgid legalese.]

The act required the Governor “to issue a proclamation commanding the Sheriffs of the respective counties… to open polls… on the 28th day of February, A.D. 1861, when and where all persons qualified to vote… may vote for or against a State Convention:  those who wish a convention, voting with a printed or written ticket, ‘Convention,’ and those who do not wish a convention, voting in the same way, ‘No Convention.’”

At the same time, potential delegates were to be elected in case the Convention was approved.  Further complicating the process, even if the Convention met and approved an Ordinance of Secession, the bill still would require ratification by yet another vote of the people before it could take effect.

Campaigning against the Convention- against “Disunion”- began immediately in The Patriot, the old-line Whig newspaper serving Randolph and Guilford counties.  On Thursday, February 6th, the editor wrote “TO THE POLLS!  The bill calling a Convention, having provided that it shall be left to the people to say, through the ballot-box, whether or not they desire said Convention, we hope and trust that every man who loves his country, who desires the perpetuity of this Union, will resolve, if possible, to be at the polls and record his vote against a Convention.  Let no one be deceived:  The real question is Union or Disunion…. Let no one say, that it is useless to vote… It may be, and we think it probably that a majority will be cast for a ‘Convention,’ yet it is of the utmost importance, that as large a vote as possible should be cast against a Convention, for every vote so cast will be a vote for the Union…”

On January 31st, Jonathan Worth, leader of the Randolph Whigs and newly-elected to represent the county in the state House of Commons, issued “a circular to his constituents” which took a strong stand against the Convention.  “Every artifice will be employed to make you believe that the Convention is to be called to save the Union.  Believe it not…. If war begins, it will probably be brought on during the sitting of the Convention.  It is now the policy of the disunionists to postpone hostilities till President Buchanan goes out and President Lincoln comes in.  They will probably court a fight as soon as Lincoln takes the reins…. Believe not those who may tell you this Convention is called to save the Union.  It is called to destroy it.  If you desire to preserve the Union, vote ‘No Convention.’” [Worth’s Circular was excerpted in the Patriot of Feb. 6, 1861, and printed in full in the Feb. 14th issue.]

The last issue of The Patriot before the referendum (Feb. 21st) was full of articles and editorials seeking to get out the vote of faithful Whigs.  “The 28th of February, the day which perhaps will decide the fate of the Union, is close at hand.… Let every man then who loves his country be at his post… There is a battle to be fought.  A battle upon the result of which hang the destinies of this Nation.  The enemies of our Union have been marshaling their forces.  The hand is already uplifted to strike down the flag of our country!  Union men, to the rescue!  To the rescue!  …Believe not those who tell you, that the question is, whether North Carolina shall go with the North, or the South.  The issue, and the only issue, is Union, or disunion… If we are but true to ourselves, the stars and stripes will yet continue to wave over the freest and happiest people upon whom the sun ever shown.”

The editorial quotes multiple stanzas of a poem,

“Stand like an anvil, when the stroke

Of stalwart men falls fierce and fast,

Storms but more deeply root the oak

Whose brawny arms embrace the blast.

Stand like an anvil, when the sound

Of ponderous hammers pains the ear;

Thine, but the still and stern rebound

Of the great heart, that cannot fear.”

“The Convention will be the first step toward revolution…” another editorial blasted.  “The vote…will be the most important ever polled in North Carolina.  We hope and trust the people will follow the example set them by Tennessee… [and say] in a voice that cannot be misunderstood, that this Union ‘must and shall be preserved.’”

When the great day of battle arrived, the voters of North Carolina joined in electoral combat at the polling places, and the forces of Union achieved a narrow victory, rejecting the Convention by a vote of 47,705 (No Convention) to 47,611 (Convention).   The traditional Piedmont Quaker counties overwhelming voted for the Union and against the Convention.  Chatham County cast 283 votes for the Convention, but 1,795 against it.  In Guilford County, the margin of victory was 25 to 1.  And in Randolph, editor E.J. Hale exulted in the Asheboro Herald of March 3, 1861,  “Listen to the thunder of Randolph!


“No Convention……………..2,436!

“The honest democracy of this county have showed that they love their country better than their party; and the Whigs, who detest the accursed doctrine of secession, have made their action conform to their principles, by voting against convention—the instrument, solely relied upon by secessionists to make their heresy effectual, and impotent to do anything else.”  [The Asheboro Herald is a newspaper which has not survived, except as copied in the Greensboro Patriot of March 14th]

Alongside the results of the referendum printed in the March 14th Greensboro Patriot was the inaugural address of President Lincoln, delivered on March 4th , and agreeing with the pro-Union sentiments of North Carolina voters in his assertion that “the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy.”

The final canvass of the Randolph County vote was 2,570 to 45, a ratio of 57 pro-Union voters to every one pro-Confederate secessionist.   That lop-sided proportion struck newspapers in eastern North Carolina as fishy… the New Bern Progress [quoted in the April 11, 1861 Greensboro Patriot], headed its editorial “Something Wrong.”

“There must be something wrong in the vote cast in Randolph county for and against Convention.  In 1856 Randolph cast for Bragg and Gilmer 1842 votes, in 1860 for Ellis and Pool she gave 2015 votes; in November for President she gives 1589; and in February 1861, six months later, on the question of Convention, they run up to 2514, showing a clear gain since August last of 497 votes.  Now when you consider that the vote in August last was by far the largest ever polled in the state and that every county strained its full strength, we come deliberately to the conclusion that there is something wrong about the Convention vote in Randolph… We hope the matter will be sifted and that we will have new light on the subject.”

The editor of the Fayetteville Observer, in a lengthy defense of the Randolph vote, replied [again, quoted in the Patriot of April 11th], “We have heard what perhaps the Progress has not– the county of Randolph was more thoroughly canvassed, and the people more thoroughly aroused, at the late elections, than ever before.  They are attached to the Union, and they felt that the Union was in danger.”

The terrible irony of this rousing defense of the pro-Union vote in Randolph County is that it was published on the last day of peace.  Early that next morning the hungry defenders of Fort Sumter saw their supply ship approach, and be turned away by the start of a two-day bombardment by the Army of South Carolina.

On April 15, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation, calling for as many as 75,000 troops to crush the rebellion.  That call to bear arms against fellow Southerners was too much for the upper South states.  On April 17th, Virginia’s Secession Convention (still in session since January) saw former Governor Wise seize the podium and announce that he had ordered the state militia to capture federal installations in the jurisdiction, and pulling out a pistol, dared the Convention to stop him.  Within minutes the delegates had voted 88 to 55 to recommend disunion to the state’s voters.

Arkansas voted to leave the union on May 6th.   The last state to join the Confederacy, on June 8th, was Tennessee, and even then eastern half of the state overwhelmingly voted against it.

On May 1, 1861, the North Carolina General Assembly bypassed the voters to call directly for a Convention.  The Convention delegates passed an Ordinance of Secession on May 20th, but the eager Confederate Congress, already meeting in Richmond, had “provisionally” admitted the state to the Confederacy three days earlier.

This past February I told a group of local high school students that February 28th was the anniversary of one of the most important votes ever taken in Randolph County:  to secede and join the Confederacy, or to stay with the Union.  How did they thing their ancestors of 1861 voted? How would they have voted?

Without hesitation, they all voted to join the Confederacy, “of course.”

It is a huge loss when the modern residents of Randolph County have no idea of the true struggles of their forebears during the “Civil War” period.  It is a terrible mis-use of history that teaches children some muddy “big picture” and completely loses the details.

We still fight a war of words over what to call the conflict that began April 12, 1861.  The “winning” side prefers to call it “The Civil War;” unreconstructed Southerners insist it was “The War Between the States.”  The poet Walt Whitman simply called it “The Secession War,” and that best describes what happened in North Carolina.  One of the bravest battles of the war which would last 4 years and kill more than 600,000 Americans  was the very nonviolent, yet very verbal battle for the Union which was fought in Randolph County in the spring of 1861.  As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the breakdown of peaceful conflict resolution, no finer memory of the Quaker heritage of our county can be found than in its struggle to preserve, not destroy, the United States of America.

Confederate Christmas in Randolph County

December 10, 2010

This is best-known of the autobiographical reminiscences of Nancy (“Nannie”) Steed Winningham.  It is been reprinted over the years in various sources, without much editing or explanation.  Once it was erroneously reprinted as “A Confederate Christmas in Asheboro,” despite the fact that Mrs. Winningham clearly recites the wagon ride to her grandparents home in the country.  As a “Christmas Gift” to you blog readers I am offering the original text here, and will serve up footnotes and explanations in another post.  I hope to track down the rest of the Winningham letters and publish them here, with annotations.

This illustration by Thomas Nast, entitled “Christmas Eve, 1862” appeared in the January 3, 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, published in New York City.  The appearance of our modern American “Santa Claus” was largely the pictorial creation of Thomas Nast, and this engraving includes two of his earliest depictions of him and his reindeer in both upper corners.


By Mrs. James Lafayette Winningham

Note to the original from Miss Laura Worth:  “Mrs. James Lafayette Winningham was the daughter of John Stanley Steed and Rachel Director Swaim. She wrote several letters in 1919 about old Asheboro which were published in the Courier in response to other reminiscences. Her daughter brought the original letters to the Historical Society in 1959. During her last years she lived in Greensboro.“

As I was born in 1857, I can remember Christmas of 1862-3-4. The first two were much the same. My mother always took the children home to her father’s for the holidays. In their home were our three young aunts and a young uncle, all full of life and fun, and about ten grandchildren. Of us there were my three brothers and myself.

On the morning of Christmas Eve what a scurrying there was to get our home-made things packed. A hasty lunch and by the time one of my married uncles came with his team, everything was ready and we arrived in good time for supper, which to us children was a feast indeed, but I suspect it was a little of the pig killed for Christmas, if one was left by that time; lye hominy, sweet potatoes, persimmon pudding, pumpkin fried in pork gravy with maybe a taste of “good coffee” for the elders. This was kept carefully hidden away in Grandmother’s lowboy. The young people had wheat or potato coffee and the children mugs of milk.

Grandmother owned a little black girl who was a year or two older than I. Her mother, a young slave girl, had died at her birth and Grandmother had reared her on a bottle, and kept her for her personal waiting girl. Like most southern children, I loved Harriet as much as if she had been my own sister.

At last, after much excitement, the stockings were all hung — Harriet’s too with the rest, and the sand man came along. Then in about seventeen seconds the pine knots were blazing in the big fire-place and Santa Claus had been there, for wasn’t there the tracks of his sleigh in the big, wide chimney — made by my uncle with the poker “as was a poker”.   In our stockings were “goobers”, as we called the peanuts, walnuts, ginger cakes and Oh Joy! two or three sticks of striped candy. I’m wondering to this day where it came from for we had not seen a stick of striped candy in a year.

After breakfast my aunties started the eggnog; then about ten o’clock their friends, mostly young boys, came in to wish all a merry Christmas, but expressed in those days as “Christmas Gift” and to get a drink of eggnog.  It was there in the big bowl all the morning and we were all given a generous taste.

Just before the one o’clock dinner we were playing in the yard, when from the front porch my aunt Sue exclaimed: “Oh, Look! There they come!” I looked and until my dying day I shall never forget the fear and horror that filled me. There were sixteen or eighteen old bony horses with trappings of anything that could be found, with strings of rags of black, blue, red or white. The riders were young boys, with their coats turned wrong side out and wearing horrible—looking false faces, singing and making all kinds of discordant noises. I made one dash to the side of my boon companion, Harriet, and asked in a trembling voice: “Which is it, the old bad man or the Yankees?” which to a southern child at that time meant much the same thing, the bad man, if anything, playing on the winning team. Being assured it was only the boys, my fears were allayed and I enjoyed the strange spectacle. They rode around the village several times and disappeared. As I look back upon it, I suppose it was a scraggly, pitiful attempt to carry out the old English custom of the waifs of England, which had been handed down from their English ancestors.

After dinner some old men and boys came in with flutes, banjos and fiddles (not violins) and played for an enthusiastic house full of friends and neighbors. Sometimes I almost seem to hear now the sweet, sad music played so martially – “The Bonnie Blue Flag”, “The Girl I left behind me”, “Hurrah for the Southern Rights, Hurrah! Hurrah!” and “Hurrah! for the Homespun Dress the Southern Ladies Wear”.

Through all this trying to have a little fun ran an undercurrent of solemnity and anxiety, and many questions of “Have you heard any more from husband, father or son?” were heard.

Late in the afternoon I passed the open kitchen door and Grandmother stood leaning against a cupboard with her head in her arms crying as if her heart would break and it almost broke mine. I asked Harriet why she was crying and she said, “Mars Luther Clegg had drinked too much eggnog” — her baby boy, just a youth. I wondered why she allowed them to make it but it was a Southern custom hard to break.

My father and my uncle owned and operated a large tannery, shoe and harness shop. They had a contract with the Confederate government to furnish shoes to some of our soldiers and that kept them in the service at home.  Early in 1864 my father sold his interest in the business to my uncle and in a few months was drafted and sent to eastern Carolina, where he was in the service, though not in the line.

It seemed to me that Christmas in 1864 began about December 10. We were told on getting up in the morning, that our mother was sick and during the day she became much worse. One of our kind neighbors brought her black woman, “Aunt Patsy”, and they stayed through the night. Soon they sent for our faithful family physician, who on account of advancing years bad about given up his practice until the war began and the younger doctors were all in the service of their southland. He gave my mother tender care and attention, with no thought of ever rendering a bill- his payment being the service of my father to the flag. On the morning of the 10th we were told we had a little brother named for his daddy. Oh! I suppose he was welcome but Christmas loomed darkly ahead. No daddy, no trip to “Grampys”, no shoes, no clothes hardly, no picture books, no dolls, no candy and just no “nuthin”.

On Sunday morning my uncle rode by while we were playing in the road, and be asked: “Boys, where are your shoes?” “We haven’t got any”, my brother answered. He told them to go to the shoe shop Monday and be measured for shoes. I was sorry my own were not a little better or else worse so that I could have a new pair.

There was a man in our town called Captain Pragg, who owned a dry goods store. A few days before Christmas he sent one of his men to the house to tell my mother that if she would send for it he would give her a nice ham for a present. She was very pleased and never forgot the courtesy.

My aunt from the country came and brought us all something for Christmas.  My present was a balmoral (petticoat) which she had carded, spun and. woven herself. I never told anyone but I could never drum up enough patriotism to like that coarse, scratchy petticoat. And that wasn’t the only thing I could never learn to like.

To this day when my husband occasionally likes a supper of milk and mush or corn bread and milk, the vision of a big, grayish-brown earthenware jar of milk and a bowl of mush or the plate of thick corn pones, with perhaps smudges of ashes on the brown crust, that depending on the skill of the one who lifted the lid with its burden of coals and ashes from the skillet, comes to me and I say “You may have it all,” I’m afraid it will give me indigestion.

And the Christmas baby — well, his father never saw him until he came home after General Lee’s surrender and by that time he was almost five months old.

Notes on A Confederate Christmas

December 8, 2010

"Santa Claus in Camp, 1864" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly.

Introductory Note:
“Mrs. James Lafayette Winningham…”
On 24 May 1876 Nancy Hannah Steed married James Lafayette Winningham (ca. 1853- 1930), the son of Siebert Francis Marion Winningham and Laura Ann Lyndon.  Winningham was born at Union Factory, now Randleman, North Carolina.  [Internet geneaological research on the Winningham and Steed families was largely posted by Donald Winningham.]

“…was the daughter of John Stanley Steed and Rachel Director Swaim.”
John Stanley Steed (22 Feb 1829 – 3 May 1899) was the son of Charles Steed (15 May 1782- March 1847), who served Randolph County both as a member of the North Carolina Senate and as a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives.  His mother Hannah Raines (born circa 1788- died after 1850) married Charles Steed on 25 Jan 1806.  John Stanley Steed married Rachel Director Swaim (15 Nov 1835 – 27 Nov 1880) about the year 1852.

Paragraph 1:
“As I was born in 1857…”
Nancy “Nannie” Hannah Steed was born 14 June 1857.

“My mother always took the children home to her father’s for the holidays”
Rachel Steed’s parents were Joshua Swaim (1804-1868) and Nancy H. Polk (1808 – 14 April 1865), who married in Guilford County on 1 September 1824, but lived in the Cedar Falls area (the area west of Franklinville, south of Grays Chapel, and east of Millboro).  The Christmas of 1864 may have stuck in Nannie Steed’s memory because it was the last she would have with her maternal grandmother Nancy Polk Swaim.

Maternal grandfather Joshua Swaim was the son of William Swaim and Elizabeth Sherwood, and nephew of the Clerk of Court Moses Swaim (1788-1870).   Joshua and Nancy Swaim were buried in the old Timber Ridge cemetery near Level Cross.  Here is a link to photographs of their tombstones:

“In their home were our three young aunts and a young uncle, all full of life and fun, and about ten grandchildren.”
Nancy and Joshua Swaim of Cedar Falls had the following children, several of whom had moved West before the time of the Civil War.  Numbers 7 through 10 are Nannie’s “young aunts and uncle”:
1.  James Polk Swaim (November 21, 1825 – February 04, 1890); m. Sarah McDonald about 1848; died in  Franklin County, Ark.
2.  Elizabeth Swaim (September 30, 1827-  June 28, 1846).
3.  Margaret J. Swaim, b. March 22, 1829- February 29, 1848.
4.  Mary Swaim (b. ca. 1831); md. Mr. Glass before 1854.
5.  William Walter Swaim (February 10, 1833 – died October 17, 1905 in Eldora, Hardin County, Iowa); m. Mary Ann Davis, ca. 1859, in Hamilton Co., Indiana.
6.  Rachel Director Swaim, (November 15, 1835 – May 27, 1880); m. John Stanley Steed on October 07, 1852.  [Nannie’s Grandma Swaim]
7.  Luther Clegg Swaim (b. ca. 1837, d. ca. 1868) [Nannie’s Uncle “Luther Clegg”]
8. Susannah Swaim (b. ca. 1840); m. J.L. Coble, September 04, 1862.
9. Hannah Swaim (b. ca. 1841); m. Henry C. Green, October 06, 1864.
10. Martha Swaim (b. ca. 1847).

{The family information is Included in the Polk family genealogy, posted by Kathy Parmenter at }.

“Of us there were my three brothers and myself.”
As of this time in the story, John and Rachel Steed had the following children:  Emily, born 1853, who died in infancy; Wiley Franklin, born 1855; Nancy Hannah, born 1857; Henry Luther, born 1860; Joshua Nathaniel, b. 1862.

Paragraph 2:
“The young people had wheat or potato coffee…”
Imports of coffee and other delicacies were reduced almost to the point of nonexistence by the federal blockade of southern ports.  According to Wikipedia ( ), Roasted acorns, almonds, barley, beechnuts, beetroots, carrots, chicory, corn, cottonseed, dandelion root, figs, okra seed, peas, Irish potatoes (but only the peel), rice, rye, soybeans, and sweet potatoes have all been used as coffee substitutes.  Roasted and ground wheat as a non-caffeinated substitute for coffee was popular again in the United States during both World War I and II, when coffee was sharply rationed.   “Postum”  was the brand name of an instant-style coffee substitute made from wheat bran, corn and molasses which was popular in North Carolina in the 20th century, but production was discontinued in October, 2007.

Paragraph 3:
“In our stockings were…ginger cakes…”
Ginger is a tropical root imported from Africa, Jamaica, India or China.  It was a much-loved spice during the Civil War era; ginger beer, ginger ale, and all sorts of ginger cakes and breads were popular.  Some recipes could be rolled out, cut into shapes and hung on the tree; some were soft like bread and others were hard and crisp.  The following recipe from a Civil War reenactor group makes crisp, sugar- coated cookies suitable for putting in a stocking:

3/4 cups shortening

1 cup sugar

1 beaten egg

1/4 cup molasses

2 tsp. soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

2 cups flour

Combine shortening and sugar into a cream; add the egg and molasses and mix well. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the shortening mixture. Mix until combined. Roll into walnut sized balls and roll in sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 7 – 10 minutes.

Paragraph 4:
“…my aunties started the eggnog…”
Various milk punches were known in Europe and brought to America, so the exact orgin of Egg Nog is obscure.  “Nog” is an old English word with roots in East Anglia dialects that was used to describe a kind of strong beer which was served in a small wooden mug called a “noggin”.   “Egg nog” is first mentioned in the early nineteenth century but an alternative British name was “egg flip,” a punch made with milk and wine, particularly Spanish Sherry.
Internet sites repeatedly cite an unnamed and unsourced English visitor who wrote in 1866, “Christmas is not properly observed unless you brew egg nogg for all comers; everybody calls on everybody else; and each call is celebrated by a solemn egg-nogging…It is made cold and is drunk cold and is to be commended.”
The English author Elizabeth Leslie regularly published cookbooks on both sides of the Atlantic from 1837 to 1857.  Her Directions for Cookery, published in 1840, introduced the concept of the “sandwich” to America.  This recipe for Egg Nogg comes from the edition of 1851:
“Beat separately the yolks and whites of 6 eggs. Stir the yolks into a quart of rich milk, or thin cream, add half a pound of sugar. Then mix in half a pint of rum or brandy. Flavor with a grated nutmeg. Lastly, stir in gently the beaten whites of three eggs. It should be mixed in a china bowl.”

Perhaps the last word on Confederate egg nog would be the recipe of Mary Custis (Mrs. Robert E.) Lee herself::

-10 eggs, separated

-2 c. sugar

-2 1/2 c. brandy

1/2 c. and 1 tsp. dark rum

-8 c. milk or cream

Blend well the yolks of ten eggs, add 1 lb. of sugar; stir in slowly two tumblers of French brandy, 1/2 tumbler of rum, add 2 qts new milk, & lastly the egg whites beaten light (very fluffy).  Allow to “ripen” in a cold but not freezing place; an unheated room or porch was the common location for Mrs. Lee.

From The Robert E. Lee Family Cooking and Housekeeping Book (UNC Press, 2002), by Anne Carter Zimmer.

Paragraph 5:
“…expressed in those days as ‘Christmas Gift’…”
The phrase “Merry Christmas” was popularized around the world following the appearance of the Charles Dickens’ story, A Christmas Carol in 1843.  Robertson Cochrane, Wordplay: origins, meanings, and usage of the English language, p.126. (University of Toronto Press, 1996).  “Christmas Gift!”  is an earlier Southern tradition, used as a greeting.   The first person saying it on Christmas morning traditionally received a gift.  See “Whistlin’ Dixie: A Dictionary of Southern Expressions” by Robert Hendrickson (Pocket Books, New York, 1993).

Paragraph 6:
“Which is it, the old bad man or the Yankees?”
She is using a euphemism for “the Devil,” a word considered to be so much a curse word at the time that a well-bred young lady was not allowed to use such language.  The Devil was on the side of the Yankees, just as God was supposed to be on the side of the Confederacy.

"Little Christmas Waifs Are We"- 19th century Christmas Card

“…the old English custom of the waifs of England.”
It is unclear whether Nannie has here conflated two distinct Christmas rituals from medieval England, or whether the traditions had previously merged in the antebellum South.
The surviving English tradition is of the Christmas “Waits,” musicians and singers who go from door to door “waiting,” or caroling.  According to the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, “wait” is the name of a medieval night watchman, who sounded a horn or played tunes to mark the hours.  By the 15th century waits had become bands of itinerant musicians who paraded the streets at night at Christmas time, and became combined with another ancient tradition, “wassailing”.  It gradually became expected that the musicians would receive gifts and gratuities from the townspeople, and often “those who went wassailing would dress up like street waifs or ragamuffins.”,320599343
One other British custom of the Christmas season was specifically aimed at soliciting alms.  “Thomasing” anciently occured on 21 December (St Thomas’s Day) when the village poor people visited the homes of their better-off neighbours soliciting food and provisions to help them through the winter. Also called “Gooding,” “Mumping,” and “Doleing,” the earliest reference is from the year 1560, but the custom gradually declined through the 19th century as poor relief was institutionalized, and laws were passed against ‘begging’.
In the South this tradition may have inspired a tradition of inviting local orphans or “waifs” to spend Christmas afternoon with rural families or in urban church socials. [ ]  In 1864 the “ crowning amusement” of Christmas day for the Davis children in Richmond was “the children’s tree,” erected in the basement of St. Paul’s Church, decorated with strung popcorn, and hung with small gifts for orphans.   (First Lady Varina Davis’s 1896 article “Christmas in the Confederate White House” makes an  interesting contrast to Nannie Steed Winningham’s story of Christmas in rural Randolph County; ).

The First Confederate States Flag

Paragraph 7:
“ The Bonnie Blue Flag”
-is a marching song associated with the Confederacy.   The song was written to an Irish melody by entertainer Harry McCarthy during a concert in Jackson, Mississippi, in the spring of 1861 and first published that same year in New Orleans.  The song’s title refers to the unofficial first flag of the Confederate States, the symbol of secession from the Union bearing the “single star” of the chorus.   The “Band of Brothers” mentioned in the first line of the song is a reference to the St. Crispin’s day speech in Shakespeare’s play Henry V.
Here is the song:

“The Girl I left behind me”
-is a popular folk tune.  The first known printed text appeared in an Irish song collection in 1791; the earliest known version of the melody was printed in Dublin about 1810.   It was known in Britain as early as 1650, under the name “Brighton Camp”.  It was adopted by the US regular army as a marching tune during the War of 1812 after they heard a British prisoner singing it.

The song can be heard here:

“Hurrah for the Southern Rights, Hurrah! Hurrah!”
-Hurrah! Hurrah!/ For Southern rights, hurrah!” is actually the first two lines of the chorus of  “The Bonnie Blue Flag.”  ‘Hurrah! Hurrah! For the Southern Rights, hurrah!’ is an alternative reading of the line that is only found in Gone With The Wind, page 236.  Both undoubtedly reflect the way singers at the time added ‘the’ to mirror the same article in ‘the’ Bonnie Blue Flag.

“Hurrah! for the Homespun Dress the Southern Ladies Wear”
-”The Homespun Dress,” also known as “The Southern Girl,” or “The Southern Girl’s Song,” is a parody of The Bonnie Blue Flag that oral historians have found in variant versions all over the South.  Most authorities attribute the words to Miss Carrie Belle Sinclair of Augusta, Georgia.  See Songs of the Civil War, by Irwin Silber, Jerry Silverman; Dover, 1995, p.54.  The lyrics can be found at

Oh, yes, I am a Southern girl,

And glory in the name,

And boast it with far greater pride

Than glittering wealth and fame.

We envy not the Northern girl

Her robes of beauty rare,

Though diamonds grace her snowy neck

And pearls bedeck her hair.

CHORUS: Hurrah! Hurrah!

For the sunny South so dear;

Three cheers for the homespun dress

The Southern ladies wear!

Paragraph 8:
“…Mars Luther Clegg had drinked too much eggnog.”
“Mars,” short-hand for “Master,” was used by enslaved people as a general title of respect, in the same way that white people would use “Mister.”
Luther Clegg Swaim was born in Cedar Falls in 1837.  On February 1, 1866 he married Dorcas Aretta Odell (1828-1918), daughter of James Odell and wife Anna Trogdon.  This was the second marriage for Dorcas Odell, the sister of J.M. Odell and J.A. Odell who worked for George Makepeace in the factory stores at Cedar Falls and Franklinsville.  John M. Odell was the first Captain of the Randolph Hornets, Company M.  Her brother Laban Odell became Major of the 22nd Regiment, and was killed at Chancellorsville.  Her first husband was her second cousin, Solomon Franklin Trogdon, who died in 1860.  She had two sons in the first marriage, and a daughter with Luther Clegg Swaim before he died in 1868.  Dorcas’s son Williard Franklin Trogdon became the original geneaologist of the Trogdon family, publishing the family history which provided this information in 1926.

Paragraph 9:
“My father and my uncle owned and operated a large tannery, shoe and harness shop.”
The J. S. Steed family is the very first one listed in the Western Division of Randolph County’s 1860 census; his occupation is listed as “Tanning,”  and a 17-year-old boarder living with them is listed as “Apprentice Tanner.”  Family #2 in that census is David Porter, a buggy manufacturer and grandfather of author William Sidney Porter.  I believe the Porters lived on the southeast corner of the intersection of Salisbury Street and the Plank Road (Fayetteville Street)- where First Bank is today.

The 1860 Census  of Manufacturing for Randolph County lists “J.W. & J.S. Steed” as engaged in “Tanning… Boot and Shoe Making…[and] Harness Making.”  6 employees in 1859 cured “1400 sides of harness, sole and upper leather” worth $2000; made 40 pair of boots worth $300; 250 pair of shoes worth $500; and 50 setts of harness worth $900.

The Steeds probably lived on Salisbury between Cox and the Plank Road, but the location of his tannery is unclear.  The only tannery I am aware of that was ever located in or around Asheboro itself is the one located on the site of the present-day Frazier Park, across Park Street from Loflin Elementary School.  The branch that heads in a spring (now piped underground) on that site is called Tan Yard Branch.

“My uncle” probably refers to the “J.W. Steed” listed on the Census of Manufacturing; this was Joseph Warren Steed, born ca. 1806, and little else is known about him.   It could also refer to John Stanley Steed’s brother Nathaniel Steed (3 May 1812 -10 Nov 1880).  In 1832 Nathaniel married Sarah (“Sallie”) Redding (9 Oct. 1811 -10 Aug. 1852), daughter of John Redding and Martha Jane Swaim.  They are buried at Charlotte Church, on Old Lexington Road west of Asheboro.

“Early in 1864 my father… was drafted and sent to eastern Carolina, where he was in the service..”
[Some of you Civil War experts, trace his service record, please.]

Paragraph 10:
“…our faithful family physician, who on account of advancing years bad about given up his practice until the war began…”
Could this have been Dr. John Milton Worth, (28 June 1811 -5 April 1900), who studied at the Medical College in Lexington, Kentucky and practiced in Asheboro up to the time of the war?  A substantial part of Dr. Worth’s war years were spent overseeing the Salt Works near Fort Fisher, so this may be some other faithful family physician.

“On the morning of the 10th we were told we had a little brother named for his daddy…”
John Stanley Steed, Jr., born December 1864.  The Steeds would have five more children over the next 15 years.  Rachel Steed evidently died during childbirth in 1880.

A view of antebellum New Bern from the Neuse River

Paragraph 12:
“There was a man in our town called Captain Pragg, who owned a dry goods store…”
The name “Pragg” is not found in the Randolph County census records for 1860 or 1870, but “Isaiah Prag” does appear in Randolph County marriage bond records for April 19, 1865, when he married “Mrs. Jane Sugg.”  This was apparently the second marriage for each of them, as according to family genealogical records “Mrs. Sugg”‘s maiden name was Jane Adaline Andrews (1841-1907).  She may have a family connection to Lt. Col. Hezekiah L. Andrews of western Randolph, who was killed at Gettysburg.
Isaiah  Prag was born 20 October 1824 in the town of Hadamar in the state of Hesse, Germany.  He first appears in America in the 1850 census of Annapolis, Maryland, with wife Rose Adler (1827-1864), and a new baby, Mary.  Prag would ultimately have 8 children by his first wife, and 7 by his second.  By 1860 Isaiah and family have relocated to New Bern, NC, where he is in business as a “merchant.”   From June 1, 1861 to February 10, 1862, the state Quartermaster’s office paid receipts totalling $13,11320 for purchases from Isaiah Prag.  He evidently provided most of the “dry goods” or clothing needed to equip at least two companies of Craven County volunteer troops: Company F and Company K (The Elm City Rifles):  98 suit coats and pants; 74 flannel shirts and 199 striped shirts; 218 caps, 141 pairs of “drawers” and 160 pairs of “pantaloons;” not to mention 556 overcoats- enough for 5 companies!
Isaiah Prag is also listed as an “Ordinance Sergeant” in Company B of Clark’s Special Battalion of the North Carolina Militia, but further details of his military service are not yet known.
Prag’s initial connection to Randolph County is also unclear.  It is possible that he was involved with the local factories in the production of underwear under contract to the Quartermaster.  His work supplying the army may have forced him to leave New Bern after its capture by federal forces on March 14, 1862.  It doesn’t seem likely that Prag would have been allowed to frequently cross enemy lines if his family remained in New Bern, but  Rose Adler Prag is said to have died in New Bern on July 20, 1864.
The 1870 census finds Isaiah and Jane Prag in Calvert County, Maryland.  The 1879-80 city directory of Baltimore (p. 625) lists 6 separate families of Prags, with Isaiah listed as selling furniture.  The 1880 census finds him settled in Cambridge, Maryland, the seat of Dorchester County on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  This is where family records place him at the time of his death, April 18, 1889.
It appears that Isaiah and Rose Adler Prag were Jewish, and may have been one of the first Jewish families to reside in Randolph County.  That may be why Isaiah gave the Steed family as valuable a gift as the ham would have been in 1864- religious dietary laws would have prevented him from eating it.
[Sources:  US Census records for the years cited; Randolph County Marriage Bonds; Miscellaneous Records of the North Carolina Quartermaster’s dealings with Isaiah Prag or Pragg, preserved in the National Archives at Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-65 ; the Park Service online list of Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, at>; Prag family geneaology records on at .]

Paragraph 13:
“My present was a balmoral (petticoat) which she had carded, spun and woven herself…”
A Balmoral was a long woollen petticoat which was popularized by Queen Victoria at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.  Usually of striped fabric, it was worn immediately beneath the dress so that it showed below the skirt.

The woman wearing a Balmoral in this “carte de visite” is Rachel Bodley (1831-1888), the first female chemistry professor at Philadelphia’s Women’s Medical College from 1865 to 1873.

Paragraph 14:
“…a bowl of mush or … plate of thick corn pones.”
Corn Meal Mush was made two different ways, and it appears that Mr. Winningham liked both of them.  The first was prepared in rolls like sausage or in loaf pans like modern liver pudding.  The cook would cut it in slices, dredge in egg yolk, dust in flour, fry and serve with butter, molasses, syrup or powdered sugar.  The second method was to boil the corn meal in a saucepan just as if preparing raw oatmeal or grits.  It was then served hot in a bowl topped with milk, sugar, fruit, raisins, nuts or ice cream.
“Corn Pone” is corn bread made without milk or eggs, and either baked in hot coals (as described by Nannie Winningham) or fried.

Modern Corn Pone Recipe (makes 4 servings):

Ingredients:  3 cups cornmeal; 3 teaspoons salt; 2-3 cups water; 3 tablespoons lard

Directions:  Bring water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add cornmeal and salt and immediately remove from stove. Mix well.  Melt half of lard in a baking pan to coat. Stir remaining lard into corn meal mixture. Pour mixture into baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes, or until golden brown.

Howell Gilliam Trogdon

November 11, 2009

[The Congressional Medal of Honor- U.S. Army version.]

Howell Gilliam Trogdon, born in Randolph County in 1840, was the first North Carolinian to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. There is no better illustration of the ever-divided loyalties of Randolph County than one of its native sons, born in the last state to join the Confederacy, would receive the highest award for valor in action which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Army of the United States of America.

[Howell G. Trogdon, ca. 1890]

Born on the south side of Deep River between Cedar Falls and Franklinville, Trogdon (24 Oct. 1840 – 2 Dec. 1910) was one of eleven children of John Trogdon and his wife Isabella Hardin. Before he was twenty years old he had moved to Missouri; he was working as a cabin boy on a steam boat when he enlisted in the US Army in St. Louis on May 28, 1861.

He was mustered into Company B (“the American Zouaves” ) of the 8th Missouri Volunteer Infantry on June 12, 1861. He was placed on “detached service” from June 28, 1862, probably detailed to serve as a courier and spy. In July 1862 he was captured near Ripley, Mississippi bearing dispatches from General William Sherman to General Schuyler Hamilton. He was tried and condemned to death, but the sentence was commuted to incarceration at federal prison camps in Tupelo, Miss., Mobile, Ala., Montgomery, Ala., and Richmond, Va.

He finally was paroled on November 19, 1862, and somehow found his way back to his regiment in western Tennessee, where Grant’s forces had been trying cut the Confederacy in half by gaining control of the Mississippi River. The key to that strategy lay in occupying Vicksburg, “the Gibraltar of the West,” a heavily fortified city on a high bluff whose guns prevented the US Navy forces from advancing any higher up the Mississippi.

[Vicksburg from the Mississippi]

After burning Jackson, Miss., on May 15, 1863, Grant’s army battled towards Vicksburg, hoping a quick and powerful advance would keep the retreating Confederate forces off balance and disorganized. By the time General Pemberton’s forces arrived in Vicksburg, the Confederate retreat threatened to turn into a rout, stopped only by the relative safety provided by the trenches and earthwork fortifications built to protect the city in the fall of 1862. A 12-mile-long line of forts and earthen embankments protected Vicksburg on the North, East and South; the Mississippi River was its moat to the west, where Admiral Porter’s blockading forces had bombarded the city for the past year.

Approaching Vicksburg on the road from Jackson, a Union officer observed “A long line of high, rugged, irregular bluffs, clearly cut against the sky, crowed with cannon which peered ominously from embrasures to the right and left as far as the eye could see. Lines of heavy rifle-pits, surmounted with head-logs, ran along the bluffs, connecting fort with fort, and filled with veteran infantry…. The approaches to this position were frightful- enough to appall the stoutest heart.” [Carter, The Final Fortress: The Campaign for Vicksburg, p. 211.]

Grant felt that a quick strike into the heart of the city could cause the collapse of the Confederate lines and preclude a lengthy siege. Even though attacks on the 19th and 20th of May failed to break through the Confederate fortifications, Grant decided to try one last massive assault. A perceived weak spot was identified near one fort, called the “Stockade Redan,” where the 10-foot-tall embankment was protected by a ditch 12 feet wide and 5-6 feet deep. To cross this ditch and breach the wall of the fort, Grant ordered a “forlorn hope,” an advance guard of 150 volunteer troops, sent on what was probably a suicide mission.  The advance party would carry heavy logs toward the bluff, 2 men per log, and throw them across the ditch to create the foundation for a bridge. The second detachment would closely follow with lumber to create the deck of the bridge, and a third detachment would rush across the bridge and plant scaling ladders against the face of the embankment so that the supporting brigades could carry the fort in a grand assault. Most of the first wave of attacking soldiers, the “forlorn hope,” would probably be killed or wounded; others might survive long enough to seize a foothold and occupy the Confederate defenders while the final wave with better prospects could punch through the weakened defenses.

[The modern-day Stockade Redan in the Vicksburg National Battlefield Park. Photo by Michael Noiret.]

Howell G. Trogdon wrote the following sketch in explanation of his Medal of Honor award:

“On the 22 of May ’63 a detail was called for out of our Regiment, but for what we did not know. There were 22 volunteers from our Regiment. We were ordered to take a hundred rounds of ammunition, 40 in our cartridge box and 60 in our pockets. We were then marched in front of General Grant’s headquarters where we stacked arms. We here met details from other Regiments which swelled the number to 250 all told. Generals Grant, Sherman, Cogan, Morgan and Smith, Jiles A. Smith, Ewing, Oustenhouse, Steele, F.P. Blair and others were there. Attention was called and Gen. Sherman made a short speech. Pointing to the front he told us that we were there as a forlorn hope to the front, that we were to file to the right and go into the mouth of a cut where we would be provided with the scaling ladders.

“I noticed here that there was no one bearing the flag. Then I cried out to General Sherman, ‘Say, General, won’t it be advisable for some one to carry the flag so if we get scattered we will see something to rally to?’ About twenty yards from us there was a fine silk flag set in the ground in front of some general’s headquarters. General Sherman walked over and taking the flag brought it to me saying in a jovial manner, ‘It’s a dangerous job my boy to try to put that flag on the fort.’

[Contemporary newspaper illustration of the Forlorn Hope storming the Stockyard Redan.]

“We then marched on into the cut and awaited the signal for the charge on the fort with our improvised scaling ladders. At 10 o’clock [A.M.] we heard the boom of the cannon which was our signal to charge. Then we swept forward and were met by a terrific fire from the enemy so deadly that our little band was almost annihilated. At this moment I ran forward waving the flag and rushed on toward the fort. A canister struck the staff a few inches above my hand and cut it half in two. Then they depressed their guns and a cannon ball struck the folds and carried it half away, knocking it out of my hands. I got down off of the fort and picked the flag up and rushed back and flaunted it in the faces of the rebels and said, ‘What flag are you fighting under today, Johnny?’” [Quoted in The Randolph Guide, April 15, 1970," Cedar Falls Man Fought for Yanks," Trogdon's statement was provided by his great-grandaughter Mary P. Johnston.]

The “forlorn hope” was doomed from the outset by the plan to carry the bridge materials more than a thousand feet across an open “no man’s land” in full view of the Confederate fort. Says one analysis of the action:

“The moment the ‘forlorn hope’ emerged from the ravine, they came within view of the enemy, who opened so heavy a fire on them that their works were covered with clouds of smoke. The gallant little band advanced at a dead run, but in the eighty rods [1,080 feet] of open ground which lay between them and the fort, about half of them were shot down. When the survivors arrived at the ditch, they found it impossible to build a bridge, as so many of the logs had been dropped by the way, and it was equally impossible to remain where they were, exposed to the enemy’s fire. There was nothing for it but to jump into the ditch and seek shelter. Private Howell G. Trogden [sic], who carried the flag of the storming party, planted it on the parapet of the fort, and dropped back into the ditch, where he kept up a fire on the Confederates whenever they attempted to reach it and take it in.” [W.F. Beyer and O.F. Keydel, eds., Deeds of Valor: How America's Civil War Heroes Won the Congressional Medal of Honor, 1903, p. 191.]

[Detail of the above. Howell Trogdon, at the far left, is planting the flag on the parapet of the Redan.]

“After Trogden had planted his flag on the parapet, the Confederates tried to capture it by hooking it with the shanks of their bayonets, but failed, owing to the hot fire kept up by the sharpshooters. Thereupon Trogden asked me for my gun to give the enemy a thrust. This was a very foolish request, as no soldier ever gives up his gun, but I concluded to try it myself. I raised my head up about as high as the safety of the case would permit, and pushed my gun across the intervening space between us and the enemy, gave their bayonets a swipe with mine, and dodged down just in time to escape being riddled. I did not want any more of that kind of amusement, so did not undertake to force the acquaintance any further. After we had been in this predicament about two hours, they sent over a very pressing invitation to ‘Come in, you Yanks. Come in and take dinner with us.’ We positively declined, however, unless they would come out and give us a chance to see if the invitation were genuine. This they refused to do, but agreed to send a messenger. By and by it arrived in the shape of a shell, which went flying down the hill without, however, doing any damage.” [Statement of Corporal Robert Cox, Company K, Fifty-first Illinois Infantry, quoted in Beyer and Keydel, p. 196]

[Federal advance at Vicksburg]

“The other brigades advance to the support of the stormers, but were driven back by the heavy fire, and all that reached the ditch were thirty men of the Eleventh Missouri… They planted their flag along side that of the storming party, and sought shelter where they could, in the ditch, or in holes dug in the embankment. The Confederates finding it impossible to depress their guns sufficiently to reach them, dropped 12-pounder shells among them, but the fuses were cut too long, and consequently did not explode for about ten seconds. This gave the stormers time not only to get out of the way, but even to toss some of the shells back over the parapet, otherwise not a man would have survived. As it was, the bottom of the ditch was strewn with mangled bodies, with heads and limbs blown off.” [Beyer and Keydel, p. 192]

["This gave time to toss some of the shells back." From Beyer and Keydel.]

“All day long, from 10 o’clock in the morning until darkness fell, the unequal fit went on; then the little body of survivors crept out of the ditch, carrying with them their flags, riddled with bullets, and made their way back to their own lines. Of the storming party eighty-five per cent were either killed or dangerously wounded, and few of them escaped without a wound of some kind.” [Beyer and Keydel, p. 194]

“When the storming party withdrew, they left behind them William Archinal, who had been stunned by a fall, and who was afterwards captured by the enemy… [Archinal stated] “When I was taken into the fort, a rebel officer came up to me, slapped me on the shoulder, and said: ‘See here, young man, weren’t you fellows all drunk when you started this morning?’ I replied, ‘No, Sir!’ ‘Well, they gave you some whiskey before you started, didn’t they?’ he said, and I answered, ‘No Sir, that plan is not practiced in our army.’

“‘Didn’t you know it was certain death,’ he asked me again, and I replied, ‘Well, I don’t know, I am still living!’

“‘Yes,’ he said, ‘You are living, but I can assure you that very few of your comrades are.’” [Beyer and Keydel, p. 194]

[Vicksburg National Cemetery]

Howell Trogdon closes by saying :

“Only three of my comrades succeeded in reaching the fort with me: Sergeant Nagle who was killed on the spot and a Private from 54 Reg. who shared the same fate. The reply to my question to the Reb ['What flag are you fighting under today, Johnny?"] was, ‘You’d better surrender Yank.’ ‘Oh no Johnny, you’ll surrender first,’ was my answer.

“I never left that place of death until after midnight. My canteen was shot away, my clothes was full of holes and the banner was hardly recognizable. Then I crawled back over the corpses of the Forlorn Hope over dead and through the cane and back into our lines with the remnant of the Flag.” [From his statement in The Randolph Guide.]

[Admiral Porter's bombardment]

The siege of Vicksburg lasted until the Fourth of July; its starving citizens lived for months in caves dug out of the high banks along the Mississippi while Union gunboats shelled the city. Grant finally captured 29,500 prisoners while losing about 5,000 of his soldiers killed, wounded or missing. He would later write, “the fate of the Confederacy was sealed at Vicksburg.” Control of the Mississippi would never return to Confederate hands, and the states South and West of the river were cut off from the rest of the Confederacy. “The Father of Waters,” said Abraham Lincoln, “again goes unvexed to the Sea.”

Howell Trogdon was honorably discharged May 22, 1864. He and the other 50 survivors of the forlorn Hope were awarded the Medal of Honor by Act of Congress on August 3, 1894. Trogdon settled in Chicago, where he married and raised a family. He died in Los Angeles in 1910.


BIRTH 1840 at Cedar Falls, North Carolina

ENTERED SERVICE AT St. Louis, Missouri

RANK/ORGANIZATION Private, Company B, 8th Missouri Infantry

MOH CITATION Gallantry in the charge of the “volunteer storming party.”   He carried his regiment’s flag and tried to borrow a gun to defend it.

PLACE/DATE At Vicksburg, Mississippi; 22 May 1863

DATE OF ISSUE 03 August 1894

[extracted from and ]


W.F.Boyer and O.F. Keydel, eds., Deeds of Valor: How America’s Civil War Heroes Won The Congressional Medal of Honor (Detroit: Perrien-Keydel Company, 1903).

Samuel Carter III, The Final Fortress: The Campaign for Vicksburg, 1862-1863 (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1980).

The Randolph Guide, April 15, 1970,” Cedar Falls Man Fought for Yanks.”

Randolph County Military History

November 9, 2009

[An unknown Randolph County Civil War soldier. This ambrotype was sold at an estate auction in Grant Township in 2001.]

The following overview of Randolph County’s involvement in the military history of the United States was written in 1936 by Tom Presnell. I copied it from a typescript in the files of the Randolph Room which had his handwritten corrections, which are made as indicated.

I always think of the author as “Colonel Tom Presnell,” because that is how my father Lowell Whatley invariably referred to him. Presnell (b. 5-11-1908 – d. 8-9-1973) was my father’s predecessor as commander of the Randolph County National Guard unit, and they had collaborated closely over the new National Guard Armory on South Fayetteville Street, designed under Colonel Tom and built under my father’s supervision. Tom Presnell had been a Major in command of the Asheboro guard unit when it was activated in 1941.

After World War II Presnell worked as one of the county’s first probation and parole officers. In retirement Colonel Tom became the most active advocate for the preservation of local history. When I became interested in history in the 1960s, I was directed to Miss Laura Worth, the nonagenarian county historian (she’ll be subject of a future post) who operated out of a vault in the basement of the courthouse, and Colonel Tom Presnell, who ran the Randolph County Historical Society and wanted to build a museum in the Armfield House on the corner of Fayetteville and Salisbury Streets (now the site of Randolph Bank). The Armfield House museum ran afoul of the need for sprinklers in a frame structure, and the best compromise that could be made was that the Historical Society was given the Armfield Kitchen, formerly the Asheboro Female Academy. Colonel Tom moved the Female Academy to a borrowed lot facing the Junior High School, and began its restoration. Presnell died in a freak accident in the summer of 1973, when his parked car was demolished by a runaway tractor-trailer truck.

[Major Tom Presnell in 1940.]

“Randolph Military History Shows Her Son’s Bravery in Wars of Many Decades,” by Tom Presnell.

From Revolutionary days to the present, in time of stress, Randolph sons have poured forth to war. At the battle of Guilford Court House, Randolph Militia units under command of Lieutenant John Collier, took part in the battle at that place. Of course records are scarce and vague as to this period but it is known that Thomas Dougan, Col. Andrew Balfour, Captain William Clark, Hugh McCain, Alexander Gray and others fought valiantly for liberty and were leaders in the fight against the Tories in this county and surrounding section. Few of them were in the Continental army but from 1775 to 1783 there was practically continuous fighting [with] marauding bands of the organized [Tories] in this and Chatham counties.

In the war of 1812 with Great Britain, the militia of Randolph again went to war but saw little action because this war was fought mostly on the seas and in the northern part of the United States— far from their homes.

During the Civil War the county contributed the full quota to the Confederate cause. Over 3000 boys left Randolph in 1861 to fight for the protection of their homes and property. Randolph sent to the front nine full companies, all commanded by Randolph men. These companies were: I, L, and M, of the 22nd N. C. Regiment; F and G of the 46th N. C. Regiment; B, of 52nd N.C. Regiment; F, of the 70th N.C. Regiment; A and D, of the 8th Battalion; and numerous other soldiers scattered over other regiments.

[Flag of the "Randolph Hornets" (22nd Regiment, Company M, North Carolina Troops), taken in the 1970s in the old Randolph Room of the Asheboro Public Library. The deteriorated silk flag is now in dire need of restoration.]

Near the last of the war the Junior Reserves were organized, and saw some active service. They were boys of about sixteen to seventeen years of age and commanded by C served throughout the war in the army of northern Virginia and in the eastern Carolina. They were in all the principal battles except the first battle at Manassas. At Gettysburg under Pettigrew, and at Seven Pines their losses were severe.

Only a few returned from this gigantic conflict that raged for four years. Many rested in Soldier’s graves; several had died of disease, but many more of them had died fighting for their land. Returning home they encountered hardships that weak men could not face. The country was overrun with deserters. Robbery and pillaging was prevalent over the county.

In the war with Spain, in l890, few Randolph men saw action, mostly because it did last long — only about ninety days.

In 1911 a call was issued through the columns of the Courier, stating that “all citizens interested in organizing a company of infantry in the State Guard meet at the court house…” The notice was signed by James Kivett and George Ross. James Kivett became the first officer in Germany K, Third Regiment of Infantry . The company changed officers several times, T. Fletcher Bulla at one time was Captain, B. F. Brittain, C.E. Elmore, Ed Mendenhall and others were Lieutenants at different times. Dozens of men in all walks of life now living in Asheboro and elsewhere, at one time and another joined the guards for the annual two weeks encampment.

[Members of Company K digging trenches at Camp Sevier, SC. Randolph Room Photo.]

Returning to Asheboro early in 1917 with 53 men and three officers, saw another crisis and recruiting for overseas service began. A reorganization occurred about this time; the Third Regiment became the 120 Infantry and assigned to the 60th Brigade, 30th (Old Hickory) Division. In September, 1917 Company K was sent to Camp Sevier, S. C. to become acquainted with the officers of the company. The officers at that time were Capt. B. F. Dixon and Lieutenants Hal M. Walker and Everett Luck; and about 150 army personnel.

The infantry spent about nine months training at Sevier, the company with the infantry of the 30th Division, composed of the troops from North Carolina and Tennessee, embarked for France. Landing in France in June, 1918, The Division, along with the 27th Division was attached to the British Division in Belgium. On September 29, the Division did some of the most courageous fighting of the entire war.

During the war these two divisions gained fighting glory by successfully assaulting the Hindenburg Line— an assumingly impregnable fortress. Company K going into the assault with 208 men, only 67 emerged living or unwounded. They had fought in the fiercest part and had accomplished their objective, but only at the cost of supreme sacrifice. Capt. Dixon, Sergeant Tom McDowell, Private John Kivett and many other Losing their lives.

[Private J.A. Long of Company K]

After a few days rest, October 10 saw this outfit back in the lines engaged in another fierce battle.

In addition to the National Guard Company, Randolph furnished many men for all branches of the service during the war. Most of the Randolph men who entered the army by way of the selective draft were sent to Camp Jackson, S.C. for training, being assigned to the 81st division. They too went to France and saw action in battle.

After the Armistice was signed, American troops in France wore sent home as fast as possible, The 120th infantry landing in Charleston, S.C. in April, 1919, and Company K was mustered out of service, the boys returning home and Company K was disbanded.

In 1921 the National Guard was reorganized but Asheboro did not get one of the companies. However in 1928 Headquarters Company 3rd Bn., 12 Infantry, a unit of the North Carolina National Guard was secured for the town, being organized by C.J. Lovett and Roy Cox, Lt. Cox his junior officer.

This company is now composed of two officers and 28 enlisted men. Cox is 1st. Lieutenant in Command and Vance Kivett is 2nd lieutenant. The armory is located on N. Church Street and was built only some forty years ago. The large drill room, besides being used for military purposes, is often converted to a dance hall and a meeting place for various civic organizations.

Trinity Civil War Trail Marker II

April 25, 2009

The Trinity College marker on the North Carolina Civil War Trail was dedicated today.

The marker itself was erected in December, but today was the beautiful warm day to get a good crowd together.

The marker is located beside the gazebo made from the old Trinity College chapel columns which shelters the old Trinity College bell, returned to Trinity by Duke University about 15 years ago.

The story of the Gothic papyrus-capital columns, salvaged from the Trinity High School auditorium, is told in the entry on Trinity High School (TR:16) in my architecture book.

The original Trinity College building had some pointed church-like windows which perhaps suggested the Gothic style which became popular for residences around Trinity and Archdale.

One still stands on the west side of NC62 in Trinity (TR:11 in my book).

Historical Markers: Archdale

February 27, 2009


This State of North Carolina historical marker is found on the north side of NC311 at its busy intersection with NC62 in Archdale.    The marker is lost in a sea of signage in the parking lot of a branch bank of RBC Centura.  It reads:

General Johnston’s men paid off and mustered out near here, May 1-2, 1865, after surrender near Durham April 26.”

General Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appommatox Courthouse on April 9th, 1865, and on April 26th General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his remaining troops to Major General W. T. Sherman near Durham, North Carolina (now Bennett Place State Historic Site).   At the close of hostilities Johnston’s army was strung out all across northern Randolph and southern Alamance counties.



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