The purpose of this blog is to describe the events, places, and personalities that impacted the Twenty-Sixth North Carolina Infantry during the course of its service between 1861 and 1865.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Soldier Profile - James H. Robinson, Company B

- Along with the locations of where the 26th North Carolina fought and served, I thought it would be interesting from time to time to highlight a soldier from the ranks and take an in-depth look at their life, both as a civilian and militarily. James H. Robinson first drew my attention with his mention in "Lee's Tarheels" by Earl J. Hess, and on further research conducted in part for the Socio-Military Profile of the 26th North Carolina a more complete picture of Robinson emerges.

At the outbreak of hostilities in 1861, James H. Robinson was 21 years old and lived in or near the community of Walkersville, North Carolina in Union County. Walkersville is located about 11 miles south west of Monroe, and is situated just four miles north of the North Carolina and South Carolina border. James was the oldest of the seven children belonging to Robert and Martha Robinson.

James was most likely born in South Carolina around 1840. According to the 1850 census the Robinson family lived in Lancaster District where James' father Robert was employed as a school teacher and had $300 worth of real estate to his name. There is a bit of question as to how long the Robinson's lived in South Carolina and when they moved to Union County, North Carolina. The 1850 census indicates that James, his parents, and at the time four other siblings were all born in South Carolina. Yet the 1860 census gives us a slightly different picture when the family is living across the border in Union County. The 1860 census lists James and his parents being born in South Carolina, yet list his sisters Rebecca (17 years old) and Mary (15 years old) as being born in North Carolina, but this brother William (12 years old) and sister Sarah (10 years old) are listed as being born in South Carolina. The youngest of the Robinson children Robert (5 years old) and Martha (2 years old) are listed as being born in North Carolina. Given the proximity between Union County and Lancaster District across the border from one another, it is not out of the question that the Robinson family might have moved a few times between the two locations in the 1850s. It should be noted that some problems do exist in the 1860 census listing for the Robinson family namely the age of James' mother Martha. In 1850 she is listed along with Robert as being 37 years old. The problem in 1860 is that while Robert is listed as 47 years old as one might expect, Martha remains 37 years old. If anything this is indicative of some of the problems with 19th century census records, while a wonderful resource they are not without flaw at times.

By 1861, James, now 21 years old, lived with is parents and siblings and worked as a farm laborer alongside his father (it is unclear if Robert remained a school teacher in North Carolina but his occupation on the 1860 census was both a farmer and a school teacher). James' mother Martha was also listed as a spinster, which she was not listed as in the 1850 census. In addition to the farm work, education seems to have been an important part of the Robinson family life (not surprising considering that Robert was a teacher). The five oldest Robinson children, including James, had all attended school within the past year according to the 1860 census, perhaps even having their father as their teacher, only the two youngest of the children had not attended school but that is due to their age. The Robinson household has a total of $600 in personal wealth, but the 1860 census does not suggest that Robert owned the land he worked as he had no amount of land value listed to his name.

Shortly after North Carolina seceded from the Union, James enlisted at Monroe, North Carolina in "The Waxhaw Jackson Guards" (eventually what became Company B of the 26th North Carolina) on June 5, 1861 as a private. His term of service was first for one year, but he later reenlisted for the duration of the war. James was present and accounted for until he was listed as absent "sick in hospital" during the March and April regimental muster roll. James may have seen action at the Battle of New Bern on March 14, 1862, but records are not clear as to when he actually entered the hospital (it should be noted that the overall health of the regiment shortly before and after the battle was not very good).

James continued to serve with Company B until he was captured on July 5, 1863 during the retreat of the Army of Northern Virginia from Gettysburg. He was confined first at Fort Delaware, Delaware before he was transferred to Point Lookout, Maryland around October 15, 1863. During this period it was not uncommon to see Confederate prisoners of war take an Oath of Allegiance and enlist in the United States service in return for their release from prison. Considering the conditions that had to be endured in Civil War prison camps this was an enticing offer. In fact, James himself accepted such an offer.

On January 25, 1864 he was released from Point Lookout after taking an Oath of Allegiance and joined Company D of the 1st Regiment United States Volunteer Infantry. News of his actions reached the 26th North Carolina shortly after. His service record from the period of January and February 1864 contains the following note "prisoner of war taken the Oath of Allegiance." But James was not long for Union service as he deserted on August 1, 1864 near Elizabeth City, North Carolina and soon returned to his former company and the 26th North Carolina on August 7, 1864(now located around Petersburg, Virginia). James' brief time in the Union Army seemed to be dismissed and almost forgotten as a note in his service record states that he "was absent without leave the first of March 1864 to Aug. 7th 1864." Another entry from November and December of 1864 in is service record seems to make light of his time in the Union Army as James was listed as absent "on furlough of indulgence. Absent without leave from 1 April to 19th Ju [ne] roll taken." It might be expected that many in his company and regiment grinned a bit over his "furlough of indulgence."

Less than a month after his return to the 26th North Carolina, James was slightly wounded in the right ankle at the Battle of Ream's Station on August 25, 1864. The action at Ream's Station was one of the high marks for the regiment during the war as they, with their division, routed the famed Union Second Corps under the command of Major General Winfield Scott Hancock.

James seems to have recovered quickly from his wound as he as promoted to Sergeant during the period of November and December 1864. This is a clear indication that his Union service was not held against him or his standing in the eyes of the officers and men of his company. He remained present and accounted for until February 1865. After this period it is unclear his actions for the rest of the war. It does not seem he was at the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, most likely he had deserted before then, but no record can verify this one way or the other. There was a James H. Robinson on the parole list at Appomattox, but he belonged to the 6th Alabama which was part of Battle's Brigade, Grimes' Division of the Confederate Second Corps, but it is clear this was not the same James H. Robinson who served with the 26th North Carolina.

Just like the end of James H. Robinson's service is murky so is his life after the war. Whereas he and his family were located in the 1850 and 1860 census, there is no record as of this time that has been found of them after the war. It is my hope that once I go back to Union County to finish research there I might be able to find more on James and his family and what became of them after the Civil War.


1850 United States Census via
1860 United States Census via
Muster Rolls of the 26th North Carolina North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina
Compiled Service Record of James H. Robinson via
North Carolina Troops 1861-1865: A Roster, Volume VII, Jordan and Manarin, 2004
Lee's Tar Heels: The Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade, Earl J. Hess, 2001

Friday, June 17, 2011

"We Were Indeed In The War" -The Formation of the 26th North Carolina

On May 20, 1861 the State of North Carolina seceded from the Union and men from across the state flocked to enlist in the newly forming companies and regiments throughout the state (some companies had even formed before the state officially left the Union). The men who eventually composed the ranks of the 26th North Carolina hailed primarily from the central and western portions of the state.

Counties From Which The 26th North Carolina
Were Formed in 1861

A: Ashe County B: Wilkes County C: Caldwell County D: Union County
E: Anson County F: Moore County G: Chatham County H: Wake County

Ten companies were formed from eight North Carolina counties (Caldwell and Chatham each provided two companies to the regiment). Six (Companies B, D, E, G, H, and K) of the ten companies of the 26th North Carolina called the central piedmont region of the state home while the remaining four (Companies A, C, F, and I) were from the western mountain region. The various companies first organized and enlisted for service in their respective home counties, it is here also where company officers were elected. Like other Confederate companies forming throughout the south early in the war, the men enlisting often gave their companies colorful nicknames and the companies of the 26th North Carolina were no different.

The companies that later formed the 26th North Carolina enlisted in the following order in 1861:

[I have included the location of where the company enlisted, along with the county, and future company designation in parentheses]

May 13 - The Moore Independents (Carthage, Moore County, later Company H)
May 17 - The Jeff Davis Mountaineers (Jefferson, Ashe County, later Company A)
May 28 - The Independent Guards (Cartersville, Chatham County, later Company E)
May 29 - The Wake Guards (Holly Springs, Wake County, later Company D)
June 5 - The Waxhaw Jackson Guards (Monroe, Union County, later Company B)
June 10 - The Chatham Boys (Matthews, Chatham County, later Company G)
June 12 - The Wilkes Volunteers (Wilkesboro, Wilkes County, later Company C)
July 1 - The Pee Dee Wildcats (Wadesboro, Anson County, later Company K)
July 15 - The Hibriten Guards (Lenior, Caldwell County, later Company F)
July 26 - The Caldwell Guards (Lenior, Caldwell County, later Company I)

During July and August of 1861 the various companies that became the 26th North Carolina began converging on the Camp of Instruction located at Camp Crabtree near Raleigh, North Carolina. It would be here that the newly enlisted recruits were introduced for the first time to military life and the process of turning them into soldiers began. The commander of the Camp of Instruction was Henry King Burgwyn, Jr. He was educated at the University of North Carolina and later at the Virginia Military Institute, and despite just being nineteen years old was every bit the professional soldier by training. Burgwyn was often noted for his proclivity for drill and discipline, which to many of the men who were independent by nature was quite a culture shock.

The first impressions of military life and of Burgwyn were described after the war by John R. Lane of Chatham County (Lane at the time was a Corporal in Company G, but eventually rose through the ranks to become Colonel of the 26th North Carolina less than two years after this incident). Lane wrote:

We took the train at Company Shops (now Burlington) for Raleigh; arriving at this place, the company marched out to Camp Crab Tree, a Camp of Instruction, and were assigned our position in camp a little after dark. On the next morning when we awoke, we saw sentinels at their posts and realized that we were indeed in the war. Immediately after roll call - but there was no roll call in our company - Major H.K. Burgwyn, commander of the Camp of Instruction, sent down to Captain W.S. McLean, demanding the reason for this failure to report his company.

Before the excitement occasioned by his message had subsided among the commissioned officers, an order came for a corporal and two men to report at once at headquarters. Captain McLean selected Corporal Lane, his lowest subaltern officer, and two of the most soldierly-looking men, S.S. Carter and W.G. Carter, to report to Major Burgwyn.

Accordingly, these three worthies appeared before the commandant, wondering whether they were going to be promoted, hanged, or shot. This was our first sight of the commanding officer, who appeared through young, to be a youth of authority, beautiful and handsome; the flash of his eye and the quickness of this movements betokened his bravery. At first sight I both feared and admired him. He gave us the following order: "Corporal, take these men and thoroughly police this camp; don't leave a watermelon rind or anything filthy in Camp."

This cheering order completely knocked the starch out of our shirts and helped greatly settle us down a soldier's life. The cleanliness of the camp was reported by the officer of the day as being perfect. You may be sure our officers reported the company promptly after that.

Both Burgwyn and Lane later served as Colonel of the 26th North Carolina, with Lane taking command of the regiment after Burgwyn was mortally wounded on July 1, 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg. Moments later Lane, himself, was grievously wounded, but later recovered and returned to command.

The other two men part of the detail were Samuel Sidney Carter, twenty-five years old, and William G. Carter, twenty years old, both from Chatham County (some evidence supports that these soldiers were brothers, but the census record is not conclusive). Samuel Carter remained in the regiment until he was appointed 3rd Lieutenant and transferred to Company A, 8th Battalion North Carolina Partisan Rangers on June 10, 1862. William Carter was wounded at Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862 and was promoted to Corporal in December of 1862. He was later wounded again, this time in the left shoulder, at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863 (one year to the day of his previous wound). Carter returned to duty in November-December of 1863 and a shortly thereafter was promoted to Sergeant. The last mention of his service according the the North Carolina Troop Roster is being present and accounted for through June 1864. He was reported absent with leave or absent sick from September-October 1864 through February 1865.

Of the four men mentioned in Lane's account, three of the four were wounded (with Burgwyn mortally) in the fighting on July 1 at Gettysburg.

After a few weeks of drill the ten companies were organized into a regiment and on August 27, officially became the Twenty-Sixth Regiment of North Carolina Troops and mustered into service. The men were allowed to elect their field officers and they selected Captain Zebulon B. Vance of the 14th North Carolina, a former United States Congressman from Buncombe County, as Colonel. With Vance, they elected Henry King Burgwyn, Jr. as Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain Abner B. Carmichael, from Company C, as Major.

The companies at the time were under the command of the following individuals:

Company A:Captain Andrew N. McMillan
Company B: Captain John J.C. Steele
Company C: Captain Alexander H. Horton
Company D: Captain Oscar R. Rand
Company E: Captain William S. Webster
Company F: Captain Nathaniel P. Rankin
Company G: Captain William S. McLean
Company H: Captain William H. Pinckney
Company I: Captain Wilson A. White
Company K: Captain James C. Carraway

Only a few days after they were officially mustered into service as the 26th North Carolina, the regiment was promptly ordered to the North Carolina coast in response to the fall of Hatteras Island to Union forces on August 28-29. The regiment was ordered to Bogue Island in Carteret County to help defend Fort Macon, located at the tip of the island, which guarded the approaches to the port of Beaufort. Leaving Raleigh by train on September 2, the 26th North Carolina traveled east down the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad towards Carteret County. After spending a few days at Morehead City, the regiment crossed Bogue Sound and established "Camp Burgwyn" (named in honor of Lieutenant Colonel Burgwyn's father) on September 7. This camp was located six miles away from Fort Macon. So would begin the service of the 26th North Carolina in the Civil War.


History of the Twenty-Sixth Regiment of the North Carolina Troops in the Great War 1861-1865 by George C. Underwood written in 1901 and reprinted by Broadfoot Publishing Company in 1999.

North Carolina Troops 1861-1865: A Roster Volume VII Infantry compiled by Weymouth T. Jordan, Jr. with unit histories by Louis H. Manarin first published in 1979 by North Carolina Office of Archives and History. I consulted the 2004 printing.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Welcome to Journeys With The Twenty-Sixth North Carolina Infantry

For the first post of this newly created blog I wanted to take a bit of time to tell a bit about myself, why I created this blog, and why I am writing my upcoming book The 26th North Carolina Infantry, 1861-1865: A Regimental History.

As for myself, I was born and raised in North Carolina and spent most of my life living in the eastern portion of the state. At the age of six on a trip with my family I would have an experience that ultimately changed my life and the direction it would take: I visited the battlefield at Gettysburg. From that point on I developed and cultivated a lifelong interest in the Civil War. Later, I attended East Carolina University (Go Pirates!) and after a few years of working in politics I decided to follow my true passion by moving to Gettysburg in 2008. In 2009, I formed Ten Roads Publishing along with my friend Jim Glessner. My first book Fight As Long As Possible: The Battle of Newport Barracks, North Carolina, February 2, 1864 was published in June of last year and for the past three years I have been working on the research for my book on the 26th North Carolina.

When I was researching and writing my first book I decided to create a blog for the purpose of creating a place online where I could post information on the Battle of Newport Barracks (The Newport Barracks). The end result of the blog was better than anything I could have imagined as individuals reached out to me with information they had (including a few descendants of soldiers engaged in the battle). Of course the time frame I was dealing with in my first book was much shorter than what I am dealing with now, but my hopes for the blog remain the same. I intend to use this blog as a means to describe the various places I have visited during the course of my research into the 26th North Carolina. The set up of each blog post will be fairly similar with a description of what occurred at the place featured, a few accounts from the men of the 26th North Carolina about what happened, modern photos of the site today (along with 19th century or early 20th century photos if they exist), and directions for those interested in visiting. Along with this I will feature updates on the progress of my book and other information that relates to the regiment such as profiles of members of the 26th North Carolina and their experiences during the war.

The 26th North Carolina is arguably one of the most well-known regiments that served from North Carolina during the war, and on either side for that matter. As a result quite a bit has already been written on the regiment. Two of the three men who served as colonel of the regiment have full length biographies written on them. Zebulon B. Vance has three notable biographies written on his life (Clement Dowd's Life of Zebulon B. Vance [1897], Glenn Tucker's Zeb Vance: Champion of Personal Freedom [1966], and Gordon B. McKinney's Zeb Vance: North Carolina's Civil War Governor and Guilded Age Political Leader [2004] ) and Henry King Burgwyn was the subject of 1985's Boy Colonel of the Confederacy by Archie K. Davis. The role the regiment played in the Gettysburg Campaign was covered in Rod Gragg's Covered With Glory (2000) and the brigade that the 26th North Carolina is most associated with (The Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade) was been chronicled by Earl J. Hess in his excellent book Lee's Tar Heels (2001). Even the story of the 26th North Carolina's regimental band has been told with A Johnny Reb Band from Salem (2006) by Harry H. Hall.

This begs the natural question why if so much has been written should another book on the regiment be written more less published. Well the answer to that is quite easy. Despite the volume of literature on the various aspects of the regiment's history and its leaders, there still remains one glaring omission: a full length regimental history. The closest we have to such a work was written by George W. Underwood with his History of the Twenty-Sixth Regiment of North Carolina Troops in the Great War, 1861-1865. Underwood served as the assistant surgeon of the regiment and later wrote this history of the 26th North Carolina in 1901. In more recent memory, David McGee has written a general history of the regiment's service based on his master's thesis which can be found here. While a good overview of the regiment's history, it would be difficult to list the work as a full length regimental history in the same vain as more recent works on Union and Confederate regiments.

So how is my book different than what has come before? For one the basis of my work is over 700 primary source documents (including as of June 2011, 642 letter and diary entries written by members of the 26th North Carolina). Along with this extensive foundation of primary source material, I have gleaned as much as possible from secondary sources which helps to add context to the words from the soldiers themselves. In addition to this, extensive field research has been conducted (the results will add much of the content to this blog). Finally, what I think will further help this book stand apart is the "Socio-Military Profile of the 26th North Carolina" that I am developing for this project. Using troop roster and census data, I am creating a database of sociological and military statistics that will give us a window into the lives of the men (and as far as we know one woman) of the 26th North Carolina as civilians and soliders.

I feel that a regimental history must be as much social history as it is military history, and that the two sides of that history go hand in hand. It is my desire that the final product of this book will meet that criteria by giving the reader insight into what life was like for the officers and enlisted men in the ranks, along with detailing the campaigns and battles in which the regiment was a part of, along with placing their lives and the events that impacted them within the context of their society and history.

Even though I am well into the research and writing phase, I am always interested in any letters/and or diaries from men of the 26th North Carolina or that pertain to them that may still reside in private collections or in the possession of families. Also of interest is any photographs or family history/traditions that involve men of the regiment. If you have any of this or know of someone who does please contact me via email at Any information used in the book will be given full credit and attribution.

The second post to the blog will discuss briefly the formation of the companies of the regiment and the counties in North Carolina where they were raised. The third post will focus on the role of the regiment on July 3, 1863 at Gettysburg.

With all that said the release date for this book will be June 2013, but in the meantime I hope you will enjoy following in the footsteps of the 26th North Carolina as much as I have. It has truly been a wonderful and humbling experience for this historian to do so.