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.

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.

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