from the Asheville Citizen-Times, Sunday, December 24, 1961
‘Roughs’ In Last Charge At Appomattox
George W. McCoy
broad-shouldered Rough and Ready Guards of Buncombe and their young
captain, Zebulon Baird Vance, started to war together in the Spring of
1861. Not many months passed, however, before their paths took different
directions – the Guardsmen to serve under Lee and Jackson in Virginia,
Vance to lead the people of North Carolina in an hour of supreme testing
is the story of the Rough and Ready Guards and of the captains who
in bold relief against the mountain skyline are two mental pictures of the
man who was to become the great Vance. The first is in his familiar role
as an eloquent, moving orator. The other is that of a solitary horseman,
paused in Beaucatcher Gap in the mountain that overlooks Asheville from
quoted is an excerpt from a speech made by Vance before an audience of
Union veterans in 1886 in Boston, Mass.
Fort Sumter was fired upon, immediately followed by Mr. Lincoln’s call
for ‘volunteers’ to suppress the insurrection, the whole situation was
changed instantly. The Union men had every prop knocked out from under
them, and by stress of their own position were plunged into the secession
movement. For myself, I will say that I was canvassing for the Union with
all my strength; I was addressing a large and excited crowd, large numbers
of whom were armed, and literally had my arm extended upward in pleading
for peace and the Union of our Fathers, when the telegraphic news was
announced of the firing on Sumter and the President’s call for 75,000
volunteers. When my hand came down from that impassioned gesticulation, it
fell slowly and sadly by the side of a Secessionist. I immediately, with
altered voice and manner, called upon the assembled multitude to volunteer
not to fight against but for South Carolina.
said, ‘If war must come I preferred to be with my own people. If we had
to shed blood I preferred to shed Northern rather than Southern blood. If
we had to slay I had rather slay strangers than my own kindred and
neighbors; and that it was better, whether right or wrong, that
communities and states should get together and face the horrors of war in
a body – sharing a common fate, rather than endure the unspeakable
calamities of internecine strife.’"
Vance, the young Congressman, had made his choice in that April, 1861
speech at Marshall in Madison County where the unfolding war years were to
bring the internecine strife he abhorred. The 30-year-old Asheville lawyer
and political leader had been a strong pleader for the Union and for
peace, though he, at the same time, voiced warnings against an attempt to
coerce the Southern states by force of arms.
was much excitement among the people when Vance returned that night from
Marshall to Asheville. The sword had been drawn and the people in big
majority were voicing their concern and strong opposition to the President’s
call for troops. A swift change in sentiment had been wrought in the
mountain community. There were exceptions, but generally there had been no
close affinity for the secession cause. Now there was determined support
for the move to raise troops to protect and defend the South. Asheville
was to be the stronghold of Southern sentiment in the North Carolina
mountains though a minority clung to their old views – they were for the
Union, come high water or the angry roar of cannon. A minor percentage was
to serve in the Union armies, including Col. George W. Kirk’s Third
North Carolina Mounted Infantry Regiment that participated in Stoneman’s
first company to leave Asheville for service in the Confederate cause was
the Buncombe Riflemen commanded by Capt. W. W. McDowell. After a colorful
and spirited farewell ceremony on April 18, 1861, the Riflemen marched out
of the mountains to win fame, as part of the First North Carolina Regiment
of Volunteers, at Bethel in Virginia on June 10, the first pitched battle
of the war.
second company to leave Asheville was the Rough and Ready Guards. The
members were recruited from the homes of Asheville and the county by Zeb
Vance in the Spring of ’61. The date of organization is listed as May 3.
Captain Vance’s older brother, Robert Brank Vance, who was to be a
Confederate brigadier general, described the scene as the Rough and Ready
Guards left Asheville for the Camp of instruction at Garysburg in
Northampton County by way of Morganton, Statesville and Raleigh:
day that the ‘Rough and Ready Guards’ left Asheville was a memorable
one. The streets were crowded with people, friends and admirers of the
company who had come to see the gallant boys turn their faces eastward.
The stirring notes of drums and fifes, the waving of flags, the thrilling
and patriotic echoes of ‘Dixie’, and shouts of the people and the
tears of the bystanders, as they looked on faces never, in all
probability, to be seen again on earth, made it indeed a scene long to be
the moving farewell ceremony, the "Roughs" (as they were often
called) moved down South Main Street (the present Biltmore Avenue) to the
Swannanoa River where they turned east via the flats of the north bank,
"followed for miles by weeping women and loving friends."
scene was one of contrast – the sadness of farewell amidst great natural
beauty. Along the Swannanoa the birch and other water-loving plants grew
out over the stream to form at places almost tunnel-like canopies through
which softly flowed the mountain-born waters of the rugged and great
Craggies – high mountains covered with virgin forests and known for
their beautiful laurels and rhododendrons. There many of the Guardsmen had
hunted and developed their keenness as riflemen in the natural deer parks
and black bearlands.
Vance in Clement Dowd’s "Life of Vance" said the Guards camped
the first night at West’s Old Field, "the rendezvous of the company
in the annual reunions of the survivors." (This place of post-war
rendezvous is on the north side of U.S. 70 in the cove where Bull Mountain
Road takes off up Haw Creek Valley and crosses the Great Craggies into
Reems Creek Valley. To the veterans, it was known as Camp Ray, the
property having been deeded in 1907 by Mark L. Reed, Sr., to "the J.
M. Ray Camp of United Confederate Veterans, Company K, Eleventh North
Carolina Volunteers, and Company F, Fourteenth North Carolina
Volunteers." At the time of conveyance, the land was known as Hall
Field and embraced "the Hall Spring and all contiguous land within
one-half mile in circumference from said spring.)
the men made camp for their first night out, Capt. Vance himself returned
to his home in Asheville. The next morning, on horseback, he rejoined the
company, riding through Beaucatcher Gap on the east side of the mountain
scene of Vance in Beaucatcher Gap was described by his brother:
Captain lingered long in the gap overlooking his home and city. In the
distance the French Broad rolled on with its rugged waters. Still further
away old Pisgah lifted its lofty peaks above the Hominies and Pigeon
rivers, and further still the Smoky range endeavored to rival Mount
Mitchell in its height and in its glory.
a deep sigh the Captain turned away from a sight so entrancing. It reminds
one of Boabdil, in the gap of the mountain overlooking the Alhambra and
fair Granada, which spot has since been known as ‘The Last Sigh of the
Moor.’ While not knowing, as did Boabdil, that he would never see his
home again, it was highly probable that he never would be so
were Captain Vance’s thoughts that beautiful May morning as he gazed
upon his home valley where mists rose from the rivers and entwined the
mountain tops? We do not know. He noted the beauty of the scene, of
course. He heard the songs and morning calls of the wild birds. His
thoughts, though, we may well conclude, were long and solemn. Maybe there
was a fleeting reflection on the gay aspects of life in the previous ten
years. Perhaps he recalled a letter he had written on Sept. 14, 1851, from
the State University at Chapel Hill to his cousin, John Mitchell Davidson:
Buncombe has been playing the devil, I suppose, in the way of Bloomer’s,
fancy balls, duels, fighting, elections, camp meetings, Southron company,
weddings, etc. I never heard the like in my life. I thought for a while
that everybody was killed, every body married, everybody elected,
everybody dancing in their shirt tails at fancy balls (which I suppose
would expose some fancy bands sure enough) and everybody converted at C.
meetings. I am missing all the fun. I reckon tho I am doing most as well
it was a time of tumult and conflict, of great gravity and danger. The
time for fun and gaiety had passed.
Captain Vance’s thoughts were the melancholy reflections of a soldier
leaving for battle. Distressed in spirit, he had made his choice to fight
for his own people and his and their homelands. A sensitive, eloquent man,
he had pleaded in the forum for peace and the Union. He was now taking the
patriot, he loved the Republic and the independence for which his
grandfather had fought at Kings Mountain and suffered with Washington at
Valley Forge. Now the years of the locust had come with a rushing, mighty
roar, ushering in, in the words of Zephaniah, "a day of wrath, a day
of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of
darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the
trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high
the quiet interlude passed (its poignancy remains in history’s memory),
Captain Vance turned his face to the morning sun and rode down the east
face of the mountain and through Haw Creek valley to rejoin his men at
their camp. There the Rough and Ready Guardsmen moved out, marching to the
cars at the end of the rails six miles east of Morganton. The rail ride
was brief, the men going into camp near Statesville where by May 18 they
received handsome new uniforms. The next day they boarded the cars for
Raleigh and then moved to Camp Hill near Garysburg in Northampton County.
In the camp of instruction there the Rough and Ready Guards became Company
F of the 14th Regiment of North Carolina Troops. The regiment
was organized early in June of 1861 under the command of Col. Junius
Daniel of Halifax County, an able and energetic officer. The regiment,
with men from the principal regions of the state, was representative of
the people of North Carolina and their fighting qualities. Besides
Buncombe, it consisted of companies from the counties of Halifax,
Davidson, Anson, Cleveland, Wake, Rockingham and Stanley.
June 11 (the day following the Battle of Bethel, where the Southern force
included the Buncombe Riflemen), the 14th Regiment moved by
rail into Virginia. Stationed first at Camp Bragg, Captain Vance, in a
letter dated June 19, told his wife in Asheville that they were camped two
miles from Suffolk and 26 miles from Newport News, where the enemy had
landed a large force. He described his company’s and the regiment’s
position as at a point commanding the junction of the Petersburg and
Norfolk and the Roanoke and Seaboard Railroads. For a time, too, the
regiment was at Camp Ellis on the edge of Suffolk.
summer was a quiet season for the officers and men, but it provided an
interval of opportunity for training that was to pay battle dividends in
the rigorous years ahead when, in the words of one of its later colonels,
Risden Tyler Bennett of Wadesboro, the regiment gained a reputation for
"unbroken constancy, patient submission to discipline, uniform valor
and good nature…"
the summer ended, Captain Vance, on September 20, was promoted to colonel
and transferred to command the 26th Regiment of North Carolina
Troops – a regiment that was to win renown at Gettysburg in 1863. Vance,
by then, was Governor of North Carolina. He and the Rough and Ready Guards
were in service together less than five months, but the bond of affection
between them was lasting and they have been remembered together in the war
history of North Carolina. When Mr. and Mrs. Vance opened their summer
home, Gombroon, in the North Fork section of Buncombe County in 1890,
surviving member of the old company were invited to hold their annual
reunion there to help celebrate the occasion. Vance himself was sometimes
called "Rough and Ready." Lt. Col. James M. Ray of Asheville
said that "I once heard him, when called upon for a speech simply as
‘Rough and Ready’ respond by saying ‘most awfully rough by scarcely
Vance as captain of the "Roughs" was his first lieutenant,
Philetus W. Roberts, later to be colonel of the regiment. Dr. J. S. T.
Baird, in his Reminiscences (1905), said that "Roberts was an able
young lawyer and was just entering upon a career which promised great
usefulness and success when the Civil War came up, in which he sacrificed
his life for his country. This writer succeeded him as clerk of the
Superior Court of Buncombe in 1853. I have never known a more scrupulously
honest and conscientious man in all my life."
Roberts was a son of Joshua Roberts and wife, Lucinda Patton Roberts.
Joshua Roberts was a lawyer, clerk of Buncombe County Superior Court,
register of deeds, and one of the founders (1840) and proprietors of The
Highland Messenger, Asheville’s first newspaper.
the Autumn of 1861 the regiment moved to Fort Bee in Isle of Wight County
on the James River west of Norfolk. It was inactive there during the
winter except for further training and preparation for the business ahead.
Monotony and boredom were relieved to an extent by religious services,
horse play and other fun and such games as checkers, chess, whist, euchre
the John Evans Brown Papers in the State Department of Archives and
History at Raleigh there is a Muster Roll of Company F prepared at Fort
Bee February 28, 1862. P. W. Roberts was then captain of the
"Roughs" and Junius Daniel was colonel of the 14th
regiment. The Roll, embracing the period from December 31, 1861, to
February 28, 1862, lists 96 officers and men:
P. W. Roberts, captain; E. W. Herndon, first lieutenant; J. M. Gudger,
second lieutenant; S. S. Brown, third lieutenant.
officers: Frank M. Harney, first sergeant; B. A. Merrimon, second
sergeant; Thomas D. Johnston, third sergeant; Thomas N. Stevens, fourth
sergeant; J. M. Whitmire, fifth sergeant; I. V. Baird, first corporal; A.
G. Haren, second corporal; W. B. Smith, third corporal; David M. Gudger,
James M. Alexander, William M. Bias, James Brittain, J. H. Brittain,
Joseph R. Broadstreet, Thomas B. Brooks, C. R. P. Byers, Peter Cauble, H.
W. Cauble, Thomas J. Candler, Charles Z. Candler, Elija Chambers, William
H. Clarke, Columbus Cooper, W. E. Darnold, H. K. Davis, A. W. Davis, J. R.
Deboard, L. A. Earwood, B. F. Fortune, James F. Fox, William C. Garrison,
J. P. Gaston, A. J. Green, J. M. Green, Thomas W. Goodlake, William M.
Gudger, Charles C. Gudger, John R. Harper, A. C. Hart, G. B. Helm, William
J. Jones, A. H. Jones, Thomas Leaverett, Thomas M. McFee, A. H. McFee, D.
W. McGalliard, J. C. Melton, J. M. Melton, E. H. Merrimon, B. W. Merrill,
G. W. Murray, Thomas W. Murrell, J. I. Miller, William Murphy, W. M.
Patton, Jacob E. Patton, S. E. Penland, G. N. Penland, J. C. Penland, D.
M. Phelts, J. H. Pless, W. H. Porter, J. G. Porter, John R. Petillo, D. H.
Reagan, James Rector, S. L. Rector, Alfred Rice, M. F. Stevens, James M.
Smith, A. P. Spence, Tisdale Stepp, Jesse Stepp, R. G. Souther, Thomas
Swann, Calvin Tabor, J. H. Walker, James M. Walton, A. F. Walton, J. C. F.
Weaver, W. W. Weaver, N. B. Westall, W. H. Webb, Gay M. Williams, Robert
Williams, Thomas B. Willson, J. H. Wise, John Wise, James J. White, George
M. White, Jesse C. Whittaker, Watson G. Young.
Muster Roll also lists three men, who enlisted May 3 in Asheville, as
discharged February 18, 1862: G. N. Patton "unable to perform
military service"; W. P. Craig and W. R. Powers, both by order of
General Huger "to go on board the Merrimac."
came the Spring of 1862. The snow and ice and bitter winds gave way
ironically to the soft mood of Nature, with its gentle winds and colors of
green and white, pink and yellow, that provided opportunities for men to
move by land and water to fight and to wound and to kill.
South, facing great odds, braced for the shock, while the North was
confident that Richmond would be captured and the war soon concluded.
General George B. McClellan aimed his army up the historic Peninsula
between the York and James Rivers. Doubt in Washington as to the soundness
and safety of his plan gained intensity when, on March 8, the Confederate
ironclad, Virginia, steamed into Hampton Roads and created havoc among the
wooden Federal ships and brought consternation to many officials in the
capital on the Potomac. The next day, though, the Virginia was opposed by
another ironclad, the Monitor. Their battle brought no apparent result,
but, overall, the effect was to neutralize the Virginia’s threat to the
Union fleet and to McClellan’s Peninsula campaign.
Confederate ironclad was formerly the 40-gun Federal frigate, the
Merrimac. In the spring of 1861, Union forces set fire to and sank several
war vessels in the Gosport Navy Yard on the Elizabeth River, Virginia,
before abandoning the place. In June the Confederates raised the Merrimac,
rebuilt it as an ironclad and renamed it the Virginia (though it is
usually known by its original name.)
and Buncombe had a particular as well as general interest in the fierce
fight between the Virginia and the Monitor. The Virginia’s crew included
Riley Powers and, presumably, W. P. Craig, both of Buncombe County.
Powers, said John Preston Arthur in his "Western North Carolina – A
History," saw the Virginia launched and he witnessed her destruction
by the Confederates themselves when Norfolk was evacuated, May 9, 1862.
14th Regiment was for a while engaged in the defense of
Yorktown when McClellan laid siege to it as he moved in ponderous fashion
up the Peninsula.
April 25-26, the Regiment was reorganized. Captain Roberts of Company F
(the Rough and Ready Guards) became its colonel as successor to Colonel
Daniel who was transferred to command the 45th North Carolina
Regiment. James M. Gudger of Asheville was promoted from first lieutenant
to captain of Company F. Of him Col. Bennett was to write years after the
Gudger…was fearfully wounded and entitled to a discharge on account of
the disability, but held on to his boys until the war was fought out.
There was no man in the army of the South of his rank who was more
reliable as an officer and soldier."
highly respected Colonel Roberts was to lead his Regiment but a short
time. He commanded it as it participated in the Battle of Williamsburg,
May 5, where "every man behaved admirably." Then came the big
Battle of Seven Pines, or Fair Oaks, May 31-June 1, along the Chickahominy
River, six miles east of Richmond. The sluggish little stream was bordered
by swamps. Col. Roberts became ill, taking to his bed with a malignant
fever. He died in Richmond July 5. Col.. Bennett, in an eloquent tribute
to him in his 19th century prose, wrote:
by a deep sense of loyalty to my friend, Philetus Walcott Roberts, I pause
to pay tribute to the assemblage of qualities which adorned his life and
made him the admiration of neighbors. A lawyer by profession, he entered
the military service of the Confederate States as lieutenant of the Rough
and Ready Guards which Zebulon B. Vance commanded until his promotion to
the colonelcy of the 26th N. C. Troops.
admirable virtues of Mr. Roberts found surety in his promotion to the head
of the company in which position he showed the qualities of a virtuous
commandant endowed with every gift essential to success. At the
reorganization of his company and regiment (the 14th N. C.) he
was promoted to the headship of the regiment while James M. Gudger, ‘the
quaint and judicious,’ cast his lot with the neighbor boys and stripped
to the girdle for the conflict.
Roberts carried his family life into the barracks at Fort Bee. A constant
student of Hardee’s Tactics, with faculties of a highly receptive turn,
he was an ornament to his promotion, a Christian in his walk, example and
service without guile…Cantoned along the Chickahominy River the dear man
was seized with a malignant fever indigenous to those parts…Col. Roberts
was carried to Richmond. The chamber where he met his fate witnessed a
delicacy and refinement of manner which impressed all who hung upon his
words. The privilege of the conflict which shook the arsenal and
fulminated Greece was denied him. He passed with sword and buckler in
Col. Roberts’ survivors was a daughter. He and his wife had named her
Bethel because she was born June 10, 1861, the day of the Battle of
Bethel. Bethel Roberts became Mrs. E. S. Clayton of Asheville.
loss of an able field officer of the 14th Regiment was the
assistant quartermaster, William Caleb Brown, law partner of Zeb Vance
before the war. He had marched with Vance when the Rough and Ready Guards
moved out from Asheville in the Spring of ’61. Captain Brown also
contracted disease in the dreary swamps of the Chickahominy and died in
Richmond July 6. Also in the Guards had been the captain’s younger
brother, Samuel Smith Brown, who was third lieutenant of the company when
he died February 18, 1862, at Fort Bee, Va. The Browns who died in service
were brothers of John Evans Brown of Buncombe, who, after success as a
Forty-Niner in California’s gold fields, migrated first to Australia and
then to New Zealand where he raised sheep on an extensive scale, was
elected to Parliament and was a distinguished Minister of Education.
Returning to Asheville after an absence of 30 years, he built a home atop
Beaucatcher Mountain and named it Zealandia.
Col. Roberts was stricken, the temporary acting head of the regiment was
Capt. William A. Johnston of Halifax County, commanding officer of Company
A. He led the regiment in the Seven Days battles about Richmond ending
July 1 at bloody Malvern Hill. It was in Anderson’s brigade of D. H.
Hill’s division. The brigade suffered severely in the attack and
Anderson was wounded.
the casualties was Second Lieut. Thomas Dillard Johnston of Company F, who
was critically wounded. His father, William Johnston of Asheville, went to
Richmond and brought his son home (a brick residence at the corner of
Church Street and Patton Avenue on the site later occupied by the Drhumor
or Wachovia Bank and Trust Co. Building).
Johnston, a native of Waynesville in Haywood County, had just obtained his
law license when he enlisted in the Rough and Ready Guards in the Spring
of ’61. He earned promotion to sergeant and to second lieutenant. After
his recovery from his wounds, he returned to the army and served as
quartermaster to Col. W. C. Walker’s battalion and Capt. J. T. Levy’s
battery of artillery, gaining the rank of captain. After the war he served
as mayor of Asheville, in the Legislature and in the U. S. Congress. In
1888 he was the donor of the site for the Federal Building and Post Office
in what is now Asheville’s Prichard Park. He was known for his integrity
and benefactions, aiding in the education of a number of young men.
touching incident of William Johnston’s trip to Richmond to bring home
his wounded son was the plea of Wesley Hicks, Negro, who was ill, that he
be brought home, too. Hicks, who went out as soldier Johnson’s body
servant, became the Rough and Ready Guards’ cook and forager. The elder
Johnston, moved by his plea, brought him home, too, and he was carefully
nursed back to health in the Johnston home. Hicks was among those present
when the Rough and Ready Guards held their reunion in 1890 at Senator and
Mrs. Vance’s Gombroon and all present had their picture made together.
Malvern Hill, the 14th Regiment welcomed its new and third
regular colonel: Risden Tyler Bennett of Wadesboro, Anson County. He
received his colonel’s commission July 5. Of him, Brig.-Gen. William R.
Cox wrote years later: he "was of imposing presence, strong
individuality, and an able commander. His voice was clear and sonorous and
there was no mistaking or disobeying his commands."
Summer of ’62 were days of high tide for the Confederacy. There was hope
for success for the new nation when General Lee gathered his forces and
moved northward in August, aiming for Pennsylvania. Assigned to watch
General McDowell’s corps at Fredericksburg, the 14th Regiment
took no part in the second battle of Manassas August 30, but it was with
Lee’s force when, close to Washington, it crossed the Potomac into
Maryland September 5 and reached Frederick. Anxiety afflicted Washington,
with McClellan assigned to stop the Army of Northern Virginia under Lee,
Jackson and Longstreet.
Frederick, Lee moved west, intending to reach Pennsylvania via the valley
route west of South Mountain. Boldly dividing his army, he sent Jackson to
capture the garrisons at Harper’s Ferry and Martinsburg to assure his
line of supply through Shenandoah Valley. Jackson was then to rejoin Lee
at Boonsboro at the western base of South Mountain.
Jackson away and Longstreet moving to Hagerstown, the gaps through South
Mountain were not heavily guarded as McClellan moved up. Lee sent D. H.
Hill’s North Carolina division from Boonsboro to the gaps. This
relatively small force (that included the 14th Regiment in
Anderson’s Brigade) performed a remarkable feat in delaying for a day
nearly half of McClellan’s army. This tough resistance on Sept. 14
enabled Lee to consolidate his forces for battle. (The Rough and Ready
Guards doubtless found the hill and valley country more to their liking, a
relief from the flats and swamps of the Peninsula.)
night of September 14 Lee’s forces moved to the west of Antietam Creek
and formed a line along the low hills in and near Sharpsburg. There Lee
awaited the slow McClellan as his large army moved through the passes.
battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam), described as the bloodiest single day’s
fighting of the war, caused the 14th Regiment to suffer its
"first great baptism of blood." Its position (with Anderson’s
Brigade and D. H. Hill’s division) was in the center along a sunken road
that was to be known ever after as the Bloody Lane. This road, along the
"reverse slope of a long ridge," was the scene of terrible
fighting and the mortality rate was high. One of the Federals’
assaulting columns was Meagher’s New York Brigade that was to win
distinction for its charge at Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg. At the
Bloody Lane, this brigade charged and, after a desperate encounter with
Anderson’s North Carolina Brigade – the fighting was at 30 paces apart
– was obliged to withdraw.
long hours, Union troops gained a lodgment to the right of the brigade’s
line where they enfiladed the sunken road, forcing the Confederates to
retire. Col. Bennett, in command of the brigade after General Anderson was
wounded fatally, managed to extricate his men from a difficult situation
and they passed some distance to the Federal front and left. Col. E. A.
Osborne, in his account of the history of the Fourth Regiment, relates
that Colonel Bennett, "finding a piece of artillery which had been
abandoned…manned it and opened fire upon the enemy’s line." The
men who manned the gun were Lieutenant Frank M. Harney of Company F,
Buncombe; Capt. Thomas B. Beal and Sgt. P. D. Weaver of Company I,
Davidson County, all of the 14th Regiment.
Clark, writing of Sharpsburg, said "Anderson’s brigade had made the
name of the ‘Bloody Lane’ forever famous. Its position thrust out in
front resembled that of the ‘Bloody Angle’ at Spottsylvania later. It
was overwhelmed by Richardson’s division…It’s loss was great, but
the fame of its deeds that day will abide with North Carolina
redoubtable Col. Bennett, writing years later of the great battle, said:
was in her most peaceful mood; the Autumn sun without caprice. It would be
difficult for any true soldier to name a day in his battle experiences
which he enjoyed more than the day at Sharpsburg. It was splendid."
the point of view of a great spectacle, it was. The Colonel’s zeal and
ardor expressed the excitement of battle, the elan of Confederate officers
and soldiers. The years may have drawn a veil over the Colonel’s memory
of Sharpsburg as a day of gehenna in the fields and on the slopes along
Antietam Creek. It was a day of great and awful violence, a day of carnage
as well as a day of great bravery and valor among the troops of both
day after the battle Lee remained in position. Then, at night, he moved
back into Virginia. He had repulsed McClellan’s much larger army, but
there was no invasion of Pennsylvania that Autumn.
General Anderson’s death, Col. Bryan Grimes of the Fourth North Carolina
regiment was in charge of the brigade until February 1863, when it came
under the command of Brig.-Gen. Stephen D. Ramseur, an able and
distinguished officer under whose leadership it reached still greater
heights of efficiency and achievement. The ranks were refilled between
Sharpsburg and the first battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862. The
14th Regiment (and the brigade) took part in the latter battle
too, but the role played was one of support on the right side of the line
and casualties were few.
the trying winter of 1862-63, the 14th Regiment was in camp and
did picket duty along the frozen Rappahannock. With the coming of the
Spring of ’63 the spirit and confidence of the men were high.
came orders for Stonewall Jackson’s corps – the divisions of A. P.
Hill, of D. H. Hill commanded by Robert Emmett Rodes, and of Trimble,
commanded by Colston – to march swiftly from Fredericksburg to
Chancellorsville. Leading that march was the 14th North
Carolina Regiment under Col. Bennett. There was pride among the men in
being chosen to set the marching pace of a corps known for its swift
came to Southern arms in the battle of Chancellorsville, May 1-4, through
the brilliantly conceived and executed flank attack by Jackson on General
Hooker’s right. Jackson’s three divisions began their flanking march
early on the morning of May 2, traveling along country roads through
heavily wooded land. Advancing at a swinging pace, by 5 p.m. they were in
battle formation, with Rodes’ division, which included Ramseur’s
brigade of the Second, Fourth, 14th, and 30th North
Carolina regiments, in front. Colston was next in line and A. H. Hill
a rush and rebel yells, the Southern force advanced through tangled vines
and undergrowth and under great trees – the observant Bennett noted a
turkey-gobbler rise in distracted flight – and hit the Federal 11th
Corps under Howard, forcing it into retreat. That night, in the hour of
victory, Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded. It was a loss beyond
the Rough and Ready Guards played a stout part in the march and the attack
is evident from a letter written May 8, 1863, by their Capt. James M.
Gudger to the Rev. W. T. Atkin, publisher of The Asheville News:
Sir: For the satisfaction of the friends of my company, you are very
respectfully asked by the Company to give a place in your journal to the
appended list of casualties in the R. and R. G.’s during the battle of
Chancellorsville on May 3rd, 1863. It is known that on the 3rd
of May 1861, the Roughs, one hundred strong, left the streets of our
beautiful little village to meet the enemy, and on the day of our second
anniversary we were drawn up in line numbering twenty-four war tried men.
Sergt. W. H. Porter
First Lieut. F. M. Harney, slightly in thigh; 2nd Lieut. G. W.
Murray, slightly in thigh; 3rd Lieut. G. W. Williams, severely
in temple; Sergt. J. M. Whitmire, slightly in leg; Corp. M. M. Murphy,
slightly in hip.
C. Cooper, severely in leg; (R.?) Freeman (Montgomery County?), thigh shot
off; A. P. Green, slightly in head; Wm. Patton, severely in leg; Z. Poe,
slightly in arm; T. B. Wilson, arm off at shoulder; J. J. White, slightly
in arm and side; Robt. Williams, severely in leg.
one, wounded 13, total 14.
will not here enumerate the many scenes through which we were called upon
to pass, nor is it necessary to say that the Roughs stood well. Let the
list above speak for them. I cannot forbear, however, to remark that I am
proud of being at the head of such a company. I think a more gallant
regiment than the 14th never fired a gun, and a more gallant
company is not in it than the Roughs. Not a man flinched, though we were
exposed for two hours and fifteen minutes to the most galling of fires
from a heavy battery and in line of musketry. We have driven ‘Fighting
Joe’ back and sent him over the river whence he came, but in doing so we
regret the loss of our Stonewall and A. P. Hill, both wounded. I would
give you the incidents so far as they fell under my limited observations,
but presuming you will get them from a clearer head, I have the honor to
be your humble servant.
– It is due Lieuts. Harney and Murray and Sergt. Whitmire to say that
they remained on the field despite the earnest entreaty of their captain
to retire. Many a soldier will see home and friends whose wounds are no
worse than these three men still on duty."
June 3, a month after Chancellorsville, the patched-up "Roughs"
were again on the move, marching, with the regiment, from the Rappahannock
northward in Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania. Again the regiment had the
honor of spearheading the advance of Jackson’s old Second Corps under
Ewell. It was the leading regiment on foot to enter Martinsburg, W. Va.,
though Jenkins’ cavalry had gone ahead a bit.
Bennett described "stirring scenes" as he and the regiment
entered Martinsburg. On horseback, he was suddenly confronted by a young
woman who seized the reins and told him of the oppression endured by the
citizens. A Dutch woman, in another scene, drew a paddling stick on Capt.
John C. Gorman of the Second Regiment’s Company B, from Wilson County,
declaring that "you eats up everything; the Union soldiers fetch in
something and you scoundrels wastes it." The brawny woman had the
captain in a quandary, but resourceful Lt. Harney, of the
"Roughs" of Buncombe, was equal to the occasion. The lieutenant,
who had helped in handling the artillery piece at a critical moment at
Sharpsburg, "told the woman, with affected severity, if she did not
behave herself, he would pull every hair out of her head." The words
had their effect; Capt. Gorman was "rescued."
Martinsburg, the 14th Regiment pushed on to wade the Potomac
and to wait at Williamsport while troops in the rear closed up. Glenn
Tucker, in his book, "High Tide at Gettysburg," credits
"Buncombe County’s hard-hitting Rough and Ready Guards" with
being the first to cross the Potomac in this invasion of the North.
Williamsport, the 14th Regiment, as part of Ramseur’s brigade
of Rodes’ division, marched on to Hagerstown and as far north as
Carlisle, 20 miles from Harrisburg. William L. Saunders of North Carolina,
in an historical sketch, noted that, when many of the men of North
Carolina followed Lee into Maryland and Pennsylvania, they traveled the
Shenandoah and Cumberland Valleys, the route taken by their ancestors in
migrating south a century or more before.
Carlisle, the regiment, with Rodes’ division, moved back for the
concentration of Lee’s forces and the unplanned meeting of two great
armies at Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863. The division reached the battlefield
about 2 p.m. on July 1, a hot sultry day. Ewell, on their arrival, threw
the divisions of Rodes and Early against the flank of Howard’s 11th
Corps and drove it into and through the town. This was the same Federal
corps that Rodes’ division hit in the big flanking movement at
14th Regiment, with the other three regiments of Ramseur’s
brigade, found, upon reaching the battlefield in the march from Carlisle,
that Federal troops were behind a strong stone wall. It was against these
that the brigade charged, drove out its enemy and captured many prisoners.
The Federals in Ramseur’s front, it appeared, could reach Gettysburg
only along an unfinished railroad or the Cashtown Pike. Ramseur ordered up
a battery which shelled the Federals as they retreated along the rail
line. Said Col. Bennett: "I could almost hear their bones crunch
under the shot and shell." They were pursued into Gettysburg itself
by Ramseur’s men.
sharpshooters of the 14th Regiment, in this pursuit, were under
the command of the courageous Lt. Harney of the "Roughs." Col.
Bennett reported that the lieutenant himself captured with his own hand
the colors of the 68th Michigan Regiment and sent the flag to
President Davis with his last breath. The lieutenant was mortally wounded
in the abdomen.
first day of the battle gave the 14th Regiment its opportunity
and it took advantage of it. The brigade was with Rodes when his division
occupied Oak Hill after breaking the Union line. On the second day the
regiment moved out and occupied a road leading south of the town. There it
was exposed to sharpshooters and suffered casualties. The wounded included
this second day, the brigade was in the advance to the stone wall on
Cemetery Hill (as distinguished from Cemetery Ridge, the object of the
great assault on the third day). Breaking an infantry line, the
Southerners got in among the Northern guns on the hill. Ramseur asked to
be permitted to push ahead and secure the position. However, it was
getting dark, a Union brigade came up and Ramseur was ordered to fall back
from a position of great tactical value.
the third day – that of the Pickett-Pettigrew charge – the Ramseur and
Doles brigades were at the far left of the Confederate position, having
been assigned to hold Gettysburg, and did not see any major action.
Lee’s army retreated through Maryland into Virginia, the 14th
was in no major action the rest of the year, though at Raccoon Ford on the
Rapidan it was seriously pressed by Meade’s forces. In winter quarters
south of the Rapidan, the regiment engaged in timber cutting for plank
roads. Under the direction of regimental chaplain W. C. Power, volunteers
built a chapel of slabs set upright and covered with planks. Known as the
"House in the Woods," it was consecrated on a Sunday. The tedium
of life in winter quarters was broken by prayer services, snow-ball
fights, weapon polishing and picket duty. The 14th regiment
escaped the contagion of the serious number of army desertions the winter
of 1863-64 and, in fact, was called upon to aid in checking defections.
the spring, Governor Vance visited the Army of Northern Virginia, made
hopeful, spirited speeches, and on one occasion he was the dinner guest of
his old regiment, the 14th. Warmly affectionate were the
greetings of Vance and his old "Roughs."
Grant took command of Union forces on March 9, 1864, the nature of the war
in Virginia changed to a ruthless pounding aimed at attrition of Lee’s
army. In the gloomy Wilderness, May 5-7, Grant, finding he could not go
through the Southern army, decided on sidling, flanking movements to the
left. In this battle, the "Roughs" took part in the regiment’s
and brigade’s long, fast march to hit Burnside’s troops and save
Humphrey’s Mississippi brigade from encirclement.
Spottsylvania, May 12, a memorable day, Ramseur’s brigade advanced,
driving the blue-clad soldiers from a first line of breastworks and then
rushing to a second, stronger line. When the 14th regiment, on
the left, reached the near side of the works, the situation of its
fellow-regiment, the 30th North Carolina, on the right, became
grave. Going to the rescue the 14th drove into traverses and
ousted the Federals at the point of the bayonet.
Bennett reported that, when his regiment was rushing the second line of
works, Tisdale Stepp of Buncombe’s "Roughs" was in the front
rank singing "The Bonnie Blue Flag" when he was shot and killed
"by an awkward soldier in our rear ranks." In the fighting on
this day Capt. Gudger of the "Roughs" was wounded.
Ramseur became a major general after Spottsylvania, the brigade welcomed
its third and last commander, the valiant Brig-Gen. William R. Cox of
Raleigh. It later became known as the Anderson-Ramseur-Cox brigade,
consisting of the Second, Fourth, 14th, and 30th
North Carolina regiments until May 12, 1864, when the remnants of the
First and Third regiments were transferred to it from George H. Steuart’s
taking part in driving back Grant’s assaulting columns at bloody Cold
Harbor, June 1-3, the 14th regiment, with the brigade, was
transferred to the Shenandoah Valley where General David Hunter’s large
force threatened Lynchburg. In early July, General Jubal A. Early with
part of Lee’s Second Corps moved down the Valley for a march toward
Washington. Cox’s brigade was among Early’s units crossing the Potomac
above Harper’s Ferry and it made the nearest approach to the Federal
capital in that famous threat.
the Battle of Winchester September 19, when Early was pushed back up the
Valley, the 14th regiment fought spiritedly. In pursuing a
Federal force, it entered a wood in front of a battery and a division.
Without support, the regiment was forced into retreat. Among the prisoners
taken by the Federal troops were the regiment’s commanding officer, Col.
Bennett, and Second Lieutenant Gay M. Williams of the Rough and Ready
October 19 at Cedar Creek, where Sheridan’s army was in camp and the
general was returning from Washington, Early’s army attacked at dawn,
surprised and routed the Federals. In the afternoon, however, Sheridan
completed his famous ride from Winchester and reversed the disaster,
bringing to an end the last of the great Valley campaigns. Participating
in the fighting at Cedar Creek was Cox’s brigade, including the 14th
December 3, 1864, Cox’s brigade moved to Petersburg where the men served
in the trenches during months’ long siege. In the retreat, after the
evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, the brigade fought rear-guard
actions, the 14th regiment being under the acting command of
Lt-Col. William A. Johnston until he was wounded and disabled.
weary army was hard pressed. On Thursday, April 6, Ewell’s Corps was
broken up when it was assaulted from three sides. Only two corps were
left, those of Lt.-Gen. John B. Gordon and Lt.-Gen. James Longstreet. On
Friday, with the wagon trains stalled at Sailor’s Creek and the army in
confusion, Cox’s brigade of Grimes’ division of Gordon’s corps
emerged from the cover of woods and went into action. Zeb Vance, in an
address, later described the situation:
the retreat from Petersburg to that memorable spot which witnessed the
final scenes of that once splendid army of Northern Virginia, when
everything was in the utmost confusion, the soldiers struggling hopelessly
along, thousands deliberately leaving for their homes, and the
demoralization increasing every moment, and the flushed and swarming enemy
pursuing them closely, a stand was made to save the trains upon which all
artillery was placed in position, and General Lee, sitting on his horse on
a commanding knoll, sent his staff to rally the stragglers, mixed in
helpless, inextricable confusion behind a certain line, when presently an
orderly column comes into view, a small but entire brigade, its commander
at its head, files promptly along its appointed position. A smile of
momentary joy passed over the distressed features of the general as he
calls out to an aide, ‘What troops are those?’ ‘Cox’s North
Carolina brigade,’ was the reply. Then it was that taking off his hat
and bowing his head with goodly courtesy and kindly feeling he said: ‘God
bless gallant old North Carolina!’"
was pride in Vance’s voice as he related the story. In Cox’s brigade
was the 14th regiment and his own Rough and Ready Guards, or
rather, their remnant. The brigade, with order and promptness, had
hastened to the rescue. The artillery and infantry fire, and with night
coming on caused a temporary discontinuance of the pursuit.
the night of April 8, the Cox brigade was at Appomattox. Just before
daybreak, Grimes’ division moved forward by brigades. At the front and
on the right were infantry and cavalry of the Federal army. Cox’s
brigade, still contesting the field, retired slowly while the blue-clad
veteran troops hastened their advance.
his regiments about, Cox ordered a double-quick charge to the crest of a
hill. There, giving the rebel yell, the brigade fired on the advancing and
encircling Federals and then withdrew. As the brigade passed by General
Gordon, he exclaimed: "Grandly and gloriously done."
is recorded as the last charge and the last shots of the Army of Northern
Virginia, providing the basis for North Carolina’s proud boast that it
was "last at Appomattox."
that day, April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered to Grant. The last volley had
been fired as the war moved swiftly to its conclusion. Four years of war
that began in April ended in April, in the springtime when soft breezes
blew over and gentle flowers grew on Virginia’s crimson fields.
parole list at Appomattox shows there weren’t many men left in Cox’s
brigade – 61 officers and 518 men, just a little more than enough to
make up half a regular sized regiment. The 14th regiment itself
had seven field officers and 107 men, while its Company F, the Rough and
Ready Guards of Buncombe, was reduced to seven. As published in Vol. 5 of
Clark’s Histories of North Carolina regiments, the seven were: Second
Lieutenant W. M. Gudger; Third Sergeant John H. Walker; Privates James T.
Bird, Columbus Cooper, Ezekiel Campbell, Lemuel Jones, and John R. Patillo.
remnants of a great army returned home. But the "day of wrath"
was not ended. The years of the locust were still upon the Southern land.
Though the guns were stilled at Appomattox, the returning soldiers faced
years "of trouble and distress."
of Second Lieutenant William McRee Gudger.
Lt. Gudger was one of the remaining seven
soldiers of Company F who were present at Appomattox.