Recently, at the NC Civil War Sesquicentennial Memory symposium, I presented a paper on the unveiling of the North Carolina Appomattox monument. My paper explored Reunion over the concept of valor between North and South but division over valor between southern states. Positive feedback from the presentation made me return to sources to see if I could not expand the presentation and submit it for peer-review publication. My research turned up mention of a man named Dixon who was associated somehow with NC Governor Robert Glenn, the Appomattox Monument Commission or possibly the early NC Historical Commission/ Hall of History.
I remembered seeing his name mentioned in a newspaper article from March 1905 (just prior to when the monument was dedicated). The article also fit into the valor angle – a return of an item from a Union soldier back to the Southern state. I knew captured battle flags were returned at this time (1905 = 40 year anniversary) but this story was about a new testament and its’ return. I found the story and it had lots of incredible information – including transcriptions of the writings in the testament(A, B). The newspaper story related how the testament was presented to the CSA soldier – naming soldier by initials and last name only and the presenter, chaplain of the company, by last name only (H.A. Sledge and chaplain McKinnon). Mr. J. E. Reid, former member of the 115th New York Volunteers, stated he received the testament on January 16th, 1865 from a drummer boy who must have picked it up from a wounded or dead soldier (as there were blood stains on the testament). The inscription indicated that the chaplain gave Sledge the testament on October 9th, 1864. A Dr. Dixon was given the job by Governor Glenn to locate information on the soldier.
I contacted my coworker Ansley who has written a history of our agency. Did early Archives and History have a Dr. Dixon? No, she replied. But a few minutes later she sent another email – there was, however, a Benjamin F. Dixon, who was State Auditor in 1905. It fit – the State Auditor monitored the Confederate pensions and would have access and be familiar with rosters and muster rolls of North Carolina soldiers.
According to the newspaper article Dixon was only able to suggest the soldier was a Herbert A. Sledge. He could not locate a chaplain with that surname. I launched into electronic databases available at the State Library. Herbert A. Sledge was only 18 when he joined the 36th NCST (2nd Artillery) in August 4th, 1862. He came from Halifax County. In 1860 he was with his parents (H.A. and Lizzie Sledge) and was 16 – a good fit. His service records indicated he was captured at Fort Fisher on January 15th, 1865 and sent to Point Lookout MD on January 22nd. He was released on oath of allegiance in June 1865. The 2nd Artillery records also revealed three men named McKinnon in the unit; only one – Luther (whose record was listed as McKinon) – was listed as a chaplain. Score two for new technology. I checked our guide to private collections but did not see any holdings for Sledge or Reid. RATS.
My thoughts were along these lines when my coworker Mary came into my office and asked if I had seen Antiques Road Show last night. I had not but she went on to explain it featured a Civil War Bible. My heart started thumping and I could hardly wait for her to finish her tale and for me to launch into mine. My boss joined us and I had no sooner finished saying I had checked but we did not have it than they both smiled at me. Bibles, the actual whole Bible, are indexed separately in a finding aid not included in our catalogs or printed private collections aid (which I knew but had overlooked). A quick check, and viola, there was the Sledge Bible in our miscellaneous collection. I quickly retrieved the item and we were all enthralled to be holding something captured at Fort Fisher on January 15th, 1865.
When had we accessioned the item? And would that accession record tell us more about the testament? Stay tuned for part two…