[This blog post comes from Military Collection Archivist, Kenrick N. Simpson.]
The Military Collection of the North Carolina State Archives has recently received a small but important collection of Civil War letters, the majority of which were written by soldiers of Company E of the Twenty-sixth North Carolina State Troops. The Twenty-sixth Regiment is one of the better-known Confederate units from North Carolina. Its first commander, Col. Zebulon Baird Vance, resigned to accept the office of governor in August 1862. Vance was succeeded by young Henry King Burgwyn Jr., known to history as the “boy colonel.” The regiment was practically annihilated during the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863. The men of Company E hailed from Chatham County in the North Carolina Piedmont, and the letters in the Society for the Historical Preservation of the 26th North Carolina Regiment Collection* were written to Richard E. Paschal, sheriff of the county. The principal correspondents are Capt. Stephen W. Brewer (13 letters) and Corp. William W. Edwards (12). Other writers include Lt. William J. Headen, Lt. William J. Lambert, Sgt. James M. Brooks, and privates Isaac N. Edwards, John W. Ellis, Willis Jones, Everet C. Page, and Noah R. Sanders. The letters contain detailed accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Battle of Bristoe Station (criticizing the performance of Gen. Henry Heth), the Battle of the Crater, and the fighting around Petersburg in the summer and fall of 1864. The health of members of the company, conditions in Chatham County, and the 1862 election for sheriff are common topics of correspondence. The collection also includes a bill of goods from a merchant at Camp Branch to Captain Brewer, March 5, 1862; a return of provisions, Capt. M. H. Peoples, Company K, 7th Regiment, North Carolina State Troops, January 31, 1862; and an undated pamphlet titled, “An Official Guide of the Confederate Government.” The collection was donated to the State Archives by Locke W. “Skip” Smith Jr. of Lenoir, commander of the Twenty-sixth North Carolina Regiment, Reactivated, an extremely active Civil War reenactment group. The collection was originally presented to the North Carolina Museum of History. Joe Porter and Lauren Ossi of the museum staff arranged for its donation to the State Archives. Nicole Mallia, a summer volunteer in the Military Collection, abstracted all thirty-eight letters in the collection and fully transcribed those of particular historical interest.
[*The collection name has been changed since the blog post was published.]