"Black and Muddy as Hogs:" the 4th North Carolina Infantry during the Overland Campaign, May 1864

By Jeff Felton

 

By combining photographic evidence and ordnance, quartermaster records, and descriptions by the men themselves, it is purposed that this article will provide a guideline to what the 4th Regiment of North Carolina Troops were wearing, eating, and equipped with during the Overland Campaign of May 1864, and in particular, the bloody Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Va. As always, our intention is to provide you with the evidence to form your own conclusions in developing your impression.

 

GENERAL GUIDELINES

Jacket

  • Richmond Depot II or III of English Army Cloth
  • or North Carolina Depot Jacket of Domestic Cloth
    • Note on buttons: NC buttons are among the most commonly found southern state buttons. The "state seal" version (shown here) was made in brass or copper, and was sometimes poorly gilded or silver washed, so any plating quickly wore off. The NC "sunburst" buttons were not made from brass like many reproductions; rather, they were stamped from sheet copper (shown here) and were likewise sometimes poorly plated. S&S Sutler carries a wide variety of accurate NC buttons. Additional examples of originals.

Trousers

  • CS Pattern Trousers of Jeans or Kersey

Shirts

  • Civilian styles or English imports

Shoes

  • English imports, Federal, or Confederate

Headwear

  • Slouch hats, or caps of English Army Cloth

Baggage

  • Haversacks – Federal or Confederate
  • Canteens – Predominately Federal Smoothside or Bullesye, with some Confederate styles
  • Knapsacks – Federal or CS Patterns appropriate for 1864
  • or Blanket Rolls – English Army “NC” Blanket, Federal, Confederate, or Civilian styles

Accoutrements

  • Belts, Cartridge Boxes, and Cap Pouches – mix of Federal and Confederate
  • Bayonet Scabbard – Confederate, Federal, or English

Arms

  • 1861 Springfield preferred
  • 1853 Enfield
  • with appropriate bayonet, or none

Note: Marching Order should be LIGHT. Some men carried no baggage at all. Uniforms should be in tolerably good condition, with some mud about the feet and bottoms of trousers. Confederate or Civilian vests are appropriate as well.

 

DOCUMENTS

Quartermaster Stores Issued to Ramseur’s Brigade March 30th, 1864.

Quartermaster’s Department
Raleigh, N.C. March 30th, 1864
Received of Major W.W. Peirce, Quartermaster C.S. Army, the following articles:

756 Jackets
1,976 Pair Pants
525 Pair Drawers
913 Shirts
1,600 Pair of Shoes
100 Blankets
47 Package Boxes

B.D. Williams
Maj. and QM Ramseur’s Brig.

From The Rowan Rifle Guards: A History of Company K, 4th North Carolina State Troops 1857-1865

"On March 15, 1864 1st Lt. Hofflin received a shipment for three blankets, two pairs of socks, one pair of pants, and one pair of shoes. Another supply form Hofflin signed indicates the 4th NCST received seventy pair of shoes on March 5, 1864 and 229 caps of an unknown pattern on March 13, 1864."

Ordnance and Ordnance Stores Issued to the 4th North Carolina April, May & June 1864

21 Small Arms cal.58
23 Bayonets
33 Cartridge Boxes
8 Waist Belts
19 Bayonet Scabbards
35 Cap Pouches
5 Wipers
5 Haversacks
5 Canteens
18,205 ammunition cal.58

S.H. Coleman, Lieut &
Ordn. Off. Ramseur’s Brigade

Ordnance Records Issued to Ramseur’s Brigade
Received from Brigade and Division Ordnance Officers between October 1863 and May 1864.

334 Small Arms cal.58
419 Cartridge Boxes
335 Cartridge Box Straps
254 Waist Belts
250 Bayonet Scabbards
47 Bayonets
408 Cap Pouches
362 Haversacks
82 Canteens
93 Canteen Straps
5 Ball Screws
29 Screw Drivers
74 Wipers
7 Spring Vices
55 Extra Cones
66,640 Rounds of cal.58 ammunition (42,640 issued in the field May ’64)

 

PRIMARY ACCOUNTS

Pvt. Walter Battle, Co. F 4th NC in a letter to his mother, December 3rd, 1863 (in reference to Yankee prisoner):

“One of them gave me his knapsack and everything in it and then very politely asked me if I could spare him a cracker. I could not refuse him, for the things that he gave me unsolicited were very valuable. A pair of new shoes and a Yankee tent are things that money will not buy. I would not take $25.00 for my tent which he gave me. They are large enough for two, and so light that you can roll them in your knapsack and not feel the weight at all.”

Pvt. Walter Battle, Co. F 4th NC in a letter to his mother, January 10th, 1864:

“I get enough to eat now, but none to waste… Our meat has been cut down to a quarter of a pound and they give us sugar, coffee, rice and sometimes dried fruit. When they only give us a quarter of a pound of meat and a tin cupful of flour, it is not enough for a hearty man, but when they give us rice, peas, etc., we can make out very well… I am very well supplied with winter clothing of every kind at present. Just drawn a splendid pair of English shoes.”

Pvt. Walter Battle, Co. F 4th NC in a letter to his mother, April 21st, 1864:

“Our meat is very slim, though we make out very well. As for bread we get more than we can eat. There is not a man in our company who has not got him a bag of extra meal, gradually increased from his daily rations. We draw as much sugar and coffee as we could wish for. Meat is the only thing we are stinted with. We have not drawn any beef or ham in a month or two.”

Private George L. Stanback, Co. C 14th NC, in a letter to his sister. April 22nd, 1864:

“…we have as much as we can carry now… drew a jacket this morning.”

Pvt. Robert O. Linster of Company C in a letter to his mother in May of 64:

"We are having fine times in the way of eatings…have 3 hams about 60 lbs four bushel meal 1 bushel dried fruit, butter, molasses, coffee, etc greatest plenty…The wind is blowing pretty smart but there is a good many fellows drying their shirts by the fire with their coats on. Knapsacks are nearly plaid out in the army, 1 pr pants, 2 shirts 2 pr drawers 2 pr of socks and 1 blanket and oil cloth is all a soldier has any use of here…"

Private J.W. Bone, from his memoir, Co. I 30th NC:

“On the ninth of May, a very very warm day for this time of year, we were notified that we were needed, and a heavy penalty would be placed upon us, if we did not report to duty… Many men threw most of their baggage away, only keeping their guns, cartridge boxes and canteens. Some of the best soldiers had to give up owing to the hot weather…”

Pvt. Walter Battle, Co. F 4th NC in a letter to his mother, May 14, 1864 (in reference to march to battlefield and fight of the 12th.):

“We were almost worn out with fatigue from marching or loss of sleep when we started from this place to front them. I don’t think I ever saw a hotter day in all my life. The men were fainting by the dozens, and very frequently one would drop dead in his tracks from overheat… Some of the men were so tired and worn out they could hardly halloo. I was among that number…I threw away everything I had but my gun and accoutrements, including three days’ rations…and caught up with the brigade…You would hardly recognize any of us at present. Every one looks as if he had passed through a hard spell of sickness, black and muddy as hogs.”

Pvt. Walter Battle, Co. F 4th NC in a letter to his mother, May 17th, 1864 (in reference to fight at the Mule Shoe):

“Our brigade did some of the hardest fighting that day and night that has been done during the war. It is hard to realize what our brigade did actually accomplish that day… I shot away 120 rounds of cartridges myself, three cartridge boxes full… We did not have time to fill our canteens, so we did not have a mouthful to eat or drink when we went into the fight.”

Lieutenant Samuel P. Collier, Co. A 2nd NC, in a letter to his parents, May 29th, 1864:

“Ma you wanted to know if I needed the shoes and clothing. No! Ma I have a very good pair of English shoes that will last me at least some months longer. In fact our entire army never were better clothed before or since… We are drawing half pound of bacon per day and just as much bread as we can well carry. I have seen any quantity of it thrown away on the march.”

 

PHOTOGRAPHIC MATERIAL

Following the Battle of Harris Farm on May 19th, 1864, the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse concluded after almost two weeks of constant and deadly fighting. Stephen Dodson Ramseur’s brigade of veteran North Carolinians were heavily involved in the fighting on May 12th at the Bloody Angle, and were the primary brigade involved in stopping the flow of Federal troops pouring through the Salient. They suffered heavy casualties as a result. During the Battle of Harris Farm, the brigade was engaged again, suffering heavy casualties once more. Shortly after the action at Harris Farm, photographer Timothy H. O’Sullivan photographed some of the Confederate dead of Ramseur’s Brigade. The following are the images Sullivan took, as well as some observations and notes on the subjects.

Dead soldier of Ramseur’s Brigade with Enfield rifle and appears to wear a dark jacket. Note the various pieces of Federal accoutrements. Also visible is an uncovered Federal smoothside canteen. His cartridge box appears to be worn on his belt. (LOC#: LC-B811- 723)

Dead soldier of Ramseur’s Brigade with Enfield rifle and appears to wear a dark jacket. Note the various pieces of Federal accoutrements. Also visible is an uncovered Federal smoothside canteen. His cartridge box appears to be worn on his belt. (LOC#: LC-B811- 723)

Another deceased soldier of Ramseur’s Brigade, note the slouch hat, Federal bullseye pattern canteen with leather strap, a dark jacket and a Federal double bag knapsack. He is armed with an Enfield rifle (note: rifle could also be a photographer’s prop). (LOC#: LC-B811- 725)

Another deceased soldier of Ramseur’s Brigade, note the slouch hat, Federal bullseye pattern canteen with leather strap, a dark jacket and a Federal double bag knapsack. He is armed with an Enfield rifle (note: rifle could also be a photographer’s prop). (LOC#: LC-B811- 725)

Here is another view of the previous photos. In this one, you can notice the straps of the Federal knapsack on the gentleman in the foreground; thus, both these men are wearing Federal double bag knapsacks. (LOC#: LC-B811- 726)

Here is another view of the previous photos. In this one, you can notice the straps of the Federal knapsack on the gentleman in the foreground; thus, both these men are wearing Federal double bag knapsacks. (LOC#: LC-B811- 726)

In this tragic scene, we see a mix of uniform jackets and trousers. According to William Frassanito, two of these men are the same as those pictured above. Instantly noticeable are the contrasting dark jackets. The man in the foreground is wearing a North Carolina Depot jacket. Notice the amount of mud on the men’s trousers and brogans. (LOC#: LOT 4168, no. 11)

In this tragic scene, we see a mix of uniform jackets and trousers. According to William Frassanito, two of these men are the same as those pictured above. Instantly noticeable are the contrasting dark jackets. The man in the foreground is wearing a North Carolina Depot jacket. Notice the amount of mud on the men’s trousers and brogans. (LOC#: LOT 4168, no. 11)

SOURCES

Battle, Walter. “As You May Never See Us Again: The Civil War Letters of George and Walter Battle, 4th North Carolina Infantry.” Scuppernong Press.

Bone, J.W. Memoir, Walter J. Bone Collection, North Carolina Department of Archives and History.

Collier, Samuel P. Samuel P. Collier Papers, North Carolina Department of Archives and History.

Grimes, Bryan. “Extracts of Letters of Major General Bryan Grimes, to His Wife: Written While in Active Service in the Army of Northern Virginia.”

Hatflied, Dr. Philip “The Rowan Rifle Guards: A History of Company K, 4th North Carolina State Troops 1857-1865.”

Shaffner, John F. J.F. Shaffner Diary and Letters, North Carolina Department of Archives and History, Raleigh, N.C.

Stanback, George L. Steele-Ledbetter Papers, North Carolina Department of Archives and History.

Tice, Warren K. "Uniform Buttons of the United States 1776-1865." Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, PA. 1997.

Photographs;
Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, Library of Congress.

Quartermaster and Ordnance Records:
Compiled Service Records, National Archives.

Coleman, S.H.
Williams, B.D.
Morrison, E.F.