26th North Carolina Civil War History

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26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment
 Civil War History: A Sketch

The regiment was raised in 1861 from central and western North Carolina, with Zebulon B. Vance as its first colonel. Vance was elected Governor of North Carolina in 1861 and command of the unit assumed by 20 year old Col. Henry King Burgwyn, Jr. The 26th spent the next year defending the North Carolina coast, seeing its first action at New Bern, North Carolina. It then advanced north and fought in the Seven Days Battles before returning to the North Carolina coast.

 

In 1863, it marched northwards to become attached to General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia where they were given the distinction of being not only the largest, but the best trained regiment present. Gen. Pettigrew's brigade was attached to the 3rd Corps led by Gen. A.P. Hill.

26th North Carolina Infantry
26th North Carolina Regiment.gif
26th North Carolina Regiment

From there the 26th North Carolina marched northward through Maryland and later into Pennsylvania. On July 1, 1863, the 26th North Carolina became engaged in the Battle of Gettysburg, at the hotly contested battle at McPherson's Ridge. The regiment lost heavily during a fight with the Iron Brigade's 24th Michigan, losing Burgwyn, the lieutenant colonel, and 588 men out of a strength of 800. On the second day of Gettysburg it was resting near McPherson's Ridge. Then, on the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the 26th was chosen to take part in the Pettigrew-Pickett's Charge on Cemetery Ridge. During the charge, the unit lost an additional 120 men and its regimental flag was captured. The regiment lost more men than any other regiment, Union or Confederate, during the battle (including the entire Company F). The 26th, however, did penetrate the federal line on Cemetery Ridge. Also, it had advanced further into the Federal line than the troops that had been led by General Armistead of Pickett's famed division.

 

Later in the war, the regiment fought during the Overland Campaign and Siege of Petersburg, and remained in the Army of Northern Virginia until its surrender at Appomattox, Virginia.

Recommended Reading: Lee's Tar Heels: The Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade (Hardcover). Description: The Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade was one of North Carolina's best-known and most successful units during the Civil War. Formed in 1862, the brigade spent nearly a year protecting supply lines before being thrust into its first major combat at Gettysburg. There, James Johnston Pettigrew's men pushed back the Union's famed Iron Brigade in vicious fighting on July 1 and played a key role in Pickett's Charge on July 3, in the process earning a reputation as one of the hardest-fighting units in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Continued below…

Despite suffering heavy losses during the Gettysburg campaign, the brigade went on to prove its valor in a host of other engagements. It marched with Lee to Appomattox and was among the last Confederate units to lay down arms in the surrender ceremony. Earl Hess tells the story of the men of the Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade, and especially the famous 26th North Carolina, chronicling the brigade's formation and growth under Pettigrew and its subsequent exploits under William W. Kirkland and William MacRae. Beyond recounting the brigade's military engagements, Hess draws on letters, diaries, memoirs, and service records to explore the camp life, medical care, social backgrounds, and political attitudes of these gallant Tar Heels. He also addresses the continuing debate between North Carolinians and Virginians over the failure of Pickett's Charge. “[A] welcome addition for the buff, student of Gettysburg, and the casual as well as serious reader of American history.” americancivilwarhistory.org

Try the search engine for related subjects: North Carolina Coast and the Civil War, Western North Carolina and the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee, Governor Zeb Vance; Army of Northern Virginia, McPherson's Ridge at Gettysburg, etc.

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Recommended Reading: Covered With Glory: The 26th North Carolina Infantry at Gettysburg. Description: Award-winning historian, Rod Gragg, delivers a masterpiece with his renowned study of the Fighting 26th. Rated a solid 5 STARS (highest possible rating), Covered With Glory reflects vividly the fighting history of the 26th, led by General Robert E. Lee's youngest regimental colonel, 21-year-old Colonel Henry K. Burgwyn, Jr. Student, Scholar, and Civil War Buff, this is a must have addition for your library. Continued below…

From Library Journal: Award-winning historian Gragg offers yet another Civil War title. The 26th North Carolina saw action early in the war at New Bern and Malvern Hill. On the first day at Gettysburg, it fought against the 24th Michigan in McPherson's Woods. On the third and final day, it participated in the infamous Pickett's Charge and suffered an 85 percent casualty rate, the highest of any regiment in the Civil War. Besides recounting the enormous loss of life and the heroic deeds of many men, Gragg reveals the human side of battle. Family diaries and letters describe the difficulties most soldiers faced in coping with military life. The author uses an impressive list of other books and historical sources. What emerges is a detailed but readable history of a regiment whose sacrifices and exploits merit studying. Recommended for its scholarship and depth of coverage to all academic and large public libraries and to special collections.

 

Recommended Reading: Gettysburg--The First Day, by Harry W. Pfanz (Civil War America) (Hardcover). Description: Though a great deal has been written about the battle of Gettysburg, much of it has focused on the events of the second and third days. With this book, the first day's fighting finally receives its due. Harry Pfanz, a former historian at Gettysburg National Military Park and author of two previous books on the battle, presents a deeply researched, definitive account of the events of July 1, 1863. Continued below…

After sketching the background of the Gettysburg campaign and recounting the events immediately preceding the battle, Pfanz offers a detailed tactical description of the first day's fighting. He describes the engagements in McPherson Woods, at the Railroad Cuts, on Oak Ridge, on Seminary Ridge, and at Blocher's Knoll, as well as the retreat of Union forces through Gettysburg and the Federal rally on Cemetery Hill. Throughout, he draws on deep research in published and archival sources to challenge some of the common assumptions about the battle--for example, that Richard Ewell's failure to press an attack against Union troops at Cemetery Hill late on the first day ultimately cost the Confederacy the battle.

 

Recommended Reading: Gettysburg--The Second Day, by Harry W. Pfanz (624 pages). Description: The second day's fighting at Gettysburg—the assault of the Army of Northern Virginia against the Army of the Potomac on 2 July 1863—was probably the critical engagement of that decisive battle and, therefore, among the most significant actions of the Civil War. Harry Pfanz, a former historian at Gettysburg National Military Park, has written a definitive account of the second day's brutal combat. He begins by introducing the men and units that were to do battle, analyzing the strategic intentions of Lee and Meade as commanders of the opposing armies, and describing the concentration of forces in the area around Gettysburg. He then examines the development of tactical plans and the deployment of troops for the approaching battle. But the emphasis is on the fighting itself. Pfanz provides a thorough account of the Confederates' smashing assaults—at Devil's Den and Little Round Top, through the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard, and against the Union center at Cemetery Ridge. He also details the Union defense that eventually succeeded in beating back these assaults, depriving Lee's gallant army of victory. Continued below...

Pfanz analyzes decisions and events that have sparked debate for more than a century. In particular he discusses factors underlying the Meade-Sickles controversy and the questions about Longstreet's delay in attacking the Union left. The narrative is also enhanced by thirteen superb maps, more than eighty illustrations, brief portraits of the leading commanders, and observations on artillery, weapons, and tactics that will be of help even to knowledgeable readers. Gettysburg—The Second Day is certain to become a Civil War classic. What makes the work so authoritative is Pfanz's mastery of the Gettysburg literature and his unparalleled knowledge of the ground on which the fighting occurred. His sources include the Official Records, regimental histories and personal reminiscences from soldiers North and South, personal papers and diaries, newspaper files, and last—but assuredly not least—the Gettysburg battlefield. Pfanz's career in the National Park Service included a ten-year assignment as a park historian at Gettysburg. Without doubt, he knows the terrain of the battle as well as he knows the battle itself.

 

Recommended Reading: Gettysburg--Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill (Civil War America) (Hardcover). Description: In this companion to his celebrated earlier book, Gettysburg—The Second Day, Harry Pfanz provides the first definitive account of the fighting between the Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill—two of the most critical engagements fought at Gettysburg on 2 and 3 July 1863. Pfanz provides detailed tactical accounts of each stage of the contest and explores the interactions between—and decisions made by—generals on both sides. Continued below...

 In particular, he illuminates Confederate lieutenant general Richard S. Ewell's controversial decision not to attack Cemetery Hill after the initial southern victory on 1 July. Pfanz also explores other salient features of the fighting, including the Confederate occupation of the town of Gettysburg, the skirmishing in the south end of town and in front of the hills, the use of breastworks on Culp's Hill, and the small but decisive fight between Union cavalry and the Stonewall Brigade. About the Author: Harry W. Pfanz is author of Gettysburg--The First Day and Gettysburg--The Second Day. A lieutenant, field artillery, during World War II, he served for ten years as a historian at Gettysburg National Military Park and retired from the position of Chief Historian of the National Park Service in 1981. To purchase additional books from Pfanz, a convenient Amazon Search Box is provided at the bottom of this page.

 
Recommended Reading: Brigades of Gettysburg: The Union and Confederate Brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg (Hardcover) (704 Pages). Description: While the battle of Gettysburg is certainly the most-studied battle in American history, a comprehensive treatment of the part played by each unit has been ignored. Brigades of Gettysburg fills this void by presenting a complete account of every brigade unit at Gettysburg and providing a fresh perspective of the battle. Continued below...

Using the words of enlisted men and officers, the author-well-known Civil War historian Bradley Gottfried-weaves a fascinating narrative of the role played by every brigade at the famous three-day battle, as well as a detailed description of each brigade unit. Organized by order of battle, each brigade is covered in complete and exhaustive detail: where it fought, who commanded, what constituted the unit, and how it performed in battle. Innovative in its approach and comprehensive in its coverage, Brigades of Gettysburg is certain to be a classic and indispensable reference for the battle of Gettysburg for years to come.

 
Recommended Reading: General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse (624 pages). Editorial Review (Publishers Weekly): You cannot say that University of North Carolina professor Glatthaar (Partners in Command) did not do his homework in this massive examination of the Civil War–era lives of the men in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Glatthaar spent nearly 20 years examining and ordering primary source material to ferret out why Lee's men fought, how they lived during the war, how they came close to winning, and why they lost. Continued below...

Glatthaar marshals convincing evidence to challenge the often-expressed notion that the war in the South was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight and that support for slavery was concentrated among the Southern upper class. Lee's army included the rich, poor and middle-class, according to the author, who contends that there was broad support for the war in all economic strata of Confederate society. He also challenges the myth that because Union forces outnumbered and materially outmatched the Confederates, the rebel cause was lost, and articulates Lee and his army's acumen and achievements in the face of this overwhelming opposition. This well-written work provides much food for thought for all Civil War buffs.

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