Civil War Training Camp

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Camp Vance: A Civil War Training Camp

Training Camp for Civil War State Troops, 1861-64, named for Governor Zebulon B. Vance. The Camp was raided by Federal Troops in 1864.

Camp Vance
Camp Vance.jpg
North Carolina

Established in August 1863, Camp Vance served as a post for Captain James McRae’s battalion of North Carolina cavalry, and as a training camp for men of the junior reserves from western North Carolina. The camp was along the unfinished Western North Carolina Railroad, roughly four miles east of Morganton. Named for North Carolina governor Zebulon B. Vance the post was one of three camps named for him. The others were an 1861 establishment in Buncombe County that served as the training ground of the 29th North Carolina Troops and a temporary facility near Goldsboro that served Confederate forces guarding the approaches to that city.
 
McRae’s battalion, authorized by an order from Confederate Secretary of War James A. Seddon, was to be used as an enforcer of the Confederate conscription acts in western North Carolina. The majority of McRae’s men were moved to Asheville by early 1864. The junior reserve regiments, as well as a series of senior reserve counterparts, were authorized in late 1863. Junior regiments consisted of boys aged 17, while the senior battalions were comprised men typically over the age of 45. The law authorizing such units stated that the reserves would not “be required to perform service out of the State.” All members of the junior reserves were to be transferred to regular Confederate army units upon their eighteenth birthday.
 
On June 12, 1864, while members of the junior reserve garrison at Camp Vance were still awaiting to be issued weapons, Colonel George W. Kirk, commander of the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, a Union regiment, led 175 of his troopers, armed with Spencer rifles in a raid into North Carolina from Morristown, Tennessee. He arrived at the outskirts of Camp Vance on the morning of June 28, 1864. The unarmed teenagers were no match for Kirk’s men. Union soldiers approached with an offer that, upon immediate surrender, all prisoners would be paroled and no destruction of personal property would take place. As the camp commander, Major Jesse McLean, was absent, Lieutenants Walter Bullock and Edward F. Hanks conceded.
 
Kirk broke the agreement, placed the young men under arrest as prisoners of war, burned the camp, and then proceeded to destroy the nearby railroad depot, a locomotive, and four train cars. As word of Confederate reinforcements arriving from Salisbury and Burke County came in, Kirk wisely chose to retreat back across the mountains. Local home guard and Confederate cavalry did manage to attack the column near Winding Stairs Road, but were unable to stop their withdrawal into Tennessee with approximately half the prisoners, the others having managed to escape.
 
After the attack, Confederate forces rebuilt Camp Vance and, for the next two months, it served as a recruiting and training depot for other detachments of junior reserves. In late July several companies of senior reserves were ordered to Camp Vance but in early August, faced with increasing threats of Union activity in the area, Confederate authorities ordered that the facility be closed and that all western junior reserve training be completed at Camp Stokes, near Greensboro.

References: William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006); Walter C. Hilderman III, They Went Into the Fight Cheering (2005); Edward W. Phifer Jr., Burke County: A Brief History (1979); Louis H. Manarin, A Guide to Military Organizations and Installations, North Carolina, 1861-1865 (1961)

Recommended ReadingConfederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865. Description: The author, Prof. D. H. Hill, Jr., was the son of Lieutenant General Daniel Harvey Hill (North Carolina produced only two lieutenant generals and it was the second highest rank in the army) and his mother was General “Stonewall” Jackson’s wife's sister. In Confederate Military History Of North Carolina, Hill discusses North Carolina’s massive task of preparing and mobilizing for the conflict; the many regiments and battalions recruited from the Old North State; as well as the state's numerous contributions during the war. Continued below...

During Hill's Tar Heel State study, the reader begins with interesting and thought-provoking statistical data regarding the 125,000 "Old North State" soldiers that fought during the course of the war and the 40,000 that perished. Hill advances with the Tar Heels to the first battle at Bethel, through numerous bloody campaigns and battles--including North Carolina’s contributions at the "High Watermark" at Gettysburg--and concludes with Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

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Recommended Reading: Shock Troops of the Confederacy (Hardcover) (432 pages). Description: Fred Ray's Shock Troops of the Confederacy is primarily focused on the "sharpshooter battalions" of the Army of Northern Virginia. In a Civil War context, "sharpshooter" was usually more akin to "skirmisher" than "sniper," although these specialized battalions also used innovative open order assault techniques, especially late in the war. Continued below...

Ray includes, however, a detailed study of Union sharpshooter battalions and Confederate sharpshooters in the West. Remarkably, little has been published about such organizations in the past, so Fred Ray's book offers a unique study of the evolution of Civil War infantry tactics, revealing a more complex, sophisticated approach to the battlefield than is usually understood.
 
Recommended Reading: The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy (444 pages) (Louisiana State University Press) (Updated edition: November 2007) Description: The Life of Johnny Reb does not merely describe the battles and skirmishes fought by the Confederate foot soldier. Rather, it provides an intimate history of a soldier's daily life--the songs he sang, the foods he ate, the hopes and fears he experienced, the reasons he fought. Wiley examined countless letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and official records to construct this frequently poignant, sometimes humorous account of the life of Johnny Reb. In a new foreword for this updated edition, Civil War expert James I. Robertson, Jr., explores the exemplary career of Bell Irvin Wiley, who championed the common folk, whom he saw as ensnared in the great conflict of the 1860s. Continued below...
About Johnny Reb:
"A Civil War classic."--Florida Historical Quarterly
"This book deserves to be on the shelf of every Civil War modeler and enthusiast."--Model Retailer
"[Wiley] has painted with skill a picture of the life of the Confederate private. . . . It is a picture that is not only by far the most complete we have ever had but perhaps the best of its kind we ever shall have."--Saturday Review of Literature
 
NEW! HIGHLY Recommended Viewing! The American Civil War (DVD Megaset) (2009) (A&E Television Networks-The History Channel) (14 DVDs) (1697 minutes) (28 Hours 17 Minutes + extras). Experience for yourself the historical and personal impact of the Civil War in a way that only HISTORY can present in this moving megaset™, filled with over 28 hours of American Civil War content. This MEGASET is the most comprehensive American Civil War compilation to date and is the mother of all Civil War documentaries. A multifaceted look at “The War Between the States,” this definitive collection brings the most legendary Civil War battles, and the soldiers and leaders who fought them, vividly to life. From Gettysburg and Antietam to Shiloh, and led by the likes of Sherman, McClellan, Grant, Beauregard, Lee, Davis, and Jackson, delve into the full military and political contexts of these men, their armies, and the clashes between them. Continued below...
Almost 150 years after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, the unexpected secrets and little-known stories from Civil War history are divulged with fascinating detail. Cutting-edge CGI and accurate dramatizations illustrate archival letters and original diary entries, and the country’s most renowned historians describe the less familiar incidents that add perspective and depth to the war that divided a nation. If the DVDs in this Megaset were purchased separately, it could cost hundreds of dollars. This one-of-a-kind compilation belongs on the shelf of every Civil War buff, and if you know anyone that is interested in the most costliest and bloodiest war in American history, buy this, they will love it.
THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR contains the following programs:
* The Most Daring Mission Of The Civil War
* April 1865
* Battlefield Detectives: The Civil War (3 Episodes): Antietam, Gettysburg, Shiloh
* Secret Missions Of The Civil War
* The Lost Battle Of The Civil War
* Tales Of The Gun: Guns Of The Civil War
* Eighty Acres Of Hell
* Lincoln
* Investigating History: Lincoln: Man Or Myth
* Man, Moment, Machine: Lincoln & The Flying, Spying Machine
* Conspiracy?: Lincoln Assassination
* High Tech Lincoln
* Sherman’s March
* The Hunt For John Wilkes Booth
* Civil War Combat (4 Episodes): The Hornets’ Nest At Shiloh, The Bloody Lane At Antietam, The Wheatfield At Gettysburg, The Tragedy At Cold Harbor
* Civil War Journal (8 Episodes): John Brown's War, Destiny At Fort Sumter, The Battle of 1st Bull Run, The 54th Massachusetts, West Point Classmates—Civil War Enemies, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Sherman And The March To The Sea
BONUS FEATURES:
* Full-Length Documentary “Save Our History: Sherman’s Total War Tactics”
* Behind the Scenes Featurettes for “Sherman’s March” and “Lincoln”
 

Recommended Reading: Hardtack & Coffee or The Unwritten Story of Army Life. Description: Most histories of the Civil War focus on battles and top brass. Hardtack and Coffee is one of the few to give a vivid, detailed picture of what ordinary soldiers endured every day—in camp, on the march, at the edge of a booming, smoking hell. John D. Billings of Massachusetts enlisted in the Army of the Potomac and survived the hellish conditions as a “common foot soldier” of the American Civil War. "Billings describes an insightful account of the conflict – the experiences of every day life as a common foot-soldier – and a view of the war that is sure to score with every buff." Continued below...

The authenticity of his book is heightened by the many drawings that a comrade, Charles W. Reed, made while in the field. This is the story of how the Civil War soldier was recruited, provisioned, and disciplined. Described here are the types of men found in any outfit; their not very uniform uniforms; crowded tents and makeshift shelters; difficulties in keeping clean, warm, and dry; their pleasure in a cup of coffee; food rations, dominated by salt pork and the versatile cracker or hardtack; their brave pastimes in the face of death; punishments for various offenses; treatment in sick bay; firearms and signals and modes of transportation. Comprehensive and anecdotal, Hardtack and Coffee is striking for the pulse of life that runs through it.

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