Crossfire magazine

An Officers Pay Slip

In Search of Lieutenant George Washington Ward

 

By Charles Priestley

 


AN OFFICER’S PAY SLIP:

In Search of Lieutenant George Washington Ward

 

By Charles Priestley

 

Sometime in the early 1970s, I bought from a rather strange shop in north London a Confederate officer’s pay slip. It was a standard Confederate States of America form, printed on poor-quality paper and with the entries completed in faded black ink. It was dated November 4, 1863, covered the period from August 31 to October 31 and was for a total of $180, or $90 per month. The recipient’s details I deciphered as “Geo. W. Ward, 1st Lieut Co “B” 3rd S.C. Troops.” For some time, I kept it in a display case with my collection of Civil War artefacts, but as it seemed to be becoming increasingly fragile I finally put it carefully away in a large album with other Confederate documents – letters, postal covers, banknotes etc. There it would probably have stayed, had it not been for Fold3.

 

Possibly rather short-sightedly, I have never subscribed to this organisation, but at the beginning of April, 2018 I received an e-mail offering free access to its collection of Civil War documents for the first two weeks of the month. “Discover Your Civil War Ancestors”, the e-mail urged me. Not having any Civil War ancestors, I was at first inclined to ignore this. Then I remembered Lieutenant Ward and his pay slip. This seemed the perfect opportunity to find out something about him. I therefore got on to the website, went into the section for South Carolina infantry units and quickly found the 3rd. Regiment – to discover that Co. B appeared to have no Lieutenant Ward. I then wondered if the B, which was written in typically florid nineteenth-century fashion, could possibly be intended for a K.

Co. K, however, had no Lieutenant Ward either, and nor did any of the regiment’s other companies. Finally, in desperation, I decided to try the 3rd. North Carolina, even though what I had always taken for an S did not look as if it could possibly be intended as an N. Immediately, I found my man, and was able slowly to copy out all the various documents from the National Archives relating to him.

 

Having done this, I decided to see what information there might be about him on the internet, and was rewarded with a message posted on the Civil War Talk website by a Bruce Vail, an American history enthusiast whose wife and son were apparently direct descendants of Lieutenant Ward. What was more, there was actually a photograph of the Lieutenant. Some diligent sleuthing on the internet finally led me to Mr. Vail’s address in Baltimore, Maryland, and I wrote to him there, giving my e-mail address. Almost by return, I received a very friendly and helpful reply, and since then we have remained in correspondence. Apart from helping me with further information about Ward’s wartime career, and supplying me with additional leads, Bruce has been invaluable in filling in for me the facts of the Lieutenant’s life before and after the Civil War. Much of Bruce’s information, in turn, has come from A History of Alfred and Elizabeth Robinson Ward, Their Antecedents and Descendants (1945),

by Herman Ward Taylor – Bruce’s wife’s grandfather. Details of Lieutenant Ward’s earlier and later life, then, come largely from these sources.

 

 

George Washington Ward was born on August 12, 1832 in Rockfish township, Duplin County, North Carolina – a county which is today one of the world’s largest centres of pig-farming. He was the sixth of eight children of Alfred and Elizabeth Robinson Ward. His grandfather, William Ward, had been a North Carolina Minuteman in the American Revolution. According to his pension claim, he had taken part in the defeat at Moore’s Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776 of the Highland Scots Loyalists, who included Allan MacDonald, husband of the Jacobite heroine Flora MacDonald .

 

Whether or not inspired by his grandfather’s exploits, the young George Washington Ward was a keen member of the state militia from an early date. He was commissioned 3rd. Lieutenant in the Rockfish Company of the 31st. Regiment North Carolina Militia on July 16, 1850. The U.S. Census for that year shows him as living with his parents and lists his profession, like that of most men in the area, as “farmer”. He was promoted to 1st. Lieutenant on September 23, 1852, and continued to serve in the militia right up to the outbreak of the Civil War, when his unit became a part of the North Carolina State Troops. At the time of the last pre-war census, he was still living with his parents; this time, however, his profession is given as “teacher.”

 

The chief authority for Ward’s Civil War career is his file in the National Archives, which contains extracts from muster rolls, pay slips, hospital and medical reports, recommendations for furlough and so on. Apart from that, I have consulted chiefly Manarin’s North Carolina Troops 1861-1865, Clark’s Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina and Moore’s Roster of North Carolina Troops , as well as the revised edition of the Ward family history referred to above and two manuscript letters written by officers in the regiment.

 

Unfortunately, as is often the case with Civil War documentation, these different sources not infrequently contradict each other; even Ward’s National Archives entries are sometimes mutually contradictory. Where there is disagreement, then, I have carefully compared all the various sources, identified certain obvious errors and chosen what seems the most probable version. I have also benefited hugely, of course, from discussing doubtful points by e-mail with Bruce Vail. The account which follows is, I hope, as accurate as I can make it.

 

Ward’s unit became Co. B of what was to be the 3rd. Regiment, North Carolina State Troops, he and his comrades having enlisted “for the war.” The regiment began organising in May, 1861 in and around Garysburg, Northampton County, up near the Virginia state line. As the companies gradually arrived, they were each drilled individually, moving on to regimental drill once all were assembled at Camp Clarendon. The regiment was officially mustered in to State service on July 20, 1861. Three days later, George Washington Ward was appointed 2nd. Lieutenant, to rank from May 16, 1861. Gaston Meares was named Colonel, while Robert H. Cowan became Lieutenant-Colonel.

 

At around the same time, the regiment moved by companies up to Richmond, from where it was immediately sent to the Aquia Creek area, reporting to Brigadier-General Theophilus H.

 

 

 

Holmes. Here it was to remain until late March, 1862. On August 31 and September 1, 1861, the various companies were transferred into Confederate service, after which, together with the 1st. North Carolina, the 30th. Virginia and the 1st. Arkansas, it was formed into a brigade commanded by John G. Walker. The regiment’s orders were to act in defence of the Confederacy’s Aquia Creek batteries, which commanded the Potomac at that point. Since the Union forces seemed disinclined, however, to undertake any further action against the batteries after the naval attack of May 29-June 1, 1861, most of the regiment’s time continued to be taken up with drill.

 

It is easy to forget what an enormous part drill played in the training of these new armies, North and South. The soldier had not merely to learn the standard musket drill; he had to learn to act as part of a cohesive whole, able to recognise and respond to the various bugle calls and to perform often highly complicated manoeuvres even while under fire. Nor was this any less true in the South than in the North. Colonel Fremantle of the Coldstream Guards witnessed a dress parade of the 3rd. Texas Infantry at Brownsville in April, 1863 and reported that they “really drilled uncommonly well.” Very many men on both sides, in fact, must have echoed the words of Oliver Norton of the 83rd. Pennsylvania: "The first thing in the morning is drill, then drill, then drill again. Then drill, drill, a little more drill. Then drill, and lastly drill. Between drills, we drill, and sometimes stop to eat a little and have roll-call.”

 

When the Confederates evacuated the line of the Potomac and abandoned the Aquia Creek batteries in March, 1862, the regiment was moved, with the 1st. North Carolina, to the area of Goldsboro in order to meet a threatened advance from New Bern on the part of Burnside. It remained there for two months, during which time it lost its Lieutenant-Colonel, Robert H. Cowan, who was elected Colonel of the 18th. North Carolina. Major William L. DeRosset was therefore promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel to take his place. At the end of May, the regiment was ordered to Petersburg and then sent out from Richmond along the Williamsburg Road, where it spent most of June on picket duty. This was just after the battle of Seven Pines, and DeRosset recalled later that “the march from Richmond was most trying to the raw troops....who had not then received their baptism of fire. Passing thousands of dead and wounded from the time they left the cars until they arrived on the battlefield, the groans and cries of the wounded were not calculated to inspire the boys with a martial spirit.” While here, the regiment was assigned to a new brigade commanded by Brigadier-General Roswell S. Ripley, in D.H. Hill’s Division. Once again, it found itself with its old comrades from the 1st. North Carolina, but this time they were joined by two Georgia regiments, the 44th. and 48th. Here, too, the 3rd. North Carolina took part in a brief skirmish on June 15 near Seven Pines, its first taste of action.

 

The regiment’s first actual battle, however, took place on June 26 at Mechanicsville, and under the eyes of Lee, Jefferson Davis and George Randolph, the Confederate Secretary of War, who were watching from a nearby hill. Late in the afternoon, D.H. Hill ordered Ripley to send two of his regiments to support Pender’s Brigade in an assault on the very strong Union position across Beaver Dam Creek at Ellerson’s Mill and with the other two to attack a battery in his front. Accordingly, Ripley dispatched the 1st. North Carolina and the 44th. Georgia to the right to aid Pender and sent the 3rd. North Carolina and the 48th. Georgia forward against the battery. The first two regiments suffered very heavy casualties in the disastrous attack at Ellerson’s Mill before being withdrawn; the 44th. Georgia, indeed, lost 71 men killed and 264 wounded. The remnants of both were then sent back to the rear to regroup. The 3rd. North Carolina and 48th. Georgia, meanwhile, advanced at the double-quick under very heavy fire throughout and succeeded in reaching the mill-race a mere 80 yards from the battery’s position, but could make no further progress. After nightfall, and under the covering fire of Rhett’s South Carolina Battery, they were withdrawn a few hundred yards, where they held their position. The 3rd. North Carolina had lost 8 killed and 39 wounded.

 

At Gaines’s Mill, the following afternoon, the bulk of the regiment was not engaged, but with the rest of the brigade “was exposed to a musketry and a very severe artillery fire” for nearly two hours. Fortunately, the heavily wooded country provided protection, and casualties were light – 1 killed and 15 wounded. Things were very different on July 1, when the regiment took part in the unsuccessful assault on Malvern Hill, moving up through what both Ripley and DeRosset described in their reports as “a jungle” and advancing “under a most terrific fire of musketry and canister.” Colonel Meares was killed by a shell fragment, and the regiment’s total loss at the end of the day amounted to 23 killed, 112 wounded and 7 missing. According to DeRosset, in the confusion “several volleys were fired into us by a regiment of our own troops in the rear, from which we suffered much.”

 

Moved back, with the rest of the brigade, to its old camp nearer Richmond, the regiment was joined towards the end of July by 400 conscripts, who were at once divided into squads and put to drilling under the command of non-commissioned officers. This was just as well, since D.H. Hill’s Division, with the rest of the army, was soon to move north. By this time, the 4th. Georgia had replaced the 48th. Georgia in Ripley’s Brigade. The division arrived too late to participate in Pope’s defeat at Second Manassas, but crossed the Potomac into Maryland on September 4-5, 1862. Ripley was censured by Hill, first in his report and then, more severely, in a later article, for his failure to engage the enemy at the battle of South Mountain on September 14. In a letter of September 27 to Governor Zebulon Vance, however, Major Stephen D. Thruston of the 3rd. North Carolina stated simply “My Regt. did not get an opportunity of meeting the enemy on this day, owing to some unfortunate error of position.” Certainly the regiment more than made up for this at Sharpsburg, three days later.

 

The morning of September 17 found the men in position some 100 or 200 yards in the rear of the Mumma Farm. Since they were in full view of the Union artillery on the other side of the creek, the regiment and the rest of the brigade were subjected for an hour to “a heavy and destructive crossfire, from which we suffered much in wounded; yet the men kept their posts, quietly and calmly awaiting orders to move forward to the attack.” During this enforced and uncomfortable wait, the call went out for volunteers from the 3rd. North Carolina, which was on the right of the brigade, to set fire to the farmhouse in order to prevent its being used by enemy sharpshooters. The regimental sergeant-major, James Foreman Clark, and three men from Co. A stepped forward. Its mission accomplished, the little squad returned safely to the ranks, although Clark was slightly wounded in the arm. (More than 40 years later, he wrote to the postmaster at Sharpsburg, seeking information on the family who had occupied the farm. By a pleasing coincidence, the postmaster turned out to be Samuel Mumma, Jr., the son of the house. Not only was he able to answer all Clark’s questions, he also sent him some photographs of the battlefield and forgave him for an action which had, after all, been carried out under orders).

 

When the command finally came and the line moved forward, the troops were briefly impeded by the burning buildings, lost alignment and had to reform under fire. While Ripley was directing this, he was hit in the throat and had temporarily to leave the field, relinquishing command to Colonel Doles of the 4th. Georgia . Having advanced beyond the farm, the brigade now received orders to change front and move some 500 yards to the left in order to extend the line in front of the Dunker church and to support Hood’s famous charge into the Cornfield. These manoeuvres were “executed under a heavy fire of infantry and artillery.” Shortly afterwards Colonel DeRosset of the 3rd. North Carolina was seriously wounded and permanently disabled, command of the regiment therefore devolving upon Thruston.

 

The 3rd. North Carolina maintained its position here for some three hours, during which it made a number of charges itself into the Cornfield, retiring reluctantly only when the men had fired their last cartridge and the arrival of reinforcements under McLaws and Walker finally made it possible for them to be withdrawn in order to reorganise. The three hours of fighting against odds had taken a heavy toll. The regiment was now “reduced to a mere handful”, and at this point we have our first official mention of 2nd. Lieutenant George Washington Ward; Thruston reports him as one of several officers “borne from the field severely wounded.” No sooner had the remaining men refilled their cartridge-boxes, however, than a request was received from Longstreet for them to relieve Colonel Cooke’s 27th. North Carolina, which was out of ammunition but still holding on behind a rail fence. Here, again, the remnants of the regiment maintained their position, this time from 2 o’clock until nightfall. So few were they now that Thruston was at one stage forced to send Lieutenant Cicero Craige of Co. I to ask Longstreet for reinforcements. According to Thruston, Craige delivered the message as follows: “Captain sends his compliments, and requests re-inforcements, as he has only one man to every panel of fence, and the enemy is strong and very active in his front.” Longstreet’s reply was succinct and unequivocal. “Tell

Captain Thruston he must hold his position if he has only one man to every sixteen panels of fence. I have no assistance to send him.” The 3rd. North Carolina did not let Longstreet down.

 

 

The tenacity of the 3rd. North Carolina in holding its position until its ammunition was exhausted, retiring in good order and returning to the front once the men had replenished their cartridge-boxes was recognised by the division commander. Riding with Thruston on the morning after the battle, Hill (not a man to pay a compliment unnecessarily) told him “Your regiment fought nobly yesterday.” That night, the army crossed the Potomac again and bivouacked on the Virginia shore. The regiment’s losses during the Maryland campaign were 46 killed and 207 wounded.

 

As for the soldiers themselves, the evidence is that for the officers at least the regiment’s stand in front of the Dunker Church was their supreme moment of the war. Writing after the war, Thruston described the 3rd. North Carolina as “the pivot upon which success or annihilation turned”, and claimed that “every man seemed to know .... that he must do or die until relief had time to reach him from the rear, or Lee’s army was doomed.”

 

Although specific medical reports survive on Ward’s two later wounds, we have no direct details of this first wound. We only know that in the week ending September 27 he was received into the General Hospital at Staunton, Virginia, in the charge of Assistant Surgeon Jean Charles Martin Merrillat, born in France in 1811 but now resident in Virginia. From a much later medical report on him, however, we can deduce that this initial wound was almost certainly to the left forearm, and therefore perhaps not quite as severe as Thruston had implied. Nevertheless, the company muster rolls from now until at least March, 1863 show Ward as recovering at home in Duplin County. Meanwhile, he had been promoted on September 21 (or possibly September 22) to 1st. Lieutenant, probably because the senior lieutenant in the company, Thomas Cowan, Jr., had been wounded and captured.

 

Ward returned to duty sometime in the spring, since he signed the roll for March 1 to May 15 as commanding the company. In the meantime, the regiment had been present at Fredericksburg but not actually engaged, and had then gone into winter quarters on the Rappahannock near Port Royal. Here there was another reorganisation. The two North Carolina regiments were now moved to Jackson’s old division, commanded by Major-General Isaac R. Trimble. They lost their comrades of the 4th. and 44th. Georgia, and were brigaded instead with the 10th., 23rd. and 37th. Virginia regiments, under Brigadier-General Raleigh E. Colston. In this capacity, they took part in Jackson’s flank march at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863 and in the decisive victory of the following day, in which Thruston was wounded; he had been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel on March 26, to rank from December 10, 1862. The victory at Chancellorsville was a costly one for the Army as a whole, and no less so for the 3rd. North Carolina; the regiment’s losses in the campaign were 39 killed, 175 wounded and 17 missing.

 

Following Jackson’s death, the army was divided into three corps. Colston’s Brigade was now part of Major-General Edward “Allegheny” Johnson’s Division in Ewell’s Second Corps. On May 20, however, Lee relieved Colston from duty, and Brigadier-General George H. “Maryland” Steuart was assigned to command the brigade. He would remain with it for a year. Lee had given as his chief reason for removing Colston from command of the brigade in Special Order No. 144, dated May 28, the supposed opposition on the part of the two North Carolina regiments to serving under a Virginian. A letter to Colston of May 29, however, from a committee representing the officers of both regiments, rejects this absolutely, stating that their only wish from the start of the war had been to be brigaded with other North Carolina regiments under a North Carolina brigadier, but making it clear that if this was impossible they were “entirely satisfied” with Colston. The letter ends “Wishing for you, General, new laurels, and that your path to glory may not be darkened by a single cloud.”

 

As a result of Thruston’s wound, Major William M. Parsley, at the age of only 23, took command of the regiment, and remained in command during the forthcoming Pennsylvania campaign. Breaking camp on June 5, the regiment moved north down the Shenandoah Valley with the rest of Ewell’s Corps as part of Lee’s plan to clear the Valley of Union forces. After Milroy had been surrounded and cut off at Winchester by Ewell’s pincer movement on June 13-14, Johnson sent Steuart’s and Nicholls’s brigades, with the Stonewall Brigade in support, on a night march round to the north-east of the town in order to block his retreat. In a short but sharp engagement early on June 15, Milroy’s attempt to break out was halted and his troops routed. The division claimed to have captured some 2,500 prisoners. These were sent off to Richmond under a guard from the Stonewall Brigade, which led to some grumbling on the part of the 3rd. North Carolina that Steuart’s Brigade had done the fighting and the Stonewall Brigade had gained the credit. The regiment’s losses were 4 killed and 10 wounded.

 

With the Valley cleared, the division crossed the Potomac at Shepherdstown on June 18, camping that night near the Dunker Church on the old battlefield of Sharpsburg, the scene of the heroic stand of the 3rd. North Carolina nine months before. A detail of men under Lieutenant James I. Metts of Co. G fired a volley over the spot where their comrades lay buried, and later that night, when all was quiet, the men of both the 1st. and the 3rd. North Carolina regiments marched with reversed arms and muffled drums back on to the battlefield, where the Chaplain of the 3rd. North Carolina, the Rev. George H. Patterson , read the burial service. In the words of the regimental history, “many tears stole down the bronzed cheeks of the old veterans, and all heads were bowed in grief.”

 

As the division moved into Pennsylvania, Steuart’s Brigade was detached to gather up horses, cattle and other necessary supplies, rejoining the rest of the division at Carlisle. The division then moved off towards Gettysburg on June 29, arriving at about 7.30 in the evening of July 1, too late to play any part in the first day’s fighting, and taking position on the left of Ewell’s other two divisions. At about 6 o’clock the following evening, the division was finally ordered forward across Rock Creek to assault the Federal position on Culp’s Hill. Steuart’s Brigade was on the left of the line, with the 3rd. North Carolina on the brigade’s right. During the advance up the hill, the regiment became partially separated from the rest of the brigade and was left exposed to a heavy fire from the enemy’s second line of entrenchments after the first had been captured. Nevertheless, it held its position, the men refilling their cartridge boxes from those of the dead and wounded. Attempts to take the second line of entrenchments failed, but the Confederates maintained their hold on the lower slopes of the hill until fighting stopped at about 10.00 p.m. The attack was renewed the following morning, with the 3rd. North Carolina once again on the right of the brigade. Unfortunately, the left of the advance failed to maintain its position, and the regiment, unsupported, was once more exposed to the concentrated fire of the Union defenders. Finally the whole line wavered and fell back behind a stone wall, where it remained until ordered to withdraw to Rock Creek.

 

The regiment’s losses during the Gettysburg campaign were 29 killed and 127 wounded. So heavy had been the fighting on Culp’s Hill that the authors of the regimental history could claim that “Colonel Parsley, Captain E.H. Armstrong and Lieutenant Lyon were the only officers, perhaps, not killed or wounded.” It will be noticed that Ward’s name does not appear in this list of survivors. Certainly Moore’s Roster states that Ward was among those wounded at Gettysburg , as does the Ward family history. The only other evidence for this is a single Roll of Honor entry, undated, in Ward’s National Archives file, which states that he was “wounded in battle at Sharpsburg and Gettysburg.” In a letter to his father dated July 10, however, the Captain Armstrong referred to above specifically mentions Ward as another of those officers who escaped injury at Gettysburg, together with Lieutenants Cowan, McClammy and Stone. Ward was less fortunate, however, at Payne’s Farm, later that year, as we shall see.

 

With the rest of Ewell’s Corps, the 3rd. North Carolina crossed the Potomac again at Williamsport, Maryland, during the night of July 13-14. Although the river had subsided a little and could now be forded, it was still swollen by the recent heavy rains to the extent that the men had to hang their cartridge boxes on their bayonets in order to keep them out of the water. After Lee’s withdrawal to the line of the Rapidan, the regiment participated in the various manoeuvres in October aimed at turning Meade’s flank but was not present at Bristoe Station. The army was just getting ready to go into winter quarters on November 26 when the report came that Meade had crossed the river.

 

Meade was well aware that Longstreet’s Corps was still absent in East Tennessee. He planned to attack Lee’s right, held by Ewell’s Corps, with overwhelming force, and then overrun A.P. Hill’s Corps on the left. It was a solid enough plan, but Major-General William H. French, commanding Meade’s III Corps, badly mismanaged the river crossing. He took an entire day to get his corps over the Rapidan and managed, in addition, to cause a traffic jam which prevented other units from getting across. Apprised of Meade’s movements, Lee ordered Early, temporarily in command of the Second Corps as a result of Ewell’s indisposition, to “take up a line perpendicular to the river and prepare to meet the enemy”, and Early disposed his divisions accordingly. So it was that, early on November 27, the men of the 3rd. North Carolina found themselves moving out, with the rest of Johnson’s Division, on what they assumed was a fairly straightforward reconnaissance in force. Jones’s Brigade led, followed by Stafford’s. Then came the Stonewall Brigade, now under Brigadier-General James A. (“Stonewall Jim”) Walker, then the artillery and ambulances. Steuart’s Brigade brought up the rear.

 

They crossed Mine Run at Bartlett’s Mill and set out east along Raccoon Ford Road towards Locust Grove, where they were to link up with Rodes. Confident that there were no enemy troops in the vicinity, the men were peacefully chatting and joking together as they marched along the little country road with dense woodland on either side. Passing two or three grey-clad men sitting quietly on their horses by the side of the road, whom they naturally assumed to be Confederate cavalrymen but who were later thought to have been Union scouts, they were assured that there were “no Yankees within miles”. It was therefore something of a shock when, at about midday and some two miles down the road, the train of ambulances came under sudden attack from the woods to the left.

 

Hastily sending a courier up the column to alert Johnson, Steuart directed his four regiments to deploy their skirmishers in order to cover his left flank and protect the ambulances. Thruston, who had recovered from his wound and had been promoted Colonel to rank from October 3, was now back in command of the 3rd. North Carolina. “I immediately received orders to load and throw out skirmishers to feel the enemy”, he reported later. “This order was accordingly obeyed by sending forward First Lieut. George W. Ward with the regular detail of skirmishers, connecting his line with that of the regiments on my right. This line pushed forward until it came upon a heavy line of the enemy’s skirmishers, when Lieutenant Ward informed me of the fact and of his inability to hold his position. I then ordered my left company, commanded by Capt. John B. Brown, to his support.... Captain Brown, assuming command of the first and second detachments of skirmishers,....vigorously pushed forward and discovered the enemy drawn up in force in the edge of a field and under a rail fence. Captain Brown here received one volley from the main line and was in turn driven in.”

 

It was now clear that Johnson’s Division was facing, not dismounted cavalry, as had been supposed, but a strong line of infantry. Accordingly, the division formed line of battle to the left of the road. At about 4 o’clock Johnson ordered a general advance. Thruston was in the process of closing up on the 37th. Virginia, the left-hand regiment, when the order came. “My regiment immediately moved forward in as perfect order as the thick undergrowth and nature of the ground would permit,” he reported. On reaching the enemy, “the men with a yell charged their position, driving in confusion three strong lines of the enemy before them.” Finding himself outflanked, however, and almost out of ammunition, he was forced to retire to his original position.

 

The right and centre, meanwhile, had driven French’s men back through the woods and across an open field belonging to Madison Payne. The extraordinary thickness of the woods and undergrowth, however, made it made it impossible to maintain the line as each brigade emerged, and as the men had now more or less exhausted their cartridges they were halted at the fence. When night fell, the division was pulled back to the road, and at about midnight was ordered back over Mine Run again, to take position on the west bank.

 

As for the 3rd. North Carolina, “The accompanying list of casualties,” as Thruston put it in his report, “will show with what determination the men entered the contest.”

 

Unfortunately, a footnote on the relevant page of the Official Records notes simply of this list of casualties “Not found.” We know, however, that one of these casualties was George Washington Ward. The Company Muster Roll for November and December, 1863, lists him as “Abs. Wounded at Paynes Farm, Va., Nov 27, ’63”. A Register of General Hospital No. 4 in Richmond shows that Ward was admitted on November 27 and gives the cause of injury as “VS Rt. Arm & Thigh.” “Rt. Arm & Thigh” is clear enough, of course, but “VS” had me stumped. I started by asking two recently retired doctors – one of them a distinguished member of the American Civil War Round Table (United Kingdom) – but with no success. Finally, I turned to Bruce Vail. He had had exactly the same problem as I had when he first examined George Ward’s file, so he had posted his query online and the Civil War fraternity had come to his aid immediately. “VS”, it turns out, stands for the medical Latin term “Vulnus Sclopeticum” – “Gunshot Wound” – and was apparently a piece of medical jargon much favoured by Civil War surgeons on both sides.

 

Registers of the Medical Director’s Office in Richmond dated December 10, 1863, show that Ward had been given a 40-day furlough and that he was due to return to duty on January 14, 1864. It seems doubtful that he did so, however. A certificate dated February 20, 1864, and signed by Assistant Surgeons Davis and Woodson of the Examining Board at Kenansville, N.C., reads as follows: “We certify that we have carefully examined Lieut. Ward of Co. B. 3d. N.C. Regt. Gen. Stewarts brigade & find him unable to perform the duties of a soldier because of partial anchylosis of left elbow & also partial adhesion of the bones of right arm impairing its usefulness both resulting from Gun Shot wounds. We declare our opinion that he will not be able to resume duty in a period less than thirty (30) days & respectfully recommend that his leave of absence be extended for that period.” The mention of the left elbow is significant; since we know that he was wounded in the right arm at Payne’s Farm, the implication is that the two doctors are referring to an earlier wound, in other words that received at Sharpsburg.

 

Ward came before the Medical Examining Board again at the end of March. This time, the Board found him “suffering from Partial anchylosis of both forearms”, and recommended a further extension of his furlough for twenty days. The certificate recommending this extension is of some interest, since it shows the many levels through which such a recommendation had to pass in order to be approved. Dated March 29, it went first to Captain John B. Brown, commanding Co. B of the 3rd. North Carolina, arriving on April 12. He approved it and forwarded it immediately to regimental headquarters. Lieutenant-Colonel Parsley, in command at the time, approved and forwarded it in turn to the headquarters of Steuart’s Brigade. From there it went to Johnson’s divisional headquarters, arriving on April 13, and the next day to the headquarters of Ewell’s Corps.

 

 

 

 

Finally, on April 14, it reached Army headquarters, where Lee’s aide Colonel Walter Taylor signed it on behalf of the Commander-in-Chief. It is not clear when exactly Ward

returned to duty, but he must certainly have been back with the regiment by the beginning of May, since he was wounded again at Spotsylvania Court House on May 12.

 

After the Battle of the Wilderness, in which the two North Carolina regiments captured over 100 men of the 146th. New York and two guns in the first day’s fighting, the brigade was marched on May 8 to Spotsylvania Court House, arriving after dark. At about 10.30

p.m., the men were put into position on the right (east) side of what was known as the Mule Shoe salient, and at once started entrenching. When Upton’s innovative attack in column broke through on the left of the salient on May 10, Steuart’s Brigade played a key rôle in the successful counterattack which recaptured that portion of the line. Colonel Thruston was seriously wounded here, and Lieutenant-Colonel Parsley once again took command of the 3rd. North Carolina. It rained heavily during the night of May 11, but Johnson and Steuart could clearly hear, through the storm, troops moving about, which led them to expect a possible attack. Unfortunately, the guns protecting Johnson’s Division had been withdrawn from that part of the line at nightfall and moved elsewhere, and it was therefore without artillery cover that the troops in the Mule Shoe salient would face the mass onslaught on May 12 with which Grant planned to capitalise on Upton’s inspired innovation.

 

The rain gradually stopped, to be replaced by a thick fog. At about 4.30 a.m., just as this was starting to lift, Hancock’s II Corps burst out of the woods, “a rectangular mass of twenty thousand Federal troops.... in column of regiments doubled on the centre”, as the colonel of the 1st. North Carolina put it. Hancock’s men charged into the Confederate works, overran Jones’s Brigade, which was on the left of the two North Carolina regiments, and sweeping on captured the greater part of Johnson’s entire division, including Steuart and Johnson himself. Only some 30 men of the 3rd. North Carolina escaped capture, although men returning to the colours and conscripts assigned to the regiment would later increase its depleted ranks to some extent.

 

Once the Confederates, in one of the bloodiest fights of the war, had finally managed to drive back the attackers and retire to a hastily-prepared second line of works some 500 yards behind the salient, a reorganisation took place of the survivors of Johnson’s Division. The three Virginia regiments of Steuart’s Brigade, together with the Virginia regiments from the other brigades in the division, were consolidated on May 15 into a new brigade under Brigadier-General William Terry, while the remnants of the 1st. and 3rd. North Carolina were assigned to Dodson Ramseur’s North Carolina brigade in Rodes’s Division. The two regiments had thus at last had their wish granted; they were in a North Carolina brigade and under a North Carolina brigadier, and there they would stay until the final surrender.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ward, meanwhile, was admitted on May 17 to Jackson Hospital. We do not know precisely at what point in the day he was wounded, but the hospital’s report for the day of his admission gives the cause succinctly as “VS Abdomen Min Ball.” He was examined on May 22 by Surgeon A. J. Semmes and two other surgeons, who certified that he would not be fit for duty “in a less period than 60 days.” Ward himself was clearly well enough to write, however, since on the same day he “respectfully” requested “leave of absence for 60 days, to go to Teacheys Depot, Duplin Co, N. Carolina,” and the following day he signed a statement of account confirming receipt of pay of $270 for the period of February 1 to April 30, 1864.

 

On May 29, Ward was transferred to Camp Winder, Richmond, known as “the largest hospital in the Confederacy”, and on June 7 he was moved again, this time to General Hospitals Nos. 4 and 5 in Wilmington, North Carolina. The Wilmington Hospitals Register of August 27 shows him as returned to duty that day, but an Inspection Report of Rodes’s Division at Bunker Hill, Virginia, dated September 3 lists him as still absent wounded. However, he was certainly back with his regiment again in time to sign the Company Muster Roll for September and October, 1864, as the lieutenant commanding the company.

 

In his absence, Ramseur had been promoted to Major-General on June 1, and Colonel William R. Cox of the 2nd. North Carolina promoted to Brigadier-General and given command of the brigade. Ward’s comrades had taken part in the Battle of Cold Harbor and had followed Early in his Valley campaign and on his advance into Maryland, penetrating as far as the defences of Washington before retiring back into the Valley. Since the 3rd. North Carolina, with the rest of the Second Corps, remained in the Valley until December 14, 1864, it seems probable that Ward was with the regiment when it fought in the third battle of Winchester and at Fisher’s Hill and Cedar Creek. Certainly the rolls list him as present for duty from September through to the end of the year. In addition, a requisition order for what appears to be paper, dated October 25, shows him as commanding Cos. A, B, C, D and E.

 

The men went into winter quarters just north of Petersburg in mid-December 1864. Ramseur, who had been given command of Rodes’s Division after Rodes was killed at Winchester, had himself been mortally wounded at Cedar Creek. Command of the division had therefore passed to the senior brigadier, Bryan Grimes, another North Carolinian. For the remainder of the war, then, the 3rd. North Carolina was officially in Cox’s Brigade, Grimes’s Division, Gordon’s (Second) Corps. The men were ordered into the trenches at Petersburg around the middle of March, 1865, shortly after which the division took part in the initially successful surprise attack on Fort Stedman on March 25. When the lines were breached in the area round Fort Mahone in the early morning of April 2, Grimes’s Division counter-attacked, retook their trenches and remained in possession of them until the Union breakthrough elsewhere made a general withdrawal inevitable. The men then covered the army’s rear on the long retreat which led finally to Appomattox.

 

 

 

At Sayler’s Creek, on April 6, the 3rd. North Carolina lost its youthful lieutenant-colonel, William Murdock Parsley, shot through the head. He had been captured at Spotsylvania Court House, like most of the regiment, on May 12, 1864, but had been exchanged on August 3 and had immediately returned to duty. Since Colonel Thruston had been wounded at Winchester and left unfit for field service, Major William T. Ennett, who had similarly been captured and exchanged, succeeded Parsley in charge of the regiment’s depleted ranks.

 

Grimes’s Division reached the little village of Appomattox Court House in the evening of April 8 and bivouacked. At around midnight that night, the three divisions of Gordon’s Corps were marched through the village and positioned to the west of it in readiness to clear the Lynchburg road. This was found to be blocked by two lines of dismounted cavalry behind breastworks, supported by two guns. Forming up with Clement Evans on the left, “Stonewall Jim” Walker in the centre and Grimes on the right, the remnants of the three divisions advanced with a yell shortly after daybreak, carrying the breastworks, driving the cavalry before them, clearing the ridge and opening the road. At the same time, Brigadier-General William P. Roberts’s small brigade of North Carolina cavalry, on the right, captured the two guns, the last taken by the Army of Northern Virginia.

 

There were to be no further successes, though, because now Gordon’s temporarily victorious men could see the long blue lines of the newly-arrived Union infantry sweeping steadily towards them from the west and south. Nevertheless, they held their position and continued firing on the enemy until the inevitable order came to cease fire and fall back on the village. Only Cox’s little North Carolina brigade, on the far right of the line, remained in position, either because Cox had not received the order or (as Grimes later wrote) because he had been ordered to cover the rear of the rest of Grimes’s Division. Whatever the case, it was Cox’s Brigade, including what was left of the 3rd. Regiment, North Carolina State Troops, which fired the final volley of the Army of Northern Virginia before being summoned back by a messenger from Gordon. Three days later, the remaining 58 men of the regiment, Major Ennett among them, were paroled and started for their homes.

 

George Washington Ward was not one of them, however. An inspection report on the brigade dated February 25, 1865, at the Dunn House, Petersburg, lists him as absent from February 19 and back in Duplin County “on furlough of indulgence for 18 days” by authority of General Lee. We have no information as to why he was given a furlough of this sort so late in the war, but the logical assumption is that it was to do with his wounds. Certainly there is no evidence that he tried to return to his regiment on the expiry of the 18 days, but by that time Sherman was well into North Carolina and it would have been impossible in any case for Ward to rejoin the Army of Northern Virginia. What we do know is that for the rest of his life he remained proud of his service in the 3rd. North Carolina. Ward’s name is one of those on a surviving official roster of the Association of Officers of the 3rd. North Carolina Infantry, formed on February 2, 1866, and he was apparently a regular attendant at reunions.

 

 

 

Nor was he the only member of his family to serve in the war. His younger brother, Alfred Charles Ward, enlisted as a private on November 14, 1861, in what became the 3rd. North Carolina Cavalry (41st. Regiment, North Carolina Troops) and ended the war as Captain of Co. A, while at least two of his elder brothers, William Robinson Ward and James Edward Ward, were in the North Carolina Home Guard.

 

The war over, George Washington Ward gradually settled down again to life as a farmer. On September 19, 1867, he married the 19-year-old Mary Priscilla Alderman, from Delway in neighbouring Sampson County. Their first child, Mary, was given the second name of Vance, and their eighth and youngest child, born in 1882, was Livingston De Rossett. The U.S. Census of 1870 shows Ward as the owner of a farm valued at $1000. As Bruce Vail points out, “some of this acreage would have been unimproved swampland or woodland, but even those acres could have generated income through the sale of timber rights, or other uses.” Living with Ward and his wife and their two eldest children at this time were his widowed mother and his younger brother, Alfred Charles.

 

Ten years later, in 1880, the census shows him, aged 47, as still living on his farm, but now with five more children. That same year, he attended the fifteenth reunion of the Association of Officers of the 3rd. North Carolina Infantry. Four years after that, on November 10, 1884, he was helping to fight a forest fire when he was overcome by the heat and died. He was buried in the little family cemetery at Teachey.

 

There is a tendency today – understandable, perhaps, in the light of modern attitudes, but no less unhistorical for that – to emphasise the extent of anti-war feeling in North Carolina at the expense of the wider picture. Yet the fact remains that North Carolina contributed more men to the Confederate Army than any other state but Virginia. George Washington Ward’s story is a reminder to us of the thousands of ordinary North Carolinians unknown to history - junior officers, non-commissioned officers and men - who enlisted for the war and remained faithful to the end, justifying their state’s proud boast to have been “first at Bethel, farthest at Gettysburg and Chickamauga and last at Appomattox.”