Company C, 28th NCT at Petersburg, 1865

Compiled by Dave Hunter 

The regiment was assigned to Lane’s Brigade, Wilcox’s Division during the siege of Petersburg. Our focus is normally on the NC regiments that fought in the Army of Northern Virginia, and the 28th NCT is very typical of those regiments. Company C, the “South Fork Farmers”, was organized at Newton, in Catawba County, on August 13, 1861. The volunteers came from the South Fork community in the southern section of the county. Newton was the county seat and the principal town in the county. Hickory, then known as “Hickory Tavern”, was just beginning to grow. Catawba County, organized only 18 years before the war, was largely rural with a population of 10,729 in 1860.

There were few farmers that owned large numbers of slaves and the slave population was “about 15.5%” of the total in 1860. At the beginning of the war the railroad had recently arrived but there was little industry in the county. There were “a few cotton gins, a few brick yards, a few blacksmith shops and a few mills”. There was little development in the county during the war, limited to the addition of an iron forge in Maiden, a cavalry stockyard and commissary in Newton, and a CS commissary facility at Hickory Tavern, by the railroad, used to pack and store the foodstuffs collected in the area for army use.

While there were a few large plantations in the county, most residents were of “…a lower social rank…that constituted the majority of the Catawba population. Included were hardy and determined small landowners that did not subscribe to the slave system, being independent of mind and action.” These farmers tended to till the land in five-year cycles, then move on to new fields. After clearance of the fields, corn was the first crop, followed by oats, cowpeas, wheat, and then cotton in the final year.

The residents of Catawba County were largely isolated from the remainder of the state and more “mountain” in their views and customs. They were not enthusiastic about secession but they responded to the State’s call for volunteers. One of these volunteer companies, “The South Fork Farmers”, joined a regiment being organized at High Point and mustered in as Company C, 28th NCT on August 13, 1861. The first company commander was Thomas Lowe, who was appointed Major a month later, and replaced by Samuel Lowe. Assigned to Branch’s ad hoc brigade, the regiment fought at New Bern and later deployed to Virginia in May 1862 to reinforce Johnson’s army around Richmond. As a regiment in A.P. Hill’s “Light Division”, the 28th NCT would participate in all the major battles of the Army of Northern Virginia and would remain with the ANV throughout the war. With the exception of the 7th NCST, the regiments of the brigade were never detached to serve in North Carolina or other areas of Virginia. After the death of Branch at Sharpsburg, Col. James H. Lane of the 28th NCT was selected to command the brigade, and retained this position until the end of the war.

From the late summer 1864 to the end of March, 1865, the regiment, as part of the brigade, participated in these battles and skirmishes:

Aug. 25, ‘64 Reams Station
Sep. 30 – 1 Oct, ‘64 Jones Farm
Dec. 8-13, ‘64 Jarratt’s Station
Feb. 5, ‘65 Hatcher’s Run
Mar 25, ’65 2nd Jones Farm

The brigade went into winter quarters in October and the soldiers endured a hard winter, with most of it spend on the picket line or in the trenches. There was occasional maneuvering against Federal attempts to cut the railroads or turn the Confederate right flank southwest of the city. Some relief came when the soldiers were off the line in their huts, but the shortages of food, fuel, and sufficient winter clothing contributed to a grim existence. This was too hard for some of the men, and desertions were a constant problem throughout the winter. The highest number left the ranks of the brigade in February, many encouraged by the Federals with the promises of ample food. The brigade reported 1162 men present on 28 February 1865. This would indicate that the strength each of the four regiments would average around 290, so company strengths were probably 25-30 men. Although Company C had as many as 69 men technically listed as “present” on 1 April 65, this figure would include those sick in brigade hospital, detailed, etc. These men were not present for duty in the trenches. By the winter of 1864-65, Capt. James Linebarger, who would later command the regiment in the final days at Petersburg, commanded Company C. Lieutenants Marcus Throneburg , Mathias Throneburg, and John Williams were also present in the company during the final days.

On 2 April, Lane’s understrength brigade occupied the section of the line that would be the main objective of the Federal VI Corps attack. Lane stated in his report that that the regiments were stretched thin along the lines, “with intervals between the men varying from six to ten paces.” The 28th NCT, under the command of Capt. Linebarger, held the right of the brigade line. Skirmishers from McGowan’s SC brigade covered the brigade front. After a night artillery bombardment, the Federals launched a pre-dawn attack on 2 April that overwhelmed the brigade. The 2nd Division, VI Corps, with the Vermont Brigade leading, oriented its attack on a ravine between the 28th and 37th NCT, and the 28th was soon isolated from the remainder of the brigade during the assault. The regiment withdrew initially to the Boydton Plank Road, but could not hold there and fell back to Cox Road, were it supported a battery of artillery and continued to skirmish with the advancing Federals. The fragments of the brigade withdrew toward the inner defense line pausing to defend from the winter quarters huts of McGowan’s Brigade, while a detachment of survivors, led by Lt. Snow of the 33rd NCT, joined with Harris’ Mississippi Brigade in its desperate defense of Fort Gregg. Lane’s shattered brigade would finally rally along the Cox Road. The remnants of the brigade would evacuate Petersburg later that night, crossing the Appomattox River by the Battersea Bridge, beginning the final retreat to Appomattox Court House.

Portraying Company C, 28th NCT at Petersburg

This guidance is provided to allow us to develop an impression that accurately depicts the appearance of the North Carolinians in the Company C, 28th NCT during the final days of the War. This guidance is applicable to most of the NC regiments defending Petersburg during the siege, not just the 28th NCT.

The appearance of the 28th NCT at Petersburg would show the effects of life in the trenches and hard campaigning. The forays against the Federal efforts to turn the lines southwest of the city and duty in the trenches would have quickly worn out existing clothing and equipment. The 28th NCT would probably have been supplied with NC issue clothing in fall, 1864 after the army occupied the Petersburg defenses, since it was easily reached by rail from Raleigh at that time. The arrival of clothing from the State would have slowed down as the Federals disrupted traffic on the Weldon and Southside Railroads. Those wounded in earlier actions returning to the company may have been issued Richmond Depot clothing upon discharge from hospital. Participation in successful actions in October would have given the soldiers an opportunity to obtain some Federal items from these battlefields. Following the fighting along the Boydton Plank Road in October, General Lane mentioned in his diary that: “…Many of the Yankees in their flight in the recent fight cut the straps to their knapsacks and let them drop as they heeled it back. The battle-field was a rich one, and my brigade bears me out in the assertion, as they have a great many sugar-loaf hats, blue overcoats, oil cloths, shelter-tents, &c., &c.… All of the dead that had on passable clothes were stripped…” Several days later he wrote that “There was a great disposition on the part of some to pillage. The field being a rich one, offered many temptations to the men to stop.”

A few notes on civilian clothing and captured Federal items: As always, let’s not overdo it. While the availability of civilian items might have been better than usual due to the proximity to the city of Petersburg, the citizens in and around Petersburg, facing an uncertain future, may have been reluctant to part with their goods. High prices due to inflation would have severely limited the average soldier’s ability to purchase them locally. North Carolina was also relatively close but “boxes from home”, in this case from Catawba County, would have been problematical in early 1865. Transportation problems and severe shortages on the North Carolina home front would hinder those families trying to send any items to soldiers in the regiment. Remember that Catawba County was largely rural and there was little industry there to supply the citizens. Clothing of homemade jeans, shirts, socks are acceptable on a few, but keep it simple. Captured items should be limited as well; not every soldier captured a full uniform or a complete set of Federal accouterments and equipment in October and there was little opportunity for salvage in the wake of the fight on 25 March. By April, these items would have been well-worn, beat-up examples. Any clothing, such as trousers or shirts would be dirty, ragged, worn out, and the overcoats a little less worn, but still dirty. Remember that much of what the Confederates captured probably was not recently issued to the Federals.

Based on what would logically have been available to the soldiers of the regiment, here is a guide to what we should wear and use to depict Company C, 28th NCT in 1865.

 1. North Carolina Issue Jacket, of gray jeans or cassimere. (commonly called the “N.C. Depot Jacket” today), “Tucker”, “McRae” or “Hollyday” styles acceptable. NC Quartermaster records indicate that gray was the predominate color of the cloth purchased for State clothing. Avoid the use of any other colors of fabric, especially brown, for this garment. Buttons should be either NC state seal or NC sunburst types, with the sunburst type more likely. The jackets should be dirty, frayed at wear points such as the cuffs and elbows, but not completely in tatters.
2. Other military issue jackets. - Peter Tait imported jacket of English blue-gray “army cloth”, Tait “lined block I” or “script I” buttons. - “Type III” Richmond Depot in English blue-gray “army cloth”, “block I” or “script I” buttons.
3. Civilian Coats: Remember that the material for clothing for civilians was in short supply during this time. It is unlikely that much clothing from home was available in the final months of the war. Limited use of “homemade” sack coats, vests of homespun jeans. Wood, bone, or cloth-covered buttons. Grey, black, brown, tan colors acceptable. Avoid the use of full suits of civilian clothing.

Prohibited Items
Any type of military frock coats on enlisted men, or other CS issue coats or jackets of any type not specifically listed, overshirt/“battle shirt” as outer garment, any Federal clothing. No civilian clothing common to the upper classes of society (the “Rhett Butler” look, long frock coats of any sort, ecclesiastical garments, etc)

All trousers would also have been be dirty, frayed, and generally in worse condition than the jackets. Civilian trousers of homespun jeans; basic colors the same as civilian coats.
1. “McRae” or “Richmond Depot” patterns in gray jeans, cassimere, satinette, English blue-gray “army cloth”, English medium blue kersey (NOT U.S. issue sky blue kersey). The “Richmond Depot” pattern trousers match the basic style of a pair of trousers identified as NC issue.
2. Limited use of well-used Federal trousers. Prohibited Items: CS issue types not common to the ANV in early 1865; any plaid, striped, checked civilian trousers.

Shirts 1. “Hollyday” (plain white cotton), “McRae” (blue/gray flannel), “Seldon” (blue striped cotton English import) styles of shirts or any other shirt style identified as a North Carolina issue item or identified to a North Carolina soldier; CS issue common to the ANV in late 1864 -1865.
2. Limited use of Federal issue gray or tan flannel shirts 3. Civilian/homemade types. Plain cotton, woven checks or stripes. Prohibited Items: any CS issue not common to the NC troops or the ANV in 1865, overshirt/“battle shirt” as outer garment.

Any period types in cotton or flannel.

Socks (if worn)
Any period types in wool or cotton, in natural or plain colors. Avoid striped socks.

Shoes were in short supply, but you must wear shoes at the event.
1. NC-manufactured shoes, CS types issued to the ANV in 1864-65, English-made shoes, civilian brogans. Federal shoes permitted, but should be well-worn.

Prohibited Items
Any types/styles of boots, canvas “sport shoes”

1. Civilian felt hat, NC issue felt hat
2. NC issue “kepi” or CS “kepi” styles common to the ANV in 1864, of gray jeans, satinette, cassimere, English blue-gray “army cloth”, no colored bands or trim.
3. Limited use of captured Federal headgear; if used, those items must be well-worn, beat-up examples.

Prohibited Items
Any other types or patterns of Confederate caps or military hats. Any types of civilian caps.

 Cal..58 rifle muskets. Richmond rifle-musket, P1853 Enfield rifle-musket, M1861 and M1863 Springfield rifle-muskets permitted. Lorenz rifle permitted, but discouraged, as the mixed calibers of weapons would not be seen in the infantry companies at this point in the war. An ordnance report for the brigade from June 1863 listed the Austrian weapons, along with “muskets”, but we were unable to verify that these types were still in use in April 1865. The report did not indicate how each regiment was armed, but listed only types and total numbers. (Thanks to Greg Sheppard, we were able to get copies of the division IG’s reports on Lane’s Brigade from the National Archives, which listed “cal.58” rifle muskets for the 28th NCT in Nov-Dec 64). Bayonets appropriate to the weapon carried. It is also acceptable not to carry a bayonet. A “gun sling” is not required with the weapon, but if used must be appropriate to the weapon carried. Musket appendages encouraged for all ranks, and each non-commissioned officer should have at least a wrench and wiper that fits his weapon.

Ammunition packages and boxes should show markings for the Richmond Arsenal or be unmarked. Prohibited items: any other types of weapons not listed above. Any bowie, side, or fighting knives, pistols of any sort, pikes, or any other types of military or civilian weapons not specifically permitted above.

These items should be CS issue appropriate to the Richmond Depot in 1864; English accouterments sets; CS painted canvas accouterments, belts, or slings; very limited use of captured US boxes (patterns of 1857, 1861). No white webbing or white buff leather items of any sort, no “russet” leather.
1. Cartridge Box: CS types identified to NC use, CS types common issue from the Richmond Depot in 1864-65, English import infantry box, painted cloth boxes, very limited use of captured US boxes (patterns of 1857, 1861 boxes with shoulder belts appropriate to the types of boxes). If a cartridge box shoulder belt is used: black leather CS issue or painted canvas.
2. Cap Box: CS types identified to NC use, CS types common issue from the Richmond Depot in 1864. Very limited use of captured US pattern of 1850.
3. Waist Belt: CS types identified to NC use, CS types common issue from the Richmond Depot in 1864-65, CS issue frames or forked-tongue buckles, English imports. Painted canvas with iron roller buckles, very limited Federal issue. No canvas webbing, white buff.
4. Bayonet Scabbard: CS types identified to NC use, CS types common issue from the Richmond Depot in 1864-65, English import scabbards and frogs of the correct pattern. Limited use of Federal scabbards (two and seven rivet patterns).

 Blankets were scarce, so limit your bedding to one blanket if possible. NC or CS issue military blankets of patterns common to NC troops in the ANV in 1865; captured Federal blankets. Use of civilian bed blankets, coverlets, quilts, carpet blankets should be limited as most of these items were used up by 1865, or retained by civilians for their use.

 CS types of oilcloths. Federal rubber blanket/poncho: No oilcloth/rubber blanket is also correct for this scenario. Haversack
1. CS issue unpainted cotton haversack (Moses Alexander or other styles), CS issue painted cloth haversack (“Bayley” style)
2. US Haversack: limited use, must be well-worn, beat-up examples

Prohibited Items
No striped, plaid, printed cloth haversacks. No early war items or any other types of haversacks not listed or any type of carpetbags. Canteen
1. CS issue tin drum canteens. These canteens should be the plain, flat- sided type or the convex-sided types common to the ANV. Canteen slings should be simple cotton cloth types.
2. CS issue wooden canteens. Correct copies of the Gardner and Nuckols patterns. Avoid using any with extensive carvings, unit markings, etc not appropriate to the 28th NCT. Canteen slings should be simple cotton cloth types.
3. Federal pattern of 1858/pattern of 1858 canteens. Limited use, must be well-worn, beat-up examples

Prohibited Items
Any canteens not common to the ANV in 1864-65, any with embossed “CS” or other markings, and any filter types.

CS issue types common to ANV including the Kibbler/Johnson style and Isaac & Campbell bags. Blanket rolls preferred in place of Federal Knapsacks. Limited use of Federal knapsacks will be allowed, No unit markings on Confederate bags and no markings on Federal bags not appropriate to Federal regiments that fought at Reams Station or Jones' Farm.

Mess Equipment
Tin cups, small boilers, small tin plates or bowls and the usual types of flatware. Any other mess pans, large mess pans/pots, frying pans, etc would have been behind the lines.

Miscellaneous Clothing and Equipment Tentage
None, as they were in winter quarters and these items would have been behind the lines. Limited use of captured shelter tents in trenches.

Llimited use, English import type or captured Federal issue, but captured items must be very worn, dirty.

Pioneer Tools
Axes, shovels/spades of period style, picks Prohibited items: Rubber talmas/raincoats, rain covers for caps, any other one-of-a-kind or oddball items that are inappropriate or wrong for the 28th NCT in March 1865.

Personal Items
 Carry a few items that can fit in your pockets: wallets, watches, pocketknives, cased images, etc. These should be items common to a North Carolinian in the ANV in 1865. Fancy writing kits, toilet articles, sewing kits, camp/smoking/sleeping caps, chess sets, books, etc. were probably in short supply, if any had survived to this point. Please leave them at home for this event.

 Cornmeal, fresh beef, salt pork, bacon, “Nassau bacon”, potatoes, parched corn, peanuts, and any other foodstuffs common to southside Virginia in early spring of 1865. Limit the quantities…it’s 1865. The issue of hard bread appears to have been limited and any in haversacks in the 28th NCT would have been limited to that obtained by trade with Federals on the picket line. If you must bring crackers, don’t bring many.

Personal Appearance
Dirty and unkempt. Try to be as close to this your modern life will permit. Sources: The information on the 28th NCT in this article was taken from the “usual” sources: Clark’s NC Regts, Vol II, and NC Troops: a Roster, vol VIII. See A History of Catawba County, C.J. Preslar, ed. for a detailed account of the county during the war, and other details. The compiled service records for the officers in the company, and other personal accounts, letters, etc did not provide any information on uniforms, weapons and equipment in 1865. Chris Graham “crunched the numbers” on Company C from the information in NC Troops: a Roster. The best account to the breakthrough on 2 April is A.Wilson Green’s Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion: the Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign, which you should try to read prior to the event.


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