The “Mecklenburg Farmers”: Company H, 35th NCT,
September 1861 to October 1862

Compiled by David Hunter

This article covers some of the basic knowledge of  “home” and the regiment that you would have known as a member of the Company H up though October, 1862.  I have ended the “story” at November, as you  should not be concerned with events or personnel changes that happened later.(…such as Fredericksburg, etc.) Please use this information to guide your comments and attitude in the ranks during the march. 

Mecklenburg County in 1861

The 1860 Census listed 17,374 people living in the county, 10,543 of which were white.  There were 6541 slaves listed in 1860.  Charlotte, the county seat, had a population exceeding 2265 and was a large town by 1861. The principal newspaper was the Western Democrat, reflecting the political leanings of the majority of white male citizens.  These citizens overwhelmingly voted for John C. Breckinridge for President in 1860, and for John Ellis in the gubernatorial elections that year. 
The “Farmers” came from an old Scots-Irish area of the county.  This section had strong Presbyterian roots and most of the men in Company H were probably of this denomination.  Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church, the oldest church in Mecklenburg County, would have been familiar to many in the company.   Some of the “Farmers” who were educated may have attended the Sugaw Creek School, build in 1837 next to the church by “a Frenchman, Mr. Gillett”.  Robert McDowell was the first teacher at the school.
The gold rush of the 1830’s had provided impetus to Charlotte’s growth.  The success of the mining had convinced the Federal government to locate a mint in Charlotte and it opened in 1838.   After the decline of mining in the late 1840’s, the railroads would arrive to make Charlotte an important location in western NC.  The town was a transportation hub joining  four railroads, the chief one being the North Carolina Railroad.   The arrival of the railroads brought a renewed interest in business.  By the late 1850’s, “downtown” Charlotte was prospering, with a row of stores known as “Granite Range” or “Granite Row” because of their stone facades.   Although the economy in the county was still principally agricultural, the area along the Catawba River and local creeks provided power for industry. The Mecklenburg Iron Works was the major local industry in 1861. 

The principal cash crop in the county was cotton, chiefly due to the larger plantations in the north of the county.  After 1850, the older “green seed” was replaced by the Pettygulph variety, which produced a large boll and was more easily picked.  Bales “weighed between 300 and 350” pounds.  The fields were fertilized (by the late 1850’s) to prepare them and the plants were not “thinned”, so the fields were thick with the plants and with little space between stalks or rows.  Wheat was gaining a place as a cash crop in the state, but the main production of wheat was located north of Mecklenburg County.  The fields were prepared and “manured”, with most of that product going to the wheat field, the garden, and the “potato patch.”  The farmers sowed and reaped it by hand. Tobacco was not a major crop in the southern Piedmont area.  For the average Mecklenburg County farmer, corn and hogs would be raised for both subsistence and local sale. Many of the farmers in the northern side of the county would have used James Torrance’s mill on McDowell’s Creek to grind their corn. 
Aside from farming, politics and superior court sessions, there were other diversions.  Most men enjoyed horse racing, done on straight tracks, similar to modern drag racing. A noted racehorse from Mecklenburg County during the period was “Hart Ball”.  The “principal men of the county” also enjoyed fox hunts, which were usually day-long affairs.  Cock fighting was also popular.  Predictably, these events were well lubricated with the “oil of gladness”.  “Corn whiskey was the standing drink, for both winter and summer, as it was both fashionable and cheap (pre-war price ran about 10 cents for a quart and 30 cents a gallon)…Peach brandy was an aristocratic drink, especially if sweetened with honey.”  Still, there were occasional hard times in the county before the war. There were dysentery epidemics each summer from 1853-1856 that caused many deaths. 

Between 1861 and 1865, Mecklenburg County would provide twenty- one companies to defend the Confederacy. By March 1862, the Western Democrat reported that 912 men from Mecklenburg County had volunteered for Confederate service.  The North Carolina Military Institute, with D.H. Hill as the superintendent, was located in Charlotte and closed shortly after the war began.   Hill went from the school to assume command of the 1st NC Volunteers, which included two companies from Mecklenburg County.
In the gubernatorial elections of 1862, Zebulon Vance would win a decisive victory, outpolling his opponent, William Johnston, over 2 to 1.  However, Mecklenburg County voted for Johnston, a Mecklenburg resident and businessman, over Vance by a wide margin, demonstrating a dedication to the Confederacy more intense than that shown in many other counties in the state.  Johnston, a Democrat from the “Confederate Party”, ran on a platform of support for the Confederate government. This was increasingly unpopular in the state, as many citizens were blaming the Confederate government for the loss of the main coastal areas, worsening conditions at home, and the increasing demands of conscription.

Charlotte became a major logistical site for both the State and the Confederate governments during the war. The local merchants, such as Young, Wriston and Orr, J.H. Fullings, and J.M. Springs, provided cloth and finished uniforms to the NC Quartermaster.  S. and M. Howell, a local saddler, provided accouterments and harness to the NC and CS Ordnance Departments.  A., A., A., and M. Taylor, a large hardware business, provided canteens early in the war.  The US Mint was turned over to the Confederate government, but no coins were struck there and it closed later in 1861. The building and some equipment was then used to roll copper sheets for percussion caps.  By 1862, Charlotte would become home to the Charlotte Navy Yard, which took over the missions of the Gosport, Virginia facility when it was evacuated.  Foundries, a powder mill, and other facilities developed to meet military requirements and the railroads provided the transportation for their products.   The CS quartermaster later established a collection depot in the town.

The “Farmers” Go to War

“The Mecklenburg Farmers” was not one of the companies of volunteers that rushed to the colors in the first days of the conflict.  The company was raised in the northern part of Mecklenburg County and enlisted on September 3, 1861.  Many of these soldiers were farmers who lived in the Sugar Creek-Mallard Creek-Prosperity Church area (now the area around Derita) and what are now the towns of Huntersville and Cornelius.   While the northern section of the county was where the larger plantations were located, the majority of these volunteers did not own slaves and worked small family farms.  Many were in their late twenties or early thirties, older than the “average” young Tar Heel volunteer, and most had families at home.  Their nickname was certainly appropriate for this group of volunteers.

The company reported to Camp Crabtree, “three miles west of Raleigh” and was mustered into state service as Company H, 35th NCT on 27 September 1861.  The first captain was John Alexander, who died in early October. 1st Lt Hugh M. Dixon replaced him as captain.  The company leadership at the end of October 1861:

Captain: Hugh Dixon 
1st Lt: David Maxwell
2nd Lt: none- no replacement for Maxwell immediately selected
3rd Lt: Denson Caldwell
First Sergeant:  James White,
Sergeants:  John Baker, James Davis, Joseph Cochran, William Cochran
Corporals:  Balis Benfield, John Dulin, Leander Query, James Hutchison

The 35th NCT, under Col. (and Reverend) James Sinclair, remained in camp in Raleigh until the end of 1861, where they would be armed and equipped by the state.  While in camp, the regiment lost its first casualties to disease (one of which was probably Captain Alexander). 

New Bern

On January 1, 1862, the 35th NCT was mustered into Confederate service and departed  for New Bern to face the growing Federal threat to the eastern part of the state.  The regiment’s baptism of fire came in the Battle of New Bern on March 14, 1862 and it was not a successful action. The regiment, part of Branch’s small Confederate force, was to the left of the local militia battalion, which was covering a gap near the center of the line of Confederate earthworks at a brickyard fronting a swampy area.  The Federal attack focused on the brickyard position and easily broke through.  The militia promptly broke and fled to the rear, which exposed the right flank of the 35th NC to the Federals’ fire.  The regiment then followed the militia to rear, “in utmost disorder”.  Col. Sinclair later reported that Lt. Col. Craton precipitated the retreat by withdrawing four companies on the right.  The Regiment rallied to the rear and retired “in perfect order”.  They would later retreat to Kinston, where they would remain in camp though April, 1862. Casualties had been light: 9 killed, 11 wounded, 9 missing; none of the Mecklenburg Farmers were among this number.
    While in Kinston, the regiment was assigned to a brigade commanded by Brig Gen. Robert Ransom, a stern West Point graduate and former commander of the 1st NC Cavalry.  Their failure in their first combat weighed heavily on the morale of the regiment and many men expressed dissatisfaction with many of the leaders that were found wanting at New Bern. The regiment reorganized “for the war” on April 21, 1862 and took this opportunity to elect many new officers, including a new commander, Col. Matthew W. Ransom.  Company H made some changes as well.  Capatin Dixon resigned on May 27 and was replaced by David Maxwell.  3rd Lt Caldwell was defeated for reelection.  The new lieutenants were elected from the ranks, Pvt. Silas Hunter to 2nd Lt in April and then 1st Lt. in May; Sgt. John Baker to 2nd Lt. in May; Sgt. James White became the new 1st Sgt.  2nd Lt. William Burgwyn (not from Mecklenburg County) joined the company later in June, coming from a “drillmaster” position in the camps around Raleigh. 

On To Virginia…

The brigade was ordered to Virginia and arrived in Petersburg on June 21.  The brigade now consisted of the 24th , 25th, 26th, 35th,  48th and 49th NC regiments (the 26th would be reassigned in August).   Between June 25 and June 28, as part of Huger’s Division, the 35th NC “was involved in some sharp minor engagements with General Philip Kearny’s division” near King’s School House.  It saw no further combat until Malvern Hill on July 1 when it was part of the ill-fated attacks on the Federal positions. Despite the repulse, the brigade commander stated that the 35th acted with “admirable gallantry” during this attack.  Here the regiment lost 137 men, with Company H losing  3 killed and 10 wounded.  Sgt. Cochran, W, Pvts Deaton, Morrison were killed in action, Pvt Rankin, was wounded and later died of the wound.  Sgt. Dulin, Cpl Wilson, Pvts Biggers, Dulin, J.,  Dulin, T., Garrison, Hood, W., Irvin, McCall, and McLaughlin were wounded.   Later in July, Lieutenant Burgwyn  was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, and it is not clear how there were two 1st Lieutenants in the company. 
Ransom’s Brigade remained in the Richmond-Petersburg defenses, digging trenches and defending Drewry’s Bluff against the approach of Federal gunboats up the James River.

…and then Maryland

 On August 26, the brigade moved by rail to rejoin the main body of Lee’s army.  The brigade was now assigned to a new division commanded by Brig Gen. John G. Walker.  The division rejoined the Army of Northern Virginia near Leesburg on September 3 and crossed the Potomac the following day.  After an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the C&O canal aqueduct near Monocacy Junction, Walker’s Division moved to Loudon Heights on September 14, to intercept Federals trying to escape Jackson’s envelopment of Harper’s Ferry.  The division remained on the right bank of the Potomac during the siege and the surrender of the Federal garrison, then marched on towards Sharpsburg without obtaining any of the supplies captured with the town. Walker’s Division arrived at Sharpsburg on September 16, and Lee placed it on the extreme right flank of the army.
The 35th NC awoke at 3:00 a.m. on September 17 and took its position with the remainder of the brigade.  The Federals launched strong attacks on Stonewall Jackson’s forces near the Dunker Church and the West Woods, which Jackson’s men were hard-pressed to halt.  As the situation worsened in the West Woods, Lee directed Walker’s Division at 9:00 a.m. to reinforce Jackson’s beleaguered command.  Ransom’s Brigade led this move arriving there an hour later.  The brigade immediately attacked into the left flank of the Federal division and routed them.  Ransom’s Brigade remained in position for the rest of the day and repelled “three determined infantry attacks”.  Along with the brigade, the 35th NC remained under “a most persistent and terrific artillery fire” during this period.  Company H was the color company , but lost only four wounded in the fight: 1st Lt Hunter, Pvts Blakley, Hunter and Roberts.   (While in this position, Private William Hood, recovered from his wound received at Malvern Hill, climbed a tree under fire to act as an observer for Stonewall Jackson). Ransom’s Brigade recrossed the Potomac late on September 18, marching in stages through Martinsburg to a bivouac “north of Winchester.”

Virginia, October 1862

The weather during October was typical for fall in the Blue Ridge, “fair and warm” days with occasional wind, rain and a few cold nights.  The 35th NCT remained in the area around Winchester for three weeks and occasionally sent details to destroy portions of the Winchester and Potomac Railroad.  These details went out on October 11, 12, and 16.  Lt Burgwyn describes the “fatigue party” sent out as 15 to 20 men from each company in the regiment.   The company drilled “for the first time since leaving Richmond” on October 14, with the ninety minutes of company drill in the morning and had a brigade drill for two hours in the afternoon.  There was a division review on the afternoon of October 20 and a “regimental review” on October 21.  Corporal William Morris  left the Company H camp the following day to return to Mecklenburg County “to get clothes for the company”. He would not return until November.  
Beginning on October 23 “at sunrise”, the brigade began its march to the east. The regiment marched  25 miles through “Millwood Town” , the Shenandoah River, and Ashby’s Gap to reach Upperville around  4:00 p.m. on October  24. While there, there was a regimental inspection on October 28.  The 35th NCT remained at Upperville until October 29, when it marched to a bivouac one mile south of Paris. The regiment stood picket that night “two and a half miles from Upperville” until 10:00 p.m.  The 35th NCT was detailed to march as wagon guards on October 31and marched twelve miles toward Culpeper Court House that day.  After three days of marching and two river crossings (by “wading”) the regiment arrived at Culpeper on the afternoon of  November 2 and camped “a mile and a half south-west” of the town. 

Company H, October 1862

The soldiers of the company, like most in the ANV at that time, were tired, hungry, and increasingly short of clothing and equipment.  As we know, many lost their knapsacks and blankets at Sharpsburg and their clothing was reaching the limit of serviceability.  Wet weather, monotonous rations, and no pay were additional problems that affected soldier morale.
The size of the company continued to decrease during this period.  Wounds and disease took their usual grim toll.  Few of the wounded from Malvern Hill returned had to the company and no replacements arrived in October.   By the latter half of October, Company H would number 73 officers and men: 4 officers, 3 sergeants, 4 corporals and 62 enlisted men. 

Captain:      David Maxwell
1st Lt:      William Burgwyn, Silas Hunter (Hunter may have been on light duty, due to neck wound at Sharpsburg.  He was not sent to hospital)
2nd Lt:     John Baker
1st Sergeant:  James Davis
Sergeants:     William Campbell, John Caldwell
Corporals:     Leander Query, Balis Benfield, Henry Benfield, George Caldwell    (tentative list, as the dates of promotion are not clear)

 Approximately 63 privates were present for duty in October.  I say approximately, as the details on a few men are sketchy, so we don’t know their status for sure.  Most of these 63 men were original members of the company and were now clearly veterans after New Bern, Malvern Hill, and Sharpsburg.  The private soldiers present for duty in October were:

 John Alexander
Cyrus Alexander
John Alexander
John Benfield
James Blakely
James Blunt
John Brown
S.H. Brown
Daniel Caldwell
Henry Caldwell
Joseph Cook
Wade Davis  (Cabarrus Co)
Solomon Earnhardt
Thomas Flow
Charles Foard
John Foard
James Garrison
George Harris
Green Herron
John Hood
Daniel Hooks
Thomas How
James Hunter
Robert C. Hunter
Robert H. Hunter
James Johnson
Thomas Kerns
Charles McCall
Cyrus McCall
James McEwen
John McGinnis
Thomas McGinnis
Robert McKay
William McLaughlin
James McLure
John Mason
Johnston Miller
John Montgomery
Dallas Morris
D.M Morrison
Samuel Morrison
Thomas Nelson
David Newell
Thomas Pharr ( hospital?)
Isaac Pucket
F.E Query
John Ramsey
John Rice
James Roberts
Samuel Roberts
Thomas Rodgers
James Rogers
John Rogers
William Russ
James Shaffer
William Solomon
Alexander Stewart
David Stinson
James Tarlton
William Taylor
John Thompson
William Wallace
Thomas Woodall

As a member of the company you would know the status of many of the men that had left the company.  Here is a list of those that were not with the company in October.

< <
John Alexander, Capt. Died, cause unknown, 7 Oct 61
Leander Alexander Medical Discharge for disability, 6 Feb 62
William Biggers WIA at Malvern Hill, maybe back to duty in October
William Blakley WIA at Sharpsburg, probably in hospital
D.G. Caldwell DD, Typhoid Fever in hospital in Petersburg, 31 July 62
Denson Caldwell, 3rd Lt. Discharged when defeated for reelection, 21 Apr 62
Columbus Cheshire DD, 8 Jan 62
Joseph Cochran, Sgt. Medical Discharge, defective vision, 6 Feb 62
William Cochran, Sgt. KIA at Malvern Hill
Robert Cook DD, Kinston, 3 June 62
Larkin Deaton KIA, Malvern Hill
Daniel Dulin, Sgt. WIA Malvern Hill, maybe back to duty in October
John Dulin, Sgt. WIA Malvern Hill, maybe back to duty in October
John C. Dulin, Absent, sick, hospital in Richmond, 29 Oct 62
Matthias Dulin DD, Measles, 2 Aug 62
R Dulin DD, Measles, 30 Nov 61
Thomas Dulin WIA Malvern Hill, absent thorough October
T. Fann Absent, sick, in October
William Festperman Absent, sick in a Richmond hospital on 2 Nov 62. He was probably sent to hospital in October
Robert Garrison WIA at Malvern Hill, absent wounded in October
Charles Harris AWOL in October
William Hood Detailed to Brigade as courier, Sep 62
A. Grier Hunter WIA at Sharpsburg, probably in hospital
James Hutchison, Cpl. Discharged, unknown reason, June 62
Green Irwin WIA at Malvern Hill, died of meningitis in hospital in Petersburg, 11 Oct 62
John Killough Medical Discharge for chronic rheumatism, 31 Aug 62
Daniel McCall WIA Malvern Hill, maybe back to duty in October
Harrison McLane DD, “fever” at Kinston, 19 May 62
Thomas McCorkle DD, Kinston, 6 June 62
Julius McLauchlin WIA at Malvern Hill, maybe back to duty in October
Rufus Mason DD, chronic diarrhea in a Richmond hospital on 8 Nov 62. He was probably sent to hospital in October
Hugh Miller DD, 25 Oct 62
William Morris, Cpl. Detailed to Mecklenburg County to pick up clothing, 22 Oct 62
James Morrison KIA at Malvern Hill, 62
Charles Rankin WIA at Malvern Hill, died of Typhoid Fever in hospital in Petersburg, 25 July 62
William Roberts WIA at Sharpsburg (?), in hospital or on leave, 30 Sep 62
Thomas Rodey DD, erysipelas, in hospital in Petersburg, 22 Aug 62
William Solomon Detailed as Teamster through May 62, probably still on duty there in October
John Taylor DD, Typhoid Fever in hospital in Petersburg, 9 Aug 62
Mark Wilson WIA at Malvern Hill, maybe back to duty in October
James White 2nd Lt. Died, Mecklenburg County, 8 June 62. He was absent, sick, in May 62

A few others on the field and staff in October that you should know…

Lt. Col. - Oliver C. Petway, killed at Malvern Hill, replaced by John G. Jones (formerly commanding Co. E, then Major)
Major – John Kelley
Adjutant – Walter Clark, age 16 (…and looked younger).
Assistant Quartermaster – Nicholas Long, who resigned after he returned to NC to get clothing in October.
Sgt. Major - possibly J.K. Long, as Thomas Lasater was commissioned a 2nd Lt in June.
Color Sgt.- William Stewart, color bearer in West Woods fighting, a 37 year-old “Mexican War veteran” from Company K.

You probably would have pulled a few details for these sergeants: George Giles, Co.A, acting Ordnance Sergeant and George Taylor, Co. E, acting Quartermaster Sergeant.

Those on sick call would know the regimental surgeon, Charles O’Hagan, formerly an assistant surgeon with the 1st NC Cavalry.  The brigade established a hospital at Front Royal, operated by the Thomas Howard, an assistant surgeon from the 35th NCT, who took charge of this facility in late October.   Most of the sick would have been sent there first, with the more serious cases then transferred to the “North Carolina Hospital” at Camp Winder in Richmond or the state’s hospital in Petersburg.

Notes on Sources.  The starting point for Company H’s organization and manning is NC Troops, since there are no surviving muster rolls for the company in the National Archives that would provide a clearer picture on personnel status during this period.  Even with NC Troops, we aren’t absolutely sure if there were musicians in the company during this period, or if they were appointed later; the status of those few soldiers whose records are sketchy; or exactly when the NCOs were promoted to their positions.  Obviously, William H.S. Burgwyn’s published diary and letters provide us the closest look at the daily activities and movements of the regiment,  along with the weather. Still, his writings do not mention many men in the company, as he comments only on those in the regiment of his social standing or other officers.  Remember, he was not from the same county and was not an original “Mecklenburg Farmer”.  As the son of an influential and wealthy northeastern NC family, Burgwyn was culturally and socially much different from the men he led.   He lacked the strong ties to the men that the other company officers had and would give up command of the company later in 1863 for a staff billet.  The regiment’s chapter in Clark’s “NC Regts” is useful, but lacks the details we need.   The notes on Mecklenburg County and Charlotte are out of the usual histories of the region, as well as Reminiscences of the Past Sixty Years, Antebellum North Carolina, Common Whites, and the “NC in the Civil War” website.  Images of several Company H soldiers, Leander Query and Lt. Burgwyn, are in Greg Mast’s State Troops and Volunteers. 


Return to Articles Page