Where have all the Captains gone?

The 6th North Carolina State troops played an important role in the battle of Second Manassas (August 28–30, 1862). Since we did not participate in the reenactment at Cedar Creek commemorating this event, I decided to commemorate the 150th anniversary by researching period newspapers to find first hand accounts of the battle and it’s casualty lists.

On October 1, 1862, the North Carolina Standard weekly published “A list of casualties in the 6th N. C. Reg’t, Aug 27-30, Major Robt. F. Webb, commanding.

This listing included a breakdown of casualties by Company and Listed the company commanders:

  • Company A- Lieut J Calder Turner Commanding.
  • Company B- Lieut A K Umstead commanding.
  • Company C- Capt. H B Lowrie commanding.
  • Company D- Lieut Carson commanding.
  • Company E- Lieut J H Burns, commanding.
  • Company F- Captain White, commanding and severely wounded,
  • Aug 30th- Lieut H. C. Dixon, commanding.
  • Company G- Lieut J T Roseboro, commanding.
  • Company H- Captain J.A. Lea, commanding.
  • Company I- Lieut W B Allen, commanding.
  • Company K- Lieut S J Crawford, commanding.

Seventy percent of the company commanders are Lieutenants! Where have all the Captain’s gone? Lets look at each Company in turn.

Company A

The original Captain was Robert M. McKinney. He was Commissioned as a Captain, by Governor Ellis, on May 24, 1861. He left the 6th in June of 1861 when elected Colonel of the 15th N.C.T. and was killed in action on April 16, 1862.

His Replacement was 1st Lt. Samuel S. Kirkland who was promoted to Captain on June 24, 1861 but resigned on July 29, 1862.

1st Lt. James Caulder Turner was appointed as Kirkland’s replacement and promoted to Captain July 29, 1862. Technically Turner was a Captain for nearly a month during this battle even though he is still listed as a 1st Lt. But what a month it was…Between the battle of Gaines Mill (June 27, 1862), Malvern Hill (July 1, 1862) and many unnamed skirmishes, marches and maneuvers, its no wonder this information may not have been announced until some time after this battle.

Company B

Major Robert F. Webb

The original Captain was Robert F. Webb who was promoted to Major on 11 July 1861 and was commanding the 6th N. C. regiment during this battle.

1st Lt. William K. Parrish was promoted to Captain on 11 July 1861 to take over for Webb and commanded the company until 27 June 1862 when he was wounded at Gaines Mill and command devolved temporarily on 1st Lt. Alvis K. Umstead until Captain Parrish returned.

Company D

Major Samuel McDowell Tate

Samuel McDowell Tate was the original Captain, appointed by Governor Ellis on 16 May 1861. He was Promoted to Major on June 11, 1862 and was acting as Lieut. Colonel during this battle. It is interesting to note that the October 1, 1862 article describes him as “Captain Tate” reenforcing the assumption that the current round of promotions had yet to catch up with the deserving recipients.

22 year old 1st Lt. Duncan C. Pearson was promoted to Captain on June 11,1861 to replace Tate.  It is unclear why he was not in command. He resigned due to Poor health on January 21, 1863.

1st Lt. Neill Ray

Sr. 2nd Lt. John Carson is listed as the commander. He was promoted June 11,1862, on the same day that Neill W. Ray is promoted to 1st Lieutenant, which means that, technically, Ray should command the unit if the Captain is unable. Neill describes the battle, from the perspective of the regiment’s historian, in his post war article chronicling the history of the unit. He does not indicate his personal position during this battle, but does not appear to have been sick or wounded. He may have been assigned other duties, which would have caused the 2nd Lt. to rise to command of the company.

Company E

Colonel Isaac Erwin Avery

Isaac E. Avery was the original Captain. He had been promoted to Lt. Colonel, Commanding the regiment, on June 1, 1862. This created somewhat of a political firestorm and was debated in the newspapers by supporters of Major Webb. They felt Webb had more seniority and military experience than Avery, however it was Avery that was hand picked by departing Colonel William Dorsey Pender. Avery was severly wounded at the Battle of Malvern Hill (July 1, 1862) and Webb ended up in command of the 6th N.C. S.T. during this battle.

Captain Alphonso C. Avery

Colonel Avery’s brother, 1st Lt. Alphonso C. Avery, succeeded him as Captain on June 1, 1862. The records are unclear as to why 1st Lt. James A Burns is commanding during this battle. (Although I have no evidence to support this conclusion, Avery may have been accompanying his brother home to recuperate from his wound. Additional research will be required to validate this.)

Newly promoted to 1st Lt. on June 1, 1862, James H. Burns was listed as commander of Company I during this battle and eventually promoted to Captain on 24 Dec 1862.

Company F

Captain B. F. White

Company F was commanded by Captain Benjamin Franklin White,  who was severely wounded during the battle on August 29th. He was succeeded by his newly promoted 1st Lt., 20 year old  Henry C. Dixon .

Company G

James A. Craige was appointed original Captain of company G on 16 May 1861 and on 17 July 1862 he was elected Major of the 57th Regiment (which would later be brigaded with the 6th N. C. under Hoke). There is no clear record of where he served during this battle, but it is probable he was in transition to his new regiment, still in North Carolina during this battle.

Captain B. R. Smith

1st Lt. Benjamin Rush Smith was promoted to Captain July 17, 1861. He was previously serving as Adjutant of the regiment as a member of the Field and Staff and may have been carried forward in this role during the battle to take advantage of his experience, since he is not listed as sick or wounded.

1st Lt. James T. Rosborough was appointed Sr. 2nd Lt. by Governor Ellis as of 16 May 1861, making him a battlefield veteran by August 1862. He was promoted to 1st Lt. on July 17, 1862. Given his experience it is not surprising to find him commanding the company if his Captain was needed for duties elsewhere.

Company I

Richard Wyatt York was the original Captain, appointed by Governor Ellis on 16 May 1861. He was wounded during the Battle of Gaines Mill on 27 June 1862, but is listed as acting as Major during this battle.

His 1st Lt. was Malcus W. Page who was appointed Captain, Assistant Quartermaster to rank from Sept. 16, 1862. His role in this battle is not clear, but he is not listed as sick or wounded during this time frame. He may have been assigned to other duties, during this battle, leading to his promotion.

Sr. 2nd  Lt. Wyatt B. Allen stepped into the leadership role and commanded Co. I during the Battle of 2nd Manassas. He was promoted to 1st Lt. on September 16, 1862.

Company K

33 year old James W. Lea, was appointed the first Captain of Company K by Governor Ellis to date from 16 May 1861. Captain Lea was wounded at seven Pines on May 31, 1862 and resigned due to his injury on August 23, 1862.

1st Lt. Joseph S. Vincent was promoted to Captain on August 23, 1862 and presumably stepped in to command after Captain Lea was wounded. It is not clear why he is not listed as commander during this battle.

32 year old Sr. 2nd Lt. Samuel J. Crawford was promoted to 1st Lt. on the same date that his predecessor was promoted to Captain, just prior to this battle.

The Battle of Second Manassas occurs after a bloody summer of fighting that will be capped less than a month later by the “Bloodiest single day” at the Sept. 17 battle of Sharpsburg. This prolonged period of fighting took its toll on field officers as well as the soldiers on the battle line.  This analysis of the 6th North Carolina regiment’s Company commanders show a regiment in transition. Lieutenants are seamlessly stepping into command roles to replace Captains that have been wounded or promoted. This succession of officers is working as it should and many of these Lieutenants will be promoted to Captain themselves by the conclusion of this hard fighting year.