Richard was 21 when he married his wife, Laura Ann Michael, on March 27, 1861. In June of 1862, twenty-five men from Davidson County, North Carolina joined the 57th North Carolina and were sworn into service on July 4, 1862. “We was drilled every day and guarded prisoners for about two months. Then we was called off to go to Richmond.” Five miles outside of Richmond they drilled for another month before being moved to Williamsburg. “This was just after the seven day fight... It was the battle when McClellan tried to take Richmond.”
Richard stayed in camp, where illness claimed the life of a friend, until November 18, 1862. On a bitter, cold November night, they were moved by train in old box cars to Gordonville where Richard also became ill. He had barely recovered from his illness before he began one of “his hardest marches of the war… three cold days in deep mud” to Fredericksburg. That December was a bitter cold month. On picket duty “it was so cold we could hardly keep from freezing.”
On December 11th he was awaken by the sound of guns. He recalled, “I thought I was home and thought the dogs had treed a squirrel and my Father was shooting at it”. But the gunfire he heard in his dream was the sound of the Battle of Fredericksburg close by. During the Battle of Fredericksburg 57th.North Carolina charged the enemy. Cannonade took of the back of his friend’s head and caused a severe blow to Richard’s head. Richard recollected what a friend told him about the incident, “Mr. Walser and others says that we fell on our faces and that we both kicked like hogs dying after they had been knocked in the head.” During that charge about 100 men from their regiment were killed.
Because of the head wound he sustained at Fredericksburg, his memory was “foggy” of what transpired until about 10 days later when he was back in his “right mind.” One of his first thoughts was wondering how many of his friends had been killed and if his wife and family knew about his injury. After he sent a letter to his wife, she paid him a visit and nursed him back to health. His wife tells him that his brother and two friends had been killed. Complicating his recovery, he contracted dysentery that kept out of active service all summer. By that fall he was able to tolerate food. One year after his wound at Fredericksburg, he was back with his Regiment.
In January of 1864, he was sent to Kinston, NC. During that spring they fought the Battle of Plymouth. In May they moved on to Newbern and captured twenty-three Confederate deserters who had defected to the Yankees. All twenty-three were hung. The first thirteen hung “made the gallows crack”. From there they were called back to Virginia where Grant and Lee were fighting at the Wilderness. His Regiment was sent to the Valley where a mile from Lynchburg they engaged the Yankees and the Yankee, General Hunter, “got scared and left out from Lynchburg.”
The 10th of May Richard fought in the Second Battle of Drewry's Bluff. “Here was a hard fight, but we run old Butler back.” The summer of ’64 Richard got the measles and was hospitalized. Once more his wife joins him until he is well enough to go home on furlough. By November he is well enough to return to active duty. In March of ’65, he is called to the front line at Petersburg where, “There was shooting going on all the time and somebody killed every day.” On the 24th he was part of a detail that crossed the Yankee picket line. After much front line fighting, he was captured and sent to prison camp until the end of the war.
Each time Richard was well enough to go back to active duty, he did so without question. “Listening” to Richard, I heard firsthand about the hardships our boys endured – the challenge of conflict, wounds, illness, bitter cold, lack of supplies and prison camp. Miraculously, some of these men actually survived to grow old like Richard, in spite of the primitive medical care, lack of shelter and food, mini balls and canister. Once again, I was reminded of why their uniform was gray – the color of steel.
Brother Travis [><]
A Southron FB page well worth a visit:
Defending the Heritage