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, Gene