The above map of the Battle of Newport Barracks was drawn by Josiah O. Livingston of the 9th Vermont. Livingston was one of three members of the 9th Vermont to later win the Medal of Honor for their actions during the February 2, 1864 battle.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Update on my next book project

The original plan for my next book project after the Newport Barracks book, was to be on the 43rd North Carolina during the Gettysburg Campaign. Well I have revised that a bit and have expanded my scope. The plan now is to use letters and diaries from North Carolina soldiers to tell the story of the states involvement in the campaign and battle. My focus will begin with letters and diaries written after the Battle of Chancellorsville and end around early August of 1863 when the Army of Northern Virginia was back across the Potomac River in Virginia.

The major reason for the change due to the lack of good primary sources for the 43rd in the campaign, but also because in the course of research I was finding letters and diary entries from other regiments that I was finding to be quite compelling. I know there will be the natural reaction to say "oh great another Gettysburg book," but I feel this will give a different perspective of the campaign. Another hope is that it will give attention to portions of the fighting that are often overlooked such as the attacks on Oak Ridge and the final attack on Seminary Ridge on July 1, 1863.

I do hope to revisit the 43rd North Carolina in the future, but I am excited about the prospects for this project. So if anyone has any letters or diaries from North Carolina troops during the Gettysburg campaign or know of any particular ones please email or contact me through the blog.

12th New York Cavalry Letter from Newport and other items

While looking up some information on the 23rd New York Cavalry I found a great site for information on New York troops in the war, but also a letter written by a member of the 12th New York Cavalry while stationed at Newport Barracks. The letter is part of an online project of the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center, you can read the entire letter here: Letter From the Twelfth New York Cavalry.
The 23rd New York Cavalry, who fought at Newport Barracks, was often attached to the 12th New York during their service in the New Bern area. I have quoted the section that discusses Newport from the letter dated July 10, 1863:

We are stationed at a small place known by the name of Newport, (it should have been called No-port, for hang me if I can see anything that entitles it to such a name,) on the military railway that runs from Newbern to Morehead. In the beginning of the war our camp ground was occupied by the 7th N. C, (rebel) regiment, who erected log barracks as much for the accommodation of their invaders as themselves. We find our log houses much preferable to the crowded tents in which we lately took shelter, and half bless the labors of the defeated enemy for the comfort they afford us. Two companies of the 98th N. Y. Volunteer Infantry, with an excellent staff of officers, are companions of ours in camp, and all do duty together—our pickets doing the outside guard some six or eight miles from camp, in woods and swamps as dreary as any ever pictured by the romance writers of ancient times. Lonely occupation is this picket work, I assure you, and as dangerous as one can imagine. No sleepy heads are wanted in our army, and I am somewhat pleased to relate that the Erie county boys are careful upon their posts and can be depended upon in every time of danger. A great many incidents, as laughable as they are ludicrous, might be related in regard to some of our midnight picket duty, when the more superstitious among the men fancy approaching rebels in the sonorous squeaking of reptiles, and the short spasmodic grouts of hogs, half wild, around them. And no wonder, for, I believe, there is not in the world such a swarm of loathsome reptiles, from alligators down to ants, as is to be seen and heard here. Confound their noise; they make one wish that some St. Patrick would visit us in mercy and give us rest from such a provoking plague.

You can search for any New York unit here: New York Civil War Regiments.

  • I also want to mention that the blog now has over 1000 views and I want to thank everyone who has visited here since I have started posting. I plan to keep updating the blog even after I am finished with the book on Newport Barracks so please keep checking back.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A 103rd Pennsylvania connection to Newport Barracks

  • I want to first apologize for the delay in posting for the past few weeks. Between writing, working, and researching I have just not had as much time as I would like, but I hope to be back posting regularly for the foreseeable future.

  • Quick update on the book I am about two months away from having it finished, then comes the edit and revision process, and finally laying it out to publish. Once I have a clear date on when I will have copies I will let everyone know.

In a copy of a speech from March 13, 1906 by Carry Augusta Leazar, given to the Battle of Bentonville Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Morrisville, North Carolina, outlining the service of her father Lieutenant Augustus Leazar there was an interesting description of the aftermath of the Battle of Newport Barracks. Augustus Leazar, from Rowan County, enlisted in the Company G of the 42nd North Carolina on March, 15, 1862 at the age of nineteen and on the same day was given a commision as a first lieutenant in the regiment. At the time of the battle Leazar was twenty years old.

In her speech Carry Leazar, who at the time was the historian of the North Carolina Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, states that Lieutenant Leazar was able to capture a sack of coffee, which he sent to his mother in Rowan County who was roasting rye and chipped sweet potatoes as a substitute for regular coffee. But a more interesting piece of information comes from another item that Leazar captured from the Union camp at Newport, Carry Leazar writes:

Another trophy of this field is a volume of Blackstone now in our library, inscribed with the name of "John M. Laughlin, 1st Lieut. Co. A., 103 Penna. Regiment, Penna. Vols."

The volume was most likely a copy of Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England.

The original owner John M. Laughlin was a member of the 103rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Laughlin enlisted on May 1, 1862 and, like Leazar, was promoted to lieutenant. We are able to have a general idea when Laughlin might have first come into possession of the book by the inscription. It was on January 25, 1863 when he was promoted to first lieutenant, so it had to be after this time that he inscribed his copy. The 103rd was part of heavy fighting during the Seven Day's Campaign outside of Richmond in 1862 and later sent to eastern North Carolina, where they spent considerable time in New Bern. It is most likely that Lieutenant Laughlin loaned the copy to another officer in the 9th Vermont and that is probably how the copy ended up at Newport Barracks before the battle.

Lieutenant Laughlin would be captured, along with 455 men of his regiment, at the Battle of Plymouth on April 20, 1864. He would be sent to prisoner of war camp for officers near Florance, South Carolina. In December of that year, Laughlin would attempt to escape but was unsuccessful. He would be paroled on March 1, 1865.

Augustus Leazar would serve until the end of the war with the 42nd. It was said "with bitterness of soul he took parole at Bush Hill, Randolph County, May 2, 1865, and faced reconstruction." Leazar would go on to become an influential political figure in North Carolina after the war serving in 1889 as Speaker of the House for the North Carolina General Assembly. During his time in the legislature be was influential on agricultural and educational issues in the state. After the war Leazar was described as "an efficient officer, is one of the most prominent men of his section of the State. He has served in the Legislature, and as superintendent of the State Penitentiary." Governor Thomas Jarvis in discussing Leazar was quoted as saying:

He could have attained higher positions in the State had be yielded his convictions and accepted the situation. No temptation, no flattery, no threat could move him from the path of duty and of right as he saw it. He loved his State and he loved to serve it. He was ambitious, but his was an ambition to do the right thing and to do it in the service of his State, his fellowmen and his God. He was able and wise. He had himself written, "Whatever his profession, every man is a citizen and owes a duty to the State as he does to his God, for the State is his ordinance for the good of society." He met defeats, but he believed "the essential to success is character, loyalty to the right, loyalty to God. Without it there is no real success, with it there is no failure."

One of Leazar's last statements before his death was to a young legislator who had come to visit him. He simply said "it pays better- in the long run- to be on the right side." He would pass away on February 18, 1905 at the age of 61.