Facebook friend Garry Adelman alerted me to this site for the Averasboro (NC) Battlefield and Museum, which features a snippet from this article I wrote on the death of Willie Hardee at the Battle of Bentonville. I’m flattered they used my article, but wish they had linked to it so interested folks could read the whole thing. In addition, I’ve written articles on Hardee in-law William Kirkland and on the town in which Willie is interred, Hillsborough, NC. Check them out.
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Tags: Articles, Digital History, Hardee
Categories : Articles, Civil War On the Web, Digital History, News
This past Saturday, an off day between the 1st & 2nd rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the family piled into our rental car and drove to Hillsborough, outside of Raleigh. You can’t swing a dead cat in Hillsborough without hitting a historical marker of some sort.
The town was laid out in 1754, and due in large part to its situation along an Indian trading path that stretched from Petersburg, VA to Augusta, GA, Hillsborough became the center of the North Carolina back country. Hillsborough was the home of five General Assemblies during the 1770’s and 1780’s, and residents who played a prominent role in the Revolution included a signer of the Declaration of Independence (William Hooper, who relocated from Wilmington), a member of the Continental Congress (Thomas Burke, also wartime governor of NC), and Brigadier General Francis Nash, who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Germantown. The house owned by Nash and, after his death, Hooper still stands at 118 W. Tyron St. British General Cornwallis camped in Hillsborough in 1781, and the Tory David Fanning (say that like The Virgin Connie Swail) captured Gov. Burke there later that same year.
This blog focuses on the Civil War, so let’s fast forward a bit. William Kirkland built Ayr Mount (376 St. Mary’s Rd.) in 1815, and the home would remain in the Kirkland family until 1971. In 1833, William W. Kirkland was born there (I’ve written about Kirkland here and here). Ayr Mount is now a historic site open to the public – but I didn’t have time to go there. I did revisit St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, where many Kirklands, Ruffins, and Pettigrews lie buried, and took a new photo of the Willie Hardee grave (though I must have been there at a similar time of day last time – this is one tough stone to photo). Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
The Visitor’s Center is in the Dickson House. As the war neared its close, General Wade Hampton made this his headquarters, and it was in the office building outside the house that Joseph Johnston and members of the Confederate Cabinet met to discuss surrendering to the armies of William T. Sherman. It was from there that Johnston rode out on April 18, 1865, bound for the nearby Bennett (Bennitt) Farm. Here’s a photo of the house – I forgot to take one of the office building.
Hillsborough was also home to the Burwell School, a female academy operated by the Rev. Robert Burwell and his wife from 1837 to 1857. In 1836 it became “home” to a teenaged slave named Elizabeth Hobbes. In 1855, Elizabeth bought her freedom, married, moved to Washington, worked as a dressmaker in the White House and in 1868 published her memoir, Behind the Scenes; or Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House, under her married name, Elizabeth Keckly. She, along with her boss, Mary Todd Lincoln, was the recent subject of this book.
Hillsborough has a ton to offer the history-minded traveler, and lots of shops and such to satisfy the non-history-minded spouses with which many of us seem to travel.
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Tags: Articles, Hardee, Hillsborough, Kirkland
Categories : Articles, Field Trips
Well, I’m off to throw away my money at Pimlico. Hopefully it won’t take an eventual mortal injury in the feature for me to break even this year. I’ll have my computer with me while in Baltimore, but I doubt I’ll have internet access. So this post will have to do until I get back on Sunday. Sometimes we manage to hit a Civil War site on the ride home – last year it was Monocacy. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
I mentioned here that I learned an interesting tidbit on William Whedbee Kirkland as a result of my visit to Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown a couple of weeks ago. Since I have a little time before we hit the road, let’s get it out of the way.
At First Bull Run, Kirkland was colonel of the 11th North Carolina Volunteers, part of Brig. Gen. Milledge Luke Bonham’s First Brigade of Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac. This apparently simple information can be confusing, however, since the 11th NCV was later designated the 21st North Carolina Infantry. There was a later change to the regimental numbers, as well as designations of units as either North Carolina Infantry (NCI) or North Carolina State Troops (NCST). It’s confusing, but when this change happened the NCV units had to change numbers, and those who became NCI regiments did so by changing their NCV number by ten. It’s similar to the difference between the numbering of Pennsylvania Reserve regiments and their eventual PA volunteer infantry numbers, which you can figure out by adding 29 to the reserve number. Confused? If so, you get it. But if you’re looking for the biography of the 11th NCV in a reference work like Crute, you need to look at the 21st NCI. That’s the case for all of the NCV units, 2nd through 15th, except for the 10th, which became the 1st Artillery.
Now, give me a minute while I try to remember my name.
You may recall from this earlier article that the later General Kirkland was related by marriage to Lieut. Gen. William J. Hardee. When Hardee’s son Willie was gravely wounded in the late war Battle of Bentonville, his father sent him to the Kirkland home in Hillsboro (now Hillsborough), outside of Raleigh, NC. It was there that young Willie died, and it was in the Kirkland family’s churchyard that he was buried.
After the war, Kirkland worked in the “commission business” in Savannah, GA. The famous Broadway star Odette Taylor was actually Kirkland’s daughter, Bess, and her father eventually moved to New York where he worked for the post office. Bess married another actor, one R. D. MacLean, whose real name was R. D. Shepherd of, you guessed it, Shepherdstown, WV (the acting couple are buried in Hollywood, CA, where they had moved to work in silent motion pictures – she was in Buster Keaton’s The Saphead; he seems to have had more success). Apparently the elder Kirklands were tight with the Shepherd family, as Mrs. Kirkland – who at some point divorced her husband – is buried in the Shepherd family lot. Kirkland, due to infirmity, spent the last 15 years of his life in the Washington, DC Soldier’s Home. When he died in 1915, he was buried in Elmwood in what Ezra Warner wrote in 1959 was an unmarked grave.
To bring the thread full circle, Kirkland’s burial plot (below, from my trip) was restored in 1990 by the citizens of his hometown, Hillsborough, NC. I am not sure if the Susan Wilkins next to whom Kirkland is buried is his ex-wife, second wife, or what. But check out the inscription on Kirkland’s stone. Click on the thumbnail for larger pictures.
I’m getting a sort of rakish vibe from Kirkland. I don’t know if it’s because of his divorce, his post-war wanderings, his Hollywood connections, or the fact that after he dropped out of West Point he became a U. S. Marine. Regardless, I’m looking forward to doing his bio sketch. Any info you readers can provide is appreciated.
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Tags: Articles, Hardee, Hillsborough, Kirkland
Categories : Articles, Family Ties, Field Trips, Soldiers
A couple of years ago, I took a tour of Civil War battlefields in North Carolina put together by my friend Teej Smith. We visited Monroe’s Crossroads with Eric Wittenberg, Averasboro with Mark Smith and Wade Sokolosky, and Forts Fisher (Bull Run thread #1) and Anderson with Chris Fonvielle. We also spent a long, hot day at Bentonville with Mark Bradely, author of the definitive study of the battle, Last Stand in the Carolinas. It was there I was able to put a “face” to one of the most poignant stories of the war, that of General William J. Hardee and his young son, Willie.
Born in Georgia in 1815, “Old Reliable” William Hardee was an 1838 graduate of West Point, winner of two brevets in Mexico, one time commandant of cadets at his alma mater, and the author of the standard U. S. Army manual Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics for the Exercise and Manoeuvres of Troops When Acting as Light Infantry or Riflemen (Bull Run thread #2). A Lieutenant Colonel before the war, he resigned his commission when Georgia seceded. He served at high levels in the Confederate armies in Kentucky and Tennessee, but when offered command of the Army of Tennessee after Chattanooga, Hardee demurred. He served under Joe Johnston (Bull Run thread #3) and John Hood through the Atlanta Campaign; after the battle of Jonesboro he requested a transfer out from under Hood’s command. He was in command of the forces that surrendered Savannah and Charleston to William T. Sherman (Bull Run thread #4). As the war wound to a close, Hardee found himself once again under Johnston’s command, in an army group that boasted an officer corps reminiscent of a Confederate Old Home week. General officers present at the climactic Battle of Bentonville included blasts from the past Braxton Bragg, D. H. Hill, LaFayette McLaws, William Loring, and William Taliaferro.
I won’t get into the details of the Battle of Bentonville. It was a hard fought affair that lasted three days, March 19, 20, & 21, 1865, and is perhaps most famous for what didn’t happen at its close. On the 22nd Sherman, in command of two armies, turned away from Johnston knowing his old foe was significantly outnumbered and backed up to a stream (Mill Creek) with only one crossing, to march east toward his original objective, Goldsboro. There Sherman intended to add the forces of generals John Schofield and Alfred Terry (Bull Run thread #5) and commence the final march to join Grant at Petersburg. But earlier, on the 21st, Maj. Gen. Joseph Mower led his division of Frank Blair’s 17th Corps of Oliver Howard’s (Bull Run thread #6) Army of the Tennessee against the Confederate left in an effort to cut the rebels off from their escape route over the Mill Creek Bridge.
Mower’s advance slammed into the Confederate left, overrunning Johnston’s headquarters, forcing the General to flee on foot. Johnston had charged Hardee, in command on the right, with gathering troops to mount a defense of the bridge. “Old Reliable” scraped together a force consisting of infantry and cavalry. One of these units was the 8th Texas Cavalry, aka Terry’s Texas Rangers (Bull Run thread #7).
In the ranks of the 8th Texas that day was the General’s 16 year old son, Willie. Young Hardee had first joined the Rangers in the first half of 1864, but the regiment sent the boy, who had run away from a Georgia school to sign up, to his father. In order to keep better watch over him, the General gave his son a position on his staff. Except for a brief stint with a battery, Willie served on his father’s staff up until the march toward Bentonville. Reunited with the Rangers on the march, the boy pleaded with his father for permission to serve with them. After an enticement of an officer’s rank and a position on Johnston’s staff was resisted by the son, the father relented. He told Capt. Kyle of the regiment, “Swear him into service in your company, as nothing else will satisfy.”
As Mower’s attack reached a climax, Hardee assembled the Rangers and the 4th TN cavalry of Col. Baxter Smith’s command. One eyewitness reported that the General and his son tipped hats in salute to each other as the line formed. “Old Reliable” personally led the assault with drawn sword. The cavalry attack pushed the Union skirmishers back on their main line, and the rebel infantry followed. Mower’s assault came to a halt. Sherman, who was not happy that Mower’s action was started in the first place, ordered Blair’s corps to disengage, much to the chagrin of army commander Howard (who as a professor of mathematics at West Point before the war had been entrusted with tutoring the son of the commandant of cadets, William J. Hardee).
Hardee was pleased with the performance of the troops in dealing with the threat to the Mill Creek bridge. As he headed to the rear he joked with Wade Hampton (Bull Run Thread #8), but his high spirits were dashed by the sight of of young Willie’s limp body being supported in his saddle by another Ranger riding behind. He had received a mortal chest wound in the field (pictured below) in front of the Federal line.
The General directed his son be taken to Hillsboro to the home of his niece, Susannah Hardee Kirkland, wife of Brig. Gen. William W. Kirkland, one of Bragg’s brigade commanders (Bull Run thread #9). It was there that Willie Hardee died three days later on March 24. In a small military ceremony which his father attended, he was buried in St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church cemetery.
As my friend Mike and I travelled back to Pittsburgh from Wilmington after the last of our tours, we decided to make a little detour to Bennett Place (the site of Johnston’s surrender to Sherman is one stop all enthusiasts should make). Checking with the staff at the site we learned that Hillsboro is not far away and decided to go a little out of our way to find Willie’s grave. It took quite a bit of searching. Once we found the cemetery we still had no idea what the marker looked like. But we found it; actually, I think Mike found it, and it required the brushing away of quite a few leaves. My camera batteries were out of juice, and Mike’s were dying, but with the last photo on his camera we recorded the image below (I’m not sure why the marker says he was 17 – everything I’ve read says he was 16).
I can’t imagine what the General must have felt while standing on that same spot so long ago. Surely he second guessed his decision to allow Willie to join the Rangers. But did he question the cause that had led him, his family, and his countrymen to this state of affairs? Hardee survived the war to become president of the Selma and Meridian Railroad and coauthor of The Irish in America. He passed away on Nov. 6, 1873 in Wytheville, VA and is buried in Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, AL. But I have to believe a big part of him died that day in that churchyard outside Raleigh.
Bull Run Threads
1 – This fort was named for the commander of the 6th NC, Col. C. F. Fisher, killed at First Bull Run.
2 – This manual describes tactics that would have been employed during First Bull Run.
3 – Johnston commanded the Confederate forces at First Bull Run.
4 – Sherman commanded a brigade in Daniel Tyler’s federal division at First Bull Run.
5 – Terry commanded the 2nd CT Infantry in Keyes’s brigade of Tyler’s division at First Bull Run.
6 – Howard commanded a brigade in Heintzelman’s Federal division at First Bull Run.
7 – The 8th TX Cavalry was recruited by Benjamin Franklin Terry and Thomas Lubbock, who both served on the staff of James Longstreet, a brigade commander in Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac at First Bull Run.
8 – Hampton commanded the Hampton Legion at First Bull Run, and was wounded in the battle.
9 – Kirkland commanded the 11th NC Volunteers (later the 21st NC Infantry) of Milledge L. Bonham’s brigade of the Army of the Potomac at First Bull Run.
Bradley, M. L., Last Stand in the Carolinas: The Battle of Bentonville
Eicher & Eicher, Civil War High Commands
Hughes, Jr., N. C., Bentonville: The Final Battle of Sherman & Johnston
Hughes, Jr., N. C., General William J. Hardee, Old Reliable
Moore, M. A., Moore’s Historical Guide to the Battle of Bentonville
Warner, E. J., Generals in Gray
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Tags: Articles, Bentonville, Hardee, Hillsborough, Kirkland
Categories : Articles, Field Trips, Soldiers