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.
- Crute, Units of the Confederate States Army
- Elmwood Cemetery Ass’n, Inc. Elmwood Cemetery Civil War Tour, Pamphlet, nd
- Warner, Generals in Gray
- Kirkland Portrait – www.generalsandbrevets.com