Reminiscences of the Guilford Grays, Co. B., 27th N.C. Regiment

Reminiscences of the Guilford Grays, Co. B., 27th N.C. Regiment

John A. Sloan
John A. Sloan

Author: Sloan, John A. (John Alexander), 1839-1886
United States — History — Civil War
1861-1865 — Regimental histories
1861-1865 — Personal narratives
John A. (John Alexander)
Confederate States of America. Army. North Carolina Infantry Regiment
27th — Biography
Soldiers — North Carolina — Biography
North Carolina — History — Civil War
Reminiscences of the Guilford Grays, Co. B., 27th N.C. Regiment





Organization of the Grays — General Joab Hiatt — Original members —  Election of Officers — Drill — Arms received — First public parade  — ”Jake Causey” — Exercises at Edgeworth — May Queen; presentation of banner.
The Greys celebrate Fourth of July — Visit the Orange Guards at Hillsboro — Dinner and Ball — Celebrate 22d February at Greenboro — The “boom” of War — Secession of the Gulf States — Correspondence between Gov. Ellis and Secretary Holt — Organization of the Confederacy at Montgomery — We celebrate our own Anniversary — Our Visitors — The Ladies — Feasting and Dancing — ”Call” on Gov. Ellis for troops — Ellis’ Response.
Effect of Lincoln’s call for troops — Gov. Ellis convenes the Legislature — The Greys ordered to report at Goldsboro with three days rations — Ordered to report at Fort Macon — Ladies’ Aid Society  — Political excitement — North Carolina Secedes — New recruits — The Greys sworn in — Arrival at Fort Macon — Latham’s Woodpeckers — Assigned to the 9th Regiment — Assigned finally to the 27th Regiment — Deaths  — New recruits — Routine duty at the Fort — Sports and Past-times.
Election of Regimental Officers — Ordered to New Berne — Burnside approaches — Fleet arrives on the 12th — The morning of the 14th — The Battle — The retreat — At Kinston — Changes and promotions — Expiration of enlistments — Regiment reorganized — Grays reorganized as Company B —  Election of commissioned and non-commissioned officers.
More recruits — Sam’l Park Weir — Leave North Carolina for Virginia — The Seven Pines — The seven days fight — Malvern Hill.
Marching in the rain — From Drury’s Bluff to Petersburg — Riddling the “Daniel Webster” — Shelling McClellan’s camp — Ordered to Richmond — At Rapidan Station — Discharges and deaths — Regimental Band formed — First Maryland campaign — Across the Potomac — Two Grays captured — Lost in the woods — Turn up in Loudon County, Va. — At Harper’s Ferry — Surrender of Harper’s Ferry.
Battle of Sharpsburg — The 27th Regiment in the fight — Complimentary notice by President Davis, Gen. Lee and others — Cook’s heroism —  Casualties — Captain Wm. Adams — Recross the Potomac — Rest at Occoquan  — Election of Officers to fill vacancies — Deaths.
McClellan moves Southward — Our march through the Valley — At Upperville  — Return to Paris — Cedar Mountain — Col. Cooke promoted — Major J. A. Gilmer made Colonel — On to Fredericksburg — Incidents on the march —  Burnside advances — Battle of Fredericksburg — Casualties.
Muster Roll of Grays in December, 1862 — Ordered to Richmond — To Petersburg — Take cars for North Carolina — At Burgaw — The sweet potato vine — On to Charleston, S.C. — The Alligators of Pocataligo — In camp at Coosawhatchie — More deaths — Return to North Carolina — On the old grounds near Kinston.
The affair at Bristow Station.
The affair at Bristow — Gallant conduct of Color-Guard W. C. Story —  Losses of the Grays — Lieut. McKnight killed — Sergeant-Major R. D. Weatherly mortally wounded — The affair a criminal blunder — President Davis’ comments — The surprise at Kelly’s Ford — Meade crosses the Rapidan — Lee advances — Meade’s retreat — In winter quarters near Orange Court-House.
Company promotions — Our “Fighting Parson” appointed Chaplain — New recruits — Transfers — Deaths — Virginia Xmas hospitality — Visited by Rev. J. H. Smith, of Greensboro.
Relative strength of the two armies in May — Their respective positions  — The Wilderness — Private Williams receives a wound — Casualties.
The enemy re-enforced by Burnside’s Corps — Heth and Wilcox overpowered  — Critical situation — General Lee charges with the Texas Brigade — Enemy routed — Longstreet wounded — Night march — Moving towards Spottsylvania Court-House — Fortifying at Spottsylvania.
Barlow’s attack upon our left — The little brick church — The enemy’s advance on Ewell at the salient — Gen. Lee exposes himself — Terrific conflict — Heth’s Division moved to the left — The enemy repulsed — Rest for a few days — Grant’s desperate attack on the 18th.
Grant abandons his plans — Moves towards Bowling Greene — On the road to Hanover Junction — Weary marches — A. “Georgy” soldier’s costume — His idea of Music and Medicine — Anecdote of General Grant — Grant changes his tactics — Engagement at Attlee’s Station — Brush at Tolopotomy Creek — Skirmish at Pole — Green Church — Lieut. Campbell mortally wounded.
The army at Cold Harbor — Battle at Pharr’s farm — Casualties — At Cold Harbor — Lieut. Frank Hanner’s death.
Marching towards the James — Our Brigade in the Chickahominy Swamps —  Cavalry skirmish at Hawe’s Shops — Sergeant W. M. Paisley mortally wounded — Ordered to support the cavalry on the 21st. — Fighting under difficulties — On the lines near Petersburg.
The Crater — Warren’s corps seize the Weldon Railroad — The 27th at Ream’s Station — The Grays lose heavily — Warren holds the railroad.
In the trenches before Petersburg — Casualties — The Federals cross to the north side of the James — Skirmish near Battery No. 45 — At Hatcher’s Run — At Burgess’ Mill — In line of battle — Building winter quarters — On a raid at Bellfield — The enemy in full flight — Grant creeping up on our lines.
In winter quarters at Hatcher’s Run — A midnight tramp — An affair at Hare’s Hill — Our picket line in the hands of the enemy — Recaptured —  At Fort Euliss — Our lines broken — The retreat — Fight at Sutherland’s Tavern — Sorely pressed — Reach Deep Creek — Camp near Goode’s Bridge  — We celebrate — Reorganization of the regiment — A halt at Amelia Court-House — Wagon trains attacked and burned — Every man for himself — Reach Appomattox — In line of battle — Awaiting orders.
To the reader — The morning of the 9th — Preparations to attack — A flag of truce — Negotiations between Generals Grant and Lee — The surrender  — The Guilford Grays present at Appomattox — Comrades — Closing scene  — Retrospect.
The names of all who were at any time on our rolls, and a sketch of the military record of each member — Battles fought.

I hope no one will think that I aspire to the severe dignity of a historian in these rambling reminiscences which are to follow. I am well content to take an humbler part. With the political questions of the past, with the conduct of politicians and statesmen, with the skill of military leaders, with the criticism of campaigns, with the causes and effects of the civil war, I have here no concern, much less with the personal interests and rivalries of individuals. But for all this, the writer hopes that these contributions will not be unfavorably received by those who were actors in the scenes which are here recalled. He hopes that what is lacking of the general history of those eventful times will be compensated for in the details touching the history of the Guilford Grays themselves.
From the period when our company was called into the field by Gov. Ellis, down to the surrender at Appomattox, the writer kept a record of those events which came under his own observation, and which he thought might prove useful and interesting in future time. “Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit.
These records up to the capture of Newberne were lost, and for this period of our history I have relied principally upon my memory. From the battle of Newberne to the final catastrophe, I have accurate notes of the most important events and incidents in which the Grays participated and shared.
To the memory of my comrades who fell, and as a testimonial to those who survive, these reminiscences are dedicated. To the derelict in duty, if such there may have been, the writer will have naught to say. Let their names stand forever in the shadows of oblivion.


In the year eighteen hundred and sixty the military spirit was rife in the South. The clouds were threatening. No one knew what a day would bring forth. The organization, the equipment and drill of volunteer companies was, accordingly, the order of the times. The first assembly to perfect the organization of the Guilford Grays was held in the court-house in Greensboro, N.C., on the evening of the 9th of January, 1860. The meeting was presided over by General Joab Hiatt—now deceased—a favorite and friend of the young men. Gen. Hiatt won his military laurels as commander of the militia, in the piping times of peace. Whoever has seen him arrayed in the gorgeous uniform of a militia brigadier on the field of the general muster cannot fail to recall his commanding presence. He was the proper man to fill the chair at our first meeting. James W. Albright (who is still in the flesh) acted as secretary. The usual committees were appointed. A constitution and by-laws were drafted and adopted. The constitution provided for a volunteer company of infantry, to be known as the Guilford Grays. Each member was required to sign the constitution and by-laws. The following is a complete list of the signers, in the order of their signatures:
John A. Sloan, William P. Wilson, Thomas J. Sloan, Jos. M. Morehead, John Sloan, David Gundling, Henry C. Gorrel, William U. Steiner, Otto Huber, James R. Pearce, Jas. T. Morehead, Jr., P. B. Taylor, Chas. A. Campbell, J. H. Tarpley, William Adams, James W. Albright, Maben Lamb, James Thomas, Edward G. Sterling, Jos. H. Fetzer, William P. Moring, Wilbur F. Owen, George H. Gregory, David N. Kirkpatrick, Andrew D. Lindsay, John Donnell, Benjamin G. Graham, W. W. Causey, William L. Bryan, Chas. E. Porter, John D. Smith, James R. Cole, John H. McKnight, Jed. H. Lindsay, Jr., W. C. Bourne, John A. Gilmer, Jr., Samuel B. Jordan.
The foregoing persons signed the constitution and by-laws on the 9th of January, 1860, when the company was first organized, and are entitled to the honor of being the “original panel.”
The company was organized by the election of the following commissioned and non-commissioned officers, viz.:
John Sloan, Captain; William Adams, 1st Lieutenant; James T. Morehead, 2d Lieutenant; John A. Pritchett, 3d Lieutenant; Henry C. Gorrell, Ensign (with rank of Lieutenant); W. C. Bourne, Orderly Sergeant; William P. Wilson, 2d Sergeant; Samuel B. Jordan, 3d Sergeant; Geo. W. Howlett, 4th Sergeant; Thos. J. Sloan, Corporal; Benjamin G. Graham, 2d Corporal; George H. Gregory, 3d Corporal; Silas C. Dodson, 4th Corporal.
The following musicians were selected from the colored troops:
Jake Mebane, fifer; Bob Hargrove, kettle-drummer; Cæsar Lindsay, base-drummer.
The anniversary of the battle of Guilford Court-House is an honored day among the people of old Guilford. It was the turning point in the future of Lord Cornwallis. When the Earl of Chatham heard the defeat announced in the House of Parliament, he exclaimed: “One more such victory would ruin the British.” This battle was fought by General Greene on the 15th of March, 1781. On this anniversary, the 15th of March, 1860, our officers received their commissions from Governor Ellis. This is the date of our formal organization.
Friday night of each week was set apart for the purpose of drill and improvement. Our drill-room was in the second story of Tate’s old cotton factory, where we were instructed in the various manœuvers and evolutions, as then laid down in Scott’s tactics.
Early in April we received our arms, consisting of fifty stand of old flint-and-steel, smooth-bore muskets, a species of ordnance very effective at the breech. They were supposed to have descended from 1776, and to have been wrested by order of the Governor from the worms and rust of the Arsenal at Fayettsville. By the first of May we had received our handsome gray uniforms from Philadelphia. These uniforms, which we so gaily donned and proudly wore, consisted of a frock coat, single-breasted, with two rows of State buttons, pants to match, with black stripe, waist belt of black leather, cross belt of white webbing, gray cap with pompon.
Our first public parade was a day long to be remembered. It occurred on the 5th day of May, 1860. The occasion was the coronation of a May queen in the grove at Edgeworth Female Seminary. The Grays were invited by the ladies to lend their presence at the celebration, and it was whispered that we were to be the recipients of a banner.
It will be readily imagined that we were transported with the anticipation of so joyous a day. We did our best to make ourselves perfect in the drill and manual—for would not all eyes be upon us? The day came at last, and at 10 a.m. we assembled in front of the court-house. The roll was called and no absentees noted. The uniforms were immaculate, our officers wore the beautiful swords presented to them by the fair ladies of Greensboro Female College, the musket barrels and bayonets flashed and gleamed in the glorious May sunshine, and with high heads in jaunty caps, and with the proud military step, as we supposed it ought to be, we marched now in single file, and now in platoons, down the street towards the Edgeworth grounds, keeping time to the music of “Old Jake,” whose “spirit-stirring fife” never sounded shriller, and whose rainbow-arched legs never bore him with such grandeur.
When we arrived at our destination, we found the beautiful green grounds, which were tastefully decorated, already filled with happy spectators. The young ladies, whose guests we were to be, were formed in procession, and were awaiting the arrival of the Queen and her suite. The appearance of this distinguished cortege on the scene was the signal for the procession to move.
The following was the order of procession:
First. Fourteen of her maids of honor.
Second. Ten Floras, with baskets of flowers, which they scattered in the pathway.
Third. Sceptre and crown-bearer.
Fourth. The Queen, with Lady Hope and the Archbishop on either side.
Fifth. Two maids of honor.
Sixth. Ten pages.
Seventh. The Military (Grays).
As the Queen advanced to the throne, erected in the centre of the grove, the young ladies greeted her with the salutation:

“You are the fairest, and of beauty rarest,
And you our Queen shall be.”

Lady Hope (Miss Mary Arendell) addressed the Queen:
“O, maiden fair, with light brown hair!”
The Archbishop (Miss Hennie Erwin) then proceeded to the crowning ceremony, and Miss Mary Morehead was crowned Queen of May.
After these pleasant and ever-to-be-remembered ceremonies, the Queen (Miss Mamie) in the name of the ladies of the seminary, presented to the Grays a handsome silk flag, in the following happy speech:

“In the name of my subjects, the fair donors of Edgeworth, I present this banner to the Guilford Grays. Feign would we have it a “banner of peace,” and have inscribed upon its graceful folds “peace on earth and good-will to man;” for our womanly natures shrink from the horrors of war and bloodshed. But we have placed upon it the “oak,” fit emblem of the firm heroic spirits over which it is to float. Strength, energy, and decision mark the character of the sons of Guilford, whuse noble sires have taught their sons to know but one fear—the fear of doing wrong.” * * * * * *

Cadet R. O. Sterling, of the N.C. Military Institute, received the banner at the hands of the Queen, and, advancing, placed it in the hands of Ensign H. C. Gorrell, who accepted the trust as follows:

“Most noble Queen, on the part of the Guilford Grays I accept this beautiful banner, for which I tender the thanks of those whom I represent. Your majesty calls to remembrance the days of ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ when the banners of our country proudly and triumphantly waved over our own battle-field, and when our fathers, on the soil of old Guilford, ‘struck for their altars and their fires.’ Here, indeed, was fought the great battle of the South; here was decided the great struggle of the Revolution; here was achieved the great victory of American over British generalship; here was evidenced the great military talent and skill of Nathaniel Greene, the blacksmith boy, whose immortal name our town bears.
“If any earthly pride be justifiable, are not the sons of Guilford entitled to entertain it? If any spot on earth be appropriate for the presentation of a “banner of peace,” where will you find it, if it be not here, five miles from the battle-field of Martinsville; here at Guilford Court-House in the boro of Nathaniel Greene; here in the classic grounds of old Edgeworth, surrounded with beauty and intelligence; in the presence of our wives, our sisters, and our sweethearts. And who could more appropriately present this banner than your majesty and her fair subjects? You are the daughter of a Revolutionary mother to whom we would render all the honor due—

‘No braver dames had Sparta,
No nobler matrons Rome.
Then let us laud and honor them,
E’en in their own green homes.’

“They have passed from the stage of earthly action, and while we pay to their memories the grateful tribute of a sigh, we would again express our thanks to their daughters for this beautiful banner, and as a token of our gratitude, we, the Guilford Grays, do here beneath its graceful folds pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor, and swear for them to live, them to love, and, if need be, for them to die.
“Noble Queen, we render to you, and through you to your subjects, our hearty, sincere, and lasting thanks for this entertainment; and to the rulers, in your vast domain, for the privilege of trespassing upon their provinces which lie under their immediate supervision.
“In time of war, or in time of peace, in prosperity or adversity, we would have you ever remember the Guilford Grays—for be assured your memories will ever be cherished by them.”

This beautiful banner was designed by Dr. D. P. Weir and executed in Philadelphia—the size is 6 feet by 5, being made of heavy blue silk. On the one side is a painting in oils, representing the coat-of-arms of North Carolina encircled by a heavy wreath of oak leaves and acorns. Above is a spread eagle with scroll containing the motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” a similar scroll below with words, “G

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Reminiscences of the Guilford Grays, Co. B., 27th N.C. Regiment
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