Superlative Sacrifice: The 26th North Carolina’s Losses at Gettysburg

By Matt LaRoche ’17

In the wake of any tragedy, people cannot resist asking with an honest, if gruesome, fascination, “How bad was it?” The question is unavoidable with regards to a tragedy like the Battle of Gettysburg, and the answer is evasive. As the experience of battle is so surreal that few can begin to understand it, the story of a regiment offers one of the best avenues for someone who was not there to look in on the carnage. While many regimental stories provide visitors to Gettysburg with a glimpse of the tragedy, one regiment’s tale stands out in particular.

26th North Carolina Infantry Monument, Meredith Avenue at Herbst Woods, Gettysburg Battlefield. Wikimedia Commons.
26th North Carolina Infantry Monument, Meredith Avenue at Herbst Woods, Gettysburg Battlefield. Wikimedia Commons.

Early on the afternoon of July 1, 1863, the men of the 26th North Carolina formed the center of Brigadier General Heth’s Division’s final assault on McPherson’s Ridge, aimed at driving the left flank of the Army of the Potomac’s I Corps off that high ground.[1] They stood opposite Brigadier General Meredith’s famed Iron Brigade, known for their black Hardee hats and their discipline under fire.[2] The 26th North Carolina formed up in a wheat field before the imposing ridgeline, which was concealed by McPherson’s Woods and screened by Willoughby Run, a natural moat sure to slow down any attackers.[3] Continue reading “Superlative Sacrifice: The 26th North Carolina’s Losses at Gettysburg”

“We Stared Death in the Face”: Confronting the Realities of War

By Heather Clancy ’15

Another Compiler post, another letter between brothers. This time we will turn to Alexander “Sandie” Murdoch, an Ordinance Sergeant in the 2nd North Carolina State Troops. Engaged in combat during the battle of Gettysburg, Murdoch faced his understandings of mortality perhaps even more immediately than did F.M. Stoke. On August 10, 1863, Murdoch wrote home to relay his reflections on the battle’s conduct. While several weeks had passed since his involvement in the fighting on the first week of July and although he rarely identifies them as such, Murdoch’s letter is full of references to death and his own mortality.

In the most explicit reference he makes to the very real possibility of his own death, Murdoch writes the following of laying in expectation of the order to attack:

There we lay looking around upon our comrades and wondering who would be the ones who would be taken from us and in full health with the life blood coursing joyously through our veins we stared death in the face.

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Isaac E. Avery and the 6th North Carolina

By Avery C. Lentz, ’14 When I walk out on the battlefield, I always make sure I go to the monuments of the units where my ancestors served, so I can pay my respects to the fallen. One of my ancestors was Henry Lentz in the 149th Pennsylvania Volun…

By Avery C. Lentz ’14

When I walk out on the battlefield, I always make sure I go to the monuments of the units where my ancestors served, so I can pay my respects to the fallen. One of my ancestors was Henry Lentz in the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteers.  Recently, I found out that I don’t just have an ancestor on the Union side, but also, one who fought for the Confederacy.   From what my grandmother has told me, my first name comes from her maiden name, which in turn, comes from the Avery Family of North Carolina. This family has an old history tracing roots to colonial New England as well as being prominent cotton planters in North Carolina. Isaac E. Avery is one of the many from the Avery family in North Carolina.  He died while fighting at Cemetery Hill on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Cemetery_hill

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