26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment: The Boy Colonel

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26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment: The Boy Colonel

Eyewitness Accounts of Colonel Henry "Harry" King Burgwyn, Jr.

Henry King Burgwyn, Jr.
Colonel Henry King Burgwyn.jpg
(October 3, 1841-July 1, 1863)

Colonel Henry K. Burgwyn, Jr., was the youngest regimental commanding colonel in General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Burgwyn was affectionately referred to as "The Boy Colonel." While engaged in the thick of the fight at Gettysburg, the Fighting Twenty-sixth charged Union positions and lost a staggering 697 of its 895 men.
 
In the "Gettysburg Charge," the unit also suffered the loss of 13 color bearers. The unit had charged the 24th Michigan, which had lost 9 of its color bearers in the engagement. 
 
Twenty one year-old Colonel Henry Burgwyn Jr. was mortally wounded while leading one of the last charges against the 24th Michigan. "Shot, through both lungs, Burgwyn fell with the Twenty-sixth Regimental Flag wrapped around him." Eyewitness account at the Battle of Gettysburg
 

"We [26th North Carolina] went in with over 800 men in the regiment. There came out but 216, all told, unhurt. Yesterday they were again engaged, and now have only about 80 men for duty." Battle of Gettysburg report of Capt. J. J. Young, quartermaster, Twenty-sixth North Carolina Infantry on July 4, 1863

26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment
26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment History.gif
26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment History

Highly Recommended Reading: Boy Colonel of the Confederacy. Description: Henry King Burgwyn, Jr. (1841-63), the youngest colonel in the Army of Northern Virginia and one of the youngest colonels of the American Civil War, died at the age of twenty-one while leading the Twenty-sixth North Carolina Infantry Regiment into action at the Battle of Gettysburg. In this sensitive biography, originally published by UNC Press in 1985, Archie Davis provides a revealing portrait of the young man's character and a striking example of a soldier who selflessly fulfilled his duty. Continued below...
Drawing on Burgwyn's own letters and diary, Davis also offers a fascinating glimpse into North Carolina society during the antebellum period and the American Civil War.

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Recommended Reading: Lee's Tar Heels: The Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade (Hardcover). Description: The Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade was one of North Carolina's best-known and most successful units during the Civil War. Formed in 1862, the brigade spent nearly a year protecting supply lines before being thrust into its first major combat at Gettysburg. There, James Johnston Pettigrew's men pushed back the Union's famed Iron Brigade in vicious fighting on July 1 and played a key role in Pickett's Charge on July 3, in the process earning a reputation as one of the hardest-fighting units in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Continued below…

Despite suffering heavy losses during the Gettysburg campaign, the brigade went on to prove its valor in a host of other engagements. It marched with Lee to Appomattox and was among the last Confederate units to lay down arms in the surrender ceremony. Earl Hess tells the story of the men of the Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade, and especially the famous 26th North Carolina, chronicling the brigade's formation and growth under Pettigrew and its subsequent exploits under William W. Kirkland and William MacRae. Beyond recounting the brigade's military engagements, Hess draws on letters, diaries, memoirs, and service records to explore the camp life, medical care, social backgrounds, and political attitudes of these gallant Tar Heels. He also addresses the continuing debate between North Carolinians and Virginians over the failure of Pickett's Charge. “[A] welcome addition for the buff, student of Gettysburg, and the casual as well as serious reader of American history.” americancivilwarhistory.org

 

Recommended Reading: Pickett's Charge, by George Stewart. Description: The author has written an eminently readable, thoroughly enjoyable, and well-researched book on the third day of the Gettysburg battle, July 3, 1863. An especially rewarding read if one has toured, or plans to visit, the battlefield site. The author's unpretentious, conversational style of writing succeeds in putting the reader on the ground occupied by both the Confederate and Union forces before, during and after Pickett's and Pettigrew's famous assault on Meade's Second Corps. Continued below...

Interspersed with humor and down-to-earth observations concerning battlefield conditions, the author conscientiously describes all aspects of the battle, from massing of the assault columns and pre-assault artillery barrage to the last shots and the flight of the surviving rebels back to the safety of their lines… Having visited Gettysburg several years ago, this superb volume makes me want to go again.

 

Recommended Reading: Pickett's Charge--The Last Attack at Gettysburg (Hardcover). Description: Pickett's Charge is probably the best-known military engagement of the Civil War, widely regarded as the defining moment of the battle of Gettysburg and celebrated as the high-water mark of the Confederacy. But as Earl Hess notes, the epic stature of Pickett's Charge has grown at the expense of reality, and the facts of the attack have been obscured or distorted by the legend that surrounds them. With this book, Hess sweeps away the accumulated myths about Pickett's Charge to provide the definitive history of the engagement. Continued below...

Drawing on exhaustive research, especially in unpublished personal accounts, he creates a moving narrative of the attack from both Union and Confederate perspectives, analyzing its planning, execution, aftermath, and legacy. He also examines the history of the units involved, their state of readiness, how they maneuvered under fire, and what the men who marched in the ranks thought about their participation in the assault. Ultimately, Hess explains, such an approach reveals Pickett's Charge both as a case study in how soldiers deal with combat and as a dramatic example of heroism, failure, and fate on the battlefield.

 

Recommended Reading: Pickett's Charge in History and Memory. Description: Pickett's Charge--the Confederates' desperate (and failed) attempt to break the Union lines on the third and final day of the Battle of Gettysburg--is best remembered as the turning point of the U.S. Civil War. But Penn State historian Carol Reardon reveals how hard it is to remember the past accurately, especially when an event such as this one so quickly slipped into myth. She writes, "From the time the battle smoke cleared, Pickett's Charge took on this chameleon-like aspect and, through a variety of carefully constructed nuances, adjusted superbly to satisfy the changing needs of Northerners, Southerners, and, finally, the entire nation." Continued below...

With care and detail, Reardon's fascinating book teaches a lesson in the uses and misuses of history.

 

Recommended Reading: Confederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865. Description: The author, Prof. D. H. Hill, Jr., was the son of Lieutenant General Daniel Harvey Hill (North Carolina produced only two lieutenant generals and it was the second highest rank in the army) and his mother was the sister to General “Stonewall” Jackson’s wife. In Confederate Military History Of North Carolina, Hill discusses North Carolina’s massive task of preparing and mobilizing for the conflict; the many regiments and battalions recruited from the Old North State; as well as the state's numerous contributions during the war. Continued below...

During Hill's Tar Heel State study, the reader begins with interesting and thought-provoking statistical data regarding the 125,000 "Old North State" soldiers that fought during the course of the war and the 40,000 that perished. Hill advances with the Tar Heels to the first battle at Bethel, through numerous bloody campaigns and battles--including North Carolina’s contributions at the "High Watermark" at Gettysburg--and concludes with Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

Try the Search Engine for Related Studies: The 26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment State Troops at the Battle of Gettysburg Casualties Killed Died, Colonel Henry K Burgwyn Jr, 26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment History Biography, Diary

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