Monday, May 20, 2013

Company B, North Carolina 71st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Junior Reserves: Captain William Hamilton Overman, my 2nd cousin 5x removed

Captain William Hamilton Overman

During the final days of the American Civil War, as the number of Confederate troops dwindled, the only resource available to the South was to extend the age of military conscription.  The Confederacy already accepted all able bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45.  On February 17, 1864, the Confederate Congress passed a law placing in the “Reserves” those men between the ages of 17 and 18 and between 45 and 50.  Originally these men were not to serve outside their native State, however this rule was quickly disregarded out of necessity.  Known as the "seed corn of the Confederacy", Eight Battalions of Junior Reserves were created in the Summer of 1864.

Seventeen year old William Hamilton Overman was originally commissioned as Captain of Company A, North Carolina Second Battalion of Junior Reserves in May of 1864.  This Battalion was composed of  three companies and was organized at Camp Holmes, near Raleigh, North Carolina on May 31, 1864.  John H. Anderson was elected as Major of the Battalion.  Anderson had served as a Private in the famed "Bethel Regiment" and later as First Lieutenant of Company D, North Carolina 48th Infantry Regiment and had resigned on account of wounds.  The North Carolina 2nd Battalion of Junior Reserves was ordered to report to Goldsboro, North Carolina in June of 1864. 

On July 16, 1864, the Second and Fifth Battalions of Junior Reserves were combined into "Anderson's Battalion".  John H. Anderson was elected as Lieutenant Colonel and W. F. Beasley (of the 5th Battalion) was elected Major.   Anderson's Battalion spent the Fall of 1864 at Weldon, North Carolina.  On October 4th, Captain W. S. Flynn's company was added.  The Battalion was ordered to report to Tarboro and then on to Plymouth where the "CSS Albemarle" had just been blown up by Lieutenant W. B. Cushing of the Federal Navy.  After a brief march, just as the Battalion was nearly to Plymouth, they were met by the North Carolina 50th Infantry Regiment.  The 50th had been forced to evacuate the town by the Federal fleet.  Now that the "Albemarle" was out of commission, Federal gunships were able to maneuver freely along the Neuse.  Anderson's Battalion returned to Tarboro and then back to Weldon. 

On December 7, 1864, Captain W. R. Williams' Company was added, which converted the Battalion into a full Regiment.  John H. Anderson was elected Colonel.  W. F. Beasley was elected Lieutenant Colonel and N. A. Gregory was elected Major.  The Companies were reorganized and relettered.   The North Carolina 2nd Junior Reserves, also known as the North Carolina 71st Infantry Regiment, was formed by the consolidation of the Second and Fifth Battalions.  Captain William Hamilton Overman commanded Company B, which was comprised of men mainly from Rowan County, North Carolina. 

On December 8, 1864, together with six Companies of the North Carolina 70th Infantry Regiment/NC 1st Junior Reserves, the Regiment was ordered to Belfield, Virginia to meet the advance of Federal General Gouverneur Kemble Warren's Corps. The Junior Battalions faced enemy fire for the first time and followed the enemy for several miles on their retreat.  The weather was very cold and the Confederates were poorly clothed and badly fed.  Although the men suffered from terrible exposure, only a few were killed or wounded in the fight.  For their conduct, the Legislature of North Carolina passed a special vote of thanks to the Junior Reserves. 

In January of 1865, the Regiment was joined by Millard's Battalion and sent to Coleraine, a small town in Bertie County nestled along the Chowan River.  There, the Confederates were expected to meet the advance of the enemy.  The men marched through deplorable conditions to find that the enemy had withdrawn from that location.  Following their return, the Regiment was ordered to Goldsboro and then on to Kinston where the Three Regiments of Junior Reserves (70th, 71st and 72nd North Carolina) and Millard's Battalion were placed in a Brigade commanded by Colonel F. S. Armistead, brother of General Lewis Armistead who was killed during the Battle of Gettysburg.  The Brigade was attached to General Robert F. Hoke's Division.  Armistead's Junior Brigade camped on the north of the Railroad about one mile west of John C. Washington's farm. 

General Robert F. Hoke

On March 6, 1865, Federal troops from New Bern began advancing towards the encamped Confederates.  Armistead's Junior Brigade along with the rest of Hoke's Division marched down the South West Creek below Kinston, where the Regiment was on the left of the Confederate Army.   On March 8th, the men crossed the creek and formed a line of battle.  In handsome style, the young Confederates pushed back the enemy.  General Hoke put himself at the head of the troops after dark and moved by the left flank down the road towards the Neuse River with their purpose being to turn the enemy's right flank.   Around midnight, Hoke received information that caused him to order the Confederates to retrace their steps and retreat toward their original entrenchment west of the creek. 

On March 11th, the news that Sherman's troops were coming up by way of Fayetteville, made it's way to the Confederate Troops stationed in Kinston.  The Confederates marched through Goldsboro on their way to Smithfield, where they united with the Army of Tennessee under the command of General Joseph Eggleston Johnston. 

General Joseph E. Johnston

On March 17, 1865, the Army of Tennessee took up the movement to engage Sherman's Federals.  On the night of March 18th, the Confederates encamped just beyond the town of Bentonville, North Carolina.  As the sun began to shine on the morning of Sunday, March 19th, the North Carolina 2nd Junior Reserves entered the Battle of Bentonville on the left of Hoke's Division.  By mid afternoon, the Confederates led a gallant charge and took two successive lines from the enemy.   The overwhelming numbers of the Federals enabled Sherman to out-flank the Confederates on their left during the night and the next morning, the Confederate line of battle, which had faced Southwest on Sunday, was thrown back and now faced nearly due East.  The Confederate line was strengthened by a breastworks made of logs and dirt and held against all Federal assaults on the 20th and 21st of March.  On the night of March 21st, the Federals again out-flanked the Confederates.  The North Carolina 2nd Junior Reserves quietly withdrew from the field of battle and leisurely fell back to Mitchener's Depot.  Sherman's forces chose not to pursue, but moved on to Goldsboro to join the column from New Bern that the Confederates had engaged at South West Creek. 

Armistead's Junior Brigade elicited high praise not only from their commander, but also from Generals Hoke and Hardee, who commanded the Division and Corps respectively.  General Joseph E. Johnston added praises with his post war writings.  The North Carolina 2nd Junior Reserves incurred 41 casualties during the Battle of Bentonville.  For three days with about 14,000 men, at no time with all reinforcements reaching more than 20,000, Johnston's Confederates held Sherman's 70,000 Federals at bay and had fought one of the most remarkable battles of the war. 

At Mitchener' s Depot, the Army was reorganized and took a much needed rest.  On April 6, 1865, the Confederates had a grand review, the last held in the Confederate armies.  The Junior Brigade was the largest in the parade.  Governor Vance was present and gave high accolades to the young men. 

On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.  On the 10th Of April, the Junior Brigade along with the rest of the Army of Tennessee began their retreat coinciding with Sherman's advance from Goldsboro.  On April 12th, the Confederates passed through Raleigh with Hoke's Division acting as rear guard.  There, a few of the officers heard of Lee's surrender, but it was not well known the the Army at large.  At midnight, the last Confederate pickets passed through the city and early on April 13, 1865, the Federals had taken possession of the Capital of the State of North Carolina. 

The Confederates camped about seven miles west of Raleigh on the night of April 12th.  The next morning, the Army was divided, part going from Hillsboro to Greensboro, while Hardee's Corps, to which the Junior Reserves belonged, took the route through Chapel Hill through the Alamance Battle Ground (of Revolutionary War fame). 

The Junior Brigade halted several days at Red Cross, in Randolph County, to await President Johnson's actions on the Johnston-Sherman treaty made at Bennett Place, Durham, North Carolina on April 14th.   Initially this treaty was not approved in Washington, however the definite surrender of April 26th, 1865 had been arranged. 

On May 1, 1865, Major General Robert F. Hoke issued the following farewell address to the Division:

"Soldiers of my Division: 

On the eve of a long, perhaps final separation, I desire to address to you the last sad words of parting.

The fortunes of was have turned the scales against us.  The proud banners which you have waved so gloriously on many a field are to be furled at last;  but they are not disgraced.  My comrades, your indomitable courage, your heroic fortitude, your patience under suffering have surrounded these with a halo which future years cannot dim.  History will bear witness to your valor and succeeding generations will point with admiration to your grand struggle for constitutional freedom.  Soldiers, your past is full of glory.  Treasure it in your hearts.  Remember each gory battle field, each day of victory, each bleeding comrade.  Think then of your future.

"Freedom's Battle once begun,
Bequeathed from bleeding sire to son,
Through baffled oft, is ever won."

You have yielded to overwhelming forces, not to superior valor; you are paroled prisoners, not slaves;  the love of liberty which led you in the contest still burns as brightly in your hearts as ever, cherish it, nourish it, associate it with the history of the past.  Transmit to your children, teach them the rights of freeman and teach them to maintain them;  teach them that the proudest day in all your proud career was that on which you enlisted as a Southern soldier, entering that holy brotherhood whose ties are now sealed in the blood of your compatriots, who have fallen and whose history is covered with the brilliant records of the past four years.

Soldiers amid the imperishable laurels that surmount your brows, no brighter leaf adorns you than your late connection with the Army of Northern Virginia.  The star that shone with the splendor over its oft repeated field of victory, over the two deadly struggles at Manassas Plains, Richmond, Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg has sent its rays and been reflected wherever true courage is admired and wherever freedom has a friend.  That star has set in blood, but yet in glory.  That army is now of the past.  Its banners trail, but not with ignominy;  no stain blots its escutcheon, no blood can tinge your face as you proudly announce that you have a part in the past history of the Army of Northern Virginia.

My comrades, we have borne together the same hardships, we have braved the same dangers, we have rejoiced over the same victory;  your trials and your patience have excited sympathy and admiration and I have borne willing witness to your bravery.  It is with a heart full of grateful emotion for your service and ready obedience that I take leave of you.

May the future of every one of you be as happy as your past career has been brilliant and no cloud ever dim the brightness of your fame.  The past looms before me in its illuminating grandeur.  Its memories are a part of the past life of each of you;  but it is all over now.  The sad, dark veil of defeat is between us and a life time of sorrow is our only heritage.

You carry to your home the heartfelt wishes of your General for your prosperity.

My command, farewell!

R. F. Hoke
Major General

Headquarters Hoke's Division, near Greensboro, N.C.

On May 2, 1865, the Confederates fell in ranks for the last time.  Parole was given to each man and the men began making their separate ways back to their homes.  Each man began to make the transition from soldier back into citizen.

My 2nd cousin 5x removed, William Hamilton Overman was Captain of Company B, North Carolina 2nd Junior Reserves.

William Hamilton Overman was born in Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina on October 19, 1846.  He is my 2nd cousin 5x removed.  William was a student prior to the war.  He was commissioned as Captain of Company B, North Carolina 2nd Junior Reserves on May 23, 1864 at the age of 17. 

1st Muster for William

William was listed as being present and accounted for through April of 1864.  He was paroled on April 26, 1865 in accordance with General Joseph E. Johnston's surrender to General William T. Sherman at Bennett Place, Durham, North Carolina. 

Muster Roll showing William's Parole

William lived an additional 36 years following the end of the Civil War.  He died in Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina on July 16, 1901 at the age of 54.  He is buried in the Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina.

Grave of William Hamilton Overman

The inscription on the back panel of William's grave reads:  "In war he was a brave and gallant Confederate Soldier, Captain at the age of seventeen.  In peace he discharge every duty with fidelity.  A true friend and affectionate brother;  a devoted son, a loving and tender husband.  "The memory of the just is blessed.""

Close-up of back panel

An interesting side note, William's younger brother Lee Slater Overman was the first United States Senator from North Carolina to be elected by popular vote.  The passage of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution in 1913 standardized the popular vote election of Senators.  Previously Senators were were appointed by the State Legislature, as was the case with Lee in 1902 and 1909.   Lee was born in Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina on January 3, 1854.  He is also my 2nd cousin 5x removed. 

Senator Lee Slater Overman

Lee served in the United States Senate for 27 years until his death in 1930.   He wrote and sponsored the Overman Act of 1918 also known as the Departmental Reorganization Act, which gave President Woodrow Wilson extraordinary powers to coordinate Government Agencies during wartime.  He also chaired the Overman Committee, a subcommittee that investigated foreign propaganda in the United States during the first Red Scare from 1919 - 1921. 

Lee Slater Overman seated in the center while chairman of the Overman Committee

Lee Slater Overman died in Washington D. C. on December 12, 1930 at the age of 76.  His funeral was held in the Chamber of the United States Senate.  Lee is buried in Chestnut Hills Cemetery in Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina.

Lee Slater Overman Family Plot

Close-up of the Grave of Lee Slater Overman

Since William and Lee were brothers, I'm only listing one relationship chart.

Here's my relation to William:

William Hamilton Overman (1846 - 1901)
is your 2nd cousin 5x removed
William H Overman (1812 - 1890)
father of William Hamilton Overman
John Overman (1780 - 1827)
father of William H Overman
Charles Overman (1745 - 1806)
father of John Overman
Mary Overman (1785 - 1866)
daughter of Charles Overman
Margaret White (1807 - 1840)
daughter of Mary Overman
Martha M White (1828 - 1898)
daughter of Margaret White
Joseph Thomas White (1860 - 1910)
son of Martha M White
Sarah Elizabeth (Sallie) White (1892 - 1985)
daughter of Joseph Thomas White
Ruth Adelaide Nowell Stokes (1918 - 2013)
daughter of Sarah Elizabeth (Sallie) White
Selby Edward "Stokey" Stokes Jr. (1946 - )
son of Ruth Adelaide Nowell Stokes
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Selby

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