Monday, July 1, 2013

My July 1, 1863, Gettysburg Connection

150 years ago today one of my ancestors died on the battlefield of Gettysburg. That, of course, is not unique. Hundreds of thousands of Americans can probably make the same claim. After all, that terrible battle's three days inflicted over 50,000 casualties on Union and Confederate soldiers, so there were numerous descendants affected. Some soldiers suffered the rest of their lives from wounds received on those Pennsylvania fields, some languished in disease-ridden prisoner of war camps, and others, like my ancestor, were killed outright.

Hardy Estep was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina, in 1834. I know very little about his life. He was married to Louisa, but even his service records only provide four cards - none with much more than bare-bones information. I wonder, what did he look like? What kind of personality did he have? Was he serious or funny?  Was he an introvert or extrovert? Did he like to whittle, sing, or play an instrument? What did he think about the war that led to the end of his life? He was only 29 years old.

Hardy and his brother Doctor joined the ranks of Company B, 26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment on September 21, 1862, as conscripts. They did not volunteer, yet they served. Why didn't they head into the mountains of their native western North Carolina and hideout rather than don the gray and shoulder a rifle and march in the Army of Northern Virginia?

Hardy and Doctor's sister, Rhoda, was married to my great-great-great-grandfather William Tedder (my mother's side), who served in the 55th North Carolina and was himself killed in 1864. William's brother, Joel was also in the 26th North Carolina, but in Company B. Joel, however, was a volunteer of 1861. But he was apparently wearied by the war or felt obligations at home because he deserted. He later rejoined the unit, served time for his departure at hard labor, and then returned in time to be captured at Bristow Station, Virginia, in October 1863. Joel served out the rest of the war with stints at Old Capitol prison in Washington D.C. and Fort Delaware, before returning to Brushy Mountain.

On that Brushy Mountain, in Wilkes County, North Carolina, around the graves of other Esteps, Tedders, Duncans, and Robersons is a marker for Hardy. He is not in the ground beneath his stone. He is either in Pennsylvania, or more likely, in an unmarked or unknown grave in Richmond, Virginia's Hollywood Cemetery, where thousands of Confederate Gettysburg dead were moved by the Ladies Memorial Association after the Civil War.

Did Hardy come to accept and relish his role as a Confederate soldier before he was killed? Or, did he regret not heading for those mountain hideouts that some other North Carolinians so readily fled to?

Does the fate of Hardy's brother Doctor provide some hints? Maybe, maybe not. Doctor was captured at Falling Waters, Maryland, on July 14, 1863, on Lee's retreat back to Virginia. He was held at Point Lookout prison in Maryland, until he took the oath of allegiance and joined the U.S. army as a "galvanized Yankee," on February 11, 1864. Interestingly, Doctor is buried in the same cemetery where Hardy's marker stands, and has a Confederate stone, too, although ironically, he seems to have served as a United States soldier last.  Doctor died in 1872. He was only 32 years old.


  1. I enjoyed reading your post about Hardy. My gg-grandfather was William Estep, the older brother of Hardy and Doctor. He had moved west close to the Cumberland gap, in Lee County VA and Claiborne County TN and had sons of his own old enough to fight in the war. My g-grandfather Granville was in the 1st Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry of the Union Army. I read a an interesting book called "Covered with Glory: The 26th North Carolina Infantry at the Battle of Gettysburg". There is a very interesting description Colonel Henry King Burgwyn, commander of the 26th, that I think you would enjoy.
    John Estep

  2. Hi John,
    I read "Covered with Glory" several years back and thoroughly enjoyed it. The combat the 26th faced on July 1, 1863, was as bad as the Civil War offered. Archie Davis's book "Boy Colonel of the Confederacy" is another good book on H.K. Burgwyn, Jr. In graduate school I wrote a paper on Burgwyn's relationship with this father. Reading his personal papers at UNC Chapel Hill was an experience I will always remember.

    Thanks for your kind comments and I hope you will keep reading the blog. I plan on doing a post on Doctor Estep real soon.

  3. I, too, wonder how Hardy and Doctor felt about the war. Their brother William had sons, Granville and Burrell who grew up 150 miles west on the TN/VA border and both served in the Union Cavalry. There was, I believe, a lot of pro Union sentiment in eastern Tennessee. How different could conditions have been between there and Brushy Mt. Col. Burgwyn sounds like quite a character and probably had a big impact on how his men saw the war and their place in it, at least after they came under his influence.

  4. Hi John,

    I think Hardy's wife Louisa Ball, is my GG Aunt. Her brother, John H. Ball (1837-1924) was in the 9th NC Calvary, and was also at Gettysburg.

    After Hardy died I think Louisa married a Marlow.