Man Seeks Information About Local Company of Soldiers

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The Daily HeraldThe Daily Herald (Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina)

January 19, 2016

by Jenny Gray

Article Source

On the morning of April 9, 1865, men from the Roanoke Valley fought in the Battle of Appomattox Court House, the final engagement of the Army of North Virginia before surrendering — and thus ending — the Civil War.

The Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., was lost to the South. Retreat was cut off by Union forces. Losing that morning battle brought General Robert E. Lee to the courthouse that afternoon where he signed the documents of surrender and gave up his sword.

Standing there was the company that included members from Halifax, Warren and Northampton counties. Now an area historian wants to know what made them tick.

Attorney, historian and author, Fred Taylor grew up visiting his grandmother on the banks of the Roanoke River. His forefathers operated Eaton’s Ferry, and somewhere along the line he learned of the Roanoke Minute Men, a Littleton-area militia that formed before the Civil War, and fought in that war from the start to the finish.

“For me personally, I’ve always been a history buff,” Taylor said during a recent visit in which he gathered more research on this militia. “A lot of people think history’s boring. It’s abstract. It happened 100 years ago.”

But that’s not how Taylor said he feels. Following in the footsteps of a family member, he started building on the family genealogy about two decades ago and was hooked.

“All this history comes back to my own family,” he said. “My dad grew up on the Roanoke River, and later, Lake Gaston. My grandfather pulled Eaton’s Ferry.”

Then along came the story of the Roanoke Minute Men and Taylor’s hobby turned into something more serious.

“My first big find was the diary of a soldier during the Civil War, and I was related to him,” Taylor said. “I started reading that and seeing how these guys fit into a bigger story.”

His hunt began in earnest last spring as he read more and more accounts of this band of local soldiers. Taylor has assembled a detailed roster of the Company including individual service records and period letters and accounts from the early day of the company, formed in 1864. He has corresponded with and met Roanoke Minute Men descendants and visited state and local archives, gathering more information.

He learned that the Company was among the first to serve in the Civil War.

“They formed as a militia just before the Civil War and eventually went from Littleton to Weldon, and then over to Garysburg to train,” Taylor said. “One-hundred and forty men ended up serving in the unit.”

Taylor said while his book will include military information, that’s not the goal. Troop movements during the Civil War are well documented, but to get to the heart of his subject, Taylor said he wants to make it personal.

“My preference is not talking about battles or generals; I’d like to know more about these soldiers,” he said.

The initial diary, Taylor added, wasn’t about war, per se. It was about how the soldier felt.

“He talked about love and poetry and there were some religious overtones,” Taylor said of the diary. “I don’t think any soldier can be in battle without getting a little closer to their maker.”

Most of these soldiers had never gone more than a few miles from home, Taylor said, and must have been frightened at times.

“My focus has been trying to emphasize their story — that life of the enlisted soldier who left family and loved ones and marched off hundreds of miles away to face enormous odds,” he added. “I think this sort of veterans’ story strikes a chord with anyone, regardless of age or race or what war we are discussing, or even whether or not they like history.”

To gather information, Taylor travels as often as he can while still managing his law practice in Suffolk, Va. He also has used the Internet, creating a website at: fredonhistory.com/roanoke-minute-men

Taylor, whose roots go back to the Jamestown Colony, also has a Facebook presence at www.facebook.com/roanokeminutemen.

Anyone from the Littleton area will recognize many of the surnames on the list of soldiers: Allen, Bobbitt, Holt, Kearney and Newsom, among others.

“Their average age was about 25 years old; literally every 18 to 40 year old, able-bodied man went,” Taylor said. “I’m gong to tell the big picture but I want these people to speak for themselves. And I want to be able to tell what was going on at home.”

He spoke of one of the company’s members, a black soldier named Hilliard Goings. Taylor said he was close to his fellow soldiers, including Newsom Jenkins.

“He served as a pallbearer at his funeral, and went to all the veterans’ reunions,” Taylor said of Goings. “I want to cover it all, and find the motivation to what prompts a young man to leave home and stability to go fight for four years. And what was the effect of that on their families. … I want to get down into the heart of that.”

So Taylor is asking people to help him find these photographs, diaries and letters. For more information about the Roanoke Minute Men project, or to make submissions to this effort, contact Taylor at roanokeminutemen@gmail.com, telephone at 757-705-0950, or by mail to: 160 West Washington St., Suffolk, VA. 23434. All submissions will be properly credited to the owner, he said.

 

Update on the Roanoke Minute Men Project and a Happy New Year!

First, I would like to wish you all a blessed and prosperous new year as we go into 2016!

Now, for an update that many have been asking for …

When I began the Roanoke Minute Men Project in the spring of 2015, I underestimated the response it would create.  For years, I had “tinkered” with writing a history of Company A or the 14th North Carolina Troops, but had never felt like I could add to the histories already out there in the public (such as, The Anson Guard).   But slowly that changed, as I collected more and more accounts that had previously gone unpublished, or those that took up a mere footnote in some other history text.  That gave me the courage to start my journey, and so I began simply with my rough file of notes, a list of soldiers names, and this website to chart my course publicly.

Since that time, I have managed (part-time) to put together a detailed roster of the Company, to include individual service records, which encompasses on its own eighty-five plus pages of text.  This does not include the background and family history data that I ultimately intend to add.

Additionally, I have now collected and transcribed over a dozen period letters and accounts, ranging from the early days of the Company’s formation through 1864 (still looking for an 1865 letter!)   While a dozen letters may not seem like a lot, I started my journey with only three letters, a diary, and several post-War accounts.  Today, I wrap up the year having gone through and transcribed all of those, and have on hand as I type this FIFTEEN (yes, 15!) more letters sitting on my desk to transcribe.   To say I am excited about the stories these letters tell is an understatement, and this progress has helped to encourage my efforts into the new year.

I have also been blessed to correspond with and meet numerous Roanoke Minute Men descendants and family historians who have shared their own research with me, and have had the opportunity to do research at some of the South’s foremost academic institutions and historical archives.  I can not say enough good things about the staffs at the Rubenstein Library at Duke UniversityWilson Library at UNCState Archives of North Carolina, North Carolina Museum of History, Virginia Historical Society, and countless smaller libraries, local historical societies and courthouses that I have had the pleasure to work with over the past year.

From here, I still have a long way to go before I reach the finished product, but in the meantime please do not forget I am always looking for more letters, diaries, family histories, and images of the soldiers themselves to add to this history and honor the story of those brave veterans of the Roanoke Minute Men.

As always, I thank you all for the assistance, input, and kind words you have provided along the way, and I look forward to “charging on” into the new year!

Regards,

Fred

roanokeminutemen at gmail dot com

 

My Latest Project

PRESS RELEASE

DATE:  March 15, 2015

Re:     Research for new book on veterans from Littleton, North Carolina

In December of 1860, a militia company known as the Roanoke Minute Men formed in Littleton, made up primarily of citizens from Halifax and Warren Counties.  This Company enlisted into state service for North Carolina, and later into the Confederate cause, as Company A, 14th Regiment North Carolina State Troops (formerly the 4th North Carolina Volunteers.)  Throughout four years of bloody conflict, this Company saw action from the early days of the War on the Virginia peninsula all the way to the last shots fired at Appomattox.

While recognized as one of the Tar Heel state’s greatest fighting units, no formal unit history has ever been compiled of the men who served in the Roanoke Minute Men – until now – and this work focuses on rare and previously unpublished letters, diaries, family histories, and service records to tell the story of these brave veterans and their families.

Although substantial progress on the history of the Roanoke Minute Men has already been made, historian Fred D. Taylor hopes to engage public support for his efforts and seeks submission of individual family histories, images of veterans both in uniform and as civilians, war-time accounts, and/or  letters of the men who served in this unit.

Family surnames included in the research of this Company are:  Adams, Ales, Allen, Allsbrook, Aycock, Barkley, Bobbitt, Bolton, Boon, Boswell, Brown, Burge, Burrows, Camp, Carlena, Carroll, Cherry, Clements, Day, Deaton, Eaton, Edmonds, Edwards, Felts or Feltz, Floore, Floyd, Forrest, Goodson, Hardister, Hardy, Harper, Harris, Herbert, Hicks, Holt, House, Hurley, Ingram, Jarrald, Jenkins, Johnston, Kearney, King, Lancaster, Latham, Lewis, Lynch, McCarson, McCaskill, Marlow, Mathews, Moore, Morris(s), Munn, Myrick, Nevill, Newsom, Parsons, Pendergrass, Peterson, Pittard, Pryor, Pugh, Riggan, Roberts, Rodgers, Rooker, Scarlett, Shearin, Tucker, Turner, Vick, Walker, Webb, Williams, Wilson, Wright, Yarbrough, and Yeourns.

For more information about the Roanoke Minute Men project, or to make submissions to this effort, please contact Fred D. Taylor at roanokeminutemen@gmail.com, telephone at 757-705-0950, or by mail to:  160 West Washington Street, Suffolk, Virginia 23434.  All submissions will be properly credited to the owner.

Fred D. Taylor, whose family hails from the Littleton, North Carolina, area, is a native of Virginia, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Old Dominion University, a Juris Doctorate from the Mercer University School of Law, and is an attorney by profession in Suffolk, Virginia.