Anchram Harris Evans served in Company G, 51st Regiment North Carolina Troops during the War Between the States. He enlisted as a sergeant in January 1862 and served with the regiment until the end of the war. Anchram and his wife, Elizabeth, wrote to each other once or twice a week for the three years that Evans served with the Fifty-First. Eighty-five of their letters survive today and are housed in the Randall Library Special Collections at UNC-Wilmington (SC-MS-254).
Most of the letters in the collection were written in 1864. Anchram’s letters (26 total) provide new information about the 51st North Carolina that is not available from other sources.
Only one of the surviving letters was written in 1862. Anchram wrote to Elizabeth from Fort Johnston on June 28. The regiment left Camp Davis on June 23 and marched 15 miles toward Fort Fisher to “a place called Rockspring.” The men dubbed their new location “Camp Mosquito.” The Fifty-First remained at Camp Mosquito for three days, then marched two miles to Sugar Loaf, where steamers ferried the regiment across the river to Fort Johnston.
In February 1863, the 51st North Carolina moved to Charleston to help protect that city. On March 16, Anchram wrote his wife from James Island. The men get plenty to eat. They are supplementing their rations with rabbits, squirrels and oysters. Some of the men caught two eaglets which “they disposed of to the satisfaction of their appetites.”
On August 8, 1863, Anchram wrote to Elizabeth from Sullivan’s Island. He and 23 other of Company G’s soldiers asked to be excused from duty for illness. The regiment was scheduled to garrison Battery Wagner in a day or so. Amchram is not sure that he will go due to a bad case of diarrhea.
Election for Second Lieutenant
On September 15, 1863, Company G’s first lieutenant, Samuel Chinnis, resigned his commission. Second Lieutenant Jacob Evans, Anchram’s older brother, was promoted to fill the vacancy left by Chinnis’ departure. Third Lieutenant Franklin V. B. Yopp should have been promoted to second Lieutenant and an election held for a new third lieutenant. But Yopp resigned in November, leaving both of the lower lieutenant positions open.
With Yopp’s resignation, Colonel McKethan decided to postpone the election for third lieutenant and hold an election for second lieutenant instead. Anchram Evans put his name in as a candidate. Evans was favored to win the post, but Captain James Lippitt, commanding Company G, had other ideas.
Captain Lippitt nominated his younger brother, Thomas, for the lieutenancy. Thomas Lippitt had served as First Sergeant in Company G, 18th North Carolina. He had mustered out at the end of his enlistment in April 1862. Captain Lippitt pushed hard for his brother to join the company’s officer cadre.
Anchram Evans was not happy. He obviously expressed his dissatisfaction in a letter to his wife. On November 29, she replied to her husband: “I do hope that the election will soon come off and things wont be as squally as you anticipate; Capt Lippitt has lowered himself in my estimation considerably, I shant know when to place confidence in him, but I suppose a brother is dearer than a friend. Don’t think I will blame you in the least if you lose, when you do all that you can, that is sufficient. I should think Lt E. [Jacob Evans] would assist you in lectioneering; I couldn’t imagine who your opponent was until I saw in Hen’s letter: I think it is very wrong in Col’ McK. to postpone the election on account of Yopp’s resignation; if you don’t look sharp Lippitt will buy all your votes.“
Thomas Lippitt won the election. Anchram was disappointed, but he quickly seized on another opportunity. When the regiment organized, William Parker was appointed Commissary Sergeant. In 1863, Parker was detailed to the brigade commissary, and George Daffron of Company E was appointed acting Commissary Sergeant. Unfortunately, Daffron was suspected of stealing rations and relieved of his post after only a few months.
Anchram lobbied Colonel McKethan and was assigned as acting Commissary Sergeant. He was bitter about his defeat in the election, but he was also pleased with his new position. He wrote to Elizabeth on March 17, 1864, stating: “I am acting Com Sargt & expect to be appointed soon If I am competent and honest enough…. I consider myself highly honored & favored to be put in such a good place, not being put there by dogged lying & Electioneering, but by good character & competencey, which I will try to merrite…. I find it very easy, not having to work more than one third of my time. I don’t have to bring my own wood, have to cook sometimes. Don’t have to have a gun about me, nor even carry my baggage. Best of all I will not have to fight.”
Departure from Charleston (November, 1863)
The unit history in North Carolina Troops states, “On November 29, the 51st Regiment departed [Charleston] by rail for Camp Pender, near Hamilton [NC]…. Three weeks later, on December 19, it moved to Camp Battle, near Tarboro….” (Vol. 12, page 265).
In a letter written November 13, 1863, Elizabeth Evans contradicts the information above. She writes, “Darling, how bad I did feel when I heard my dear husband had passed through Wilmington, close to me, and was not permitted to see me…. I would [?] much to go to Tarboro…but if you don’t get a furlough before long, and can get board reasonable, I think I will see you.”
I updated the regiment’s Timeline with this new information.
The Suffolk Reconnaissance
On April 22, 1864, Anchram wrote to his wife from Ivor Station, Virginia. In the letter, he states that the regiment made a push toward Suffolk on April 19. In the next letter, written on April 27, the regiment is back at Camp Hill, near Petersburg. The weather is beautiful and the men have plenty to eat. Rations include corn meal and bacon, and the government is issuing tobacco to the troops. That morning, one of the soldiers killed a beaver, which caused some excitement in the camp.
These two letters directly contradict a letter published in the Wilmington Journal on June 2, 1864. In that letter, the correspondent stated that the Fifty-First moved on Suffolk around the 1st of May and returned when Butler landed his army at Bermuda Hundred on May 5. In my judgement, Evans’ letter is accurate. Anchram wrote his letters the day after the regiment returned to Ivor station and the day after it returned to Petersburg. The letter in the Wilmington Journal was written a month after the movements occurred. I have updated the unit’s Chronology accordingly.
Blackwater River Expedition (July 1864)
Anchram wrote a letter to Elizabeth on July 16, 1864, stating that Companies A, E, F, G, and I had been pulled from the trenches around Petersburg and sent to Ivor Station to counter a Union cavalry raid. The five companies left Petersburg on the 14th and joined the 61st North Carolina along the Blackwater River. The Yankee raid did not materialize, and the soldiers returned to Petersburg on July 17. The soldiers saw no action during the expedition, but Private Joe Sellers did get lost and was presumed dead. Fortunately, he showed up at camp two days after he went missing.
September 3: The Regiment has about 300 men present for duty.
September 6: Sugar and coffee are being issued again.
September 13: The health of the troops is “tolerable.” Rations are tolerable, too. The weather is beautiful.
September 17: Hoke’s Division has shifted to the right, to the southwest of Petersburg. The men are getting a much-needed rest. Lieutenant-Colonel Hobson is in command of the regiment but is sick. Captain Lippitt has to fill in for Hobson often. The soldiers have plenty to eat, except bread. Anchram wishes for some vegetables, but they are too expensive.
September 20: The soldiers are expecting a good dinner of stewed beef after Wade Hampton’s Beefsteak Raid. The division is resting in a pretty ravine southeast of Petersburg.
September 23: The division is still resting. The men drilled yesterday. The brigade will have a review this afternoon. The ration is beef and flour one day and bacon and flour the next.
Fort Harrison and After
On September 29, 1864, Union infantry captured Fort Harrison, a Confederate strongpoint in the Richmond defenses. Hoke’s Division was pulled from the Petersburg trenches that night and sent across the James River to retake the fort. The next day, Clingman’s Brigade was decimated in an unsuccessful attempt to drive the Yankees out of the work.
On October 3, Anchram wrote to his wife from Chaffin’s Bluff: “Last Thursday, we (Hoke’s Division &c) packed in a great hurry & arrived here the next day…. Our Division & Fields were ordered to charge Battery Harrisone, a small earthwork, which the Yankees had captured from us, a few days ago. Fields charged too soon & received the whole fire. (I suppose fell back) our division Charged at the appointed time when they rec’d the whole fire, which caused them to fall back also. It is the general impression that if Fields had waited, it would have been in our possession, our loss was severe.”
The morning that Evans wrote the letter, he drew rations for 195 officers and men, not counting the soldiers in the hospital. He estimated that the 8th North Carolina drew rations for 100 men, and the 31st and 61st Regiments drew about 175 each. The next day, Evans rationed for 206 men.
October 8: Two nights before, the division moved to the left, near the Darbytown Road. Captain Lippitt is in charge of the regiment, numbering about 225 men present for duty. Company G is down to 20 soldiers.
November 4: The brigade is positioned between the New Market and Darbytown Roads. The men are building winter huts and will be comfortable soon. Rations are brisket, turnips and potatoes.
November 16 & 17: All quiet. The previous day was Thanksgiving. It is very cold, and wood is getting scarce. Captain Lippitt is commanding the regiment, and Lieutenant Jacob Evans (Anchram’s brother) is in charge of Company G. The regiment has 325 men present for duty. “To[o] much blood has been spilled to give up now….”
November 30/December 1: The weather has been warm the past few days. Still quiet along the lines. The Army issued a generous ration of smoking tobacco last month. Coffee and sugar will be issued tomorrow. The soldiers have built nice cabins in two rows about 20 yards behind the breastworks.
Anchram’s final letter in the collection was written on February 17, 1865 from Sugar Loaf. “All is still … not a gun is heard.” Only one cook is assigned to Anchram for preparing the regiment’s rations.
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