Sunday, March 21, 2010

J. A. Burns: Caswell Rifles

Even though Caswell was a county of many slave owners, most of whom held a comparatively large number of slaves, her people were not among the advocates of disunion over the question of the admission of "free states." Caswell, nevertheless, was one of sixteen counties in the state having a larger slave than white population. In the 1840s and 1850s, a period of high feeling on the question of slavery and states' rights, Caswell was in the Fifth North Carolina Congressional District and represented by men who were opposed to the destruction of the Union.North Carolina was completely surrounded by Confederate states and on April 17, 1861, Governor Ellis called a special session of the General Assembly to convene on May 1. The first act of the legislature was to set May 13 as the day for an election of delegates to assemble as a state convention on May 20.the convention chose to pass an ordinance simply repealing the ordinance of 1789 by which North Carolina had joined the Union in the first place. The assembled delegates then asserted that North Carolina was once again a completely sovereign, free, and independent state.

As of May 20, 1861, Caswell County no longer was part of the Union and war seemed inevitable. Men from Caswell County volunteered for service at once and by early summer six companies were in training camps including Company G, Twenty-Second Regiment known as the "Caswell Rifles" became part of the regiment when it was organized at a camp near Raleigh in July 1861. Before formally entering Confederate service the company had been formed with Captain Edward M. Scott in command, but he soon transferred to another regiment and was succeeded by J. A. Burns for a few months. John Williams Graves (1836-1872) became company commander in October 1861, and later Stanlin Brinchfield was also a captain. Lieutenants were, in order of the date of commission: O. W. Fitzgerald, James T. Stokes, Peter Smith, J. A. Burnes. J. T. Stokes, J. N. Blackwell, B. S. Mitchell, and Martin H. Cobb. There were eight noncommissioned officers and 137 privates, at least fifty of whom were from counties other than Caswell. Beginning with the Williamsburg and Yorktown campaigns, this regiment saw very much the same service as the Thirteenth Regiment.


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