The Perry Rudnick Foundation Room is currently commemorating the sesquicentennial anniversary of the American Civil War with a new exhibit of Civil War artifacts. Some of the displayed artifacts are described in detail below the war’s summary.
CIVIL WAR – Americans fought each other in the deadliest war in American history. Almost 85 percent of white males in Henderson County from the ages of 17 to 50 fought for the Confederacy, about 1,700 men. More than 150 men from the county fought with the Union. Two Flat Rock summer residents, C.G. Memminger and George Trenholm, served as treasurers for the Confederacy.
Pick up the free booklet prepared by our museum, listing names and information on each soldier, Confederate and Union, from our county. Find your ancestor and learn of his story during the Civil War. Note the names of the hundreds of county men who died during the deadliest and most tragic time in the county and America’s history.
This Union infantry private wears the ubiquitous four-button sack coat adopted in 1858. On his right side is suspended an M.1857 leather cartridge box dated 1863 and containing forty rounds of .58 calibre ammunition. His 1839 pattern enlisted waist belt supports an 1863-dated percussion cap box and a bayonet scabbard. From his left shoulder is suspended his waterproofed black cloth haversack carrying rations and personal effects. The haversack cushions an M.1858 two-quart regulation canteen.
Displayed are his two choices of uniform headgear: a privately purchased McDowell style M.1858/61 forage cap and an M.1858 black dress hat. On both is a brass bugle-horn, symbol of infantry, as is the dress hat’s sky blue tasseled hat cord. The single black ostrich feather signifies the wearer is a private. This black Army dress hat was made famous by the Iron Brigade, who wore it at Gettysburg.
The soldier is armed with an 1862-dated Model of 1861 .58 calibre Bridesburg contract rifle-musket and its affixed M.1855 bayonet. This muzzle loading rifle-musket had an effective range of approximately 500 yards, but was slow and awkward to load and used fragile paper cartridges. In 1866 the U.S. Army began generally rearming its infantry with more effective and modern metallic cartridge breechloaders.
All artifacts in this display are original except the cartridge box sling.
In May, 1861 North Carolina seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy. To celebrate, secessionists raised the Confederate Stars and Bars from a pole in front of the rambling St. John Hotel, a few yards from where you are now standing. Unionist sympathizers tore the new flag down and raised the Stars and Stripes in its place. Rebel supporters returned the Confederate flag to the top of the pole. Thereupon Unionists, in disgust, took an axe and cut the pole and its offending Rebel flag down. Civil War had come to Hendersonville!
This badly deteriorated Confederate first national flag (the “Stars and Bars”) boasts thirteen stars, wishfully counting Kentucky and Missouri within the fold of the eleven states actually within the Confederacy. Adopted March 4th, 1861, the Stars and Bars appeared enough like the U.S. flag at a distance so as to cause confusion during the July, 1861 Battle of Bull Run. As a result the familiar red Confederate battle flag was generally adopted by the Southern armies. However, the Stars and Bars remained the Confederate national flag until officially replaced by an entirely different design in May, 1863. In spite of this, the Stars and Bars continued in use until war’s end and remains an inoffensive symbol of the Confederate States, being recently adopted as the basis for Georgia’s current state flag.
West Virginia was admitted into the Union 20 June, 1863. The 35th star representing the new state was authorized to be affixed to the American flag on 4 July, 1863, the date Confederate Vicksburg fell, cutting the Confederacy in two, and the date Robert E. Lee’s Southern army began its painful retreat from Gettysburg.
The 35 star American flag remained official through the end of the Civil War. It would have been the flag Stoneman’s Raiders carried through western North Carolina in the Spring of 1865 and the flag raised over Hendersonville 23 April, 1865 when it was captured by the Raiders and torn from the dying Confederacy.
This wool bunting flag is typical for the period. The stars are sewn on the obverse side and the blue canton merely cut away as necessary to allow them to show through on the reverse. This is the reason it is displayed improperly with the canton to the right. The blue canton itself appears oddly proportioned to modern eyes. It was not until the 1912 Flag Code passed Congress that the proportions of our flag, the arrangement of its stars, and the etiquette necessary to honour it, were regularized.
This natural linen summer weight cutaway or “claw hammer” coat with its tails, tight fitting body, wide lapels, and tight sleeves is of a style current from the 1830s until about 1850. It was found in a trunk in the attic of an old house in Transylvania County. With its brass Model of 1851 U.S. infantry buttons, it may be a very rare surviving uniform coat of the pre-Civil War North Carolina militia or of the 1863-1865 wartime North Carolina Confederate home Guard.
Although long out of fashion, this style of coat persists in the form of the male full dress tailcoat and various military academy dress uniforms.
Perhaps the chief opposition to Union general George Stoneman’s 1865 raid through western North Carolina came from Confederate cavalry. By 1865, after nearly four years of war, the once dominant Confederate cavalry arm was objectively in serious decline and, concurrently, facing a superbly equipped and mounted Yankee cavalry force which had steadily grown in boldness, organization, and effectiveness.
During the war’s early years, Confederate cavalry danced around their Union counterparts. Many Southrons were skilled horsemen from their early youth, rode superior blooded horses, possessed great endurance, and were led by legendary officers such as John Morgan, Turner Ashby, and JEB Stuart. These Rebel horsemen treated the Yankee cavalry with contempt. Rarely particularly well-armed, Confederate cavalry was not initially at a disadvantage against Union cavalrymen who, themselves, were indifferently armed in the war’s first half.
By 1864 Ashby, Morgan, and Stuart were dead, horses had grown scare in the shrinking Confederacy, armament had not kept up with Union issue, and exhaustion had set in. In May, 1864 General Joe Wheeler, commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee’s cavalry, had an impressive 18,785 men on his rolls. Of these, only 2,419 were present, equipped, armed, and mounted! Many of the rest were off looking for remounts as, illogically, Confederate cavalrymen provided their own horses. When a horse died or was disabled, the man was sent home to locate a replacement. These men often tarried, deserted, or joined ill-organized semi-official bands of “partisan rangers” which did little to assist in the major campaigns such as Stoneman’s Raid.
In 1865 Wheeler’s depleted Rebel horsemen were detached to counter Stoneman’s Raid through western North Carolina. They proved no match for Stoneman’s hardened troopers: Confederate muzzleloaders against new Union Spencer repeating carbines. As outraged citizens reported, Wheeler’s famished cavalry were often more of a nuisance to Tar Heels, whom they pillaged, than they were to Stoneman’s Yankees.