The Lanier Brothers:
"Apples and Green Corn"
A Southern Tragedy
by Shayle Edwards
One could hardly find fault with the fighting men of the
North Carolina 18th Regiment. During four years of fighting,
they were in 35 major battles and over 70 skirmishes
--over 100 engagements!
There were six Lanier Brothers from Hickory--five of whom joined different regiments across North Carolina.
A mother would lose four of these young men during the war.
Eighteen-year old Jacob Lanier and his brother Joe Lanier 27, enlisted 14 Aug 1862 comprising the one company from Catawba County which was attached to the N.C. 18th. Their 29-year old brother, Elkanah Lanier caught up with the regiment at Camp Hill and enlisted 20 Aug 1862.
A NARRATIVE REGARDING THEIR UNTIMELY DEATHS
CHANCELLORSVILLE, VIRGINIA: 2 May 1863
Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was thought to be "retreating late in the afternoon, but a farmer guided Jackson on a hidden trail and Jackson rolled up Union General Joe Hooker's right flank. Stonewall routed the boys in blue in general confusion.
As night fell, the Confederate forces alert in the advanced positions they had gained, detected what they thought was a Union Calvary charge headed their way. Waiting until the cavalry was upon them, the men in gray unleashed a ferocious volley which toppled several of the oncoming riders. Instantly, General Jackson had been struck in both arms and a leg by musket fire from his own men!
Field marshals and historians agree that the great Stonewall had made a grave error in riding in front of his own lines without informing his men. General Jackson's left arm was amputated. General Lee remarked, "He has lost his left arm; but I have lost my right arm." Eight days later, Stonewall Jackson died. Momentarily he raised up on his good right arm and uttered: "Order A.P. Hill to prepare for attack; pass the infantry to the front--no, no, let us cross over the river and rest in the shade of the trees." An undefeated General now belonged to the ages.
And who were the line soldiers that Jackson had ridden into?--the NC 18th!
In less than sixty days the Confederate forces met the Union troops at Gettysburg (Pennsylvania). The North had advantages in troops, logistics and material; yet at this point, the Southern forces were virtually unbeaten--albeit they were without Jackson.
1 Jul 1863: Lee attacks the right of the Union line...gains ground...but darkness forces retreat.
2 Jul 1863: Lee attacks the Union left...no great advantage and the South withdraws.
3 Jul 1863: Lee plans a direct assault into the center on the Union Lines--against 80 cannons atop their ridges. Calvary leader Jeb Stuart is ordered around the Union Line to pinch the Union center into from behind.
Facing this devastating Union alignment are Lee's three generals--Ewell, Longstreet and A.P. Hill. Longstreet is right in the middle. And where is the NC 18th--on Longstreet's left in the center of the Confederate line!
Then comes Pickett's Charge--15,000 Rebs pouring into the Union lines--a murderous fire of grape and ball from Billy Yank cut the Confederate forces to pieces. Yet, Johnny Reb fights all the way to the top and momentarily holds. But where is Jeb Stuart?
Stuart had run into Union cavalry led by General Custer. Stuart would have probably brushed aside Custer except for the fact that Custer had recently procured the new Spencer lever-action, 7-shot repeater for his men.
Thus, when Stuart's men exchanged shots with Custer, Johnny Reb faced another half-dozen rounds while he himself was trying to reload.
Stuart was forced to fall back. Confederate foot-soldiers were driven off the roundtops and the Yanks held their ridges. The valley between the two lines were strewn with the dead, wounded and dying Confederate soldiers.
As night fell, Robert E. Lee dug in for a counter-offensive--that never came. Then an orderly and protective rear-guard covering by his general saved Lee from annihilation. The Confederacy had reached the high-water mark of the war.
Losses of life were beyond description. For example, the N.C. 26th Regiment lost 770 men of 2592. In one company of 84 men, everyone was either killed or wounded. The sergeant who made out the report was shot through both legs.
Ironically, that same day 3 Jul 1863, General Grant also won the Battle of Vicksburg (Mississippi).
After Gettysburg, Lee fell back to Orange County, Virginia to rest, regroup and protect the vital railroad junction at Gordonsville--which became the lifeline to the Army of Northern Virginia.
The war had dragged on for two long years. A psychological demoralization seems to have set in among the Confederate soldiers about this time.
The battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg had to be great morale boosters for the Yankees; but no battle would be more devastating in its effect on Johnny Reb than the naval blockade of Southern ports. Arms and ammunitions, food and clothing were interrupted and it was literally fatal to the men on the lines.
Historian Robert E Lee, Jr. of Locusts Grove, Virginia (no kin to the general) stated in 1981: "A simple scratch or slight wound in the first two years of the war would heal without problems, but because of malnutrition, such a wound during the last two years could be fatal. The ranks of the South were so decimated that a regiment might have only 40 men compared to 150 in the first two years of the war."
The Rapidan River is six miles north of Gordonsville. The key position on the Rapidan was the crossing at Liberty Mills--five miles west of Orange Court House.
General Lane was given charge of protecting this vital area against Yankee encroachments. Among his men was the N.C. 18th. A hill just south of the east-west Rapidan provided unseen protection for the Confederates, who camped on Blue Run just below the present Barbour House.
On 25 Aug 1863, 53 days after Gettysburg, Elkana Lanier, then 30, and his younger brother Jacob, then 19, and two fellow soldiers were arrested for desertion! They were held four days away from their regiment and returned to face a court-martial.
Confederate officers were instilling a new, tough discipline at this time." During this time, a group of ten soldiers from the area of the Rapidan said they were going home and did leave. Word was sent south for the authorities to be on the look-out for these deserters. They were intercepted and during the confrontation, the deserters shot and killed a Confederate officer. All were captured, returned to Richmond, court-martialed, found guilty and sentenced to be executed by musketry by their own men. The sentence was carried out in front of the division on 5 Sep 1863. One can see the climate of the officers' mind as the Lanier brothers were about to come to "trial".
The Lanier Brothers were listed #12 and #14 on General Orders #88 and Special Orders #197 HQ Dept. of Northern Virginia. It gave the judgment of the trial as "to be shot to death with musketry..." The execution date was set for Saturday, 26 Sep 1863. The sentence was carried out.
Included in this writing is a copy of the five letters the Lanier Brothers wrote home between 2 Sep 1863 to 24 Sep 1863.
WERE THE LANIER BROTHERS GUILTY?
The NC 18th Regiment was mainly from eastern North Carolina with the Lanier Brothers in the one company [A] from Catawba County in the west. This company was also composed of men from New Hanover County, as well as a goodly number of German Volunteers.
Professor George W. Hahn put together a monumental collection of soldiers in his The Catawba County Soldier Of The Civil War in 1911. All through the 385 pages are references as to the jovial and respected feelings between officers and men including all 12 companies from Catawba County. However, there is a sharp contrast concerning the NC 18th. Quoting page 355: "Fisher, Barnett, enlisted August 14, '62, he died November 18, '62 (We are informed by witness that as a punishment for being sick, he was made to stand upon a stump, from which he fell dead. As a general rule, our officers were kind and merciful toward their men, but we had tyrants, and here is an example.)" Quote p. 356: "Huffman, P.J., enlisted August 14, '62, he died in November, '62. (Here is another example of unmerciful treatment, as he was made to march while sick, and dropped dead in the ranks.)"
(2.) There were 36 men on the Confederate Military Court of Justice. North Carolina furnished 20% of the troops for the entire Confederacy but had only three officers on the court.
(3.) North Carolina was allotted 20 slots for full generals by the Confederacy. NC had a total of six. (A similar event had happened in the Revolutionary War.) North Carolina was good enough to furnish wealth, men and blood, but not allowed into positions of authority.
(4.) The Lanier Brothers were not arrested a great distance from camp but in the nearby fields by a local detail. Jacob put it simply and truthfully in his letter of 2 Sep 1863: "We left camp entirely to get some apples and green corn, etc." Certainly, all the Rebel forces were half-starved--they were simply hungry.
(5.) Professor Hahn notes on page 358: "The two above met a sad fate unjustly."
(6.) Historian Robert E. Lee gave his opinion that while they may have been technically "away without leave", they had not deserted.(7.) The recognized dean of Orange County historians is Mr. William H.B. Thomas of Orange, Virginia. He is an author, former US Air Corps Major who led a squadron of B-24's during World War [I, leader in various historical organizations and a meticulous researcher...so meticulous that in one of his valuable historical contributions is entitled:: Gordonsville, Virginia Historical Crossroads Town, Mr. Thomas list 463 footnotes in 115 pages of writing.
When this compiler first met Mr. Thomas and the latter was asked about unfair executions during the Civil War, the Major replied, "Who are you talking about--the Lanier Brothers? This writer was stunned! The venerated researcher already knew. And later in the conversations, he voiced the opinion that "the Lanier Brothers were not guilty of desertion."
(8.) A Lieutenant Hutchinson of the South Carolina 13th Regiment had deserted under fire in front of his own men at Chancellorsville on 2 May 1863 and during these same court-martials, he was only "cashiered". No judgment of execution was passed. Plantation politics were of great influence at that time.
From a distance of 137 years, it appears that the Lanier Brothers were not guilty of desertion and certainly did nothing to incur the supreme penalty adjudged against them.Above all research and opinion, probably the most damaging affront to the Confederate court-martial mockery were the five letters the Lanier Brothers wrote back home. Truthful, simple, honest men telling it like it was;
Jacob and Elkana died 26 Sep 1863 on Blue Run five miles west of Orange, Virginia. Their brother, Joe had died in the Confederate Hospital (Chimborazo) in Richmond, Virginia in February, 1863.
Another brother, David A. Lanier enlisted in Company E, 58th NC Regiment. He was wounded at Chickamauga and again in the Battle of Atlanta--a knee wound from which he had a limp until he died in 1928. When the war ended in April, 1865, Dave Lanier stayed with the medical corps in Atlanta to take care of the wounded who were not able to travel. It was June, 1865 when David finally returned to Hickory, N.C. When his Mother saw him in his physical condition, she nearly went berserk--after all, she had lost four sons to the war and here was another stricken in limb. Just how much sacrifice was a mother supposed to make? Mrs. Lanier was beyond stress tolerance.
This writer knew his grandsons--Joe Sipe and Claude Sipe who both served with gallantry during World War II. Claude was in the 9th Infantry and Joe was attached to Patron's Third Army. Both "paid the price" through bitter combat against the Germans. These two fine soldiers did not desert anymore than their grand uncles had 80 years before.
One outstanding statistic of the Civil War was that of the 600,000+ men lost by both sides, 80% of the casualties were caused by the individual soldier firing a single-shot weapon.
Regardless of partisan politics and ideologies, there must be a unity of all Americans loyal to the red, white, and blue to defend the original Republic as set forth in 1776.
In the last letter of Elkanah Lanier to the folks back home on 24 Sep 1863 were the words "...I thank the Lord, I have put my trust in Jesus."
In 1864, the year following the untimely deaths of the Lanier Brothers, the Union placed on the American Two-cent piece the slogan: "IN GOD WE TRUST". All coins since have carried those words.
God has blessed the United States far beyond all nations of all history, and we pray that HE will continue to do so. And if there be conflict, we further pray that THE ALMIGHTY will give us the courage to face the enemy in a coming conflict as the Lanier Brothers did in 1863.
GENERAL ORDERS #88
Special Orders #197
HQ Dept. of Northern Virginia
12--Private JACOB LANIER, Company A, 18th N.C. Troops. CHARGE--Desertion.
Specification--In this, that he Private Jacob Lanier, Company A 18th N.C. Troops, a duly enlisted soldier in the Confederate States service, and receiving pay as such, did desert the said service on or about the 25th day of August 1863, near Orange courthouse, Va., and did not return to his company until arrested and brought back under guard on the ___ day of September 1863.
Of Specification to Charge: Guilty
Of Charge: Guilty
SENTENCE And the Court do therefore sentence the said Private Jacob Lanier, Company A, 18th N.C. Troops, to be shot to death with musketry (two-thirds of the Court concurring in the sentence), at such time and place as the General commanding may direct.
GENERAL ORDERS #88
Special Orders # 197
HQ Dept. of Northern Virginia
14--Private E. Lanier, Company C, 18th N.C. Troops. CHARGE--Desertion.
Specification--In this, that he Private E. Lanier, Company C, 18th N.C. Troops, a duly enlisted soldier in the Confederate States service, and receiving pay as such, did desert his company and said service on or about the 25th of August, 1863, near Orange courthouse, Va., and did not return to his company until arrested and brought back under guard on the 1st day of September 1863.
Of Specification to Charge: Guilty
Of Charge: Guilty
SENTENCE And the Court (two-thirds concurring) do therefore sentence him, Private E. Lanier, Company C, 18th N.C. Troops, to be shot to death with musketry, at such time and place as the General commanding may direct.
LANIER LETTER #1
Camp, Near Orange C.H. Va.,September 2, 1863
Dear Father and Mother and All:It is again that I have seated myself to inform you that I and my brother are both well at present and hope these few lines may find you all in good health. I have written so much since I heard from home that I most got out of heart. I merely heard you were well. I am glad to hear that much. I must now tell you that we are rather in a difficulty. On last Tuesday, 25th, we and two other men left camp on a foraging expedition and misfortunately was arrested by guard, detailed for the purpose of arresting deserters, and we were kept under guard four days from our command, and even now we are still guarded with the charge of desertion. We will have to stand court-martial about it in a few days. I have no idea what the result may be, although I don't think they can hurt one much. We left camp entirely to get some apples and green corn, etc., for we do not get more than half enough to eat. I am tolerably well satisfied. I hope that we will soon be free from this war. Read the eighth chapter of Isaiah and 12th verse. It is rather hard times out here by we have it to bear. I do hope that Providence will soon end this strife. I don't know when I will see any of you, whether ever or not. One thing is certain, I don't expect to live in a Confederacy if it is ever gained. I am more than willing to leave it for it will be desolate of men and it is already for comforts. I must close. Write soon. I will write again soon as I learn more of our affairs. JACOB E. LANIER
LANIER LETTER #2
Camp, Near Orange C.H., Va. September 20, 1863.
Dear Father, Mother, Brother, Sister and Friends:
I, this beautiful Sabbath evening, have taken the opportunity to write my farewell letter as in all probability it will be the last one I shall ever be permitted to write. I hope that you, my friends, will not grieve at this saying, for I can tell you that we must suffer persecution and even death as did the righteous in days that have passed. I received your kind letter of the 11th inst. I was truly glad that you were all blessed with health. I can say to you that we are both well, but we have been court-martialed, and to-day the sentence came against us, which is to be shot to death on next Saturday at ii:00 o'clock a.m. Now to give you the crime again is unnecessary for I wrote it in the other letter. Now there is only one chance for me to escape, that is to be reprieved by the Governor of North Carolina. I feel that my company officers will do what they can. All the other consolation is after they have killed the body they can go no farther, and I trust that Jesus, the Redeemer, will be my Savior. I will put trust in the Lord, and if you get this letter between this and the 29th inst., pray for us. I have desired greatly to see you all again in peace but prospects have failed. I saw them shoot two men yesterday that lived in Wiles County, and there are six more to receive it next Saturday, one only for talking about the Confederacy.
WE were court-martialed for desertion as you saw in the other letter. I want you to give a copy of these letters to my brothers, Oh! dear Mother, weep not for me. I hope to meet you in heaven above to rejoice forever more.
Oh my dear Brother, let me persuade you to pray much and O, may we meet at Jesus' feet and live bright shining as the sun.
Dear Sister, meet me in heaven.
Oh, my Father, continue in the faith of Jesus Christ. I feel bad on your account to be taken and bound to the stake of reproach as some men consider it, but do not grieve for me. I hope and trust that God will forgive me. I now bid adieu to you and to the world only for awhile. We will meet again, and now may the love and grace of God abide with us forever and ever.
Oh! Lord, he pleased to go with me through the hour of death and administer these sayings to the good of all who read these lines. Go with me through life. Forsake one not in the hour of death. Farewell, my friends. J.C. LANIER. Keep this in remembrance of me. Keep it not as a secret. Let my friends see it. God help us.
LANIER LETTER #3
Camp, Near Orange C.H., Va., September 20, 1863
I now take my pen in hand to let you know the awful condition that my brother and I are in. We have been court-martialed and they have made us out guilty of deserting, and have sentenced us to be shot to death with musketry on next Saturday, the 26th. I am sorry to say to you that I cannot see you and my children in this world again. I will pray for you while I live. I pray God to help you raise those little children. I feel satisfied that I am going to heaven and I want to meet you and the children there. O, God, be with us forever. Amen.
Dear Father and Mother: I can say to you that I expect to see you both coming before long. I expect to see J.S. Lanier and all my friends that are gone before. I must close, will write again, and if not, farewell for awhile. My wife, my children, father, mother, brothers and sisters, one is going with me. I am going home. Remember me and my brother, and God and his Word forever. Amen. ELKANA LANIER
LANIER LETTER #4
Camp, Near Orange C.H., Va. September 24, 1863
I will now let you know my awful sentence in this world: It is to die at the stake--on the cross, even as the Lord did. I can take it tolerably patiently, knowing that the Lord died for me. I am dying to go to Him, I will live forever with Him. I am going home to die no more. Let me exhort you, my loving friend, to prepare to meet me. I cannot come to see you any more but you can come to see me. I want you to live in the discharge of your duty towards God. I'm going home to die no more. I can say to you that I am willing to die and go to Jesus. I still think about you and my little children, but must leave them with you and God, hoping that you will raise them right and try to give them an education so that they can read the Word of the Lord. I want you to remember this as long as you live and tell my children about me when they get so they can remember it. I want to meet you and them in heaven. Glory be to God, I am going home to die no more. I don't want you to grieve after me--of course, it will seem hard to you, but don't take it hard. Remember that I paid the debt that we all have to pay, Glory be to God I am going home.
This is the last letter that I expect to write in this world--it is the last I expect to do in this world only to try to increase my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. My prayer is to meet you in heaven. Dear Father and Mother, a few lines to you: I can say I am almost home. I hear them making the coffins for our bodies. Glory be to God, I feel that I am nearly to heaven. Do not grieve for me nor brother. We are going to meet our brother who went before. I want you to help Elizabeth raise my children for I cannot. I want you to hold out faithful in serving the Lord. I recollect that you said if I got killed it would not be long 'till you would come, too. I am going home to die no more.
To Elizabeth Lanier, to Edmund Lanier, mother, brothers, and sisters, and to all my relatives and friends, FAREWELL! I am going home to die no more. Glory be to God for a better world than this.
"O will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms,
In the arms of my dear Saviour,
Where there are ten thousand charms."
O, praise the Lord forever. Adore His precious Name. I hope we'll meet never to cease praising His Eternal Name.
"When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing his praise,
Than when we first begun."
Farewell to friends and the world. E. Mc. LANIER
LANIER LETTER #5
Still Near Orange C.H. Va.,
September 24, 1863.
My Dear Friends:
I, for your sake, have again determined to write another short epistle to let you know I am well, and my brother is well; however, we expect to leave this sin stricken world in a short time. I wrote a letter last Sabbath and started it stating the death notice but it probably did not come to your hand. I, therefore, must write again. You are aware that we were held in custody, and for what crime I am sorry to inform you. The sentence is death, to be executed on Saturday the 26th inst., but I thank the Lord I have put my trust in Jesus. I hope to meet my friends that have gone before, and I hope that you, my friends, will meet me in heaven. I would love to see my brothers yet in service, and explain the case to them, but so it is I can't. It goes hard for me to write so solemn a doom, but there is not a man in the regiment that will say we got justice, but the officers have determined to have a better disciplined army than heretofore, and so it must need be that they make example of some to check the remainder, it has fell on our unhappy lot to be an example. It is hard but we have to bear it. I know we will get justice in heaven's judgment. I have spent my time reading the Holy Bible and in prayer to God. I want you all to pray much and meet me in heaven. Father, set the example of prayer before your small family. I am exceedingly sorrowful on your account. Read the 88th Psalm--the reason plainly to be seen.
Dear Father, dispose of my things that are few and worthless, as you see proper, to make my debts clear. Now you nor I can do no better than to prepare to meet above. O, then, let me exhort you as did Paul in the 12th chapter of Romans, "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Read the chapter through.
My dear Mother, let your tears be dry. I know your troubles are great but grieve not for me. I am only going home. I expect to meet you, my praying mother, before long at home to die no more. I shall soon say FAREWELL, vain world, I am going home in the land where there is no more stormy clouds arising. Truly it seems hard to give farewell to friends on earth through writing, but be joy to bid the world adieu to go to Jesus to reign--we live with Him above. "I bid farewell to every fear and wipe my weeping eyes," and soar to the world above the sky. I beseech you all to live for God alone that you may die as Christian can alone.
Dear Sisters, will you ever pray and praise the Lord? O, do forever trust in His sacred Word. I am going home to die no more, but to rest with Jesus forevermore. I hope to meet you all above the skies where Christians never, never die, and O, my dear Brother, remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, you never will regret one moment spent in service to the Lord. Remember, too, that we have prayed together and I hope we can praise the Lord together. O, my brother, don't grieve for me. I am going home to die no more. By the Grace of God I do hope to live forever above. Now, dear Sister-in-law, let me entreat you to live in the service of the Lord, resting assured that you will in no wise lose your reward. Meet thy bosom friends in heaven. Raise your children for the Lord. O, pray with them--set the example before them as soon as they are able to understand and know what it meaneth. I hope to see you all in heaven. O, now, my Father, bless the Lord and praise Him for His glorious Words--He has many gracious promises. We can bear witness in our hearts. He has said: "My Grace is sufficient for thee."
Farewell, vain world, I am going home. Oh! meet me in that blissful home. Farewell, my friends, our parting is at hand. I could write pages to you and the half would not he told that I would like to have you know but it is hard to write. Don't take it hard. I am willing to go home. I feel bad on your account more than my own.
Farewell to friends, and the world. J.E. LANIER (The above five letters were typed verbatim as received by this researcher.)
THE SURVING SON
David A. Lanier (24 May 1842-12 Feb 1928). He was the only one of five brothers who served the Confederacy to return alive. D.A. Lanier enlisted in Company E of the 58th North Carolina Regiment. He was wounded on 19 Sep 1863 at Chickamauga, Tennessee--the very day two of his brothers were court-martialed at Orange, Va. He recovered from his wounds and returned to his regiment and was wounded again in the Battle of Atlanta. Pvt. Lanier was discharged but stayed on with the medical corps. Dave Lanier continued to care for the injured for two months after the war was over because they were unable to travel. He finally arrived in Hickory, N.C. on 20 Jun 1865. He become a Minister of the Gospel and preached at Shiloh Methodist Church in Catawba County. He lies buried in the church cemetery where he preached.
Pastor Lanier became a Methodist circuit-riding preacher. The family has his little note book where he logged donations he received, such as: 1¢, "tobacco twist", 2¢, muskrat hide, 5¢, 1 peck of oats, etc.
Twice he pastored Shiloh Methodist Church, located three miles south of Catawba, N.C., and is interred there.
The old Lanier homeplace stood near the Catawba River in northeast Hickory at what is now the junction of 16th Street, NE and 16th Street Place, NE.
A MEMORIAL DEDICATION
The last week of June, 2012 will
provide an opportunity to memorialize these brave soldiers.
It will be held at the Huffman/Lanier cemetery, near Lake Hickory.
For more details, Visit the web page.
content of this page was conceived, researched and printed in a
Shayle "Millstone John" Edwards. He can be located at 1735 Shiloh Road, Claremont, NC 28610.
I am deeply indebted to him for making material of this importance available.
brochure, dated 13 February 2000 (Project #96), the compiler
"Permission is hereby given to reprint, reproduce, copy, store or retrieve any information herein."
Care to play DIXIE?
Derick S. Hartshorn - ©2008