Isaac L. Summit
1832- Sept 9, 1864

and the Battle of Ream's Station

Glen Summit


Isaac Summit raised the rebel flag for his unit, the Catawba Braves, and then charged the enemy for what would be the last time. He took his fatal wound not long after Union troops had ripped up miles of track along the Weldon Railroad, severing a key Confederate supply route at Reams Station. ("Grant Takes Command," by Bruce Catton.)

"Isaac L. Summit was shot in the charge with the colors in his hands...," recalled Charles Parker, fellow soldier and friend who fought alongside him at the Battle of Reams Station in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. August 25, 1864 was a day of battle much different from others Isaac had fought. It was the beginning of the end for the 32-year-old father of two from Catawba County, North Carolina.

Before the battle, the armies of Lee and Grant were immobilized in siege warfare along 25 miles of forts and trenches that began at Richmond and then swung down below Petersburg. Unable to seize Petersburg by surprise, Grant focused on severing a key supply line: the Weldon Railroad. (Paul C. Summitt's Notes; Freeport, Florida; 1998.)

Major General Gouverneur K Warren's V Corps made a successful strike along the line at Globe Tavern on August 18th. With one of two vital supply lines severed, Lee was forced to transport supplies by wagon from Stony Creek. (Photographic History of the Civil War: Vicksburg to Appomattox, Blackdog & Levanthol Publishers; New York; 1983.) This slowed the arrival of desperately needed supplies, including food and ammunition. With hopes of further delay, Grant ordered Major General Winfield Scott Hancock to proceed to Ream's Station, five miles below Globe Tavern.

By August 23rd, Hancock had arrived at Ream's Station and by sundown the following day his men had ripped up about three miles of track. While savoring his accomplishment that night, Hancock learned Lieutenant General A.P. Hill was moving directly toward his forces. Hill assaulted Hancock on the 25th, with the brunt of the fierce rebel blow coming down on three separate regiments from New York. A small number of Union troops fled, many surrendered, and before nightfall better than 2000 men found themselves prisoners of war. ("The Civil War - A Narrative: Red River to Appomattox," by Shelby Foote; Random House; New York; 1974.)

Two more divisions were enroute to backup Hancock, but he withdrew his troops and abandoned the line anyway. In total, Hancock lost 2,750 soldiers, either killed, wounded or missing; lost a dozen battle flags; nine guns; and abandoned over 3000 rifles. In contrast, Hill lost only 720 men... but Isaac Summit was one of them.

Following the battle, Isaac was probably first moved to a field hospital, located just a mile or so behind the lines. Here the wounded received immediate emergency attention in order to hold the afflicted over till transfer. Isaac was then transported to Camp Winder General Hospital in Richmond, on the Confederate Capital's western edge.

Winder was one of the largest of Richmond's medical centers, able to accommodate as many as 4,300 patients at a time. Ninety-eight pine buildings made up the compound over an area of 125 acres. Many wounded Confederate soldiers found themselves at Camp Winder. In fact, sixty percent of all wounded Confederates found themselves at Richmond military hospitals. ("Civil War Virginia: Battleground for a Nation," by James I. Robertson Jr.; University Press of Virginia; Charlottseville and London; 1991.)

Hospital workers dumped all of the facility's refuse into a trench, which completely encircled the Winder compound. Nine months out of the year a putrid odor permeated the air, making life miserable for both soldiers and staff alike. Isaac's experience at the military hospital was undoubtedly brutal. He arrived during the hottest part of the summer; one can only imagine the terrible smells of filth and death lingering in the air as he tried to recuperate from his wounds. Within two weeks he was dead.

Isaac Lanford Summit (son of John, grandson of Jacob, and great-grandson of Johannes Frantz Sammet) succumbed to his battle wound (Vulius Sclopet) on September 9, 1864 at Camp Winder General Hospital. ("North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster," compiled by Louis Manarin and Weymouth Jordan; 1990.) The location of his grave is unknown, but it is assumed he is buried in a mass unmarked grave somewhere in the vicinity of Richmond. Local grave diggers in Richmond buried hundreds at a time in shallow graves which were frequently exposed when it rained.

The Confederate effort at the Battle of Ream's Station succeeded in ousting the Yankees, but the Union Army still succeeded in its continued effort of derailing the line farther. On paper it was a decisive military loss for the Federals, but strategically a clear-cut victory in the Union's ongoing efforts to severe supply routes and eventually bring Lee to his knees. ("Grant Takes Command," by Bruce Catton. Page 352.)

The courage with which the Rebel Army fought at Ream's Station did not go unnoticed. General Robert E. Lee wrote the following letter to the governor of North Carolina:

"Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia                                           August 29th, 1864

His Excellency Z.B. Vance, Governor of North Carolina


I have been frequently called upon to mention the services of North Carolina soldiers in this army, but their gallantry and conduct were never more deserving the admiration than in the engagement at Reams Station on the 25th instant.

The brigades of Generals Cook, McRae, and Lane: the last under the temporary command of General Conner, advanced through a thick abattis of felled trees under a heavy fire of musketry and artillery, and carried the enemies works with a steady courage, that elicited the warm commendation of their corps and division commanders and the admiration of the army.

I am with great respect your obedient servant.                                  R. E. Lee, General"

("Southern Historical Society Papers." Volume 9, Pages 245-246. 1881.)

Isaac enlisted at the formation of Company K, 46th North Carolina Infantry at Camp Mangum on April 16, 1862, the same day as Pinkney Summit. Note: Pinkney may be Isaac's older brother, known as Hubbard, or a close relative. According to Isaac's military records, he stood 5 feet 6 1/2 inches tall; his occupation was tanner. During the two years he fought for the Confederacy, he served as corporal in Captain Adolphus T. Bost's Company, known as the Catawba Braves. He was mustered in as a private and later promoted to 4th Corporal on November 1, 1862; 3rd Corporal January 1, 1863; 2nd Corporal May 6, 1864 and 1st Corporal on July 15th. (Daniel Summitt's Notes; Lexington, North Carolina; 1998.)

Isaac was born about 1832 in Lincoln County to John and Rebecca Robinson. His
brothers, according to census records, included an older brother as well as a younger brother named P. Heglar. His sister's included: Mary Catherine, Sarah Jane, Paulina Hagler, Martha and Barbary Margaret. John's second wife was Mary Camila Lee; they had one adopted daughter named Mary Propst. About five years before he enlisted, Isaac married Perlive (Perlina) Abernethy, the daughter of Phillip Abernethy and Polly (Orent) Arndt, on Feb. 1, 1857 in Catawba County. Soon after their marriage the farming couple had two daughters, Naomi and Margaret.

Naomi Elizabeth was born March 6, 1858 in Catawba. She married Joseph Isaiah Caldwell on January 5, 1881 in Mecklenberg, Caldwell Township. They lived in the Balls Creek section of Catawba where they raised twelve children. She died June 22, 1922.
Margaret Ellen was born May 30, 1860 in Catawba. She married Perry Davidson Drum on September 16, 1880, in Caldwell Township. I am aware of three children, but she probably had more. She died November 8, 1927, in Catawba County.

In the 1870 Census, Perlive appears to be without her daughters. However, I am making the assumption that this is not another woman with the same name; unlikely, but this could be proven differently at a later date. She is listed as the 30-year-old head of household in Caldwell Township, Catawba. Her occupation is listed as "keeping house at home." Complicating matters, Perlive is listed with a 20-year-old Mary Summit, a 16-year-old Catherine Summit and an 8-year-old John Summit. I am not sure who these individuals are, but for certain Perlive is not the mother of 20-year-old Mary. In the same census, Naomi and Margaret are not listed with their grandparents, John and Rebecca. Where the two girls went during this time is not known, possibly Perlive's parents or the state.

However, it should be noted that after Isaac's death, Perlive gave birth to two boys: Phillip and Alexander.

Phillip Marion Summitt added an additional "t" to the Summit name -- reason unknown. He was born May 24, 1870 in Catawba; the same year Perlive was not with her daughters. He married Susen Crouse, the daughter of Robert Crouse and Rebecca Abernethy, on December 18, 1890 in Catawba. They had six children. He and his wife are buried at Mt. Rahama Baptist Church, Catawba County. Alexander Commodore Summit was born on March 1, 1876. He married Laura Dora Bollinger, the daughter of Henry Lafatte Bollinger and Nancy Alice Johnson, on November 10, 1894. They had thirteen children. Dora enjoyed playing the piano. Alex was a farmer, store owner and carpenter, who helped build Mt. Rahama Baptist. He owned a large farm, where he grew cotton, tobacco and produce. During the depression he lost everything; he later moved his family by horse and wagon to Cleveland County. He died August 31, 1965 in Rowan County. The two are also buried at Mt. Rahama.

The boys' birth date discrepancies, when compared with Isaac's date of death, have led to much debate and speculation among direct descendants of all four children, including myself. An examination of Alex's marriage certificate states that his parents are Isaac and Perlive Summit. But this is obviously impossible, Isaac cannot be his father. Phillip's marriage certificate is more revealing, it states that his mother is Perlive and that his father is "not known."

Several subscribers to this newsletter have re-verified the birth of the Summit boys after Isaac's death. Ashley Summitt, a native of North Carolina who is currently studying law in Boston, also became aware through her own research that her great-grandfather Phillip could not be the son of Isaac. And Loretta Bradshaw, of Charlotte, North Carolina, verified that only Isaac's two daughters, Naomi and Margaret, shared in his estate. Bradshaw is the great-granddaughter of Margaret.

A grandson of Alex's, Robert Shuping Jr., said his mother Maudella Alice Summit did not like to talk about her father's situation and that it was understood within the family not to bring up the "question of his legitimacy." It should be noted that Maudella referred to Phillip as Alex's half-brother, so it appears that Phillip and Alex had different fathers as well. One of Alex's sons, Willie A. Summit, believed his dad's mother was not Perlive. But that Naomi -- Isaac & Perlive's oldest daughter -- was actually the mother of Alex. At the time of Alex's birth, Naomi would have been 17-years-old and living with her widowed mother Perlive. Whether this is mere speculation or the actual truth, has not been determined yet. But this scenario is certainly possible and should not be ruled out.

We find Perlive, in the 1880 Census, with her daughters. She is listed as a 40-year-old head of household in Caldwell Township. Her children are listed as 21-year old Naomi, 20-year-old Margaret, 9-year-old Phillip and 4-year-old Alex. It has been suggested that Perlive remarried another Summit, thus explaining why her sons kept the Summit name. But I have always thought this doubtful. However, Dan Summitt, a contributing writer to this newsletter, has recently uncovered some valuable information confirming Perlive's marital status following her husband's death.

Two separate pension files acquired by Dan from the North Carolina State Archives show that Perlive never remarried before Phillip and Alex were born. The pension requests were submitted by Perlive on May 23, 1885 and June 22, 1901. Note: For a widow to remain eligible for a widow's pension, it was required she remain single. She stated in the applications that she never remarried. This alone proves she did not remarry another Summit. From this information we can determine that both boys, Phillip and Alex, were born to a widowed and unmarried Perlive Summit.

In a written letter of support for Perlive's application, a life-long friend and neighbor named Charles Parker signed a sworn affidavit testifying to the fact that Perlive remained single and that Isaac did engage in all military activity with Company K until his death in 1864. Although Parker states that Isaac died on the battlefield at Ream's Station, this is not correct. This was probably just an assumption he made.

"State of North Carolina
Catawba County,

Personally appeared before the undersigned Clerk of the Superior Court this 9th of Nov. 1885. Charles Parker a citizen of this county who a credible witness and who after being duly sworn says he was well acquainted with Isaac L Summit late member of Co K of the 46th regiment of NC Troops in the late War between the States. That on the day (sic) ________ 186___ Said Isaac L. Summitt was present with said company K 46th NC Troops acting as color bearer at the Battle of Reams Station in the State of Virginia that in said battle said Isaac L Summit was shot in the charge with the colors in his hands and
died on the field.

This he knows because said Isaac L Summit was a neighbor of his whom he had known all his life and who had enlisted with him the said Charles Parker in the formation of said company K in Catawba County in the year 1862 and had constantly served in said company with him from the organization thereof until he was killed as above stated.

Said Charles Parker further states that he is also well acquainted with Perlive Summitt whose claim for pension is now pending and that she is the widow of said Isaac L Summit that she has never remarried and that she has no property in the right of her said husband over three hundred dollars and holds no office under the United States or State of any kind whatever and has no interest in her claim.

(signed) C Parker
Known to and subscribed before me this 9th of Nov. 1885
(signed) PA Hoyle CSC"

The Summit family of Catawba County North Carolina sacrificed heavily in the War Between the States. Not only did John and Rebecca lose Isaac, but this farming couple suffered the loss of P Heglar and, if their son, Pinkney as well.

("The Catawba Soldier of the Civil War," by George W. Hahn; Hickory, North Carolina; 1911.)


Pinkney Summit was 33-years-old at the time of  enlistment in Company H, 46th North Carolina Infantry (State Troopers). He was born in Catawba County and was listed as a tanner, like Isaac. The two probably worked together. He stood five feet nine inches. He was wounded during the war. Pinkney married Christina; their children were S.J., born about 1852, Perry about 1857 and Franklin about 1862.

At noontime on May 28, 1862 Pinkney attended religious services led by Polycarp Cyprian Henkel. He preached on 1 Timothy 1:15 to the 46th Regiment at Goldsboro, Wayne County. "After preaching Baptized 7 of the soldiers and confirmed 19. The same day at early candeliting, and at the same campground, I preached to the soldiers of the 49th Regt. a very attentive audience. Text 2 Cor. 3:18," wrote Henkel in his diary. Pinkney was listed as one of the 19 soldiers confirmed that day. A little over a month later, he was dead. He died from pneumonia on July 4, 1862.

Isaac's brother P. Heglar (Henry P.) was just 21-years-old when he volunteered on September 2, 1861 at Camp Fisher in Catawba County. After he was reported missing in action at Spottsylvania Courthouse on May 12, 1864, he is listed on the Union prisoner rolls as captured at the Wilderness. He was held as a prisoner of war at Point Lookout, Maryland. On August 10, 1864 Union troops transferred him to Elmira, New York where he died from chronic diarrhea on November 16, 1864. He was buried at Elmira Woodlawn National Cemetery. ("Confederate Service Record, 3 NC Roster of Troops;" Page 443.)

Without a doubt, the impact that the Civil War had on this branch of the Summit family is astounding. Not only did Isaac and his brother lose their lives in service to the Confederate States of America, but also the life of Perlive was turned upside down, left alone with two young daughters. Presumably since she had had no income after Isaac's death, she could not care for her girls. By 1880, however, she is back with her daughters and two more children under her wing.

The hardship that Perlive went through as a widow cannot be understated. She died at the State Hospital at Morganton on August 11, 1917 and was laid to rest at Mt. Rahama. Whether we find out or not who fathered Phillip and Alex, still remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that the lives of Phillip and Alex, themselves, are an example of how the Civil War disrupted the makeup of even a fallen soldier's family.

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Last rev. - 30 Oct 1998