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26th North Carolina Regiment

The 26th North Carolina Regiment started the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg with 800 men. By sunset, 588 of them were either dead or wounded. Yelling like demons, they had courageously charged and taken a formidable federal position on Seminary Ridge. Fourteen colorbearers in the 26th were shot down in succession. One of them was 21 year-old- Henry King Burgwyn, the youngest colonel in the Confederate army, who stained the flag with his blood as he fell wrapped in its folds. All 90 soldiers in the 26th's Company F had fallen.

Mustered into Confederate service on August 27, 1861, the 26th Regiment served its first 10 months in eastern North Carolina in an undistinguished effort to contest the foothold made by the Union forces. On June 21, 1862, the regiment arrived in Petersburg, Va., and became a part of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Then began an association that lasted until the regiment's flag was finally and forever furled at Appomattox. They participated in some of the hardest-fought battles of the war, including Malvern Hill, Bristoe, and Spotsylvania; but it was Gettysburg that earned them a place in the Civil War record books.

After their disastrous first day at Gettysburg, the 26th was not utilized in the actions fought on the second day. But the third day of the battle found the regiment charging under its battle flag across the fields to the federal position behind the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge. Members of the 26th North Carolina advanced as far as any other of the Confederate troops that took part in Pickett's charge, and like the rest, they paid a terrible price for their bravery and determination. Only 90 soldiers from the 26th North Carolina were able to make their way back to the Confederate lines on Seminary Ridge. The Battle of Gettysburg claimed as casualties 88 percent of the regiment, the highest percentage of casualties for any regiment, North or South, in any battle.

Fascinating Fact: Approximately 2,000 men served in the 26th North Carolina Regiment during the course of the war. Just 131 of them were left to receive their paroles at Appomattox.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress
Written by Stephen T. Foster
8 MCMXCIII Atlas Editions, USA
Printed in USA
D3 602 02.16