Thursday, October 30, 2014

The 53rd NC Soldiers at Fort Mahone, Battle of Petersburg, April 2, 1865



 Lest Darkness Fall  


Wartime photographer, Thomas C. Roche, left a profound legacy with his images taken on
April 3, 1865.  Roche captured a number of scenes of fallen Confederate soldiers, all of whom had perished the day before at the Battle of Petersburg, most at Fort Mahone.  Roche’s intent was doubtless to document the Northerners’ victory over a prostrate South, highlighted by images of vanquished Confederate dead.  More universally, Roche conveys the tragedy of war, and the waste of human life and noble spirit.  He also, unwittingly provided a valuable record of the Confederate soldier’s uniform, arms and equipment in the last days of the war.  It is this aspect that we turn our attention to now.

I have considered a number of factors in this study, to include jackets, pants, hats, shoes, socks, greatcoats, shirts, drawers and vests.  I have also considered rifles, accoutrements, canteens, haversacks, blankets and bedrolls, and cups.  Finally, I have noted the ages of the soldiers, and the grooming of their hair and beards.  The purpose throughout has been to paint a picture of what the average “Johnny Reb” in Lee’s Virginia Army looked like in the closing days of the war.  The comparisons include all fifteen fallen Confederate soldiers in Roche’s Petersburg images.  Most of these soldiers appear to have been infantrymen, due to their accoutrements, rifles or positions in the trenches.  I have assigned each of the subjects (fallen soldiers) with a number based on the last two digits of the Library of Congress number used to catalog Roche’s images.  Each individual soldier is shown in pictures 1 though 15.

In completing this study, I have used images of dead men, often grotesque, to illustrate points of material culture.  My intent is not to dishonor the memory of these fallen Southerners, but to awaken interest in their story and plight, and heighten appreciation for our Southern heritage.


  1. All soldiers, both Union and Confederate, should receive all due honor and respect. All were Americans. The real tragedy of it all was that the war happened. It is the politicians and the bankers that deserve our utmost contempt. Again, to cite Kipling:
    "If any question why we died, tell them because our fathers lied."

    1. Not like today where the higher ups are rarely killed.

      Confederate Generals killed, deathsites, and burial sites

  2. what were the casualties of the 53rd NC April 1865?

    1. Not sure, but as I remember there were about 80 left at Appomattox.

      Company C numbers below:
      My command stacked arms in front of the victorious federals on the 10th of April, with one lieutenant, nine white men--all with guns-- and two Negro servants, Needham Leach of Chatham and Jack Richardson of Johnston County." (The Lieutenant was my great Uncle, George Thomas Leach)