52nd Regiment North Carolina Troops
The Nixon Brothers
and the Dry Pond Dixies (Company G)
Archibald Nixon was a 39-year-old farmer when he enlisted in the Confederate Army on March 25, 1862. His brother, George, enlisted at the same time. Both were residents of the Beatties Ford Post Office area, according to Census records. Both men became privates in Company G of the 52 North Carolina Brigade, a company known as the "Dry Pond Dixies", since most of them came from the Denver area (then known as Dry Pond). Private Nixon served for 16 months, and during that time wrote many letters home to his family in Denver, letters that shared details of the misery of war as well as his desire to return to Denver.
Excerpts of the letters and commentary by Richard M. Painter Jr. formerly of Lincoln County were posted online in 1999. Mr. Painter now lives in Pickens County, SC and is a former commander of the Lincoln County Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Following is an edited version of Mr. Painter’s report:
His (Archibald Nixon’s) first letter to his wife, Susannah Norwood Nixon, was dated May 18, 1862 and was written at Camp Mangum. At this time he had been in the Army less than two months. His mood at this time seems to be upbeat; he thanks his wife and family for all of the provisions that he has received — he is glad to get it, but at the time they are receiving “plenty of meat and bread and rice,” and they have sold “two barrels of beef.” He mentions that “George is mending.” There was also a George Nixon* in the company. He may have been a brother or cousin. Archibald also states that his regiment is all sick, and only he and John Roberson, and James Williamson* are still well. Colds, measles, and mumps were the scourge of many camps; country folks weren’t used to big crowds, and the communicable diseases that were common in the cities. They would prove to be the most deadly enemy of the war. Archibald is concerned about seeing that his bills are paid, and that his family has its needs met. He sends his respects to all the neighbors, and mentions to his wife that talk is going around the Camp that when the Conscripts start reporting, that men over the age of 35 will be discharged. He is looking to be home in two months. He closes that letter by telling Susannah he wants to see her and the children, and with a statement that he will close all the rest with… Your Husband till death.
By May 29, still at Camp Mangum, Archibald is sick… with the Mumps! He has received a letter from home and is very happy to get it. Some of his company are on their way to Kinston, NC, but many are still sick, and can’t go. Archibald tells Susannah, that he has had words with a companion and the companion has left the regiment. Apparently this person, unnamed, is a shirker, as Archibald says “he wouldn’t do anything he could help,” and he(Archibald) “couldn’t stand it.” Another member of the company, “John,” has left also. They may have deserted. Apparently Archibald believes in keeping your word and doing your duty. He is still expecting to get to come home, as he says, “I expect to come home when the ninety days is out.” He closes by telling Susannah not to write until she hears from him, telling her where to send her letters, and “so remains your husband till death.”
In a June 26, 1862 letter from Camp Johnston, near Kinston, he is still sick, and George is taking the mumps. He has seen a man die from bleeding from his nose and jaw, and saw a man with the “black measles,” that also died. He is concerned about rations, he and George had luck in purchasing “as many beans as we could eat for 25 cents,” and making pies from Huckleberries. He and George have spent 20 cents for a quart of sweet milk. He says everything is high. He is still concerned about being able to get out of the Army as a result of the conscript act, but has been told that part of the law or act has been repealed. He asks Susannah to ask a Doctor Johnson about it, and write him back. He tells Susannah to tell Melia, his daughter, to take care of her turkeys, he wants to see her and Monroe, and to be good children. (Editor’s Note: Amelia Nixon later married a Hager in Denver and is buried at Unity Presbyterian), and Monroe had at least three children: Albridge, Stamey and Thomas Nixon) and lived in the Denver areas, and later in the Riverbend community until his death in 1924. He is buried at Hill’s Chapel UMC. He and his wife Julia Elizabeth McIntosh had a number of children including Richard, Lelia, Bessie, Ella, Martha, Nella, Rosa and Elva.
He writes again, this time from Camp Campbell on the James River in Virginia, near Drewry’s Bluff. He reports going to the cliff, where he can see the steeples in Richmond. He continues to express concern about his family’s welfare, doesn’t want them to be without shoes, wants to know if the cow is with calf, and “how does the hogs look?” He also is thankful that he has a fine new daughter and “that it and you was doing well.” He is still looking to come home when the conscripts reported. At no time does he mention being in a battle, but still closes his letter “Your Husband till death.”
In August 1862, they are still in Camp Campbell, and have heard other rumors that all men under the age of 18 and over 35 are about to be released from their enlistment. One man even “heard Col. Marshall say so.” The regiment has heard of combat near them, and heard that two men were killed and five wounded. It was 20 miles below their camp and they could hear the cannon. He says if the Yankees “didn’t mind they will get whop[p]ed worse than they did at Richmond.” George is still sick, but getting better and is able to drill some. Food is still high, Eight dollars for a bushel of Irish potatoes, and onions from five to thirty cents a piece. Milk is twenty-five cents a quart. Home sickness is starting to get bad; he longs to see Susannah and all the children. They are the first thoughts in his mind when he awakens. He reports that a man here shot himself in the wrist, that they had to take his hand off.
On August 20, 1862 the 52nd NC had moved to Petersburg, Va. and established a new camp, Camp French. Brigadier General James Johnston Pettigrew assumed command of the brigade. Another regiment was added to the brigade, the 26th NC. This regiment would go down in history, as having the highest casualty rate of any regiment on either side, during the war, at the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania., July 1863.
Archibald writes from this camp on September 7, 1862 that he is well and hopes that Susannah and all the children and parents and other family are also. He is sad that he hasn’t received any mail in some time. This has come to mean more to him than anything, except wanting to see them. He must be a Christian, for he tells Susannah, “I hope the Almighty will spare me to get home again to stay with you and the children. I am thankful to Him, for any good health and I hope He will still continue His blessings on us all, for He is able and willing if we ask it at His hand, and we aught not to be ashamed to ask His blessing. I am trying to live right and I pray to Him to be with and I hope He will bless you all.” They are eating lots of “restenears” and Brother George is fat, and feeling better. He sends word home, that one of the Company, David Tucker*, is dead. He was only 22 when he enlisted on March 22, 1862. He mentions James Norwood*, that he is mending, and will be able to take the mail by the last of the week. Archibald reports that “Jackson is six miles away from Washington City.” This is after the battle of Second Manassas, and just before the battle at Sharpsburg, Maryland.
From October, 1862, until December 16, the 52nd NC spent time on guard duty near Wakefield Virginia, then moved near Franklin, Virginia. They were involved in some skirmishes with Federal gunboats and a Yankee Cavalry force. In November, 1862, a 300 man force tried to force a crossing at one of the fords, ran off a 20 man picket, and occupied the 52nd’s camp. The rest of the regiment arrived, and drove the Yankees out of the camp. They remained around Franklin, Va., until December 16, 1862 ,when they were transported by rail to Goldsboro, NC, to defend the Neuse River railroad bridge against a Union force from occupied New Bern under Maj. Gen. John G. Foster.
On December 17, the Confederate force of about 2,000 found itself facing about five times its number. During the confusion of battle, the 52nd NC was fired upon by members of the 51st NC. The Yankees were able to destroy the bridge with artillery fire, and started to withdraw back to New Bern. The 51st and 52nd NC mounted an attack against the rear guard, but faced heavy artillery fire and rifle fire from the infantry while making a charge over an open field. The 52nd NC lost 8 killed, 58 wounded, and 13 missing. Archibald must have missed this battle, for he writes on December 18, 1862 , “I am going to my regiment tomorrow.” He tells Susannah about the Confederate victory at Fred[e]ricksburg, but in this letter doesn’t mention the fight at Goldsboro. He is concerned about his son, Monroe, trying to plow with a colt. He sends word to his parents that he would love to see them, and to be able to “eat some of the fresh doings at Christmas” with them. There is some small pox in the camp, and he wants to see Susannah and the children the “worst that I ever said in my life.” He asks for all the news at home, and “remains your husband till death.”
He writes again on December 22, 1862. He reports that the regiment has been in a fight (Goldsboro), and that David Fleming was killed and Jackson Smith was wounded. Archibald is really homesick now with thoughts of Christmas in mind, and he is upset that the Officers don’t care about the soldiers; he wasn’t given a furlough. It is cold, he is hungry, needs clothes. He warns Susannah and Martha Norwood to watch out for some widows who will try to take them off somewhere. He tells them it is hard times for soldiers, and folks back home have no idea what it is like. He remains her husband till death.
After this letter, the 11th NC Regiment was added to Pettigrew’s Brigade. The core of this regiment was made up of men from the “Bethel Regiment”, the former 1st NC Volunteers. There were men from Lincoln County in this unit (Co. I), many former members of the “Southern Stars” from Lincolnton. The 52nd spent some time gathering supplies and driving off some Yankee Cavalry on the other side of the Blackwater River near Franklin, and on January 3, 1863, was ordered to Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to rejoin the rest of General Pettigrew’s Brigade.
Archibald writes from Camp Jackson on January 11, 1863. He is well and happy to be back in North Carolina again. He has had enough of the hard times in Virginia! He hopes to stay there “until the war breaks.” He desires to hear about Christmas, and wants to be at home. He reports that Jeff Davis had been “past here” and says the “backbone of it is broke (the war).” He is looking for neighbors from the “settlement” but hasn’t seen anyone yet. He is still in hopes of receiving a letter from Susannah; he says “been looking but looking has been all.” He asks her to send anything she can to eat, and sends his and George’s love to all. He reports that Frank and Robert Sifford are with them. Archibald desires to see his wife and children, the worst he ever has, and hopes that the time isn’t far off, when he will be with them, to stay.
Sometime between his letter of January 11, and March 3, of 1863, Archibald is able to go home on a furlough. In his letter of March 3, he talks about having to “lie over in Charlotte till Sunday evening, and then couldn’t get his shoes on.” He found a friend named Rufus Williams, who had boxes to deliver to a hospital. He is to bring his shoes. He is heart sick at having to return, and sees hard times coming. He reports that corn in the “wilt” is bringing “Six Dollars a bushel.” The men of the company are well, except for colds. He closes by sending his love and hoping that he would get home again to stay. He remains her husband till death.
From March until early May, the 52nd NC, with the rest of Pettigrew’s brigade, was involved in the unsuccessful actions to retake New Bern and Washington, North Carolina. On May 2, 1863 the regiment departed by train for Virginia. They didn’t arrive in time to take part in the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia. They spent time in the trenches around Richmond, VA., and were sent to Hanover Junction, Virginia, on May 7, 1863 to escort 2000 Yankee prisoners to Richmond.
Archibald writes on May 8, 1863, from Hanover Junction. He is well and hopes that all of them are also. He has received a letter, and has “drawed $44.00″ and is keeping some because “times had been hard” since he was home. He has been to Richmond and exclaims that it was the “largest place he had ever seen in his life.” He has seen the 2,000 Yankee prisoners, and states that he has heard there would be 5,000 there by the next day. He also states that he understands the Confederates have captured 10,000 in total, and that they have lost about 1,000 prisoners to the Yankees. He says the Yankees are complaining about being hungry; many are barefooted and hatless. He states that they had some “Guals”(Gals?) with them and “they were some rough customers!”
He is becoming very tired of the War, and doesn’t see how it can last much longer. The want of something to eat will bring it to a close. Rations are reduced to a quarter pound a day, and he doesn’t say of what. He describes being under gun shelling for 16 days. It must have been during the New Bern and Washington, NC battles. He reports no casualties, and he expresses hope that they will always be so fortunate. He desires to go home and eat with his family, and sends his love and advise on how to care for the animals. He wants to know about the fruit crops, hopes there is plenty, and he remains her husband till death.
From early May, 1863 until early June, the 52nd NC engaged in building fortifications around the Virginia Central Bridge over the South Anna River, and some of the companies did picket duty on the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad. When they were not busy with those activities, they were drilled, drilled, and drilled some more, until they were in the finest condition. On or about June 1, 1863, the 52nd NC, along with the rest of General Pettigrew’s brigade, was assigned to Major General Henry Heth’s Division, of Lt. General Ambrose Powell Hill’s newly formed Third Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, General Robert E. Lee, Commanding. On June 8,1863, the 52nd Regiment joined General Hill’s command at Fredericksburg, Virginia. On June 3, 1863, Lt. General Richard Ewell’s Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia moved out toward the Shenandoah Valley; he was soon followed by Lt. General James Longstreet’s First Corps. The march to destiny and immortality had begun; they were on their way to Gettysburg. Lt. General A.P. Hill’s Third Corps stayed behind to keep an eye on the Yankees at Fredericksburg.On June the 13th, 1863 General Ewell’s Corps defeated an enemy force at Winchester, Va., and General Longstreet’s Corps occupied Culpep[p]er Court House. The Yankees at Fredericksburg pulled out and General Hill’s Corps was ordered to move North. The second Northern invasion by the Army of Northern Virginia was under way.
In the letters that Archibald writes on May 19 and 25, 1863, he describes activities that are going on, like trying to find food at reasonable prices. He states flour can be had at 6 lb. for $1.00, bacon goes for $1.50 per pound, and eggs are $100.00 per dozen!! This may be a misprint, but none the less, everything was “scarce and high”. He reports that George is well, but that John and Robert Hager are in the hospital; he isn’t aware of what their problem is. Neither of these men survive the war. Archibald is growing more tired of the war every day. He doesn’t think it can last much longer because of the lack of everything needed for men and animals. He has seen many more captured Yankees on their way to Richmond. He says that they tell the Confederates that the North can starve them out in six months, and that they will be able to take Richmond without any weapons. Being a farmer, he still has eyes for crops, and describes wheat fields to his wife. He sends his love to all the family, and begs for letters, as there are no other pleasures in the field. He encourages Susannah to “do the best you can and I will do so to.” He wants to see her and the children so bad, and hopes it won’t be long. He remains “Your husband till death.”
He writes on May 25, 1863, that all desire peace. General Hill has told them that they will have hard times for two months but should be home by July. They had the hard times, but July would find him far from Dry Pond, in Lincoln County, North Carolina. He shares the news that” fifteen or twenty men had joined the church yesterday, and last night John Nixon* was one of them.”
On June 4, 1863, Archibald writes again, and tells of inspections, and how pretty a sight to see the artillery all dressed out in their red flannel shirts. The weather has been dry, for the past four weeks. Times are hard, and he doesn’t see much hope of it getting better. He states that many of the men are “running away” that they are tired of the war, and if the head men don’t stop it, they want to stay out and take the fair way they have to take.” [???] Archibald wants to see all of the family so bad, and hopes the Lord will let it be soon. He says the company and regiment are tolerable well at this time, and that George sends his love, and he remains “Your Husband till death.”
The last letter from Archibald is dated June 12, 1863, one day before the “Dry Pond Dixies” and the other companies of the 52nd Regiment join Pettigrew’s brigade, Heth’s Division, and A.P. Hill’s Third Corps on the invasion of the North. He writes ...
Camp Near Fredericksburg,Va., June 12, 1863.
“Dear Wife and children,
I seat myself to drop you a few lines to let you know that I am well at [t]his time and hope that when these few lines come to hand they will find you all enjoying the same blessings. I received your letter of the 31 of May and glad to hear that you was all well and we are in sight of the Yankees. Me and George and Spain is on picket. The Yankees have been swimming over to our pickets and swapping newspapers. They say that they don’t want to hurt us but they want us back in the Union.
We saw Jim Freeman this week. He is well and looks well. I saw Bart Nixon and a lot of the rest of the neighbors.
I never saw none of the Beatties Ford Company. Mark Dellinger is well. I never saw him. He was on picket. We was at Hanover Court House[VA.]. We met with a friend there. He gave us 4 or 5 gallons of milk with ice in it. It was good. I wish I could be at home to stay with you all, for I am tired of this war. I want to see you and the children. Tell Mama and sisters howdy, your Mother and family the same. Nancy and Jim, give my love to all inquiring friends. Do the best you can and I will do to. Lord send how soon the time will come when we will all get home. Would be sweet to us all. I must close. So remains your husband till death. Direct your letters the same way. Write soon Susannah N. Nixon.”
A.P. Hill’s Third Corps crossed the Potomac River at Shepherdstown, West Virginia, on the 24th day of June, 1863. On the 27th of June they were in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania. Henry Heth’s Division reached Cashtown on June 29, and on the 30th, Pettigrew’s brigade was sent into Gettysburg to locate a store of shoes that were supposed to be there. They met dismounted Calvary troops, and Pettigrew, as ordered, fell back. On July 1, 1863, General Hill arrived along with Maj. General W. Dorsey Pender’s “Light Division”. Hill decided to advance to Gettysburg. Heth’s division led the way. They ran head on into the dismounted Federal cavalrymen of Maj. General John Buford. The battle of Gettysburg had begun!! Both the Confederates and Federals added reinforcements to the fray, and in short order, Pettigrew’s brigade was up against the Union’s famous “Iron Brigade” made up of westerners from Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. A furious fight took place in the woods along Willoughby Run. Pettigrew’s entire brigade was in action, but the 26th NC and the 11th NC regiments were catching the worst of the fight. The 52nd NC managed to flank the Iron Brigade and poured a deadly volley into the Yankees’ ranks, which broke them. The 26th Regiment suffered tremendous losses, as well as the death of its gallant Col. Henry Burgwyn, the “Boy Colonel.” He was only 21 years of age. He was killed while holding the regiment’s battle flag, and encouraging his brave men. General Pender’s “Light Division” which included North and South Carolina brigades, drove the Yankees from Seminary Ridge and through the town of Gettysburg. Heth’s Division was badly used up at the end of the first day, and was mainly held in reserve during the crucial fighting on July 2.
On July 3, 1863 General Robert E. Lee decided to attack the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. The remains of Pettigrew’s brigade, and the rest of Heth’s division,(with General Pettigrew in command of the division due to Heth being wounded the day before) was joined by Scale’s and Lane’s NC brigades from Pender’s division. These brigades were under the command of Maj. General Isaac Trimble. They were called upon to carry out the attack along with Major General George Picket[t]’s Virginia Division of the First Corps. Pettigrew['s] and Trimble’s divisions were not just in support of General Pickett, they were the left wing of the Confederate battle line. Lt. General James Longstreet was in overall command of the assault. General Pettigrew’s brigade, consisting of the 11th, 26th, 47th and 52nd NC regiments, was under the command of Colonel J.K. Marshall of the 52nd NC. These men attempted to do what no mortal man could accomplish, and yet, almost succeeded. The 26th NC is credited with going the farthest to the front at Gettysburg, but what was left of the 52nd NC was probably with them almost step for step. The gallant Colonel Marshall was unseated from his horse by an explosion, he remounted, and within a few moments, was shot dead. Whatever the specifics on where they were, and how far they went are difficult to determine, however, the regiment’s casualties for the entire three days of fighting were appalling. Final tallies revealed 77 killed or mortally wounded. 114 wounded, and 206 captured, of whom 112 were wounded. Sixty-three others suffered non-mortal wounds. The 52nd NC regiment would never again be the fighting force it once was, despite the fact, that many of the wounded and captured eventually returned to duty.
Archibald Nixon was wounded in the thigh, he was captured on or about July 3, 1863 at Gettysburg. His leg was amputated. He died in a hospital there on July 19, of those wounds. He and his brother George (George Nixon was shot in the head, and died of these wounds on July 20, 1863) were among the seven men of the “Dry Pond Dixies” who were either killed or mortally wounded.
The 52nd NC Regiment continued to serve in the Army of Northern Virginia. They fought in all the remaining battles of the war in the east, and served their country in the trenches at Petersburg, VA, and surrendered with the army on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.
The “Dry Pond Dixies” started back home, a place they had left just a little less than three years earlier, but to a place that would never be the same again. Many of the “Dry Pond Dixies,” other than the seven who surrendered at Appomattox, returned home eventually, after being released from prison camps across the North. They came home to rebuild their lives, and to take care of their loved ones and the communities that they loved. For many years after [the] war, Lincoln County remembered her sons with memorial gatherings and reunions. The veterans from Co. G, 52nd North Carolina State Troops, were always represented well. Today, many of them sleep in peace in the cemeteries at Unity Church, and other local churches. Their Great Great Great Grand children live on lands that they cleared, and put their lives and well-being on the line to defend. A tribute to the men of the Confederate armies, was stated this way, “The world may not know who they were, but the whole world knows what they were, Southern Infantrymen.”
ROSTER OF THE DRY POND DIXIES
Thompson, Wm. D., 1st Sergeant
Lilly, John W., 2nd Sergeant
Lineberger, Frederick, 3rd Sergeant
Thompson, Thomas B., 4th Sergeant
Little, John F., 5th Sergeant
Nixon, Albert M., 2nd Corporal
Houston, W.G.P., 3rd Corporal
Little, William, 4th Corporal
Asbury, Osborne W.
Armstrong, John G.
Ballard, John F.
Caldwell, James Franklin
Cashion, James H.
Dellinger, Leroy M.
Dellinger, Lorenzo D.
Edwards, William E.
Goodson, John W.
Goodson, John F.
Hager, James R.
Hager, James Henry
Hager, James R.
Hager, Robert D.
Hager, Thomas Franklin
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