The Silent Aftermath of Gettysburg:
Twenty-year-old Captain Oliver Evans Mercer of Company G, 20th North Carolina Regiment was killed on the first day of fighting at Gettysburg. A farmer by occupation, Mercer mustered with the “Brunswick Guards” at Camp Howard in Brunswick county in June 1861, along with fellow officers John S. Brooks and Daniel K. Bennett. Hearing of her son’s death in battle, Mercer’s mother wrote Virginia-born Dr. J.W.C. O’Neal who was identifying, recording and burying the Confederate dead left on the battlefield:
“Our Wilmington papers bring the welcome intelligence to many bereaved Southern hearts that you have cared for the graves of many of our Confederate dead at Gettysburg, replaced headboards and prepared a list of names.
May the Lord bless you is the prayer of many Southern hearts. Oh! We have lost so much. There are but few families that do not mourn the loss of one or more loved ones, and only a mother who has lost a son in that awful battle can and does appreciate fully such goodness as you have shown.
I, too, have lost a son at Gettysburg, a brave, noble boy in the full bloom of youth, and my heart yearns to have his remains, if they can be found, brought home to rest in the soil of the land he loved so well. I need your assistance and I am confident you will aid me. No sorrow-stricken mother could ask and be refused by a heart such as yours.”
(Debris of Battle, The Wounded at Gettysburg, Gerard A. Patterson, Stackpole Books, 1997, pp. 200-201)
The 20th North Carolina was commanded by Colonel Alfred Iverson, and Colonel Thomas Fentress Toon of Columbus county. Read more on Colonel (later Brigadier-General) Toon at http://www.cfhi.net/GeneralThomasF.ToonofColumbusCounty.php
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