Patriots of ’61 – “Up to My Elbows in Blood”
Of the Wilmington officers mentioned below in a letter home from Dr. Thomas Fanning Wood: Capt. John Van Bokkelen died of his wounds shortly after Chancellorsville; Major William Parsley had already received a severe neck wound at Malvern Hill and led the charge of the Third North Carolina Regiment up Culp’s Hill on the third day of Gettysburg. At that battle, every officer of Major Parsley’s old company, the Cape Fear Riflemen, was killed.
Capt. Tom Ennett was captured at Spottsylvania and later used as a human shield by Northern forces at Charleston Harbor; Capt. Elisha Porter was shot and bayoneted at Chancellorsville but survived to become a postwar physician; Col. Stephen D. Thurston had taken command of the Third North Carolina at Sharpsburg, and wounded at Chancellorsville. Lt. Joshua Wright survived the war and married “Florie” Maffitt, daughter of famed blockade runner Capt. John Newland Maffitt. Dr. Wood was a native Wilmingtonian and surgeon at Richmond Hospital.
“Battle Field near Chancellorsville, May 14, 1863
Dear Pa, I received your letter by mail through Mr. Langdon much to my satisfaction: for I have been “up to my elbows” in blood. We left our camp last Wednesday or Thursday and arrived at Hamilton’s Crossing for the evening. We could not get a fight out of the Yankees.
Trimble’s, A.P. Hill’s and other Divisions made a circuit of their lines and came down like an avalanche upon the flank. We fought them in a desperate engagement Saturday evening. They retreated before the charge of our men. I never heard such firing before. Our Brigade was engaged on Saturday and Sunday and was dreadfully cut to pieces.
Col. [Stephen D.] Thurston, Captain Tom Ennett, Lt. Sidbury, Capt. Van Bokkelen, Lt. Fred Moore, and Lt. Josh Wright are wounded….I had the opportunity of performing several capital operations, and a great deal more than I could possibly do. I forgot to say that Maj. Parsley was slightly wounded, but has returned to the field. Lt. E. Porter is also seriously wounded.
We are now in the Yankee breastworks which we have taken, looking after the wounded. The fighting has again commenced, I am truly your son, Thomas Wood.”
Letters from the Front, Civil War Letters of Dr. Thomas Fanning Wood, A.J. Wood, 1991
Chronicles of the Cape Fear, James Sprunt, 1916
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial
“The Official Website of the North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission”