James Addison Lowrie Collection

12 February 1864
Manuscript Collection #983
Lowrie, James Addison
Physical description
0.001 Cubic Feet, 2 items, 1 archival container, consisting of holograph letter and typed transcript.
Preferred Citation
James Addison Lowrie Collection (#983), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Collection (12 February 1864) consisting of a letter from Pvt. James Addison Lowrie, Company D of the 57th North Carolina Infantry, at Kinston, NC, to his brother Robert [of Brunswick County, NC], reporting on his good health, the poor mail service, the lack of news, the growing dissatisfaction among "the boys", the recent desertion of 14 men from the 21st Regiment North Carolina Infantry, and the Kinston Hangings, the hanging, on 12 February 1864, of five men who had deserted the Confederate Army and been recaptured: Amos Amyett, Mitchell Busick, Lewis Bryan, William Irving and John Staley; after deserting, the men had joined the 2nd North Carolina Union Volunteers and been captured on 1 February 1864, at Beech Grove; also transcript of letter; also digital copy.

Biographical/historical information

James Addison Lowrie was born and resided in Guilford County, NC. Born in 1843, he enlisted into the 57th regiment on 4 July 1862. Records show that he was in the military through 31 October 1862. Lowrie was first wounded in the foot, at the battle of Fredericksburg, 11-12 December 1862, and then recuperated in a Farmville, Virginia hospital. After being released from the hospital, he was given a thirty day furlough in order to recover. He returned to duty in May 1863. In October 1863, he was sent to the hospital once again, likely related to the previous injury. After being released from the hospital for a second time, he reported for duty sometime between January and April 1864. He was reported present with his regiment through 31 August 1864. James Lowrie was again wounded at the battle in Winchester, Virginia, on 19 September 1864, this time to the face. He returned to duty soon thereafter but was again wounded, in the right leg, on 26 September 1864, in a skirmish near Weyers Cave, Virginia. The leg was amputated soon after and he was hospitalized at Charlottesville, Virginia. After being released from the hospital, Lowrie received a furlough but never returned to active duty. The Roster of North Carolina Troops records that he was reported absent - wounded through 28 February 1865. Lowrie received his parole shortly after the war ended, at Greensboro, 29 May 1865. Source: North Carolina troops a roster 1861-1865, Compiled by Weymouth T. Jordan Jr., Division of archives and History 1993

57th North Carolina Infantry was organized in Salisbury North Carolina in July of 1862. Most of the men in this regiment were recruited from the area and the surrounding counties such as Rowan, Forsyth, Catawba, Cabarrus, Lincoln and Alamance County. The 57th was sent to Virginia and assigned to the brigade by brigadier-generals Archibald C. Godwin, who was succeeded by Evander M. Law, Robert F. Hoke, and W. G. [William Gaston] Lewis. The 57th regiment fought with the Army of Northern Virginia from the battle of Fredericksburg 11-12 December 1862 until Mine Run, 27 November – 2 December 1863, when they were sent back to North Carolina. After serving in the Kinston area in early 1864 (when this letter was written) they moved back to Virginia. During the last year of the war, the 57th regiment fought in Drewry's Bluff, Cold Harbor, in the Shenandoah Valley operations and were near Appomattox Court House, Virginia, at the end of the war.

57th North Carolina Infantry Casualty Break Down Fredericksburg - 32 dead, 192 wounded Chancellorsville - 9 dead, 61 wounded Gettysburg - 22% of 296 troops engaged were disabled November of 1863 - at Rappahannock River, 4 wounded and 292 missing April 9, 1865 - surrendered with 6 officers and 74 men, only 31 of them were armed

Source: Soldiers and Sailors Database https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/people.htm

Lowrie's letter tells of five deserters to be hanged on 12 February 1864. The men were from rural areas of North Carolina and not much is known about them other than their names and area of origin. These five men were charged with deserting the 21st Regiment North Carolina Infantry and joining the 2nd North Carolina Union Volunteers. The men had been captured at Beech Grove North Carolina on 1 February 1864 and quickly tried and convicted. The officer commanding, Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett angered by the rise of desertions wanted to make examples of the men and ordered the proceedings. The cases stirred considerable publicity at the time and became known as the "Kinston Hangings". The men were:

Amos Amyett was a member of Company F. Amyett was born in Jones County, NC in 1819. At 44 he was the oldest man to be hanged. He enlisted on November 24, 1863 in New Bern, and was captured on February 1, 1864. Amyett was reported hanged February 12, 1864.

Mitchell Busick was also from Jones County. He enlisted in the confederate army on December 8, 1863 at the age of 36 in New Bern, NC. He was captured on February 1, 1864 in Beech Grove, NC. He was reported hanged for being a deserter on February 12, 1864.

Lewis Bryan was the youngest of the five men. He enlisted on November 29, 1863 in Beaufort NC at the age of 20. Bryan was born in Tyrrell county North Carolina which is located in the Outer Banks. He was also captured on February 1, 1864. No further information is given, but he was presumed to be hanged with the four other men.

William Irving enlisted on December 2, 1963 at the age of 38. He enlisted in New Bern, NC. He was born in Lenoir County, NC in 1825. Captured on February 1, 1864, he was reported hanged by company records.

John L Staley enlisted on November 24, 1863 in New Bern, NC at the age of 37. There is no record of where he was born, but it is presumed somewhere near or in Jones County, NC. He was reported captured and hanged with the other four men on February 12, 1864, the date James Addison Lowrie wrote the letter.

Source: http://www.ncgenweb.us/ncuv/coF2nde.htm#1731 this is for all the information used for the five men convicted.

The five were not the first to be executed for desertion at Kinston. Two others had been executed already. Seven other deserters were hanged later but the 5 were the largest number to be executed at one time.

Source: http://www.historynet.com/americas-civil-war-union-soldiers-hanged-in-north-carolina.htm

Scope and arrangement

This holograph letter was written by Private James Addison Lowrie of Company D, 57th Regiment North Carolina Infantry, to his brother Robert, on 12 February 1864. In the letter Lowrie discusses his health, the poor mail service, the lack of news, the rising dissatisfaction of "the boys", and the hanging of five deserters from the 21st Regiment North Carolina Infantry on that day. The hangings took place on 12 February 1864, as part of what became known as the Kinston Hangings. The letter is on both sides of a single sheet of paper. It is handwritten in pencil. The document has been encapsulated for conservation reasons. The letter mentions five men convicted of desertion from their unit who are to be hanged "today". The collection also includes a transcript of the letter. A digitized copy of the letter is also available.

Administrative information
Custodial History

December 16, 2003, 2 items, 0.001 cubic feet; Letter (2/12/1864) from Pvt. James Addison Lowrie, serving in Company D, 57th North Carolina Infantry, attached to Brigadier General Robert F. Hoke's Brigade, to his brother Robert Lowrie [of Guilford County, North Carolina] mentioning the prospective hanging of 5 deserters from the 21st Regiment in Kinston, NC by forces under the command of Maj. General George E. Pickett; transcript of letter. Holograph (Pencil on paper.) & Typescript. Purchase (Special Manuscript Fund), Brian & Maria Green, Kernersville, NC

Source of acquisition

Purchase (Special Manuscript Fund), Brian & Maria Green, Kernersville, NC

Processing information

Processing, container list, finding aid by HIST 5910 student James Burnette, April 20, 2016; revised by Jonathan Dembo, May 10, 2016

Encoded by Mark Custer, March 26, 2008

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Related material

James Addison Lowrie Collection (#GLC08300) at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, New York, NY 10036. Source: http://www.gilderlehrman.org/collections/030f703e-0168-43d0-a765-338059302200

Josiah Robert Peele Ellis Papers (#566), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA. Source: https://digital.lib.ecu.edu/special/ead/findingaids/0566

Key terms
Personal Names
Lowrie, James Addison
Corporate Names
Confederate States of America. Army. North Carolina Infantry Regiment, 57th
Soldiers--North Carolina--Correspondence
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Desertions