The Amherst County Museum and Historical Society has just published a book about Amherst County's participation in the Civil War.
The book, authored by Robert Faught of Amherst, is a result of his interest in Civil War history. He started his research in 2001 and later prepared a manuscript which was donated to the museum. Due to its historical significance to Amherst, the Museum published it as a book and copies are now on sale at the Museum, or by may be purchased by mail.
Mr. Faught said there was plenty of material to work from. Histories of Civil War battles abound and there are Virginia regimental history books available that give a detailed history of each Virginia infantry and cavalry regiment, and artillery unit. There was also much information available from families as a result of an article published in the newspaper, The Amherst New Era-Progress, about the planned book in January, 2001.
When he found ten Amherst companies assigned to six separate regiments, two battalions and a battery, the method of recording their history over four years of war became a challenge. How to keep it "short and simple" was the issue. He said he studied Douglas Southall Freeman's R.E. Lee and Lee's Lieutenants many times and was familiar with most of the battles, battlefields and generals. He had to take the ten companies from Amherst and place them on each battlefield in an understable manner. For example, six of Amherst's ten companies fought at Gettysburg--two in Pickett's charge against Cemetery Ridge, three fought on or near Culp's Hill and one was in a cavalry battle just east of Gettysburg.
His approach was to provide an introduction to each company as they mustered in 1861 so the reader becomes thoroughly familiar with each of them and their regiment, battalion or battery. Chapter One serves this purpose. Chapter Three is indexed by the company and the regiment, battalion or battery to which they were assigned. For example, the 19th, 49th, 50th, and 58th Virginia regiments, the 2nd Virginia Cavalry regiment, Kirkpatrick's Light Artillery battery and the 19th and 20th Heavy Artillery battalions.
From Chapter One the reader learns the "Amherst Rough and Readies" were assigned to the 49th Virginia Infantry regiment. By turning to Chapter Three, Rough and Readies, 49th Virginia Infantry Regiment, one can find the battles, leaders, significant events within a battle and comments by the author about what happened to the company. In this manner each company can be easily tracked from its muster to surrender in 1865. (Chapter Two covers weapons, logistics, prison camps and other topics affecting the companies.
The author feels anyone wanting more information than he has given should use the recommended reading list provided in Chapter Three. He has given a "snapshot" of the companies' histories, while the reading list provides a broader picture. Also significant to Amherst history are the appendices. One publishes a recently acquired letter written by the commander of the Amherst Mounted Rangers, Company E, 2nd Virginia Cavalry, detailing his wartime service. Another provides a battlefield guide should the reader wish to see where they fought. Yet another appendix lists the names and burial places of many Amherst veterans of Gettysburg, Antietam, The Wilderness, Manassas and many other battles. When finding only two marked Revolutionary War soldiers' graves in Amherst, he wished to preserve the graves of Amherst Civil War soldiers by publishing their names and local burial sites in a consolidated list.
The author believes Amherst Men in Gray should be considered as a first step in preserving some rapidly fading history in the county. There are many names and facts. Information has been consolidated in a way so the reader can get an overview of Amherst's participation in the Civil War. He states the book may also be relevant to Lynchburg and surrounding counties, since some regiments had companies from Lynchburg and neighboring counties. Three of the regiments fought in the Battle of Lynchburg.
Mr. Faught is already planning his next book, Short Stories and Cameos of Amherst Soldiers in the Civil War.
NOTE: For a list/roster of individual soldiers, readers may consult The Amherst County Story, by Alfred Percy, also available through the Museum's Giftshop.