Major Egbert A. Ross, 11th Regiment N.C. Troops
In the spring of 1861 Egbert A. Ross of Mecklenburg County (born September 9, 1842) was a student at Hillsborough Military Academy. However, he returned to Charlotte and joined a volunteer militia company called the “Charlotte Grays.” All the men were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one, many of them cadets at the North Carolina Military Institute at Charlotte, and they volunteered for six months service. On April 25 they elected Ross as captain.
State authorities ordered the “Grays” to seize the United States Mint at Charlotte, and, accomplishing that, the company entrained for Raleigh, where on April 29, it was designated Company C, 1st Regiment N.C. Volunteers.
At the Battle of Big Bethel (June 10, 1861) the “Charlotte Grays” occupied a position on the Confederate left and were under almost constant fire. When the advancing Federals nearly overwhelmed another unit, the “Grays” and another company from the 1st North Carolina were directed to its support. Led by the eighteen-year-old Captain Ross, they repulsed the enemy in a “most gallant manner.”
After the 1st N.C. Volunteers disbanded in November 1861, most of the men reenlisted in North Carolina regiments recruited in the spring of 1862. The “Charlotte Grays” organized again at Charlotte in February 1862, this time for three years or the duration of the war. Although Egbert Ross was again chosen captain, only thirty-seven members of the 1861 “Grays” enlisted in the new company. The remainder of the company were new recruits, many from Gaston County. On March 31, the “Grays” were designated Company A, 11th Regiment N.C. Troops.
In May 1862 Lieutenant Colonel William Owens of the 11th North Carolina was promoted to colonel and transferred to the 53rd Regiment N.C. Troops. Major William J. Martin was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and Egbert Ross, as senior captain, filled the vacant majority. Thus, at the age of nineteen, Ross became a field officer in a Confederate regiment, a remarkable occurrence even in a war noted for its “boy colonels.”
During 1862 the 11th North Carolina served in North Carolina and in southeastern Virginia. In January 1863 it joined a brigade commanded by General James J. Pettigrew, and in May 1863 the brigade joined the Army of Northern Virginia.
On June 30, 1863, muster rolls for the 11th North Carolina were prepared at the regiment’s bivouac near Cashtown, Pennsylvania, only eight miles from Gettysburg. The rolls listed 645 men present for duty, making the 11th the third largest Confederate regiment at Gettysburg. The two larger regiments were also from the Tar Heel State: the 55th North Carolina (approximately 650 men) and the 26th North Carolina (approximately 890 men). The latter unit also belonged to Pettigrew’s Brigade.
The Confederate attack at Gettysburg on the morning of July 1, 1863, was piecemeal. Elements of the Federal First Corps, including the elite “Iron Brigade,” defeated the two brigades that led the assault. Pettigrew’s Brigade, initially held in reserve, moved forward to renew the attack. The ensuing charge by Pettigrew’s men was one of the bloodiest actions of the Civil War. Literally hundreds of North Carolinians fell within minutes, but they fury of their attack drove the enemy back. Third Lieutenant William B. Taylor of the “Charlotte Grays” described the action in a letter to his mother:
“We drove the enemy like sheep. . . . And it was at an awful cost but we paid it to them twofold. The Iron Brigade Yankeys tried to stand but it was know use. We stood within 20 yards of each other for 15 moments but they had to give way. . . . Maj Ross was killed. Our company and part of company F and D and I went ahead of the balance of the brigade and Ross was with our company. He was shot with a grape shot in the right side, and it went nearly through him. It was about the size of an egg. He lived about four hours and we buried him . . . the night of the first. I got a piece of plank, put his name on it with his rank for a head board.”
Despite its heavy loss on July 1, the 11th North Carolina fought again two days later in the Pettigrew-Pickett Charge on the Federal center at Cemetery Ridge. The regiment suffered more than 400 casualties at Gettysburg, including 113 men killed or mortally wounded in action. The “Charlotte Grays,” who mustered ninety-one men on June 30, emerged from the battle three days later with eight enlisted men commanded by Lieutenant Taylor.
Egbert Ross was a relative of General Daniel Harvey Hill. On August 16, 1863, Hill tried to comfort his cousin, Ross’s mother: “I hope that you can look more calmly at the event as being ordered by a wise and merciful God. Young as your brave boy was, he had done much service; he had won the confidence of his regiment and the country, and he has left a name behind of which any father might justly be proud. I am sure you would rather have him as your dead Egbert that to have him saved by ingloriously keeping out of service. He had to die at some time, and surely he could not die more nobly or in a more noble cause.”
Ross’s remains were recovered, and he is buried at Elmwood Cemetery, Charlotte, Mecklenburg County.
Image: Ancestors and Descendants of Andrew Moore, 1612-1897.
William Cain, “Hillsboro Military Academy: Its Relation to the War,” in Clark, Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina, 5:640; Hale, “The ‘Bethel’ Regiment,” in Clark Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina, 1:94; Louis Leon, Diary of a Tar Heel Confederate Soldier (Charlotte: Stone Publishing Company, 1913), 1-2; Manarin et al., North Carolina Troops, 3:14, 5:6, 9; Mast, “North Carolina Casualties”; Mast, State Troops and Volunteers, 1:29, 78-79; John A.M. Passmore, Ancestors and Descendants of Andrew Moore, 1612-1897, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: the author, 1897), 1:510-512; William B. Taylor to mother, July 29, 1863, in Greg Mast, ed., “Six Lieutenants: Vignettes of North Carolinians in America’s Greatest Battle,” Military Images 13 (July-August 1991), 12; service record files of Egbert A. Ross, 1st Regiment N.C. Infantry (six months, 1861) and 11th Regiment N.C. Troops, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers from the State of North Carolina (M270), RG109, NA; http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=8947441