Private Michael Criger
Company A (the “Caldwell Rough and Ready Boys”), 22nd Regiment N.C. Troops (12th Regiment N.C. Volunteers)
Pro-secession sentiment was weak in many North Carolina mountain counties, especially Caldwell. In the first secession convention election, February 28, 1861, Caldwell County rejected the proposition by a 78 percent vote, one of the highest margins in the state. However, the events of mid-April–the firing on Fort Sumter and President Lincoln’s call upon North Carolina to provide troops to suppress the rebellion—caused a profound shift in sentiment. Within a few days the Caldwell militia began mustering and drilling, and a local diarist recorded that the “whole county [is] in a state of feverish excitement.”
On April 30, 1861, a 108-man volunteer company organized. Meeting in front of the Lenoir jail, the men elected officers and “in view of the distracted condition of the Country,” signed a proclamation pledging their “readiness at any and all times . . . to march in defense of the rights and honours of the South against the aggressions of the North.” Styling themselves the “Caldwell Rough and Ready Boys,” the men drilled at home through May. On June 3, following a solemn ceremony on the Lenoir town square, the new company marched to Hickory and boarded a train to Raleigh. On July 11 the “Rough and Ready” boys became Company A, 22nd Regiment N.C. Troops (12th Regiment N.C. Volunteers).
The first battle for the Caldwell soldiers was Seven Pines, Virginia (May 31, 1862) fought more than a year after their enlistment. As the 22nd North Carolina advanced, one observer noted that the “precision of their movement in line of battle has been seldom equaled even on the parade ground.” Private A. J. Dula of Company A agreed that, since this was their first fight, the “boys were all quite willing to try themselves. I should say, more willing than they ever were afterwards.” The fight was confusing: it was dark before the Federals were located, and the men could see nothing but the “blaze of the enemies’ muskets.” Casualties were severe, amounting to forty-seven men killed or mortally wounded, and nearly one hundred wounded. One of the latter, Private Dula noted as the men fell back, was Mike Criger, who was badly injured.
Private Michael Criger was a twenty-five-year-old farmer when he enlisted on April 30, 1861, and became the fifty-fifth man to sing the “Rough and Ready Boys” pledge to defend the South. Criger recovered from his Seven Pines wound and returned to duty.
No muster rolls for Company A are extant for the period September 1861-June 1864. Criger appears on clothing receipt rolls from March 1863 and April 1864, and also on hospital rolls dated May 12 and June 1, 1863. No reasons for his hospitalization are specified, but the 22nd North Carolina had suffered nearly two hundred casualties at the Battle of Chancellorsville, May 1-4.
Criger died of a gunshot wound at a Richmond hospital on June 27 or 29, 1864. The place and date of his wounding are unknown, but the most recent fighting by the 22nd North Carolina had been a skirmish at Riddell’s Shop, southeast of Richmond, on June 13. In that action the regiment lost two men killed and at least eight wounded.
Michael Criger (born ca. 1836) is buried at Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Soldiers Section U, Lot 462.
Image: Caldwell Heritage Museum
Manarin et al., North Carolina Troops, 7:15, 676; Mast, “North Carolina Casualties”; Mast, State Troops and Volunteers, 1:47, 92; http://findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Criger&GSfn=Michael&GSbyrel=all&GSdy=1864&GSdyrel=in&GSst=48&GScntry=4&GSob=n&GRid=92988842&df=all&