23rd Infantry

Captain Abner David Peace

Company E (the “Granville Targeteers”), 23rd Regiment N.C. Troops (13th Regiment N.C. Volunteers)

On two occasions Abner David Peace of Granville County stated that his occupation was “artist”: in 1860 to the enumerator of the Federal census, and a year later on the muster-in and descriptive roll of his Confederate company. However, Peace was not a painter but a photographer.

In the mid-1850s a Virginia photographer named William Shelburn (1834-1911) moved to Oxford, the seat of Granville County, and established “Shelburn’s Gallery” above the local drugstore. In addition to photographic services, Shelburn also offered instruction in the new art. Two of his pupils were Abner D. Peace and James H. Mitchell. The two young men formed a partnership and practiced their trade in Granville and Wake counties.

However, on June 5, 1861, Mitchell and Peace were elected second and third lieutenants, respectively, in a company known as the “Granville Targeteers,” subsequently Company E, 23rd Regiment N.C. Troops. In November 1861 Mitchell died at Culpeper Court House, Virginia, of typhoid fever and “hemorrhage,” and on December 16 Peace was promoted to second lieutenant.

In May 1862 the companies of the 23rd North Carolina reorganized for the war. In the election for captain of Company E on May 10, Peace defeated the incumbent. Three weeks later the new captain was shot in the face at the Battle of Seven Pines. Peace probably returned to duty prior to the Maryland Campaign where he may have sustained a wound or became ill. A regimental return from October 1862 states that he was on sick leave from September 17 to October 23.

Peace was wounded in action at Chancellorsville, but the injury did not prevent him from leading his company at the Battle of Gettysburg. The 23rd North Carolina was part of a brigade commanded by Brigadier General Alfred Iverson of Georgia. The general’s spectacular mismanagement of an advance on July 1, 1863, exacerbated by charges of drinking and cowardice, resulted in the near destruction of his brigade. The 23rd North Carolina was the hardest hit. The regiment probably fielded about 330 men at Gettysburg. Casualties amounted to 287 men: sixty-six killed or mortally wounded in action, forty-two wounded, and one hundred seventy-nine captured (of whom eighty-three were also wounded), a loss of nearly ninety per cent. Peace was wounded early in the fight, a compound fracture of his right ulna. He was hospitalized upon the army’s return to Virginia and received a sixty-day furlough, beginning July 23.

All three field officers of the 23rd North Carolina fell at Gettysburg. Colonel Daniel H. Christie was mortally wounded and died on July 17. Lieutenant Colonel Robert D. Johnston was wounded in the jaw, face, and clavicle, and Major Charles C. Blacknall was wounded and captured. On September 1, Johnston was promoted to brigadier general to replace the disgraced Iverson. Command of the much reduced regiment seemingly fell for a time to Captain Frank Bennett of Company A. However, a “Property Return” of the 23rd North Carolina, dated November 4, 1863 (which specified the number of muskets, accoutrements, and other items held by the regiment) was signed “A D Peace, Capt, Commanding Regiment.”

Captain Peace presumably commanded the 23rd North Carolina until the return to duty about May 1, 1864, of Colonel Blacknall, who had been promoted while in captivity and then exchanged. Blacknall was mortally wounded in action at the Battle of Third Winchester on September 19, and died on November 6. From then until the surrender at Appomattox Court House, Peace commanded the 23rd North Carolina. He was granted a “leave of indulgence” on January 10, 1865, and was reported present on an inspection report dated February 27. From Fort Stedman on March 25 through the retreat to Appomattox, the 23rd North Carolina lost about fifty men, mostly captured. On April 12 Peace signed the surrender roll of the regiment, stating that of the eighty-six survivors, “only thirty-five (35) were armed on the morning of the 9th instant.”

The image of Peace depicts him in a captain’s uniform, thus dating it subsequent to his election to that rank on May 10, 1862. Most North Carolina officers wore frock coats, but in this image Peace has apparently converted a standard issue North Carolina pattern six button coat with the addition of sleeve braiding and collar insignia. The image is very likely a self-portrait.

When photographs were solicited in 1900 for the publication of the five-volume “Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina,” edited my Judge Walter Clark, Peace submitted a copy his war time image

Captain Peace (March 22, 1838-October 15, 1915) is buried in the Peace-Pope Family Cemetery, Pope Road, Creedmoor, Granville County.

Image: N.C. Office of Archives and History.

Source Note:
Busey, John W., and David G. Martin, Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg, 4th Edition (Hightstown, N.J.: Longstreet House, 2005), 289, hereinafter cited as Busey and Martin, Regimental Strengths and Losses; Clark, Walter, ed., Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-1865. Written by Members of the Respective Commands, 5 vols. (Goldsboro: Nash Brothers, 1901; Wendell, N.C.: Broadfoot’s Bookmark, 1982), 5: 510, hereinafter cited as Clark, Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions; Manarin et al., North Carolina Troops, 5:400; Massengill, Stephen E., (comp.), Photographers in North Carolina: The First Century, 1842-1941, (Raleigh: N.C. Office of Archives and History, 2004), 146, 159, 180; Mast, “North Carolina Casualties”; Service record files of Abner D. Peace, 23rd Regiment N.C. Troops, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers from the State of North Carolina (M270), RG109, NA. 1860 U. S. Census, Granville County, North Carolina, population schedule, Cedar Creek District, page 164, dwelling 1161, family 1171, Will Peace household; digital images, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com/ : accessed October 23, 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll not identified.