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Adelphos J. Burns Papers


Adelphos (Dell) J. Burns was the son of William T. and Emily A. Burns of Chatham County. He enlisted in Company G, 48th Regiment, N.C. Troops, on March 1, 1862. Although he disliked infantry service, he continued to serve in the 48th Regiment until the end of August, 1864, exchanging at that time into Company D, 3d N.C. Cavalry.This collection includes letters, a weaving draft, one pencil drawing, medical notes, a newspaper clipping, and several envelopes. Of the 29 Civil War letters in the collection, 25 were written by Adelphos J. Burns to his parents; three were written to him by his parents; and one was written by N. R. Harris of the Partisan Rangers at Kinston to Henry Addison Burns. Ad ... (more below)

Title

Adelphos J. Burns Papers

Collection Number

PC.1708

Date(s)

1859 - 1864

Language

English

Physical Description
Items
60
Abstract

Adelphos (  "Dell") J. Burns was the son of William T. and Emily A. Burns of Chatham County. He enlisted in Company G, 48th Regiment, N.C. Troops, on March 1, 1862. Although he disliked infantry service, he continued to serve in the 48th Regiment until the end of August, 1864, exchanging at that time into Company D, 3d N.C. Cavalry.

This collection includes letters, a weaving draft, one pencil drawing, medical notes, a newspaper clipping, and several envelopes. Of the 29 Civil War letters in the collection, 25 were written by Adelphos J. Burns to his parents; three were written to him by his parents; and one was written by N. R. Harris of the Partisan Rangers at Kinston to Henry Addison Burns. Adelphos J. Burns appears to have meant to write to his parents fortnightly, though there must have been times when that was not possible. Consequently, the quality of the letters varies with the amount of news available during the week in which he was writing, or goings-on in North Carolina that merited his comment.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Public Services Branch, State Archives of North Carolina.

Creator

Burns, Adelphos J., b. 1842

Repository

State Archives of North Carolina


Chronological.


Available for research.


Copyright is retained by the authors of these materials, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law (Title 17 US Code). Individual researchers are responsible for using these materials in conformance with copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials.


Processed by George Stevenson, June 10, 1993

Encoded by Dietra Stanley, November, 2006


Adelphos J. Burns was the son of William T. and Emily A. Burns of Chatham County. He and his brother, Henry Addison Burns, enlisted in Company G, 48th Regiment, N.C. Troops, on March 1, 1862, Addison, however, secured a substitute to serve in his stead and obtained a discharge from the regiment in August, 1862. He returned to farm the family's land in central Chatham County. Adelphos (  "Dell") remained in the army, and though he disliked infantry service he continued to serve in the 48th Regiment until the end of August, 1864, exchanging at that time into Company D, 3d N.C. Cavalry. His remark upon getting into the cavalry, where he remained until the end of the war, was,  "I feel like a bird out of a cage."


Adelphos J. Burns was the son of William T. and Emily A. Burns of Chatham County. He and his brother, Henry Addison Burns, enlisted in Company G, 48th Regiment, N.C. Troops, on March 1, 1862, Addison, however, secured a substitute to serve in his stead and obtained a discharge from the regiment in August, 1862. He returned to farm the family's land in central Chatham County. Adelphos (  "Dell") remained in the army, and though he disliked infantry service he continued to serve in the 48th Regiment until the end of August, 1864, exchanging at that time into Company D, 3d N.C. Cavalry. His remark upon getting into the cavalry, where he remained until the end of the war, was,  "I feel like a bird out of a cage."


[Identification of item], PC.1708, Adelphos J. Burns Papers, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC, USA.


Gift of George Burns Williams, Raleigh, N.C., March 2, 1983


Additional information on topics found in this collection may be found in the Manuscript and Archives Reference System (MARS)  http://www.ncarchives.dcr.state.nc.us.


Of the 29 Civil War letters in the collection, 25 were written by Adelphos J. Burns to his parents; three were written to him by his parents; and one was written by N. R. Harris of the Partisan Rangers at Kinston to Henry Addison Burns. Adelphos J. Burns appears to have meant to write to his parents fortnightly, though there must have been times when that was not possible. Consequently, the quality of the letters varies with the amount of news available during the week in which he was writing, or goings-on in North Carolina that merited his comment. Though some of the letters have greater historical value than others, none is without interest.

Some of Burns's letters contain reflections on political and civilian matters while others of his letters ask his father to keep him informed of home news and local public opinion of events. (His father's replies are not present in the collection.) The letters express an ambivalence in Burns's feelings that is hard tocharacterize. He appears to have felt that the several states had a constitutional right to secede from the union. At the same time, Burns seems to have had little regard for the Confederacy. Though he considers the war so  "mysterious and unjust" that he cannot see through it, Burns fights bravely and without complaint. His letters indicate that he felt the cause was lost from the beginning. His very first letter, April 30, 1862, says that the war will last ten years, and concludes by saying that the Confederacy was whipped even then. Unsympathetic to the conscription laws, Burns felt that further conscriptions would sink the Confederacy, not raise it (April 5, 1863), and that  "disloyal conscripts" were whipped before they even left home (July 27, 1863). On February 15, 1863, Burns admits that everybody is talking about peace, but warns his father that peace is a long way off. In his letter of August ___, 1863, he expresses disapproval of soldiers declaring their unionist sentiments, wishes that the peace meetings in North Carolina were stopped, and states that he is a  "war man". All the same, it is clear that Burns wishes the war could be brought to an end by a negotiated peace. His letter of July 17, 1864, says that talk in his brigade indicates that Holden might defeat Vance in the gubernatorial election of that year, and that were he to vote, he would vote for Holden; his opinion is that if no peace is negotiated and the war is fought to a conclusion, it will end with the Confederacy no longer in existence.

When writing of military affairs, Burns does not describe maneuvers or tactics. Instead he retails such matters as he thinks will interest his parents--the fate of men in his company, for example, news to be passed on to families of other men from Chatham County with whom he served, and his own reaction to events. His letters written following the battles of Fredericksburg (dated Dec. 16, 1862) and Reams Station (written after August 25, 1864), and two letters reflecting on operations in the Army of Northern Virginia (dated July 6 and 17, 1864) are good examples of the sort of war news Burns sends home. A letter written by N. R. Harris to Addison Burns following Pickett's failed expedition to recapture federally occupied New Bern (dated February 20, 1864) gives details of the participation of his organization, the Partisan Rangers, in the expedition. He also speaks of having witnessed at Kinston the execution by hanging of the thirteen former Confederate soldiers taken prisoner during the expedition who had earlier deserted and enlisted in the federal army.

The five miscellaneous items in the collection have no connection with the Civil War letters, but do have a relationship to the Burns family. The earliest item, though undated, is a draft for weaving huckaback. The second item is a letter dated January 15, 1859, written by Moses Hornaday of New Trenton, Franklin County, Indiana, to  Dear Sir asking for news of Chatham County (which the writer had left fifty years earlier) and for any information relating to Hornadays still in the county. (One notices that Ezekiel H. Hornaday, a teacher, resided with the Burns family at the time of the 1860 census of Chatham County.) The third item is a pencil drawing of the Mission of Conception in the Bexar River valley, Texas, signed by  "Sallie", dated 1860, and posted to Mark Bynum of Pedlar's Hill, NC. (On March 3, 1881, Adelphos J. Burns married Cora Bynum, which probably accounts for the presence of this drawing in the collection.) The fourth item is a sheet of penciled medical notes made on a letter dated July 18, 1877, from Thomas Opie, M.D., dean of a Baltimore medical college concerning the admission of W. M. Burns to the college. The fifth, and last, miscellaneous item is an article,  "Battle of Seven Pines Among Experiences of Civil War Told by Town's First Mayor", cut from the November 30, 1961, issue of  The Chatham News (Siler City). The article relates more information concerning the organization of the 48th Regiment, N.C. Troops than it relates concerning the Battle of Seven Pines.

The 26 Civil War envelopes in the collection represent, in part, letters that are in the collection. Others of them originally enclosed letters that do not constitute part of the collection at present.

Chronological.


Of the 29 Civil War letters in the collection, 25 were written by Adelphos J. Burns to his parents; three were written to him by his parents; and one was written by N. R. Harris of the Partisan Rangers at Kinston to Henry Addison Burns. Adelphos J. Burns appears to have meant to write to his parents fortnightly, though there must have been times when that was not possible. Consequently, the quality of the letters varies with the amount of news available during the week in which he was writing, or goings-on in North Carolina that merited his comment. Though some of the letters have greater historical value than others, none is without interest.

Some of Burns's letters contain reflections on political and civilian matters while others of his letters ask his father to keep him informed of home news and local public opinion of events. (His father's replies are not present in the collection.) The letters express an ambivalence in Burns's feelings that is hard tocharacterize. He appears to have felt that the several states had a constitutional right to secede from the union. At the same time, Burns seems to have had little regard for the Confederacy. Though he considers the war so  "mysterious and unjust" that he cannot see through it, Burns fights bravely and without complaint. His letters indicate that he felt the cause was lost from the beginning. His very first letter, April 30, 1862, says that the war will last ten years, and concludes by saying that the Confederacy was whipped even then. Unsympathetic to the conscription laws, Burns felt that further conscriptions would sink the Confederacy, not raise it (April 5, 1863), and that  "disloyal conscripts" were whipped before they even left home (July 27, 1863). On February 15, 1863, Burns admits that everybody is talking about peace, but warns his father that peace is a long way off. In his letter of August ___, 1863, he expresses disapproval of soldiers declaring their unionist sentiments, wishes that the peace meetings in North Carolina were stopped, and states that he is a  "war man". All the same, it is clear that Burns wishes the war could be brought to an end by a negotiated peace. His letter of July 17, 1864, says that talk in his brigade indicates that Holden might defeat Vance in the gubernatorial election of that year, and that were he to vote, he would vote for Holden; his opinion is that if no peace is negotiated and the war is fought to a conclusion, it will end with the Confederacy no longer in existence.

When writing of military affairs, Burns does not describe maneuvers or tactics. Instead he retails such matters as he thinks will interest his parents--the fate of men in his company, for example, news to be passed on to families of other men from Chatham County with whom he served, and his own reaction to events. His letters written following the battles of Fredericksburg (dated Dec. 16, 1862) and Reams Station (written after August 25, 1864), and two letters reflecting on operations in the Army of Northern Virginia (dated July 6 and 17, 1864) are good examples of the sort of war news Burns sends home. A letter written by N. R. Harris to Addison Burns following Pickett's failed expedition to recapture federally occupied New Bern (dated February 20, 1864) gives details of the participation of his organization, the Partisan Rangers, in the expedition. He also speaks of having witnessed at Kinston the execution by hanging of the thirteen former Confederate soldiers taken prisoner during the expedition who had earlier deserted and enlisted in the federal army.

The five miscellaneous items in the collection have no connection with the Civil War letters, but do have a relationship to the Burns family. The earliest item, though undated, is a draft for weaving huckaback. The second item is a letter dated January 15, 1859, written by Moses Hornaday of New Trenton, Franklin County, Indiana, to  Dear Sir asking for news of Chatham County (which the writer had left fifty years earlier) and for any information relating to Hornadays still in the county. (One notices that Ezekiel H. Hornaday, a teacher, resided with the Burns family at the time of the 1860 census of Chatham County.) The third item is a pencil drawing of the Mission of Conception in the Bexar River valley, Texas, signed by  "Sallie", dated 1860, and posted to Mark Bynum of Pedlar's Hill, NC. (On March 3, 1881, Adelphos J. Burns married Cora Bynum, which probably accounts for the presence of this drawing in the collection.) The fourth item is a sheet of penciled medical notes made on a letter dated July 18, 1877, from Thomas Opie, M.D., dean of a Baltimore medical college concerning the admission of W. M. Burns to the college. The fifth, and last, miscellaneous item is an article,  "Battle of Seven Pines Among Experiences of Civil War Told by Town's First Mayor", cut from the November 30, 1961, issue of  The Chatham News (Siler City). The article relates more information concerning the organization of the 48th Regiment, N.C. Troops than it relates concerning the Battle of Seven Pines.

The 26 Civil War envelopes in the collection represent, in part, letters that are in the collection. Others of them originally enclosed letters that do not constitute part of the collection at present.


  • Confederate States of America. Army of Northern Virginia.
  • Confederate States of America. Army. North Carolina Infantry Regiment, 48th
  • Confederate States of America. Army. Virginia Cavalry Regiment, 25th.
  • Mission Concepcion (San Antonio, Tex.)
  • Desertion, Military.
  • Draft--Confederate States of America.
  • Fredericksburg, Battle of, Fredericksburg, Va., 1862
  • Gettysburg, Battle of, Gettysburg, Pa., 1863.
  • Peace movements.
  • Ream's Station, Battle of, Va., 1864.
  • Sermons.
  • Unionists (United States Civil War)
  • Weaving.
  • Charleston (S.C.)
  • Chatham County (N.C.)
  • Kinston (N.C.)
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Desertions.
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Military life.
  • Letters (correspondence)