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Glimpses of Soldiers' Lives: David C. Colbert

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Private David C. Colbert of Company C, 46th Virginia Infantry Regiment
Private David C. Colbert of Company C, 46th Virginia Infantry Regiment
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.32064
The Burnside expedition landing at Roanoke Island - February 7th 1862
The Burnside expedition landing at Roanoke Island - February 7th 1862. Print by E. Sachse & Co., 1862.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.00119

Born in 1840, David C. Colbert enlisted with the C Company of the Confederate army's 46th Virginia Infantry on June 22, 1861.  He would face essentially all of the American Civil War’s miserable aspects—aside from a brief furlough, Colbert served for its entire duration, including a hospitalization.

His regiment marched to North Carolina in the fall of 1861, and joined General Wise’s Brigade.  Colbert’s first experience of pitched battle was at Roanoke Island, on February 8, 1862.  Part of the unit was taken prisoner here, then exchanged midway through the year.  Colbert, who had avoided capture, remained with the 46th Virginia for the Siege of Yorktown in April and May and the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5th.  The prisoners of war from Roanoke were exchanged in time for the Seven Days’ Battles from June 25th to July 1st of 1862.

For most of the next year, the only historical trace of Colbert is a report that he had fallen ill around November 15th, 1862.  But he was well enough to fight in skirmishes at Williamsburg and Pamunkey River in the late spring of 1863.

Camp at Cumberland with a view of the Pamunkey river full of gunboats and transports.
Camp at Cumberland with a view of the Pamunkey river full of gunboats and transports. Drawing by Alfred Waud, 1962 ca. May.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.22576

On July 16th, 1863, Colbert was granted a week’s leave to take his brother’s remains back home to Pittsylvania County, Virginia.  Nathan Colbert had served in the same company and regiment as David, though the date he enlisted is unknown.  He died at Chaffin’s Farm, Virginia, while working there to build defenses around Richmond.  His cause of death was listed as “Chaffin’s Farm Disease,” probably a fever that spread through the camp.  Nathan had died on July 1st; David was allowed to bypass the typical protocol to take his leave as soon as possible.

Surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to the Army of the Potomac
Surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to the Army of the Potomac. Drawing by John R. Chapin, 1965 April 12.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.20471

David was himself hospitalized a year later, on June 3rd at Petersburg, Virginia.  He recovered and returned on June 13th, and assisted with the Siege of Petersburg that would last for the next year.

Colbert’s bad luck returned during the Battle of Sayler’s Creek on April 6, 1865.  He was the only member of his entire regiment to be taken prisoner—though around 63 men were captured out of the entire corps, and eight Confederate generals were forced to surrender.

The 46th Infantry went on to fight and surrender at Appomattox.  Colbert took his Oath of Allegiance to the United States at Newport News, Virginia on June 14, 1865.  He died there of disease on July the 1st, a few weeks after his pledge.

Sources:

Historical Data Systems, comp.. U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009. Original data: Data compiled by Historical Data Systems of Kingston, MA from The Virginia Regimental Histories Series. [subscription resource - access inside Library of Congress buildings]

Crute, Joseph H., Jr. Units of the Confederate States Army. Gaithersburg, Maryland: Olde Soldier Books, Inc., 1987, 385.


Compiled by: Ann Tyler Moses, Liljenquist Family Fellow, 2012. Last updated 2012 July.
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  November 7, 2012
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