Collett Leventhorpe,

England's fighting General

'He was most truly a knight; deferential, without being obsequious, to all, both high and low,
he showed as the very pink of courtesy and mirror of knighthood in his association...'
'Lenoir Topic'
4 December 1889, upon his death.

Early Life
       An estimated 50-55,000 British and Canadians fought during the American Civil War, the majority for the Federal cause but some fought for the Confederacy. Various of these became officers but at the moment its known that two Englishmen became Brigadier Generals, and three became colonels.  The most famous of the British troops was Patrick Cleburne (an Irishman).
     Most of the soldiers from the British Isles came from Ireland (all of Ireland at the time was under British rule) the remainder would be made up from other peoples who lived in those islands, Scots, Welsh and English.
        The most famous Englishman during the war was Collett Leventhorpe but he's been forgotten by those who are interested in the Civil War. Although he gallantly served the South Leventhorpe was even doomed to die in obscurity.  This is his story.
     Leventhorpe’s family were prominent from early times having in the fourteenth century moving from Leventhorpe Hall, Yorkshire to Hertfordshire, during the reign of Richard II.  A member of the family was an executor of Henry V's estate.  Another married Dorothy, sister of Jane Seymour, who was the third wife of Henry VIII. During the reign of James I the family were made barons and acquired prominent positions in the land.
        The Leventhorpe’s, and their other two children
were temporarily residing in Exmouth, Devonshire, for the fathers health where on the 15 May 1815 a son was born,who's christian  name was to come from his mother, Mary Collett. 
     As the son of a prominent landowning family he had had an excellent education, studying at Winchester College until he reached the age of fourteen. For three years he was educated by a private tutor.
British Service
        In 1832 Leventhorpe's father purchased him the rank of Ensign in the 14th Regiment of Foot (the Buckinghamshire's), in the army of William IV, at the time he was only seventeen and so on 28 September he entered the army.  Leventhorpe was now stationed in Ireland for the next three years and on 2 November 1835, when he purchased a Lieutenancy, was stationed in the British West Indies. After several years of duty there he spends a year in Canada, although was not involved in suppressing the Rebellion of 1837. Leventhorpe reached that of Captain, of Grenadiers, on 16 November 1842.  Now twenty-seven-year-old he transferred to the 18th Foot and on the 24 October 1842 sold his Captaincy.
Pre War
        In 1843, while on an expended holiday  in America, Leventhorpe happened to traveled to Asheville, North Carolina, where he met his future wife, Louisa Bryan, second daughter of General Edmund Bryan, of Rutherfordton, NC.
        With no secure income, only a small remittance from England, Leventhorpe entered the Medical College of Charleston, South CarolinaUpon his graduation, top of the class, he married Louisa on 1 April 1849 and settled down to live and practice medicine in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, Louisa's home town.  Here he lived, becoming a prominent member of the community, until the outbreak of war.  Leventhorpe applied for citizenship on 10 April 1847 which was granted on 8 August 1849.
     As he had become thoroughly identified with the interests of his adopted State when North Carolina succeeded, 20 May 1861, he immediately offered his military services at the age of 46.
Confederate Service

     The 34th North Carolina Regiment was raised on 25 October 1861 with men from the Rutherfordton area and was camped around Raleigh, Leventhorpe was commissioned its colonel.  His experiences as an officer in the British army now aided him as he trained his inexperienced men.  Under his command, the regiment soon became an efficient fighting force.
      In December, while in the Raleigh area, he was given command of two other regiments, the 33rd and the 37th.  In the spring of 1862 the 34th was assigned to defend Roanoke Island at Hamilton and to guard against the attacks of Federal gunboats that were threatening the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad bridge.
     On 14th
March the 34th, now numbering approximately 450 men and about 70 cavalry, along with Nichol’s Virginia light battery, were reported 'on the Lower Roanoke, to prevent the boats of the enemy ascending that stream.'   They were assisting Captain Meade in constructing a defense at Rainbow Banks, but were ordered away by Robert E. Lee before it was completed.
     At Goldsboro, in early April,  Leventhorpe relinquished command of the 34th.  At Camp Mangum, later renamed Camp Bethel, he joined the 11th North Carolina, formerly the 1st or 'Bethel' Regiment of Daniel H. Hill, were he was elected colonel.
       While stationed at Camp Davis, on Howlett's Creek, on the North Carolina coast, some eight miles from Wilmington, here he was put in charge of several unattached regiments that formed a Brigade.  This comprised his regiment the 43rd, 51st, and Moore's horse artillery, later two more regiments were added.  He was responsible for the defense of the Wilmington district, including the city, and the area of Masonboro.
     They stayed in the area until the Brigade were transferred to the Department of Southeastern Virginia. Here Leventhorpe was placed in command of a defensive line some 26 miles in length on the Blackwater River.  The 11th were involved in numerous skirmishes with the Federal troops operating out of the Suffolk area.  With so few troops in the command the term 'foot­cavalry' was used to describe the many forced marches that they undertook.
     On 18th November a Federal force attempted to cross a ford guarded by the 11th who held their ground brilliantly. The Federal troops were forced to move to try to cross elsewhere.
        In December Leventhorpe's command of the Brigade ceased and with the 11th he was sent to the Kingston and Goldsboro area of North Carolina
here they served in a small force under B. H. Robertson.  
         On 12th December the Brigade was sent to White Hall to join a force which was attempting to stop Federal troops under John G. Foster.
        On the 16th Federal forces took the town and sent a force up the south side of the Neuse River.
  When the fight started the Confederate battle line started to fall back it was then that the 11th were sent in 'Three times they did drive the Yankee cannoneers from their guns and as often prevented their infantry regiments from forming a line in their front. In spite of the four hostile regiments whose standards waved from the opposite bank, did these brave men continue to hold their ground, and finally drove the enemy in confusion from the field. More than one hundred of their dead and wounded were left upon the river bank. The conduct of this regiment reflects the greatest credit upon its accomplishments and dauntless commander.' 
        After the engagement at White Hall the 11th, and Leventhorpe, were sent back to North Carolina and at Camp Robinson became part of James J. Pettigrew's North Carolina Brigade.  The Brigade was responsible for defending the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad from Wilmington to Petersburg.  Spending time  between
Goldsboro, Weldon, Magnolia, and Greenville.  The 11th spent the Winter defending the railroad where it crossed the Roanoke River.
     With the arrival of Daniel H. Hill as the new Department of North Carolina commander, the 11th were attached to Richard Garnet's Brigade for the attack on Plymouth during mid-March.  Whilst this was unsuccessful they succeeded in gathered in large quantities of supplies for the Army of Northern Virginia.
     After this the 11th rejoined Pettigrew's Brigade and in early April were part of an expedition of Hill's against Washington, on the Pamlico River.  Positioned to block any re-enforcements at a causeway at Blount's Creek/Mill the 11th, with supporting artillery, ambushed Francis B. Spinola's command of three brigades, plus artillery and cavalry, from re-enforcing the garrison of Washington on the 9th April.
        With the lifting of the siege on the 15th April, where once again large quantities of supplies had been gathered,  the Brigade was returned to the Greenville and Kingston areas.

                In early May, the Brigade was hurried to Richmond, due to Stoneman's cavalry raid, and sent to protect the railroads and bridges of the North and South Anna Rivers.  From there they went to Hanover Junction, then in early June toFredericksburg.  The Brigade now joins the Army of Northern Virginia,Ambrose P. Hill's third corps, Henry Heth's Division.
        After roll-call on the morning of the 30th Heth dispatched Pettigrew's Brigade to Gettysburg in the belief that there were a supply of shoes there.  Riding at the head of the Brigade was the 11th and at their head Leventhorpe.  The Brigade were marching along the Chambersburg Pike, from Cashtown towards Gettysburg.
        Two miles west of town, before Seminary Ridge, Leventhorpe deployed skirmishers as a sensible precaution.  During skirmishing they information reached Leventhorpe from a civilian doctor that informed him of several thousand troops in the town.  On arrival at Seminary Ridge a Confederate sympathiser arrive with the same information.  Leventhorpe informed Corps and the Brigade withdrew back towards Cashtown stopping for the night.
        The next day, 1st July, with Archer's Brigade in the advance, then Davis's, then Pettigrew's, the Division advanced.  With the engagement coming on Pettigrew's Brigade was initially in reserve at Herr Ridge.  With the arrival of Jubal Early's men in the north Pettigrew's men were ordered forwards to take McPherson's Ridge.
        With the 11th in the center of the Brigade stepped off in perfect line, with Leventhorpe on foot in the lead.  Leventhorpe led 617 men of the 11th into battle crossing Willoughby Run and up the following slope engaged the Federal forces on McPherson's Ridge. 'The 11th North Carolina, Colonel Leventhorpe commanding ... displayed conspicuous gallantry, of which I was an eye-witness, and the whole Brigade fought as well and displayed heroic courage as it was ever my fortune to witness on a battlefield.'
     The fighting at this point 'was terrible - our men advancing, the enemy stubbornly resisting, until the two lines were pouring volleys into each other at a distance not greater than 20 paces.'  During this attack, due to his size, nearly 6' 6"  and known to be erect and stately in bearing he was a conspicuous figure 'towering over his fellow soldiers like Saul'  Leventhorpe was hit by minie balls which splintered his arm and shattered his hip.  The 11th marched around him and with the Brigade took McPherson's Ridge.  Leventhorpe was carried to the rear to an aid station.  For him the battle was over and he wouldn't be taking part in the famed 'Pickett's Charge' with the rest of the 11th.
        During the Confederate retreat Federal cavalry captured part of the Confederate ambulance train.  At the Federal hospital it was found that gangrene had set into Leventhorpe's arm and the Federal surgeon wished to amputate it.  This Leventhorpe refused and had the surgeon cauterize his wound with nitric acid.
        Leventhorpe started his imprisonment by first being hospitalized at Fort McHenry, situated near Baltimore, but by early 1864, he had been transferred to Point Lookout, Maryland.  During his imprisonment friends and acquaintances in Britain made deposits in his name in a New York bank so that he was able to purchase needed supplies for himself and fellow prisoners.
     After nine months imprisonment at Point Lookout, about the 10th March Leventhorpe was exchanged.  During this period he was still listed as commander of the 11th.  Due to his wounds he was unable to return to his unit so resigned the commission on 27th April returning to Rutherfordton.
        When back in North Carolina Governor Vance commissioned Leventhorpe as a Brigadier General of one of the two home guard brigades.  Due to this on 13th December Vance wrote to Secretary of War James A. Seddon, recommending Leventhorpe be promoted to brigadier general, and placed in command of regular Confederate troops in the eastern North Carolina district.  'This gallant officer is now a brigadier general of home guards in the service of this state, and has the universal confidence of our people, civil and military.  I am earnest in my opinion that he, more than any other man, could restore quiet and order in that county.'
     Leventhorpe now commanded a large portion of the States defenses on the Roanoke River and the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad.
     On 20th December three Federal gunboats, and barges loaded with troops, attempted to land at Poplar Point, three miles from Fort Branch, on the Roanoke. After a combat lasting three hours Leventhorpe repulsed them with loss. They renewed the attack on 21st when they landed their skirmishers, but they were attacked and driven to their boats.
        On the 22nd Leventhorpe attacked the Federal gun-boats off Poplar Point and drove them away.  The 'infantry kept up and fought them with determination for four miles.' 

     At least by early 1865 Leventhorpe commanded the State National Guard, of at least 11 Home Guard units.  He set up his headquarters at Asheboro and mounted a two-week campaign against deserters and Unionists, this resulted in several brief skirmishes as well as the rounding up of many suspects.
     From letters and reports Leventhorpe was somewhat enthusiastic in his operations against deserters etc. He rounded up wives, children, and grandparents into makeshift prisons and fed them nothing but bread and water until they disclosed information about Federal bushwhackers, called'Outliers.'  Whether one agreed, or not his tactics were more successful than any others netted some three hundred deserters.
        On 20th January Robert E. Lee wrote 'I also recommend that General Leventhorpe, in the state service, be commissioned in the Confederate service...He is the best officer in that district' and so President Jefferson Davis commissioned him a Brigadier General in the Confederate army on 18th February, this was to rank from 3rd February.  He was ordered to report to Braxton Bragg for assignment to the command of Clemming's Brigade, Hoke's Division.
     For some reason not known, most likely his health, on the 6th March Leventhorpe declined the promotion and Bragg assigned him to command the defenses of Raleigh.  With the capture of the city by Sherman's troops he accompanied the retreating Confederate troops toward Greensboro and surrendered at Durham.
Post War
        With the war over the
Leventhorpe's moved to New York, briefly managing a shipping firm.  Then he was for a spell in England before moving back to Rutherfordton, North Carolina, to oversee a mining operation.
        In 1872 the Democratic State Convention nominated him as a candidate for state auditor.  It was now that his service in the State Militia, as an enforcer of conscription, came back to haunt him.   ('I also charge my competitor with being the candidate of the party that erected 'bull-pens' to confine women and children. I charge that General Collett Leventhorpe, the Democratic candidate for Auditor, was a militia general under ex-Governor Vance, and that the said Leventhorpe had, within those bull-pens, the wives, daughters, and sisters of men whose only crime was that they refused to fire on the old flag, or fight against the Union. In that bull-pen these women were subjected to all the barbarities that the most inhuman mind could suggest. They were not allowed to attend the calls of nature without being attended by an armed male guard. I charge that this gallant militia general of Gov. Vance shot and killed young Northcote one beautiful Sunday morning, and that his only crime was, he would not raise his arm to fight against the Union. I charge that you belong to the party that murdered Owen, that put his wife's fingers between fence rails in order to compel her to tell where her husband was, he then being in the woods to keep from being conscripted.')  Opposed by a 'carpetbagger' in the election a few months later, he and the entire Democratic ticket were defeated.
    During the post-war years Leventhorpe wrote prose and poetry for various magazines and newspapers, collected antiques and paintings.
During the late 1870's Leventhorpe built 'Holly Lodge', in Caldwell County, North Carolina.  When his health was in decline, and his fortune dwindling, in the early 80's he sold 'Holly Lodge' and proceeded to spent his time between 'The Fountain', home of his brother-in-law, W.D. Jones, in the Yadkin Valley, Wilkes County, North Carolina and Boone, Watauga County, in the western North Carolina mountains. 
     With his health much worst Leventhorpe and his wife left Boone in early October 1889 and traveled once again to 'The Fountain'  here he died around 1400 on 1 December 1889. He was buried 3rd December at the Episcopal Cemetery, Happy Valley, near Lenoir,North Carolina.

Roadside marker                                                             Grave inscription

This picture by courtesy of Burl Kennedy                               Wreath laying ceremony July 2008