SUBMITTED BY: Glenn Land (edited and vetted by Cheri Todd Molter)
(click photo to enlarge)
A family connected to my ancestors in Wilkes County, N.C., by marriage, was that of William Proffit (Proffitt, Prophet) and Mary Walsh Proffit. Their daughter, Rhoda, was married to my relative, Reverend Linville Land. Linville was a prominent Baptist minister and local carpenter. He was the brother of Confederate Lieutenant Thomas Charles Land of the 1st and 53rd NC Infantries and Lieut-Colonel James Calvin Land of the 93rd Militia Regiment (NC), which was absorbed into the local Home & Railroad Guard. As a local carpenter, Linville reportedly made the coffins for Thomas Dula and Laura Foster of Wilkes County. [Dula, a Confederate veteran, was convicted and hanged for murdering Foster in 1868. The folk song “Tom Dooley” was written about him.]
Rhoda Proffit Land’s four brothers served in the Confederate Army. The only brother to survive, Alfred Newton Proffit, is pictured here (from Mary Alice Hancock’s Four Brothers in Gray). Alfred enlisted in 1862 and served in Company D, 18th NC Infantry. Rhoda’s brother Andrew J. Proffit also enlisted in August 1862; he was twenty-eight years old and was, like his brother Alfred, assigned to Company D of the 18th NC Infantry. Andy was captured on May 3, 1863 at Chancellorsville, Virginia, and confined at Point Lookout, Maryland a couple of days later. He was exchanged on May 12, 1864. In a letter addressed to his parents and dated May 15, 1863, Andy stated, “Dear father, I take this kind opportunity of writing you a few lines which will inform you that I am again on southern soil, well and doing finely. I am sorry to inform you that I unfortunately fell into the hands of the enemy on Sunday, the 3rd inst. I will try to tell you how it happened. As we were on the march to the battlefield, I with another Corporal were appointed to guard the flag, one of the most dangerous positions in battle. On Saturday night there fell a bomb in my company and exploded within 4 or 5 feet of me and wounded the flag bearer and 5 or 6 of my company, taking off one man’s leg and wounded my lieutenant. When the flag of my country fell to the earth, I grabbed it with my own hands.
My colonel told me to throw down my gun and hold on to the flag which I did. That night the Yankees charged on us but we soon repulsed them. Next morning we made a charge on them, routed them from their 1st breastworks and proceeded to the 2nd. Was ordered to charge them [the 2nd breastworks] which part of us did. I carried the flag to the breastworks. We routed a long line of them and held our position, but the 28th NC Regt on our right failed to charge them. The enemy commenced firing upon our lines and gave them a chance to retake their works again which give us no chance to escape. I lay there with 2 lines of battle cross firing at me a short distance and three batteries throwing grape [shot] at me not more than 3 or 4 hundred yards distant. The first I knew the Yanks were within 5 steps of me when two jumped over the breastworks and grabbed the flag out of my hand and said to me fall in, John, ha ha ha. John fell in but he did not like to do it. They took us to Washington and kept us about 13 days…treated us with great respect, give us plenty to eat. My colonel was killed and my Lt. Col. wounded in the battle and the great Gen. Jackson was mortally wounded by his own men and is now dead…Father, I am getting used to all kinds of hardships in warfare and though I say it myself, I know nothing of cowardice, and God forbid that I ever should” (Mary Alice Hancock, Four Brothers in Gray, p. 27).
Andy was also taken prisoner at the Mule Shoe Salient during the Battle of Spotsylvania, Virginia, on May 12, 1864. According to his military records, he was exchanged again and was present with his regiment when they surrendered on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Court House; however, he died from phthisis pulmonalis (tuberculosis) at Howards Grove Hospital in Richmond on March 27, 1865.
William Harrison Proffit was twenty-one years old when he enlisted in the Confederate Army on May 31, 1861. He served in Company B, 1st N.C. Infantry (The Wilkes Valley Guards). He fought in Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. William was reported sick on Oct. 18, 1863. He was sent to the hospital at Gordonsville, Virginia where he died a week later.
Calvin Luther Proffit [“Luther C. Proffit” in military records] was twenty years old when enlisted in the CSA on Sept. 27, 1862. He served in Company H of the 13th Infantry (North Carolina). He died from disease on March 25, 1863 at Camp Gregg, Virginia. Alfred wrote to his parents informing them of Calvin’s death: “I have the sad and heart-breaking news to write to you of the death of our beloved brother, Calvin. The doctor who attended him said it was inflammation of the brain. I have been informed he died quite easy. Without a word or groan he clowsed [closed] his eyes and seemed as if he had dropped into a deep sleep. I suppose you would like to know how he was put away. Well, he was washed and clean clothes put on him and his officers buried him with their own hands. That’s something I had never seen since I have been in the service. We buried him in a nice place, in an orchard.” In a letter he wrote for his parents after his brother Calvin’s death, William wrote, “Sad as the thought is, it is no worse than thousands have endured since the commencement of this unholy war. I hope you will try to refrain as much as possible from unnecessary grief, as it is a thing of no avail.” William, too, died just a few months later.
Only Alfred returned home to Lewis Fork in Wilkes County following the war. He survived many battles and was present at Appomattox. He was wounded several times and received a head wound on May 9, 1864. He suffered from severe headaches for several years. Family lore says one day he sneezed, and a portion of a shell dislodged from his sinus cavity. The piece of shell is reportedly still in the possession of his descendants. Alfred lived ‘til 1929.
In the 1970s, Mary Alice Hancock wrote a book titled Four Brothers in Gray, in which she tells the story of the Proffit brothers and includes transcriptions of the letters they wrote. Although it had been out of print for years, it was reprinted in 2013.