SUBMITTED BY: Lois McPherson, written by D.W.P. (edited and vetted by Cheri Todd Molter)
James M. Patterson (1837-1868) and Armistead Patterson were the sons of George and Sophia Coble Patterson, and they grew up in Alamance County. Their paternal grandparents were Isaac and Barbara Coble Patterson. [James was mentioned in a letter that Oliver McPherson wrote and sent home to his parents (See the story entitled “A Letter Written by Oliver McPherson, a Confederate Soldier”).]
When he enlisted on May 8, 1861, James was 24 years old and a clerk in his father’s country store. His nineteen-year-old brother, Armistead, enlisted at the same time. They both served in Co. E, Thirteenth Infantry (North Carolina). According to Armistead’s compiled military record, he was captured at Petersburg, Virginia, on April 2, 1865. Armistead was confined at Point Lookout, Maryland, until he took the oath and was released on June 16, 1865. He was never wounded.
James had a more complex military career. By June 1862, he had risen from Private to Sergeant and had fought in three battles. On Sept. 17, 1862, he was wounded during the Battle of Seven Pines. He was able to rejoin his company early the next year. On May 3, 1864, at the Battle of Chancellorsville, he was promoted to First Sergeant and later that day got wounded in his left arm. He rejoined his unit by July 30th, not before Gettysburg but in time for three or four other engagements that year. In February 1864, James was promoted to Third Lieutenant and transferred to Company I of the Eighth N.C. Infantry. That unit fought in many battles, including Cold Harbor near Richmond and Bentonville in North Carolina. A regimental history states that, during the war, about 1,300 soldiers had served in the regiment and “only about 150 were present” at the end of the war. Many, of course, had been killed, and many survivors had been sick, wounded, and/or captured. James survived the war. However, he died about three years later.
After James died in 1868, he was buried at Mount Zion Baptist Church Cemetery, and his gravestone reads “Wounded Sept. 17, 1862 / and May 3, 1863 / Accidentally shot himself / Oct. 23, 1868.” Given his military experience, and what we have learned from twentieth-century combat, the words “Accidentally shot himself” on his gravestone arouse uneasy distrust. (Click on image to enlarge.)
After the war, Armistead became a doctor and lived in the town of Liberty, N.C. (A cottage he built for his aged parents is now a little museum there).