The 28-30 August (2023) will be the 161st anniversary of the Second Battle of Manasses. About a year ago I learned that Strieby (Randolph County, NC) community member Calvin Hill may have been there. I wanted to know more.
Calvin Hill was one of the twelve children of Ned and Priscilla Hill, Free People of Color, who lived in Hill Town, subsequently named Strieby, in what is now Union Township in southwestern Randolph County, North Carolina. Calvin was born about 1838 and died on 28 October 1909. He was married to Elizabeth Chandler, daughter of Violet Chandler. They had seven children.
The Arthur Hill Interview
Calvin’s grandson, Arthur Hill, was born in 1887 and lived his whole life in the Strieby community, dying in 1980. His house still stands and is the last original home of the Strieby community of color (there are still homes owned by white residents). Over the years, Arthur was interviewed several times for newspaper stories about the unique history of Strieby. In 1978, he was interviewed by Robert Stephens. The entire interview can be found in DigitalNC.
Much of the interview covered his childhood experiences, but there were also questions about his family and the Civil War years. It was that part of the interview that revealed the experiences of Calvin Hill, which have been heretofore unknown, even to living family members. When Arthur was asked if any of his family fought in the Civil War, he responded that his grandfather was drafted and served as a cook for the South, not a soldier, and he helped care for the horses. However, the comment that caught my attention instantly was, “And about that time, they called the Battle of Manasses.” I wanted to know what CSA regiment from Randolph County was at the Battle of Manasses? “First or Second?” a friend asked
Hill Town (Strieby) was in the Uwharrie Mountains, now the Uwharrie National Forest, near the Uwharrie River. Not surprisingly, a CSA regiment was raised from that area that was nicknamed “the Uwharrie Boys.” It seemed likely that this was the unit to which Calvin was attached. But were they at the Battle of Manasses, either one or two? Another piece of information Arthur included was that his grandfather told him that a general was injured and died. Calvin was also injured when he was shot through his canteen. Arthur added that Calvin remained with the regiment until the end of the war. So, what do we know about the Uwharrie Boys?
The Uwharrie Boys
Company H, 38th Regiment, CSA, was under the command of Captain Noah Rush and Captain William L. Thornburg and was known as “the Uwharrie Boys.” After looking up the battle/campaign history of the 38th Regiment, I was shocked to learn that the 38th Regiment participated in nearly every significant battle of the war, including Gettysburg, Sharpsburg, and Petersburg to name a few. Even more surprising, they were at Appomattox Court House when General Lee surrendered to General Grant. In other words, Calvin likely had a bird’s eye view of some of the most significant military events of the Civil War, culminating in the surrender.
So, what about Arthur’s memory of what he was told about the Battle of Manasses by his grandfather? If Calvin was with the Uwharrie Boys, then Arthur was right, his grandfather was there, at the second Battle.
Battle of Manasses Recollections
In 1901, Lt. Col. George W. Flowers wrote a history of the 38th Regiment, including the Battle of Manasses.
“…On August 28th, the command formed a line of battle for the memorable second battle of Manassas, which was a series of battles for three days. Brig. Gen. Pender’s Brigade (the 38th) took possession of the bridge across Bull Run and engaged the enemy across the river. His brigade finally crossed over to the east side, but the enemy withdrew. The loss was very slight. On Friday, August 29th, the enemy changed position and was attempting to interpose his army between Maj. Gen. Jackson and the town of Alexandria.”
Brig. Gen. William D. Pender’s (NC) Report
“Finally, …. I ordered my brigade forward, … My men advanced well, receiving grape from the batteries; but support being waited for in vain, and seeing columns on my left and right manoeuvering [sic] to flank me, I withdrew and marched back to the railroad cut, a little to the right of the position previously held by General Gregg. 
“General Archer very kindly came forward and relieved me until I could march to the rear and rest my men. I was ordered to the right to support some one of General Jackson’s brigades. … We advanced steadily, driving the enemy from the field through the woods. … We continued our advance until after dark, when we came in contact with a body of the enemy. Each fired a volley. They ran and we rested for the night. Thus ended the Manassas fight with me. The brigade, with the exception of a few skulkers, behaved with great gallantry on both these days. They could not have behaved better. I cannot particularize at this distant day, but I well recollect that Major John Ashford), commanding the Thirty-eighth, behaved with great coolness and bravery. I had the misfortune to lose him on account of a wound in the leg. 
“… After the wounding of Maj. John Ashford, Capt. Murdoch McR. McLaughlin [Company K] was in command of the regiment.”
Thus, according to this account, the various companies of the 38th Regiment were known to be at the Battle of Manasses. Therefore, Calvin was very likely at the battle as well. In addition, as Arthur related, an officer in charge of the Regiment was wounded and was removed from combat as a result. There was some discrepancy in that he was a Major at the time, though later a Colonel, in any event, not a General. However, it’s possible Calvin really did not know the difference. To him, he was the officer in charge, which likely translated for him into “General.” It seems very likely that the story is correct, Calvin Hill was at the Battle of Manasses.
Calvin’s Brush with Death
Arthur also relayed his grandfather’s recollections of the battle, including his own brush with death.
“Well, he was there that day tending the horses so the general, they shot him off of the horse and my grandfather he went in to get the horse and he pulling the horse and my grandfather he went in to get the horse and he was pulling the horse you know, trying to get hold and there was a little old building which was on the battlefield and he was trying to get behind that, said the bullets were just a going in every direction. Then after a while he [reached for] his canteen on his side for water in it. Said he felt something cold running down his leg. Said he know’d he got shot you know and the horse was pulling and he had hold the reins of the horse trying to get him back behind this building, keep to [sic] killing the horse. Said after a while, said it just got wet and said he just turned the horse loose and just dropped down on the ground, just said, ‘Oh Lord, Lord have mercy. Oh Lord, Lord have mercy,’ come find the doctor. They had shot a hole in his canteen, the water was a running out. … Said that blood was running down you know and that canteen was sitting on its side, that buckle on its side.”
Calvin returned home after the war, married Elizabeth Chandler, and raised a family. He died 25 October 1909. His death was reported in The Courier, a parent newspaper of today’s Courier Tribune.
Great Grandfather Ned Hill
However, this was not all that was in the interview. It seems that Calvin’s father, Ned Hill, was also pressed into service with the confederacy. According to Arthur, Ned’s great grandson, Ned was in Richmond. Arthur said that his great grandfather, Ned, did not want to go to war, after all, he was older, but he said he would love to see Richmond and learn how they make table salt at the salt works there. So, according to Arthur, the Home Guards came and took him first to Asheboro, about 15 miles from Strieby, and then to Richmond. He was kept there for eight months. There was no mention of what his duties were while he was there. He, too, eventually came back home to Strieby. Ned died sometime between 1870 and 1880, before the church property was purchased. Arthur Hill reported that Ned was buried about five miles up the road in a private cemetery, likely the family cemetery at the time. That cemetery’s location today has not been confirmed.
Arthur died in 1980 and is buried in Strieby Church Cemetery.
 Flowers, G. (2020). 38th NC Regiment (Infantry). North Carolina in the Civil War. Carolana.com