3 October 2006
Let me introduce you to “Gus” Osborne, late of North Carolina and Confederate service.
As a 25 year old Captain, he briefly led the 4th Regiment of North Carolina State Troops in action in the Sunken Road at Sharpsburg on September 17th, 1862, before being struck down and captured by the enemy there. He survived both that experience and the War, however, living to be nearly 90 years of age.
Edwin Osborne, 1864-5
Edwin Augustus Young Osborne was raised by his “pioneer” father, Dr. Ephriam Osborne, in the wilds of Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas in the 1840s and 50s before coming to North Carolina at age 22. Family lore has it that he walked alone from Texas to an aunt’s in Charlotte, and that he enrolled in a military school at Statesville.
He probably helped raise a company of soldiers in Iredell County, and was commissioned Captain in what became Company H of the 4th NCST as that unit was organized in May of 1861. He served with his Regiment in the campaigns of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia thereafter. He was wounded in action at Seven Pines in May 1862, but was back with his unit in time to join the Maryland Campaign.
On September 14th, the 4th was part of the force sent to reinforce the defenders at Turner’s Gap on South Mountain — Garland’s Brigade posted near the Mountain House along the National Road, in particular. John Priest narrates the particularly harrowing afternoon of Captain Osborne on that occasion:
Colonel Charles Tew, commanding his own 2nd North Carolina and the 4th North Carolina from G. B. Anderson’s brigade, was approaching the wood road intersection from the Mountain House. The colonel halted his two regiments just before they reached the clearing on the northwest corner of the Old Sharpsburg Road and sent Captain Edwin A. Osborne (Company H, 4th North Carolina) ahead on a reconnaissance. The captain jumped over the stone wall along the wood road at the corner of the first field north of the Old Sharpsburg Road and, following the rail fence which ran east from that point, tried to worked his way down the mountain. The sharpshooters of the 36th Ohio, who were hiding in the ravine north of the Hoffman house caught him in the open. Their shots pocked the stone wall behind him and sent him barreling back over the wall into the wood road. He reported to Colonel Tew that they were at the front …
Recon by poking around.
His commanding officer, Colonel Bryan Grimes, had been seriously injured by a horse kick on 5 September, as he was crossing the Potomac at White’s Ferry. As a result, Osborne was the senior officer present as they reached the field at Sharpsburg on the 17th. The 4th suffered grievous casualties in the vicious combat that took place in the Sunken Road on that day. D.H. Hill later reported that every officer of the 4th was either killed or wounded. Osborne, no exception, was hit and captured as the Federals eventually overran the Confederate positions.
Sometime before Christmas he was exchanged and returned to his Regiment as its new Major.
Perhaps following from his small unit experience at Turner’s Gap, Fred Ray notes that Osborne was in command of the battalion of Sharpshooters attached to Ramseur’s Brigade at the Wilderness (May-June 1864). He was again wounded, at Spotsylvania on June 19th, but was soon back with the Regiment, by then as Lieutenant Colonel. He was appointed Colonel of the Regiment in July, and served in command until transferring to the Veteran Reserve Corps–probably for health reasons–in the last week of the War.
He returned to North Carolina and married Fannie Swan Moore, proudly noted by a biographer as “descended from Colonial South Carolina’s Governor James Moore and General Maurice Moore, a Revolutionary War hero”. He practiced as a lawyer, though I don’t know his preparation, and was elected Clerk of the County Superior Court.
For reasons not known, he made a complete life change about ten years later, at age 40, heeding the call to minister. He was ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1877, serving in Fletcher and later at St. Mark’s near Charlotte. He also founded and oversaw an orphanage and training center nearby.
In 1898, then over 60 years old, he left his home to go off to war once again. This time with the rank of Captain, serving as Adjutant/Chaplain of the 2nd North Carolina Volunteers which was attached to the US Army during the Spanish-American War. The Regiment did not leave the States, however, rather they served as garrison troops on the southern Atlantic Coast, with headquarters at St. Simon’s Island, Georgia.
The rest of his life seems relatively uneventful by comparison. In the photo above, Gus (middle) is seen with his brothers in Texas in 1904. In addition to visiting Europe at about that time, he may have also retraced the steps he took from Texas to Carolina more than 40 years before.
He died in October 1926 at 89.
- Quote above is from Priest’s Before Antietam: the Battle for South Mountain (1996)
- Fred’s book is Shock Troops of the Confederacy: The Sharpshooter Battalions of the Army of Northern Virginia (2006)
- The webpage from the TXGenWeb Project for the Osborne Family of Navarro is the source for the brothers’ photograph.