A VERY BAD CASE OF FRIENDLY FIRE

Colonel Thomas James Purdie      (William Marshall Richardson's half cousin)

Civil War Col. Thomas James Purdie has a dubious claim to fame. He was the officer who commanded his men to open fire on his comrade, Gen. Stonewall Jackson, which resulted in the Confederate hero's death.

Now, the Averasboro Battlefield Commission will have a piece of that unusual part of Civil War history as heirs of Col. Purdie have given the commission a uniform worn by Col. Purdie when he was a junior officer. They also contributed other battlefield accessories used by Col. Purdie at the Battle of Chancellorsville where Col. Purdie was shot and killed May 3, 1863. This was one day after the mistaken gunfire on Gen. Jackson.

Col. Purdie was described by his superiors as "gallant and fearless," ably motivating his men, but unfortunately is noted in history for his fatal mistake. There will be a program with refreshments at the Averasboro Museum to unveil the artifacts Saturday, May 19, at 2 p.m. Purdie family members will be present. The actual officer's coat and pistol Col. Purdie was wearing at the time of his death were stripped from him by Northern troops.

However, there were other accessories recovered at the battlefield and given to the commission including Col. Purdie's canteen, hit by a shell during the battle; his valise in which he carried personal belongings; medicine chest, filled with 24 corked bottles still containing medicines used at that time; his sword; and sword belt.

Although Col. Purdie was killed before the Battle of Averasboro, which occurred in March of 1865, he did have a significant family connection with the area then known as Smithville. Many Purdie family members grew up in Dunn, according to Robert C. Bryan, president of the Averasboro Battlefield Commission.

Mr. Bryan said Col. Purdie's Civil War uniform — the gray jacket, blue trousers and his vest — is undergoing a process to preserve it and then will be displayed at the Averasboro Museum for about four weeks after the dedication ceremony. It will then go to the Museum of the Cape Fear in Fayetteville for about six months for display and then return to Averasboro where it will remain permanently.

Sister-In-Law From Here

Col. Purdie died at the age of 32, never having been married. However, his older brother, John Wesley Purdie, married. His second wife was Sarah Grady Smith, daughter of Farquhard Smith, the owner of the Lebanon Plantation at Smithville. It was from this marriage that the Dunn Purdie families descended. Thus, Smithville and Averasboro have a strong family connection with Col. Purdie.

"The Purdie family thought it was important for the uniform to be displayed at the Averasboro Museum," Mr. Bryan said. Thomas J. Purdie was born at the family home, Purdie Hall, on the bank of the Cape Fear River near present day Tar Heel, N.C., on June 22, 1830. Purdie Hall, which still stands today, is a two-story Georgian-style house built between 1803 to 1807.

When Thomas Purdie was 25, he built his own home close to the family house. But he was only able to live there for six years before the Civil War began. After the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, Thomas Purdie enlisted as a private in the Bladen Guards of the North Carolina Militia in 1861. The unit was called into service and he reported to Wilmington and began his service in the Army of the Confederate States of America.

His unit became part of the 8th North Carolina Regiment which soon became the 18th Regiment responsible for protecting the coasts of North and South Carolina. Because of his ability to inspire his fellow soldiers, he was elected as captain of his company. (At that time, junior officers were elected by their peers).
Up The Ranks

Capt. Purdie was quickly promoted and achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel in April of 1862. He then went with the 18th Regiment to Virginia in May, 1862 and became part of Gen. Jackson's "Foot Cavalry." He served with Gen Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign and became part of the Seven Days Campaign.

He also served at Antietam, Second Manassas and then Sharpsburg. Lt. Col. Purdie was promoted to colonel. At that time, it is believed he sent his junior officer uniform home to Purdie Hall, the uniform given to the Averasboro Battlefield Commission.

On the night of May 2, 1863, during the Battle of Chancellorsville, Col. Purdie gave the order to open fire and his troops mistakenly shot Gen. Jackson thinking he was a Union officer leading a charge. The soldiers were ordered to stop firing, but it was too late, Gen. Jackson was shot twice. Not able to recover from his two wounds, Gen Jackson died eight days later on May 10, 1863.

Col Purdie commanded the 18th NC Regiment. Maj John D Barry was his senior field grade at the time. Purdie had also decided to go forward at the same time to check his front.

Though the Federal flank had been routed, the fight continued. On 3 May, the Eighteenth received orders to advance. The Federals fortified their position overnight and masses twenty-eight pieces of artillery directly in the front of the advancing Eighteenth. After capturing one line of Federal works, the Eighteenth halted and the Federals flanked them with artillery and heavy musket fire. It was during this action that Colonel Purdie received a shot through the head and died on the spot.

First Sergeant Evander Robeson accompanied Colonel Purdie's remains to Wilmington , North Carolina ; then, up the Cape Fear River on the steamer A.P. Hurt to the colonel's home (Fig. 5) in Bladen County , near Tarheel. The family buried Colonel Purdie in the family cemetery on the same day General Jackson died, 10 May 1863. Mrs. Elizabeth Ellis Robeson penned the following in her diary: (May 1863) "7th – I hear today that Col. Purdie was killed in battle last Sunday, 3rd of May. I spent the day with Mrs. Purdie, she is in great trouble. I deeply sympathize with their family. 9th – The Col 's remains were brought up on the Hurt and were interred on Sunday the 10th – A large congregation attended.
 

 

Burial:
Purdie Family Cemetery
Tar Heel
Bladen County
North Carolina, USA

The Purdie - Richardson Connection

A RIVER PLANTATION

Posted: Sunday, December 4, 1988 12:00 am

LUCILE JOHNSON

Sunday, December 4, 1988

and places of the past appear monthly in the Observer-Times.

 

TAR HEEL

The early American Georgian-style plantation house that stands on the west bank of the Cape Fear River on Highway 87 is known as the "Purdie Place," sometimes called "Purdie Hall." Today it is the home of Sandra and Jack Mitchell.

The Purdie name comes from the family associated with the house and land on which it stands for two centuries.

It was in 1727 that George III granted the land to Hugh Purdie, a native of England who for some time after his arrival in North Carolina made his home in Wilmington, where he met Elizabeth O'Neill, widow of Ralph Burgnion. They were married and became the parents of a son, James Samuel. Before Hugh could establish a home on the land grant, he developed yellow fever and died.

In 1760 Col. James Richardson, native of Stonington, Conn., who operated a shipping line to England and the West Indies, was shipwrecked off the coast of North Carolina near Cape Hatteras. He met Elizabeth Purdie, and in time they were married. He purchased 12,000 acres of land on the east coast of the Cape Fear River, not far from the land grand belonging to the Purdie family. Here he built a house for Elizabeth, today known as "Harmony Hall." That house, where Cornwallis maintained an office during the Revolutionary War, is today being restored.

 

Perhaps James Samuel Purdie stayed at Harmony Hall with his mother and Col. Richardson or built what is today the wing of Purdie Place, where he lived while building the plantation house. The generally accepted date of construction is 1809, according to Mitchell.

A deed for a piece of property was recorded in New Hanover County by James Samuel Purdie and his wife, Sarah, in 1772. James had married Sarah Bailiey, daughter of James and Elizabeth Bailey of Wilmington. Following the death of her husband, Elizabeth Bailey removed to Bladen County.

 

James Samuel Purdie served as sheriff of Bladen County at one period.  Following the death of Sarah, James married Mary Jane Smith, daughter of Thomas Smith and granddaughter of John Smith of Bladen County.

 

The will of James was recorded Dec. 13, 1817. In it he mentions that "a commodious dwelling house, 18x30 feet, single story," was to be erected for use and convenience of his wife, who was pregnant with his child. Children mentioned in the will were James Bailey Purdie and Elizabeth Purdie Brown.

 

Helen Jane Purdie, born after the death of her father, married Dr. Heman Harwood Robinson, M.D., a native of Bennington, Vt., a relative of Dr. Benjamin Robinson of Fayetteville and ancestor of the late Mrs. J. Bayard Clark of Fayetteville.  James Bailey Purdie married Ann Mariah Smith, and they were the parents of John Wesley Purdie, Thomas James Purdie, Sarah Ann Purdie and Elizabeth Jane Purdie. John Wesley Purdie became a state senator in the 14th district in 1867. He married Frances Robeson, daughter of John Alexander Robeson and granddaughter of Col. Thomas Robeson, for whom Robeson County was named.

 

John and Frances Purdie were the parents of John Alexander Purdie, and for several generations there was a John or James Alexander Purdie. Today John Alexander Purdie and his wife, Celia Grantham Purdie, reside in Fayetteville, and they are the parents of two sons, Alan of Fayetteville and John Alexander of Charlotte.

 

John Wesley Purdie's second wife was Sarah Smith, daughter of Farquhard Smith and Sally Grady Smith, and they were the parents of several children, among them Thomas James Purdie, born 1872 and recognized "as a pioneer in agricultural progress," according to John Oates' "Story of Fayetteville." "For many years he carried on extensive operations in Bladen and Cumberland County. He maintained a keen interest in all farm activities until his death in 1937."

 

He married Callie McKethan, daughter of A.A. McKethan Jr., and their daughter, Catherine "Kitty" Purdie, lives in Fayetteville today.

Thomas James Purdie, the son of James Bailey and Ann Mariah Purdie, left an admirable military record. He joined the Bladen Guards as a private and became a colonel, commanding North Carolina troops. Killed at the Battle of Chancellorsville, May 3, 1863, at the age of 32, he is buried in the family cemetery at Purdie Place.

 

The Purdie plantation remained in the Purdie family until 1945, when it was sold to Sidney Bedsole, a neighbor. He lived in the old plantation home for 20 years before selling the house and six acres of land Dr. Lloyd Pate, M.D., of Fairmont around 1968. Soon Dr. Pate transferred the property to Sandra and Jack Mitchell, also of Fairmont.

 

The Mitchells immediately began restoration of this historic plantation house to which they have added modern conveniences.

In a paperback book titled "Colonial Homes in North Carolina" by John V. Allcott, professsor in the art department of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is found a small sketch of Purdie Hall and a brief comment on the porches: "If one big porch is considered desirable, two or four are better; two-tiered porches often are found on great mansions and plantation houses. Such porches were also a feature of inns, providing ample sheltered space for guests and their friends."  Jack Mitchell, a former art student of Dr. Allcott at UNC, describes his home as a plantation house with porches where the planter could give orders and directions to those helping with the farm operations.

 

Though not a mansion, is it a well-built, four-story brick house with double porches on the front and back and a full basement.

The brick, some ballast and some handmade on the place no doubt, are laid in Flemish bond design. The roof is of handmade shakes. A watch tower and porches allowed the viewing of ships and steamers on the river.  Sixteen-inch walls separate the nine rooms. The outdoor kitchen is now joined to the main house. Wood pegs and rose-headed nails were used in construction. Heart pine is found throughout the house with added features of walnut. Casement window frames hold windows with early glass panes revealing bubbles and names scribbled thereon.

 

The staircases are an interesting feature. In the beginning there was an outside staircase at the back leading to the second floor. In 1850, a staircase built of pine but with a walnut hand rail was placed in the central hall, leading to the bedrooms on the second floor. A staircase was built from that floor to the attic watch tower.  Fireplaces are in every room, and the mantels are of pine except two. The living room mantel is walnut and Federal in design with Ionic colums. The walnut mantel in the library was made from a tree that grew on the plantation. The chimneys are enclosed.  Double doors are found at both the front and back entrances. A single entrance door located on the side back leads to a small room thought to have been the planter's office.

Wainscoting is found in the living room, and windows are recessed.

In the springtime the hillside back of the house is covered with daffodils down to the woods. Mitchell has added some 50 acres of land to encourage the growth of trees.

A former teacher in the Fayetteville city schools, Mitchell is an artist and businessman who appreciates architecture and natural plant life.

Staff Photos by DICK BLOUNT