Confederate Commanding Officer’s Frock Coat of the “Bloody Sixth” North Carolina, actually battle worn and showing the effects of his severe wound at Antietam! This is the coat of Robert Fulton Webb 6th NCST.
Robert Fulton Webb organized the Flat River Guards in Orange County, NC, a year before the war broke out. Mustering into Confederate service in May, 1861, they became Co. B 6th North Carolina State Troops, later nicknamed “The Bloody Sixth.” The regiment truly earned the nickname… they suffered 59 killed and wounded at First Manassas, 79 at Seven Pines, 50 at Gaines Mill, 52 at Malvern Hill, 66 at Second Manassas, 103 at Antietam, 29 at Fredericksburg, and 173 at Gettysburg.
Leaving behind a wife and three small children, the 38 year-old Mexican War veteran officer quickly rose from Captain of the company to Major of the regiment on 7/11/61. At First Manassas in Bernard Bee’s brigade they took part in the fierce fighting on Henry House Hill and aided in taking Ricketts’ and Griffin’s Federal artillery batteries. One of Webb’s extant letters recounts the mortal wounding of a comrade standing beside him amidst the wreckage of the captured artillery.
During the Peninsular Campaign Webb saw action at Eltham’s Landing and Seven Pines, and in the Seven Days Fight, where he received official praise according to his compiled service record. Webb took command of the regiment at Gaines Mill after Col. Avery was wounded, and led it at Malvern Hill, Thoroughfare Gap and Second Manassas, and at Boonsboro in Law’s Brigade, Hood’s Division.
At Antietam, attached to Stonewall Jackson on the Confederate left, they took part in the carnage of the Miller cornfield north of Dunker Church. Called into action to face Hooker’s attack that had shattered the divisions of Lawton and Jones, Hood charged north into the cornfield at 7:00 a.m. and at points engaged Federals on three sides, breaking Hooker’s attack but losing almost 1,400 men in thirty minutes of fierce fighting he characterized as, “the most terrific clash of arms, by far, that has occurred during the war.” Asked where his division was after the fight, he famously replied, “dead on the field.”
Among Hood’s casualties was Major Webb, severely wounded in the left arm. This is the very coat he was wearing that bloody morning, the left sleeve hurriedly cut away below the shoulder to give the surgeons access to his wound. (CSA Major R. W. York speaking at Webb’s funeral in 1891 gave a eulogy mistakenly referring to Webb’s shattered right arm… It was Webb’s left arm that was shattered and the wealth of documentation accompanying this coat shows that, notwithstanding the fact that the coat itself is perfect mute testimony to the event.)
Webb’s wound fortunately did not require amputation, but kept him from active duty for almost six months. He returned to duty on 3/1/63 as Lt. Colonel (dating to 6/1/62) and served thereafter with his wounded arm in a sling. He took command of the regiment in Hoke’s Brigade, Early’s Division, during the Chancellorsville campaign in the fighting around Fredericksburg (“Second Fredericksburg” and “Hazel River”), and at Winchester in June while Col. Avery took the brigade. Taken sick after Winchester, Webb was hospitalized at Richmond during the Pennsylvania campaign, but returned to the regiment as Colonel on 7/15/63 with rank dating to 7/2/63 (sometimes given as 7/3/63), after the death of Col. Avery at Gettysburg.
Webb’s active service ended at Rappahannock Station. Posted in earthworks on the north bank of the river at one of only three bridge crossings, in an attempt to blunt Meade’s thrust south in November, 1863, the entire garrison was taken in a direct assault by the Fifth and Sixth Army Corps under Gen. Sedgwick. The “Bloody Sixth” suffered another twenty men killed and wounded, and over three hundred captured. Webb was reported to have been captured with one arm in a sling and the other grasping his sword.
Interned at Johnson’s Island until the end of the war, Webb kept a diary (only part of which survives in Clark’s summary history of the regiment) and included a history of the regiment in his letters to a family friend, A.W. Magnum, now in the UNC library. Released upon his oath of allegiance in July, 1865, Webb returned home and lived until 1891. He is also the subject of published biography by a descendant.
The coat has an impressive provenance, having come to the collector’s market in 1979 directly from the elderly grandson of a 6th NCST officer, Capt James Calder Turner, who had kept the battle scarred coat as a souvenir. The grandson’s letter to the first owner accompanies the coat. Also accompanying the coat is correspondence from Webb’s Gt. Gt. Grandson to the previous owner of the coat… containing a wealth of historical information. At the time Mr. Turner sold the coat (long before the internet existed) he believed that Major Webb had lost his arm and died while a POW or shortly after.The research done in the subsequent three decades has added much to the known history. The previous owner had promised to sell the coat to Webb’s Gt. Gt. Grandson when the time to sell arose. He made the offer to do so this year but the Webb family could not justify the monetary expenditure at this time. Hence, and to our good fortune, the coat is now available for purchase.
As for the coat itself, it is a highly appealing and 100% genuine Confederate officer’s frock coat made of coarse butternut wool in double breasted form and retaining the galloons on the remaining right sleeve. It is a classic frock coat for field wear as would be expected in 1861 and 1862. The left shoulder retains the very upper part of the sleeve showing its hasty cutting away to get access to Webb’s wounded arm. The left breast of the coat shows some areas of light color staining, a small amount of mothing, and some loss of surface nap which is undoubtedly the result of cleaning off the blood which was spattered there at Antietam. There is very little moth damage, just a smidgen here and there. There is the usual collar and skirt wear and some other minor scattered mothing, but very little of it and the coat is very solid. The coat retains its full lining which is of the classic 1860s quilted form. When brought to the market some 31 years ago the coat had no buttons. The previous owner has sewn some eagle staff officer’s buttons on for display purposes. The coat is constructed with two rows of seven button holes each. It can be surmised that the original buttons and collar rank insignia were salvaged by Webb to furnish his new coat for service in 1863. It would have been after Webb stripped the buttons and insignia that he gave the coat to Captain Turner. The coat still retains the three gold braid galloons on the right sleeve, indicating Webb’s rank of major at Antietam, where he last wore the coat.
This coat with the striking missing sleeve is an impressive monument to sacrifice for a lost cause. The impact it makes on display is powerful and dramatic. This coat presents a truly rare opportunity to acquire not only an identified, but a truly historic Confederate officer’s frock coat. It is not only the field-worn coat of regimental commander, but the coat in which he was wounded at one of the most famous battles of the Civil War. Included with the coat is a thick file of letters, research papers, and archives records compiled by the previous owner. Despite the significant cost of this coat, I hope you will agree that the price is realistic and fair.