James Harvey Merrimon is my great (x3) grandfather through my paternal grandmother, and until a few months ago, he was just another name on the family tree. That is when my Aunt Dabney, keeper of the family archives, discovered a photocopied page from an old journal. The page included a photograph of a portrait that hangs on the wall of the Superior Courtroom of the Buncombe County Courthouse (in North Carolina) and little note about Merrimon, including the line “When the Civil War broke out, Merrimon enlisted as an adjutant in a Confederate Army cavalry brigade.” I was off!
First, I wondered if I could obtain a better picture of the man. As you can see above, the one I’ve got has been reproduced a few too many times, until Merrimon has become a sort of ghostly figure. I don’t know if the portrait still hangs in the courthouse, but I figure it must still exist somewhere. I did a little searching on the web, but have been unable to come up with an email address of anyone useful. There are a couple of mailing addresses, but considering my current distance from North Carolina, I decided to leave it for the moment and concentrate on finding out more about his war record. This proved more successful.
James H. Merrimon volunteered with the 7th North Carolina Cavalry Battalion formed in 1862, as the adjutant for Company F. The unit served in the Department of East Tennessee, and was first bloodied during the skirmish at Monticello, KY in 1863. Soon afterward, the unit combined with the 5th North Carolina Cavalry Battalion into the 6th North Carolina Cavalry Regiment (which confusingly is also sometimes called the 65th N.C. regiment). While this unit participated in a number of battles, including Chickamauga, its casualty figures suggest that it was never heavily engaged. The unit’s last listed battle is Kinston, NC (Wyse Forks) in March of 1865. Most likely the unit surrendered along with Joseph E. Johnston, though I haven’t been able to find confirmation of this.
Obviously the 7th Battalion and 6th Regiment of N.C. Cavalry were minor units, and I am doubtful that anyone has done a regimental history of the unit. Still, I will keep my eyes open for any information I can find. More interesting than Merrimon’s unit though, is his position. I must admit, I didn’t realize that companies had adjutants. I’m left wondering, was Merrimon a full-time clerk, or was he a soldier with added administrative duties? These are the kinds of questions whose answers are often difficult to obtain. Still, identifying the question is the first step to finding the answer.