Author of Civil War book to speak at library Sept. 24

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Author Jack Travis will speak in the Stanback Auditorium of the Rowan Public Library at 7 p.m Sept. 24 on his book, “Men of God, Angels of Death ó The History of the Rowan Artillery.”
The lecture is sponsored by the Robert F. Hoke Chapter No. 78 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and is free and open to the public.
Books will be available for purchase. The author will autograph copies from 6-7 p.m. and immediately after the conclusion of his talk.
Travis’ lecture in Salisbury will be the second on his tour. He will speak this Saturday in Wilmington.
A veteran artillery re-enactor, Travis is originally from North Carolina and now resides in Florida. His 232-page book is a history of the Rowan Artillery, a local unit which served with the Army of Northern Virginia during the War Between the States.
The book covers the Rowan Artillery’s service from its beginning in 1858 as a State Militia unit organized in Salisbury through its war years as Co. D, 10th Regiment NCST (First N.C. Artillery).
On May 23, 1861, the Rowan Artillery received orders from the N.C. Adjutant General to report for duty at Weldon. Gov. John W. Ellis of Salisbury placed the unit under the command of Capt. James Reilly, an Irish Catholic who had fought in the Mexican War and the Seminole Indian Wars.
Reilly was later stationed in the Wilmington area and, at the outbreak of the Civil War, he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army and offered his services to North Carolina.
Reilly’s 1st lieutenant in the Rowan Artillery, which by custom would become known as Reilly’s Battery, was John Andrew Ramsay, a Presbyterian who had previously served as the unit’s captain from its inception. The two men, despite differing religions, personality traits and backgrounds, joined efforts to develop a unit of distinction.
Reilly’s Battery saw action in 1862 in battles at Gaines Mill, White Oak Swamp and Malvern Hill followed by Second Manassas, South Mountain, Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg. In April 1863, the battery was sent back to North Carolina to assist at the siege of Washington but later would participate at Gettysburg.
Capt. Reilly was promoted to major Sept. 7, 1863, and was transferred to Wilmington in April 1864, where he would later take part in the Battle of Fort Fisher.
John Ramsay was promoted to captain of the Rowan Artillery, which then became known as Ramsay’s Battery. The unit fought at the Wilderness and during the siege of Petersburg. On Feb. 1, 1865, Ramsay received a furlough due to a recurring medical problem and returned to Salisbury where he would remain. His unit would surrender with General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox April 9, 1865.
Maj. James Reilly, who was captured at Fort Fisher and imprisoned at Fort Delaware, returned to Wilmington to live after the war. He died in Wilmington on Nov. 7, 1894, at age 71 and is buried in the city’s Oakdale Cemetery.
Capt. John Andrew Ramsay was elected mayor of Salisbury in 1879, 1880 and 1883. In 1896, he was elected state senator. In addition to his political career he had a surveying and engineering business. He was an elder at the First Presbyterian Church and played the tuba in the Salisbury Brass Band. Ramsay died on Jan. 27, 1909, at age 72 and is buried in Chestnut Hill Cemetery.
The Robert F. Hoke Chapter No. 78 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy participated in a memorial service arranged by Travis for Ramsay in 1998. The Hoke Chapter was formed in 1896 and was able to have Ramsay, among other Confederate veterans, to speak at its meetings.
Over the years, a number of relatives have joined the Daughters and the Children of the Confederacy based on his military service.