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  • Writer's pictureGordon Thorsby

The Eight Sams United at Bentonville on March 19,1865

by Gordon Thorsby

Major H.H. Sams in the possession of Ting (Sams) Colquhoun of Beaufort, SC

"As soon as he [General Elliott] returned to us, we heard his voice in loud tones: ‘Forward’ …In approaching their artillery, about half of our regiment on the right had come into the open, in a field where there was nothing to conceal or protect them. Our men fell rapidly, killed and wounded, until soon forced to withdraw from the old field. The enemy’s guns, cannon and rifles, were immediately turned on our left wing, and soon, under what seemed a tremendous concentrated fire upon us, orders were given to fall back to a reformed line in the woods to our rear."

Rhett’s brigade was just behind Elliott's battle line the order was given to move forward. With that, the brigade stepped out into the open into “a raging leaden hailstorm of grape and canister [that] literally barked the trees, cutting off the limbs as if cut by hand.” …in the battle of Gettysburg there was no place] as hot as that place.” (Described by a Carolina sergeant.) This is what at least eight of the nine Sams relatives experienced March 19, 1865.

If anyone studies family ancestors in the South, it requires little time to see that just about every able man… and some not so able, young and old, served in the Confederate military and many were casualties. The Sams were not unique. The Sams clan had at least two of generations where the offspring produced were large (i.e. twelve and fourteen children). Thus, there were a lot of Sams related from around Beaufort SC. The Sams were wealthy. They were Beaufort Islanders on the South Carolina Coast with several plantations, large tracts of land for cotton and slaves. At least nine served in the Confederate army. Three went to the South Carolina Military Academy, (today called The Citadel) and three died in 1865.

Joseph Edings Sams (1848-1865) was a cadet at the South Carolina Militar Academy (Citidel) when he joined his unit in Rhett’s Brigade when Johnston assembled and army at Greensboro in1865. History does not know exactly where Joseph fell mortally wounded on March 19, but for a boy of sixteen, anything close to what was described above was no place for someone of such a young age. He died at Smithfield, a few miles from the Bentonville battlefield on March 22, 1865. His mother forever mourned.

Sara Graham Sams (holding photo of Joseph)

Charles Clement Sams (called CC) (2/16/1837-5/22/1865) was the youngest of fourteen born to BB Sams. Several of the Sams men lost their land in 1862 with the Federal Occupation of Beaufort Island. CC was one of them and he joined the Confederacy to fight. Never healthy during his life, he was exposed to rampant disease. As a result, he was in and out

of the army often in the war. It is probable he was in Manigault’s Battalion of mostly militia in 1865. CC contracted Cholera at the end. While others started their journey home after the surrender, CC (grave right) lay dying alone in military Hospital #10 in Greensboro around May 15. His remains were sent to his brother Julius in Chester, SC. He is buried thirty yards from “the 53 unknowns” as recently written (see below link). He was 28 at the time of his death.

Horace Hann Sams (3/5/1829-5/6/65) was the oldest son of the fourteen. By the middle of 1864, he was a Major in the 11th South Carolina stationed near Beaufort. He was responsible for subsistence supervision for the Confederate States in South Carolina. The 11th was transferred to Virginia and the Siege at Petersburg where the regiment lost 60% at Weldon Railroad, Aug. 18-21, 1864. He found himself at Greensboro in March,1865 in Johnston’s Army. Here, Horace contracted Typhoid Fever there and Randolph Sams came to his aid while in the hospital. He died on May 6,1865, just days prior to CC's death at 36. Randolph was at his side.. His remains were sent to Norfolk where his wife’s family resided.

The three died within three months of one another but several other Sams survived.

Barnwell Stanyarne Sams (5/16/45-7/25/28) was in the 10th Battalion South Carolina Cavalry that became the 4th South Carolina Cavalry. It saw substantial fighting in the Overland Campaign in Virginia before returning to the Carolinas in Butler’s’ Cavalry Brigade at Greensboro.

James Verdier Sams (11/12/44-6/6/75) was in the Beaufort Artillery. The artillery was cannibalized into infantry and became part of Rhett’s Brigade participating at Bentonville.

Robert Randolph Sams (8/8/27-11/24/10) Uncle Randolph was also in Beaufort Artillery in

Charleston for most of the war until Hardee abandoned the City to unite in North Carolina. Robert (right) was with Horace at his death.

Calhoun Sams was a doctor and served as Surgeon or Assistant Surgeon on JEB Stuart’s staff in Richmond. He was officially Surgeon of the 1st South Cavalry.

Franklin Fripp Sams (2/24/24-11/6/85) was brother to Randolph and was a private and also in the Beaufort Artillery with Randolph, and James.

Lewis Reeve Sams (12/28/1838-5/5/1892) was with Horace in the 11th SC.

Sams members in the Beaufort Artillery were in Elliott’s Brigade at Bentonville and they were part of the described assault above. Information indicates that eight (Calhoun excluded) were in Greensboro and as many as seven may have been in the flank attack as described at the beginning of this article in Elliott's or Rhett's brigades.

Joseph’s resting place is unknown.

Note 1: (There appears to have been a naming tradition in the family several BB’s, CC, FF, HH, JJ, RR?)

Note 2: Dataw Island HS contends that J.E. Sams died at Smithfield Crossing in West Virginia. Evidence supports Smithfield, NC.


Bentonville by Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr., University of North Carolina Press. 1996. P140.

Sams, Conway Whittle – History of the Sams and Whittle Families, circa 1905, unpublished. Includes the remembrances of Elizabeth E. Sams, March 18, 1905 and Rev James Julius Sams.

The Sacred Ground Cemetery, Beaufort, South Carolina.

Dawtaw Hisatory Foundation Society,

Holden, Joel and Riski, Bill – Family Tree for Sams of Dataw Island, accessed March 16, 2020.

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