It is a simple monument, a medium sized block of pink granite with a bronze plaque on its angled face. It is not as eye catching as the monument across the road, that to the Iron Brigade’s 24th Michigan Infantry, but this monument has several layers of meaning.
First, the (literal) cost of war. The Confederacy was financially devastated after the war and most veterans units could not place monuments on the battlefields. Only two Confederate regimental monuments at Gettysburg were placed by veterans. The third Confederate regimental monument to be placed was this one to the 26th North Carolina dedicated in 1985 through the efforts of the North Carolina Historical Commission and the state Department of Cultural Resources.
Second, this simple monument represents the loss of war. The battle in their portion of the line was fierce, fighting through the woods against the famed Iron Brigade. The unit lost 14 color bearers in the progression of the battle and the unit’s commander, Colonel Henry King Burgwyn, Jr., was killed. Burgwyn, known as the “Boy Colonel,” himself is a special story—he was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 26th North Carolina at the age of nineteen in August 1861 after a personal recommendation from Thomas J. Jackson, then a VMI professor. By the time of his death at age twenty-one he had been commanding the regiment for almost two years. His unit was practically destroyed at Gettysburg. During the first day the 26th North Carolina lost 588 men out of 800, in Pickett’s Charge they lost another 120 men. Only three officers and 67 men answered roll call on the night of July 3rd. The Hibriten Guards, Company F, lost all ninety-one of its men, suffering a 100 percent loss. Three sets of twins fought in the regiment’s final company; by the end of July 1st five of the six were dead. The 26th North Carolina lost more men than any other unit at the Battle of Gettysburg, either Union or Confederate.
The simplicity of the monument does not adequately convey the horrible loss suffered by the 26th North Carolina at Gettysburg, but then again, can any monument truly do that?