Another installment of the “Tales From the Tombstone” series in conjunction with the 150th Anniversary of the Overland Campaign
Hailing from Halifax, North Carolina, miles from the Virginia-North Carolina border, Junius Daniel led a privileged life. Hailing from a distinguished family–maternal side from an old Virginia family and father from a wealthy and politically active North Carolina family–the young Junius was educated in the state capital, Raleigh.
As most young Southerners with a yearning for the military, he sought an appointment to West Point which he achieved by the top political persona, President James Polk himself, in 1846. Daniel, entering the following autumn, would graduate 33rd out of 42 in the West Point Class of 1851.
He would continue in the United States military through the south and west until the outbreak of the American Civil War, when he turned down a commission from the state of Louisiana–where he was serving at the time–and returned to his native North Carolina.
Elected as colonel of the 4th North Carolina, a one-year service regiment. In 1862 in command of a brigade his command was transferred to Virginia, where it served around Petersburg and Drewry’s Bluff. In September that year Daniel was promoted to brigadier general.
In the reshuffling after the Battle of Chancellorsville, Daniel’s Brigade was assigned to Robert Rodes’s Division of Richard Ewell’s Second Corps. The brigade suffered tremendously during the attacks on July 1, 1863 at Gettysburg.
At the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Daniel’s Brigade was positioned near where the Mule Shoe entrenchments started to reconnect with the rest of the Confederate entrenchments. In these lines with that of fellow Tar Heel, Stephen Ramseur’s Brigade to their right Daniel was mortally wounded when a Minie ball pierced his abdomen.
Removed to a field hospital, Daniel died the next day and was taken back to his hometown of Halifax.
In a fitting testimony to Daniel was given by fellow Tar Heel and officer in the Army of Northern Virginia;
“He was decidedly the best general officer from our state.”
Hefty praise considering all the generals that served the Confederacy that hailed from North Carolina!
Grimes candidly admitted that his own brigadier general star was probably gained at the expense of Daniel but honestly admitted “I would for the sake of the country always remained in the status quo than the country should have lost his services.” Grimes later named a son in the late-Daniel’s honor.
Yet, with the continued slaughter at Spotsylvania Daniel became another of Lee’s veteran brigade commanders passed from the scene. The list now included, John M. Jones, Leroy Stafford, Micah Jenkins, Abner Perrin, and now Junius Daniel.
The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was being bled dried from the top and bottom and the Overland Campaign, on May 12th, was just over a week old.