|Description and Photograph||
The history associated with the uniform starts generations before it was made. For our purposes here, we will begin with Captain Fielden Hale of Franklin County, Virginia. Captain Hale fought at Kings Mountain and Guilford Courthouse during the American Revolution. He was a contemporary of Nathan Hale of “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country" fame. Whether he was related to the hero I do not know. He raised six sons, all of whom fought in the War of 1812, at least one of which did not return. His son, Captain Louis Hale, Sr. and his wife settled on what was probably a land bounty in Elk Creek, Virginia in what is now Grayson County. In the following years of peace and plenty Elizabeth Bourne Hale bore a son who was prophetically named Peyton Nathan Hale, after the famous Hale of the Revolution. But, as if by a familial curse, this Hale was to die a no less heroic death for his country in the Second War for Independence, than his namesake had in the First.
By 1861 the Hale family was one of the most prominent in their section of Virginia, and when 35 year old Peyton called for volunteers to defend Virginia from invasion, the response was overwhelming. That section of Virginia had been settled by Revolutionary War veterans, and their offspring proved worthy of their sires. So many men volunteered that a shooting match was devised to once again sift the men; it was sort of an early version of Special Forces. The men were required to shoot at a target 100 yards away while at a dead run, the best one hundred shots were selected to be members of the “Grayson Dare Devils”. The men enlisted on April 24, 1861 with Nathan Peyton Hale, Jr. as Captain.
Almost immediately the men left for Richmond. They made such a striking appearance that newspapers from Ohio to Texas carried an account of their travels. This allows us to track their movements very closely. The May 4th edition of the Macon Telegraph writes:
”The Richmond Whig publishes the following extract from a letter received by a gentleman from Lynchburg. With Whig, we share in the mortification expressed by the writer. “We were all much mortified today at the return of the Grayson Dare Devils- they numbered 100 precicely, all picked and unfailing rifle shots, and the finest looking body of men I ever saw. The services of such me ought never be rejected. I am told they shed tears at the Junction, (Manassas) when met with a dispatch ordering them to return. The state could not furnish them with arms; they were willing to fight to get them if they had to do it with rocks. Without intending to disparage any, I must say I never before saw, in one body, of more efficient looking men for war purposes, and I am very much mistaken if they cannot whip any four hundred Yankees that could be sent against them.”
Following this timeline, the men enlisted on April 24th and had already been to Manassas before being turned back towards home, prior to May 5th. This did not deter them long; they quickly armed themselves and returned to the front within a month. The June 5th edition of the Dallas (Texas) Weekly Herald, quoting the New York Day Book, described the “Famous Grayson Dare Devils” thus:
The “Grayson Dare Devils”, a company of mountaniers, all six feet high and terrible marksmen came in on Friday. These hardy and reckless backwoodsmen are pituresqeuly attired in blue shirts, red caps and black pants. Each man carries his own rifle and bowie knife, both of which he has used since boyhood. They are the same creatures I wrote you about long ago, who, while at rifle practice shoot at when running. They look with undisguised contempt on an individual who is obliged to stand still in order to bore the bull’s eye.
The Dare Devils were armed and ready for service, but notice that in this early June article the men are described as being uniformed in their own unique way. A few days later, during the same month, June 1861, Confederate uniform regulations calling for a “light grey blouse, double breasted, with two rows of small buttons, seven in each row, and a small turn-over collar” Also for grey forage caps “similar in form to those known as the French Kepi” were issued.
Having armed themselves to the teeth they now found that their uniforms did not follow the newly issued Confederate regulations. They wasted no time in correcting this; also notice that the uniform Captain Hale was wearing on July 21, 1861 follows the regulations very closely, especially closely when you consider that the uniform drawings we are familiar with today were not yet in existence. And it was not only Captain Hale’s uniform, photographs of at least two other Dare Devils exist and they wear the same style frock and pants with a stripe down the legs. So it is reasonable to assume the entire company was attired thus. Rather than being militia uniform this is in fact an early Confederate Regulation enlistedman’s uniform.
The Grayson men assembled in Winchester, Virginia with men from the counties of Wythe, Montgomery, Pulaski, Smyth, Grayson, and Rockbridge and became the 4th Virginia Infantry. The Fourth was brigaded with the 2nd, 5th, 27th and 33rd Virginia under Thomas Jonathan Jackson.
The men of the Grayson Dare Devils had worked tirelessly in order to get to the front and prove themselves worthy of their sires. Their diligence placed them at a point in history to secure their fame forever. The scene was recorded by many, but here I quote excerpts from J.B. Caddall’s memoir of the 4th Virginia Infantry entitled:
THE ORIGINAL REBEL YELL
Editor of The Times-Dispatch:
SIR,–In forming his line of battle at first Manassas Jackson placed the 4th Virginia Infantry, under Colonel James F. Preston, in rear of his artillery as an immediate support, and the 27th Virginia Infantry, under Lieutenant-Colonel John Echols, in close order directly behind the 4th. The two regiments, except without the line of the 4th, were larger than the 29th, on account of its larger numbers, appeared as one body, four ranks deep. To the left of those two regiments, and almost at a right angle, was the 5th Virginia, under Colonel Kenton Harper, and to their left in the woods, were the 2d Virginia, under Colonel James W. Allen (who was afterwards killed at Gaines’ Mill) and then the 33d Virginia, under Colonel Arthur Cummings, constituted the left flank of the brigade.
At about 3 o’clock the enemy had pushed forward a strong column of infantry and artillery, and had arrived in close proximity of Jackson’s left flank near the Henry House. At this time the men of the 4th Regiment were lying flat on their faces on the ground in the rear of the battery to escape the heavy artillery fire of the enemy.
When the critical juncture came, Jackson galloped to the right of the Fourth Virginia, called for Colonel Preston, told him in a few sharp words to “order the men behind, up,” and to “charge and drive them to Washington!” We were called to attention and ordered forward on the double-quick, and on an oblique move to the left over a stake and brush fence, through a skirt of pines and subject to a heavy fire of musketry. In a very few minutes we were in close contact with the ranks of the enemy of which a very conspicuous body was a Zouave Regiment from New York, with highly decorated uniforms, consisting of loosely fitting red breeches, blue blouses, with Turkish tassel as headgear.
Jackson’s men rushed at them, with fixed bayonets, every man yelling at the top of his voice. Here was the origin of the “Rebel yell,” which afterwards became so conspicuous in later battles of the Army of Northern Virginia. The men fired as rapidly as they could load their old smooth-bore muskets, and in a few minutes the Confederates were in full possession of that part of the field, and a fine battery of field artillery, Ricketts, which was in position near the Henry House, was captured.
During the charge the flagstaff was shot in two, the color-bearer immediately repairing the damage by lashing a bayonet over the break and proceeded with the regiment in the charge.
The charge of Jackson’s brigade on that day turned the tide of battle, which to that time had seemed against the Confederates, and in a short time there was not to be seen an organized body of Federals south of Bull Run, but their forces were in rapid retreat toward Washington.
The cost had been high; many brave boys fell to rise no more, among the fallen was the brave captain of the Grayson Dare Devils, Peyton Nathan Hale. Hale’s uniform coat is extremely heavy and hot; it had been laid aside that hot July day and so was not injured by the blow that took his life. His wound was on his right side as determined by the blood which ran down and through his trousers’ waist band. Captain Hale had gone to battle in a plain enlistedman’s uniform, while at home loved ones had made a new Captain’s uniform for him. He was lovingly dressed in his new uniform and laid to rest at home in Grayson County in the Summerfield United Methodist Church’s cemetery.
Captain Hale had stepped bravely into his ancestor’s and his namesake’s shoes and had filled them ably.
Captain Hale’s uniform was made by a skilled tailor or seamstress as evidenced by the boot cut hem and the use of a selvedge edge to make the stripes incorporated in the trousers. His coat has false pocket flaps on the hips and genuine pockets in the tails. All of the buttons are two piece, brass with a central star. While studying the coat I found remnants of tobacco in the pocket. The cap has a large, brass four affixed to the crown with wire hooks. The remnants of a makers label is affixed to the inside top of the cap, indicating that it was commercially made
The coat, cap, nor trousers have had any restoration whatsoever. The condition remains stellar; the uniform was obviously treasured and cared for by Hale’s family. It has an unbroken chain of provenance from the family until now and comes with notarized supporting documentation.