Colonel William Parham's

Frock Coat


Description and Photograph





     William Allen Parham, a leading planter in Sussex County, Virginia, had been in the U.S. Army and thus had previous military experience.  When war on Virginia was imminent, the now Captain William Allen Parham, organized the Sussex Riflemen, which would eventually become Company A, 41st Virginia Infantry.   Parham was elected Lieutenant Colonel of the 41st Virginia on May 3, 1862. Just before the battle of Williamsburg the 41st removed to Petersburg and did not see action until the morning of June 1st where at the battle of Seven Pines, the 41st fought gallantly and paid dearly for it.  After a lackluster performance at Glendale, the 41st was hurled against Malvern Hill.  All for naught; when darkness fell Mahone’s Brigade held the line of battle 50 yards from the Yankee line.  The 41st had the highest casualties in Mahone’s Brigade, among them Lieutenant Colonel Parham.  For his services, Parham was promoted to full Colonel of the regiment the following month while recuperating from his wound.  Colonel Parham led the 41st at Second Manassas where he faced parts of Reno’s Corps on Henry House Hill. 

     Now on the march to Sharpsburg, Parham was "known to be 'a glorious, brave man, a good fellow and the best curser when he chose'".  As senior Colonel, he took command of Mahone’s Brigade because Mahone was wounded at Second Manassas.  Even before reaching Sharpsburg, the Brigade under Parham was fighting doggedly.  Gen. Stuart described Parham's role at Crampton's Gap on September 14th in his official report:

"Colonel Parham, commanding Mahone's brigade, soon after arrived with the Sixth and Twelfth Virginia Infantry, scarcely numbering in all 300 men, and this small force for at least three hours maintained their position and held the enemy in check without assistance of any description from General Semmes, who (Colonel Munford reports) held the next gap below and witnessed all that took place. General Cobb finally came with two regiments to the support of the force holding the gap. At his request Colonel Munford posted the new regiment, when the infantry which had been engaged, having exhausted their ammunition, fell back from their position. The enemy took advantage of this circumstance and suddenly advanced, and the fresh regiments broke before they were well in position. General Cobb made great efforts to rally them, but without the least effect, and it was evident that the gap could no longer be held ..."

     Parham, now serving as Brigadier, was wounded again at the battle of Sharpsburg.  Here he commanded Mahone’s Brigade, consisting of the 6th, 12th, 16th, 41st, and 61st Virginia.  Arriving on the battlefield at 9 AM the morning of the battle he filed his men into the sunken road where they fought off successive attacks all morning.  When it was over, there were only 15 men present for duty.

     By the time of the battle of Fredericksburg Mahone was back and Colonel Parham was again in command of the 41st.  At Fredericksburg the 41st only faced minor attacks and had few casualties.
     Parham still suffered from his earlier wounds, but continued in command of his Regiment at the battles of Chancellorsville where on May 1st Yankee cavalrymen moved through the underbrush, their footfalls muffled by rain and matted leaves.  Confederate pickets peered into the forest, waiting for something to happen.  Suddenly, Federals surged out of the bushes.  A quick exchange of fire rent the air, and then, “utter silence”.  Confederate Brigadier General William Mahone “was puzzled to understand this,” and sent an orderly to investigate.  The mounted soldier ventured into the woods without spotting friend or foe.  Upon returning to Mahone, the general “made some impatient exclamation” that caught the ear of Colonel Allen Parham, of the 41st Virginia Infantry.  The Colonel dashed into the woods to reevaluate the picket line.  He had barely entered the trees when he was greeted with a volley from the Federal cavalry.  The Colonel miraculously avoided being hit, but his horse bolted, almost leaving the rider behind.  At the same time, a low tree limb swept Parham’s kepi from his head.  Galloping up to General Mahone, Parham unleashed a slew of curses on “the ______ Yankees”.  According to General Mahone, Colonel Parham was everywhere, though less arduous, (due to wounds) well and bravely performed.  The 41st advanced to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and then fought at Gettysburg, Bristoe, and Mine Run.  He was still listed in command as of August 1864, but was assigned duties as Provost Marshall at Richmond in October and as commandant of a post at Hicksford, Va 30 November.  He had returned to command of his Regiment by the end of January 1865, but was retired to the invalid corps and put in charge at Weldon, NC.  He retired March 31st officially, but he continued to serve and he surrendered at Raleigh, North Carolina on May 29, 1865.  He returned to his wife’s home in Warrenton, North Carolina, where he died on or about July 1, 1866 from his wounds.

     So well respected was the Colonel, the New York Times on July 7, 1866 wrote:

“We regret to hear of the death of this brave soldier and worthy gentleman on Monday last, at Warrenton, N. C.  Col. PARHAM entered the service as Lieutenant of the Sussex Sharpshooters subsequently Company A, of the Forty first Virginia Infantry.  Having been ordered to Norfolk he was soon assigned to duty as Provost Marshall of that city, and discharged the duties of that post with conspicuous effectiveness, moderation and good sense.  At the reorganization of the army in May, he was elected Lieutenant Colonel of that regiment, the lamented Chambliss being Colonel.  In this capacity he served in the McClellan campaign around Richmond.  Receiving at Malvern Hill a terrible wound in his right side, which, for a long time it was thought would prove fatal.  Shortly after this engagement he was promoted to the Colonelcy, in consequence of the transfer of Col. Chambliss to the Thirteenth Virginia Cavalry, and returning to his command immediately before the battle of Second Manassas.  He participated in that fight and in all the marches and battles of the campaign to Sharpsburg, where he was again slightly wounded.  In the gallant defense of Crampton Gap, where for several hours a few hundred Confederates barred the passage of twenty times their number, Col. Parham commanded Mahone's Brigade, Gen. M. being absent wounded.  Suffering still from the wound of Malvern Hill, Col. Parham was compelled to return home for the Winter, but at the breaking out of hostilities in the Spring, was again at his post, participating in the great victory of Chancellorsville.  But it was now apparent that his restoration to perfect health was hopeless, and he was assigned to duty at Weldon as Provost Marshall and given command of the line of the Blackwater, in which position he continued until the surrender.  Since that time he had been variously employed, but his health had never recovered, and his death was distinctly traceable to the ball that shattered his side on the 1st of July 1862.  He was a generous, brave, high spirited gentleman, a good citizen, a faithful soldier, and an honest man.  Peace to his ashes.”

     The Colonel’s cadet grey, double breasted, frock coat remains in wonderful condition.  Of the 14 Virginia staff officer’s buttons adorning the front, 13 are Scoville & Co, Waterbury and are original to the coat.  One is a Horstmann, Philadelphia and is a replacement.  The tails are also adorned with four Virginia staff buttons, two of which are the original Scoville and two are replacement Scovilles.  The coat has two hidden interior pockets in the tails.  All six eagle staff cuff buttons are original to the coat.  The sleeves are beautifully adorned with the strands of gold braid, correct for a Confederate Colonel.  The standing collar carries six, six pointed stars made of gold sequins, affixed to gold braid, overlaid over black cloth, which make a very attractive star.  A very interesting feature is the coat’s lining; it is lined with a drapery material.

     The coat has some wear, some light mothing and one significant hole about the size of a nickel in the rear of the shoulder.  This is shown in the accompanying photographs.  The liner is virtually perfect.  Except for the aforementioned buttons, the coat is completely original.  This coat was purchased from the Steve Mullinax collection some years ago.  Steve had purchased it originally with the identification.

     This is the exact same frock coat shown on page 266 of Collecting the Confederacy.

     An identified, Colonel’s Frock coat who was not a back bencher, but a hard fought Colonel in the Army of Northern Virginia, was so respected that for a time he commanded Mahone’s Brigade, and to top it off, in beautiful condition.  




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