Elijah Wilson Flake was the son of William Cameron Flake and Martha Emaline Huntley. Elijah’s family had farmed the land for three generations in the southern piedmont region of Anson Co., North Carolina. His great-grandfather, Samuel Flake, established one of the first homesteads when the piedmont region was being settled in the middle 1700’s. Elijah was born on the 15th of January 1841, he was the fifth child of William and Martha. Six children were to follow giving the family eleven sons and daughters. Like many other families of the era two of the children died not long after birth. As Elijah approached the age of twenty he found himself in the middle of an approaching war. Recruitment had already started in Anson and the surrounding areas. Elijah’s brother John (Image 1) answered the call by enlisting in the 26th North Carolina on July 1, 1861. Elijah enlisted in the 14th North Carolina on Sept. 6, 1861, three months after his brother. Elijah’s chosen path would eventually lead him to his brother’s side participating in one of the greatest battles of the civil war. Before this could happen Elijah would have his first taste of battle in the newly constructed ironclad battleship the Merrimac. The 26th had just moved to Bogue Island, Elijah’s brother John found himself stationed near Fort Macon awaiting a possible invasion by the Union Navy.
Elijah followed a different path; a distant cousin named Charles E. Smith enlisted Elijah in the 14th at a confederate camp called Camp Bee. Camp Bee was named in honor of General Barnard Elliott Bee and located near Smithfield Virginia. Elijah had traveled from Anson Co. to Fort Bee enlisting on Sept. 6, 1861. Nearby in the shipyards of Norfolk the confederacy was hard at work building a new warship made of iron and wood. The ship would soon be christened the CSS Virginia but it was also known as the Merrimack, mistakenly spelled Merrimac. On Feb. 15, 1862, Elijah volunteered (Image 2), along with a fellow member of his regiment William Powers (Image 3), to join the nearly completed confederate steamer. In all, five members of the 14th would volunteer for duty on the C.S.S. Virginia. Elijah was assigned to a Lieutenant named John R. Eggleston. Elggleston was in charge of the two “Hot Shot” guns that would fire incendiary rounds into wooden ships attempting to set them on fire. The Virginia had little to fear after being covered in two layers of iron giving her a blanket of protection four inches thick. As the new crew of the Virginia prepared for battle, John Flake and the other members of the 26th were moved to New Bern North Carolina in order to defend against an impending attack by General Burnside. Elijah and John would soon find themselves engaged in two dramatically different battles located 129 miles apart in two different states.
When Elijah arrived in September the members of the 14th had settled into a routine of military drill and daily camp life. Captain Smith and the members of his company had just begun the process of building cabins for the winter and preparing for the worsening weather. Daily activities such as purchasing supplies (Image 4) and picket duty became routine.
More to come...
*I’ve place annotations on some of the images with more information.