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NAME: John Campbell Van Hook

DATES: 1831-1910

ALLEGIANCE: Confederate

HIGHEST RANK: Lieutenant colonel according to records; colonel according to family

UNIT: Company A, 50th Regiment, North Carolina Infantry

SERVICE RECORD: Captain of Company A, 50th Regiment. Promoted to major on December 1, 1862, and transferred to the field. Promoted to lieutenant colonel on November 10, 1863. According to family legend, promoted to colonel in 1864.

John Campbell Van Hook was born in North Carolina on July 10, 1831, where he farmed prior to enlisting at age 31. He served as the captain in command of a militia company in the Van Hook district of Person County. The company met for drill at Paynes Tavern before the War Between the States began. Van Hook had previously served as first lieutenant in the 44th Regiment, North Carolina Militia.

The 50th North Carolina Regiment was organized on April 15, 1862, at Camp Mangum, near Raleigh, and Captain Van Hook was put in charge of Company A. He brought with him the largest volunteer company from Person County. Van Hook was promoted to major on December 1, 1862, and to lieutenant colonel on November 10, 1863.

The regiment served in Virginia from June to December 1862, primarily around Drewry’s Bluff. They returned to North Carolina in January 1863 and remained there until late in 1864, serving in the eastern part of the state. Family legend has it that John was promoted to colonel in 1864. In November 1864, the 50th was moved to Georgia to help stop the rampaging armies of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, and returned to their home state in early 1865. They faced Sherman’s men again in their last action of the war, the Battle of Bentonville, as part of a hastily assembled army under General Joseph E. Johnston in March 1865.

Colonel Van Hook, as he was known during the latter part of his life, was a Royal Arch Mason. For 60 years he was also a member of Mount Zion Methodist Church, where he served as a steward and Sunday school teacher.

An account of his final days was published in the Roxboro Courier of June 20, 1910. The article stated that only a few days before publication Colonel Van Hook had been reported as dead, but it was a mistake. His residence had been partially destroyed by fire, and it was supposed that the shock was too much for him. (He had apparently been suffering from heart trouble for some time.) He ultimately died on a Monday morning and was buried with Masonic honors at the family burial ground.

At the time of his death Van Hook was one of the oldest citizens of the county, and he was reportedly well respected by all who knew him. Known as a brave Confederate soldier, he loved to talk about those momentous days and his experiences during the trying years of war.


Originally published in the October 2006 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.