Southern States of America
Chapter IV - North Carolina in
the Confederacy, 1861 - 1865
North Carolina Joins the
The question whether North
Carolina desired to call a convention to consider secession was submitted
by the legislature to the people in January, 1861. The vote on the
Referendum was held February 28, and resulted in a majority of 651 against
the call of the convention. But events marched rapidly. The failure of the
Peace Convention, to which the state sent, as her delegates, ex-Chief
Justice Thomas Ruffin, ex-Governors Morehead and Reid, Daniel M. Barringer
and George Davis, was followed in rapid succession by the firing on Fort
Sumter, the call of President Lincoln for troops and the secession of
Virginia. The issue had come to be not whether the state would secede, but
whether the people would fight on the side of their neighbors and kindred
of the South, or against them. On that issue there could be no division or
The legislature, called in
special session by the governor, met on May 1. In two hours after its
assembling it ordered another Referendum for May 17 on the question of
calling a convention, the convention to assemble, if voted, on May 20. The
convention was voted by a large majority. On its assembling May 20, the
convention, composed of many of the ablest men of the state, by a
unanimous vote repealed the act of November, 1789, by which North Carolina
had acceded to the Federal Union, and declared the state to be no longer
one of the United States. A subsequent resolution declared the accession
of the state to the Confederate States, by whose congress it was accepted
as a member a week later, on May 27.
Preparing for War.
But before the convention met, the state was
preparing for the war that had become inevitable. On April 15, Governor
Ellis had replied to the call of the United States authorities for two
regiments, "You can get no troops from North Carolina." The governor
immediately issued the call for the legislature to meet in session May 1,
and under his orders the state troops seized the forts on our coast and
the United States arsenal at Fayetteville on April 16. He also called for
volunteers, and formed a camp of instruction at Raleigh under Col. D. H.
Hill that the new troops might be trained and disciplined.
The. legislature, without waiting for the
assembling of the convention, directed the governor to enroll 20,000
volunteers for twelve months and 10,000 state troops for the war, the
former to elect their own officers. The officers of the state troops were
appointed by the governor. The legislature also voted $5,000,000 for the
public defense, and authorized the governor to send troops to Virginia to
aid in the defense of that state. The First Regiment N. C. Volunteers,
later known as the "Bethel" Regiment, was speedily organized with D. H.
Hill (later lieutenant-general) as its colonel, and proceeded to Virginia,
three companies arriving at Richmond May 18, and the other seven companies
on May 21. On June 10 this regiment was at the battle of Bethel. As
Virginia did not secede till May 17, and her troops were not turned over
to the Confederacy till June 7, for several days the North Carolina
soldiers were in Virginia simply as allies.
The enthusiasm was universal, and at the time
public sentiment was as unanimous for secession as the expression of the
convention had been.
James G. Martin, an old army officer who had served in Mexico and had lost
an arm at Cherubusco, was appointed Adjutant-General by the state, and he
pressed the organization of the troops and the collection of arms and war
material with zeal and intelligence. In seven months the state had raised,
equipped and turned over to the Confederacy 40,000 troops. Within a year,
by May, 1862, the state had nearly 60,000 men under arms. The total number
of soldiers, of all kinds, which the state had in service during the war
was 129,000, besides 5,000 Home-guards, being, doubtless, the largest
number furnished by any state in the Confederacy. [Clark's North Carolina
The most serious difficulty at first was the
want of arms and war material. The state, when it seized the United States
arsenal at Fayetteville, found there 30,000 muskets, most of them in poor
condition, and a very large proportion flint and steel. They were
converted into percussion muskets as rapidly as the scarcity of workmen
permitted. There were also found in the arsenal six cannon and a large
quantity of powder. Four more cannon came from the military schools of
Colonel Tew at Hillsboro and Major hill at Charlotte. With such equipment
North Carolina entered into one of the greatest wars in history. As fast
as workmen could be found or educated, factories were started for the
manufacture of swords, bayonets, muskets, percussion caps, powder,
cartridges and cartridge boxes, belts and other equipment, as well as
clothing, caps and shoes, and other supplies for the army. But such were
the zeal of the people and the rapidity of volunteering, that some
regiments were sent to Virginia partly armed with shotguns, "buck and
ball" ammunition, and some unarmed altogether. Artillery companies were
also hurried to the front without cannon or horses. The deficiency of arms
was soon largely supplied by captures made at Manassas and other
victories, supplemented by the arms and ammunition made in the armories of
the state and of the Confederacy, and also by some importations by the
state, from time to time, through the port of Wilmington.
A clothing factory for the troops was started
by the state at Raleigh, and all the cloth product of the cotton mills of
the state was called for. Many blankets, quilts, comforts and carpets were
contributed by the patriotic women of the state. The carpets cut up and
lined served fairly well for blankets. But captures from time to time of
the enemies' stores were an indispensable aid in supplying the
deficiencies in clothing, as well as in arms and equipment.
The quartermaster and commissary departments
were organized efficiently and well officered. The state bought the
steamer Ad-Vance, which, under Capt. Thomas M. Crossen, ran the blockade
twelve times bringing in goods, arms and ammunition, with the result that
North Carolina troops were not only the best clothed and equipped troops
in the Confederacy, but the state was often able to assist the Confederacy
from its surplus of arms and stores. The state bought up 100,000 bbls.
resin and 11,000 bales of cotton, which it shipped out to be exchanged for
whatever it most needed. Among the stores thus brought in by the Ad-Vance
and other blockade runners for this state were 250,000 pairs shoes,
250,000 suits of uniform, 50,000 blankets, 12,000 overcoats, 60,000 pairs
of cotton cards, 5,000 sacks coffee for the hospitals, besides medicines,
machinery, arms, ammunition and other supplies. Up to March, 1864, North
Carolina had received $6,000,000 from the Confederacy for the supply of
such articles, in excess of its own needs, which it had turned over,
besides stores of great value furnished to the Confederate government
without charge. Besides clothing its own troops, North Carolina, in the
winter after Chickamauga, sent 14,000 suits of uniform to Longstreet's
corps in the western army. And Dr. Thomas D. Hogg, the head of the state
commissary department, reported to Governor Vance during the last months
of the war that he was feeding half of Lee's army, doing so in part with
provisions brought through the blockade, especially bacon. [Governor
Vance's speech "North Carolina's Record" at White Sulphur Springs, Va.,
Aug. 18, 1875, reprinted -5 Clark's North Carolina Regiments, 463. ]
John W. Ellis, who was governor at the
outbreak of the war, died July 7, 1861, at Red Sulphur Springs, Va.,
whither he had gone on account of his health, and was succeeded by the
speaker of the senate, Henry T. Clark, of Edgecombe. In August, 1862, Col.
Zebulon B. Vance, of the Twenty-sixth N. C. Regiment, formerly a member of
the United States Congress, was elected governor over William Johnston. He
took the oath of office the following month, and discharged its duties
with signal ability till the close of the war.
The War in 1861.
The first battle of the war was fought June
10, 1861, at Bethel on the Peninsula in Virginia, between Yorktown and
Hampton. The Confederate force consisted of the First N. C. Volunteers,
800 men, under Col. D. H. Hill, and 600 Virginians of different commands.
They were attacked by 4,500 troops under Gen. E. W. Pierce of B. F.
Butler's command, which had been sent out from Fortress Monroe. The
Federals were repulsed, losing eighteen killed and fifty-three wounded.
The Confederates had nine men wounded and one killed. The latter, Henry L.
Wyatt, of the Edgecombe Guards in the N. C. Regiment, but a native of
Virginia, was the first Southern soldier killed in battle during that
great struggle. [Captain Marr of Virginia, it is true, had been previously
killed on the sidewalk in Warrenton, Va., as the enemy s cavalry dashed
through the town, but he was not on duty, and there was no battle. There
were no troops in the town to oppose the raiders.]
The effect of the victory in the first battle,
at Bethel, was electric, and aroused the South to fever heat. Volunteers
poured in on all sides and contributions of all kinds for the army were
sent to the authorities. Six weeks later on July 21, 1861, came another
victory, that of Bull Run, or First Manassas, and the South went wild. The
victory was not utilized by the capture of Washington, which might have
been entered on the heels of the fugitive Federal army. The chief, if not
the only, benefit reaped from the victory by the South was the arms and
stores captured. This was more than offset by the resultant overconfidence
in the South, and the determination with which the North settled down to a
On the North Carolina coast the state had taken possession of Fort Caswell
at the mouth of the Cape Fear, of Fort Macon at Beaufort, and had erected
fortifications at Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlets and on Roanoke Island. It
also owned four little gunboats mounting one gun each, known as the
"mosquito fleet." These little vessels occasionally slipped out through
the inlets and picked up merchant ships when the Federal war vessels were
not too near. In six weeks eight schooners, seven barks and one brig were
thus captured. The United States authorities, in considering the best
method to stop these sallies upon their commerce, had their attention
drawn to the advantage of taking possession of the sounds of North
Carolina and the adjacent territory, both because it was a rich granary of
food supplies and would also be a back door for the capture of Norfolk.
Accordingly, in August, 1861, Gen. B. F.
Butler sailed with a large fleet, mounting 143 long range cannon, for the
capture of Fort Hatteras. The latter mounted twelve old-fashioned, smooth
bore, short range guns, while Fort Clark, across the Inlet, had seven of
like calibre. Not one of the guns in the two forts could reach the Federal
fleet, which lay off out of range and raked the forts at will with their
long range missiles. The result was the surrender of the forts with 670
men and 1,000 muskets. The whole of eastern North Carolina was thus laid
open. The captured troops were taken North on the fleet, but were soon
exchanged and sent home.
Other troops were raised by the state, but
arms were lacking. A regiment armed with squirrel rifles and butcher
knives was sent to Roanoke Island with antiquated cannon mounted on the
front wheels of farm wagons, drawn by farm mules in their plow harness.
Roanoke Island was untenable, for the Federal fleet could sail up the
channel on either side and take the fortifications in flank. The only
supporting fleet with the Southern forces was the mosquito fleet of 9
canal boats mounting one gun each. There being no coal obtainable, the
crews went ashore from time to time to cut green wood for the boilers.
The War in 1862.
Against such preparations the Federal
government, in 1862, sent a fleet of eighty vessels, mounting sixty-one
guns and carrying, besides the full complement of sailors, 15,000
well-equipped and disciplined troops, under Burnside. Against these, North
Carolina had placed at New Bern seven newly raised regiments, under
Brig.-Gen. L. O'B. Branch, and two of like kind at Roanoke Island under
Col. H. 14I. Shaw. Both of these commanders were brave men who
subsequently lost their lives in the Confederate service, but they were,
like their men, without military experience. Both had been recently
members of the United States Congress.
The Confederacy was not able to spare any
troops from Virginia. Possibly some might have been sent from those around
Charleston, but none came. On Feb. 7, 1862, the Federal fleet appeared
before Roanoke Island. The troops were landed, and the next day the attack
was made by land and water. A gallant defense was made, but in the face of
such odds only one result was possible, and all the troops which could not
be withdrawn were captured. The enemy's vessels pursued the mosquito
fleet, which was all captured or blown up to avoid falling into hands of
the enemy. Elizabeth City and Edenton, with the country bordering upon
Albemarle Sound, passed into the control of the Federals, who held it for
the remainder of the war. Winton was burnt and Plymouth occupied by them.
General Burnside then returned to Pamlico
Sound. He landed his troops below New Bern and, March 14, 1862, assaulted
the Confederate works at that place, which was held by General Branch with
4,000 men, including militia. The right wing was repulsed notwithstanding
the aid of the fire from the fleet, but the left wing, penetrating through
an unoccupied gap, turned the flank of the militia. The troops were then
withdrawn and New Bern abandoned. The Confederates lost 165 killed and
wounded, and 413 prisoners. The Federals lost 470 in all.
On April 25 Fort Macon, surrounded by the
Federal fleet and army, was surrendered after a vigorous bombardment.
Pamlico Sound and the adjacent country, including New Bern, Beaufort and
Washington, N. C., remained henceforth in Federal possession.
In May, 1862, Norfolk was evacuated, and the
Confederate army retired before McClellan's advance from Yorktown to the
gates of Richmond. In the latter part of June occurred the famous Seven
Days' Battles, which drove the Federal army to the shelter of its fleet at
Harrison's Landing, with the loss of fifty-two cannon, 27,000 muskets,
10,000 prisoners and vast quantities of stores. But the loss of the
Confederates, who were the assaulting party throughout, was more than 20
per cent. larger than that of the Federal army in killed and wounded. This
was largely borne by North Carolina, which furnished thirty-six of the 174
Confederate regiments engaged. Of the 3,279 Confederate dead, 650 were
from North Carolina and 3,279 of the 15,851 wounded-more than one-fifth.
Then followed the victorious march to Cedar
Mountain and Second Manassas, the first Maryland campaign, Sharpsburg and
the victory at Fredericksburg. In these the state suffered heavily in
officers and men, including Generals Branch and Anderson, both killed at
Sharpsburg. At Fredericksburg the Confederate loss was 5,322, of which
1,467, almost one-third, fell upon North Carolina regiments.
The War in 1863.
In December, 1862, about the time of the
Fredericksburg battle, General Foster made an advance from New Bern. He
penetrated to near Goldsboro, burning the railroad bridge south of that
town, but was speedily driven back with loss. In the spring of 1863, the
Confederates returned the compliment and threatened Plymouth, Washington,
N. C., and New Bern, but were called off by the necessity of sending
re-enforcements to Lee, who confronted Hooker and 133,000 Federals who had
crossed the Rappahannock. At Chancellorsville, where Jackson fell, North
Carolina furnished twenty-four of the 120 regiments engaged, or one-fifth,
but her loss was more than one-third of the Confederate killed - 557 out
of 1,581, and more than one-fourth of the wounded - 2,394 out of 8,700.
Then followed Gettysburg, where, in the famous
charge of the third day, the North Carolina dead were found nearest the
enemy's line. The official report shows 15,301 Confederates killed and
wounded, of which number 4,033, or considerably more than one-fourth, were
from North Carolina. The heaviest loss in any one regiment in the battle,
or, indeed, in any battle during the war, was in the Twenty-sixth North
Carolina, which lost 588 out of 800 present, or 73 per cent. No brigade in
Pickett's division lost as many killed as this one regiment. Of the 2,592
Confederates killed at Gettysburg, 770 were North Carolinians, 435
Georgians, 399 Virginians, 258 Mississippians, 217 South Carolinians and
204 Alabamians. "Dead men tell no tales" is not true of a battle.
In the Army of the West, North Carolina had
nine regiments which rendered efficient service. They especially
distinguished themselves at Chickamauga, as did Clingman's Brigade at
Battery Wagner, at Charleston, where it lost 412 men in the summer of
The War in
20, 1864, Gen. Robert F. Hoke captured Plymouth with the aid of the
ironclad Albemarle, which came down the Roanoke. The enemy there upon
burned and evacuated Washington, N. C. In October following, the Albemarle
while anchored at Plymouth was sunk by a torpedo attack made at night by
Lieutenant Cushing of the United States Navy, and the town was soon
recaptured by the enemy. Upon the capture of Plymouth, General Hoke moved
against New Bern, but was called off and reached Petersburg just in time
to prevent the capture of that city by Butler.
At the Wilderness in May, 1864, thirty-four
North Carolina regiments were in the army which faced Grant, besides those
around Petersburg. In the winter of 1864-5, North Carolina had in Virginia
fifty-nine regiments, two battalions and seven batteries, composing
thirteen brigades. They sustained heavy loss in the almost continuous
fighting up to the surrender at Appomattox. Of these troops, eighteen
regiments were in the army under Early, were in the sight of the Federal
capitol and contested the valley of Virginia at Winchester, Cedar Creek
and Fisher's Hill. The troops of this state were nearly one-fourth of
those who held the lines around Petersburg and Richmond for so many
months. In addition, there were the North Carolina regiments in the
western army and those in this state, at Wilmington and elsewhere. At
Appomattox there were surrendered forty-nine regiments, two battalions and
six batteries, or what was left of them.
The War in 1865.
In December, 1864, Gen. B. F. Butler, with a
Federal fleet and army, assaulted Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, but was
driven back. In January, 1865, the attack was renewed under Admiral Porter
and General Terry, who were successful in a land attack after sixty
vessels, mounting 600 guns, had battered the Fort for two days. The
Confederate forces in this state were re-enforced in January, 1865, by
General Hoke with four brigades detached from the army in Virginia.
General Schofield, advancing from New Bern, met with a check at Southwest
Creek, near Kinston, on March 8, 1865, but the. advance of Sherman from
South Carolina caused the Confederate forces to fall back to Smithfield,
where they united with the fragments of the western army under Joseph E.
Johnston, and on three memorable days, March 19, 20 and 21, drove back
Sherman's army at Bentonville. Sherman withdrew to Goldsboro. Learning of
Lee's surrender, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston began his retreat on April 10,
passed through Raleigh April 13, and surrendered, when all hope was lost,
at Greensboro on April 26. On May 2 the army was paroled and dispersed to
the latter part of the war the western part of the state was subjected to
raids from the Federal troops in eastern Tennessee, as well as by banded
deserters from all parts of the Confederacy, who had taken to the
mountains. About 1865 General Stoneman made a raid through that section.
The last battle east of the Mississippi was fought at Waynesville, N. C.,
on May 9, 1865. The Confederate troops engaged, five North Carolina
regiments and two batteries, surrendered the next day.
To the Confederate navy, besides its full
share of men and officers, the state contributed J. AV. Cooke, commander
of the Albemarle, J. N. Maffit of the Florida, and James Iredell Waddell
of the Shenandoah, which carried the Confederate flag around the world and
did not surrender till Nov. 6, 1865.
Notwithstanding the state's contribution of
supplies to Lee's army, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston stated to Governor Vance
that when he surrendered he had five months' supplies for 60,000 men which
had been gathered in this state, though Lee's army had been fed for
several months almost entirely from North Carolina.
Governor Vance, besides looking after the
welfare of the troops, imported 60,000 pairs hand cards, 10,000 grain
scythes, 200 barrels of blue stone (for wheat growers), besides large
quantities of machinery, lubricating oil, and supplies for the charitable
institutions of the state. He also procured supplies of salt at the state
salt works. It was this care for the soldiery, and the destitute at home
as well, which gave him a hold on the affections of the state which
nothing could shake.
The records show that North Carolina furnished to the Confederacy 128,905
men-exclusive of the Home Guards-probably a fifth of the whole number in
the service. The official records show, also, that this state lost 42,000
men killed or died in service-by much the largest number from any Southern
state. Of these, 19,673 were killed in battle or died of wounds. [Fox's
Regimental Losses, 554.]
The heavy losses sustained by this state, and
the destitution among the women and children in 1864, caused
dissatisfaction in certain sections, which was utilized by W. W. Holden,
who was a candidate against Governor Vance in the campaign of 1864, but
Vance was successful by an overwhelming majority.
Governor Vance's Letter Book shows that while
he was a staunch and most efficient supporter of the Confederate cause,
which he aided with every available man and all the means at his command,
he sturdily differed with President Davis as to many of his methods. He
complained to the President that while North Carolina had been lavish in
furnishing men and supplies, she had not been as liberally recognized by
the Confederate government, and when a citizen of another state was sent
here to be put at the head of the conscript bureau, he promptly and
persistently insisted on his removal. In 1864 Hon. George Davis, of North
Carolina, became attorney-general in the Confederate cabinet.
North Carolina lost three of her seven
major-generals killed in battle - Pender, Ramseur and Whiting; and six of
her twenty-six brigadier-generals -Branch, Anderson, Pettigrew, Daniel,
Gordon and Godwin. The others, with scarcely an exception, were wounded.
The list of the colonels and other . officers killed is in the same heavy
proportion as the loss among her rank and file.
After the war was over, the Confederate
soldiers in North Carolina composed the vast majority of the surviving
manhood of the state. Unawed by the garrisons of the victorious army and
unseduced, they took their stand for Anglo-Saxon supremacy and saved the
South from the fate of Hayti and the West Indies. They built up the waste
places, broke up the soil anew to the plow, they laid railroad tracks into
new sections and relaid those that had been worn out. They taxed
themselves to educate the new generation, without regard to color, and to
provide for the worn-out and disabled Confederates, to whom the general
government dispensed no aid, though the South was taxed for the care of
the Federal disabled. While doing these things they were carrying on a
desperate struggle to drive off the carpet-bag adventurers from the North,
who, joining with a few native scallawags, were utilizing the prejudices
and ignorance of the negro vote in a system of organized and unprecedented
plunder. Literally, like the frontiersmen of colonial days, or the Hebrews
when rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, the workman labored with his arms
- Foxs's Regimental Losses, Official Records Union and Confederate Armies;
Hill's History of North Carolina; Moore's History o f North Carolina, Vol.
II; Clark's North Carolina Regimental Histories; Governor Vance's Speech "
North Carolina's Record " at White Sulphur Springs, Va., Aug. 18, 1875;
Governor's Letter Books North Carolina, 1861-5.
Chief Justice Supreme Court, State of North Carolina.
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