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The Southern States of America
Chapter IV - North Carolina in the Confederacy, 1861 - 1865

North Carolina Joins the Confederacy.

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 hesitation.

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 On its assembling May 20, the convention, composed of many of the ablest men of the state, by a unanimous vote repealed the act of November, 1789, by which North Carolina had acceded to the Federal Union, and declared the state to be no longer one of the United States.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 Regimental Histories.]

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. ]

Governor Vance.

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 long struggle.
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 1863.

The War in 1864.

On April 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 their homes.

During 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 at hand.

BIBLIOGRAPHY - 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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