THE FORGOTTEN SONS:
NORTH CAROLINIANS IN THE UNION ARMY
PART II - B
LOYAL EASTERNERS BECOME UNION SOLDIERS
Miscellaneous Hard Luck
and D. H. Hill
(January - April, 1863)
The January, 1863, returns of Major General John G. Foster, then commanding the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, show that the First North Carolina had nineteen officers and four hundred thirty-two men present for duty. The number of officers and men present and absent was given as five hundred thirty-four. Lieutenant Lyon had been promoted to Captain by this time 44 and Potter, still in command of the regiment, had been promoted to Brigadier General dating from his assignment to the regiment. 45
The February returns show that sixteen officers and four hundred six men were present for duty. The number present and absent was five hundred thirty-six. 46 In March there was a further decease in those present, the records showing twelve officers and three hundred eighty-two men. But again the aggregate present and absent increased, this time to five hundred sixty-one. 47 There is evidence that members of the regiment who lived outside the towns often returned to their homes and their work until summoned at the approach of the enemy. This may explain the deceasing number of soldiers present tor duty while enrollment was simultaneously increasing.
The New Bern soldiers of Company G were spared the experiences of their fellows in Washington and Plymouth, but in March of 1863 they had the pleasure of gaining their first experience shooting at live human targets when they went on an expedition to Swan Quarter with Company F of the Third New York Cavalry, the whole being commanded by Captain Colin Richardson of the cavalry company. The expedition lasted from the first to the sixth with nothing being accomplished. There were skirmishes on the third and fourth with what Richardson referred to as "guerrillas." He had to turn back when he heard that "two hundred fifty to three hundred" such guerrillas were waiting for him at Swan Quarter. The expedition returned, having lost three killed and fourteen wounded. Of these Company G's loss was one wounded. In his reports Richardson praised his cavalry but made no mention of the North Carolinians one way or the other. 48
April proved to be a bad month for the First North Carolina. On April 1, Captain Enoch C. Sanders of Company D set out to collect his men, the company having been ordered to Elizabeth City. Sanders hitched rides with the navy to gather them. His troubles began after he left Plymouth on the fourth. Flusser had allowed him the use of the Southfield to travel up the Pasquotank near which many of his men lived, They stopped on the way at Halley's landing to find the wharf there had been burned by the Confederates. Company E was camped only ten miles away, but Sanders decided that was ten miles too many in view of the large number of rebels in the area. He refused to leave the gunboat to seek his men at that place. After reaching the Pasquotank he took those he had gathered and marched to Shiloh, ten miles from the mouth of the river, and back again, sending word to others of his men to be ready to go the next day. On the fifth he picked up William Wright and his family before going on up the river to Jones Mill, where he landed and marched to Old Trap, returning with seven more members of Company D. The seven were Peter, Stephen, Cornelius, and Nicholas Burgess, Ithean and Wilson Duncan and Dempsey Wright. The boat then crossed to the Pasquotank County side to bring aboard Joseph Morgan and his family. Sanders sought four others in Pasquotank who belonged to his company. One, John Cartwright, came along, one was not found, one was ill, and the other was wounded. On the sixth Sanders left for Nixonton with his seventeen men on the schooner Patty Martin. 49 Later that day Sanders with seven soldiers and ten Negroes went down the Little River in the schooner for wood. As a strong wind kept them from landing, Sanders went ashore leaving the men on the boat. That night they too went ashore to see their families, where they were taken prisoner by guerillas and hastily dispatched to Richmond. Sanders himself was not among the captured, but one might imagine, from reading his report of the affair, that he was a very distressed man. 50
In Washington, Companies A and B were also having their difficulties for D. H. Hill had laid siege to the town. Luckily, the North Carolina Unionists, who had been there alone, were reinforced by eight companies each of the Twenty-seventh and Forty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers and one company of the Third New York Cavalry. On the south side of the Pamlico River about one and one-half miles below Washington was a place called Rodman's Point. Knowing of Hill's advance, General Foster sent Company B with a twelve pounder gun to occupy the point on March 30. Captain Lyon immediately built earthworks for the gun and stationed pickets around the camp, but his efforts were in vain. That night Lyon was driven from his outpost back to the river and boats from whence he came. There he waited, hoping somehow to retake his lost position, but daylight brought fire from the captured works wounding Lyon and nine of his men. After his initial success Hill was not able to take Washington and the siege was lifted. The only man killed during the siege came from Company B, which also lost more in wounded than any other unit. 51 This was no doubt due to the action at Rodman's Point.
In the round of commendations after the siege General Foster did not fail to take favorable notice. Of the participants from the First North Carolina, which incidentally, had a new commander in Lieutenant Joseph M. McChesney, like Potter, a Northerner. 52
The Travels of Company
(May 1863 - January 1864)
After the diversions of April the First North Carolina had little to do for awhile, but July brought some riding exercise tor Company L. On July 3 Colonel George W. Lewis of the Third New York Cavalry made up an expedition consisting of his own command, two companies from the New York Cavalry Regiment of a Colonel Mix, some artillery and the just completed Company L. Starting from New Bern the raid covered one hundred seventy miles in five days, took about forty-five prisoners, five hundred contrabands, one hundred horses and mules, destroyed about one million dollars worth of property, and cut the Wi1mington and Weldon railroad. 53 The expedition cannot be counted anything other than a success, but it is unlikely that it received much notice out side the military district. While Company L and friends were riding about the Carolina countryside, George Gordon Meade and Robert E. Lee were getting a lot of men killed while they were making a hitherto unknown Pennsylvania town a future tourist attraction and, some say, deciding the outcome of the Civil War in the process.
General Foster took note of Lewis's achievements, however, and decided to send him out again. With the same assortment of troops the Colonel set out on the seventeenth, hardly more than a week after his return. His object was to destroy the railroad bridge at Rocky Mount. This he accomplished as well as a few other things to make the Confederacy unhappy. At Rocky Mount he destroyed a cotton mill, a flour mill, two machine shops, a depot, an entire train, twenty-five wagons filled with supplies and munitions, and eight hundred bales of cotton. He destroyed bridges over the Tar River and at Greenville and Sparta. He took one hundred prisoners and three hundred animals. This time Lewis declined to capture any contrabands but about three hundred followed the cavalry back to New Bern. Company L lost one man wounded on the first expedition, 54 one wounded and one missing on the second. 55
After the strenuous activity of July Company L received a somewhat tamer assignment in August. On the twenty-fifth the new commander of the District of North Carolina General John J. Peck, 56 ordered it to Washington because of illness resembling scurvy in the detachment presently there. 57 The monthly return for August showed the whole regiment as being in Washington under McChesney, 58 but this might have been only a few companies.
The lack of any reports of action for the next several weeks indicates that the First North Carolina had little to do, but Company L got back into action on the thirtieth of October. The cavalry was sent out to reconnoiter Confederate positions "between the Greenville and Jamestown roads." Lieutenant J. R. Nicol was detached with twenty men to investigate a small rebel force at Ford's Mill. Nicol demanded surrender but was answered by a volley of shots. The Lieutenant was killed, but his men charged, "killing three and capturing seven." General Peck's report praised Nicol as "a gallant young officer who had won the approbation and regard of his brother officers by his noble conduct." 59 The successful venture drew special attention from Peck, who honored the company in his General Order Number 34 with the following statements:
The commanding general has received the official report of a gallant and dashing reconnaissance upon the Greenville road, under the command of Captain G. W. Graham, First Regiment North Carolina Volunteers. His satisfaction at the manner in which it was conducted and its results is only marred by his regret at the loss of First Lieutenant J. R. Nicol, First Regiment, North Carolina Volunteers, who was instantly killed in the discharge of his duty. Ambitious, brave and deserving high in the estimation of his comrades and commanding officers, he died as a soldier would choose to die. The alacrity and intrepidity of Captain Graham's command are recommended as examples to other troops. 60
These words of commendation and confidence from the commander must have been very pleasing to the North Carolinians, and they quickly proved that his pride in them was not misplaced. On November 28, Company L, two companies of New York Cavalry, and a detachment from the Twenty-third New York Battery set out on another expedition. Captain R. R. West of the New York Cavalry had seniority over Graham, but he yielded the command to the Captain of Company L. Within twenty-one hours Graham was back, having traveled sixty-five miles. South of Greenville, near Swift Creek, he attacked a Confederate camp holding about seventy-five men from two companies of Whitford's Brigade. He captured the camp taking fifty-two prisoners and killing a lieutenant and four men. He also brought back "one hundred stand of arms, horses, mules, wagons...and a large amount of commissary stores." Union losses were one killed and three wounded. Peck again recognized Graham's achievements in General Orders Number 39. 61
Company L's last action of the year occurred on December 30. Colonel McChesney took about one hundred forty men from the Twelfth New York Cavalry, Company L, and the Twenty-third New York Artillery on a reconnaissance expedition. 62 On his return McChesney found himself cut off from Washington by a Confederate force. Hard fighting resulted, often hand to hand. The rebels were beaten off, leaving a lieutenant and five men dead on the field with an artillery piece and its horses. McChesney lost one killed, six wounded and one missing. Captain Graham suffered a saber cut on the hand 63 and the man killed was Lieutenant William K. Adams of Company L. In reporting his death Peck called him "a gallant and dashing officer who fell while making a charge at the head of his command." 64
Captain George W. Graham was a man who liked to fight, or was dedicated to his cause, or both. On January 10, 1864, with his wounded hand not completely healed, he put its mate through a glass window. Graham left Washington that day with fourteen men. After crossing Trent Creek they met a now unknown number of Confederates, whom they captured. Changing uniforms with one of the prisoners, Graham pretended to have captured his own lieutenant. In this manner he rode up to a rebel picket outpost. The seven pickets suspected nothing until Graham placed his hand, presumably holding a gun, through the window, and all surrendered. 65
In the latter part of 1863 the First North Carolina began to acquire a sister regiment. The Second Regiment of North Carolina Union Volunteers was smaller than the First, having only five companies. They were A, B, C, E and F; D having failed to materialize. All were organized in New Bern from November, 1863, to February, 1864. 66
Unlike most of the men of the First North Carolina, many, if not the majority, of the men of the Second were deserters from the Confederate army as will be seen. They had come to New Bern from outside the Union lines and brought their families with them. Many were indigent and a soliciting campaign was carried out to provide for the wives and children of these who enlisted. 67 In addition other inducements were offered, including a bounty of $302, and a training camp one mile from Beaufort, where their families were also sheltered. 68 If this were not enough, in March it was promised that "after April 1 the draft will undoubtably be enforced." 69
For whatever reasons, men did enlist, and by January 23 one company was said to be trained and equipped for active service. 70 General Benjamin F. Butler, now commanding the Department of North Carolina and Virginia, had also appointed officers for three companies by the above date. Captain J. T. Mizell, of Plymouth Custom House memory, was recruiting officer for the regiment. Prospective joiners could see Lieutenant Carpenter in New Bern, Captain Hoggard at Plymouth, or Sergeant Moore at Washington. 71
Some of the above information, and some which is yet to come, may tend to place the Second North Carolina in an unfavorable light. Yet the regiment seemed to have some esprit de corps. The editor Of the New Bern Times during this period proudly called them "Buffaloes," a name which their fellow North Carolinians with an opposite point of view gave them and spat out in derogation. The title was first applied to lawless elements, both within and without the United States Army, but since it was eventually applied to all Unionists, 72 the First and Second adopted it themselves and gave it a good connotation. One North Carolina Unionist even wrote the Buffaloes a war song of the type for which the Civil War era is well known. Because it expresses a dedication not generally attributed to Southern Unionists the writer will quote two of its six verses here:
We'll give then a lesson they'll not soon forget
Dodge and run as they may, we'll be up with them yet;
We'll teach them that outlaws, the black flag who raise,
Shall find, in due time, a sad end to their days.
Full well do we know that our cause is aright;
On the dear native soil of our father's we fight,
To defend the Republic is all that we ask,
And freely we give our lives to the task. 73
** Go to Part III **
44 Ibid., p. 533.
45 Ibid., p.547.
47 Ibid., p. 577.
48 Ibid., p. 157.
49 Ibid., p. 259.
50 Ibid., pp. 674, 675.
51 Ibid., pp. 212-217.
53 OR, I, 27, pp. 860-863.
55 Ibid., pp. 964-966.
56 OR, I, 29, pt. 2, p. 101.
58 Ibid., p. 144.
59 OR, I, 29, pt. 1, p. 495.
60 Ibid., p. 496.
61 OR, I, 29, pt. 2, p. 661.
62 Ibid., p. 995-996.
63 Ibid., p. 995-996.
64 OR, I, 29, pt. 1, pp. 995-996.
65 New Bern Times, January 16, 1864.
66 Manarin, Guide, sec. 3, p. 1.
67 New Bern Times, January 9, 1864.
68 Ibid., January 23, 1864.
69 New Bern Times, March 9, 1864.
70 New Bern Times, January 23, 1864.
72 Barrett, Civil War in North Carolina, p. 174.
73 New Bern Times, March 9, 1864.
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