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The Forty-Fourth N. C. Infantry. [from the Wilmington, N. C., star, March 12, 1897.]

Historical Sketch of.

This brief record of the organization, movements and achievements of the 44th Regiment North Carolina Troops, could not have been written except for the assistance of Captains W. P. Oldham, Robert Bingham, Abram Cox and Lieutenants Thomas B. Long and Richard G. Sneed, officers of the regiment, who participated in its career, and especially am I under obligations to Captain John H. Robinson, of the 52nd North Carolina, who was detailed during the latter part of the campaign of 1864, at the request of General Wm. McRae, to serve on his staff as A. A. G. in place of Captain Louis G. Young, who had been severely wounded. The facts stated in a memorial address delivered by the writer in Wilmington, N. C., on May 10, 1890, on the life and character of General William McRae, in so far as they are connected with the operations of the regiment, and its participation in the various engagements described have been used without reserve, as they are known to be correct; nor has there been any hesitancy in quoting from the language of that address when appropriate to a description of events constituting alike a part of the history of the regiment as well as of the brigade.

The 44th Regiment North Carolina Troops (Infantry) was organized at Camp Mangum, near Raleigh, N. C., on the 28th of March, 1862, with George B. Singletary as its colonel; Richard C. Cotten, captain Co. E, its lieutenant-colonel, and Elisha Cromwe 1, captain Co. B, as its major. Colonel Singletary was killed in a skirmish with Federal troops at Tranter's creek in Eastern North Carolina on the 5th day of June, 1862. He was an officer of extraordinary merit, and would have unquestionably attained high distinction but for his untimely end. On the 28th of June, 1862, Thomas C. Singletary, his brother, was elected colonel in his stead. Lieutenant-Colonel Cotten resigned on account of advanced age on the 10th day of June, 1862, and Major Elisha Cromwell was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, to fill the vacancy caused by his resignation. The vacancy caused by the promotion of Major Elisha Cromwell [335] was filled by the election of Tazewell L. Hargrove, captain Co. A, on June 10, 1862. On the 24th day of July, 1862, Lieutenant-Colonel Cromwell resigned, and Major Tazewell L. Hargrove was elected in his place, and on the 28th of July, 1862, Charles M. Stedman, captain Co. E, was promoted and elected major. The staff and company officers are named as they appear in the following list, and in the order of their promotion:

Adjutants—Stark Armistead Sutton, John A. Jackson, R. W. Dupree.

EnsignW. S. Long.

Sergeant—Majors—John H. Johnston, Alexander S. Webb, E. D. Covington.

Quartermaster—Sergeant—Isham G. Cheatham.

Ordnance—Sergeant—Robert J. Powell.

Commissary—Sergeant—D. F. Whitehead.

Chaplains—John H. Tillinghast, Richard G. Webb.

Surgeons—William T. Sutton, J. A. Bynum.

Assistant SurgeonsJ. A. Bynum, William J. Green.

Quartermasters—William R. Beasley, William L. Cherry.

Commissary—Abram Cox.

Company A—Captains—Tazewell L. Hargrove, Elkanah E. Lyon, Robt. L. Rice.

First LieutenantElkanah E. Lyon, Robert L. Rice, Richard G. Sneed, A. J. Ellis.

Second LieutenantsRobert L. Rice, William R. Beasley, John B. Tucker, Richard G. Sneed, Robert Winship Stedman.

Enlisted men, 148.

Company B—Captains—Elisha Cromwell, Baker W. Mabry, Robert C. Brown.

First LieutenantsBaker W. Mabry, Robert C. Brown, Thomas M. Carter.

Second LieutenantsThomas M. Carter, Robert C. Brown, Charles D. Mabry, Elisha C. Knight.

Enlisted men, 135. Company C.———Captains—William L. Cherry, Macon G. Cherry.

First LieutenantsAbram Cox, Andrew M. Thigpen, Samuel V. Williams.

Second LieutenantsAndrew M. Thigpen, Macon G. Cherry, Samuel V. Williams, Reuben E. Mayo, Samuel Tappen.

Enlisted men, 131.

Company D—Captain—L. R. Anderson. [336]

First LieutenantsCornelius Stephens, John S. Easton.

Second LieutenantsJohn S. Easton, James M. Perkins, George W. Parker, Thomas King.

Enlisted men, 16.

Company E—Captains—R. C. Cotten, Charles M. Stedman, James T. Phillips, John J. Crump.

First LieutenantsCharles M. Stedman, James T. Phillips, John J. Crump, N. B. Hilliard.

Second LieutenantsR. C. Cotten, Jr., James T. Phillips, John J. Crump, Thos. B. Long, N. B. Hilliard, C. C. Goldson, S. J. Tally.

Enlisted men, 183.

By reason of his health Lieutenant Thomas B. Long resigned in July, 1862. He was a most accomplished officer; brave, competent and true, he was respected by all.

Company F.—Captains-David B. DeBerry, John C. Gaines. First Lieutenants-John C. Gaines, John C. Montgomery.

Second Lieutenants-John C. Montgomery, Alexander M. Russell, Geo. W. Montgomery.

Enlisted men, 127.

Company G.—Captain-Robert Bingham.

First LieutenantS. H. Workman.

Second Lieutenants-George S. Cobb, James W. Compton, Fred. N. Dick, Thomas H. Norwood.

Enlisted men, 129.

Company H.—Captains-William D. Moffitt, James T. Townsend, R. W. Singletary.

First Lieutenants-James T. Townsend, William H. Carter, Thomas H. Norwood.

Second Lieutenants-Daniel L. McMillan, R. W. Singletary, Moses Haywood, E. A. Moffitt, R. W. Dupree.

Enlisted men, 141.

Company I.—Captains-Downing H. Smith, John R. Roach.

First LieutenantsJ. J. Bland, John R. Roach.

Second LieutenantsJohn R. Roach, John A. Jackson, J. M. Lancaster.

Enlisted men, 120. Company K.—Captains-Rhett R. L. Lawrence, W. P. Oldham. First Lieutenants-Joseph W. Howard, W. P. Oldham.

Second Lieutenants-David Yarborough, Bedford Brown, J. H. Johnson, A. S. Webb, Joseph J. Leonard, Rufus Starke.

Enlisted men, 144. [337]

On May 19, 1862, the regiment was ordered to Tarboro, North Carolina, thence it proceeded to Greenville, North Carolina, and for a few weeks was engaged in outpost and picket duty in that section of the State, during which time it participated in no affair of consequence, save the skirmish at Tranter's Creek, which, though otherwise unimportant, was to the regiment most unfortunate, in that its accomplished commander lost his life.

From eastern North Carolina the regiment was ordered to Virginia and there assigned to the brigade of General J. Johnston Pettigrew, one of the very ablest commanders of the Army of Northern Virginia. Not only the 44th regiment, but the entire brigade, which consisted of five regiments—the 11th North Carolina, the 26th North Carolina, the 44th North Carolina, the 47th North Carolina, and the 52nd North Carolina, felt the impress of his soldierly qualities. It was ever a matter of regret to the officers and men of the regiment that no opportunity was offered them of manifesting their appreciation of his great qualities by their conduct on the battlefield under his immediate command. The other regiments of his brigade were with him at Gettysburg and contributed to his imperishable renown by their steadfast valor, but the 44th North Carolina whilst en route, was halted at Hanover Junction, Virginia, to guard the railroad connections there entering, and thus protecting General Lee's communications with Richmond. Colonel T. C. Singletary with two companies, remained at the Junction. Major Charles M. Stedman, with four companies, commanded north of the Junction and the bridges of the Fredericksburg, and of the Central (now C. & O.), Railroad across the South Anna and the Little River, four in number, were entrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel Hargrove, who posted one company at each bridge, remaining personally with Company A, at Central's bridge, across the South Anna, the post of the greatest danger.

On the morning of the 26th of June, 1863, the Federal troops, consisting of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry, two companies of a California cavalry regiment and two pieces of artillery, about 1,500 all included, commanded by Colonel, afterwards General Spear, appeared before Lieutenant-Colonel Hargrove and his small force of forty men, stationed in a breastwork on the south side of the river, built to be manned by not less than 400 men. Before Colonel Spear made his first attack, Lieutenant-Colonel Hargrove abandoned the breastwork as being entirely untenable by so small a force, fell back to the north side of the river, posted his men under cover along the [338] river bank, and for two hours successfully resisted repeated efforts to capture the bridge by direct assault, although assailed by a force outnumbering his own at least thirty-five to one. Failing in a direct attack, Colonel Spear sent 400 men across the river by an old ford, under cover of a violent assault in front from the south, and was about to assail Lieutenant-Colonel Hargrove in his rear, which was entirely unprotected, when Company G, consisting of forty men, having been ordered from Central bridge over the river at Taylorsville, more than three miles distant, arrived and occupied the breastwork north of the river, at its intersection with the railroad, and about 200 yards from the bridge, thus protecting the rear of Company A. Company G had scarcely got into position when the charge of 400 cavalry, intended for the unprotected rear of Company A, was delivered against Company G, protected by the breastwork, and was repulsed, as were two other charges made at intervals of about fifteen minutes, while attacks were made simultaneously on Company A, from across the river with like results.

During a lull in the fighting, the Federal force on the north side, was reinforced by 400 men, and an assault on both Companies A and G was (at the same time) ordered. Colonel Spear crossed the river and ordered the attack made up the river bank against Company G's unprotected right, and Company A's unprotected left flank, at the abutment of the bridge. The enormous odds prevailed, but only after a most desperate and hand to hand conflict, with pistol, sabre and bayonet, in which Confederates and Federals were commingled. In the final assault Company A lost half of its men. The loss of Company G was not heavy. The Federal loss exceeded the entire number of Confederate troops engaged. Colonel Spear retreated after burning one bridge instead of four. He stated in the presence of his own command and that of Lieut. Col. Hargrove, that ‘the resistance made by the Confederates was the most stubborn he had known during the war; that he supposed that he was fighting 400 infantry instead of eighty, and that his expedition had entirely failed of its object, which was to cut General Lee's communications with Richmond.’ No more gallant fight was made during the entire Civil War, than by Lieutenant-Colonel Hargrove's command. He won the admiration of both friend and foe by his personal gallantry, and only surrendered when overpowered and taken by sheer physical force.

General Pettigrew having been mortally wounded on the retreat from Gettysburg, Colonel William W. Kirkland, of the 21st North Carolina [339] regiment, was promoted to Brigadier-General, and assigned to the command of Pettigrew's brigade, about the 10th of August, 1863.

On the March.

The brigade left camp at Rapidan station, where it had been in cantonment, on the 8th of October, 1863, and marched rapidly with a view of engaging General Meade at Culpeper Courthouse. General Meade fell back and avoided a conflict at Culpeper Courthouse, but was overtaken at Bristoe station. Here on the 14th of October, 1863, a bloody and disastrous engagement was precipitated between Cooke's and Kirkland's brigades, and the bulk of Warren's corps, supported by a powerful artillery with a railroad embankment as a fortification. In this fight, so inopportune and ill-advised and not at all in accordance with the views of General Lee, the 44th regiment greatly distinguished itself. Advancing through an open field directly upon the line of fortifications of the Federal artillery, it sustained a heavy loss without flinching. Three different couriers rode up to the regiment and delivered a message to fall back. The order was disregarded and the regiment moved steadily on under heavy fire of both artillery and infantry, and when close upon the works, with the shout of victory in the air, only retreated under peremptory orders from Lieutenant-General A. P. Hill. The loss of the regiment in this engagement in killed and wounded was large. This was the first time the conduct of the regiment fell under the observation of Colonel Wm. MacRae, of the 15th North Carolina Regiment, and afterwards its brigade commander. He was struck with admiration at the splendid conduct of the men, and often afterwards referred to their steady valor upon the field. It endeared the regiment to him, for he loved brave men, and it became his habit to frequently place himself with the colors of the regiment, for, said he, ‘If I am with the 44th regiment and am lost, I shall always be found in the fore-front of the fighting.’

The Wilderness.

General Lee, having received information that General Grant had commenced the passage of the Rapidan on the night of the 3rd of May, 1864, broke up his cantonments on the 4th, and prepared to meet him. The 44th North Carolina, with Kirkland's brigade, left camp near Orange Courthouse on the 4th, and bivouacked the same night at Verdiersville, about nine miles from the battlefield of the [340] Wilderness. Two roads led in parallel lines through the dense thicket which gave its name to the territory upon which the battle was fought. One was known as the Orange Plank Road, and the other as the Turnpike. The 44th marched by way of the Plank Road, and became heavily engaged about 2 o'clock of the afternoon of the 5th. The right rested immediately upon the Plank Road, and next in line to it, with its left on the road, was the 26th North Carolina regiment. This immediate locality was the storm centre of the fight, and it is doubtful if any more violent and sanguinary contest occurred during the entire Civil War than just here. The road was swept by an incessant hurricane of fire, and to attempt to cross it meant almost certain death. It was at this point of the line that three pieces of Confederate artillery were seriously menaced with capture. The horses belonging to the guns had all been killed and disabled, whilst the gunners were subjected to an incessant and murderous fire.

Lieutenant R. W. Stedman, of Co. A, volunteered to drag the guns down the road, out of danger, if a detail of forty men were furnished. Forty men immediately stepped to his side and said they would follow him, although they all knew the effort was full of peril. The work was done successfully, but only three of the volunteers escaped unhurt. Lieutenant Stedman was severely wounded by a grape shot. For his personal gallantry in this action he was honorably mentioned in high terms of praise in an official order from division headquarters. The loss of the regiment in the engagements of the 5th and 6th was exceedingly heavy; a large proportion of its officers were killed and wounded; amongst the latter the major of the regiment. Both officers and men won the special commendation of brigade and division commanders. On the 8th the regiment moved with the brigade towards Spotsylvania Courthouse. On the 10th Heth's and Anderson's divisions, commanded by Early, had a serious conflict with a portion of Grant's army, which was attempting to flank General Lee by what was called the Po River road. In this engagement the 44th suffered severely and fought with its accustomed valor.

Captain J. J. Crump, of Co. E, elicited by his conduct warm commendation from the General commanding.

Spotsylvania Court House.

On the 12th the regiment was assigned its position directly in front of Spotsylvania Court House, and was in support of a strong force [341] of Confederate artillery. Repeatedly during the day it was charged by the Federal columns, their advance always being heralded and covered by a heavy artillery fire. Every assault was repulsed with great loss to the assailants, whose advance was greeted by loud cheers from the 44th regiment, many of the men leaping on the earthworks and fighting from under cover. The loss during this engagement was comparatively slight. The major commanding the regiment, was again wounded, and sent to a hospital in Richmond, and was not able to rejoin his regiment until a few days before the battle at Ream's Station.

The regiment participated in all the engagements in which its brigade took part, from Spotsylvania Court House to Petersburg, constantly skirmishing and fighting as Grant continued his march on Lee's flank. On the 3d of June, 1864, it was heavily engaged with the enemy near Gaines' Mill. In this fight, General W. W. Kirkland, commanding the brigade, was wounded. Pursuing its march and almost daily skirmishing, the regiment reached Petersburg on on the 24th day of June, 1864, and commenced the desultory and dreary work of duty in the trenches. During the latter part of July, 1864, the regiment left Petersburg for Stoney Creek, and whilst on the march, Colonel William MacRae, of the 15th North Carolina regiment, joined the brigade and assumed command, under orders. This gallant officer was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general in August, 1864, and from that time, never left the brigade, of which the 44th was a part, until the last day at Appomattox. From Stoney Creek, the regiment returned to Petersburg.

Ream's Station.

The regiment bore its part with conspicuous good conduct in the brilliant engagement at Ream's station, on the 25th of August, 1864.

Upon the investment of Petersburg, the possession of the Weldon road became of manifest importance, as it was Lee's main line of communication with the South, whence he drew his men and supplies. On the 18th of August, 1864, General G. K. Warren, with the 5th corps of Grant's army and Kautz's division of cavalry, occupied the line of the Weldon road at a point six miles from Petersburg. An attempt was made to dislodge them from this position on the 21st, but the effort failed. Emboldened by Warren's success, Hancock was ordered from Deep creek bottom to Ream's station, ten miles from Petersburg. He arrived there on the 22nd and promptly commenced the destruction of the railroad track. His infantry force [342] consisted of Gibbons' and Miles' divisions, and in the afternoon of the 25th he was reinforced by the division of Orlando B. Wilcox, which, however, arrived too late to be of any substantial service to him. Gregg's division of cavalry with an additional brigade commanded by Spear, was with him. He had abundant artillery, consisting in part of the 10th Massachusetts battery, Battery B, 1st Rhode Island, McNight's 12th New York battery, and Woemer's 3rd New Jersey battery.

On the 22nd Gregg was assailed by Wade Hampton with one of his cavalry divisions, and a sharp contest ensued. General Hampton, from the battlefield of the 22nd, sent a note to General R. E. Lee, suggesting an immediate attack with infantry. That great commander, realizing that a favorable opportunity was offered to strike Hancock a heavy blow, directed Lieutenant-General A. P. Hill to advance against him as promptly as possible. General Hill left his camp near Petersburg on the night of the 24th, and marching south halted near Armstrong's Mill, about eight miles from Petersburg. On the morning of the 25th he advanced to Monk's Neck Bridge, three miles from Ream's station, and awaited advice from Hampton. The Confederate force actually present at Ream's station, consisted of Cooke's and MacRae's brigades of Heth's divisions, Lane's, Scales' and McGowan's brigades of Wilcox's division, Anderson's brigade of Longstreet's corps, two brigades of Mahone's division, Butler's and W. H. F. Lee's division of cavalry, and a portion of Pegram's battalion of artillery.

Being the central regiment of the brigade, MacRae's line of battle was formed on it, as was customary. Just previous to the assault upon General Hancock's command, the regiment was posted in the edge of a pine thicket, about 300 yards from the breastworks held by the Federal troops. When the order was given to advance, the men threw themselves forward at a double-quick in a line as straight and unbroken as they presented when on parade, and without firing a gun, mounted the entrenchments and precipated themselves amongst the Federal infantry on the other side, who seemed to be dazed by the vehemence of the attack, and made a feeble resistance after their ranks were reached.

A battery of artillery captured by the regiment, was turned upon the retreating columns of the enemy. It was manned by sharpshooters of the 44th, who had been trained in artillery practice. Captain Oldham, of Company K, sighted one of the guns repeatedly, and when he saw the effect of his accurate aim upon the disarmed [343] masses in front, was so jubilant, that General MacRae, with his usual quiet humor, remarked: ‘Oldham thinks he is at a ball in Petersburg.’

The Federal loss in this battle was between six and seven hundred killed and wounded, and 2, 150 prisoners, 3, 100 stands of small arms, twelve stands of colors, nine guns and caissons. The Confederate loss was small, and fell principally upon Lane's brigade; it did not exceed 500 in killed and wounded. The casualties in the 44th regiment were trifling, as well as other regiments of the brigade, as Hancock's men in its front fired wildly above the mark, being badly demoralized by the fire of the Confederate artillery, under cover of which MacRae's men advanced to the assault.

James Forrest, who carried the colors of the regiment, became famous for his chivalrous devotion to the flag, and his gallantry upon every field.

On the night of the 22nd of August, 1864, the regiment returned with MacRae's Brigade to its position on the line of entrenchments at Petersburg, held by General Lee's right, and continued to perform the routine of duties incident to such a life until the 27th day of October, 1864.

Burgess' Mill.

The enemy having forced back our cavalry, and penetrated to a point on our right known as Burgess' Mill, on the 27th of October, 1864, General MacRae was ordered to attack, with the understanding that he should be promptly reinforced by one or more brigades. Reconnoitering the enemy's position, he pointed out at once the weak part of their line to several officers who were with him and ordered his brigade to the assault. It bore down everything in its front, capturing a battery of artillery, and dividing the corps which it had assailed. The Federal commander, seeing that MacRae was not supported, closed in upon his flanks and attacked with great vigor. Undismayed by the large force which surrounded him, and unwilling to surrender the prize of victory already within his grasp, MacRae formed a portion of his command obliquely to his main line of battle, driving back the foe at every point, whilst the deafening shouts and obstinate fighting of his brigade showed their entire confidence in their commander, although every man of them knew their situation to be critical, and their loss had already been great. Awaiting reinforcements, which long since ought to have been with him, he held his vantage ground at all hazards, and against enormous [344] odds. No help came whilst his men toiled, bled, and died. Approaching night told him that the safety of his brigade demanded that he return to his original position. Facing his men about, they cut their way through a new line of battle which had partially formed in their rear. In this encounter the 44th North Carolina bore a brilliant part; it drove the Federal line, everywhere in its front, steadily to the rear. Lieutenant R. W. Stedman, of Company A, with less than fifty men, charged and captured a battery of artillery which was supported by a considerable force of infantry. This battery was disabled and left, as it was impossible to bring it off the field when the regiment was ordered to return to the position it occupied at the commencement of the fight. The affair at Burgess' Mill was marred by the misunderstanding of his orders by an officer in high rank, by which he failed to reinforce as instructed, General MacRae, causing a heavy loss to his brigade.

From Burgess' Mill the regiment again returned to its old position in the entrenchments at Petersburg. On the 2nd of April, 1865, the Confederate lines having been pierced and broken through, the regiment under orders commenced its retreat towards Amelia Courthouse, which place it reached on the 4th of April. Its line of march was marked by constant and bloody engagements with the Federal troops, which followed in close pursuit but who were entirely unable to produce the slightest demoralization or panic. At Sutherlin's station the fight was severe. On the night of the 5th it left Amelia Courthouse and reached Appomattox on the morning of the 9th, where, together with the bleeding remnants of the Army of Northern Virginia it stacked its arms, and its career was ended.

The ‘esprit de corps’ of the regiment was of the very highest order. Neither disease, famine nor scenes of horror well calculated to freeze the hearts of the bravest ever conquered its iron spirit. The small remnant who survived the trials of the retreat from Petersburg, and who left a trail of blood along their weary march from its abandoned trenches to Appomattox Courthouse, were as eager and ready for the fray on that last memorable day as when with full ranks and abundant support they drove the Federal troops before them in headlong flight on other fields. This spirit especially manifested itself in the love of the regiment for its flag, which was guarded by all its members with chivalrous devotion and which was never lost or captured on any field. The first flag was carried from the commencement of its campaign until about January 1, 1865, when a new one was presented in its stead, for the reason that so much of the old flag had been shot away that it could not be distinctly seen by other [345] regiments during brigade drills, and as the 44th was always made the central regiment, upon which the others of the brigade dressed in line of battle, as well as on parade, a new flag had become a necessity.

The new battle flag was carried by Color Sergeant George Barber, of Co. G. until the night of April 1st, 1865, when crossing the Appomattox, he wrapped a stone in it and dropped it in the river, saying to his comrades about him, ‘No enemy can ever have a flag of the 44th North Carolina Regiment.’ The wonderful power which the high order of ‘ esprit de corps’ exerted for good amongst the officers and men, is illustrated by an incident which is worthy to be recorded amidst the feats of heroes.

A private by the name of Tilman, in the regiment, had on several occasions attracted General MacRae's favorable attention and, at his request, was attached to the color guard. Tilman's name was also honorably mentioned in the orders of the day from brigade headquarters.

Soon thereafter, in front of Petersburg, the regiment became severely engaged with the enemy and suffered heavy loss. The flag several times fell, as its bearers were shot down in quick succession. Tilman seized it and again carried it to the front. It was but an instant and he, too, fell. As one of his comrades stooped to raise the flag again, the dying soldier touched him, and in tones made weak by the approach of death, said, ‘Tell the General I died with the flag.’ The tender memories and happy associations connected with his boyhood's home faded from his vision as he rejoiced in the consciousness that he had proved himself worthy of the trust which had been confided to him.

The old battle flag of the regiment, tattered and torn by ball and shell, its staff riddled and its folds in shreds, was presented to Mrs. Della Worth Bingham, wife of Captain Robert Bingham, Co. G, by the Major commanding, as a mark of respect and esteem in behalf of officers and men to a woman who had won their affectionate regard, and whose husband had ever followed it with fidelity and fortitude upon every field where it waved. Captain Bingham, whose home is in Asheville, N. C., still has it in his possession.

Its folds shall become mouldy with the lapse of years. The time will come when the civil war shall only be remembered as a shadow of days longpassed, but the memories of the great deeds of the sons of Carolina who followed that flag, and who sleep in unknown graves upon the fields of Northern Virginia, shall survive unshaken amidst the ruins of time.

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