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Chapter 17:

The limits of this sketch of the North Carolina troops forbid a detailed account of the services of the four regiments in the Tennessee and Georgia campaigns. These regiments were, so far as official reports seem to show, the Twenty-ninth, Lieut.-Col. B. S. Proffitt; the Thirty-ninth, Col. D. Coleman; the Fifty-eighth, Maj. T. F. Dula, and the Sixtieth, Col. J. B. Palmer. For awhile Colonel Palmer was in command of Reynolds' brigade. During his absence, that regiment was commanded by Lieut.-Col. J. T. Weaver, whose gallant life was given up for his State.

Through all the trying marches, hungry days and nights, stubborn fighting and nerve-testing vicissitudes, these noble men kept close to their colors, and illustrated by their patient endurance and cheerful obedience that they were of the heroic clay from which soldiers are made.

After Hoke's division was recalled from New Bern to engage with Beauregard's army at Drewry's bluff, there were no military operations, except of minor importance, in North Carolina, until the first attack on Fort Fisher.

Colonel Lamb, the heroic defender of the fort, thus describes his works: ‘At this time Fort Fisher extended across the peninsula 682 yards, a continuous work, mounting twenty heavy guns, and having two mortars and four [274] pieces of light artillery. The sea face was 1,898 yards in length, consisting of batteries connected by a heavy curtain and ending in the mound battery 60 feet high, mounting in all twenty-four heavy guns, including one 170-pound Blakely rifled gun and one 130-pound Armstrong rifled gun. At the extreme end of the point was Battery Buchanan with four heavy guns.’

General Whiting and Colonel Lamb had both expended much labor and ingenuity in perfecting the defenses of this fort. Wilmington was the port into which the blockade runners were bringing so large a portion of the supplies necessary for the Confederacy that General Lee said if Fort Fisher fell he could not subsist his army. This thought nerved Lamb to prolonged resistance.

The garrison, when the Federal fleet arrived on December 20th, consisted of five companies of the Thirty-sixth North Carolina (artillery) regiment. General Whiting, in command of the department, entered the fort as soon as it was threatened. Major Reilly, of the Tenth regiment (artillery), with two of his companies also reported there. Colonel Lamb states that the total effective force on December 25th was 1,431, consisting of 921 regulars, about 450 Junior reserves, and 60 sailors and marines.

The ‘powder-ship’ Louisiana, loaded with 250 tons of powder, was headed for the fort, and exploded on the night of the 23d. This explosion, however, proved harmless. Then, on the 24th, the fleet approached for bombardment. Colonel Lamb thus tells his experience under that fire:. ‘The fleet, consisting of the Ironsides, four monitors and forty-five wooden steam frigates, commenced a terrific bombardment. . . . For five hours a tremendous hail of shot and shell was poured upon the works with but little effect. At 5:30 the fleet withdrew. . . . Some 10,000 shot and shell were fired by the fleet. The fort being obliged to husband its ammunition, fired only 672 projectiles.... Only 23 men were wounded.’ [275]

General Butler determined to make a second attempt. So on Christmas day at 10:30 a. m., the fleet, reinforced by one more monitor and some additional wooden steamers, began another bombardment. Colonel Lamb tells the result: ‘At 5:30 p. m., a most terrific enfilading fire against the land face and palisade commenced, unparalleled in severity. Admiral Porter reported it at 130 shot and shell per minute, more than two every second. The men were required to protect themselves behind the traverses; the extra men were sent to the bombproofs with orders to rally to the ramparts as soon as the firing ceased. As soon as this fire commenced, a line of skirmishers advanced toward the works. When the firing ceased, the guns were manned and opened with grape and canister, and the palisade was manned by two veterans and Junior reserves. No assault was made. Our casualties for the day, were, killed 5, wounded 33. In the afternoon both of the 7-inch Brooke rifles exploded. .. five other guns were disabled by the enemy. . . . There were only 3,600 shot and shell exclusive of grape and shrapnel in the works. . . . Except when special orders were given the guns were only fired every half hour. In the two days, the frigates Minnesota and Colorado fired 3,551 shot and shell, almost as many as were in all the batteries of Fort Fisher.’

With this second experience, General Butler retired, and the fort had a respite until January. The expedition had been fitted out elaborately and was unusually strong. Captain Selfridge, who commanded one of Butler's ships, says: ‘The navy department was able to concentrate before Fort Fisher a larger force than had ever before assembled under one command in the history of the American navy—a total of nearly sixty vessels.’ The total number of guns and howitzers, according to the computation of the editors of ‘Battles and Leaders,’ was over 600, and the total weight of projectiles at a single discharge of all the guns was over 22 tons. The [276] retirement of this great armament without accomplishing anything was a great disappointment to the Federal authorities. Captain Selfridge says: ‘Words cannot express the bitter feeling and chagrin of the navy.’

When it became evident to the Confederate government that Fisher was to be attacked, General Hoke's division was ordered to its relief, reaching Wilmington on the 24th of December, and the advanced regiments arrived at Fisher on the same day. Butler, having landed a force on the ocean side, the Seventeenth North Carolina was withdrawn from the fort on the 25th and ordered to attack. As General Butler withdrew his men, only a skirmish occurred. General Bragg was in chief command in the State. Evidently not expecting a second attack, he withdrew Hoke from Sugar Loaf, and the division went into camp near Wilmington, sixteen miles from Fisher.

But General Terry, with about the same force that General Butler had commanded, except that it was reinforced by two negro brigades, was ordered to retrieve the first reverse. On the 14th of January, Terry landed 8,500 men without opposition, and that night, moving across the peninsula, constructed a line of field works from the ocean to Cape Fear river, thereby cutting off all land communication between the fort and General Bragg's command. No effort of any importance seems to have been made by the commanding general to assist the doomed fort. After the first bombardment, five companies of the Thirty-sixth regiment (artillery) returned from Georgia and took their old place in the garrison. The total force there, after the return of these men, was about 1,900.

‘All day and all night on the 13th and 14th [of January],’ says Colonel Lamb, ‘the fleet kept up a ceaseless and terrific bombardment..... It was impossible to repair damage at night. No meals could be prepared for the exhausted garrison; the dead could not be buried [277] without new casualties. Fully 200 had been killed during these two days, and only three or four of the land guns remained serviceable.’

Then the land forces approached nearer and nearer by pits and shelter, and the assault began. Most desperately did General Whiting, Colonel Lamb, and all their officers and men fight for the important fort; frequently did they signal for the aid they sorely needed. General Whiting and Colonel Lamb were both severely wounded. On the 5th, after exhausting every energy, the fort was surrendered. The Federal loss is stated at 1,445. The garrison lost about 500. Few more gallant defenses against such odds are recorded. General Whiting died shortly after in a Northern prison.

The winter around Petersburg was the worst one of the four years of the war, to the North Carolina troops, as well as to all of Lee's army. The gloom of despondency was fast settling upon the army that had defied so many perils. It was now known that there was not meat enough in the Southern Confederacy for the armies it had in the field; that there was not in Virginia either meat or bread enough for the armies within her limits; that meat must be obtained from abroad.

But by heavy drafts upon North Carolina, food was sent to the armies in Virginia, and by February of 1865, their condition was somewhat improved. Reserve depots were established at Lynchburg, Danville and Greensboro. Even then new difficulties appeared, for the railroads were so poorly equipped that they could not haul rations as fast as the armies consumed them. Wagons had to make regular trips to supplement the worn-out trains.

At the opening of the spring campaign, the following North Carolina troops were present in the army of Northern Virginia:--In Gen. Bryan Grimes' division were the First North Carolina, Maj. L. C. Latham; the Second, Maj. J. T. Scales; the Third, Maj. W. T. Ennett; the Fourth, Capt. J. B. Forcum; the Fourteenth, [278] Lieut.-Col. W. A. Johnston; the Thirtieth, Capt. D. C. Allen; all of Gen. W. R. Cox's brigade; the Thirty-second, Capt. P. C. Shurord; the Forty-third, Capt. W. J. Cobb; the Forty-fifth, Col. J. R. Winston; the Fifty-third, Capt. T. E. Ashcraft, and the Second North Carolina battalion, all of Grimes' old brigade, commanded by Col. D. G. Cowand. In other divisions—Walker's, Heth's, Wilcox's and Johnson's—were the Fifth, Col. J. W. Lea; the Twelfth, Capt. Plato Durham; the Twentieth, Lieut. A. F. Lawhon; the Twenty-third, Capt. A. D. Peace; the First battalion, Lieut. R. W. Woodruff; all of Gen. R. D. Johnston's brigade; the Sixth, Capt. J. H. Dickey; the Twenty-first, Capt. J. H. Miller; the Fifty-fourth; the Fifty-seventh, Capt. John Beard; all of General Lewis' brigade; the Eleventh, Col. W. J. Martin; the Twenty-sixth, Lieut.-Col. J. T. Adams; the Forty-fourth, Maj. C. M. Stedman; the Forty-seventh; the Fifty-second, Lieut.-Col. Eric Erson, of Gen. William MacRae's brigade; the Fifteenth, Col. W. H. Yarborough; the Twenty-seventh, Lieut.-Col. J. C. Webb; the Forty-sixth, Col. W. L. Saunders; the Forty-eighth, Col. S. H. Walkup; the Fifty-fifth, Capt. W. A. Whitted; all of Gen. J. R. Cooke's brigade; the Eighteenth, Maj. T. J. Wooten; the Twenty-eighth, Capt. J. T. Linebarger; the Thirty-third, Col. R. V. Cowan; the Thirty-seventh, Maj. J. L. Bost; all of Gen. J. H. Lane's brigade; the Thirteenth, Lieut.-Col. E. B. Withers; the Sixteenth, Col. W. A. Stowe; the Twenty-second, Col. T. D. Galloway; the Thirty-fourth, Lieut.-Col. G. M. Norment; the Thirty-eighth, Col. John Ashford; all of General Scales' brigade; the Twenty-fourth; the Twenty-fifth, Col. H. M. Rutledge; the Thirty-fifth, Maj. R. E. Petty; the Forty-ninth, Maj. C. Q. Petty; the Fifty-sixth, Col. P. F. Faison; all of Gen. M. W. Ransom's brigade. The First, Second, Third and Fifth North Carolina cavalry, composed Gen. Rufus Barringer's brigade; the Fourth and Sixteenth battalion, Gen. W. P. [279] Roberts' brigade.1 The following batteries are reported: Capt. H. G. Flanner's, Capt. John Ramsey's, Capt. A. B. Williams' and Capt. Guion's.

To break up the wagon trains that were thought to aid in supplying the Confederate army, General Grant ordered the Second and Fifth corps to move on Hatcher's run. Portions of the Sixth and Ninth corps were afterward sent to reinforce the Second and Fifth. February 6th, General Lee, being apprised of this threat to his right, arranged for parts of Gordon's and Hill's corps to meet it. The Federal corps, on establishing line, promptly intrenched. That afternoon Pegram led an attack on the new line and broke General Warren's front. That was afterward restored, and the success, in which Cooke's and MacRae's brigades shared, was without fruit, and resulted in Pegram's death.

In the brilliant attack on Fort Stedman, Grimes' divi-sion and other North Carolina troops bore their full share of deadly battle. At Rives' salient, on the day of evacuation of Petersburg, at Southerland's Station, at Sailor's creek, on to Appomattox, the North Carolina infantry were as a wall of fire to the great commander whose peerless worth they reverenced. At Chamberlin's run, so glorious to the North Carolina cavalry under Generals Barringer and Roberts, and in all that hopeless campaign, the Carolina horsemen measured to the full their soldierly duty. At almost every fortified line on the south side of the James, the guns of Carolina's batteries had added to the destruction worked. But all their matchless heroism, combined with that of their dauntless comrades from sister States, could no longer delay the hour of humiliation. And at Appomattox, on the 9th of April, the remnant of as peerless an army as ever stepped under banners surrendered. [280]

1 The commanders of these regiments as given in the records are generally those in charge at the surrender. It is regretted that not all are given.

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