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Chapter 2:

  • From Bethel to First Manassas
  • -- fighting along the coast -- supplies of clothing and arms a serious difficulty.

The six weeks that intervened between Bethel and First Manassas were weeks of ceaseless activity. Regiments marched and countermarched; the voice of the drill-master was heard from hundreds of camps; quartermasters and commissary officers hurried from place to place in search of munitions and stores; North Carolina was hardly more than one big camp, quivering with excitement, bustling with energy, overflowing with patriotic ardor.

Toward the middle of July expectant eyes were turned to Virginia. The Confederate army under Generals Johnston and Beauregard was throwing itself into position to stop the ‘On to Richmond’ march of the Federal army under Gen. Irvin McDowell. Two

armies vastly greater than had ever before fought on this continent, and the largest volunteer armies ever assembled since the era of standing armies Beauregard in Battles and Leaders.

were approaching each other. Battle is always horrible, but this was most horrible in that these two armies were sprung from the same stock, spoke the same tongue, rejoiced in the same traditions, gloried in the same history, and differed only in the construction of the Constitution.

In this great battle, so signally victorious for the Confederate arms, North Carolina had fewer troops engaged than it had in any other important battle of the armies in Virginia. Col. W. W. Kirkland's Eleventh (afterward Twenty-first) regiment, with two companies— [22] Captain Conolly's and Captain Wharton's—attached, and the Fifth, Lieut.-Col. J. P. Jones in command during the sickness of Colonel McRae, were present, but so situated that they took no decided part in the engagement The Sixth regiment was hotly engaged, however, and lost its gallant colonel, Charles F. Fisher.

This regiment had, by a dangerous ride on the Manassas railroad, been hurried forward to take part in the expected engagement. When it arrived at Manassas Junction, the battle was already raging. Colonel Fisher moved his regiment forward entirely under cover until he reached an open field leading up to the famous Henry house plateau, on which were posted Ricketts' magnificent battery of Federal regulars with six Parrott guns, and not far away Griffin's superbly-equipped battery of Fifth United States regulars. These batteries, the com manders of which both rose to be major-generals, had done excellent service during the day, and not until they were captured was McDowell's army routed. At the time of Fisher's arrival these guns, which had only recently been moved to this plateau, were supported by the Eleventh New York (Fire Zouaves) and the Fourteenth (Brooklyn) New York. Fisher's presence was not even suspected by the enemy until he broke cover about, says Captain White,1 125 yards in front of Ricketts' battery, and with commendable gallantry, but with lamentable inexperience, cried out to his regiment, which was then moving by flank and not in line of battle, ‘Follow me,’ and moved directly toward the guns. In the confusion of trying to get in line, three of the left companies, with Lieutenant-Colonel Lightfoot, became separated from the right companies and took no part in the gallant rush forward, of which General Beauregard says,

Fisher's North Carolina regiment came in happy time to join in the charge on our left. Official Report.

The Sixth was so close to [23] Ricketts that the elevation of his guns lessened their deadly effect, and its close-range volleys soon drove back the supporting zouaves and terribly cut down his brave gunners. At this juncture Capt. I. E. Avery said to his courageous colonel, who was also his close friend, ‘Now we ought to charge.’ ‘That is right, captain,’ answered Fisher, and his loud command, ‘Charge!’ was the last word his loved regiment heard from his lips. In prompt obedience the seven companies rushed up to the guns, whose officers fought them until their men were nearly all cut down and their commander seriously wounded. But the charge was a costly one. Colonel Fisher, in the words of General Beauregard, ‘fell after soldierly behavior at the head of his regiment with ranks greatly thinned.’ With him went down many North Carolinians
whose names were not so prominent, but whose conduct was as heroic. Roy's Regimental History.

Just as the Sixth reached the guns there was a lull in the fierce contest, and officers and men sought a moment's rest. Young Wiley P. Mangum, exclaiming, ‘I am so tired!’ threw himself under the quiet shadow of one of the guns, so recently charged with death, and Captain Avery, Lieuts. John A. McPherson, B. F. White, A. C. Avery and others gathered around the battery. Just then, from a wood in their left front, the Second Wisconsin regiment fired into the Carolinians. This regiment was dressed in gray uniform,2 and from this fact, as well as from its position, the officers of the Sixth thought it was a Confederate regiment and called out to their men who were beginning to return the fire not to shoot, and made signals to the supposed friends. Young Mangum, who had sprung to his feet at the sound of the firing, fell mortally wounded, and several others were killed or disabled. Not knowing what to do, the regiment fell back in some confusion to the point where [24] it had entered the field, and the enemy advanced to recover the battery. On Kershaw's advance, however, the Sixth again went to the front, and some of them had the pleasure of seeing General Hagood and Captain Kemper of Kershaw's force turn the recaptured guns on their enemies. Shortly after this the arrival of Gen. Kirby Smith's forces on the enemy's right flank ended the battle. The Sixth lost 73 men in killed and wounded.

Gen. William Smith, (Southern Historical Society's Papers, Vol. X, p. 439) falls into a grievous mistake about this regiment. He says, ‘When driven back from the guns, neither the North Carolinians nor the Mississippians remained to renew the charge, but incontinently left the field.’ The North Carolinians never fell back except when, as explained above, they were fired upon by a regiment thought to be on their own side, and they yielded ground then only after repeated injunctions from their own officers not to fire. They returned with Kershaw, followed the enemy in the direction of Centreville until ordered to return, and at night camped on the battlefield. Maj. R. F. Webb and Lieut. B. F. White, detailed to bury the dead, collected twenty-three bodies near the battery, and those of Colonel Fisher and Private Hanna were lying far beyond it. These assertions are substantiated by five officers present on the field, and by the written statements of many others, published years ago.

This battle ended the fighting in Virginia for that year. North Carolina, however, was not so fortunate, for the next month saw Butler's descent upon its coast.

The coast of North Carolina, as will be seen by the accompanying map, is indented by three large sounds: Currituck, Albemarle and Pamlico. Into these the rivers of that section, most of them navigable, empty. These were the great highways of trade, and by them, by the canal from Elizabeth City, and by the railroads from New Bern and Suffolk, the Confederacy was largely supplied with necessary stores.

The command of the [25] broad waters of these sounds, with their navigable rivers extending far into the interior, would control more than one-third of the State and threaten the main line of railroad between Richmond and the seacoast portion of the Confederacy..... These sounds of North Carolina were no less important to that State than Hampton Roads was to Virginia. Scharf's History of the Confederate States Navy.

The long sandbank outside of these sounds and separating them from the ocean, reached from near Cape Henry to Bogue inlet, two-thirds of the entire coast line. Here and there this bulwark of sand is broken by inlets, a few of which allow safe passage from the Atlantic, always dangerous off this coast, to the smooth waters of the sound. The necessity of seizing and holding these inlets, controlling as they did such extensive and important territory, was at once seen by the State authorities. So, immediately after the ordinance of secession was passed, Governor Ellis ordered the seizure of Fort Caswell, near Smithville, and of Fort Macon, near Morehead City. These were strengthened as far as the condition of the State's embryonic armories allowed. Defenses were begun at Ocracoke inlet, at Hatteras inlet, and on Roanoke island. Though these works were dignified by the name of forts, they were pitifully inadequate to the tasks assigned them. The one at Ocracoke was called Fort Morgan, and the two at Hatteras respectively Fort Hatteras and Fort Clark. When the State became a member of the Confederacy, these works, along with the ‘mosquito fleet,’ consisting of the Winslow, the Ellis, the Raleigh and the Beaufort, each carrying one gun,3 were turned over to the new government. Even a cursory reading of the official correspondence of the successive officers detailed, as they could be spared from the Virginia field, to take charge of these coast defenses, awakens sympathy for them in their fruitless appeals to the government for [26] proper munitions of war, and admiration for their untiring energies and plucky utilization of sand-bars, turf, and smooth-bore guns.

As the Federal government tightened the blockade, rapidly raising the number of its ships from 42 in 1861 to 6714 in 1864, it saw the necessity of possessing these sounds for safe anchorage, and it realized, as Scharf puts it, ‘that they were depots from which the very central line of inland communication of the Confederates might be broken, and that they were the “back-door” to Norfolk, by which the navy yard might be regained.’ Moreover, the daring excursions of little Confederate vessels, mounting one or two guns, like the Winslow, under the restlessly energetic Thomas M. Crossan, which dashed out from these inlets to reap a rich harvest in captured vessels, raised such an outcry in Northern business circles that there was added incentive to seize the home waters of these vessels. An illustration of the activity of these diminutive ships of war is found in the fact that in the month and a half preceding the capture of Hatteras they had seized as prizes eight schooners, seven barks and one brig.5

Accordingly, in August, 1861, the Federal government fitted out at Fortress Monroe a combined army and navy expedition for an attack on the two forts at Hatteras. The land forces,6 consisting of 800 infantry and 60 artillerymen, were commanded by Gen. B. F. Butler; the naval force, comprising the war vessels Wabash, Susquehanna, Pawnee, Monticello, Cumberland, Harriet Lane and transport ships, carrying in all 143 guns, was commanded by Flag-Officer S. H. Stringham. these forces sailed for Hatteras inlet on the 26th of August and arrived off the inlet that afternoon.

To resist this formidable expedition, the Confederates [27] in the forts had eight companies of the Seventeenth North Carolina regiment, Col. W. F. Martin, and some detachments of the Tenth North Carolina artillery. The whole force on the first day of the engagement amounted to 5807 men. On the second day the Ellis8 landed some reinforcements, raising the number to 718. The post was commanded by Maj. W. S. G. Andrews. These forces were divided between Fort Hatteras and Fort Clark, which were about three-quarters of a mile apart Fort Hatteras—the position of which was so good that the enemy's engineer officer said after its capture, ‘With guns of long range it can successfully defend itself from any fleet’—was a square redoubt with pan coups at all the salients, and was constructed of sand, revetted with turf from adjoining marshes. Instead of being defended by guns ‘with long range,’ it mounted twelve9 smooth-bore 32-pounders. The other, Fort Clark, was a redoubt of irregular figure, and mounted five 32-pounders and two small guns. Its supply of ammunition was expended early in the engagement.

On the morning after the fleet's arrival, 318 men and two pieces of artillery, under cover of the ships' guns, were landed

without opposition from the Confederates, whose garrison was unequal to defense and only large enough to give importance to its capture. Scharf.

During the landing of these troops and until late in the day, when a rising gale drove the ships out to sea, the fleet fiercely bombarded the forts. In this engagement Boynton, as quoted by Hawkins,10 asserts that Commodore Stringham introduced the system of ships firing while in motion instead of waiting to fire from anchorage, a system adopted by Farragut and which has, in the Spanish- [28] American war, given such world-wide celebrity to the fleets of Admirals Dewey and Sampson.

The next morning the Federal fleet, using improved Paixhan, Dahlgren and columbiad guns, stood well out from shore and battered to pieces the forts and their guns. This they did in perfect safety, for, says Flag-Officer Barron,11 of the Confederate navy, who arrived at Hatteras on the evening of the 28th and succeeded to the command, ‘not a shot from our battery reached them with the greatest elevation that we could get.’ So, adds Barron, ‘without the ability to damage our adversary, and just at this time the magazine being reported on fire . . . I ordered a white flag to be shown.’

‘The immediate results of this expedition,’ says General Hawkins,12 ‘were the capture of 670 men, 1,000 stand of arms, 35 cannon and two strong forts; the possession of the best sea entrance to the inland waters of North Carolina, and the stoppage of a favorite channel through which many supplies had been carried for the use of the Confederate forces.’ Porter, in his Naval History, comments: ‘This was our first naval victory—indeed, our first victory of any kind, and great was the rejoicing thereat throughout the United States.’ The Federals at once occupied this commanding position and made it the basis of future operations against this coast.

With the exception of a skirmish at Chicamacomico this battle ended the offensive operations in 1861. After the capture of Hatteras the Twentieth Indiana regiment was moved up the beach to hold Chicamacomico, or Loggerhead inlet. On the 1st of October the Federal steamer Fanny ‘with a large supply of ammunition and stores’ left Hatteras for the Indiana camp, but Col. A. R. Wright, of the Third Georgia regiment, stationed on Roanoke island, in conjunction with Commander Lynch, of the ‘mosquito fleet,’ captured this vessel— [29] the first capture of an armed vessel during the war. Encouraged by this success, Colonel Wright and Colonel Shaw, of the Eighth North Carolina, loading their troops on Commodore Lynch's vessels, moved down to attack Chicamacomico. The Georgia troops effected a landing and drove the Indiana regiment some miles down the beach, taking about 30 prisoners. Colonel Shaw, who had moved further down the coast with the intention of landing and cutting off the enemy's retreat, put his men off into the water, his vessels having grounded, but they found it impossible on account of intervening sluices to wade ashore. The failure of Shaw's arduous efforts to land led to an abandonment of further pursuit.

The fall of Hatteras and the report of the preparation of another great expedition to fall on Southern coasts produced the utmost anxiety. This disquietude was not unmixed with indignation at the condition of affairs. The State's troops, especially her best-armed and best-trained regiments, were nearly all in Virginia, and all her coast defenses were, like Hatteras, poorly armed and insufficiently manned. Governor Clark, in a letter to the secretary of war, thus pictures affairs in his State:

We feel very defenseless here without arms . . . We see just over our lines in Virginia, near Suffolk, two or three North Carolina regiments, well armed and well drilled, who are not allowed to come to the defense of their homes. . . . We are threatened with an expedition of 15,000 men. That is the amount of our seaboard army, extending along four hundred miles of territory, and at no point can we spare a man, and without arms we cannot increase it.... We have now collected in camps about three regiments without arms, and our only reliance is the slow collection of shotguns and hunting rifles, and it is difficult to buy, for the people are now hugging their arms for their own defense.

Despairing at last of getting even his own regiments, he writes: [30]

The President has informed me that no troops for this defense can be withdrawn from Virginia, but I earnestly trust that if soldiers cannot be spared, I may at least hope that requisitions for arms and powder may be speedily and favorably attended to.

But this was 1861, and military stores were not obtainable. Governor Clark and his people, however, were not of a race to succumb to difficulties without a desperate struggle, and they went to work with vigor to do all that their circumstances would allow. At the request of the governor, Gen. D. H. Hill was sent from the army of Virginia that his experience as an artillery officer might be utilized in strengthening the existing fortifications and in the construction of new defenses. J. R. Anderson, a retired soldier of Virginia, was commissioned by President Davis a brigadier-general and sent to the Cape Fear district. With the paucity of material at their command, these officers exerted every energy to aid General Gatlin, who was in charge of the whole department. General Hill, however, could be spared from his command for only a few months, and in November he was ordered back to command a division in General Johnston's army. Gen. L. O'B. Branch succeeded him and was put in command of the forces around New Bern, and Gen. Henry A. Wise was assigned to the command of Roanoke island. Mirth-provoking would have been some of the shifts for offensive and defensive weapons had not the issues at stake been human life. Antiquated smooth-bore cannon, mounted on the front wheels of ordinary farm wagons, drawn by mules with plow harness on, moved to oppose the latest rifled columbiads and Parrott guns of Goldsborough's fleet. A regiment armed with squirrel rifles and fowling-pieces, and carving knives in place of bayonets, was transported to Roanoke island to engage the admirably equipped soldiers of Burnside. The catalogue of the names of Lynch's fleet in Albemarle sound—the Seabird, Ellis, [31] Beaufort, Curlew, Raleigh, Fanny and Forrest—sounds imposing enough even now when we remember that with fewer vessels Dewey fought at Manila; but when we recall that the flagship was a wooden side-wheeler, carrying only two guns and one of them a smooth-bore; that the other members of the squadron were canal tugboats, carrying one gun each; that the gunners were raw details from raw infantry; that the fleet had frequently to anchor while the crew cut green wood to fire the boilers—when we recall all this, we hardly know whether most to admire their hardihood, or to grieve that so brave a people had to go to war with such a travesty on preparation.

As the first winter of the war drew on, a serious question that confronted the State authorities was how to clothe and shoe the forty regiments in the field; for it was evident the Confederacy could not do it. Major Gordon gives this account of how it was done:

The legislature directed General Martin, late in September, to provide winter clothing, shoes, etc., for the troops. The time was short and it was no small task, but he went about it with his usual energy. He organized a clothing factory in Raleigh, under Captain Garrett; every mill in the State was made to furnish every yard of cloth that was possible; Capt. A. Myers was sent through North Carolina, South Carolina and as far south as Savannah, purchasing everything that was available for clothing the troops. The ladies came nobly to their assistance and furnished blankets, quilts and whatever they could. Many carpets were torn up, and by the combined efforts of the ladies and the officers, these were lined with cotton and made into quilts. The troops of North Carolina were clothed the first winter of the war, if not exactly according to military regulations, at least in such a manner as to prevent much suffering. After this winter the State was in better condition to supply the wants of the troops.


1 Ms. Regimental History.

2 Sherman's Memoirs.

3 Scharf's History of Confederate Navy.

4 Lossing's Civil War.

5 Schedule in Rebellion Records, IV, 588.

6 Rebellion Records, IV, 580

7 Rebellion Records, IV, 574.

8 Scharf's History Confederate Navy.

9 Both Hawkins in Battles and Leaders and Scharf fall into mistake of saying 25 guns.

10 Battles and Leaders.

11 Official Report

12 Battles and Leaders.

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