previous next

The Forty-Ninth N. C. Infantry, C. S. A. [from the Charlotte, N. C., Observer, October 20, 27, 1895.]

Its history from its organization, in March, 1862, until overpowered and made prisoners at five Forks, Va., April 1, 1865.

By Judge Thomas R. Roulhac, late First Lieutenant Company D., Forty-Ninth North Carolina Infantry.
[It should be stated that whilst this graphic article is presented as it was written, that the Southern Historical Society Papers is not committed as to some of the estimates of its writer.—Editor.]

The Forty-Ninth Regiment of North Carolina State troops was composed of ten companies of infantry, enlisted from the counties of McDowell, I; Cleveland, 2; Iredell, 2; Moore, I; Mecklenburg, I; Gaston, I; Catawba, I; and Lincoln, 1, which assembled at Garysburg, in the month of March, 1862. It was constituted, at its formation, wholly of volunteers, many of whom had sought service in the earlier periods of the war, and all of whom had responded to the call for soldiers as soon as it was practicable to furnish them with arms and equipments. In the latter part of March, or early in April, 1862, organization of the regiment was effected by the election of Stephen D. Ramseur as colonel, William A. Eliason lieutenant colonel, and Lee M. McAfee major. Lieutenant Richmond was the first adjutant, with George L. Phifer as sergeant major; Captain E. P. George, commissary; Captain J. W. Wilson, quarter-master; Dr. John K. Ruffin, surgeon; Reginald H. Goode, assistant surgeon; and Peter Nicholson, chaplain.

The non-commissioned staff was completed with James Holland, quarter-master sergeant; Harrison Hall, hospital steward; and James H. Geiger, ordnance sergeant.

The history of Ramseur is known to all the people of North Carolina. No one of her sons ever contributed, by his devotion to her service, skill and heroic bravery on the field of battle, and fearless exposure and ultimate sacrifice of his life, more to the historic lustre of the name and honor of this, the greatest of the American States. He gave untiring energy and masterly judgment to the rapid organization, [59] drill, discipline and preparation for active service in the field of his regiment. A graduate of the Military Academy at West Point, and for a few years an officer in the regular army, endowed with a mind of great strength and quickness, constant in purpose, daring and brilliant in execution, prepared for the science of war and revelling in its dangers and fierce encounters, and with a spirit fired with a determination to excel in the profession of arms; it is not to be wondered at, that, under his capable authority and the influence of his stirring example, the regiment, to be ever afterwards known as Ramseur's, should rapidly take form and shape as a strong, disciplined and efficient body of men; nor that the impress of his spirit and the effect of his training should, as its subsequent career demonstrated, be retained, not alone to characterize the natural development of veterans, but, likewise, as a part of its heritage of honor, so long as the flag under which he arrayed them claimed an existence amid the heraldry of nations. Short as was the length of his authority over them, the force of his activity, zeal and fearlessness was felt and recognized by the Forty-Ninth (Ramseur's) Regiment through all its struggles and hardships, in the camp, on the march, in making or meeting assaults, advancing or retreating; in sunshine and storm, through the long and wearing siege of Petersburg, where it rushed alone into the cavalier line after Grant's mine was sprung, and at skirmish distance in the works held two Federal army corps at bay for three hours—the slender link by which the two halves of General Lee's army was united—until reinforcements could be brought seven miles to retake the crater, when disasters fell fast and fierce on the cause for which they fought, as well as when before their steady charge the foe gave way, and victory perched on their well-worn battle flag, when death had thinned its ranks and suffering made gaunt the survivors, until at last its lines were crushed—its shout and shot the last to be heard—on the field of Five Forks, where its life and that of the Confederacy was ended forever. North Carolina, whose soil has been made sacred by the ashes of so many great and strong men, her jurists, her statesmen, her magistrates, her teachers, her ministers and priests, her soldiers and her patriots, holds within her bosom the dust of no nobler or more perfect man than that of Stephen Decatur Ramseur.

The regiment was officered by men of education, and, for the most part, in the full vigor of young manhood.

Its rank and file was taken from the Piedmont region of the State, [60] which then contained, as extended observation enables the writer to say, a population second to none for self-reliance, integrity, just respect for authority and modest worth and courage. Many of them were descendents of the people who made the Hornet's Nest of North Carolina a fortress of independence and a terror to their country's invaders.

Soon after its organization Lieutenant Colonel Eliason resigned, Major McAfee succeeding him, and Captain John A. Fleming, of Company A, was promoted to major.

When the operations of McClellan's army around Richmond, culminating in the seven days battles, began, the regiment was assigned to General Robert Ransom's brigade, and participated in several of those engagements. At Malvern Hill it bore a conspicuous part, leaving its dead and wounded on the field next in proximity to the enemy's works to those of the Twenty-Sixth North Carolina Regiment, then commanded by Colonel Zebulon B. Vance.

In this ill-advised assault the command suffered heavily in killed and wounded—Colonel Ramseur among the latter. His handling of the regiment and its conduct during those conflicts led to his prompt promotion to brigadier general, and to his assignment, as soon as he recovered from his wound, to other commands.

On November 1st, 1862, Lieutenant-Colonel McAfee was commissioned colonel, Major Fleming was promoted lieutenant colonel, and Captain Pinckney B. Chambers, of Company C, was made major. During the summer of 1862 Adjutant Richmond fell a victim to typhoid fever, and the life of this brave and capable officer was thus destroyed—no less an offering on the altar of patriotism than if he had laid it down on the battle-field. Cicero A. Durham, of Cleveland county, prior to the war a cadet of the Military Institute of General D. H. Hill, at Charlotte, and who afterwards became so famous throughout the army as the fighting quarter-master, was appointed adjutant. He served in this capacity with great efficiency and distinction until May 2, 1863, when he was promoted assistant quarter-master to succeed Captain George, who was transferred to other duties. William H. Dinkins, who had been sergeant-major, was appointed adjutant, and continued in that position during the remainder of the war, actively on duty until some time in the spring of 1864, when bad health caused his absence to the close of hostilities.

By reason of the losses in front of Richmond in this campaign, [61] both of officers and men, changes in the roster of officers were numerous.

It has been impossible at this late day to procure of the killed, wounded or missing in these battles anything like full or correct reports. The aggregate was considerable, and the casualties told the story of the fierce struggles in which the command was engaged, but access to the reports cannot be had.

George W. Lytle succeeded to the captaincy of Company A; Henry A. Chambers was, on December 10th, 1862, appointed to the command of Company C; Columbus H. Dixon was made captain of Company G on November 17th, 1862, in the place of Captain Rufus Roberts; Charles F. Connor, on February 1st, 1863, succeeded Captain W. W. Chenault, of Company I, and George L. Phifer became captain of Company K, in the place of Peter Z. Baxter, on July 24th, 1863; changes occasioned by the losses of 1862. Corresponding changes ensued in the other grades of company officers. From Richmond the scene of action was speedily transferred by General Lee to the Potomac and beyond; and through the Valley, by Harper's Ferry, to Sharpsburg, or Antietam, the command followed that great figure in our military history. Returning to Virginia, it participated in the battle of Fredericksburg, beginning December 11th, 1862, where it took position on the Plank road, and during the four days that the fighting there continued was subjected to heavy cannonading and some infantry fighting, several officers and men being killed and wounded; but the heaviest fighting was on the right of our lines and by other commands.

After this battle the Forty-Ninth remained in winter quarters near Fredericksburg until January 3d, 1863, when it was marched, by the Telegraph road, to Hanover Junction, thence to Richmond, and from there to Petersburg, which it reached on the evening of the 7th, and remained until the 17th, when it left for eastern North Carolina.

From this time on until the spring of 1864, the regiment, with the Twenty-fourth, Twenty-fifth, Thirty-fifth and Fifty-sixth regiments, composing General M. W. Ransom's brigade, protected the line of the Wilmington and Weldon railroad from those two terminal points, and that of the road from Goldsboro to below Kinston; being constantly on the move, appearing one day at the other end of the line from that at which they were the day before, and vigilently guarding the territory of eastern North Carolina from which such abundant [62] supplies were contributed for the support of our armies. Strategically, it was the right wing of the Army of Virginia; and General Scott, whose plan of campaign delineated at the beginning of hostilities, of intersecting the Confederacy, was verified by events, and the consummation of which resulted in our downfall, declared that, after the opening of the Mississippi, a heavy column pushed through the gateway of eastern North Carolina, would cause the abandonment of Virginia, and the dissevering of the most formidable portion of the Confederacy. The closing events of the war demonstrated the accuracy of his judgment and his consumate skill as a strategist. That it was not done sooner must convince the student of history how severely taxed were the powers and resources of the Federal government to meet and hold in check the main armies of the South, and that its dismemberment was deferred so long alone by the magnificent courage and endurance of its soldiery. Ransom's brigade was the only force of importance in the section mentioned for many months; and, occupying in quick succession Weldon, Warsaw, Keenansville, Goldsboro, Kinston, Wilmington and Greenville, it was always on hand to confront any movement of the enemy in that region. Occasionally a sharp brush with the enemy's forces was necessary to warn him of the foe in his path. From Newbern, Plymouth and Washington, in eastern Carolina, and from Norfolk and Suffolk, in Virginia, the Federals would send out expeditions; but, in each instance, no great distance would be traversed before they were confronted by Ransom's brigade. Besides the protection thus afforded to the main army in Virginta, an extensive and fertile section of the country was thus kept open for supplies of corn and meat to the Confederate forces; and it was not rare for other supplies and needed articles to reach our lines through that territory. Meanwhile, the ranks of all the regiments in that brigade were recruited; drill and discipline were advanced; and equipment was perfected; so that, when in 1864, we were made a component part of General Beauregard's command between Richmond and Petersburg, on the south side of the James, it is more than probable that there was not in the Confederate service any brigade containing a greater number of effective, well-trained, veteran soldiers, and which constituted so valuable a force of that grade.

On May 22d, 1863, a sharp affair occurred at Gum Swamp, in Craven or Lenoir county, in which the Fifty-sixth and Twenty-fifth regiments, owing to the negligence of our cavalry, were surrounded [63] by a considerable force of the enemy, and, after losing about 170 prisoners, the remainder of those two commands barely escaped capture by figting their way through the surrounding forces. During this movement Companies C, D, and H, of the Forty-ninth, were picketing at Mosley's Creek, a parallel road from Newbern, the balance of the regiment being moved from Kinston to the support of the troops at Gum Swamp, and by their timely arrival stayed the retreat and checked the attack.

The invasion of Pennsylvania during the summer of this year by General Lee occupied the attention of most of the Federal troops, and movements elsewhere were generally of slight importance.

During the presence of our army across the Potomac a demonstration in considerable force, probably with the hope of recalling some of the troops in his command to oppose it, was made towards Richmond from the direction of the Chickahominy; and Ransom's brigade was hurried by rail to meet the threatened raid. At Bottom's Bridge the Federal column was encountered; but after two days of brisk skirmishing its commander declined to attempt the passage of that stream. Some losses in killed and wounded were sustained by our forces, and the enemy suffered to as great an extent, with the addition of some prisoners captured by us. The return of the raiding column to York river was precipitated; and after a few days our command was back at its old duties in North Carolina. During the residue of the summer and succeeding fall and winter it was constantly on the move.

On June 9th, 1863, Thomas R. Roulhac was appointed sergeant major from Manly's battery, which was then in the army of Northern Virginia. In the latter part of October he joined the regiment at Garysburg, and served in that capacity and as acting adjutant until appointed first lieutenant of Company D, in June, 1864.

On January 28th, 1864, the command left Weldon for Kinston, and there became a part of the forces under Generals Pickett and Hoke in the movement against Newbern. General Pickett proceeded down the Dover road from Kinston with Corse's brigade of his own division, and those of Hoke and Clingman, of North Carolina, and attacked a camp of the enemy at Batchelor's creek, capturing about four hundred prisoners, two pieces of artillery, a large number of small arms, horses and camp equipage, and drove the entire Federal force precipitately towards Newbern.

Ransom's brigade, with Barton's and Kemper's Virginia brigades, [64] some cavalry and artillery, all under command of General Barton, crossed the Trent river and proceeded from near Trenton down the south side of the Trent to the south of Newbern. Meanwhile General J. G. Martin had moved with his brigade of North Carolina troops from Wilmington towards Morehead City. About daylight, on the morning of February 1st, the picket post of the Federals was reached and surprised without the escape of a single man. Every precaution had been taken, by the detention of negroes and every other person likely to be friendly to the enemy in the section through which we had hurriedly moved, to prevent information of the movement from reaching the commander of the Federals; and it is now certain that a complete surprise to him was effected. As soon as the picket post was taken each regiment of Ransom's brigade was ordered to throw forward a company of skirmishers, Company C, of the Forty-ninth, being selected from that regiment. This was done largely on account of the well-earned reputation of its commander, Captain Henry A. Chambers, for prudence, vigor and courage. No officer of his rank in the Confederate service was ever more faithful, constant and zealous in the discharge of every duty of every occasion and position than this distinguished and conscientious commander of Company C—youthful in age, but clear-minded, steadfast and useful in all emergencies; ripe in judgment beyond his years, and as fearless as a lion; the old reliable among the captains of this regiment, a Christian gentleman and a perfect soldier, it is not difficult to see that to him, by force of his example in the discharge of duty to his brother company officers, youthful like himself, and often heedless where he was prudent and self-possessed, and to that of Fleming, Davis, Durham, Harris, Phifer, Dixon and Grier, the efficiency and morale of the regiment was largely due. This company, and the whole line of skirmishers, were pushed forward rapidly under the orders of Captain Cicero A. Durham, the fighting quarter-master, until the enemy's fortifications were reached. It was the opinion of the officers above mentioned that if the cavalry had been dismounted and advanced with the skirmishers the works could have been easily taken. Instead of this being done, the artillery was moved to the front and a duel was begun between our few field pieces and the heavier guns in the redoubts, which resulted in nothing. That Newbern could have been taken in a short time and without any considerable loss, if any vigorous pressing had been undertaken by our troops on either side of the river, is now well ascertained. Indeed, General [65] Martin captured a courier from General Palmer, the commander of the Federals at Newbern, bearing a dispatch to the officer in command at Morehead City, stating that unless reinforcements were quickly sent him he must surrender.

It was during this expedition to Newbern that Commander Wood, of the Confederate Navy, made his daring attack upon the gunboat, Underwriter, and from under the very guns of their fortifications captured and cut it out; and, finding it disabled by the shells of the Federal batteries, destroyed her. Beyond these small results, however, nothing was accomplished, unless the whole movement was intended for a demonstration merely.

During the entire day of February 2d, Company D, under Lieutenant Barrett, and Company E, under Captain E. V. Harris, occupied the skirmish line, the enemy keeping close within their works, and not venturing any movement or scarcely firing a shot from small arms or artillery.

On the night of the 2d the column retraced its steps through the deep, muddy swamp roads, illuminated by the blazing pine trees, whose turpentine boxes had caught from the camp-fires on the way down.

The next expedition, after returning to our winter quarters, was from Weldon, via Franklin and South Mills, in the direction of Norfolk. The enemy was met along the Dismal Swamp canal, driven in after the capture of a number of prisoners by Colonel Dearing in command of the cavalry, and the capture of Norfolk threatened. This march was made in very severe weather, in the early part of March, 1864. It was immediately succeeded by the attack on and capture of Suffolk, on March 9th, 1864. This was a most exciting little affair, in which our troops met negro soldiers for the first time. Quick work was made of their line of battle, and their retreat was soon converted into a runaway. Their camps were hastily abandoned, arms thrown away, and, discarding everything which could impede flight, they made their way to the swamps. One piece of artillery and a large number of horses captured, and a loss in killed and wounded of several score of the enemy were the results. It was here that our quarter-master, Captain Durham, placing himself at the head of a squad of cavalry, charged into and put to flight a regiment of the enemy's horse. A number of them took refuge in a house in the suburbs of Suffolk, and began a brisk and hurtful fire upon Durham's men. He charged the house and succeeded, after a surrender had been refused, in setting fire to it. They continued the [66] fight until the flames enveloped the building and all of its occupants were destroyed. The firing of our artillery was excellent, every shot taking effect among the fleeing ebony horsemen. At a swift run, by sections, Branch's battery kept shot and shell in their midst as long as the fleeing cavalry could be reached.

The brigade held Suffolk all that day and the next. A heavy column was moved from Norfolk and Fortress Monroe to meet us, but, though we offered battle, no attack was made, and when we advanced, with Companies D and K of the Forty-ninth in the brigade front as skirmishers, the enemy fell back to the swamp. On the evening of the 10th we returned, via South Quay and Murfee's Station, to Weldon.

On March 30th we began our march from Weldon by way of Murfreesboro and Winton, the latter place having been totally destroyed by the Federals in one of their raids, to Harrellsville, in Bertie county.

At this place, Coleraine, and on the Chowan and beautiful Albemarle Sound, the month of April, 1864, was spent in the fullest enjoyment of all the delights of springtime; beautiful scenery on sound and river, and in the opening life of woods and flowers. The fish and other delicacies of this favored region touched a tender spot in the make — up of veterans, and caused us much congratulation that we had been chosen to cover this flank of the attack on and capture of Plymouth; and the period spent here marked a green spot in the memories of officers and men as the last space of repose and comfort which fell to our lot during the struggle.

On the 30th we marched through Windsor and the lovely Indian woods to Tayloe's Ferry, on the Roanoke, which we crossed at this point; thence through Hamilton to Greenville, where it was reported that on the fall of Plymouth little Washington had been evacuated by the Federals after burning a considerable portion of the town. Pushing on from Greenville we crossed Contentnea creek, the Neuse and Trent rivers to Trenton; thence to Kinston and back to Weldon. Immediately on our arrival there we were sent to Jarratt's Station, on the Petersburg railroad, to drive back the raid and open up the road from there to Stony Creek. A raiding column of Federal cavalry had the day before succeeded in cutting the road and tearing up the track after a hard fight with the small force defending it. On May 10th we reached Petersburg, and were at once hurried to Swift Creek, on the Richmond pike, where fighting had been going on for some time. We were now a part of Beauregard's [67] army, and while he remained in Virginia continued under the command of this officer, whom history is fast pronouncing the most brilliant soldier of the late civil war. Certainly none displayed greater skill in the management of bodies of troops on the field, such great engineering and strategic acumen, or possessed conceptions of the scope and character of the contest between the sections so correct at the outset, or so accurately perceived that the attitude and conditions of the Southern side of the issue demanded that its earliest blows should be the most telling, and the fruits of every advantage realized. That he was a master in the science of war is no longer questioned; and that his counsel to follow up his splendid victory of the First Manassas as the only chance of securing Southern independence was the prescience of far-seeing wisdom has been demonstrated.

At the date last-mentioned [May, 1864], Butler's movement on Drewry's Bluff, with Richmond as the objective point, had begun; and from this date until Five Forks every day was a day of battle for us. Butler had seized the Richmond pike, when we reached Petersburg, and had thrown a considerable force across to the railroad and Chesterfield Courthouse. But the advance of Hoke's Division with the brigades of Ransom and Hagood, under the command of that sterling North Carolinian, Robert F. Hoke, caused its withdrawal to the river-side of the pike. At Half-Way House Hoke offered battle, but the enemy slowly retired before him, and the way was opened to Drewry's Bluff for the reinforcements to Beauregard. As soon as we arrived there, Ransom's Brigade was ordered to the right of our lines, and had barely reached there and occupied the works when the first assault of the battle of Drewry's Bluff was made upon us. While repelling this attack in front, and, fortunately for the Forty-ninth Regiment, which was on the extreme right, as the Federals were beginning to give way, a Federal line of battle, which had extended around our right under cover of a piece of woods, opened a galling fire in our rear, and advanced to the charge from the wood on our right. But brave Durham had his skirmishers there; and, though they were few in number, he was ever a lion in the path of the foe. Foot by foot he contested the ground until the charge in our front was broken, when the Forty-ninth and Twenty-fifth Regiments leaped over the works and poured a destructive volley into the ranks of the flanking party, before which their line melted away. Poor Durham—truly a Chevalier Bayard, if ever nature placed a heart in man which was absolutely without fear and [68] a soul without reproach or blemish—received here a wound in his arm, necessitating amputation, from which he died. Occupying a position which did not call for his presence in battle, he never missed a fight; was always in the thickest at the forefront of the tempest of death; he gloried in the fray; and earned a reputation throughout the army as the fighting quartermaster, which added lustre to the valor of our troops, and which North Carolina and North Carolinians should not suffer to perish. He was but a boy, an humble, devout Christian, as pure and chaste as a woman, and in the intensity of his love for his State and the cause she had espoused, he counted the sacrifice of death as his simplest tribute in defense of her honor.

General M. W. Ransom was seriously wounded in the left arm in withdrawing his brigade, as ordered, to an inner line of our works. Resection was performed, and, although he soon returned to his post, he was crippled for life. The Fifth-sixth Regiment was hotly assailed in falling back, and lost a number in killed and wounded, but repulsed every assault upon it with telling effect upon the enemy. The Forty-ninth lost eleven killed and a considerable number of wounded in this engagement of the evening of May 13th. Brave Captain J. P. Ardrey, of Company F, was wounded, and left in the enemy's hands, and died before he could be moved. Lieutenant S. H. Elliott, of the same company, was wounded, and Lieutenant Linebarger, of Company H, was mortally wounded. Dr. Goode, Assistant Surgeon, and three litter-bearers were captured in attending upon the wounded. The 14th and 15th of May were passed in repelling repeated charges of the enemy upon our lines, and efforts to advance his own from our outer line of fortification, which had been abandoned to him on the evening of the 13th. Severe loss was inflicted upon them in each attempt.

The morning of May 16th was obscured by a dense fog. Preparations began at 3 o'clock on the Confederate side for an attack, and by daylight Beauregard moved his entire army forward for an attack, en echelon by brigades, left in front, the left wing being under the immediate command of General Robert Ransom. Ransom struck the enemy on their extreme right, carried their works, and turned their flank, each brigade in turn assisting to open the way to the next attacking one.

Blow after blow fell thick and fast on Butler's army. All parts of his line were heavily pressed, so that none could render assistance to the other, and before noon his army, largely exceeding in numbers the attacking force, thoroughly equipped and confident of victory, [69] was completely routed; and Beauregard had gained the best fought battle of the war. In boldness of conception and execution, tactical skill, thorough grasp of all the conditions of the situation, and command of his forces conducted by him in person on the field, it was unsurpassed by any fight on this continent; and but for Whiting's moving from his position on the turnpike in Butler's rear, thus allowing him to escape without molestation to Bermuda Hundreds, it would have resulted in the capture of his entire army. It is difficult now to understand how so many blunders could have been committed at critical moments by Confederate generals in important commands, save that the hand of Fate had penned the decree of our defeat; but of all those which contributed to our downfall, that of Major-General Whiting, on the afternoon of May 16, 1864, was one of the most glaring and stupendous. Soon after the battle opened, the Twenty-fourth and Forty-ninth Regiments were ordered to the right flank of Bushrod Johnson's Brigade, on the right of the turnpike facing towards Petersburg, and which was heavily engaged on the immediate right of our brigade. Moving at double-quick through thick woods, we came upon the enemy's first line of works, and drove them from it with great loss. Pursuing the foe, we advanced to the attack of the second line under a very heavy fire in our front and a severe enfilade from our right. Quickly responding to the orders of Colonel W. J. Clarke, of the Twenty-fourth, and the movement of his own regiment, we turned to the right and drove the enemy from the position, which enabled the enfilade fire to harass us, capturing his colors, inflicting heavy loss upon him. Moving directly forward, we again attacked the second line of their works, and had nearly reached them, when we were ordered to fall back and reform our lines. This was done under shelter of a skirt of woods, and in a short time Major James T. Davis, Colonel Mc-Afee having been slightly wounded, and Lieutenant-Colonel Fleming having been left in command of the brigade skirmish line when we were moved to the right, gave the command to advance with Captain Chambers' company deployed as skirmishers at an oblique angle to our right. In this attack, aided by the flanking movement from our left, the works in our front were readily taken. In these two charges of this day the Forty-ninth lost heavily in officers and men. When the works had been taken, the dead body of Captain Ardrey was recovered. Besides the wounding of the Colonel, Lieutenants W. P. Barnett, of Company F, and H. C. Conley, of Company A, were killed. Captain G. W. Lytle, of Company A, was mortally [70] wounded, and Lieutenants Daniel Lattimore, of Company B, and B. F. Dixon, of Company G, were severely wounded.

The next day we continued the pursuit of Butler's army, and assisted in his ‘bottling up’ at Bermuda Hundreds. Several brisk skirmishes and picket fights were had there until the lines were established, but none were of serious importance. In a picket charge on the night of June 1st, Captain George L. Phifer, of Company K, was wounded. Companies C, F and K were those from the Forty-ninth on the picket, and sustained a loss of three killed and seventeen wounded.

On June 4th we crossed the James at Drewry's Bluff, and confronted the enemy on the Chickahominy, at the York River Railroad bridge, and strengthened the fortifications there. On the 10th we were relieved by Kirkland's North Carolina Brigade, and returned by a forced march to the south side, and thence to Petersburg, to meet Grant's advance across the James. From this time on Ransom's Brigade became a part of Bushrod Johnson's Division. After marching all night of the 15th we reached Petersburg about 8 o'clock on the morning of the 16th, and were hurried to our fortifications on Avery's farm. At a run we succeeded in getting to the works before the enemy reached them. Through a storm of shot and shell we gained them, just in time to meet their charge and drive them back. In the afternoon we were hurried to Swift Creek, and with the Fifty-sixth North Carolina, under Major John W. Graham and Gracie's Brigade, drove back the Federal cavalry, which had attempted to cut our communications with Richmond, and enter Petersburg from that direction. We were then marched along the Richmond pike until about midnight, when we opened communication with the head of Longstreet's Corps. By the first light next morning we were hurried by train back to Petersburg, where, early in the morning, the enemy had captured a considerable part of Bushrod Johnson's old Brigade and several pieces of artillery. Hastily we three up a line of rifle pits; and now commenced Beauregard's magnificent grapple with Grant's army until Longstreet's command could reach us. With scarcely more than 5,000 men and eighteen pieces of field artillery, Beauregard kept in check Grant's army, coming up from City Point, all the day and night of June 17th, until sunrise of the 18th, when Longstreet came over the hill at Blandford cemetery on our right. When flanked on our right, we would fall back to meet the flank attack, repulse it, and then, being massed, Beauregard would hurl his shattered but compact [71] battalions against the Federal lines, and force them back, to reform and again press upon us. Through the 17th and the succeeding night every foot of ground from Avery's farm to Blandford cemetery was fought over and over again.

Ransom's Brigade played a conspicuous part in these movements. First Lieutenant Edward Phifer, of Company K, received his death wound through the lungs in this battle. A bright, noble boy, and faithful, light-hearted soldier. At times during this engagement our troops wood be lying on one side of the works and those of the enemy on the other; and it is said that the flag of the Thirty-fifth Regiment was lost and regained a half dozen times, until the Michigan Regiment with which it was engaged in a hand to hand encounter, surrendered to it. It was desperate fighting, and the most prolonged struggle of the kind during the war. With anxious hearts we saw the night wear on, not knowing what fate the morning would bring us, if we survived to see it; and it was with a glad shout that, as the sun rose, and the Federals were massing on our right flank to crush us, we welcomed the head of Longstreet's column coming at a trot to our left wing. The contemplated charge upon us was not made: rifle pits were hastily dug and strengthened into formidable entrenchments on the new line; and thus began the siege of Petersburg.

From this date untill March 16th, 1865, just nine months, in the lines east of Petersburg, occupying at different times positions from the Appomattox river to Jerusalem plank road, often not a hundred yards from the works of the enemy, constantly exposed to danger and death from mortar and cannon shells and balls, grape, schrapnel and the deadlier minnie balls, we engaged in daily battle. Exposed to sun and storm, heat and cold, with scanty food and insufficient supplies, the ranks thinning hourly from deaths, wounds, and sickness, depressed by the gathering gloom of our falling fortunes, through the dark, bitter and foreboding winter of 1864 and ‘65, the men of the Forty-ninth were faithful unto the end; never faltering in the performance of any duty, and never failing to meet and resist the foe.

On June the 8th, Lieutenant C. C. Krider, of Company C, was wounded in the right shoulder by a piece of shell. On July 23rd Captain John C. Grier, of Company F, was wounded in the arm and thigh by pieces of mortar shell. On July 30th occurred the springing of Grant's mine under Pegram's Battery, formerly Branch's on a hill about 400 yards to the right of our regiment, and on the left of Elliott's South Carolina Brigade. The Twenty-fifth North Carolina was between us and the mine. The battery, most of its men and [72] officers, and a considerable part of the Twenty-sixth South Carolina Regiment were blown up, the mine containing, it was said, thirty tons of blasting powder. A large excavation was made, and in the smoke and confusion, amid the flying debris and mangled men, the enemy charged in great force, effecting a lodgement in our lines, and a large number of flags of Burnside's Corps floated on our works. Reinforcements poured to their support and a vigorous assault was made on our line on both sides of the crater. In the van were negro soldiers crying, ‘No quarter to the rebels.’ Most fortunately for our army, we had completed but a day or two before a cavalier line in the rear of the salient, where the explosion occured; the two lines, salient and cavalier, forming a diamond shaped fortification. Into this cavalier line, from the left of the salient, rushed by the right flank the Twenty-fifth and Forty-ninth Regiments of Ransoms, and, from the other side, the remnant of the Twenty-sixth South Carolina, which had been blown up, and a part of another regiment of Elliott's Brigade. These rapidly formed for a charge to retake our works; but the enemy massed his troops so rapidly into the broken salient that it was deemed useless to make the attempt, but to hold on to the cavalier line. Now began the most desperate fighting of the war.

Simultaneously with the rush into the broken salient, the enemy in three lines of battle charged our works for a half mile on each side, only to be repulsed time and again with fearful slaughter. Meanwhile, in the cavalier line, our troops were clinging to the works with the tenacity of despair, and fighting with the fury of madmen. The compact, crowded mass of Federals rendered every shot effective. Our men aimed steadily and true; and as each rifle became too hot to be used another gun was at work by one who took the place of the first, or supplied him with rifles which could be handled. From a redoubt to our left and rear Wright's Battery opened upon the crowded, panic-stricken foe, as they huddled together, an enfilading, plunging fire with five field pieces and two mortars, every shot and shell tearing its way through living flesh. With our men and small bodies of the enemy, who formed and tried to force their way down our works, several hand to hand conflicts, with bayonets locked and rifles clubbed, occurred, which availed nothing to the cornered Yanks. When their support on either side were driven back, it was seen that those who had filled the salient were caught in a trap. When the fighting was hottest, but our supreme danger had been averted, in a large measure, by his promptness in the arrangement and disposition of his own regiment and [73] those men of the brave South Carolinians who had formed with us, when driven from the salient, he, who had so often led us with such calm, intrepid courage, Lieutenant-Colonel John A. Fleming, was shot through the head and instantly killed. Never was a braver knight than he; our State had no more devoted son than Fleming; the South no truer soldier. Somewhat reserved in bearing, severe to those who failed in duty, and disdaining all pretense and insincerity, he did not desire nor practice the arts which seek popularity. But he was so brave, so ready, so steadfast and constant in all trying conjunctures, as in his friendships, that his officers and men loved and respected him and followed him with implicit zeal and faith. He had said to the writer more than once that he was convinced that he would be killed; and the last time he repeated it, soon after some disaster to our arms, remarked that he would have few regrets in laying down his life if, by so doing, the freedom of the South could be secured. From early morning till nearly 3 o'clock in the afternoon of that fateful July day, the Twenty-fifth and Forty-ninth North Carolina and Twenty-sixth South Carolina held our line against tremendous odds, and until the force of the assault was spent and broken, when Mahone's Virginia, Wright's Georgia and Sanders' Alabama Brigades charged with the Twenty-fifth North Carolina and retook the entire salient, inflicting frightful slaughter upon the enemy. Our lines were reestablished, and the Federals were driven back at all points, losing, it was stated, more than 9,000 men, killed and wounded, besides 2,000 prisoners, colors and small arms captured in the undertaking. And when the victory was won, and the Forty-ninth was returning to its former position, Captain Edwin Victor Harris, of Company E, was shot through the neck, severing the main artery; and with his life blood gushing from his wound and his mouth, realizing his mortal calamity, but unable to speak, he extended his hand in farewell to Major Davis, and then to his devoted Lieutenant, John T. Crawford, and immediately the spirit of Edwin Harris, so joyous, happy and bright in this life, winged its flight to God. We, who knew his inmost thoughts—for he was as open as the day, and had a loving word and a cheerful smile for all he met—know that he was pure and gentle. It is not difficult to imagine that in the choirs of the ever blest the sweet, clear tenor voice, that in song brightened the troubled way and stirred the tenderest emotions of his brother soldiers around the camp-fire and on the march, will join their glad anthems, when his [74] sacrifice for home and country was made perfect in suffering and death.

Nothing occurred beyond the daily fighting, shelling and sharp-shooting on the lines occupied by our brigade, until August 21st, when we were hastily marched to our right, and under A. P. Hill, attacked the enemy on the Weldon Railroad, and after carrying two of his lines of fortifications, dislodged him from his position. Our loss was severe, the Forty-ninth suffering considerably. We then returned to our old place in the trenches. On December 14th Captain C. H. Dixon, of Company G, was killed, and Major C. Q. Petty, who had been appointed major in the place of Lieutenant-Colonel Davis, who succeeded Colonel Fleming, and eight men were wounded during a fierce mortar shelling to which we were subjected.

We remained in the trenches until March 16th, 1865, when we were relieved by Gordon's troops; and moved to the extreme right of our lines, occupying Mahone's old winter-quarters, and where we stayed until the evening of the 25th, when we were marched to Petersburg, and back to our old position on the lines. We reached there about midnight, and soon the arrangements were made for the attack on Fort Stedman, or Hare's Hill, under General John B. Gordon. Just at daylight the next morning we advanced to the assault, Ransom's Brigade being the second one from the Appomattox, and directly in front of Hare's Hill. At the signal, the sharpshooters of the Forty-ninth, under First Lieutenant Thomas R. Roulhac, following the storming party led by Lieutenant W. W. Fleming, of the Sixth North Carolina, in advance, moved across our works, through the obstructions in our front, and the whole brigade, with a rush, climbing the chevaux defrise of the enemy, and clambering through and over the deep ditches in their front, went over the enemy's works and captured them before they were aroused from their slumbers. The surprise was complete. Sweeping down their lines, the Forty-ninth opened the way for other troops. Ransom's Brigade captured Fort Stedman, the Forty-ninth rushing over it without a halt, and all the works in our front; but those between us and the river were not taken, although we enfiladed that part of the line, and with our fire on their flank, it could have been easily done. Their fort near the river was thus enabled to annoy us greatly. Here Colonel McAfee was slightly wounded, and Lieutenant-Colonel James Taylor Davis was killed. He was a splendid soldier, and a true, warm-hearted gentleman, of decided talents and great promise in his profession—the law. His life would have been [75] an honorable and useful one if he had been spared. Major Petty having remained in camp sick, Captain Chambers, of Company C, was left in command. We held our position until all the troops on our right had fallen back, and most of those on our left. When the order to fall back finally reached us, the retreat was made under the most trying circumstances. We were exposed to a raking fire from three directions, many were falling at every step, but at last we returned to our lines with but a remnant of the command, having sustained the greatest loss in killed, wounded and prisoners the Forty-ninth met with during the war. Captain Torrance, of Company H, was wounded, Lieutenant Krider, of Company C, was wounded and captured, and Lieutenant Witherington, of Company I, was wounded. The brigade lost 700 men in all, of which the proportion of the Forty-ninth was the greatest.

After the failure of the attack on Grant's lines, evidently a forlorn hope on General Lee's part, we returned to our quarters on the right. On March 30th we participated in the battle of Burgess' Mill, and drove the enemy back into his entrenchments after he had assaulted ours. On the 30th we were, with Wallace's South Carolina Brigade, attached to Pickett's Division, and the next morning were marched down the White Oak road to Five Forks, the Federal cavalry making frequent reconnoisances to ascertain our movements. From Five Forks we marched on to Dinwiddie Courthouse and engaged in battle that afternoon with Sheridan's cavalry, driving them back. We slept on the field. During the night the force in our front was largely reinforced, and before day, on April 1st, we were aroused and slowly fell back to Five Forks. By noon we had reached that place and formed line of battle, Ransom's Brigade on the left, the Twenty-fourth holding the extreme left, next the Fifty-sixth, the Twenty-fifth, Forty-ninth and Thirty-fifth. We threw up rifle pits, and after the whole regiment had been deployed as skirmishers by Captain Chambers to support the Twenty-fourth, the line was formed as above mentioned, with Wallace's Brigade on our right. The skirmishers and sharpshooters of the brigade were placed under the command of Lieutenant Roulhac, and connected with our cavalry on the left. These dispositions had hardly been completed when clouds of Federal skirmishers were advanced against our skirmish line, but these were held at bay. Twice they charged with lines of battle, and were driven back by our skirmishers. Heavy columns of infantry—Warren's whole Corps—were observed massing on our left, and moving around our flank. Frequent [76] reports were made of this by Lieutenant Roulhac, but apparently no steps were taken to oppose or prevent the movement. After several messages had been sent, Captain Sterling H. Gee, inspector-general on Ransom's staff, visited the line, and directed Lieutenant Roulhac to turn over the skirmish line to Lieutenant Bowers, and to report in person to General Ransom, commanding the division, and who had on each previous report communicated the same to General Pickett. Proceeding to do this, he reached General Ransom and was ordered by him to find General Pickett and inform him of the condition of affairs. But by this time Warren's Infantry had struck the left of our line, and overlapped it. Colonel Clarke quickly threw back his regiment to meet this attack, and in a short time was joined by the Twenty-fifth in a similar movement; but this small force could do nothing to check such overwhelming numbers. Doubled up and overpowered, they were nearly all shot down or captured. The remainder of our line was hotly engaged with two lines of battle in their front, which had driven in our pickets, and advanced to the attack of our main line. Running over the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth, and driving the Fifty-sixth from their flank and rear, the enemy was upon us, both flank and rear, protected by the woods on our left, where Clarke had been, while he still fought the line in our front. Colonel McAfee was again slightly wounded, and directed Lieutenant Roulhac, whom he had requested to act as adjutant, to turn over the command to Captain Chambers. As quick as he could be reached, the regiment was moved by Captain Chambers out of the works, at right angles to its former front. In this Colonel Benbow, commanding Wallace's South Carolina Brigade, lent the assistance of one regiment, all he could spare from the right of his command, the Thirty-fifth North Carolina and the remainder of his brigade remaining to hold our front line. The enemy was upon us in a few moments, and were discovered in our rear, as we then faced, moving in line of battle. We were penned like rats in a hole, but the old regiment which Ramseur formed, and Fleming, Davis and Chambers led, still fought with desperation, and though its ranks were thinning fast, the survivors held their ground and did not yield. A slight attempt was now made to reinforce us by another regiment from Wallace's Brigade and one of Pickett's regiments, which tried to reach us on our left and extend our new line, but the enemy was pouring down upon us, and the succor could never reach us. At this time Captain Chambers was severely wounded in the head by a minnie ball, and turning the command over to Adjutant [77] Roulhac, with instructions to hold the position, was carried from the field, barely in time to pass through the only gap which the enemy had not filled. In but a few moments more the left flank of the regiment was driven back on the right to our works, while the enemy's line in our former front came over the works, which had been stubbornly held by Captain J. C. Grier, of Company F, up to this time. We were overpowered, and the few that were left were made prisoners, some being knocked down with the butts of rifles, and Captain Grier throwing away his empty pistol, as several bayonets were presented at his breast, with the demand for his surrender. And this was the end. Three times after we were surrounded the Forty-ninth advanced to the charge, and drove back the constricting foe; but when we charged in one direction, those on the other sides of us closed in upon us, and our efforts availed nothing. A few escaped to prolong their sufferings on the retreat to the place of final surrender by General Lee. Many were killed, maimed and stricken in that last useless and criminally mismanaged encounter, and the remainder were captured and held until after the last acts in that great drama of war and subjugation.

The details and most of the data for this monograph of the old command have been obtained from Captain Henry A. Chambers, who kindly furnished me the diary he faithfully and accurately kept throughout that stormy period. Accidentally, as I find in reading it over, I have omitted the fact of the wounding of Capt James T. Adams, of Company K, in the trenches during the month of July, 1864, by which he was deprived of his leg. Others may have escaped my recollection. I have intended them no slight. I would that I could do justice, full but simple justice, not alone to its officers, but its brave, patriotic, faithful rank and file, so many of whom gave up their lives or carried through life mutilated limbs and bodies. In the midst of exacting duties, I could not refuse to contribute the best I could to perpetuate some memorial of the Forty-ninth Regiment. In the thirty years since the surrender many, perhaps most, of those who survived the casualties of war, have faced the grim sergeant and answered the roll call beyond. With all such, may their portion be God's blessing of everlasting peace. With those who yet remain, may he bless them with prosperity, usefulness and honorable repose when age has sapped their energies and wasting strength has unfitted them for further toil. My heart fills with sadness and distress when I think of those who poured out their blood as a sacrifice which, perchance, the world will say was useless. But, nay, the lesson of courage, [78] fidelity and heroism they left cannot be useless to mankind; the scroll of honor upon which their names are written high cannot, and shall not, be effaced or tarnished by their descendants and their kindred. And what a noble band they were. Ramseur, Fleming, Durham, Harris, Davis, Chambers, the Phifers, Adams, Lytle, Krider, Grier, Horan, Thompson, Alex Barrett, Summers, Crawford, Ardrey, Barnett, Dixon, B. F. Dixon, Torrance, Linebarger, Rankin, Connor and Sherrill. As was said of a group of noble young Englishmen, it may be truly said of them:

Blending their souls' sublimest needs
     With tasks of every day;
They went about their greatest deeds
     Like noble boys at play.

How their bright young faces come back over the vista of all these long years! How splendid and great they were in their modest, patient earnest love of country! How strong they were in their young manhood, and pure they were in their faith, and constant they were to their principles! How they bore suffering and hardship; and how their lives were ready at the call of duty! What magnificent courage; what unsullied patriotism! Suffering they bore, duty they performed and death they faced and met; all this for the defense of the dear old home land; all this for the glory and honor of North Carolina. As they were faithful unto thee, guard thou their names and fame, grand old mother of us all. If thy sons in the coming time shall learn the lesson of heroism their lives inspired and their deeds declared, then not one drop of blood was shed in vain. If they emulate them, and lift yet higher the banner of the old land's honor, credit and worth. then the agony of defeat is healed to those who survive.

To the memory of those who fell, and those who have since passed away, this imperfect tribute is offered. To the veterans of the Forty-ninth, who are among the living now, an old comrade salutes you.

Thomas R. Roulhac,
1st Lieutenant Company D., Forty-ninth N. C. S. T.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
North Carolina (North Carolina, United States) (12)
New Bern (North Carolina, United States) (8)
Weldon, N. C. (North Carolina, United States) (6)
Kinston (North Carolina, United States) (6)
Suffolk, Va. (Virginia, United States) (4)
Norfolk (Virginia, United States) (4)
Drewry's Bluff (Virginia, United States) (4)
Plymouth, N. C. (North Carolina, United States) (3)
Greenville, North Carolina (North Carolina, United States) (3)
Trent (North Carolina, United States) (2)
Raleigh (North Carolina, United States) (2)
Morehead City (North Carolina, United States) (2)
Gum Swamp (North Carolina, United States) (2)
Goldsboro (North Carolina, United States) (2)
Garysburg (North Carolina, United States) (2)
Charlotte (North Carolina, United States) (2)
York (Virginia, United States) (1)
Windsor, N. C. (North Carolina, United States) (1)
West Point (Georgia, United States) (1)
Trenton, N. C. (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Telegraph (New Mexico, United States) (1)
Stony Creek (Virginia, United States) (1)
South Quay (Virginia, United States) (1)
Sharpsburg (Maryland, United States) (1)
Plank (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Piedmont, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Neuse (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Murfreesboro (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Mosley Creek (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Mecklenburg (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Malvern Hill (Virginia, United States) (1)
Lenoir (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Harper's Ferry (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Hamilton, N. C. (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Half Way House (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (1)
Fredericksburg, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Fortress Monroe (Virginia, United States) (1)
Durham (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Dover, N. H. (New Hampshire, United States) (1)
Contentnea creek (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Colerain (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Cleveland county (North Carolina, United States) (1)
City Point (Virginia, United States) (1)
Chambersburg (New Jersey, United States) (1)
Catawba River (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Carolina City (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Bluff Point (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Bertie (North Carolina, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Robert Ransom (11)
Henry A. Chambers (11)
Thomas R. Roulhac (9)
M. W. Ransom (9)
G. T. Beauregard (8)
John A. Fleming (7)
Cicero A. Durham (7)
George E. Pickett (6)
James H. Grant (6)
Stephen Decatur Ramseur (5)
Lee M. McAfee (5)
Robert F. Hoke (5)
James Butler (5)
John Wallace (4)
George L. Phifer (4)
James Longstreet (4)
James Taylor Davis (4)
Stephen D. Ramseur (3)
Fitzhugh Lee (3)
C. C. Krider (3)
Bushrod Johnson (3)
John C. Grier (3)
W. W. Fleming (3)
S. H. Elliott (3)
Columbus H. Dixon (3)
James T. Davis (3)
W. J. Clarke (3)
J. P. Ardrey (3)
Charles Wright (2)
W. H. C. Whiting (2)
Torrance (2)
Richmond (2)
C. Q. Petty (2)
Mahone (2)
George W. Lytle (2)
Linebarger (2)
Fitz Lee (2)
Edwin Victor Harris (2)
Edwin Harris (2)
J. C. Grier (2)
John B. Gordon (2)
Reginald H. Goode (2)
E. P. George (2)
William A. Eliason (2)
B. F. Dixon (2)
John T. Crawford (2)
Charles F. Connor (2)
L. O'B. Branch (2)
David R. Barton (2)
Alex Barrett (2)
W. P. Barnett (2)
Avery (2)
James T. Adams (2)
Billy Wood (1)
Witherington (1)
Winton (1)
J. W. Wilson (1)
Luther Warren (1)
Zebulon B. Vance (1)
Ambrose Thompson (1)
Summers (1)
Sherrill (1)
Philip Sheridan (1)
James A. Scott (1)
Sanders (1)
John K. Ruffin (1)
Rufus Roberts (1)
Rankin (1)
Edward Phifer (1)
Misses Phronie Pegram (1)
W. Benjamin Palmer (1)
Peter Nicholson (1)
David E. Moore (1)
McClellan (1)
Mc-Afee (1)
James G. Martin (1)
J. G. Martin (1)
Manly (1)
G. W. Lytle (1)
Abraham Lincoln (1)
Daniel Lattimore (1)
W. W. Kirkland (1)
Kemper (1)
Iredell (1)
Horan (1)
James Holland (1)
D. H. Hill (1)
A. P. Hill (1)
E. V. Harris (1)
Hagood (1)
John W. Graham (1)
Gracie (1)
James H. Geiger (1)
Sterling H. Gee (1)
Gaston (1)
C. H. Dixon (1)
William H. Dinkins (1)
Dearing (1)
Craven (1)
Corse (1)
H. C. Conley (1)
Clingman (1)
Cleveland (1)
George L. Christian (1)
W. W. Chenault (1)
Pinckney B. Chambers (1)
Burnside (1)
Bowers (1)
Benbow (1)
Chevalier Bayard (1)
Peter Z. Baxter (1)
Batchelor (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: