Confederate Military History, Vol. 4: North Carolina.
This work spanning fifteen extensive volumes is the result of contributions by many Southern men to the literature of the United States that treats of the eventful years in which occurred the momentous struggle called by Mr. A. H. Stephens “the war between the States.” These contributions were made on a well-considered plan, to be wrought out by able writers of unquestionable Confederate record who were thoroughly united in general sentiment and whose generous labors upon separate topics would, when combined, constitute a library of Confederate military history and biography. According to the great principle in the government of the United States that one may result from and be composed of many – the doctrine of E pluribus unum–it was considered that intelligent men from all parts of the South would so write upon the subjects committed to them as to produce a harmonious work which would truly portray the times and issues of the Confederacy and by illustration in various forms describe the soldiery which fought its battles. Upon this plan two volumes – the first and the last-comprise such subjects as the justification of the Southern States in seceding from the Union and the honorable conduct of the war by the Confederate States government; the history of the actions and concessions of the South in the formation of the Union and its policy in securing the existing magnificent territorial dominion of the United States; the civil history of the Confederate States, supplemented with sketches of the President, Vice-President, cabinet officers and other officials of the government; Confederate naval history; the morale of the armies; the South since the war, and a connected outline of events from the beginning of the struggle to its close. The two volumes containing these general subjects are sustained by the other volumes of Confederate military history of the States of the South involved in the war. Each State being treated in separate history permits of details concerning its peculiar story, its own devotion, its heroes and its battlefields. The authors of the State histories, like those of the volumes of general topics, are men of unchallenged devotion to the Confederate cause and of recognized fitness to perform the task assigned them. It is just to say that this work has been done in hours taken from busy professional life, and it should be further commemorated that devotion to the South and its heroic memories has been their chief incentive. This volume four out of fifteen, covering the Civil War in North Carolina.
Confederate Military History, Vol. 4: North Carolina.
Excerpt from the text:
First and last — situation in the beginning — preparing for war — the dual Organizations of North Carolina troops, State and Confederate.
When the women of North Carolina, after years of unwearying effort to erect a State monument to the Confederate dead, saw their hopes realized in the beautiful monument now standing in Capitol Square, Raleigh, they caused to be chiseled on one of its faces this inscription: “First at Bethel:
Last at Appomattox.” This terse sentence epitomizes North Carolina’s devotion to the Confederacy. From the hopeful 10th day of June, 1861, when her First regiment, under Col. D. H. Hill, defeated, in the first serious action of the Civil war, General Pierce’s attack at Bethel, to the despairing 9th day of April, 1865, when Gen. W. R. Cox’s North Carolina brigade of Gen. Bryan Grimes’ division fired into an overwhelming foe the last volley of the army of Northern Virginia, North Carolina’s time, her resources, her energies, her young men, her old men, were cheerfully and proudly given to the cause that she so deliberately espoused.
How ungrudgingly the State gave of its resources may be illustrated by a few facts. Gen. J. E. Johnston is authority for the statement that for many months previous to its surrender, General Lee’s army had been fed almost entirely from North Carolina, and that at the time of his own surrender he had collected provisions enough from the same State to last for some months. 1 The blockade steamer Advance, bought by the State, operated in the interest of the State, brought into the port of Wilmington—not counting thousands of dollars’ worth of industrial and agricultural supplies—‘leather and shoes for 250,000 pairs, 50,000 blankets, cloth for 250,000 uniforms, 2,000 Enfield rifles, with 100 rounds of fixed ammunition for each rifle, 500 sacks of coffee for the hospitals, $50,000 worth of medicines,’ etc. 2 These articles were bought either from the sale of cotton or on the credit of the State, and were used not only by the State troops already mustered into the Confederate service, and hence having no further legal claim on the care of their own State, but were also distributed to troops from other States. In the winter succeeding Chickamauga, Governor Vance sent to Longstreet’s corps 14,000 suits of uniform complete. Maj. A. Gordon of the adjutant-general’s office says: ‘The State of North Carolina was the only one that furnished clothing for its troops during the entire war, and these troops were better clothed than those of any other State. 3’ ‘The State arsenal at Fayetteville,’ reports Maj. M. P. Taylor, 4 ‘turned out about 500 splendid rifles each month’—this being after the second year of the war. Wayside hospitals were established in all the chief towns for the sick and wounded. These things and hundreds of others were done, not simply in the first enthusiasm of the contest, but during the whole desperate struggle.
How unsparingly the State gave of her sons may be shown by a single instance cited by Governor Vance:
Old Thomas Carlton, of Burke county, was a good sample of the grand but unglorified class of men among us who preserve the savor of good citizenship and ennoble humanity. He gave not only his goods to sustain women and children, but gave all his sons, five in number, to the cause. One by one they fell, until at length a letter arrived, telling that the youngest and last, the blue-eyed, fair-haired Benjamin of the hearth, had fallen also. When made aware of his desolation, he made no complaint, uttered no exclamation of heart-broken despair, but called his son-in-law, a delicate, feeble man, who had been discharged by the surgeons, and said, whilst his frail body trembled with emotion and tears rolled down his aged cheeks, ‘Get your knapsack, William, the ranks must be filled!’ 5
Every day some heart-broken mother showed the same spirit.
In the agitation that pervaded the South previous to secession, North Carolina preserved its usual conservative calmness of action. Her people, although profoundly stirred and keenly alive to the gravity of the ‘impending crisis,’ were loath to leave the Union cemented by the blood of their fathers. That retrospectiveness which has always been one of their marked characteristics, did not desert them then. Recollections of Mecklenburg, of Moore’s Creek, of Guilford Court House pleaded against precipitancy in dissolving what so much sacrifice had built up. Even after seven of her sister States had adopted ordinances of secession, ‘her people solemnly declared’—by the election of the 28th of February, 1861—‘that they desired no convention even to consider the propriety of secession.’
But after the newly-elected President’s Springfield speech, after the widespread belief that the Federal government had attempted to reinforce Sumter in the face of a promise to evacuate it, and especially after President Lincoln’s requisition on the governor to furnish troops for what Governor Magoffin, of Kentucky, called ‘the wicked purpose of subduing sister Southern States,’—a requisition that Governor Jackson, of Missouri, in a superflux of unlethargic adjectives, denounced as ‘illegal, unconstitutional, revolutionary, inhuman, diabolical,’—there was a rapid change in the feelings of the people. Strong union sentiment was changed to a fixed determination to resist coercion by arms if necessary. So rapid was the movement of public events, and so rapid was the revolution in public sentiment, that just three months after the State had refused even to consider the question of secession, a convention composed almost entirely of men who thought it was the imperative duty of their State to withdraw from the Union was in session in Raleigh.
On May 200th, a day sacred to her citizens in that it marked the eighty-sixth anniversary of the colonial Declaration of Independence of England, the fateful ordinance that severed relations with the Union was adopted. Capt. Hamilton C. Graham gives the following account of the attendant circumstances: 6
‘As a youthful soldier and eye-witness of the scene, it made an impression on me that time has never effaced. The convention then in session in Raleigh was composed of men famous in the history of the commonwealth. The city was filled with distinguished visitors from every part of the State and South. The first camp of instruction, located nearby, under command of that noble old hero, D. H. Hill, was crowded with the flower of the old military organizations of the State, and sounds of martial music at all hours of the day were wafted into the city. When the day for the final passage of the ordinance of Secession arrived, the gallant and lamented Ramseur, then a major of artillery, was ordered to the Capitol grounds with his superb battery to fire a salute in honor of the event. The battery was drawn up to the left of the Capitol, surrounded by an immense throng of citizens. The convention in the hall of the house of representatives was going through the last formalities of signing the ordinance. The moment the last signature was fixed to the important document, the artillery thundered forth, every bell in the city rang a peal, the military band rendered a patriotic air, and with one mighty shout from her patriotic citizens, North Carolina proclaimed to the world that she had resumed her sovereignty.’
This step meant war, and no people were ever less prepared for an appeal to arms. Agriculture and allied pursuits were the almost exclusive employments. Hence, for manufactured articles, from linchpins to locomotives, from joint-stools to cotton-gins, the State was dependent on Northern and English markets. According to the census of 1860, there were only 3,689 manufacturing establishments of all kinds in its borders, and most of these employed few laborers. Out of a total population of 992,622, only 14,217 were engaged in any sort of factories. The whole industrial story is told by a few of the reports to the census officers. For instance, there were in the State, as reported by these officers, the following insignificant number of workers in these most important occupations: In wrought iron, 129; in cast iron, 59; in making clothes, 12; in making boots and shoes, 176; in tanning leather, 93; in compounding medicines, 1. This was the foundation on which North Carolina, when cut off by the war from Northern markets and by the blockade from English or other foreign ports, made a most marvelous record of industrial progress, and developed a capacity for self-support as unexpected as it was wonderful.
But the State’s power to manufacture the ordinary articles of commerce was truly boundless when compared with its capacity to produce arms, equipments and the general munitions of war. To make uniforms for over 100,000 soldiers, and at the same time to supply regular customers, there were seven small woolen mills! To furnish shoes, saddles, harness for the army, and also to keep the citizens supplied, there were ninety-three diminutive tanneries. The four recorded makers of fire arms were so reckless of consequences as combinedly to employ eleven workmen and to use up annually the stupendous sum of $1,000 worth of raw material. The commonwealth was without a powder-mill, without any known deposits of niter, and without any supply of sulphur. Not an ounce of lead was mined, and hardly enough iron smelted to shoe the horses. One of the preliminaries to war was to buy a machine for making percussion caps. Revolvers and sabers, as Col. Wharton Green says, ‘were above all price, for they could not be bought.’ Cartridge belts were made out of several thicknesses of cloth stitched together and covered with varnish. For the troops so freely offering themselves there were no arms except a few hundreds in the hands of local companies and those that the State had seized in the Fayetteville arsenal. These, according to President Davis, 7 consisted of 2,000 Enfield rifles and 25,000 old style, smooth-bore guns that had been changed from flint and steel to percussion. After these had been issued, the organizing regiments found it impossible for some time to get proper arms. Some, as the Thirty-first, went to the front with sporting rifles and fowling-pieces; some, as the Second battalion, supplemented their arms by borrowing from the governor of Virginia 350 veritable flint-and-steel guns that nobody else would have; some organized and drilled until Manassas and Seven Pines turned ordnance officer and supplied them with the excellent captured rifles of the enemy. However, after the fall of 1862 there was no difficulty in getting fairly effective small-arms.
But these difficulties never daunted so heroic a people nor led them to withhold their volunteers. ‘None,’ says Governor Vance, 8 ‘stood by that desperate venture with better faith or greater efficiency. It is a proud assertion which I make to-day that, so far as I have been able to learn, North Carolina furnished more soldiers in proportion to white population, and more supplies and materials in proportion to her means for the support of the war, than any other State in the Confederacy. I beg you to believe that this is said, not with any spirit of offense to other Southern States, or of defiance toward the government of the United States, but simply as a just eulogy upon the devotion of a people to what they considered a duty, in sustaining a cause, right or wrong, to which their faith was pledged.’
Such a military record, if the figures bear it out, is a proud heritage. Do figures sustain it? Adjutant and Inspector-General Cooper reports (probably a close estimate) that 600,000 men, first and last, enrolled themselves under the Confederate flag. What proportion of these ought North Carolina to have furnished? The total white population of the eleven seceding States was 5,441,320—North Carolina’s was 629,942, and it was third in white population. Hence North Carolina would have discharged. to the letter every legal obligation resting upon it if it furnished 62,942 troops. What number did it actually supply?
On November 19, 1864, Adjt.-Gen. R. C. Gatlin, a most careful and systematic officer, made an official report to the governor on this subject. The following figures, compiled from that report by Mr. John Neathery, give the specific information: