North Carolina : American Civil War

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North Carolina in the Civil War
North Carolina and the American Civil War

North Carolina and the American Civil War

"When one totals the North Carolinians that died in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, it is far less than North Carolina's American Civil War death toll."

North Carolina Civil War Map
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North Carolina Civil War History

North Carolina and Secession

"In the agitation that pervaded the South previous to secession, North Carolina preserved its usual conservative calmness of action."
The people of North Carolina, 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. 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 Fort Sumter in the face of a promise to evacuate it, and especially after President Lincoln's requisition on the governor to furnish troops (Governor John Willis Ellis: A Reply to President Lincoln) 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 of North Carolina. 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 of almost entirely of men who thought it was the imperative duty of their State to withdraw from the Union was in secession in Raleigh." (Southern States Secede: Secession of the South History.)
On May 20th, a day sacred to her citizens in that it marked the eighty-six anniversary of the colonial Declaration of Independence of England, the fateful ordinance that severed relations with the Union was adopted:



We, the people of the State of North Carolina, in Convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, That the ordinance adopted by the State of North Carolina in the Convention of 1789, whereby the Constitution of the United States was ratified and adopted, and also, all acts and parts of acts of the General Assembly, ratifying and adopting amendments to the said Constitution, are hereby repealed, rescinded and abrogated.

We do further declare and ordain, That the union now subsisting between the State of North Carolina and the other States under the title of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of North Carolina is in the full possession and exercise of all those rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State. [Ratified the 20th day of May, 1861.]

North Carolina and the Civil War
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North Carolina Civil War Battles

North Carolina in the American Civil War Overview

1860 North Carolina Census Data (Source: United States Census)

Total 992,622


Black 361,522
Indian 1,158

North Carolina (Shaded in Red)
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North Carolina Map

In 1860, on the eve of the American Civil War, North Carolina was a rural state with a total population of 992,622. Most citizens had been born in North Carolina and farmed for a living. Foreign-born people made up less than 1 percent of the state's population in 1860, and 72 percent of white families owned no slaves. African Americans, however, accounted for approximately one-third of the total population, and the majority were slaves.
Few urban commercial centers existed, and the largest town, Wilmington in New Hanover County, had nearly 10,000 residents.

North Carolina Civil War Population Map
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(During the Civil War, Wilmington was North Carolina's largest city)

During the antebellum period, North Carolina was an overwhelmingly rural state, even by Southern standards. In 1860 only one North Carolina town, the port city of Wilmington, had a population of nearly 10,000. Raleigh, the state capital, had barely more than 5,000 residents.
In 1860 there were 69,000 farms in North Carolina. 46,000 of these, or 71%, were less than 100 acres in size. In 1860 there were only 300 plantations of 1,000 acres or more in the state, and the census listed 121 planters and 85,198 farmers. North Carolina has a long history of small farm size. Cattle and hogs were on free range, and livestock was fenced out of fields. Cutting trees for fence rails was a major cause of forest destruction. The production of turpentine, primarily for use in shipping, was the largest manufacturing industry in North Carolina. Two-thirds of the nation’s output of turpentine was from North Carolina. Most turpentine distilleries were located in Bladen, Cumberland, and New Hanover Counties.
In 1860, North Carolina had 39 cotton mills and 9 woolen mills in operation. Industry grew in the state; however, North Carolina remained essentially rural. Wilmington, the state’s largest and most cosmopolitan city had only 9,542 inhabitants. The number of common schools was 2,854, with a statewide enrollment of 118,000 white students. Illiteracy among whites had dropped from 30 percent in 1840 to 23 percent in 1860. (North Carolina Civil War History and North Carolina in the Civil War: Interactive.)

From Florida to Maine, from east to west, North Carolina has the greatest length or width of any state on the east coast. Covering a long and vast distance of 560 miles made defending the North Carolina borders during the Civil War, from the Atlantic Ocean and adjoining rivers to its rugged mountains and highest peak, no easy task.
The majority of North Carolinians in 1860 came from white yeoman families who worked small farms, fifty to one hundred acres in size, and owned no slaves. They had more concern about rainfall, crops, and seasonal changes for planting and harvesting than about national politics. They produced much of what they consumed and relied on the sale of surplus crops for money to buy what they could not grow or make by hand on their farms. Men from these families would constitute the majority of North Carolina's Confederate soldiers in the coming war.
And in 1861, 71% of North Carolina's slave population resided in the Coastal Plain Region, with the Southern Appalachian Mountains considered the poorest region of North Carolina (North Carolina Regions). Consequently, the Reconstruction witnessed many bankrupted industries in North Carolina, including agriculture. (North Carolina: American Civil War Reconstruction to World War One.)

1861 North Carolina Flag
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(1861 NC Flag)

During the American Civil War, houses were stripped of draperies and carpets to provide clothing and shelter for North Carolina's troops. Even donated church bells were melted down and recast as cannon. Parched corn was substituted for coffee, and spinning wheels once more competed with power looms. Yet opportunistic merchants and unscrupulous blockade runners continued to sell their goods at the highest prices the market would bear.

Bacon soared from $.33 to $7.50 per pound, wheat went from $3 to $50 a bushel, and coffee was selling at $100 per pound. While at least 125,000 Tar Heels served in service of the Confederate States of America, almost eight times that number remained at home. Confronted with scarcities, exorbitant prices, and depreciating currency, farm wives and plantation mistresses, old men and small children, free blacks and domestic servants strove to make ends meet.

North Carolina and the War Between the States

NC Governor Zebulon Vance
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"The War Governor"

On April 13, 1861, Fort Sumter fell to South Carolina troops. President Lincoln, consequently, called for 75,000 troops to coerce and subdue the seceded states (Lincoln's Call For Troops). On April 15 the Lincoln administration demanded that North Carolina furnish two regiments for this undertaking.


On April 15, North Carolina Governor John Ellis promptly replied by telegram to President Abraham Lincoln and stated that "Your dispatch is received, and if genuine, which its extraordinary character leads me to doubt, I have to say in reply, that I regard the levy of troops made by the administration for the purpose of subjugating the states of the South, as a violation of the Constitution, and as a gross usurption of power. I can be no party to this wicked violation of the laws of the country and to this war upon the liberties of a free people. You can get no troops from North Carolina."


Zebulon Vance (right) arrived in Washington at the age 28 and was the youngest member of Congress and one of the strongest Southern supporters of the Union. In March of 1861, however, when indications reflected that the North Carolina legislature was going to vote for secession, Vance resigned his seat and returned home. Vance was soon elected as North Carolina's governor in 1862 and reelected in 1864. (North Carolina Governors.)


The young Vance was known throughout the Southern states as the "War Governor of the South," not because he was a war hawk, but because of his ability to wisely manage the state even during its most tumultuous hour. Many believed that the most remarkable Vance policy was his insistence of the rule of law in the midst of the devastation and confusion of Civil War. Vance had previously commanded the valiant 26th North Carolina Infantry.

Early in the war, "General Robert E. Lee was fearful that General Ambrose Burnside would find out the defenseless condition of North Carolina and move forward. Every night General Lee telegraphed: 'Any movement of the enemy in your front to-day?'"

At the close of 1862, only two regiments of infantry were left in North Carolina, the Fiftieth and Fifty-first, and the Union forces on the coast could, had they been apprised of the heavy movement of troops, "have swept without opposition over all the State. A people less brave and less patriotic would never have consented to incur such a risk with so strong an enemy at its doors. The governor exposed his own capital to save that of the Confederacy." At the close of the Civil War, consequently, North Carolina had "forty regiments in Virginia."

North Carolina Numbers and American Civil War Military Contributions


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. North Carolina, however, provided more troops to the Confederacy than any other Southern state.

On November 19, 1864, Adjutant-General 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:

--Number of troops transferred to the Confederate service, according to original rolls on file in this office: 64,636

--Number of conscripts between ages of 18 and 45, as per report of Commandant of Conscripts, dated September 30, 1864: 18,585

--Number of recruits that have volunteered in the different companies since date of original rolls (compiled): 21,608

--Number of troops in unattached companies and serving in regiments from other states: 3,103

--Number of regular troops in State service: 3,203

Total offensive troops: 111,135

--To these must be added: Junior reserves: 4,217

--Senior reserves: 5,686

Total troops in active service: 121,038 

--Then, organized and subject to emergency service in the State, Home Guard, and Militia: 3,962

Total troops, armed, equipped and mustered into State or Confederate service: 125,000

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Remarkable proof of the State’s brave devotion to the Confederacy is noteworthy in this connection. As shown by the 1860 census, the total number of men in North Carolina between the ages of 20 and 60, the extreme limits of military service, was 128,889. Subtract the 125,000 troops furnished, and it reveals the extraordinary fact that there were only 3,889 men subject to military duty who were not in some form of military service. Most of these 3,889 were exempted because they were serving the State in the following civil capacities: magistrates, county officers, dispensers of public food, etc. So, practically, every man in the State was serving the State or the Confederacy.

North Carolina State Flag and the Civil War
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(North Carolina and the Confederate Flag)

During the American Civil War, North Carolina provided at least 125,000 soldiers to the Confederacy, and the Tar Heel State recruited more soldiers than any Southern state. More than 620,000 died in the Civil War and approximately 40,000 were North Carolinians. (Total Union and Confederate Civil War Killed and Mortally Wounded (Dead), With Numbers for Each Northern and Southern State: North Carolina Emphasis.)


The Old North State provided 69 infantry regiments and 4 infantry battalions; 9 cavalry regiments and 9 cavalry battalions; 2 heavy artillery battalions, 4 artillery regiments, 3 light artillery battalions, and 4 light artillery batteries. Several North Carolina infantry regiments mustered 1,500 soldiers, while few regiments mustered as many as 1,800. Furthermore, North Carolina's sole legion, Thomas' Legion, mustered more than 2,500 soldiers, while the average Civil War regiment mustered 1,100 soldiers. Regarding the State's troops, A Guide to Military Organizations and Installations of North Carolina 1861-1865, explains the numerical designations according to branch of service and the nature and character of each unit's organization.


Approximately 10,000 white North Carolinians served the United States during the war, while more than 5,000 North Carolina African Americans joined the Union Army. These free blacks and escaped slaves served in segregated regiments led by white officers. Continued below...

Recommended ReadingConfederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865. Description: The author, Prof. D. H. Hill, Jr., was the son of Civil War Lieutenant General Daniel Harvey Hill (North Carolina produced only two lieutenant generals and it was the second highest rank in the army) and his mother was General “Stonewall” Jackson’s wife's sister. In Confederate Military History Of North Carolina, Hill discusses North Carolina’s massive task of preparing and mobilizing for the conflict; the many regiments and battalions recruited from the Old North State; as well as the state's numerous contributions during the war. Continued below...

During Hill's Tar Heel State study, the reader begins with interesting and thought-provoking statistical data regarding the 125,000 "Old North State" soldiers that fought during the course of the war and the 40,000 that perished. Hill advances with the Tar Heels to the first battle at Bethel, through numerous bloody campaigns and battles--including North Carolina’s contributions at the "High Watermark" at Gettysburg--and concludes with Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

Confederate Army and Civil War Battles and Battlefields
North Carolina troops were "First at Bethel, farthest at Gettysburg and Chickamauga, and last at Appomattox." Words of Daniel Harvey Hill, Confederate general and North Carolina native

NC Civil War Battle Map
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North Carolina Civil War Battlefield Map

North Carolina Civil War Battle Map
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NC Civil War Battlefield Map

(About) Map showing principal battles and campaigns contested in North Carolina.

Brig. Gen. Lawrence O'Brian Branch
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For the North Carolina troops that so freely offered themselves there were no arms, except for those that the State had seized in the Fayetteville arsenal. These, according to President Jefferson Davis, consisted of merely 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.
The Thirty-first North Carolina, for example, went to the front with sporting rifles and fowling-pieces, while others, such 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 of North Carolina’s units organized and drilled until the battles of Manassas (Bull Run) and Seven Pines, and were then supplied with the excellent captured rifles of the enemy. However, after the fall of 1862 there was no difficulty in getting fairly effective small arms. 
"There were approximately 10,500 battles and skirmishes in the Civil War, with 384 considered major engagements."

As the first winter of war drew on, however, 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.


The legislature directed General James Green Martin (right), 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 the leadership of Captain Garrett; every mill in the State was made to furnish every yard of cloth that was possible; Captain A. Myers was sent through North Carolina, South Carolina and as far south as Savannah, Georgia, 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.

Brig. Gen. James Green Martin
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Tintype photograph courtesy LOC

Regarding the preparing, organizing, and mobilizing of North Carolina for the Civil War: "The man [James Green Martin] thus trusted was a one-armed veteran of the Mexican war, a rigid disciplinarian, thoroughly trained in office work, and not only systematic but original in his plans. The State has never fully appreciated, perhaps never known, the importance of the work done for it by this undemonstrative, thoroughly efficient officer." Words of Daniel Harvey Hill, Jr., author of Confederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865

The United States Arsenal at Fayetteville was also enlarged and machinery that had been removed from the captured United States armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), was installed there. This manufacturing complex became the second-largest source (after Richmond) of domestically produced arms in the Confederacy. In addition, there were rifle-manufacturing sites in Asheville and Guilford County. A large bayonet factory was established in Raleigh, and in Kenansville a private concern made swords, bayonets, and other war-related goods. North Carolina's entire textile production during the war was used for uniforms and other military supplies.

North Carolina Civil War Battle & Battlefield Map
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Civil War battles fought in North Carolina Map

During campaigns, huge numbers of men and large quantities of equipment shifted and maneuvered across the landscape. Most North Carolina soldiers carried a haversack, an oilskin cloth, a blanket, a rifle, a bayonet, cartridges, percussion caps, a cartridge box, a drinking cup, and a canteen. Troops often marched twelve to fifteen miles a day. Seasoned soldiers soon learned to carry only essential items.
The following Major Civil War Campaigns, Expeditions, Operations, and Raids were fought on North Carolina soil:

Lt. Gen. D. H. Hill
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Library of Congress

At the close of 1862, only two regiments of infantry were left in North Carolina, the Fiftieth and Fifty-first, and the Union forces on the coast could, had they been apprised of the heavy movement of troops, "have swept without opposition over all the State." (North Carolina Coast and the American Civil War.)
"Wilmington was the port into which the blockade runners were bringing so large a portion of the supplies necessary for the Confederacy that General Lee said if Fort Fisher fell he could not subsist his army." (Fort Fisher Civil War Battles, by D. H. Hill, Jr.)

(Left) Photograph of North Carolina native Daniel Harvey Hill. Commonly referred to as D. H. Hill, he was one of only two lieutenant generals from the Tar Heel State. Lieutenant general was the second highest rank in the Confederate Army.
Hill was also brother-in-law to "Stonewall" Jackson, and Hill's son, D. H. Hill, Jr., was the author of Confederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865, which is a welcome addition to the North Carolina Civil War buff.
27% of North Carolina's generals were killed-in-action; the generals truly led by example and they epitomized the adage and embodied the motto: "I shall never request my men do what I, myself, would not."

Thomas Legion's Cherokee Veterans
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1903 New Orleans Confederate Reunion

In January of 1863, the troops of North Carolina were disposed, so far as the records show, as follows: Thirty-two regiments and one battalion of infantry; two regiments of cavalry and three battalions were with General Robert E. Lee; under the command of General Kirby Smith, the Fifty-eighth, Colonel Palmer, the Sixty-fourth, Colonel Allen, and Fifth Cavalry Battalion, Captain S. W. English, were stationed at Big Creek gap, Tennessee; the Sixty-second regiment, Colonel Love, was guarding bridges near Knoxville; the Seventh Cavalry Battalion was in Carter County, TN.; Walker's Cavalry Battalion of Thomas' Legion was in Monroe County, TN.; the Twenty-ninth, Colonel Vance, and the Thirty-ninth, Colonel Coleman, were in General Bragg's army. In North Carolina, General Whiting was in charge of the defenses of Wilmington, with 9,913 officers and men. General S. D. French, in charge of the Department of North Carolina, had his forces stationed as follows: General Pettigrew's brigade at Magnolia; General N. G. Evans' South Carolina brigade at Kinston; General Daniel's brigade, General Davis' brigade, Maj. J. C. Haskell's four batteries, Colonel Bradford's four artillery companies, and Captain J. B. Starr's light battery at Goldsboro; the Forty-second regiment, Colonel George C. Gibbs, and Captain Dabney's heavy battery at Weldon; the Seventeenth regiment, Colonel W. F. Martin, at Hamilton; General B. H. Roberson and three regiments of cavalry at Kinston; Thomas' Legion in the mountains. The field returns for January show that the forces scattered over the State aggregated 31,442 men.

In an effort to alleviate the state of affairs at the opening of 1864, a force of magnitude was sent to North Carolina. General George Pickett, a well-known soldier of great zeal and valor, with a division of troops, advanced to the State to assist the forces already there.

The close of 1863 was gloomy enough in eastern North Carolina. Moore thus describes it: "The condition of eastern North Carolina grew hourly more deplorable. Frequent incursions of the enemy resulted in the destruction of property of all kinds. Especially were horses and mules objects of plunder. Pianos and other costly furniture were seized and sent North, while whole regiments of 'bummers' wantonly defaced and ruined the fairest homesteads in eager search for hidden treasure. The 'buffaloes,' in gangs of a dozen men, infested the swamps and made night hideous with their horrid visitations. They and their colored coadjutors, by all manner of inducements, enticed from the farms such of the negro men as were fitted for military duty....To the infinite and undying credit of the colored race, though the woods swarmed with negro men sent back on detailed duty for the purpose of enlisting their comrades in the Federal army, there were less acts of violence toward the helpless old men, women and children than could have been possibly expected under the circumstances."
General Lee said if Fort Fisher fell he could not subsist his army.
"A great point would be gained in any event by the effectual destruction of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad." United States Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan
On October 25, 1836, construction began on the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad to connect the port city of Wilmington with the state capital of Raleigh. In 1849 the North Carolina Railroad was created by act of the legislature to extend that railroad west to Greensboro, High Point, and Charlotte. During the Civil War the Wilmington-to-Raleigh stretch of the railroad would be vital to the Confederate war effort; supplies shipped into Wilmington would be moved by rail through Raleigh to the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.
After Fort Fisher was captured in early 1865, the city of Wilmington soon capitulated, placing the vital Wilmington to Richmond rail line in Union hands, thus denying Lee the ability to resupply his troops in Virginia, and the bloody Civil War would soon come to an end. (Expedition against Fort Fisher and Operations against Fort Fisher and Wilmington.)

Vital North Carolina Civil War Railroads Map
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Map of North Carolina Railroads during the Civil War

General W.H.C. Whiting
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(March 22, 1824 - March 10, 1865)

In January 1865, after a failed attempt in December 1864, "The U.S. navy department was able to concentrate before Fort Fisher a larger force than had ever before assembled under one command in the history of the American navy--a total of nearly sixty vessels." (See North Carolina Coast and the American Civil War: Operations, Campaigns, and Expeditions.)

Fort Fisher, North Carolina
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(Historical Marker)

"All day and all night on the 13th and 14th of January 1865," says Confederate Colonel Lamb, "the Union fleet kept up a ceaseless and terrific bombardment....It was impossible to repair damage at night. No meals could be prepared for the exhausted garrison; the dead could not be buried without new casualties. Fully 200 had been killed during these two days, and only three or four of the land guns remained serviceable."

No effort of any importance seems to have been made by the commanding general, Braxton Bragg, to assist the doomed fort.

“Then the massive land forces approached nearer and nearer by pits and shelter, and Colonel Lamb, and all their officers and men fight for the important fort; frequently did they signal for the aid they sorely needed.”

General Whiting, a most gallant and noble soldier, and Colonel Lamb, a determined veteran and warrior, were both severely wounded. On the 15th of January, after exhausting every energy, Fort Fisher was surrendered. The Federal loss is stated at 1,445. The Confederate garrison lost about 500. Few more gallant defenses against such odds are recorded. General Whiting died shortly after in a Northern prison.

Salisbury Prisoner of War Camp
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Salisbury, NC, Prison

Western North Carolina spent much of the conflict fighting against both Union incursions, i.e. Stoneman's Cavalry Raid, and bushwhackers, e.g. Captain Goldman Bryson's Union Volunteers.
North Carolina soon witnessed that great Battle of Bentonville--the largest battle fought in North Carolina and the last full-scale Confederate offensive--and the location's Harper House served as a Union field hospital. (See Official Order of Final Surrendering Confederate Forces of the American Civil War.)

The state's Salisbury National Cemetery has mass graves containing 11,700 unknown Union soldiers buried in 18 trenches (each 240 feet long) marked by head and foot stones. The graves are adjacent to the former site of a Confederate prison. Next, the nation experienced the Reconstruction Era.

North Carolina's Sacrifice at Gettysburg: "Those Tar Heels!"

North Carolina Monument
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(Gettysburg NMP)

At Gettysburg, this North Carolina Monument is dedicated to the Tar Heel State's forty-two regiments and batteries which fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. The North Carolina legislature appointed a special commission of veterans to visit the battlefield park in 1913 and return with a design proposal for a state monument to be place there, but the advent of World War I put the state's plans on hold. It was not until 1927 when the plan was rekindled by the North Carolina Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Governor Angus McLean. The state appropriated $50,000 to purchase the site, contract with an artist for the design and manufacture, and provide landscape features as an appropriate setting.

Dedicated on July 3, 1929, the North Carolina Monument is the work of world re-known sculptor Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941) whose most famous work is the four presidents on Mount Rushmore. The monument represents a group of North Carolina soldiers in "Pickett's Charge". Fifteen North Carolina infantry regiments, all of which had suffered heavily during the first day's battle, participated in the attack. The monument is accompanied by dogwoods, which is the state tree, and a stone monolith that lists the North Carolina commands present at Gettysburg.

Two regiments were especially hard hit at that pivotal battle known as Gettysburg -- the 24th Michigan Infantry (70% casualties) and the 26th North Carolina Infantry (80% casualties). Twenty one year-old Colonel Henry Burgwyn Jr., commanding the 26th North Carolina, was mortally wounded while leading one of the last charges against the 24th Michigan. Shot, through both lungs, Burgwyn fell with the Twenty-sixth Regimental Flag wrapped around him. He was the youngest commanding colonel in Lee's army.

North Carolina and the Price in Blood

The greatest loss sustained by any regiment (North or South) during the Civil War was the Twenty-sixth North Carolina Infantry Regiment at Gettysburg. It sent more than 800 men into action and more than eighty percent were disabled.

Battle of Fort Fisher, North Carolina
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Kurz and Allison, 1890

North Carolina furnished roughly one-sixth of the entire Confederate Army. And at the surrender at Appomattox, one-half of the muskets stacked were from North Carolina. The last charge of the Army of Northern Virginia under Lee was made by North Carolina troops. The Old North State sent at least 125,000 soldiers into combat and more than 40,000 perished, which is roughly 1-in-3 or one-third of North Carolina’s army. North Carolina deaths were more than twice the percentage sustained by the soldiers from any other state. 

Roughly 6.5% of the total killed during the Civil War hailed from the Tar Heel State. North Carolina soldiers totaled a staggering 22% of all Confederate combat deaths (killed-in-action and mortally wounded). The South lost 25% of its military aged men, however, about 32% of North Carolina's combatants died. For every soldier killed in combat two died from disease. 12.5% of the entire Confederate Army that died from disease hailed from the Old North State.

While 33 generals were North Carolinians, 9 were killed in battle (or roughly 27% of the state's generals were killed-in-action). An estimated three-and-a-half million men (3,500,000) fought in the Civil War and 620,000 perished -- which is greater than the combined casualties from all previous U.S. wars combined. Diseases and Napoleonic Linear Tactics, consequently, were the contributing factors for the high casualties during the war.

Recommended Reading: The Civil War in North Carolina. Description: Numerous battles and skirmishes were fought in North Carolina during the Civil War, and the campaigns and battles themselves were crucial in the grand strategy of the conflict and involved some of the most famous generals of the war. Continued below...
John Barrett presents the complete story of military engagements across the state, including the classical pitched battle of Bentonville--involving Generals Johnston and Sherman--the siege of Fort Fisher, the amphibious campaigns on the coast, and cavalry sweeps such as General Stoneman's Raid. Also available in hardcover: The Civil War in North Carolina.

A Tribute to the Faithful of North Carolina

Private Henry Lawson Wyatt Memorial
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First Confederate Soldier Killed in the Civil War

Brig. Gen. James Johnston Pettigrew
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(Killed shortly after Gettysburg)

North Carolina native Henry Lawson Wyatt was the first Confederate soldier killed in the Civil War. Wyatt was killed at the Battle of Big Bethel in Virginia on June 10, 1861. The Henry Lawson Wyatt Memorial Fountain (above), honoring Henry L. Wyatt, is located in Private Lawson's hometown of Tarboro, North Carolina.
"How splendid and great they were in their modest, patient, earnest love of country! How strong they were in their cause, and pure they were in their faith, and constant they were in 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, sacrifice they endured, duty they performed, death they faced and met, all for the love 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 times shall learn the lesson of heroism their lives inspired and their deeds declared, then not one drop of blood was shed in vain." Judge Roulhac, Forty-ninth North Carolina Regiment
"North Carolina native James Johnston Pettigrew (July 4, 1828 – July 17, 1863) was an author, scholar, lawyer, linguist, diplomat, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was a major leader in the disastrous Pickett's Charge and was killed a few days after the Battle of Gettysburg during the Confederate retreat to Virginia."

Brig. Gen. J. J. Pettigrew
General James Johnston Pettigrew.jpg
(Historical Marker)

"North Carolina native James Johnston Pettigrew (July 4, 1828 – July 17, 1863) was an author, scholar, lawyer, linguist, diplomat, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was a major leader in the disastrous Pickett's Charge and was killed a few days after the Battle of Gettysburg during the Confederate retreat to Virginia."

"I apprehend that if all living Union soldiers were summoned to the witness stand, every one of them would testify that it was the preservation of the American Union and not the destruction of Southern slavery that induced him to volunteer at the call of his Country. As for the South, it is enough to say that perhaps eighty percent of her armies were neither slave-holders, nor had the remotest interest in the institution...both sides fought and suffered for liberty as bequeathed by the Fathers--the one for liberty in the union of the States, the other for liberty in the independence of the States."

Reminiscences of the Civil War, by John B. Gordon, Maj. Gen. CSA. General Gordon was shot 5 times during the Battle of Antietam but did not die until January 9, 1904. Although Gen. John Gordon was a Confederate, President Theodore Roosevelt stated that "A more gallant, generous, and fearless gentleman and soldier has not been seen by our Country."


Map of North Carolina Civil War Battles
North Carolina Civil War Battlefields.gif
(Includes the State's Major Battles and Battlefields)

North Carolina American Civil War Fatalities*

Killed in Action




Died of Wounds

Died of Wounds

North Carolina     677   13,845 14,522         330        4,821 5,151
Died from Diseases
STATE Officers  Enlisted  Total
North Carolina    541  20,061 20,602
Death Total
KIA  Wounds   Diseases    Total    
14,522        5151    20,602  40,275

*Fatalities Equal Dead; Casualty Does Not Equal Dead

Casualties include three categories: 1) dead (aka fatalities, killed-in-action and mortally wounded); 2) wounded; and 3) missing or captured. In general terms, casualties of Civil War battles included 20% dead and 80% wounded. Of the soldiers who were wounded, about one out of seven died from his wounds. Over 2/3 of the estimated 620,000 men who gave their lives in the Civil War died from disease, not from battle.

 North Carolina War Deaths (aka Fatality Total)
The following numbers show deaths (excluding wounded and missing)
Source: North Carolina Museum of History
  Total North Carolina Population (with Census Year) Estimated North Carolina Dead
Civil War 992,622 (1860) 40,275 (CSA)
World War I 2,206,287 (1910) 2,375
World War II 3,571,623 (1940) 7,000
Korean War 4,061,929 (1950) 876
Vietnam War 4,556,155 (1960) 1,572

  American Civil War Fatalities and Casualties
When one totals the Americans that died in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican American War, Spanish American War, World War One, World War Two, Korean War and Vietnam War, it is comparable to the total American Civil War casualties.
Union Fatality Estimates:

Battle Deaths: 110,070
Disease, etc.: 250,152
Total Deaths: 360,222

Confederate Estimated Losses (Fatalities):

Battle Deaths: 94,000
Disease, etc.: 164,000
Total Deaths: 258,000

(Sources listed at bottom of page.)

Recommended Reading: Silk Flags and Cold Steel: The Piedmont (The Civil War in North Carolina. Description: "Silk Flags and Cold Steel" is a fascinating account of the effects of the American Civil War in North Carolina's Piedmont Region. Trotter's accounts of the relationship between wartime N.C. Governor Zebulon Vance and the Confederate Government in Richmond, and a masterful re-telling of the Battles of Averasboro and Bentonville (Sherman's March through the Carolinas), makes this a book worthy of any Civil War buffs library.

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Recommended Reading: The Flags of Civil War North Carolina. Description: Compiled and written by educator and Civil War expert Glenn Dedmondt, The Flags Of Civil War North Carolina is a very straightforward reference presenting photographs, color illustrations, descriptions and history of the titular flags that flew over North Carolina when it seceded from the Union. Each page or two-page spread features the different flags of the various North Carolina regiments. A meticulously detailed resource offering very specific information for history and civil war buffs, The Flags Of Civil War North Carolina is a welcome contribution to the growing library of Civil War Studies and could well serve as a template for similar volumes for the other Confederate as well as Union states. Great photos and illustrations! Continued below.

Flags stir powerful emotions, and few objects evoke such a sense of duty and love for the homeland. In April 1861, the first flag of a new republic flew over North Carolina. The state had just seceded from the union, and its citizens would soon have to fight for their homes, their families, and their way of life. Each flag is meticulously detailed and scaled to perfection. The Flags of Civil War North Carolina is the history of this short-lived republic (which later joined the Confederacy), told through the banners that flew over its government, cavalry, and navy. From the hand-painted flag of the Guilford Greys to the flag of the Buncombe Riflemen--made from the dresses of the ladies of Asheville--this collection is an exceptional tribute to the valiant men who bore these banners and to their ill-fated crusade for independence. About the Author: Glenn Dedmondt, a lifelong resident of the Carolinas and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, shares his passion for the past as a teacher of South Carolina history. Dedmondt has also been published in Confederate Veteran magazine.


Recommended Reading: Remembering North Carolina's Confederates (NC) (Images of America). Description: The American Civil War was scarcely over when a group of ladies met in Raleigh and began to plan commemoration for the honored Confederate dead of North Carolina. In 1867, they held their first memorial service. Two years later in Fayetteville, the first monument to the state's fallen Confederate soldiers was erected. Over the next 14 decades, countless monuments were commissioned in cemeteries and courthouse squares across the state. Continued below…

Following Reconstruction, the veterans themselves began to gather in their local communities, and state and national reunions were held. For many of the Confederate veterans, honor for their previous service continued long after their deaths: accounts of their sacrifice were often chiseled on their grave markers. The numerous images within this book, photographs of veterans and reunions, monuments, and tombstones are but a sampling of the many ways that the old Confederate soldiers are commemorated across the Old North State. About the Author: Historian and photographer Michael C. Hardy is truly one-of-a-kind; he has dedicated and sacrificed his life preserving North Carolina’s Civil War history and heritage. With unmatched zeal and enthusiasm, Michael travels thousands of miles annually, while crisscrossing North Carolina, teaching, educating, speaking, listening, researching, and reading every conceivable aspect of the Civil War as it relates to the Old North State. Michael C. Hardy is the author of numerous books and articles about North Carolina's role during the Civil War. This is his second book for Arcadia Publishing. A popular speaker for history associations, preservation groups, and museums, he lives with his wife, Elizabeth, and son, Nathaniel, in the mountains of Western North Carolina.


Recommended Reading: The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers' and Civilians' Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865. Volume 2: The Mountains (Civil War in North Carolina) (Hardcover). Description: As with The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers' and Civilians' Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865. Vol. 1: The Piedmont, this work presents letters and diary entries (and a few other documents) that tell the experiences of soldiers and civilians from the mountain counties of North Carolina during the Civil War. The counties included are Alleghany, Ashe, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, McDowell, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Surry, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey. The book is arranged chronologically, 1861 through 1865. Before each letter or diary entry, background information is provided about the writer. Continued below...

The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers' and Civilians' Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865 (Volume 2): The Mountains, is the soldier's story. It is an A-to-Z compilation of what the "rank and file soldier" experienced during the American Civil War. The Western North Carolina soldiers express their hearts to their loved ones and friends, thus allowing the reader the most intimate and personal view of the war. From triumph to tragedy, the "soldiers' letters" express what few authors or writers can achieve--realism. According to cartographic and demographic studies, Southern Appalachia comprised a unique indigenous people, and by isolating these rare letters it allows the reader the most detailed insight to their experiences. The soldier experienced various traumatic stressors in the conflict: such as witnessing death or dismemberment, handling dead bodies, traumatic loss of comrades, realizing imminent death, killing others and being helpless to prevent others' deaths. Plain, raw and to the point: The reader will witness the most detailed insight to the so-called American Civil War. Intimate and personal: diseases, privation, wounds, loneliness, exhaustion, heartache, and death are all explored. This book includes a lot of information about: Western North Carolina Civil War History (North Carolina mountain troops), soldiers' photos (some tintype photographs too), and rare pictures. For example, on page 143, there is a photo of Gov. Zeb Vance's brother, Robert, at Fort Delaware Prisoner of War Camp; he had been captured by Pennsylvania cavalry in East Tennessee. You may see a rare photo or letter of an ancestor. The maps, which reflect the region, have keys which place each regiment to each respective western county (where the troops were raised). The soldiers - collectively - also present a detailed North Carolina Civil War History. By reading the letters, you will easily form a timeline that is filled with first-hand facts. To be very candid, it is not only filled with primary accounts of the war, but it is one of the best books to read about the war...Creates an indispensable historical timeline of the life, times, and events of the brave men from the Old North State.


Recommended Reading: Ironclads and Columbiads: The Coast (The Civil War in North Carolina) (456 pages). Description: Ironclads and Columbiads covers some of the most important battles and campaigns in the state. In January 1862, Union forces began in earnest to occupy crucial points on the North Carolina coast. Within six months, Union army and naval forces effectively controlled coastal North Carolina from the Virginia line south to present-day Morehead City. Continued below...

Union setbacks in Virginia, however, led to the withdrawal of many federal soldiers from North Carolina, leaving only enough Union troops to hold a few coastal strongholds—the vital ports and railroad junctions. The South during the Civil War, moreover, hotly contested the North’s ability to maintain its grip on these key coastal strongholds.


Recommended Reading: Bushwhackers, The Civil War in North Carolina: The Mountains (338 pages). Description: Trotter's book (which could have been titled "Murder, Mayhem, and Mountain Madness") is an epic backdrop for the most horrific murdering, plundering and pillaging of the mountain communities of western North Carolina during the state’s darkest hour—the American Civil War. Commonly referred to as Southern Appalachia, the North Carolina and East Tennessee mountains witnessed divided loyalties in its bushwhackers and guerrilla units. These so-called “bushwhackers” even used the conflict to settle old feuds and scores, which, in some cases, continued well after the war ended. Continued below...

Some bushwhackers were highly organized ‘fighting guerrilla units’ while others were a motley group of deserters and outliers, and, since most of them were residents of the region, they were familiar with the terrain and made for a “very formidable foe.” In this work, Trotter does a great job on covering the many facets of the bushwhackers, including their: battles, skirmishes, raids, activities, motives, the outcome, and even the aftermath. This book is also a great source for tracing ancestors during the Civil War; a must have for the family researcher of Southern Appalachia.


Recommended ReadingTouring the Carolina's Civil War Sites (Touring the Backroads Series). Description: Touring the Carolina's Civil War Sites helps travelers find the Carolinas' famous Civil War battlefields, forts, and memorials, as well as the lesser skirmish sites, homes, and towns that also played a significant role in the war. The book's 19 tours, which cover the 'entire Carolinas,' combine riveting history with clear, concise directions and maps, creating a book that is as fascinating to the armchair reader as it is to the person interested in heritage travel. Below are some examples from this outstanding book:

1. Fort Fisher - the largest sea fort in the war that protected the vital town of Wilmington N.C., and the blockade runners so important for supplying Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.
2. Charleston - where the whole shootin' match started.
3. Bentonville - the last large scale battle of the war.
4. Outer Banks - early Union victories here were vital to capturing many parts of Eastern North Carolina from which the Union could launch several offensives.
5. Sherman's March - the destruction of certain towns in both Carolinas (particularly South Carolina) further weakened the South's will to continue the struggle.
I also enjoyed reading about the locations of various gravesites of Confederate generals and their Civil War service. Indeed, if not for this book, this native North Carolinian and long-time Civil War buff may never have learned of, and visited, the locations of some of the lesser-known sites other than those mentioned above.
Johnson's writing style is smooth--without being overly simplistic--and contains several anecdotes (some humorous ones too) of the interesting events which took place during the Civil War years. Highly recommended!

North Carolina American Civil War Sources: Walter Clark, Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-1865; D. H. Hill, Confederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865; Weymouth T. Jordan and Louis H. Manarin, North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865; North Carolina Office of Archives and History; North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources; North Carolina Museum of History; State Library of North Carolina; North Carolina Department of Agriculture; University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; National Park Service: American Civil War; National Park Service: Soldiers and Sailors System; Library of Congress; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; National Archives and Records Administration; United States Department of Veterans Affairs; Library of Congress: American War Casualty Lists and Statistics; William F. Fox, Regimental Losses in the American Civil War; Gettysburg National Military Park.

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