North Carolina Voices

Union Soldiers

"[T]he reason I enlisted at the time I did was that the conscript officers of the Confederate army tried to get me two or three days previous thereto and I ran from them and they shot at me. It was well understood in my neighborhood [that] at the time I was old enough to be subject to army duty and I saw I had to join one side or the other so [I] went to Plymouth and enlisted in the U.S. Army."
  William David Thomas, 1st North Carolina Infantry (Union) (Buy the Book)

"We saw active service in South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia. I was wounded in the right leg at the battle of [Olustee, Florida]."
  Sgt. William Henry Singleton, 35th U.S. Colored Troops (1st North Carolina Infantry, African Descent) (Buy the Book)

"I deemed it most prudent to fall back in rear of the custom-house, and before we could all get in the building they [the Confederates] had planted their pieces of artillery on the wharf and had fired some three rounds at the Southfield, and the third fire disabled her boiler. After they found she was disabled and dropped down the river they moved their field pieces to the corner opposite headquarters, but not without loss of some men. They commenced to shell the custom-house, and as they passed down the street in small groups our men would let the lead fly at them to the best advantage, and I do assure you our little North Carolina volunteers behaved most nobly. They were calm and collected, much more so than I expected."
  1st Lt. Jonathan T. Mizell, commanding Company C, 1st North Carolina Infantry (Union), describing a Confederate attack at Plymouth, N.C., December 16, 1862.

"The battle of Murfreesborough [Stone's River] has inspired much confidence with Union men of the ultimate success of the Government, and has greatly discouraged rebels, but increased their bitterness. If the rebel army could be expelled from the State [Tennessee], and Union sentiment developed without fear or restraint, I think Tennessee will be brought back into the Union by decided majority of popular vote . . . . Your proclamation of the 1st [the Emancipation Proclamation], excepting Tennessee, has disappointed and disarmed many who were complaining and denouncing it as unjust and unwise. I think the exception in favor of Tennessee will be worth much to us, especially when we can get to discuss it before the people."
  Brig. Gen. Andrew Johnson, native North Carolinian, Military Governor of Tennessee, Nashville, reporting to President Abraham Lincoln, January 11, 1863. Johnson was a U.S. Senator before the war (beginning in 1857), as well as Lincoln's vice-president (1865), and the 17th President of the United States (1865-1869).

"[S]ix of my men were detailed to guard some negroes who were chopping wood near Elizabeth City for the use of the garrison. They were attacked by the Partisan Rangers and 3 of their number were taken prisoners. Also 3 negroes were taken and 2 killed. . . . . Lt. L. A. Bigger was sent down the river . . . for a schooner-load of wood. He had with him six men and some negroes. They went ashore at night and were surrounded and taken by the Partisan Rangers . . . . I received a letter from Lieutenant Bigger dated April 13, at Fortress Monroe, saying that he had been paroled, but that the men would be confined in Castle Thunder, where the three who were captured March 12 had been confined in an aweful dungeon, from the effects of which two of the men had died. A description of the prison by Lieutenant Bigger was a gloomy cell 15 by 20 feet occupied by twenty-eight men. Thus my men are treated as fellons of the deepest dye instead of as prisoners of war because they are North Carolina Union volunteers . . . . Praying that there may be something done by the authorities in power to have these men treated as other U.S. volunteers, prisoners of war, I subscribe myself, Very respectfully, your humble servant."
  Capt. E.C. Sanders, Company D, 1st North Carolina Infantry (Union), to Maj. Gen. John D. Foster, New Bern, N.C., April 24, 1863.

"At 9 a.m. 9 [April 29] the brigade was ordered to cross the [Rappahannock] river in boats and drive the enemy from their position, the [6th] Wisconsin and [24th] Michigan moving in the advance, immediately followed by the [2nd] and [7th] Wisconsin, and the [19th] Indiana Volunteers moving up in double-quick. A part of the [2nd] Wisconsin had been ordered to bring forward the pontoons, which it performed in fine style, under a shower of musketry. The [2nd] and [7th] Wisconsin and [19th] Indiana Volunteers opened fire on the enemy, which was continued for a few minutes, until the pontoons could be placed in the water, when the whole brigade crossed, under a direct and enfilading fire, charged the rifle-pits, killing 30, wounding a large number, and capturing nearly 200 prisoners . . . . Of the troops of this command I cannot speak too highly. With heroic fortitude and bravery, on the bloody fields of Gainesville, Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and their late gallant struggle in foring a crossing of the Rappahannock River, they have won for themselves imperishable honors."
  Brig. Gen. Solomon Meredith, native North Carolinian, U.S. Army, commanding 4th Brigade ("Iron Brigade"), 1st Division (Wadsworth), 1st Corps (Reynolds), Army of the Potomac, reporting on the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, April 30-May 6, 1863. At the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, Meredith was severely wounded on the first day, and the "Iron Brigade" was decimated, suffering a total of 1,153 casualties.

"The troops on my left having skirmished well forward the brigadier-general commanding directed me to ascertain by my skirmish line what was in front. As soon as Captain [Seager S.] Atwell neared the edge of the wood his men were met by a very severe fire. The green tops of the slashing in front [of the Confederate defensive line near Richmond] rose so high (six to ten feet in some places) as to prevent a good view. Captain [John] Thompson climbed a tree. It was discovered that across a slashing, variously estimated at from 100 to 150 yards wide at different places, was a strong breast-work well lined with rebels, and at an angle thereof were at least two guns in position, which at various times during the day fired shot, spherical case, and canister . . . . Colonel [Francis B.] Pond's brigade was to assualt on the right at a point where there appeared to be little or no slashing . . . . At 2 o'clock the assualt was unsuccessfully made. An exceedingly heavy fire was drawn from the enemy along the entire front of the division, and evidently a fire from veteran troops, as it was low and well directed."
  Brig. Gen. Joseph R. Hawley, native North Carolinian, U.S. Army, commanding 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 10th Corps, Army of the James, reporting on the engagement at Darbytown Road, Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, Virginia, October 13, 1864. Hawley later commanded the 1st Division, 24th Corps, and then the District of Wilmington, N.C., after the fall of Fort Fisher and during the subsequent Union march to Goldsboro. After the war, Hawley was elected governor of Connecticut in 1866, and was later elected to the U.S. Senate.

"I was ordered here to recruit for the Second North Carolina Mounted Infantry from the prisoners captured at Cumberland Gap, Tenn., in September 1863, by Major General [Ambrose E.] Burnside, consisting of the [29th], [62nd], and [64th] North Carolina Infantry, C. S. Army. The larger number of those men were and are now Union men and have written from time to time to me to come and get them out of prison. I am here with six of my men who are acquainted with nearly all of the Union men from those three regiments who were conscripted in the rebel army. Some are here, others at Camp Douglas, and some at Johnson's Island. I would most respectfully ask permission to enter the three camps and recruit all the men who are willing to enlist and that I can prove are true, loyal men now and before the war. I saw General [Lorenzo] Thomas and the general said he would telegraph to the Secretary of War [Edwin M. Stanton] and that I would be notified at Camp Chase. I shall anxiously wait an answer."
  Maj. A. J. Bahney, 2nd North Carolina Mounted Infantry (Union) at Neil House, Columbus Ohio, to Brig. Gen. H. W. Wessells, Washington City, D.C., January 5, 1865

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