North Carolina - The War of 1812

The Known Military Units from North Carolina

The troops in the War of 1812 were basically of two kinds - the regular army, known as regulars, and the militia. The regulars were entirely volunteers. All men belonged to the militia, but not all militias were called into service. Those who were actually enrolled were known as the detached militia; they were obtained preferably by volunteers from the total militia or by conscription if not enough volunteered. The militia in the past had been thought of as a body of men only used for home defense, but in the War of 1812 they were not only used at home but were also sent out of the state to aid at other danger points.

U.S. Army Major William S. Hamilton was appointed to the rank of Colonel and placed in charge of recruiting in the state of North Carolina. He considered the War of 1812 to be a golden opportunity for those with "a pure spirit and a sacred impulse." He promised to equip volunteers in "Rifle dress and give you your favorite weapon, and ... you will cover youselves with glory." The pay ranged from $8-$12 per month, plus a $124 bounty for enlisting and 160 acres of free land when the war was over. Newspapers across the state printed reports of volunteers on their way to a rendezvous prior to marching off to war.

About seventy (70) active enterprising young men from Fayetteville under Captain Thomas J. Robeson marched through Richmond County in August of 1812; three companies from Salisbury went to Norfolk for duty in April of 1813. That same month, another 140 men left Salisbury for Ft. Moultrie in South Carolina and Ft. Johnston at Southport, NC. Forty men from Haywood County marched to Raleigh in April of 1814, and two months later another forty came from the same area of the state. In Washington, fifty-two (52) men enlisted and marched to Tarboro to report. This group was gallantly escorted from town by three volunteer militia companies. One estimate claims that 1,200 men from North Carolina volunteered for the regular army.

Most North Carolinians were folded into the U.S. Army's 10th Regiment under Colonel James Welborn of Wilkes County, who resigned his commission as a general in the North Carolina Militia in order to join the regulars. Although other North Carolinians served in rifle companies and in the 12th, 13th, 15th, and 43rd Infantry Regiments of the U.S. Army, the majority of North Carlinians were in the 10th Regiment.

In the winter of 1813-1814, this regiment moved to the northward frontier. In January of 1815, Colonel Hamilton was at last released from recruiting duties in North Carolina and stationed in Fredericksburg, Virginia, to winter before going north in the spring. His troops were not needed, however, since the treaty of peace had just been signed.

The detached militia was to consist of 7,000 men, North Carolina's share of the 100,000 men called for by the Federal government at the outset of the war. In 1814, another levy was requested in addition to the original request. The method of filling the quota of detached militia was to call for a muster of the militia of a certain county on a given day and then ask for volunteers to fill up a company, usually around seventy (70) men. If not enough men volunteered, then lots were cast, or every tenth man was taken. Substitutes were permitted if the draftee could find someone willing to go in his place.

Wake County had more volunteers than needed, therefore a draft had to be used to select among them. The same was true for Edgecombe County. In Granville County, however, no one volunteered, so all had to be drafted, and in Orange County this was true of about half the needed number.

The entire detached militia of North Carolina consisted of two brigades composed of four regiments each, plus a regiment of cavalry, five companies of artillery, and six companies of riflemen. The commanding general was Major General Thomas Brown. In 1814, when the second levy was requested, Major General Montfort Stokes was named to the command although he did not take the field. After these men were organized into their brigades they were referred to as "embodied," but following this they returned home to await the call to duty.

There was no regulation uniform for the militia to wear. Governor William Hawkins drew up a design for the field officers' uniform. These officers were to have dark blue coats with buff linings and yellow buttons, very similar to those worn by General George Washington in the Revolutionary War. For winter, they wore white vests and blue pants; in the summer the pants were white. Their boots were long, black, and shiny, of the type worn by the Russian General Suwarrow in the campaigns against Napoleon - hence, they were called suwarrow boots. On their hats were black cockades fastened with a golden eagle; they wore red sashes around their waists and carried yellow-hilted swords.

Much political jockeying and maneuvering was done by men seeking appointment to high rank in the militia. One general complained that if another one was chosen he would withdraw, because "it would be very disagreeable and improper for us to be together in the same service." Others complained of officers who were reputed to be pro-British during the American Revolution.

The Federal government was very disorganized and slow about equipping the militia and defending North Carolina's coast. The militia at Ft. Johnston in August of 1812 reported for duty without uniforms. They served their entire time without being paid and had to go home without any money when they were released.

President James Madison indeed denied help to the state of North Carolina, saying that "an absolute protection of everyone is not possible." He promised, however, to send some gunboats "as soon as they can be made ready for service." The new Secretary of War, John Armstrong, in July of 1813, wrote to Governor Hawkins authorizing him to put three companies of militia on active coastal patrol. However, Armstrong did not mail the letter for two weeks, by which time the British invaded the Outer Banks at Portsmouth and Okracoke.

The main body of North Carolina troops destined for the Canadian front, the 10th Regiment under Colonel Wellborn, never took part in the fighting because the war came to an end while they were en route. Although not many Tar Heels engaged in military combat, those who did made excellent records of themselves. The total number of North Carolinians killed in combat was eighteen (18).

The following counties of the detached militia were called into service at Norfolk, Virginia by orders in September of 1814 - Bertie, Chatham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Gates, Granville, Halifax, Hertford, Johnston, Martin, Nash, Northampton, Orange, Person, Wake, and Warren. Those from Chatham, Orange, and Person were ordered to return to their respective homes before they arrived at Gates Court House, the designated place of rendezvous.

The detached militia from the following counties were called into service at Wilmington by orders issued September 29, 1814 - Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, New Hanover, Robeson, and Sampson.

The detached militia from the following counties were called into service at New Bern by orders issues September 17, 1814 - Beaufort, Craven, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Pitt, and Wayne.

The detached militia from the following counties were called to Hillsborough, the designated place of rendezvous, on November 28, 1814, where they were organized and from thence marched to Norfolk, Virginia, in the service of the United States, agreeable to a requisition made by the President to the Governor of the State - Chatham, Caswell, Guilford, Orange, Person, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Wilkes. The officers of this regiment were - Richard Atkerson, of Person County, as Lt. Colonel Commandant; Samuel Hunter, of Guilford County, as Lt. Colonel; James Campbell, of Rockingham County, as Major; Joseph Winston, Jr., of Stokes County, as Major.

A requisition was made by Major General Thomas Pinckney for one Regiment to march to the defense of the Southern Frontier of the Sixth Military District of the United States. In consequence of which, orders were issued from this office, calling forth the detached militia from the following counties - Anson, Cabarrus, Moore, and Richmond, to rendezvous at Wadesboro, in Anson County, on February 24, 1815. Also to - Ashe, Buncombe, Burke, Haywood, and Rutherford counties - to rendezvous at Wadesboro, in Anson County, on March 1, 1815. The officers of this regiment were - Andrew Irwin, as Lt. Colonel Commandant; John McGimpsey, of Burke County, as Lt. Colonel; Jesse Allen, of Wilkes County, as Major; and, Thomas Lenoir, of Haywood County, as Major.

The following lists of names come from "Soldiers of the War of 1812 - North Carolina," published in pursuance of the resolutions of the General Assembly of January 21, 1851, under the direction of the Adjutant General. Printed in Raleigh by CH. C. Raboteau at the Times Office - 1851.

From the Adjutant General's Office, Raleigh, March 22, 1851:

"I do hereby certify, to the best of my knowledge and belief, that the forgoing is a true copy of the names of the Officers and Soldiers of the Detached Militia of North Carolina, in pursuance of a Requisition of the President of the United State, in virtue of an act of Congress, passed 10th April, 1812. Robert W. Haywood, Adjutant General of the Militia of N. Carolina."

1812 Muster 

1814 Muster

1st Brigade NC Militia

1st Regiment NC Militia

2nd Brigade NC Militia

2nd Regiment NC Militia

1st Regiment NC Cavalry

3rd Regiment NC Militia

1st Regiment NC Artillery

4th Regiment NC Militia

1st Regiment NC Riflemen

5th Regiment NC Militia

6th Regiment NC Militia

7th Regiment NC Militia

The Known U.S. Navy Officers that Served in North Carolina

The following list of Naval Officers come from the U.S. Navy records. All were stationed in Wilmington, North Carolina during the War of 1812, but it is not currently known where their original homes were.



Surgeon's Mate

E.D. Morrison


Julius Humphreys


William Jasper


Joseph Spiknall

Sailing Master

John Mooney


James Moore


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