North Carolina in the American Civil War

37th NC Regiment (Infantry)

Date Regiment Organized

Mustered In

 Date Regiment Ended

Mustered Out

Comments

November 20, 1861

Camp Fisher near
High Point, NC

April 9, 1865

Appomattox, VA

Re-Organized "for the war" on
April 16, 1862

Field Officers

Colonel(s)

Lt. Colonel(s)

Major(s)

Adjutant(s)

Chaplain(s)

Charles Cochrane Lee,
William Morgan Barbour

William Morgan Barbour,
Charles N. Hickerson,
John B. Ashcraft,
William Groves Morris

John G. Bryan,
William Rufus Rankin,
Charles N. Hickerson,
John B. Ashcraft,
William Groves Morris,
Owen N. Brown,
Jackson L. Bost

William T. Nicholson,
David W. Oates

Albert L. Stough

Commissary(ies)

Surgeon(s)

Assistant Surgeon(s)

Assistant Surgeon

Assistant QM(s)

Herbert D. Stowe,
Miles P. Pegram

James Hickerson,
John Brevard Alexander,
George E. Trescott

John Brevard Alexander,
James Wright Tracy

Daniel McLean Graham

Robert M. Oates,
Miles P. Pegram

Companies / Captains

Company A - Ashe County
Ashe Beauregard Riflemen

Company B - Watauga County
Watauga Marksmen

Company C-Mecklenburg County
Mecklenburg Wide Awakes

Company D - Union County
North Carolina Defenders

Company E - Watauga County
Watauga Minute Men

Capt. John Hartzog,
Capt. Walter M. Lenoir,
Capt. William J. Alexander

Capt. Jonathan Horton,
Capt. Jordan Cook,
Capt. Andrew J. Critcher

Capt. James M. Potts,
Capt. Owen N. Brown,
Capt. Lawson A. Potts,
Capt. John D. Brown

Capt. John B. Ashcraft,
Capt. Jackson L. Bost,
Capt. Henry C. Grady,
Capt. John M. Cochrane

Capt. William Y. Farthing,
Capt. William T. Nicholson

Companies / Captains (Continued)

Company F - Wilkes County
Western Carolina Stars

Company G - Alexander County
Alexander Soldiers

Company H - Gaston County
Gaston Blues

Company I-Mecklenburg County
Mecklenburg Rifles

Company K - Alleghany County
Alleghany Tigers

Capt. William Morgan Barbour,
Capt. Charles N. Hickerson,
Capt. Daniel L. Clary,
Capt. William W. Beard,
Capt. John B. Petty

Capt. John G. Bryan,
Capt. James Reed,
Capt. Robert L. Steele,
Capt. Daniel L. Hudson

Capt. William Rufus Rankin,
Capt. William Groves Morris,
Capt. Henry C. Fite,
Capt. William C. Ragin

Capt. John K. Harrison,
Capt. Moses N. Hart,
Capt. John I. Elms,
Capt. William M. Stitt,
Capt. William D. Elms

Capt. John Ross,
Capt. William M. Fetter,
Capt. Thomas J. Armstrong

Brief History of Regiment*

This regiment, which was destined to figure so conspicuously in the Army of Northern Virginia, was organized by Col. Charles C. Lee at High Point, NC, the Field Officers all receiving their commissions on November 20, 1861. Its organization was as follows:

Charles C. Lee, Colonel.
William M. Barbour, Lieutenant Colonel.
John G. Bryan, Major.
William T. Nicholson, Adjutant.
Robert M. Staley, Ensign.
Robert M. Oates, Assistant Quartermaster (AQM).
John O. Alexander, Quartermaster Sergeant.
Herbert D. Stowe, Assistant Commissary (ACS).
Albert L. Stough, Chaplain.
James Hickerson, Surgeon.
Company A—Captain, John Hartzog.
Company B—Captain, Jonathan Horton.
Company C—Captain, James M. Potts.
Company D—Captain, John B. Ashcraft.
Company E—Captain, William Y. Farthing.
Company F—Captain, William M. Barbour (quickly replaced by Charles N. Hickerson).
Company G—Captain, John G. Bryan (quickly replaced by James Reed).
Company H—Captain, William R. Rankin.
Company I—Captain, John K. Harrison.
Company K—Captain, John Ross.

On the completion of its organization it was moved to New Bern, NC, where it received its baptism of fire on March 14, 1862, in battle at that place. Lt. Col. William M. Barbour commanded it, Col. Charles C. Lee being assigned to the command of the left wing of Brig. Gen. Lawrence O. Branch's (NC) army. Although fighting under great disadvantage, the regiment behaved with great credit to itself and showed plainly of what material it was composed, reinforcing most beautifully Col. Reuben P. Campbell, of the 7th NC Regiment, whose lines were first broken. It is well to state in the beginning that the greater part of the regiment was composed of hardy mountaineers, as fine a looking body of men as ever marched to the tap of a drum. Outnumbered at every point, the small army of Brig. Gen. Branch was compelled to fall back to Kinston and after a short rest the 37th NC Regiment was taken to Falling Creek.

On March 31, 1862, Brig. Gen. Lawrence O. Branch's (NC) Brigade was organized, consisting of the following regiments: The 7th NC Regiment, led by Col. Reuben P. Campbell; 18th NC Regiment, led by Col. James D. Radcliffe; 28th NC Regiment, led by Col. James H. Lane; 33rd NC Regiment, led by Col. Clark M. Avery; and the 37th NC Regiment, led by Col. Charles C. Lee. This noted brigade, composed entirely of North Carolina troops, was then sent to Virginia, where it remained until the final sad ending at Appomattox, unbroken in its organization. It proceeded directly to Gordonsville, where it remained several days, was then ordered to join Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (VA) in the Shenandoah Valley. After marching two (2) days orders were received to counter-march back to Gordonsville, and from there to the vicinity of Hanover Court House.

On Tuesday, May 27th, Brig. Gen. Lawrence O. Branch (NC) fought the battle of Hanover Court House with his brigade against the entire corps of Federal Brig. Gen. Fitz John Porter. The brunt of this battle falling upon the 37th and 18th NC Regiments. The 37th NC Regiment fought only as brave men could fight, against overwhelming odds, driving the enemy from its front, and forcing him to take shelter in the dense woods under the protection of his batteries. The regiment held its ground from 1 p.m. until night, when Brig. Gen. Branch fell back to Ashland.

One of the most remarkable incidents happened in Company G, from Alexander County, that occurred in any company in the Confederate Army during the entire war. There were four (4) brothers in the company named Robnett; three of them, William P. Robnett, Joel B. Robnett, and John C. Robnett, were killed upon the field. Rarely in history can we find where a single family made such a sacrifice upon the altar of its country.

At Mechanicsville, Gaines's Mill, Frayser's Farm, and Malvern Hill the regiment responded promptly to every call for dangerous service and its loss of 138 men in these various engagements tells of its fidelity to duty. At the battle of Frayser's Farm, on June 30th, the regiment lost its beloved Col. Charles C. Lee, while gallantly leading it on to victory. It is sufficient to say Maj. Gen. Daniel H. Hill (NC), under whom Col. Lee served as Lt. Colonel in the old Bethel Regiment (1st NC Volunteers), regarded him as one of the finest officers of the South. Lt. Col. William M. Barbour was then promoted to the Colonelcy of the 37th NC Regiment.

After forcing Federal Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan to Harrison's Landing, the regiment returned to the neighborhood of Richmond for a few days and then back to Gordonsville.

On August 9th, we moved rapidly to Cedar Run and arrived with the brigade just in time to check the advance of Federal Maj. Gen. John Pope's army. Brig. Gen. Jubal A. Early (VA) and Brig. Gen. William B. Taliaferro (VA) were yielding ground when we rushed upon the field and quickly formed into line, and by well-directed volleys, sent the over-confident enemy back across the field in confusion to the shelter of the works. Just then the Federal cavalry made one of the most brilliant and gallant charges that was made by cavalry upon infantry, during the entire war. The 37th NC Regiment, with the whole brigade, reserved its fire until the column came in point-blank range, when it poured a withering volley into it, sending it back in "confusion worse confounded." This cavalry charge was never forgotten by the regiment; it always expressed the desire to receive a similar one. The loss of our regiment in this action was 2 killed and 13 wounded.

SECOND MANASSAS

Maj. Gen. James Longstreet's Corps (VA) having joined Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (VA), General Robert E. Lee sent the latter upon his wonderful flank movement to Federal Maj. Gen. John Pope's rear. The 37th NC Regiment was one of the regiments that kept pace with the "Foot Cavalry," covering more than fifty (50) miles in two (2) days, its fare being principally green corn gathered by the wayside. At Manassas Junction it was one of the regiments that charged Brig. Gen. George W. Taylor's New Jersey Brigade across Bull Run Creek on August 27th, completely annihilating it. Moving back to the Junction it feasted sumptuously for several hours upon the captured stores, then took its position with Maj. Gen. Jackson's forces behind the unfinished railroad cut to await the coming of Maj. Gen. Pope's army.

On August 28th it made its appearance and formed in three (3) lines of battle—came on like the waves of the ocean; several well directed volleys hurled them back, but quickly reforming, they came again and again until night put an end to the terrible slaughter. This was kept up upon on August 29th and 30th; the 37th NC Regiment manfully held its position, although at times it would scarcely have a round of ammunition left to the man. Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill (VA) and Brig. Gen. Lawrence O. Branch (NC) could often be seen dismounted urging their men to hold their ground at the point of the bayonet. The loss of the 37th NC Regiment in the three (3) days' fighting was 13 killed and 67 wounded.

Maj. Gen. John Pope falling back towards Washington, Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (VA) again cut him off at Ox Hill on September 1st, and a fierce battle ensued. A chilling rainstorm drenched the men to the skin, causing the muskets to choke and fire badly. The regiment here again bore its part nobly, losing 5 killed and 18 wounded. The firing ceased at dark as if by mutual consent.

The 37th NC Regiment endured the hardships of the first Maryland Campaign and from Frederick City it recrossed the Potomac River at Williamsport and was part of the force that invested Harper's Perry from the Virginia side. It was one of the regiments that scaled the heights overlooking the Shenandoah River and took position on Bolivar Heights, where on the following morning, September 15th, it witnessed the surrender of the garrison in Harper's Ferry. It remained with Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill's (VA) Division to receive the surrender and made that memorable forced march to the battlefield of Sharpsburg on September 17th, just in time to hurl back the victorious forces of Federal Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside across Antietam Creek. In this battle, the 37th NC Regiment fought behind a stone fence, and its loss was only 4 men wounded, but it was called upon to mourn the loss of its brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Lawrence O. Branch (NC), who was then so rapidly rising in military prominence and was so dearly beloved by his troops.

At Shepherdstown it was one of the regiments that crossed the large cornfield in the face of a withering artillery fire and helped drive the enemy back across the Potomac River with slight loss, only 4 wounded; this action took place on September 20th. It was one of the regiments detailed to tear up the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad from Hedgesville to North Mountain Depot, and did the work well. For several weeks the regiment did picket duty while encamped near Snicker's Gap.

About November 1st, Federal Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's army crossed the Potomac River and proceeded via Warrenton in the direction of Fredericksburg. Maj. Gen. James Longstreet's (VA) Corps soon left the valley and took position near Culpeper Court House. Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's (VA) forces remained in the Shenandoah Valley watching the Federal army under Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, who had succeeded Maj. Gen. McClellan, until it was clearly evident it was moving on Fredericksburg; Maj. Gen. Jackson then, by a series of rapid marches, concentrated his troops in the vicinity of Guinea Station.

FREDERICKSBURG

On December 12th, Brig. Gen. James H. Lane's (NC) Brigade took its position in line of battle behind the Richmond & Fredericksburg Railroad cut, a short distance south of Deep Run. The following day, December 13, 1862, the battle of Fredericksburg was fought. The 37th NC Regiment was upon the right of Brig. Gen. Lane's Brigade, with its right resting upon a marshy swamp where no troops were placed. On the opposite side of this swamp, Brig. Gen. James J. Archer's (TX) Brigade held the railroad. The field was enveloped in fog which concealed the enemy's movements, but the air was very conducive to sound and we could plainly hear the commands of the officers as they were forming their lines for the assault.

At 9 o'clock a line of battle advanced from under cover of the riverbank, but was driven back by our artillery and Brig. Gen. Lane's skirmish line. About noon the fog lifted and heavy columns of the enemy were thrown into the unfortunate gap between Brig. Gen. Lane and Brig. Gen. Archer; while the 37th NC Regiment had cleared its front almost with the first volley, we could plainly see the enemy rushing across the railroad on our right. Col. William M. Barbour then deflected his three (3) right companies and formed them to the rear at right angle to the track. The regiment made a bloody and gallant struggle to hold its position, but Brig. Gen. Archer's left and Brig. Gen. Lane's right were forced to give back upon our reserves, who drove the enemy back across the railroad with great slaughter and re-established our lines. The loss of the regiment is not known to the writer, except that it was very great.

After this battle the regiment went into winter quarters at Moss Neck, about eight (8) miles farther down the river, where it remained and did picket duty, with the other four (4) regiments of the brigade, for the remainder of the winter.

CHANCELLORSVILLE

On April 29, 1863, the familiar boom of cannon comes wafted on the spring breezes from the direction of Fredericksburg. Its increasing sound soon convinces us that the campaign of 1863 had opened and we must bid adieu to pleasant and comfortable quarters and face grim war in all its horrors. We could not foresee that our noble old regiment was to be called upon to bear its bloody part in two (2) of the bloodiest and hardest contested battles ever fought upon the American Continent, before the year would end. Large columns of soldiery could be seen moving from their camps, all converging upon the direct road to Fredericksburg. A few hours march and we take our position in the second line of battle upon these historic hills. We could only see about 30,000 of the enemy in the plain below and knew our struggle would be in another direction. On May 1st, at daylight, we marched for Chancellorsville, but took no part in driving Federal Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker back to his fortifications at that place. Skirmishers were thrown out on arriving there, and we occupied the front line during the night.

On May 2nd, our regiment started early in the morning, with Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's Corps, on that wonderful and world renowned flank movement of Lt. Gen. Jackson around Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's army in broad daylight, the grandest movement ever made by any general upon the chess board of warfare. On reaching the turnpike in rear of Maj. Gen. Hooker's army, Brig. Gen. Robert E. Rodes' (AL) and Brig. Gen. Raleigh E. Colston's (VA) Divisions were formed into line of battle and put in motion, the 37th NC Regiment led Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill's (VA) division which was in column on the turnpike, consequently we were almost in the second line. Lt. Gen. Jackson rode at the head of the regiment and all eyes were upon him. Our lines soon struck Maj. Gen. Hooker's rear and a running fight was kept up until night, or about sunset, when Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill was ordered to the front.

As the 37th NC Regiment led Brig. Gen. James H. Lane's (NC) Brigade, which was the leading one of the division, as a matter of course, we got the brunt of artillery fire, the most unmerciful ever known upon one single point of any battlefield, for the enemy had collected 43 pieces of cannon to stop Lt. Gen. Jackson's onslaught and were firing on Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill's men as they approached Fair View. Fortunately for us, it lasted but a short time, when we were moved down the road about one hundred (100) yards and took possession of the enemy's inner or last breastworks, those immediately around Chancellorsville House, without firing a gun. This shows clearly the panic-stricken state Maj. Gen. Hooker's right wing was in.

The brigade was formed with the 37th NC Regiment on the right of the road, the 7th NC Regiment on its right, the 18th NC Regiment on the opposite side, or left of the road, the 28th NC Regiment on the left of the 18th; the 33rd NC Regiment deployed as skirmishers covering the entire front of the brigade. Rapid firing was continuous on the skirmish line until long after Lt. Gen. Jackson was wounded, but no serious effort was made to retake the works; so the poor, weary men, crouched down behind the works to rest and ''bitterly think on the morrow."

Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart (VA) , who took command of the Corps after Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill were wounded, moved his line forward early the next morning, on May 3rd. During the night, the 18th and 28th NC Regiments were moved to our right—placing the whole of Brig. Gen. James H. Lane's (NC) brigade upon the right of the turnpike; we moved forward as if upon parade and the bloody work commenced; we drove the enemy from the woods and took possession of the little works they had thrown up during the night and held them until relieved by other troops. Col. William M. Barbour in his official report says:

"During the entire engagement my officers and men behaved gallantly. Second Lieutenant Carlton H. Reagan, Company K, was killed gallantly commanding his company. The annexed tabulated statement will show that my total loss is as follows: One officer killed, 19 officers wounded; 35 men killed, 175 wounded; 8 missing. I do not hesitate to say that it was the bloodiest battle that I have ever witnessed."

The regiment always, to the very end of the war, regarded this battle as the bloodiest and hardest contested of all its experience. Its position was more exposed to the enemy's artillery than any other regiment in the entire corps, and its loss far greater than that of any other.

After the enemy was defeated at every point and driven across the river the regiment returned to its old camp at Moss Neck, where it enjoyed one more month of rest and enjoyment. After the death of our beloved General, "Stonewall" Jackson, there was a re-organization of the army, dividing it into three (3) corps, our brigade being placed in Maj. Gen. William D. Pender's (NC) Division of the Third Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill (VA). On the morning of June 6th, the 37th NC Regiment, for the third time, occupied the old line of battle at Fredericksburg, where the Third Corps remained watching a portion of the Federal army that had crossed the Rappahannock River, until June 15th. The enemy having recrossed the river our corps commenced its march northerly in pursuit of the First and Second Corps.

THE GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGN

By rapid forced marches the regiment crossed the Potomac River on June 25th and reached Fayetteville on June 27th, where we rested until June 30th, when we resumed our march and arrived upon the battlefield of Gettysburg on the morning of July 1st, and formed line of battle in rear of Maj. Gen. Henry Heth's (VA) Division, which was then heavily engaged. Our brigade was on the right of our division and the 37th NC Regiment on the right of our brigade, consequently we were the extreme right of the advancing column. Company G, under Capt. Daniel L. Hudson, was deployed as skirmishers on our right flank to guard against the enemy's cavalry. The whole line moved gallantly forward and secured possession of Seminary Ridge, the brigade extending from the McMillan House to near the Fairfield Road on the left. It was not otherwise engaged during the day. We held this position all day on July 2nd under a severe artillery fire, but we were not actively engaged.

Our Major General, William D. Pender, received his mortal wound upon this day. On the morning of July 3d, Brig. Gen. James H. Lane's and Brig. Gen. Alfred M. Scales' North Carolina brigades were sent, now under command of Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble (VA), to the right to reinforce Lt. Gen. James Longstreet (VA); after getting in our position our new commander rode down the line and halted at different regiments and made us little speeches—saying he was a stranger to us and had been sent to command us in the absence of our wounded general, and would lead us upon Cemetery Hill at 3 o'clock. About 1 o'clock p.m., the report of a cannon far to the right was heard and was quickly answered by one of Earl's far away to the left; these were signal guns which announced the opening of one of the severest artillery duels the world has ever known. The earth fairly shook for two (2) hours, then the firing ceased almost as suddenly as it had commenced and the infantry moved forward.

It was a grand sight, as far as the eye could see to the right and to the left two (2) lines of Confederate soldiers with waving banners pressing on into the very jaws of death. Maj. Gen. Trimble's command was the second line in support of Brig. Gen. James J. Pettigrew (NC). Brig. Gen. Lane upon the left and Brig. Gen. Scales upon the right. In a few minutes after the start we were obliqued rapidly to the left to take the place of Col. John M. Brockenborough's (VA) Brigade, which had broken; over the Emmettsburg Road we went and rushed for the stone wall, the line all the while seemed to be melting away. When the order came to retire, those who were spared did so in perfect order—never anytiling like a panic, as some people think— and halted at the position from which we had started. Our loss was severe, especially in officers. We regret not having the official list of casualties at hand, but well remember the loss in killed of the following officers: Maj. Owen N. Brown, 2nd Lt. Iowa M. Royster, 2nd Lt. W. Lewis Battle, 1st Lt. William H. Doherty, 2nd Lt. John P. Elms, Lt. W. N. Nichols (?), and 2nd Lt. William Mickle.

We held our position all day on July 4th, no movement being made on either side, and commenced the retreat soon after dark and marched all night through a drenching rain. Brig. Gen. James H. Lane's (NC) Brigade led the Third Corps on the march during July 5th, the 37th NC Regiment again leading the brigade, Gen eral Robert E. Lee and Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill (VA) riding just in front of us the entire day. On July 6th, we reached Hagerstown, bivouacked three (3) days, then formed line of battle and entrenched, but Federal Maj. Gen. George G. Meade did not dare attack, to the great disappointment of the Confederates, for we wanted revenge and felt sure we would get it. On the night of July 13th, the army crossed the Potomac River; on the morning of July 14th, while Maj. Gen. Henry Heth's and Maj. Gen. Pender's Divisions were waiting near Hagerstown, at Falling Waters, to cross the river, the men being nearly all asleep, a squad of Federal cavalry dashed up and mortally wounded Brig. Gen. James J. Pettigrew (NC).

The 37th NC Regiment, with the brigade, was formed in line and did some very nice skirmishing, holding back a force that threatened our rear until the wagon train and all the troops had passed over the river, when it crossed on the pontoon bridge. The 37th NC Regiment was one of the last, if not the very last, to cross. While at Hagerstown on July 10th, 1st Lt. Thomas L. Norwood, of Company A, who had been shot through the breast and captured at Gettysburg, came marching into camp disguised in the most ridiculously looking and fitting countryman's suit of clothes imaginable, having secured it at Gettysburg in one of the houses around the hospital, and although suffering greatly from his wound, he managed by his wit and cunning to march through the Federal lines and into ours; he was then sent to the headquarters of General Robert E. Lee and took a cup of coffee with that distinguished personage. He was considered one of the finest officers of the 37th NC Regiment. The regiment fell back with the army and re-occupied the lines of the Rapidan River, going into camp near Orange Court House and doing picket duty at Morton's Ford.

Col. William M. Barbour in a report made about this time to the Adjutant General of North Carolina, says:

''The regiment has lost one hundred and fifty (150) men killed, seventy (70) who have died of wounds, three hundred and two (302) who have died of disease, and three hundred and thirty-two (332) have been wounded and recovered. Total loss killed and wounded, five hundred and fifty-two (552); to which add three hundred and two (302) who have died of disease, and we have a total of casualties amounting to eight hundred and fifty-four (854) men. Fourteen (14) commissioned officers of this regiment have been killed or mortally wounded, and ten (10) others permanently disabled by wounds. This does not embrace the names of those officers who have been wounded but were not disabled by their wounds. There are but six (6) officers in this regiment who have not been wounded, and a large number (both officers and men ) have been wounded several times.

"Notwithstanding the heavy loss of my regiment in battle, I now have present four hundred and forty-two (442) officers and men, and am able to give the enemy a good fight whenever it is necessary."

In that splendid campaign of strategy, when General Robert E. Lee pushed Federal Maj. Gen. George G. Meade back from the Rappahannock River to Centreville, this regiment moved with the brigade and formed line of battle at Bristoe Station on October 14th, but was not in the bloody battle that took place. On the return of the army to the Rappahannock River, it was detailed to destroy the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Perhaps it may be of interest to know how this was done. The rails were ripped up and pens made of the cross-ties, the rails then laid on the pens which were set on fire, the irons soon become red hot in center, when half a dozen soldiers would seize each end and run to a telegraph post, or tree, and play circus by running rapidly around it—bending the rail three or four (3-4) times around the post. We then went into camp on the Rappahannock River, near Brandy Station, where we remained several weeks, then took up the march to the old lines on the Rapidan River.

While on the march the 37th NC Regiment was hurried rapidly back to assist our cavalry which was being driven back by the Federal cavalry; the regiment was formed on the left of the Warrenton Road and a battery placed on the right, as our cavalry came rushing back closely followed by the Yankee cavalry. The battery opened and the 37th NC Regiment, from its concealed position, poured a murderous volley into them. It was a sudden and bloody check. The 37th NC Regiment pursued them several hundred yards down the road until not one could be seen, it then rejoined the brigade and with it returned to our old camps at Liberty Mills, on the upper Rapidan River, and went into winter quarters, but Federal Maj. Gen. George G. Meade not content to allow the campaign of 1863 to end without another struggle, crossed at the United States and Germania Fords and we marched to Payne's Farm (aka Mine Run) and fortified strongly across Maj. Gen. Meade's front. This was on November 26th, and the army remained here several days. The suffering of the poorly clad men from cold was intense—beyond anything ever experienced by the Army of Northern Virginia. A regular blizzard prevailed the whole time it remained there. The enemy failed to attack, but recrossed the river and the regiment, with the brigade, returned to its camp.

The only event of interest that occurred during the winter was an exciting snowball battle; a short description may be of interest. The 33rd NC Regiment, under Lt. Col. Robert V. Cowan, marched from its camp to that of the 7th NC Regiment and captured it without a battle. The two then proceeded to the camp of the 18th NC Regiment and demanded its surrender, which was immediately given. Lt. Col. Cowan then sent a challenge to the 37th and 28th NC Regiments for battle. These two (2) regiments accepted the challenge and formed line of battle under command of our Capt. William T. Nicholson (Company E), on the edge of a hill in front of our camps, threw out skirmishers, and waited; the enemy soon appeared across an open field with a strong line of skirmishers in front, and the battle opened by their driving our skirmish line in, the three (3) assaulting regiments came to the attack beautifully, but one volley from the 28th and 37th NC Regiments drove them back down the hill; again they returned and again were driven back. Rallying in the valley, they reformed and made a vigorous assault, breaking our center, and driving us into our camps, where we retreated to our shanties and surrendered to a pot of rice, bacon, and cornbread.

Our winter quarters life at dear old Liberty Mills was by far the most pleasant we ever had, the young officers enjoying the society of the beautiful young ladies of whom there were many in Orange County. All pleasures have an ending and ours ended on May 4, 1864, when we turned our faces towards the east to meet Federal Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant with his mighty host. We bivouacked that night near Vidiersville and resumed the march on the morning of May 5th. About 12 o'clock the heavy boom of cannon in front told us that the enemy had been met. Continuing our march we soon came upon the enemy's dead in great numbers on either side of the road. As we entered the Wilderness, heavy firing was heard in front of us, on the right of the plank road. Our division, then commanded by Maj. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox (VA), formed in line of battle, swept through the Wilderness, obliquely to the left, for about two hundred (200) yards, capturing about two hundred (200) prisoners; we were then withdrawn, with the division, to the plank road to assist Maj. Gen. Henry Heth's (VA) division, which was then hard pressed by overwhelming numbers.

The 37th NC Regiment was the rear regiment of the division, and as it was leaving the plank road it was reported that the enemy was approaching from the left of the road; it was detained there and did not take part in the engagement that evening, but lay still, watched and listened to the heaviest musketry it had ever heard; as Maj. Gen. Wilcox went in the whole Wilderness roared like fire in a canebrake. At nightfall the 37th NC Regiment joined the brigade a short distance to the right of the road. None of the brigades seemed to be in line—some regiments isolated entirely from their brigades—in fact, no line at all, but just as they had fought. In this disorganized fix we received the heavy attack of Federal Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock on the morning of May 6th—the men were willing to fight, but had no chance, 'twas "confusion worse confounded."

The 37th NC Regiment was borne gradually back by other disorganized troops without firing a gun. One hundred (100) yards or so in rear we struck a road down which Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's (VA) men were coming at double-quick, as we passed through their ranks they could not resist the temptation of giving us a little chaffing. Some wanted to know if we belonged to General Robert E. Lee's army. We didn't look like the men they had left here—"we were worse than Bragg's men." These old veterans of Lt. Gen. Longstreet wheeled into line and the tide of battle turned, the Yankees were driven far back into the Wilderness. The 37th NC Regiment, which was never disorganized or confused, formed with the brigade on the left of the plank road and fortified, remaining there until the night of May 8th, when we took up the march for Spotsylvania Court House, arriving there about 12 o'clock on May 9th.

SPOTSYLVANIA COURT HOUSE

The brigade formed with the 37th NC Regiment on the right, then the 7th, 33rd, 18th, and 28th NC Regiments, and commenced immediately to fortify. On the evening of May 10th we were withdrawn (the whole brigade) and double-quicked to the left to re-establish our lines that had been broken, but this was done before we arrived, so we returned to our fortified position in front of the Court House.

May 11th passed without any fighting anywhere on the line, but at daylight on May 12th the enemy attacked heavily at the salient, which Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson's (GA) Division held, breaking and capturing almost his entire division. They then swept up the lines towards our brigade, capturing part of the 28th and 18th NC Regiments. The four (4) regiments on the left of the 37th NC Regiment then swung back and formed at right angle to that regiment, the enemy advanced in heavy force up the line, receiving a severe oblique fire from the 37th NC Regiment and the direct fire from the rest of the brigade, which drove them from the field. The entire brigade then alvanced several hundred yards over the works, but were soon ordered back, and finding other troops occupying the works, we were ordered back to the Court. House. General Robert E. Lee, with several other general officers, sat on their horses just in front of us. Capt. William T. Nicholson, of Company E, 37th NC Regiment, who then commanded the sharpshooters of the brigade, was sent for and reported to General Lee in person.

General Lee directed him to take his corps of sharpshooters across the works and ascertain, if possible, how far the enemy's left extended. Capt. Nicholson exhibited extraordinary bravery and intelligence—advanced beyond his men, procured the necessary information, hurried back, and reported to General Lee; the regiment, with the brigade, was ordered over the works and several hundred yards from them formed at right angles to our works. As we advanced to cross the works a battery was playing upon us. One shell exploded in Company D, 37th NC Regiment, killing Capt. Henry C. Grady and eight (8) men. General Lee was riding very close to us at the time. Brig. Gen. William Mahone's brigade of Virginians formed just in rear of us; we advanced as soon as formed; as the 37th NC Regiment emerged from the oak woods through which we had advanced, a battery planted in an open field not more than one hundred (100) yards off, opened upon us with grape and canister. This sudden and bloody surprise was calculated to break the sturdiest of veterans, but it had no effect upon the 37th NC Regiment, except the loss of many of its brave men.

The writer now begs to chronicle an act of bravery which surpassed anything he witnessed during the entire war. As this fire was received by the 37th NC Regiment, 1st Lt. Charles T. Haigh, of Company B, rushed twenty (20) odd yards in front, with hat in one hand and sword in the other, shouting to his men to come on. Other officers, inspired by his noble example, rushed forward with him and led the regiment to the battery, not a gun being fired until we reached it, when halting, it poured in one volley, killing every man at the battery. It was the only instance which came under the observation of the writer where a charge was led by officers. We read often of such things, but they seldom happen; they generally remain in rear of their men to keep from being shot by them. Wheeling to the left from the battery and fighting with desperation, poor Charley Haigh fell dead by the side of the writer, the bravest of the brave. Let us drop a tear to the memory of that noble boy who now sleeps upon that bloody battlefield.

Wheeling still farther to our left we strike Federal Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside's troops, who had charged our works and been defeated. Then and there in those oak woods a scene with clubbed musket and bayonet took place which was too horrible to describe. Everyone was trying to fight his way back to our works. Our brigade captured three (3) stands of colors, two (2) of them by the 37th NC Regiment. Brig. Gen. James H. Lane (NC) says in his official report:

"First Lieutenant James M. Grimsley, Company K, Thirty-seventh Regiment, with a small squad of men, had the honor of capturing the colors of the Seventeenth Michigan and about thirty (30) prisoners. Lieutenant Grimsley is a very brave man. Lieutenant Octavius A. Wiggins, Company E, Thirty-seventh Regiment, was captured by the enemy, but by his boldness, succeeded in making his escape and brought off with him the flag of the Fifty-first Pennsylvania Regiment and several prisoners. Private J. H. Wheeler, a brave soldier of Company E, Eighteenth Regiment, is entitled to the credit of capturing the battery flag. The charge of the Thirty-seventh North Carolina Regiment upon a battery of six (6) guns, was one of the grandest sights I ever saw."

The loss of the regiment in this engagement was 4 officers killed, 3 wounded; 18 men killed, 30 men wounded; 2 officers missing, 38 men missing. Officers killed: Capt. Henry C. Grady, Company D; 2nd Lt. Elijah A. Carter, Company A; 1st Lt. Charles T. Haigh, Company B; 2nd Lt. Barnabas A. Johnston, Company C. Officers wounded: Ensign Robert M. Stanley, Capt. Daniel L. Hudson, Company G; 1st Lt. Edward H. Russell, Company I. Officers missing: Col. William M. Barbour, 1st Lt. John D. Brown, Company C. From May 12th to the 20th the regiment lost 6 men wounded, one (1) man killed; Capt. William T. Nicholson (Company E) was badly wounded in the shoulder by a piece of shell on May 14th. On the afternoon of May 21st we moved to the right, beyond our works, and formed line of battle, charged the enemy's breastworks and captured them. The regiment had one (1) officer wounded and two (2) men; the officer wounded was 2nd Lt. Octavius A. Wiggins of Company E.

The following order was read to the brigade on May 13th:

Headquarters Army Northern Virginia,
On Battlefield.

Major General C. M. Wilcox, Commanding Division:

General: General Lee directs me to acknowledge the receipt of the flags captured by Lane's Brigade in its gallant charge of yesterday, and to say that they will be forwarded to the honorable Secretary of War, with the accompanying note and the names of the brave captors.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

C. S. Venable,
A.D.C

From Spotsylvania, the regiment marched with the brigade to Hanover Junction (aka North Anna, aka Jericho Ford), where it fought the battle of that name, losing one (1) man killed, two (2) officers and nineteen (19) men wounded, two men (2) missing. Officers wounded: 2nd Lt. James B. Somerville, Company B; 1st Lt. James M. Grimsley, Company K.

From May 27th to June 1st, the regiment was continually marching and skirmishing, losing seven or eight (7-8) men. Officer wounded: 2nd Lt. Adam F. Yandle, of Company I, on June 3rd (engagement not known). As all official records of losses sustained after June 3rd were destroyed, no further attempt will be made to give minute descriptions of the movements of the regiment, but simply state it sustained its good name to the end.

At Fussell's Mill, Gravel Hill (aka 1st Deep Bottom), and on the 1st Weldon Railroad, it fought bravely; and was in the grand charge made by the three (3) veteran North Carolina brigades on August 25th, on Federal Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock's entrenched position at 2nd Reams' Station. The 37th NC Regiment always contended that it was one of the first regiments that carried the entrenchments. The next real engagement was at Jones's Farm, where we lost our beloved Colonel, William M. Barbour, who fell mortally wounded while talking to the writer of this sketch, just before our lines advanced. We advanced and drove the enemy over a mile back when night put an end to the battle. It was a bloody affair, but little mention has ever been made of it as few troops were engaged; it took place on September 30, 1864.

The next day, on October 1st, the brigade advanced with Maj. Thomas J. Wooten's (18th NC Regiment) Corps of sharpshooters in front. Maj. Wooten managed in some way to slip past and capture about 300 prisoners, we took possession of the enemy's breastworks at Pegram's Farm, and held them all day, but were subjected to an annoying skirmish fire; the 37th NC Regiment had several men killed by them. During the action on September 30th, the regiment behaved most beautifully, not once halting until ordered to do so at night. About the middle of November the regiment, with the brigade, built little shanties in rear of the works near the Jones House to make themselves as comfortable as possible through the winter, a strong picket line being kept in front day and night.

On December 8th, the regiment marched with the brigade, to Jarrett's Station to meet a demonstration of the enemy in that direction (known as the Stony Creek Raid), but returned without significant battle. This march was one of the most trying the regiment ever experienced. It snowed and rained and sleeted the whole time, the ground being so slick after the sleet that it was impossible, almost, to stand. Men could often be seen marching on the sleety ground with no shoes on.

On the night of March 24, 1865, Brig. Gen. James H. Lane's (NC) Brigade moved through Petersburg and took position to support Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon (AL) in his attack on Hare's Hill. We were not heavily engaged, but the position held by the 37th NC Regiment subjected it to a merciless artillery fire for several hours. We returned to our position and the next day our skirmish line having been taken Brig. Gen. James H. Lane was ordered to re-establish it. We did so about daylight the next morning, having one officer, 1st Lt. John D. Brown, and several men of the 37th NC Regiment wounded. On April 1st, the troops on our right were withdrawn and sent to Five Forks.

To fill the gap made vacant by their withdrawal the brigade was deployed in skirmish line ten (10) paces apart behind the works; just as day was breaking on April 2nd, our poor, little weak line, was assaulted by three (3) lines of battle. After a stubborn resistance, we were overpowered and our lines taken, the regiment losing five (5) officers: Capt. William T. Nicholson, Capt. Daniel L. Hudson, and Capt. John B. Petty, 1st Lt. Felix Tankersley, and 2nd Lt. William N. Ross. The line was forced back to Fort Gregg; a part of the 37th NC Regiment, with other troops, undertook to defend the fort. It made a splendid defense, but after hours of hard fighting it yielded to overwhelming numbers and all were captured. That night the regiment fell back with General Robert E. Lee's army and surrendered with it at Appomattox under the command of Maj. Jackson L. Bost.

Thus closed the career of one of the most gallant regiments that left the State of North Carolina, or any other State, for the scene of war. Organized by one of the finest officers of the State and brought up to that high standard of discipline necessary in all organized bodies, she maintained it to the last. Always ready, never murmuring, she covered herself with glory upon upwards of one hundred (100) bloody battlefields.

When the lines were broken on the morning of April 2nd, the brave senior Captain of the regiment, William T. Nicholson, was killed. He had been with the regiment from the beginning and had participated in thirty (30) odd battles. The writer, who as First Lieutenant, would have succeeded to the Captaincy, was captured. He received a scalp wound, the muzzle of the gun being in such close proximity to his head as to blow powder into his face, nearly destroying his eyes and knocking him senseless upon the ground. Of course he was captured and reaching the enemy's lines, he found many of his friends there who had been captured at the same time. The wound proved to be of small consequence and his friends set themselves to work picking the powder from his face, which they succeeded in doing very nicely. The prisoners were then sent to City Point and from there to Washington. The next day a train load of officers was started for Johnson's Island, when near Harrisburg, PA, in the dead hours of the night, the writer jumped from the window of the car while it was running at the rate of forty (40) miles an hour.

Why he did not break his neck, the Lord only knows, but he was not even hurt, except a few scratches on the forehead where it plowed in the sand. Fortunately for him, he had on a suit of clothes made of an old gray shawl, such as the students at Chapel Hill wore before the war, cutting off the brass buttons from the coat and vest and substituting wooden pegs, he was in perfect disguise and passed as a laborer, working a day or so at once place, then moving farther south, until he reached Baltimore, thence by steamer to Richmond, but too late to do any more fighting for General Robert E. Lee had surrendered. He procured a parole and started for his home in Halifax County, NC; when near Garysburg, in Northampton County, he met a regiment of negro soldiers who had gone from Norfolk to Weldon to put telegraph wires in fix, or rather to escort the telegraph men; about a dozen stragglers stopped him and robbed him of the money he had made in Pennsylvania and Maryland; then one concluded to kill him, leveled his gun and pulled trigger, but one of his companions knocked his gun up just at that instant, the ball passing over the writer's head, again blowing his face full of powder. They then left him to his fate. This was the last gun the writer ever heard fired by a Yankee soldier.

I have attempted not to mention the name of any living person in the body of this sketch. While so many vied with one another and struggled so hard upon many a bloody field, it seems unjust to single out one from among so many brave men to give special praise, and yet I feel I would be derelict of my duty if I neglected to mention the meritorious conduct of one who, upon every battlefield without a solitary exception, was the most cool, collected person it was my privilege to know during the war. This was Lt. Col. William G. Morris, of Dallas, NC. I do not know even now whether he is living or not.

"Honor to whom honor is due" is a true maxim, and it behooves us now to let posterity know in what light, we, his old comrades, regarded him. By common consent we "dubbed" him the Marshal Ney of the gallant old 37th NC Regiment. A little story is told of him at Chancellorsville. On the evening of May 2nd, while the regiment was undergoing a most unmerciful artillery fire and had thrown itself flat on the edge of the turnpike, he remained standing on the road, his friends in the meantime urging him to lie down, which he refused to do. Soon a piece of shell struck him on the foot. "See that," he exclaimed. "If I had been lying down like you darn fools, it would have hit me on the head."

This recalls another little incident which happened at the same time and afforded me a great deal of amusement, but may not be such to those who may read it unless they knew the parties. I will therefore attempt a short description of the principal one. While this terrible artillery fire was going on, one of my company commenced praying. We all perhaps did the same, but not quite so conspicuously as he did. He went down low and loud, long and strong. He prayed for all he was worth. When the firing ceased and we took our position in the road ready to move, a squatty little fellow named George Patrick, almost as broad as he was long, with a face something like a dinner plate and red as a turkey's snout, and a mouth almost from ear to ear, made a little speech. It ran about thus:

"Gentlemen, I want to tell you all something, and I want these officers to remember it. I'm never gwine to stay in another such place as that. You may shoot me if you want to, but if you take me in another place like that, I'm a-goin' to leave, but gentlemen, didn't Mitchell pray?" then opened that big mouth and laughed as if there was no such thing as cannon balls. "Pat" was a great pet with us, one of the best soldiers in the company; but would under all circumstances have his fun. He passed through the entire war, was in every battle the regiment was engaged in, without receiving a scratch.

Memory often takes me back to those trying days and I fight my battles over and shed my tears in silence over the many dear fallen friends, shattered hopes and cruel misfortunes. The world does not know of what material the Army of General Robert E. Lee was composed, and I regret to say the generation in the South that has grown up since the ending of that bloody struggle regard it with either indifference or as a fortunate ending. This of course is mortifying indeed to those who struggled so hard and so long for what they knew to be right. Yes, we fought in the conviction that we were defending those inalienable rights guaranteed by our forefathers. I often think those who now sleep upon far away battlefields are the most blessed, because they never realized the mortification of a subjugated people.

After leaving our position under the terrible bombardment at Hare's Hill, we were informed of the death of our old comrade, 2nd Lt. Edward T. Nicholson. Promoted to Captain, Edward T. Nicholson had left us in the early part of 1863 by promotion on Brig. Gen. James H. Lane's staff as I. G. and was afterwards transferred to Brig. Gen Robert D. Johnston's Brigade as A.A.G.

Closely connected with him for years at college and in the army, I can truthfully say now, thirty-six (36) years after his death, that I have never yet known that man who in my humble opinion, has reached that high standard of morality that Edward T. Nicholson possessed. In seven (7) short days followed the death of his noble brother, Capt. William T. Nicholson. The writer of this sketch knew him intimately. We had fought upon twenty (20) odd battle fields together, and it was my privilege and duty in the heat of battle, while receiving instructions from him, to watch him closely, and in all of these conflicts, no matter how trying the circumstances, never saw him lose his balance. He was a man "born to command men," and had he lived he would have proved a great factor in adjusting political affairs during Reconstruction days.

Now I wish to say one word of praise of the noble men who fell at Gettysburg. Maj. Owen N. Brown, the bravest of the brave, idolized it might be said by his regiment, gave up his life there and planted close to him in one grave are those three noble graduates of Chapel Hill—Iowa M. Royster, W. Lewis Battle, and William Mickle. Poor Royster, how well do I remember his coming to me as we were about to advance and showing me a hole in his pants, and telling me he was shot through the thigh, but he intended to keep on with the command. There are few men who would not have gone to the rear, but not so with Royster. I can see him now in his new uniform with flashing sword, he cheered his men on apparently totally oblivious of the fact that a shrapnel bullet had already passed through his right leg, on he rushed until the last drop of his manly blood was spilt upon his country's altar. Children of the South, can you hear of these noble feats of your countrymen without having your hearts swell with pride?

Brig. Gen. James H. Lane, our Brigade commander, was all that a true soldier could be upon a battlefield. Nothing could excite him and when he put his troops in battle he always went with them. Always enjoying good health and miraculously escaping a mortal wound, he kept close with his brigade and passed through as many battles as any person in the Confederate army, dearly beloved by his entire brigade.

It is with much diffidence that I submit this sketch, for I feel as if I have not done justice to the grand old regiment. I now place my humble wreath of immortelles at the shrine of the noble men who composed the gallant old 37th NC Regiment.

Octavius A. Wiggins
Wilmington, NC
9 April, 1901


* The above was written by former 1st Lt. Octavious A. Wiggins on April 9, 1901, and provided as Pages 653-674, in the compilation known as "Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-'65 - Volume II," edited by Walter Clark, and published by E. M. Uzzell, Printer and Binder, in 1901. Minor edits, additions, and deletions were provided by this Author for clarity and consistency.

Known Battles / Skirmishes**

Date(s)

Battle / Skirmish

March 14, 1862

1st New Bern, NC

May 27, 1862

Hanover Court House, VA

June 25 - July 1, 1862

Seven Days' Battles, VA

June 26, 1862

Mechanicsville, VA

June 27, 1862

Gaines's Mill, VA

June 30, 1862

Frayser's Farm, VA

July 1, 1862

Malvern Hill, VA

July 8, 1862

Harrison's Landing, VA

August 9, 1862

Cedar Run, VA

August 25-27, 1862

Manassas Station Operations, VA

August 28-30, 1862

2nd Manassas, VA

September 1, 1862

Ox Hill, VA

September 12-15, 1862

Harper's Ferry, VA

September 17, 1862

Sharpsburg, MD

September 19-20, 1862

Shepherdstown, VA

December 11-15, 1862

Fredericksburg, VA

April 30 - May 6, 1863

Chancellorsville, VA

July 1-3, 1863

Gettysburg, PA

July 6-16, 1863

1st Hagerstown, MD

October 13 - November 7, 1863

Bristoe Campaign, VA

November 7 - December 2, 1863

Mine Run Campaign, VA

November 7, 1863

2nd Kellysville, VA

November 27 - December 2, 1863

Payne's Farm, VA

May 5 - June 24, 1864

Wilderness Campaign, VA

May 5-7, 1864

Wilderness, VA

May 8-21, 1864

Spotsylvania, VA

May 23-26, 1864

Hanover Junction, VA

June 15, 1864 to April 2, 1865

Siege of Petersburg, VA

June 21-23, 1864

1st Weldon Railroad, VA

July 27-29, 1864

Gravel Hill, VA

August 14-20, 1864

Fussell's Mill, VA

August 25, 1864

2nd Reams Station, VA

September 30, 1864

Jones's Farm, VA

September 30 - October 12, 1864

Pegram's Farm, VA

December 7-12, 1864

Stony Creek Raid, VA

February 5-7, 1865

Dabney's Mill, VA

March 25, 1865

Hare's Hill, VA

April 2, 1865

3rd Petersburg, VA

April 5, 1865

Amelia Court House, VA

April 6-7, 1865

Farmville, VA
** Not all battles/skirmishes above are described in the narrative provided by Lt. Wiggins earlier herein. Six (6) engagements above (including three overarching campaigns) are described in the book "North Carolina Troops: 1861-1865, A Roster, Volume IX - Infantry," on pages 462-468. Reminder, this website uses the Southern names for all battles/skirmishes. 

 


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