61st North Carolina Infantry
by N. A. Ramsey, Captain, Company D.
The Sixty-first Regiment North Carolina Troops, was organized in Wilmington early in August, 1862, with the following Field and Staff officers:
James D. Radcliffe, Colonel New Hanover county.
Wm. S. Devane, Lieutenant-Colonel, Sampson county.
Henry Harding, Major, Beaufort county.
Wm. S. Anderson, Assistant Quartermaster, New Hanover county.
Oliver P. Meares, Commissary, New Hanover county.
Alexander Rives, Surgeon
William W. Harris, Assistant Surgeon, New Hanover county.
David Stevens, Sergeant Major, Sampson county
Jos. J. Lane, Ordnance Sergeant, New Hanover county.
Wm. Blanks, Commissary Sergeant, New Hanover county.
Jno. H. Johnson, Chief Musician, New Hanover county.
Wm. H. Eberstein, Drum Major, New Hanover county.
The various companies had officers and men from first to last as follows:
Company A--Captains, Wm. S. Devane, Jos. B. Underwood, Geo. W. Marsh, James H. Robinson, Sampson county. Lieutenants Geo. W. Marsh, Wm. F. Smith, Wm. A. Mathis, Julius M. Chestnut, Francis M. Carroll, Sampson county. Enlisted men, 104.
Company B--Captains Henry Hardin, Wm. M. Stevenson, Beaufort county. Lieutenants T. H. Satterthwaite, David F. Redditt, Wm. M. Stevenson, D. W. Jarvis, Thos. D. Wilkinson, Wm. H. Patrick, Beaufort county. Enlisted men, 82.
Company C--Captains, Edward Mallet, S. S. Biddle, Craven county. Lieutenants, S. S. Biddle, Jno. F. Guthrie, Thos. O. Jones, Edward F. Story, Craven county. Enlisted men, 122.
Company D--Captain, Nathan A. Ramsey, Chatham county. Lieutenants Wm. S. Ramsey, Jas. B. Ellington, Richard C. Cotten, Chatham county. Enlisted men, 184.
Company E--Captains, Allen G. Croom, Greene county; Wm. S. Byrd, Lenoir county. Lieutenants Wm. S. Byrd, S. W. Nobles, J. Q. Jackson, Chas. T. Croom, Alex. Fields, Jos. E. Kinsey, H. H. Rasberry, Lenoir county. Enlisted men 119.
Company F--Captains, Andrew J. Moore, New Hanover county; W. A. Darden, Greene county. Lieutenants J. H. Exum, Andrew J. Darden, Greene county; John R. Belcher, Jesse D. Barnes, Wilson county. Enlisted men, 63.
Company G--Captains, J. F. Moore, L. L. Keith, New Hanover county. Lieutenants Stacy VanAmringe, A. D. Lippitt, N. H. Fennell, Daniel Shackleford, John B. Fox, New Hanover county. Enlisted men, 94.
Company H--Captains John Lanier, William B. Lanier, John D. Biggs, Martin county. Lieutenants John Manning, John D. Biggs, F. A. Rhodes, Henry Williams, Richard W. Rufus, H. H. Lanier, Abner Alexander, Martin county. Enlisted men, 133.
Company I--Captains, Aras B. Cox, Ashe county; Wm. T. Choate, Alleghany county. Lieutenants Isaac C. Higgins, John W. Joines, Lowery Grimsley, Cotton Sparks, W. H. Joines, Geo. Grimsley, Joshua Cox, Calloway Joines, Alleghany county. Enlisted men, 127.
Company K--Captains F. D. Koonce, Thos. G. Henson, Onslow county; S. W. Noble, Lenoir county. Lieutenants, H. C. Koonce, Jones county; J. A. Galloway, Onslow county; Samuel L. Gooch, Calhoun Hoskins, S. E. Koonce, Jones county. Enlisted men, 106.
Casualties of the forgoing:
Edward Mallett, killed at Bentonville 15 March, 1865; Wm. S. Devane, wounded at Bentonville 15 March, 1865; Jas. H. Robinson, prisoner 3 September 1864; Julius M. Chestnut, missing at Fort Harrison 30 September, 1864; John F. Guthries, wounded at Kinston (?) February, 1865; Nathan A. Ramsey, prisoner at Kinston 14 December 1862; Wm. S. Ramsey, lost left hand at Fort Harrison 30 September, 1864; Richard C. Cotten, prisoner at Morris Island 26 August, 1862; Jno. Q. Jackson, prisoner in 1864; L. L. Keith, wounded at Battery Wagner, August, 1863; Wm. T. Choate, killed at Cold Harbor; Isaac C. Higgins, died at Goldsboro 28 December, 1862; Cotton Sparks, killed at Petersburg 30 June, 1864.
Casualties among enlisted men approximately as follows:
Companies Died Disch. KIA MIA POW WIA Total
A 14 9 3 2 6 21 55
B 6 12 4 0 11 6 39
C 13 5 19 6 0 14 57
D 26 10 17 0 44 14 111
E 6 8 3 0 19 0 36
F ? ? ? ? 4 8 12
G 18 4 9 0 18 10 59
H 11 17 2 0 11 1 42
I 18 7 9 1 8 26 69
K 24 6 1 0 18 15 64
Total 136 78 67 9 139 115 544
Marches in Eastern North Carolina
After the organization of the regiment as above stated, it was assigned to Clingman's Brigade, which was composed of the Eighth, Thirty-first, Fifty- first and Sixty-first North Carolina Regiments, and remained at Camp Lamb, near Wilmington, until 16 September, when it took a move on itself and went to Smithville and remained there till he 25th when, on account of yellow fever outbreak it moved to Camp Radcliff, three miles out, returning to Smithville on 4 October, en route to North East bridge, above Wilmington, which was reached o n the 5th. We were really heading for the Kinston battlefield (our maiden battle), but did not know it at the time. The zigzag route taken by us, I gather from my letter published in The Standard on 13 April, 1863. We moved as follows: From North East bridge we went to Camp Collier near Goldsboro on the 14th; to Tarboro on the 19th; left Tarboro for the country around Plymouth on the 24th, constantly marching and counter-marching day and night. The only incident occurring in this neighborhood was the capture of the then notorious Buffalo Jay Bird Jones, afterwards during our reconstruction a judge of the Superior Court. We left out camp near Plymouth on 2 November at 2:30 p.m. and made a forced march to thirty-nine miles, arriving at Spring Green at daybreak on the 3d. We next found ourselves at the CrossRoads on the 4th. A deep snow fell on the 6th, yet, with one hundred barefooted men in the regiment, we weathered the storm and marched to the terminus of the Tarboro railroad. The writer of this article felt very deep concern on this cold, bleak day for thirteen of his own loved boys, who were barefooted, and he begged them not to go on the march, that he would prefer their remaining behind and take the chances of being taken prisoners rather than to go with us and run the very great risk of sickness and death. But no, they must go along with the boys. Four days later, on the 10th, the first one of these noble heroes gave up his splendid lift was Thomas Cotten, dying of pneumonia in the beautiful town of Tarboro. Seven others of them in a few days were placed by his side to sleep till God calls them. Two others died in Greenville. It has ever been, and will ever be the case, to give all the glory to the commanding and subordinate officers for grand victories won and heroic deeds performed, with rare exception of individual mention of a private soldier. This world has never known, and never will know, of any soldier to equal the Confederate boys in gray. These thirteen men, barefooted and poorly clad, rather than remain behind, preferred to go forward, and ten of them paid the penalty in but a few days. They were brave and true and faithful to the end. God bless their memory! History shall record the names of these noble fellows. Those dying in Tarboro were: Thos. Cotten, 10 November; J. Carpenter and Monroe Thompson, 22 November; Terry Poe, 24 November; Wyatt Carpenter, 26 November; J. A. Pilkington, 29 November; Wm. Gunter, 2 December; Jefferson Womack, 29 January. Dying in Greenville: N. L. Covert, 9 December, Elias Fields, 25 December. They were all from Chatham county and members of Company D.
We left the terminus of the Tarboro Railroad on the 10th and bivouacked at Greenville on the 13th; at Craddock's X Roads on the 14th; at Black Jack meeting house on the 15th; at Taft's Store on the 16th; back to Greenville on the 23rd, remaining there until 7 December, when we took up direct line of march from Kinston, arriving there on the 9th. We found ourselves on the 12th, after crossing the county bridge over the Neuse, at Southwest creek, near Kinston. The bridge crossing this creek had been completely destroyed by our troops. The Sixty-first Regiment was posted on the west side of the creek to check or delay the advance of General Foster on the march from New Bern with 10,000 infantry, six batteries with forty pieces of artillery and 640 cavalry. General N. G. Evans, of South Carolina, was in command of our forces, which numbered 2,014.
Battles Around Kinston, 1862
General Foster reached Southwest creek on the morning of the 13th. About 9 o'clock one company of the regiment had a little skirmish with the enemy at the bridge crossing, with trifling casualties. Lieutenant-Colonel Devane, with seven companies, repaired to Hines' mills, about four miles distant, in double quick, and on arrival promptly deployed the entire force as skirmishers. In a little while the ball opened. To us then the firing seemed to be rapid and terrific. Minie balls whistled through the air by front and cross fires from the enemy as if they had naught else to do. For some time we held our ground, but were forced to fall back by the enemy advancing upon us in overwhelming numbers. We retreated towards Kinston and halted about one mile to the rear. Here we formed a line of battle and a company of skirmishers moved forward to feel for the enemy. They advanced only about a hundred yards when they met with what they were looking for, fired one round and had the compliment promptly acknowledged in a double dose by our line. They retired as best they could, bringing the intelligence that the woods were full of blue coats, and that several regiments were flanking us on our left. Just then we had orders from General Evans to retreat under fire in good order. We did our best. We fired and fell back, and fell back and fired.
The next big field not far away we made another stand, taking advantage of the woods on the Kinston side. Here we had a pretty lively artillery duel for about an hour, and an equally lively fusillade from the small arms of the enemy. We quietly laid mighty low and did not return fire, because our guns were inferior and we could not reach them. The day's casualties were very slight. The first to give up his life in this our first battle was Elbert Carpenter, a private in Company D, and he was at once buried on the spot where he fell, royally wrapped in his soldier's blanket.
At about 8 o'clock that night we quietly stole away through swamp, mud and water to Harriet's Chapel. It was a bitter cold nigh and all the boys were wet, half-frozen, hungry and worn out, and yet no word of complaint was murmured through the lines of these splendid Tar Heel heroes. When we bivouacked we were in hearing of the enemy, and we had no camp fires till past midnight. About daybreak our excellent Commissary, Captain O. P. Meares, gladdened our hearts with an abundant supply of good, wholesome rations, just the thing we were longing for and most needed. We were then upon the battlefield of Kinston on 14 December, 1862--a bright, beautiful Sabbath morning.
General Evans with his South Carolina Brigade on the left, and the Sixty-first North Carolina on his right awaited Foster's attack. Foster sent in Wessell's Brigade and batteries; supporting Wessell by Amory's Brigade, supplemented by Stevenson's. The odds were overwhelmingly against us, and after two and a half hours of stubborn resistance on our part, we were forced back across the Neuse, and were so closely pressed that we unavoidably lost 400 prisoners, all of whom were paroled on the following morning. At one time during the progress of the battle the Sixty-first was compelled to fall back on account of the ammunition being entirely exhausted, and on being ordered back by General Evans, all hands without a murmur promptly obeyed and returned to within 150 yards of the enemy without a solitary cartridge and half of the men without bayonets. A small supply of ammunition soon reached us, which was speedily used to the best advantage, and being entirely out again and with no hopes of a second supply, and being in a forlorn and helpless condition and being crowded so unmercifully close by such a large force of the enemy, the better part of valor was to get away from there if we could, which we did in a quiet, orderly way, or as much so as pressing circumstances permitted. When we reached the bridge it was on fire, and in addition to the trying ordeal of passing over the blazing bridge, we were subjected to a terrible cross-fire from the enemy who were drawn up in line of battle 250 yards below. Here we lost several of our men and it is truly miraculous that half of them at least were not killed or burned to death. God was with us on this beautiful, lovely Sabbath day.
After the battle of Kinston the regiment under General Evans was marched to Goldsboro, reaching there on 17 December. From Goldsboro we tramped every step of the way right down the railroad track to Wilmington, reaching that lovely city by the sea on 2 January, 1863, remaining there until 6 February, when we pitched our tents on Masonboro Sound--returning to Wilmington on 16 February.
Charleston and Savannah
From Wilmington we went to Charleston, S.C., landing there on 18 February, 1863. On 2 March we were ordered to Savannah, Ga., and it was with many regrets when the order came for us to return to Charleston on the 9th. Every recollection and association of our sojourn in Savannah is of the most pleasant and delightful character. We were welcomed most heartily by the noble men and women of that most beautiful of cities and royally entertained.
On our return to Charleston, 13 July, 1863, we went into camp on James' Island, about four miles from the city and only a few hundred yards from Fort Pemberton. Going from Savannah, Ga., to James' Island, S.C., was about what I would imagine with my limited knowledge of the two localities, very much the same as dropping out of Paradise into Hell! We found James' Island a little Sahara, having plenty of wind; rolling and twisting clouds of sand; millions of black gnats (much greater pests than mosquitoes), and a very scanty supply of devilish poor beef, that a respectable Charleston buzzard would not eat. We had to sink holes here and there and everywhere to get a supply of tadpole water--at the same time there being a well of good water at Fort Pemberton, which no Tar Heel was allowed to sample. In Savannah bacon sold for 35 cents per pound; at Charleston it was 62 cents, and North Carolina money couldn't buy it at any price. Our money was refused at the postoffice, in the market, in the stores and on the streets. We didn't like it. The Fayetteville Observer of 23 April, 1863, published a collection that had been made in that good old town for the suffering volunteers from Cumberland county, then doing duty on James Island, amounting to $3,408.55 in money and bacon. This ought not to have been, and would not, had the boys been quartered and doing duty at Savannah.
Prices in Charleston
Some of the little delicacies that the boys sometimes liked to indulge in were sold at prices that were rather high. For instance, a small raw turnip, 15 cents; a baked sweet potato, 25 cents, with ground peas at 40 cents a quart. On 23 March, 1863, Company D threw away two days' rations of beef, which was totally unfit for the stomach of a cannibal, much less that of a Confederate soldier. The life of a soldier was anything but easy and pleasant. They endured every hardship and suffered under almost every privation without a murmur and with apparent cheerfulness. In this way, as much as in any other, they showed their patriotism and devotion to the Common Cause.
From James' Island we went to Sullivan's Island, date not remembered, but the change was gladly welcomed by all. We were willing to go anywhere to get away from James' Island. While quartered on Sullivan's Island our regiment did its full share of duty in the defense of Morris Island. During the four years of my experience in the army I found no place so uninviting as Battery Wagner on Morris Island. The bomb-proof, the only place of safety, cannot be well described, for all its dreary loathsomeness and horrors, and I will not attempt it. The following was published in the Wilmington Journal a few days after the occurrence:
"During the bombardment of Battery Wagner many little incidents have occurred which deserve a name in history. Among these is the following: On 29 July, 1863, the enemy got the range of a ten-inch Columbiad so completely as to render the place of extreme danger, and the South Carolina troops that manned the gun left it and ran into the bomb-proof for shelter. Their Captain ordered them back to their post, but they refused for a time to obey. While the men were wrangling with their officer, a soldier named Stedman from Company B, Sixty-first North Carolina, by himself, loaded, sighted and fired the abandoned gun, hitting the Yankee boat at which he shot, while a hundred balls were whistling around him. Remember this was a North Carolina soldier. Let us be proud of him. I thank God it was my happy privilege and good fortune to witness the abandonment of this gun, and the magnificent heroic conduct of Robert Winship Stedman. There was no braver soldier among the hosts of the Confederate army than Winship Stedman. God bless his memory!
"In the summer and fall of 1863, the Sixty-first Regiment together with the balance of Clingman's Brigade, performed as arduous services as any Confederate troops at any period of the war. They were stationed on James, Morris, and Sullivan's Islands defending the city of Charleston, and their endurance of fatigue, hardships and dangers during that period, week after week, for several months seems almost incredible. In December, 1863, shortly before Christmas, the regiment with the balance of Clingman's Brigade, was relieved from the arduous service at the siege of Charleston, and returned to North Carolina and for several months was stationed near Wilmington.
When Beast Butler in May, 1864, made his memorable movement against Petersburg, the Sixty-first was one of the regiments hurried forward to checkmate him. General Grant in his official report alluded to Butler's being "bottled up" by our troops. The Sixty-first participated actively in this campaign, and as it was wont to do, discharge its every duty faithfully and well, and suffered fully its share in all respects, especially in the battles of Drewry's Bluff, Chaffin's Farm, Bermuda Hundred, Cold Harbor and Fort Harrison. On 3 June 1864, at Cold Harbor, while the enemy was shelling our works, a shell fell in the trenches occupied by the Sixty-first North Carolina. While it was smoking and near ready to burst, Sergeant Thos. L. Graves, Company A, of our regiment, seized it and threw it out of the works, saving many lives at the risk of his own. Such a deed merits record here. At Cold Harbor another brigade gave way, and through this break the enemy passed and attacked Clingman's Brigade on the left flank. General Clingman was in the trenches with the Sixty-first Regiment and seeing the enemy in our rear, he rushed forward and was gallantly followed by the regiment, and the enemy was soon driven back from whence they came. The only weapon General Clingman had on this occasion was a piece of fence rail.
In addition to the varied and wide scope of duties faithfully, cheerfully and gallantly performed by the Sixty-first Regiment in this and other States, Company D was petitioned for by the citizens of Chatham and Moore to be sent for protection of life and property against lawless deserters and conscripts. The petition was granted, and the company was promptly sent. The woods were scoured and cleared up of this lawless gang of marauders. Over one hundred captures were made, and they were sent back to their commands in the army. Besides, in a skirmish with them, the two leading spirits of the gang were shot to death, and this restored peace to the entire community. Forever after all raiding and outrages from this source were unknown.
The regiment returned to Wilmington from Petersburg and remained in the vicinity till after the fall of Fort Fisher and the evacuation of the city. The war was speedily coming to a close, and the most hopeful of us had despaired of a possibility of success, yet we pressed forward and fought on with the same iron nerve that had already immortalized our soldiery. Attached to Hoke's Division, the Sixty-first as a part of Clingman's Brigade, met Schofield's army from New Bern at Southwest Creek 8-10 March, 1865, and shared in the capture of several hundred prisoners.
Our last battle was fought at Bentonville on 15 March, 1865, and the writer of this article is still proud of the honor conferred upon him on that morning in being put in command of the skirmish line, with instructions to go forward. About this, our last battle, Benson J. Lossing wrote as follows: "Soldiers in that command who have passed through this score of battles will tell you they never saw anything like the fighting at Bentonville. Sherman said the National forces received six distinct assaults by the combined forces of Hoke, Hardee, and Cheatham, under the immediate supervision of General Johnston himself without giving one inch of ground, and doing good execution on the enemy's ranks, especially with our artillery, the enemy having little of none. With the coming of darkness ended the conflict known as the battle of Bentonville, which in brilliancy of personal achievements, and in lasting advantage to the cause of the Republic must ever be ranked among the most memorable and important contests of the war. Indeed, it seems proper to consider it the key battle of the Civil War. Had Johnston won there, the sad consequence would probably have been the loss of the whole of Sherman's army, and the quick and fatal dispersion or capture of Grant's army before Petersburg and Richmond by the combined forces of Lee and Johnston attacking him in overwhelming numbers in front and rear. In this view the solid importance of the victory of Bentonville cannot be overestimated."
After Bentonville, Johnston's army was camped in the upper end of Johnston county, near Mitchener's Station, till 10 April, 1865, when we began our last retreat. The first surrender at the Bennett House near Durham, 14 April, proved abortive. On 26 April the final surrender was signed and the Sixty-first was paroled near High Point, 2 May, 1865.
After the lapse of so many long and weary years, it is a difficult task, with the historical data obtainable incomplete as they are, to do justice full and ample to this, or any other regiment of North Carolina troops who did service in the Confederate army. No better soldiers are known in the history of the world than the Confederates, and if any of them were better than the others our love for North Carolina and her common glory is my excuse for saying that the Tar Heels were the very best. God bless the memory of all of them who so freely offered up their lives upon the altar of their country for a cause that was just in the sight of God and our own conscience. And to the noble old veterans who still survive of the gallant old Sixty-first, may they yet live for many days to instill into the hearts and minds of their descendants the deepest love and veneration for the Confederate cause, which was crushed not by the people of the North but by the hundreds of thousands of foreign trash, who fought for money and not for the love of the union.
N. A. Ramsey
26 April, 1901