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Histories of the several regiments and battalions from North Carolina, in the great war 1861-'65 online

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Wyatt was killed, and the others were recalled.

Of Wyatt, Colonel Magruder's report says : " Too much praise
cannot be bestowed upon the heroic soldier whom we lost. He
was one of four who volunteered to set fire to a house in our front
which was thought to afford protection to our enemy, and advanc-
ing between the two fires, he fell midway, pierced in the fore-
head by a musket ball. Henry L. Wyatt is the name of this
brave soldier and devoted patriot. He was a member of the
brave and gallant First North Carolina Regiment."

In the Virginia volume of the "Confederate Military History,"
Major Jed Hotchkiss, its author, says: "It is generally admitted
that young Wyatt was the first Confederate soldier killed in action
in Virginia daring the civil war." As that was also the first
battle of the war, it may be recorded that Wyatt was the first
Confederate soldier killed in battle in that war.


1. George Williams, Corporal, Co. A. 3. R. H. Bradley, Private, Co. A.

8. Henry L. Wyatt, Private, Co. A. (The 4. Jolin H. Tllorpe, Private, Co. A.
first Confederate soldier slain in bat-
tle, June 10, 1861, at Bethel.)

The Bethel Ebgiment. 101

Private John H. Thorpe, an honor graduate of the University
of North Carolina, one of the four companions of Wyatt, after-
wards a captain in the Forty-seventh Rgiment, thus describes the
death of Wyatt :

" When we got there [the redoubt] I saw a Zouave regiment
of the enemy in line of battle about three hundred yards away.
Our boys popped away at them, but the fire was not returned.
Then, in good order, they marched away down the New Market
road. Probably the order to retreat had been given the whole
Federal army. A few minutes later Colonel Hill, passing from
our right through the company, said: 'Captain Bridgers, can't
you have that house burned?' and immediately went on. Cap-
tain Bridgers asked if five of the company would volunteer to
burn it, suggesting that one of the number should be an officer.
Corporal George T. Williams said he would be the officer and
four others said they would go. Matches and a hatchet were
provided at once, and a minute later the little party scrambled
over the breastworks in the following order: George T. Wil-
liams, Thomas Fallon, John H. Thorpe, Henry L. Wyatt and
R. H. Bradley. A volley was fired at us as if by a company,
not from the house, but from the road to our left. As we were
well drilled in skirmishing, all of us instantly dropped to the
ground, Wyatt mortally wounded. He never uttered a word or
a groan, but lay limp on his back, his arms extended, one knee
up and a clot of blood on his forehead as large as a man's fist.
He was lying within four feet of me, and this is the way I saw
him. * * * To look at Wyatt one would take him to be
tenacious of life; low, but robust in build, guileless, open, frank,

Wyatt's body was soon taken off the field by his comrades,
who carried him to Yorktown the same night, where he died.
He had apparently not recovered consciousness from the time
he was struck. His body was carried to Richmond the next
dav, where he was buried with military honors from the Rev-
erend Mr. Duncan's church.

102 North Carolina Troops, 1861-'65.

Camps were named for Wyatt during the war; his portrait
has been placed in the State Library at Raleigh; and his memory,
as well as that of the First Regiment, is perpetuated in the in-
scription: "First at Bethel; last at Appomattox!" cut upon the
Confederate Monument in front of the Capitol.

Henry Lawson Wyatt was a son of Isham and Lucinda Wyatt,
of Tarboro. He was twenty years of age at his death. His
parents had moved to Tarboro in 1856 from Pitt county, though
he was born during their early residence in Richmond, Va.


The battle of Bethel was but a small afikir in itself, if we
compare it with the sanguinary conflicts between vast bodies of
men of which it was the precursor. But it made a profound
impression upon the country, raising the enthusiasm of the South
to the highest pitch,* repressing disaffection there, and at the
same time chilling the ardor of their adversaries at the North.
It was the cause of crimination and recrimination between the
Federal officers engaged and responsible for it, and their several
adherents. Loud calls were made in the Northern press for the
removal of General Butler, notwithstanding the placatory assur-
ances, in anticipation, which his official reports contained. Among
the latter were the declarations that " we have gained much more
than we have lost," and that "while the advance upon the bat-
tery and the capture of it might have added eclat to the occasion,
it would not have added to its substantial results." The chief
of these appears to have been that "our troops have learned to
have confidence in themselves under fire." The New York
Tribune declared that the President would do well to make peace
with the Confederacy at once, if he was not willing to send gen-
erals into Virginia who were " up to their work." The Herald,

*An illustration is presented by the experienoeof Lieutenant W.E. Kyle (commander
of sharp-shooters in General iVToRae's Brigade), who was a private in Company H. After
the battle of Bethel he wrote of the victory to his relatives in Christiansburg Va. his
native place. The fact that this native of Virginia had been able to take part in winning
a victory over the invaders of Virginia, because he had become a citizen of North Carolina
and a member of a North Carolina regiment, excited the emulation of the youth of his
old home to such an extent that great numbers, who had held back, hastened to enter
the service.

The Bethel Regiment. 103

which sustained General Butler as "evidently the right man in
the right place," said that the Confederates had at Bethel "six
batteries of rifled cannon and sixty-eight twelve-pound howit-
zers," and enough men to admit of the capture (there or there-
abouts) of " twelve thousand prisoners." The Charleston (S. C.)
Courier of June 17th contained this: "By a letter received in
this city yesterday, we learn that a great reaction has taken place
among the moneyed men of New York and Boston, and that
petitions are now circulating to be laid before Congress, asking
the peaceful recognition of the Southern Confederacy and the
establishment of amicable relations by friendly treaties. The
petitions set forth that unless the war is brought to a close very
speedily New York and Boston are ruined cities."

In the South, on the other hand, the result was hailed as an
augury of the early triumph of the Confederacy, which had thus
demonstrated its ability to overcome four times its numerical
strength on the battlefield — a disproportion almost exactly repre-
senting the relative populations of the two sections.

In the Virginia Convention, on the 17th of June, Mr. Tyler
(ex-President of the United States) submitted a series of reso-
lutions, which were unanimously adopted, eulogizing Magruder,
Hill and their officers and men for the recent brilliant victory at
Bethel Church. Mr. Tyler followed the reading of his resolu-
tions in a speech of great eloquence and force. There was, he
said, but one instance on the whole page of history that could
be cited as a parallel to the victory at Bethel Church — that was
the battle and the victory of Buena Vista, "where the, gallant
Davis, now our President, with his Mississippi regiment, and
the invincible Bragg, with his grape and canister, turned the
fortunes of the day and routed an enemy of about five to one."

The Richmond Dispatch said: "It is one of the most extraor-
dinary victories in the annals of war. Four thousand thoroughly
drilled and equipped troops routed and driven from the field by
only eleven hundred men. Two hundred of the enemy killed,
and on our side but one life lost. Does not the hand of God
seem manifest in this thing? * * * The courage and con-

104 North Carolina Troops, 1861-'65.

duct of the noble sons of the South engaged in this battle are
beyond all praise. They have crowned the name of their country
with imperishable lustre and made their own names immortal.
With odds of four to one against them, they have achieved a
complete victory, putting their enemy to inglorious flight, and
giving to the world a brilliant pledge of the manner in which
the South can defend its firesides and altars."

The Richmond Whig said: "The rush, the dash, the elan of
our boys was, however, the great and distinguishing feature of
the affair. Cool and determined as Bonaparte's veterans, they
pitched into the fight with the gaiety of school-boys into a game
of ball. They have taken the step which is the augury and
earnest of victory. Their dashing bearing, in the face of four
times their number, will inspire a spirit of emulation among all
our forces, and lead to the rout of the invaders wherever they
show themselves."

Nor was there any disposition to withhold credit from North
Carolina as the chief actor in the great achievement. The press
of the capital Slate was" lavish in its praise of our regiment.
Said the Petersburg Express: "All hail to the brave sons of the
Old North State, whom Providence seems to have thrust forward
in the first pitched battle on Virginia soil in behalf of Southern
rights and independence."

Said the Richmond Whig: "The North Carolina regiment
covered itself with glory at the battle of Bethel."

Said the Richmond Examiner, the leading paper of the Con-
federacy: "Honor those to whom honor is due. All our troops
appear to have behaved nobly at Bethel, but the honors of the
day are clearly due to the splendid regiment of North Carolina,
whose charge of bayonets decided it, and presaged their conduct
on many a more important field. Virginia's solemn sister is
justly jealous of glory; her simple, honest, courageous popula-
tion are weary of the grand silence of their forests of pine ; they
have come out to fight with a deep determination to make their
mark, which both friends and foes have yet to fathom. Of this
occasion North Carolina may be content. No forced praise and

The Bethel Regiment. 105

empty compliments are necessary now ; for every statement of
the facts, made no matter by whom, or how, brings out the steady
valor and decisive action of her sons and representatives in a light
too clear to leave any place for error, or cause for regret, except
that the foe neither would nor could await their advancing line
of steel."

In our own State, Governor Ellis promptly recommended to
the Convention that Colonel Hill, the commander of the North
Carolina Troops, be promoted to the rank of Brigadier, and that
a full brigade be formed and placed under his command.

In the Convention, on June 15th, Mr. Venable offered a reso-
lution, which was unanimously passed, as follows :

"Resolved, That this Convention, appreciating the valor and
good conduct of the ofiScers and men of the First Regiment North
Carolina Volunteers, do, as a testimony of the same, authorize
the said regiment to inscribe the word ' Bethel ' upon their


There appears to have been no regular return made by Colonel
Magruder of th'C losses sustained on our side. The following is
a summary compiled from the reports of the commanders of the
several bodies of Confederate troops engaged or on the ground :

Command. Killed. Wounded. Total.

Hill's First North Carolina Regiment, 16 7

Randolph's (Virginia) Howitzer Bat-
talion, 3 3

Stuart's three companies of the Third
Virginia Regiment,

Montague's three companies,

The three companies of Virginia

Grand total, 1 9 10


North Carolina Troops, 1861-'65.

The names of these ten are as follows :

First North Carolina. — Henry L. Wyatt, private, Company
A, mortally wounded; Lieutenant J. W. Ratchford, aide-de-camp
to Colonel Hill, wounded; Council Rodgers, private, Company A,
severely wounded; Charles AVilliams, private, Company A,
severely wounded; S. Patterson, private. Company D, slightly
wounded; William AVhite, private. Company K, wounded ; Peter
Poteat, private. Company G, slightly wounded.

Randolph! s Howitzers. — Lieutenant Hudnall (commanding the
howitzer in Hill's lines on the left of the road), wounded; H. C.
Shook, private under Hudnall, wounded ; Johu Worth, private
under Hudnall, wounded.

The tabulated report of the Federal losses which General But-
ler gave in his report to Lieutenant-General Scott, dated June
16th (that being the only one which appears printed in any of
the Federal reports), is as follows :

BETHEL, JUNE 10, 1861.








.. ■

. ••



Fourth Massachusetts,



First New York, . . .




Second New York,




Third New York, . . .





Fifth New York, . .




Seventh New York, . .





First Vermont, . . .





Second United States Ar-




Total, ....





*The staff officer killed was Major Theodore Winthrop. Lieutenant John T. Greble
(Second United States Artillery) was also among the slain.

■j-Colonel Magruder's report gives three as the number of pri3oners taken by us.

The Bethel Regiment. 107

In Colonel Magruder's second report (June 12th) occurs this:
"I have now to report that eighteen [Federal] dead were found
on the field, and I learn from reliable citizens living 6n the road
that many dead, as well as a great many wounded, were carried
in wagons to Harapton. I think I can safely report their loss
at from twenty-five to thirty killed and one hundred and fifty
wounded. I understand the enemy acknowledge one hundred
and seventy-five killed and wounded."

Colonel Hill's report says: "The enemy must have lost some
three hundred. I could not, without great disparagement of
their courage, place their loss at a lower figure. It is inconceiv-
able that five thousand men should make so precipitate a retreat
without having sustained at least that much of a reverse."

General Pierce, commanding the Federal troops, says in his
report* of June 12th to General Butler: "For killed, wounded
and missing, please refer to my former report."

The " War of the Rebellion" records, from which the reports
quoted in this article are derived, contain but one report from
General Pierce, that of June 12th.

General Butler's first report, dated June 10th, says: "I am
informed by him [Geiieral Pierce] that the dead and wounded
had all been brought off." He adds: "Our loss is very consid-
erable, amounting, perhaps, to forty or fifty, a quarter part of
which, you will see, was from the unfortunate mistake, to call
it by no worse name, of Colonel Bendix."

General Butler's second report, dated June 16th, says: "It is
a pleasure to be able to announce that our loss was much less
even than was reported iu my former dispatch, and appears by
the official report furnished herewith."* He adds: "I have been
very careful to procure an accurate account of the dead, wounded
and missing, in order that I may assure those friends who are
anxious for the safety of our soldiers and an exact account may
be given of all those injured. There is nothing to be gained by
any concealment in this regard. The exact truth, which is to

»The inclosure is the tabulated return given above, showing eighteen killed, fifty-
three wounded and five missing.

108 North Carolina Troops, 1861-65.

be stated at all times, if anything is stated, is especially neces-
sary on such occasions." No reason is given by General Butler
for inchiding in his report this protest against concealment of
the truth.*

As will be observed, the reports are contradictory. Colo-
nel Magruder, after duly ascertaining the number of their
dead left by the enemy and found by our men upon the field,
stated that there were eighteen. General Pierce informed Gen-
eral Butler that " the dead and wounded had all been brought
off." Again: General Butler's first report set the losses' at,
"perhaps, forty or fifty." His second report announced that
the loss (given therein at. seventy-six) was much less than in the
former dispatch — that is, less than forty or fifty. Taking the
statements quoted altogether, it would seem that Colonel Hill's
chivalric method of estimating the enemy's losses for him»is the
more satisfactory.


In studying the battle of Bethel, the fact must not be lost sight
of that the weapons used were different from those of the pres-
ent day. Otherwise we should be unable to comprehend the
statement in General Pierce's report that he formed his line of
battle, apparently with a sense of security, at only eight hundred
paces from our works, or the statement in Major Randolph's
report that the advance guard of the enemy remained for ten or
fifteen minutes at a distance of "about six hundred yards in front
of our main battery" before fire was opened upon them.

Although that was less than forty years ago, it is a fact that
the theory of the instantaneous explosion of gunpowder still
prevailed ; Armstrong had not invented his gun-jackets of
wrought iron coils; and the rifled Parrott which played such an

*The associated press accounts of Jane loth, published in the Northern papers, said :
"This has been an exciting and sorrowful day at Old Point Comfort." The same papers
contained a letter dated the same evening from Old Point, which said: "It has been
ascertained that there were one hundred killed and two hundred wounded. And even
now it is thought from the scenes witnessed at Portress Monroe that the battle was far
more sanguinary in its effects than the latter version would indicate. They are still
bringing in the killed and wounded by boats and other conveyances, as I close this let-
ter." The Baltimore Sun learned from a passenger on the boat from Old Point that "the
number of killed and wounded was estimated at Fortress iVIonroe at one thousand at least.
The fire of the Confederates was extraordinarily fatal."

The Bethel Eegiment. 109

important part in the artillery fire at Bethel was merely cast-iron.
The small arms which were used with such deadly effect by
Companies A, B, C, G and H, of the North Carolina' regiment,
were either smooth-bore Springfield muskets, carrying a round
ball weighing an ounce, or " buck and ball," or they were rifles
that carried a round bullet quite as innocent as the musket ball
of pointed tips and hollow-coned bases. It is tVue that French
chasseurs were armed with a rifle throwing an elongated ball
with a hollow-coned base as far back as 1840, or thereabouts,
and that Captain Minie had improved this by adding an iron
cup to fit into the cone, and that the English had substituted a
wooden plug for Minie's cup in their Enfield rifle of 1855. But
we are not a military people, and, in peace, have rarely, if ever,
as a government, kept abreast of the other civilized nations in
improved arms, though teaching them many lessons during war.
There is no reason to believe that at the outbreak of the war of
1861 the stock of arms owned by the United States was different
at any of their arsenals from those found in the Fayetteville
Arsenal, which were of the kind referred to above.

We find Governor Ellis, on the 25th of May, 1861, notifying
President Davis that thirty-seven thousand stand of arms in the
Fayetteville Arsenal (of the kind referred to) were at his dis-
posal, and we find General Butler, on the 27th of May, in his
report to General Scott,* appealing to the latter to send him more
ammunition, especially "buck and ball," suitable to the smooth-
bore musket, with which "the major part of my command is
provided." Again, in General Pierce's reportf of Butler's "plan
of operations" for the Bethel expedition, we find this item:
"Duryea to have the two hundred rifles; he will pick the men
to whom they are intrusted." Indeed, the papers of the day
ridiculed the talk about "improved arms," declaring that it was
the men (the man behind the gun, we call it now) which was the
important thing. J

Major Randolph reports that his navy howitzers were mounted

•" War of the Rebellion," Vol. II, page 63.

'flbid.^ page S3.

tRiohmond Dispatch, June, 1861.

no North Carolina Troops, 1861-65.

upon the running-gear of ordinary wagons, thus seriously inter-
fering with their turning in the ordinary road, and that the fuses
for his most effective piece, the rifled Parrott, were already cut,
and for nothing less than four seconds, too great an interval for
the distance between the opposing forces at Bethel. The enemy's
equipment was no doubt more complete, but, with the exception
of the defects noted by Major Randolph as above, there is no
reason to believe that either side had the advantage in arms. All
the armies at that period were armed with muzzle-loaders, except
that of the Prussians, who had adopted, a couple of decades before,
a needle-gun, then so clumsy and defective that no other nation
followed her example. It was 1864 before the Spencer maga-
zine rifle made its appearance in our war (in the hands of Sheri-
dan's command). It was not until the same year that the gen-
eral adoption of breech-loaders was even so much as recom-
mended for the British army; and Sadowa, which humbled
Austria, and made the German empire possible because the
Prussians used their needle-guns and the Austrians their muzzle-
loaders, was not fought until 1866. Indeed, it was nearly the
close of the campaign of 1864 before our engineer officers began
to recognize the change required in field defenses by the use of
such long-range weapons as we then possessed. These were
chiefly the Enfield rifle, which had come into use by us some
thirty months before.

After the battle of Bethel two more companies were assigned
to the regiment, as follows:

Company L— Bertie county — Captain, Jesse C. Jacocks ; First
Lieutenant, Stark A. Sutton; Second Lieutenant, Francis W.
Bird; Junior Second Lieutenant, J. J. Speller.

Company M— Chowan county— Captain, J. K. Marshall;
First Lieutenant, (Dr.) Llewellen Warren ; Second Lieutenant,
E. J. Small; Junior Second Lieutenant, Thomas Capehart.

The Bethel Regiment. Ill


The history of the First Regiment from this time until the
date set for its muster out of service, November 13th, was un-
eventfuly It changed its camp a number of times, and it Sid a
great deal of drilling, digging and other work on fortifications —
uncongenial labor for the kind of men who composed its ranks,
but performed cheerfully and without murmuring.

On the 22d of August the regiment was moved from York-
town to Ship Point, a place some eight miles distant, uear the
. mouth of Poquosin River, and facing the Chesapeake. On the
3d of September an election was held for a successor to Colonel
Hill, who had just been promoted (September 1st) to be Briga-
dier-General. Lieutenant-Colonel Charles C. Lee was elected
Colonel; Major James H. Lane, Lieutenant-Colonel; and Lieu-
tenant Robert F. Hoke, of Company K, Major. "The new Ma-
jor was Second Lieutenant of his company, and had been com-
mended by Colonel Hill, in his report of the battle of Bethel,
for "great zeal, energy and judgment as an engineer officer on
various occasions." He was. a native of Lincolnton, and was
educated at the Kentucky Military Institute.

Hill was generally regarded as the officer entitled to the chief
credit for the victory at Bethel. Indeed, Major Randolph, in
his admirable report to Colonel Magruder of the operations of
his artillery, made occasion to say: " I am happy at having an
opportunity to render my acknowledgments to Colonel Hill, the
commandant of the North Carolina regiment, for the useful sug-
gestions which his ^perience as an artillery officer enabled him
to make to me during the action, and to bear testimony to the
gallantry and discipline of that portion of his command with
which I was associated. The untiring industry of his regiment
in intrenching our position enabled us to defeat the enemy with
a nominal loss on our side." An officer of the regiment* says,
as a matter within his knowledge, that it was dne to Colonel

•Lieutenant J. A. Pemberton, of Company F.

112 The Bethel Regiment.

Hill that the stand against Pierce's advancing army was made
at the strong position (which Hill had intrenched) on the York-

Online LibraryWalter ClarkHistories of the several regiments and battalions from North Carolina, in the great war 1861-'65 → online text (page 10 of 66)