Battle of Gum Swamp

    These pages are dedicated to the memory of all the men from North Carolina that fought in the Civil War.

    Fayetteville Observer, June, 1863
    From the Raleigh Progress of the 29th
    Editor Progress:
    Dear Sir:
    I propose to give you the particulars of the recent fight at Gum Swamp:
    Gum Swamp crosses the railroad some nine miles southeast of Kinston.  
    At this point also the Dover Road crosses the railroad.  Several days 
    preceding the fight, the 56th N.C.T., Col. Faison, were sent to Gum Swamp 
    on picket duty.  His headquarters were just this side, on the Dover Road.  
    On the other side of the swamp are earthworks for infantry, while on this 
    side are earthworks with an embrasure for a piece of artillery.  Col. Rutledge 
    with the 25th N.C.T., and a section of Starr’s Battery, was held at Wise’s 
    Fork, four miles in the rear of the swamp, as a support to the regiment 
    doing picket.
    Col. Faison had his pickets more than a mile to his front and left, and nearly 
    two miles up the swamp on the right.  On the afternoon of Thursday, the 
    21st, intelligence was brought by scouts of the approach of the enemy.  
    Our colonel immediately doubled the pickets in front and on the right flank, 
    and sent about half the regiment into the trenches, lest the enemy should 
    attempt a surprise at night.  
    About dawn the next day, our pickets were driven in.  Between 5 and 6:00 
    am the enemy formed line of battle in our front, and shortly thereafter 
    attacked us.  After a brief light of half an hour, they retired, slacking but still 
    keeping up their fire, for about an hour, when they renewed the attack; but 
    after a short fight retired as before.  From this time until nearly 10:00, a 
    desultory fire was kept up on both sides—we firing at every Yankee or body 
    of Yankees that appeared in range, and they whistling their bullets close 
    around Col. Faison and others who were continually passing up and down the 
    lines furnishing fine marks to their sharpshooters who were concealed in the 
    bushes or behind trees. 
    As soon as the presence of artillery with the enemy was discovered, Col. 
    Faison sent to Col. Rutledge asking him to move down to his support with 
    the 25th and a piece of artillery.  This Col. Rutledge did, arriving about 8:00.  
    Leaving his regiment on the other side of the swamp, he came into the 
    breastworks in front.  The evident hesitation on the part of the enemy in our 
    front struck the attention of Col. Faison and led him to suspect that the 
    enemy were trying to flank him.  He therefore sent three companies to the 
    right to reinforce the pickets there and sent scouts from time to time much 
    beyond them to give information of any movement of the enemy in that 
    quarter.  The reported, however, that everything was quiet.
    Between 9 and 10:00, firing was heard immediately in our rear.  Col. 
    Faison went back to learn the cause.    When he reached the inner 
    breastworks, he saw the enemy coming down the Dover Road from the 
    direction of Kinston.  He came back and ordered the companies in front 
    (six in number) to follow him; he led them up the railroad in order to pass 
    through the enemy and unite with the 25th at the next crossing of the railroad, 
    some three fourths of a mile in the rear.  
    As soon as the enemy in front saw us leave the breastworks, they closed in 
    upon us, firing volley after volley up the Rail and Dover Roads, while the three 
    regiments which had gained our rear, poured a destructive fire from front and 
    left into the little column as it moved steadily up the Railroad.  The enemy 
    had already gained the breastworks this side of the swamp, capturing the 
    piece of artillery there and used the works against us as we passed within 40 
    yards of them.  The fire for half an hour was exceedingly severe.  Our men 
    keeping in ranks and perfectly cool, returned the fire and loaded and fired as 
    we advanced.
    Marching some distance up the Railroad, Col. Faison saw Col. Rutledge, with 
    three of his companies in the swamp on our right, when we were informed that 
    General Ransom, who had arrived just before the Yankees were discovered in 
    our rear, had escaped towards Kinston, leaving orders for the 25th to save 
    themselves, which they did, five companies which were stationed south of the 
    Railroad escaping through the swamp on the left, the three with Col. Rutledge 
    on the railroad through that on the right.  
    The expected junction being now impossible, Col. Faison ordered his companies 
    into the swamp along with the three of Col. Rutledge.  The enemy were so close 
    upon our men on all sides that we lost 148, most of them supposed to be captured 
    and many wounded.  We now know of but 14 wounded:  among them Lt. D.S. Ray 
    or Orange, mortally.  
    The behavior of the officers and men engaged deserves the highest praise.  It was 
    a glorious sight to see our three or four hundred, who, having fought the enemy for
    four hours in front, now marching under four fires to meet an enemy in the rear 
    many times their numbers with as steady a step and in as good order as though 
    on drill.  But most conspicuous was the gallantry of Col. Faison as he directed 
    their movements.  His men love him for his cool courage, if for nothing else.
    The unfortunate results of this affair are nothing more than might have been expected.  
    Col. Faison had often expressed his disapprobation of keeping any other than a 
    cavalry picket at Gum Swamp; because the swamp can be crossed at any point, 
    and it is impossible for a picket force to extend its flanks so far as to meet the 
    enemy at that point he may select for his crossing, without weakening too much 
    the force at the station itself.  In this instance, the enemy crossed with three 
    regiments, some miles to our right, retaining three in front to hold our attention there.
    The firing on both sides was uninterrupted, with the exception of half an hour from 
    5:27 to 10:30 a.m., five hours.  Had Col. Rutledge and his regiment been permitted 
    to remain and fight, as he and they wished to do, until we could make a junction 
    with him, the result would probably have been different.  The order for their retreat 
    compelled our retreat and consequent loss.
    Getting around the Yankees by passing through the swamp, we met reinforcements 
    four miles below Kinston.  The enemy was driven before us, General Hill carrying us 
    by next afternoon to their entrenchments, seven miles from Newbern where he sent 
    them with seventeen pieces of artillery.
    Yours Truly,
    An Eye Witness
    From the North Carolina Soldiers
    Correspondence of the Fayetteville Observer
    Near Kinston, May 25, 1863
    When I wrote you last, 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning, we were 18 miles from here 
    down the Dover Road, having driven the enemy before us beyond that point.  At 
    daybreak we pushed on four miles to Core Creek, our force consisting of Cooke’s 
    brigade and the 25th, 35th, 49th and 56th of Ransom’s with 3 batteries of artillery, 
    General Hill to command—where the enemy had made a stand. 
    After some three quarters of an hour’s cannonading on both sides and skirmishing 
    by the infantry during which time two or three of our men were wounded, the enemy 
    left.  The country beyond the creek was then scoured and we moved forward again 
    six miles, when we came up with the enemy about 4:00 p.m., entrenched some 
    seven miles this side of Newbern.  
    The march to this point was an awful one, four men dying from exhaustion on the 
    way.  The day was intensely hot, the thick dust suffocating, no water to drink save 
    for green stagnant stuff hot and muddy, and the smoke from burning houses and 
    woods set on fire by the enemy in their retreat filling the air and almost blinding and 
    suffocating the men.  The flames reached to the road on both sides, added to the 
    intensity of the sun’s heat.  
    After a halt we were again moved forward and leaving the main road just the other 
    side of Batchelor Creek, we were moved down a road, leading to the right, some 
    one quarter of a mile, where 17 pieces of artillery were placed in position.  Then 
    commenced some very beautiful practice by Starr’s, Branch’s and Bunting’s 
    Batteries, which fired by battery upon a block house in their front.  It is said that 
    no one was in the block house or just about it.  What General Hill’s object was I 
    know not, unless by the heavy fire to draw back a body of the enemy said to have 
    gone up the Trent Road towards our rear.  
    This fire continued for half an hour or more.  The 16th Regiment meanwhile engaged 
    the enemy’s skirmishers on our left, (losing two or three wounded), both sides using 
    artillery to some extent.  We on the right were then rapidly moved to the left, 
    expecting to attack the enemy in their entrenchments.  But on reaching the main 
    road, instead of filing down it towards the enemy, we were ordered away in the 
    opposite direction, much to our surprise.  Returning for about a mile, we bivouacked
    for the night.  
    Next morning, Sunday, we returned to Core Creek, rested until 5:00 pm when we 
    marched back to Gum Swamp.  Yesterday, our Brigade was brought back to Kinston 
    and portions of Cooke’s Brigade left on picket
    148 of our regiment (the 56th) are missing.  Fourteen are know to be wounded, Lt. 
    Ray mortally.  Many of the missing are supposed to be killed or wounded.
    Correspondence of the Fayetteville Observer
    Kinston, May 28
    Messrs. Editors:
    There has not been much of general interest for a correspondent to note down this 
    way.  It is getting mighty dry now, even “new dip” has almost ceased to bubble in 
    the fountain.  A shower of rain is expected daily, however, but that will depend very 
    much on the weather.
    Some cases of small pox are reported among the troops about here.  The health of 
    the army otherwise is very good.  We have here now Ransom’s and Cooke’s 
    brigades and Colquitt’s Georgia Brigade, Moore’s, Cumming’s, Bunting’s, and 
    Starr’s, Cameron’s, Branch’s, and perhaps other batteries.  The first three are 
    from Wilmington, the fourth from Fayetteville and the last from Petersburg.  Pettigrew’s 
    brigade left here some time ago, and Daniel’s left recently, both for Virginia.  There are 
    other brigades and troops in the eastern part of the state, and all our troops in this 
    department are constantly changing and moving.  
    General Hill’s headquarters are now at Goldsboro’, though he is here frequently.  
    General Ransom is in command of this post now, and has been unwell for a few days.  
    Col. Clark of the 24th commands the brigade as senior colonel in Ransom’s absence 
    or when he commands the post.  Major Haskell of S.C. has been chief of artillery in 
    this department for several months, but I learn is now assigned to duty elsewhere and 
    Major Branch, of Branch’s Virginia Battery, has been promoted to Chief of Artillery.
    General Jones, the Yankee officer in Newbern who commands the enemy’s expeditions 
    up this way, is said to be a lawyer from Philadelphia.  He was colonel of the 58th 
    Pennsylvania Regiment, said to be a splendid regiment.  He is certainly a brave, daring 
    officer, and has a guide of the same character, by the name of Wiggs Tilman, a native 
    of this county and once a member of Captain Foy’s Company in Nethercutt’s Battalion.  
    He accompanies Jones and pilots the Yankees in their raids through the country.  His 
    father lives west of this place and his wife now lives some miles south of here on the 
    river road and within our lines.  Tilman is represented as a shrewd, reckless character
    and would do as good service for one side as the other, and it is said, he has made 
    application once or twice to get back in our army since he left his old company.
    General Jones has also for a servant and guide a Negro named Caesar, the property of 
    Mr. Lane, who lived near Core Creek till the enemy occupied that section.  This man 
    has been a runaway a good deal and had usually hired his own time and worked from 
    place to place through the country.  He is very is very intelligent and altogether a bad, 
    daring, desperate character.  I believe he was captured once, but escaped.  There is 
    another Negro named Bill, belonging to Dr. Cobb, who has a plantation on Southwest 
    Creek just below here, of similar character, who serves as a guide for the 3rd N.Y. 
    Cavalry.  Of Yankee troops that are and have been at Newbern are the 27th, 32nd, 
    44th, and 46th Massachusetts Regiments, 58th Pennsylvania, and 3rd N.Y. Cavalry.  
    Some artillery companies returned north a short time ago, their time having expired.  
    General Palmer of N.Y., I think, is said to be in immediate command of the post at 
    Newbern.  General Wild is to be there soon to organize a Negro Brigade.  Every 
    facility is to be afforded him by all concerned.
    Long Grabs

    Transcribed by Christine Spencer February 2008

    Back to Campaigns

    Back to NC in the Civil War Home Page