The First NC Soldier Who Died

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

    The first soldier killed in battle on the Confederate side was, as is well known, 
    Henry T. Wyatt, of Company A, Bethel Regiment. Three times as many men 
    died in hospital as were killed on the battlefield, but it is not so well known that
    the first soldier from North Carolina who lost his life for the Confederacy was
    James Hudson, of Company B (Hornet's Nest Rifles), of the same regiment.
    The "Pettigrew Hospital (as it was afterwards cafled), was the first military 
    hospital that was organized in the State of North CarMina (during the war 
    behveen the States. It was located on the old Fair Grounds, east of Raleigh, 
    near the present "Soldiers' Home," and in the house fomierly occupied by the 
    keeper of the Fair Grounds, which house is still standing and is occupied by 
    a colored family.
    It was organized by the late Dr. E. Burke Haywood, individually, and not by 
    the State, as many may think. Dr. Haywood's memory is revered by many 
    an old soldier, who was relieved and save from an untimely death by his great 
    medical skill, love and sympathy. Dr. Haywood was greatly assisted by W. H. 
    Dodd, Esq., as druggist, whose pleasant smiles and persasive words would 
    make the pills disappear easier, let them be ever so bitter. How many (except 
    the oldest citizens) remember Bill Dodd as a pill roller?
    The first Regimental Hospital was organized by Dr Peter E. Hines, then of New 
    Bern, now of this city. 
    The company of which I was a member, "Edgecombe Guards," arrived in Raleigh 
    on 30 April, 1861, from Fort Macon, where we were first ordered by the Governor.
    I was just recovering from the measles when I took severe cold from exposure, 
    incident to camp life (my camp was at horse stall No.55, on the old Fair Grounds), 
    which terminated in pneumonia, and I was sent to the hospital which contained but 
    few patients at that time. I recollect two besides myself-one was a young physician, 
    Dr. 4. 4. Lawrence, from my company, and the other was James Hudson, a memher 
    of the Hornet's Nest Rifles, from Mecklenburg county. Mr. Hudson died on 11 May; 
    his company followed his remains to the depot and fired a salute in honor before 
    the departure of the train.
    Mr. Hudson was the first man who lost his life in the service of North Carolina in 
    the late struggle between the North and South, which fact, I have no doubt, has 
    been lost sight of by all save a few who were present and had the fact impressed 
    upon their minds. He and myself, both being sick with pneumonia, were quartered 
    in the same room.
    I shall ever remember this sad death and never forget his last night's struggle with 
    fever and delirium, with no mother or sister to bathe his feverish brow and with love 
    and affection speak words of consolation to him in his last moments on earth. He 
    was delirious all night previous to his death from the effects of fever.
    Pat, the Irish nurse, who was always fond of sampling the spirits, to ascertain 
    whether or not Mr. Dodd was furnishing the patients with a good quality, and myself, 
    were witnesses of his last hours of pain and distress, and his passage "over the river," 
    which was at last peaceful.
    His name does not appear upon the roster of North Carolina troops, for the reason 
    that he died two days before the regiment was mustered into service; nevertheless 
    he died in defence of his State, as much so as the soldier who died on the field of 
    battle, for he was in camp in response to the call of the Governor for troops to defend
    the Commonwealth.
    The following contemporary notice is copied from the Raleigh Register of 15 May, 1861, 
    which is on file in the State Library:
    "Death of a Volunteer. - We regret to learn that Mr. James Hudson, a highly esteemed 
    member of the Hornet's Nest Rifles from Charlotte, died at the hospital of the 
    encampment, in this city, on Saturday last. His disease was pneumonia. This is the 
    first death that has occurred among the volunteers in this city. The remains of the 
    deceased were escorted to the Central depot on Saturday afternoon, when after 
    depositing them on board of the train hound to Charlotte, the company fired a salute in 
    honor of his memory, and then returned with saddened hearts to their encampment."
    RALEIGH, N. C.,
    31 December, 1901.
    Henry Lawson Wyatt
    The First Confederate Killed
    The Raleigh News and Observer
    Sunday, January 6, 1895
    The “Brief Sketches of North Carolina Troops” says:
    The very first life lost in the final direct struggle over secession was on the Federal side 
    at Fort Sumter in an accidental explosion, after the fort had surrendered on April 13, 1861.  
    But the first Confederate to be killed in line of battle was Private Henry Lawson Wyatt, a 
    soldier in Company A, 1st N.C. Regiment, Infantry. 
    His life was lost in the battle known as that of “Big Bethel”, fought on June 10, 1861, near 
    Yorktown, Virginia.  The conflict at Big Bethel was the first land battle of the war.  Though 
    on a minor scale, it was a brilliant victory for the Southern arms.  The Confederate troops 
    engaged belonged to the command of General John B. Magruder, the infantry force being 
    chiefly the 1st N.C. Regiment, under the immediate command of Col. D.H. Hill, who was 
    afterwards a lieutenant general in the Confederate service and who has been quite universally 
    regarded as the hero of the battle.  
    The lieutenant colonel of the regiment was C.C. Lee and the major was James H. Lane, both 
    of whom subsequently rose in the ranks to brigadier general in the Confederacy.  The regiment 
    passed into history as “The Bethel Regiment” of North Carolina Troops.
    The Federal troops engaged in the action were under the immediate command of General B.F. 
    Henry Lawson Wyatt was a native of Virginia.  He was born in Richmond County on Feb. 12, 
    1842, a son of Isham and Lucinda Wyatt, the latter of whom had but recently died.  Henry had
     learned the carpenter’s trade and was working in Tarboro, N.C., when the war broke out—his 
    father having moved from Pitt County in 1856.
    Young Wyatt was one of the very first men to enlist as a soldier for the South when the governor 
    of North Carolina called for volunteers in April, 1861, after the Lincoln proclamation declaring war 
    against the Southern States.  He entered the Edgecombe Guards under the command of Captain 
    John L. Bridgers.  54 days after he was mustered into service, Henry Wyatt fell in battle, at the 
    age of twenty.  He was buried near the foot of the Cornwallis monument in Yorktown, Virginia.
    Young Wyatt lost his life under circumstances of great gallantry and heroism.  In the beginning 
    of the battle in which he fell, the sharp shooters of the enemy occupied a house between the two 
    opposing lines, blue and gray.  A call was made for volunteers to advance across the intervening 
    distance, through an open field 200 yards wide, and fire the building.  Corporal George W. 
    Williams, Private Henry Lawson Wyatt, John H. Thorpe, Thomas Fallon, and Robert H. Bradley
     responded to the call and attempted to perform the duty.  They had proceeded but a short 
    distance into the field when Henry Wyatt fell with a bullet in his brain in a volley fired from the 
    building.  The other four soldiers dropped to the earth and remained until they could with safety 
    rejoin their command, went through the entire war and are still living.
    Very soon after the cannonading of the house began, Major Winthrop, a gallant and noble son of 
    Connecticut, endeavored to lead his men into action but as he came to the front, waving his sword 
    about his head, the North Carolinians fired a volley at him and he fell dead, his body riddled with 
    bullets—he, I believe, was the first victim among the Federal officers, of the war.  His native state 
    has long ago perpetuated his memory.
    The State of North Carolina has at last determined to treasure in perpetuity the features and name 
    of the daring and noble Wyatt.  Through the efforts of J. C. Birdsong, State Librarian, a photograph 
    of the dead soldier was secured and at the session of the legislature of 1891, the librarian secured 
    an appropriation to have a life size painting made from the only existing picture of the young man, 
    a handsome portrait made from it and it now adorns the walls of the North Carolina Library.  
    Persons who had known the living youth say that the artist has in a most striking degree, caught the
     very spirit of the daring, generous soul, and fixed its expression brilliantly in the dark, lustrous eyes 
    that gleam out upon the speaking canvass.

    Back to NC in the Civil War Home Page

    © 2005-2011  Diane Siniard