Sketch of the 23rd Regiment

    In Their Own Words
    23rd Regiment N.C. Infantry
    (13th Regiment N.C. State Troops)
    Bits of War History
    H.C. Wall
    Raleigh News and Observer
    Sunday, April 11, 1897
    Transcriber’s note:  One man’s name in this article, Capt. Blacknell was spelled variously 
    Blacknell and Blacknall, for consistency it is here spelled Blacknell.
    Upon the secession of North Carolina on May 20, 1861, the convention passed an ordinance 
    authorizing the raising and equipping of ten regiments of infantry, to be designated “State 
    Troops”.  The said regiments would be numbered from one to ten inclusive in the order of their 
    organization.  The enlistment in the same was for the duration of the war.  Subsequently, the 
    raising of other regiments, as volunteers for the term of twelve months was authorized, these 
    to be, in like manner, numbered from one up in the order of their organization.  This distinction 
    between “State Troops” and volunteers was kept up until the re-organization under the General 
    Conscript Act went into effect on May 17, 1862 when the order of numbering the regiments 
    was changed by adding the volunteer regiments as originally numbered to the “State Troops” 
    by which the First Regiment of Volunteers became the 11th, and the others, in like manner, 
    ten numbers beyond those they first bore.  The re-arrangements and changes made the old 
    13th, the 23rd.
    Under the ordinances referred to, ten companies from the following counties viz.:  Richmond, 
    Anson, Montgomery, Mecklenburg, Lincoln, Gaston, Catawba and three from Granville were 
    entered in the official records of the adjutant general at Raleigh as the 13th Regiment of 
    The several companies were ordered to rendezvous at Garysburg, Northampton Co., and the 
    line officers there directed to hole elections on Wednesday, July 10, 1861.  At the election, 
    so held, John F. Hoke of Lincoln, at the time being adjutant general of the state, was elected 
    colonel; John W. Leak of Richmond was elected lieutenant colonel; and David H. Christie at  
    that time of Granville Co., but originally from Virginia, was elected major; Isaac J. Young of 
    Granville was elected first adjutant of the regiment.
    During the war, the office of colonel of the regiment was succeeded to, respectively, by D.H. 
    Christie, commissioned May 10, 1862; Charles C. Blacknell, Aug. 15, 1863; William S. Davis 
    of Warren, a transfer from the 12th N.C., who was commissioned in October of 1864.
    That of lieutenant colonel was succeeded to by Robert D. Johnston of Lincoln, commissioned 
    in May of 1862 who was promoted to brigadier general in July of 1863.
    That of major by Ed. J. Christian of Montgomery in May of 1862 and Charles C. Blacknell in 
    May of 1862—more than a year before he became colonel of the regiment.
    The office of adjutant, subsequent to original organization was held respectively by Vines E. 
    Turner of Granville, commissioned in May of 1862; James French of Yadkin in June of 1863; 
    Thomas F. Powell of Richmond, in July of 1863; and by Lawrence T. Everitt of Richmond in 
    May of 1864.
    The first quartermaster of the regiment was Edwin G. Cheatham of Granville, commissioned 
    in July of 1861; succeeded by W.I. Everett of Richmond in the spring of 1862; by Vines E. 
    Turner in June of 1863.
    The first commissary was James F. Johnston of Lincoln.  The first chaplain was Theophilus 
    W. Moore, a Methodist, of Person, who was later in the war succeeded by Rev. Barry, a 
    Baptist of Lincoln.
    The names of Robert J. Hicks of Granville, surgeon; Dr. Caldwell of Mecklenburg, assistant 
    surgeon; William F. Gill of Granville, sergeant major; complete as far as we know, accurately, 
    the field and staff of the regiment.
    The companies of the regiment and their chiefs were as follows:
    Company A, Captain William F. Marilee, Anson
    Company B, Captain George W. Seagle of Lincoln
    Company C, Captain C.J. Cochran of Montgomery
    Company D, Captain Louis H. Webb of Richmond
    Company E, Captain James H. Horner of Granville
    Company F, Captain M.F. McCorkle, Catawba
    Company G, Captain Charles C. Blacknell, Granville
    Company H, Captain E.M. Farris, Gaston
    Company I, Captain Rufus Amis, Granville
    Company K, Captain Robert D. Johnston, Lincoln
    On Wednesday, July 17, 1861, Col. Hoke, with seven companies of the regiment, left the 
    “camp of instruction” at Garysburg for Virginia, leaving three companies viz:  C. D. and H, 
    behind because of sickness (measles) among the men.  These seven companies left 
    Manassas Junction on the 21st July while the battle was raging but took  no part therein as 
    they were not ordered to the field.  On the 5th August, the three remaining companies 
    under the command of Major Christie broke camp at Garysburg after several days delay 
    at Richmond, for want of transport, they reached their destination and joined the regiment 
    which was then in quarters in Camp Wigfall near the late battlefield.
    For several weeks they encamped at this place and the regiment suffered exceedingly from 
    sickness.  By the surgeons’ statement, sick call at one time numbered 240 while 57 cases 
    were typhoid fever.
    From camp to camp, the command was moved until it went into winter quarters on Bull Run 
    in December, where it remained with only such changes in position as the exigencies of the 
    situation in outpost and picket duty required until the 18th March, 1862.
    Meantime, the regiment had been incorporated into a brigade with the 5th N.C.S.T., Col. 
    Duncan K. McRae; 20th Georgia, Col. Smith; 24th Virginia, Col. Jubal A. Early; and the 38th 
    Virginia of which brigade Col. Early, being the ranking officer was place in command.
    In the fall and winter of 1861, numerous changes in the officers of the regiment had taken place
    which perhaps it is not material to know in detail.  The winter was a severe one and great was 
    the mortality among the troops from pneumonia, typhoid fever and other diseases.
    The old camps were abandoned on the 8th March, 1862 ad at daylight the regiment moved out, 
    throwing away tents and camp equipment; sum total of the first day’s march was a mile and a 
    half from the starting point, progress being checked by confusion of orders.  Early was made 
    acting major general in command of the 4th Division.  Not until sunset of the 9th did the grand 
    columns move again, reaching Manassas Junction that night.
    An immense amount of property was destroyed as the army, commanded by General Joseph E. 
    Johnston, was to change base to the peninsula.  A very carnival, restrained to some extent by the 
    power of military discipline, reigned that night at the Junction.  The soldiers got rich with plunder; 
    depots of supplies and the express office were filled and barrels of whiskey opened at the head, 
    poured their contents in streams upon the ground.  A rough soldier was observed with six canteens 
    around his neck, as if he “wept such waste to see”, actually wading in a puddle of the stuff while in 
    a ditty, tuneless but gay, he whistled his regrets over departed spirits.
    The army at Manassas, numbering less than 50,000, was confronted by a host of more than 100,000.  
    General McClellan fell upon the expedient of transferring his troops by way of the Potomac and 
    Chesapeake Bay to Yorktown, anticipating and easy victory over the small army of Magruder.  This 
    move on the part of McClellan, though conducted in great secrecy, was not long hidden from the 
    eagle eye of Johnston; hence the retreat from Manassas and his resolve to reinforce Magruder and 
    take command of the entire force at Yorktown.
    With the other commands of the regiment reaching Yorktown on the 8th April, 1862, a stop being 
    made on the south side of the Rappahannock, of several weeks duration, to await the full 
    development of McClellan’s plans.  At Yorktown, the trying duty of service in the trenches began.
    On the 17th, after nine days behind the breast works, the boys had their first exposure to cannon 
    fire and bomb shells.  The picket line was situated between opposing batteries, three quarters of 
    a mile apart and more than one shell exploded in an uncomfortable proximity to them.  
    When the first shot was fired, directly at the position occupied by the 23rd Regiment, this writer 
    was on duty in the rifle pits as a sergeant in command, some 200 yards in front of the breastworks.  
    Well I remember the sensation produced by that first shell that fanned the cheeks of the innocent 
    braves who occupied those rifle pits and particularly the moving effect wrought upon a certain
    tongue tied individual whose deportment now as contracted with previous pretension presented a 
    striking consistency with the spirit of the ancient ballad:
    “Naught to him possesses greater charms
    Upon a Sunday or holiday
    Than a snug chat of war and war’s alarm,
    While people fight at Turkey far away.”
    With a precipitate bound, the tongue tied warrior made tracks for the breastworks, exclaiming in 
    answer to threats of court martial “dam ‘fi come here to be hulled out this way when I cannot see 
    who is ashootin’ at me”.  Using the term “hulled” instead of shelled as synonyms although he hardly 
    thought so at the time.  At a period a little later in the service, such conduct would have been severely 
    punished. But if “damned ‘fi” ever got more than a sharp reprimand for not immediately returning to his 
    post, we were not informed of it.  He was killed at Gettysburg.
    The term of service at Yorktown was not all irksome nor was it marked by occasional diversions from 
    the treadmill routine of duty.  About the quaint old town were many points of interest that awakened
    patriotic contemplation.  Soldiers would, as relaxation from duty, repair to the spot, marked by a
     marble slab, half mile from town, where Cornwallis gave up his sword to Washington; and, standing 
    on that consecrated ground, they would breathe of the prayer that American’s second revolution, as 
    did the first, would have a happy ending.
    On the night of the 3rd May, Yorktown was evacuated.  Twelve miles out in the suburbs of the ancient 
    town of Williamsburg, the battle of the 5th May occurred, rendered necessary by the too eager pursuit 
    of the enemy, from a point on the road several miles beyond the town towards Richmond.  Early’s 
    brigade—now composed of the 5th and 23rd N.C., 24th Virginia and 2nd Florida battalions—was 
    ordered back to aid Longstreet in resisting the further attack.
    At the moment of our reaching the field, the bloody drama was going on in full view of the town.  
    Much was said at the time, and afterwards, of the part the 23rd Regiment took in that battle.  The 
    writer can only give facts from a personal point of view as recalled by him; a private in the ranks, 
    conscious, too, of a liability to err in an understanding of the facts.  
    The design was a charge by Early’s brigade against a strong position of Hancock’s brigade on the 
    enemy’s right.  When drawn up in line for the forward movement, General Early rode the length of 
    the brigade using in that find toned voice of his, something like the words:  “Boys, you must do your 
    The line had steadily advanced 100 yards or more when a body of thick forest trees and undergrowth 
    confronted the 23rd, into which the regiment marched, the line at once becoming irregular and more 
    or less jumbled by reason of the natural obstacles to its progress.
    At this moment, General D.H. Hill appeared, mounted, in our front, and saying sharply to the men, 
    now confused in ranks, and each one commanding his comrades, “Hush your infernal noise”.  In an 
    instant, the right wing of the brigade, having greatly the advantage of ground in marching, as we 
    believe, and thus coming first in view of the enemy battery, received their galling fire and were hurled 
    back by a fury of shot and shell irresistible by mortal force.  The 5th N.C. made a gallant but fruitless 
    charge, losing many valuable lives and the 23rd did not support it at the critical moment.  That moment 
    was the briefest possible span—like a sea wave against a sea wall, the charge bounding back instantly.
    Col. D.K. McRae, of the 5th N.C., alleges that the 23rd was inexcusably derelict in duty and that its 
    column halted the regiment, in those words, without authority.  Col. Hoke, on the contrary, 
    maintained that General Early “gave the order to halt”.  Whether the command of “halt” or “lie down” 
    was given to the 23rd, a second sooner than the batteries opening on the assaulting columns, 
    would be hard to tell  For the action of the 23rd in halting and lying down appeared to be about the 
    same moment a portion of the assaulting force was rushing pell mell back upon its lines in the 
    woods.  It was all the work of a few minutes and the brigade, chagrined at defeat and mourning the 
    loss of many gallant spirits, fell back in order.
    Only four or five men in the 23rd were wounded and this by random bullets.  General Joseph E. 
    Johnston, in a conversation with the writer several years after the war, placed the responsibility for 
    this charge upon General D.H. Hill.  He said he did not order it made but permitted it, only, however, 
    after repeated requests from General Hill.  The enemy seemed content to hold his own without much 
    further effort to advance his lies as the shades of night came on.  During the night, and the early dawn 
    of the 6th, the grand retreat resumed.
    The 6th May found the army without a mouthful to eat as the wagons had gone far ahead towards 
    Richmond.  On the evening of the 9th, the Chickahominy was reached and here the wagons were 
    overtaken much to the delight of the troops.  On that day, while bivouacked on the banks of the river, 
    the reorganization of the companies in the 23rd Regiment took place and new regimental officers 
    were elected as follows:  Daniel H. Christie, colonel; Ed. J. Christian, former lieutenant of Company 
    C, major; Vines E. Turner, formerly lieutenant of Company G, adjutant.
    The Battle of Seven Pines was fought on the 31st May, 1862.  Here the 23rd Regiment received its 
    first real “baptism of fire”.  The attack was made by General Johnston with a view of capturing or 
    destroying two divisions of the enemy which had been thrown forward to the south side of the 
    Chickahominy.  The brunt of the fight was borne by D.H. Hill’s division to which the 23rd belonged.  
    Samuel Garland, Jr., of Virginia, now commanded the brigade.  The four brigades of Garland, Rodes, 
    Anderson and Rains stormed the enemy camp and captured everything as it stood with twelve pieces 
    of artillery while General Casey’s headquarters and official papers fell into the hands of the brave 
    At this point of the attack, the victory was certainly complete and if equal progress had been made 
    to the right and left of the center, then might General Johnston’s anticipation have been fully realized 
    in the capture or destruction of the two divisions, with which purpose in view, as already indicated, 
    the attack had been made.
    It is not our intention to attempt a studied description of any battle, nor indeed, is it essential to the 
    purpose and limited province of this sketch.  Besides, it is a difficult matter, even from the testimony 
    of eye witnesses and participants and with complete data in hand, to describe the position of any 
    one regiment relative to that of another in battle.  And again, with reference to true Confederate 
    soldiers, what is said of the fighting qualities and achievements of one command may be said 
    of another, for indeed they were “Romans all.”
    We would, to compass our wishes, recall the scenes of each battle and impart to them a descriptive 
    glow that might in some degree at least measure with the grave reality at the time they were enacted.
    Time inevitably casts a dimension over any event, however dear to the hearts its memories may be, 
    and we cannot hope at the best, to give those scenes more than a feeble substance of what they really 
    were.  We would, were it practicable, to give the experiences in “words that burn” to the high born 
    purposes and resolves that stirred the hearts of those gallant spirits who fell in the discharge of their 
    At Seven Pines, the natural conditions were anything but favorable to an attack of the enemy.  Heavy 
    rains had fallen and the earth everywhere was sloppy and boggy.  On the firing of three big guns as a 
    signal, the line of attack moved out and across the field of wheat towards the enemy. After crossing 
    the field, the 23rd found in its front a swamp thick with undergrowth and tangled vines and about waist 
    deep in water.  At this point was met the fire from the opposing batteries, supported by muskets and 
    many of our boys fell in the water.  Some, doubtless, were drowned whose wounds were not necessarily 
    Beyond this swamp was encountered a network of abattis—hundreds of trees with the ends of 
    limbs pointed and sharpened.  Here many a brave boy met his death without flinching; the right, 
    under Huger, the center under D.H. Hill and Longstreet and the left under G.W. Smith were 
    pressing steadily forward.  A Northern writer, from this point of view, describes the scene thus:
    “Our shots tore their ranks wide open and shattered them asunder in a manner frightful to witness 
    but they closed up and came on as steadily as English veterans.  When they got within 400 yards, 
    we closed our case shot and opened on them with canister.  Such destruction I never witnessed.  
    At each discharge great gaps were made in their ranks…..but they at once closed and came 
    steadily on, never halting; never wavering; right through the woods, over the fence, through the field, 
    right up to our guns and, sweeping everything before them, captured our artillery and cut our whole 
    division to pieces.”
    At every other point than the center, the attack seems to have been barren of any material results.  
    Starting in well, yet the assault on the enemy’s left flank failed because, by reason of the swollen 
    conditions of eh water, General Huger was not able to move his division to the proper place.  At 
    the same time, the difficulties that impeded the advance of General G.W. Smith were scarcely 
    less formidable and he failed to break the enemy’s right flank though desperate and bloody 
    efforts were made.
    According to the plan of attack, Generals D.H. Hill and Longstreet assailed the center of the 
    enemy’s line of entrenchment and it was at this point—notwithstanding the boggy conditions 
    of the ground and the great impediment of tangled undergrowth, that the attack was successful 
    and the flight of the enemy continuous from one end of the line of works upon another for a 
    distance of two miles, when night put an end to the conflict.
    Among the killed at Seven Pines was Major Edwin J. Christian, elected at the reorganization about 
    two weeks before; Captain C.C. Blacknell of Company G, then become major of the regiment; Isaac 
    J. Young, succeeding to be captain of Company G.
    Major Christian was a native of Montgomery Co.—a gallant soldier, while in all relations of life he 
    had borne a high and honorable name.
    Captain Ambrose Scarbrough of Company C, though written as among the killed in battle, fell on 
    the afternoon preceding while leading a reconnoitering party.  A native also of Montgomery County, 
    his career had been alike honorable in peace and war.
    The officers wounded in the battle were Lt. Col. R.D. Johnson, Captain William Johnston, Capt. I.J. 
    Young, Lt. McDonald.  Lts. Luria and Knott, both of Granville County, were killed.  Lt. Col. Johnston 
    was wounded in the arm, face and neck and had his horse killed under him, and was shot down 
    within fifty feet of where the breast works and artillery were.  
    From diverse causes, sickness mainly, the regiment was able to go into action at Seven Pines with 
    only 225 men, according to the statement of Capt. A.T. Cole, who commanded Company D after the 
    After Seven Pines, the boys went into camp near Richmond and here several weeks were passed 
    in drilling.  The Federal line of battle stretched along the Chickahominy a distance of nine miles.  
    The right wing rested upon the northern banks of the stream and extending a short distance above 
    the village of Mechanicsville six miles from Richmond.
    The fighting at Mechanicsville on the evening of the 26th June opened the ball that resulted in the 
    demoralization of McClellan’s forces and his rapid retreat to the shelter of his gun boats on the 
    James River.  According to General Lee’s plan of attack, Jackson threw his force upon the right 
    flank of the enemy while A.P. and D.H. Hill pressed them vigorously at other points.  Their breast 
    works were soon carried and the enemy fell back one mile to a stronger line of works from which 
    position D.H. Hill failed to dislodge them.
    Night came on but an artillery contest was still maintained until a late hour.  Next day at dawn, the 
    Confederates renewed the attack.  After a bloody conflict of two hours, the enemy, realizing that 
    they mighty Stonewall had gotten in their rear, abandoned their position, destroying ammunition, 
    etc., and fell back to a stronger line of works.
    In fact, they had three lines of battle here, each protected by breast works extending from a point 
    on the left near Gaines’ Mill to a point on the right beyond Cold Harbor.  In the attack of this position, 
    the division of D.H. Hill—to which the 23rd belonged—was the first to become engaged.  When battle 
    became general, and the whole of Jackson’s and Longstreet’s corps had gone into action, a charge 
    was ordered and the first line of works was carried—then the second line and then the third line and 
    now McClellan’s whole army was on the wing and running for dear life.  McClellan’s army fell back 
    on Malvern Hill, a strongly entrenched position where he managed to concentrate his forces and 
    post his 300 pieces of artillery.
    Here again the division of D.H. Hill opened the fight by a vigorous attack upon the enemy’s right.  
    Through some misunderstanding, the attack upon the left was not promptly made and from the fact 
    the enemy drew reinforcements from their left and threw them over to the right to oppose General 
    Hill’s advance.  The fire from the gunboats in the river at the same time was directed so as to guard 
    against probable approach on their left.  The first line was broken and gave way before the daring 
    troops of Hill’s division; but, not being properly supported to meet the accumulative odds against 
    them, the position gained had to be abandoned.
    Magruder’s attack upon the enemy’s lasted until near the close of the day, and though desperate 
    efforts were made at this point to break the Federal line, no material advantage was gained when 
    darkness closed the struggle.
    The brave Confederates had been baffled but not beaten.  Resting upon their arms that night, they
     intended to renew the attack next morning but during the night the enemy had stolen away leaving 
    the dead and wounded on the field.  They had sought and found protection under the powerful fleet 
    of gun boats at Harrison’s Landing.  The greatest loss sustained by the 23rd in the seven days of 
    fighting was at Malvern Hill.
    According to Captain Cole of Company D, the number of killed in this battle was about thirty; the 
    “roster” records the loss not so large; the number of wounded by Captain Cole was estimated at 
    about 75.  The number of the regiment engaged in this closing fight was between 150 and 175, 
    officers and privates.
    St. Major W.F. Gill of Granville was killed at Malvern Hill; Captain Cole of Company D and Lt. 
    Munday of Company K were wounded; Adjutant Turner of Granville was wounded in the fight at 
    Gaines Mill; and Captain Young of the same company was wounded at Malvern Hill.
    After Malvern Hill, several weeks of quiet were passed near Richmond.  No further movement was 
    attempted by McClellan on the Peninsula.
    The next movement of the Washington government was to appoint John Pope to take command of 
    the army.  He began his preparations of threatening Richmond from the north which change of tactics 
    was promptly apprehended by General Lee.  Of Jackson’s flank movement by which he managed to 
    strike Pope at a point where he least expected it, and after a fight at Cedar Run put him to flight, 
    winning large trophies and capturing many prisoners, it is unnecessary to speak.  This initial victory 
    over Pope led Washington to take measures to concentrate all available Federal force on the upper 
    Rappahannock with which to reinforce Pope.
    Meanwhile, General Lee, leaving D.H. Hill’s division behind to watch the movements of McClellan, 
    marched on the 13th August with the main body of his army to Gordonsville, north of Richmond.  
    Hill’s command followed in the latter part of August, reaching Manassas only in time to view the 
    green plan strewn with blue and grey dead, the living Federals having fled in confusion to Washington.  
    Such was the situation which marked the result of the three days fight known as Second Manassas.
    The army rested at Frederick City, Maryland from the sixth to the tenth of September.  The first 
    engagement on Maryland soil was at South Mountain Gap on the main road from Frederick City to 
    Boonsborough along which the Federal army was directed to march.  Here, D.H. Hill’s division, on the 
    14th, successfully held in check the main body of McClellan’s army, thus enabling Jackson to march 
    to the Virginia fight and capture Harper’s Ferry while Lee was conducting his troops preparatory to the 
    coming struggle at Sharpsburg.
    In the action at South Mountain, known in Southern history as the Battle of Boonsborough, the 23rd 
    Regiment bore a prominent part and it was in this fight that General Garland—the brigade 
    commander—was killed.  It is well to refer to the point of this battle as furnished by General D.H. 
    Hill to the Century Magazine in May of 1886 for facts and observations.
    “In the retirement of Lee’s army from Frederick to Hagerstown and Boonsborough, my division 
    constituted the rear guard.  It consisted of five brigades (Wise’s brigade being left behind) and after 
    the arrival at Boonsborough, was entrusted with guarding the wagon trains and pieces of artillery 
    belonging to the whole army”.
    It was to save Lee’s trains and artillery that the battle was fought and not to prevent the advance 
    of McClellan, as was believed in the North.  General Hill says:
    “My divison was very small and was embarrassed with the wagon trains and artillery of the whole 
    army save such as Jackson had taken with him.  It must be remembered that the army  now before 
    McClellan had been constantly marching and fighting since the 25th June.  The order excusing bare 
    foot men from marching into Maryland sent thousands to the rear.  Divisions that had become 
    smaller then brigades were when the fighting had begun; brigades had become smaller than regiments 
    and regiments had become smaller than companies.”
    On the morning of the 14th,General Hill had fixed his lines of battle:  “The firing had aroused General 
    Garland and his men were under arms when he reached the pike.  I explained the situation briefly to 
    him to sweep through the woods, reach the road and hold it at all regards, as the safety of Lee’s line 
    of march depended upon its being held.  He went off in high spirits and I never saw him again.”
    Garland’s force was five regiments of infantry and Bondurant’s battery of artillery, his infantry force 
    being a little less than 1,000 men, all North Carolinians.  The five regiments were:
    5th, placed on the right
    12th, placed as a support
    23rd, posted behind a low stone wall on the left of the 5th
    Then came the 20th and 30th
    From the nature of the ground, and the duty to be performed, the regiments were not in contact with 
    each other and the 30th was 25 yards to the left of the 20th.
    Fifty skirmishers of the 5th N.C. soon encountered the 23rd Ohio, deployed as skirmishers under Lt. 
    Col. R.B. Hayes, afterwards President of the United States.  The action began at 9:00 am between 
    Cox’s Division and Garland’s Brigade.
    Lt. Col. Ruffin of the 13th N.C., later judge on the Supreme Court bench of this state, was with 
    General Garland when the latter received his fatal wound.  Upon the fall of Garland, Col. McRae 
    of the 5th N.C. Regiment assumed command and ordered the two regiments on the left to close
    to the right.  This order was not received or found impossible of execution.  The main attack was 
    on the 23rd N.C. behind the stone wall (Col. Blacknell, its commander, was then on sick furlough.)  
    General Hill said:  “The Federals had a plunging fire upon this regiment (23rd) from the crest of the 
    hill, higher than the wall, and only about fifty yards from it.”
    The 12th Ohio made a charge upon Bondurant’s Battery and drew it off, failing, however, to capture it.  
    The 30th Ohio advanced directly upon the stone wall in their front while a regiment moved upon the 
    23rd N.C. on each flank (a hot position for the 23rd).  The result was, General Hill said:  “Some of the 
    30th Ohio forced through a break in the wall and bayonets and clubbed muskets were used freely for 
    a few minutes.  Garland’s Brigade, demoralized by his death and by the confusion, retreated behind 
    the mountain, leaving some 200 prisoners of the 5th, 23rd and 20th N.C. in the hands of the enemy.  
    The brigade was too roughly handled to be of any further use that day.”
    A half hour afterwards, according to General Hill, G.B. Anderson of N.C. arrived with a “small but fine 
    body of men” and made an effort to rescue the ground lost by Garland’s brigade “but failed and met 
    a severe repulse”.  The loss of Garland’s brigade is put by General Hill at killed, wounded and missing 
    of 200.
    On the 17th September, the Battle of Sharpsburg, as it is known in Southern history, was fought.  Col. 
    D.K. McRae of the 5th N.C. was in command of the brigade.  The division of D.H. Hill and Longstreet 
    bravely held the center and the right in this action.  The 23rd Regiment here was able to muster but few 
    men, comparatively, many members of the regiment being barefooted and absolutely unable to keep up 
    with the rapid march over the rough and rocky roads.  For several days, the ration supply for the boys 
    had been roasting ears, hardly ground at that .
    At one point in the fight, the brigade wavered and it occurred through a mistake or an order from some 
    one unauthorized to give it.  When the line was advanced and driving the enemy before it, a voice was 
    heard:  “cease firing—you are shooting your own men”.  At the same moment several hands being seen 
    along the line waving as if to indicate a sign for retreat.  At this critical juncture, the fire of the enemy in 
    front increased at it the brigade moved back as a consequence.  No explanation was ever known for the 
    mistake, ruse or whatever it was.
    The loss of the regiment in the two battles at South Mountain and Sharpsburg was about 45 privates 
    and non commissioned officers wounded and 15 or 20 killed; and of commissioned officers from three 
    to six wounded, none killed.  Assistant Surgeon Jordan was killed at South Mountain.
    General Lee awaited a revival of the attack the next day but the enemy declined to advance and learning 
    that reinforcements were coming to McClellan who had been put in command again after Pope’s defeat 
    at Manassas, General Lee withdrew his forces and re-crossed the Potomac on the night of the 18th 
    September, 1862.  After returning to Virginia, the army of Lee remained for some time spread out in 
    camp from Martinsburg to Winchester in a country noted for productive farms, and the work of 
    recruiting began.  The effective force of the army was soon increased and the 23rd got its share by 
    enlistment of conscripts and return of the sick and wounded.
    After resting for a period of weeks along the banks of the Opequan, the regiment moved by rapid
     marches to meet the enemy at Fredericksburg.  The part it took at Fredericksburg was not very 
    After the death of Garland, the brigade was commanded by General Alfred Iverson, a Georgian.  
    After the battle of Sharpsburg, and while around Fredericksburg, General Rhodes commanded the 
    At Chancellorsville, the regiment was on the extreme left and was conspicuous in turning the enemy’s 
    right and accomplished Hooker’s defeat.  Its loss was heavy at Chancellorsville. Its major, C.C. 
    Blacknell, was wounded here and fell into the hands of the enemy and was confined in the Old Capitol 
    prison in Washington but was exchanged in time to return to the army before Gettysburg.  The loss 
    in the 23rd at Chancellorsville was officially reported by General Rhodes as 173 killed, wounded and 
    missing.  Among the killed was Captain Jas. S. Knight of Rockingham, Richmond County.
    In the Gettysburg campaign, no part of the army acted a more important part than did the 23rd N.C.  
    It was engaged in the fight the first day at Gettysburg in which the brigade lost 55% in killed and 
    wounded.  The loss in this regiment was so great the first day that it could not be taken into action
     as a regiment on the succeeding day.  The regiment was left without a commissioned officer, all 
    being among the killed and wounded and there remained but one non commissioned officer and 16 
    privates.  The colonel, D.H. Christie, was mortally wounded.  Lt. Col. R.D. Jordan was badly wounded 
    through the lower jaw and neck. Captain Baskerville of Company G was killed on the field.  Major 
    Blacknell on the first day of Gettysburg was disabled by a ball that entered his mouth, knocking out 
    several teeth and passing back through the neck.  On the retreat to Virginia, he was captured, his 
    terrible wound forcing him to stop to rest at a farm house.  Colonels Christie and Johnston were 
    also captured in an ambush but were rescued by Confederate cavalry and taken to Williamsport.  
    The former died on the way to Winchester.  Blacknell managed to escape from his captors but was 
    taken again the next morning to Fort McHenry where, with other officers, he was forced to draw lots 
    for the fate of being shot in retaliation for a Federal major shot in Richmond.  Major Blacknell drew 
    the unlucky number and was condemned to execution but for some reason was spared, then 
    transferred to Johnson Island where he spent the winter, returning to his home in March of 1864.  
    Against remonstrance’s from his family and friends—although a wreck now of his former self, by 
    reason of wounds and hardships, he rejoined his regiment in time to go with Early on his great 
    march to Washington.  By the way, it is said that Melville Holmes of Col. Blacknell’s old company 
    in the 23rd was killed at a point nearer to Washington then any other Confederate who fell during the 
    Colonel Blacknell received his death wound at the Battle of Winchester on September 19, 1864.  
    Having his foot shattered by a ball from a cavalryman’s carbine, amputation failed to arrest the 
    gangrene that set in and he died on October 4—being ministered to by the good ladies of Winchester.
    After Gettysburg, the remainder of the brigade which was then almost without a single field officer, 
    refused longer to serve under Iverson and Lt. Col. R.D. Johnston was made brigadier general.  
    Iverson was removed and Lt. Col. Robert D. Johnston of Lincoln Co., N.C. was place in command 
    of the brigade, the division being commanded by Rodes.  General Lee soon fell back into Virginia.
    In operations at Valiersville and near Brandy Station in the Fall of 1863, the regiment sustained loss 
    but not heavy.  In barracks at Hanover during the winter of 1863/64, the regiment may be said to have 
    had a really good time as did the entire brigade.  So, at the opening of the campaign of 1864, the 
    regiment and the entire brigade appeared well recruited for duty, well equipped and in good fighting 
    trim generally.  Governor Vance in a speech to the army said the boys looked like they had “corn to 
    The remarks of General Vance suggested the most striking contrast as between the appearance 
    of the troops then and the woe begone plight on the return from the fatal field at Gettysburg.  It was 
    somewhat like it was when the fight first opened at Chancellorsville, barring the fact that he regiment 
    did not number so many men.  It entered the fight at Chancellorsville in first rate trim numbering 
    somewhere between 300 and 400 men rank and file.  It lost good officers there in the deaths of 
    Captain Knight of Company D and Hedspeth of Company K besides from 50 to 60 privates and two 
    commanding officers killed and from 125 to 150 wounded as estimated by Captain Cole, formerly 
    of Company D, although the roster’s report does not exceed 50 killed and 70 wounded.
    It was with a force much reduced that the regiment entered the fight at the first day of Gettysburg.  
    It must have been a small command at that battle although it exhibited the nerve and endurance of 
    a host.  Adjutant Junius French was killed there and also William H. Johnston of Company K while 
    the roster puts the killed of privates and NCO’s at 55 and 89 wounded and 53 captured and missing.  
    Among the wounded and captured of the 23rd was Captain H.G. Turner of Company H, since the war 
    a distinguished member of Congress from Georgia.  He is a native of Granville and a brother of 
    Adjutant Vines E. Turner.
    It is well authorized that only one officer and not exceeding twenty men of the regiment escaped 
    death, wounds or captured.  It was about the 7th May, 1864 that the brigade, after a season of 
    recruitment in the vicinity of Hanover and Taylorsville, received orders to rejoin the army at the 
    Wilderness near Spottsylvania Court House.  General Grant was now in command on the other side.  
    The regiment had a part in the Battle of the Wilderness.
    Brigadier Bushrod Johnston joined his command on the Rappahannock just before the Battle of Mine 
    Run and participated in that fight although the brigade was not actively engaged as it was a mere 
    skirmish.  The brigade reached the army from Hanover just before the Battle of the Wilderness.  It 
    participated in the engagements with Gordon’s Brigade, turning the right flank of the Federal line.  
    The brigade, in making the flank attack, penetrated to the rear of the enemy with some 300 or 400 
    men but it was recalled and escaped through the line and took part in the bloody action of the next 
    At Spottsylvania Court House, the brigade was held in reserve to support any point of attack along
     the right.  In the morning, the line occupied by Daniel’s and Dale’s brigades was assailed and they 
    were driven from their breast works.  Johnston’s brigade re-carried the works, and re-established the 
    line.  This was done in the presence of General Robert E. Lee, the troops refused to make the charge 
    until General Lee withdrew from the field, he then being in an exposed position.
    After the re-capture of the line of breast works, the brigade was again withdrawn, occupying its 
    position of reserve until the line held by Major General Edward Johnson was carried by the enemy.  
    Johnston’s Brigade was then ordered to re-take that line of works.  The enemy had crossed over 
    where the Stonewall Brigade had been located and after penetrating 200 yards inside the Confederate 
    line, with three lines of battle, were occupying a think piece of woods just in the rear of the Stonewall 
    Brigade line and the angle from which Edward Johnson’s division had been driven.
    The brigade made a charge in the woods and was confronted with three lines of battle, not more than 
    50 yards apart and there could not have been less than 5,000 men in the three lines.  The insufficient 
    number of men to meet such a force was so apparent that when the brigade struck the enemy’s first 
    line, an officer from the New York regiment dashed out and demanded the surrender of the brigade 
    and he was immediately shot down and another came up to the brigade with a like command only 
    to share the same fate.
    Instead of surrendering, an officer of the command seized the colors of the 23rd Regiment and the 
    brigade was ordered to charge.  They charged, driving back the enemy’s line and passed on, 
    entering the angle of eth breast works, out of which they drove the enemy and re-captured that part 
    of the line.  The whole Confederate line was then restored by the aid of other troops.
    General Johnston, while making observations from the top of the breastworks in the angle, was 
    shot in the head and carried from the field.  In the charge to re-establish General Lee’s line at the 
    point known as the salient, Col. Garrett of the 23rd was killed.  Col. W.S. Davis of the 12th N.C., 
    was placed in temporary command of the 23rd at this time.
    We would mention that Corp. E.S. Hart of Company D was a flag bearer of the 23rd at Spottsylvania 
    as he had been in previous engagements.  In the hands of Hart, while he was able to be “on his pegs”, 
    the flag was never lowered except once and that was when he was knocked down with the breech of 
    a gun by a Federal.
    The second Cold Harbor battle was not participated in by the 23rd but about this time it, with 
    the brigade, was detached from Lee’s army and sent into the valley under Early to meet Hunter.
    Captain Frank Bennett of Anson County was acting colonel of the regiment and in that campaign 
    the command was spoken of as “Bennett and his invincible.”
    It has been impossible, and will be, to report accurately the loss of the regiment in the campaign 
    just closed or in that new just opening before our command.  The career of Robert D. Johnston’s 
    brigade, in the brilliant campaign with Early, is but a history of the 23rd Regiment, which constantly 
    shared its fortunes.
    The next fighting done by the brigade was as part of Early’s command in that great march on 
    Washington City.  The brigade was in all the battles of that command and made the flank 
    movement with Gordon’s Division at Bell Grove and Cedar Creek.  In this battle, it had a hand to 
    hand conflict with the 6th Army Corps.  It captured, with the aid of Battle’s Brigade of Alabama, 
    six pieces of artillery which were gallantly defended by the artillerymen who died at their posts 
    rather than surrender.
    The brigade was ordered to take a position in front of Middlesburg where it remained during the 
    day, skirmishing with cavalry in the front.  That evening, General Sheridan having taken command 
    of the Federal troops, made his attack on the left flank of the Confederate line.
    The brigade was in a position to see the line as it broke first at the point held by Gordon’s brigade 
    and then at that held by Ramseur’s brigade.  Those brigades retired from the field in great confusion.  
    Johnston’s brigade was the only organized body that retired from the presence of the enemy with 
    its line unbroken, halting and firing repeatedly as they were pressed upon, being the only organized 
    force then of the Confederate army.
    After falling back near Cedar Creek, General Pegram sent an order to Johnston to “cross the 
    bridge” and follow the road to Strasburg.  General Johnston sent a message to him that it would 
    be impossible to cross the bridge as the breast works built by the enemy commanded the bridge 
    completely and that the enemy would occupy them before he (Johnston) could cross; but that he 
    could cross below and preserve his brigade intact.
    A second staff officer from Pegram commanded Johnston to bring his brigade across the bridge 
    just under the command of those breast works which, in the meantime, had become occupied 
    by the enemy and thus while the brigade was attempting to cross the bridge, a hot fire was 
    poured into their line from the breast works.  Being totally unprotected and at the mercy of the 
    enemy, the brigade fell into confusion and retreated under cover of darkness.
    On the retreat up the valley, the brigade was covering the rear followed by Sheridan’s cavalry, in 
    the flush of victory and determined to put the Confederates to route, if possible.  Thus was the 
    commencement from morning to night followed and harried by a persistent foe; when the 
    retreating columns, attenuated as it was, had reached a point near Mt. Jackson, General 
    Johnston was ordered to face about and hold the enemy in check. He formed a line of battle, 
    threw out his skirmishers and had one of the hottest fights in which the brigade was engaged 
    on the skirmish line.  The enemy was defeated and driven back.
    It was on the 19th that September, 1864, when Col. Blacknell of the 23rd got his death wound, 
    that Johnston’s brigade won distinguished colors.  General Bradley T. Johnson, a brilliant soldier 
    and writer of Maryland, gave a graphic account of that day’s battle through the newspaper.  We 
    give an extract from his report of Sheridan’s advance on that day:
    “By daylight, the 19th September, a scared cavalryman of my own command nearly rode over 
    me as I slept on the grass and reported that the Yankees were advancing with a heavy force of 
    infantry, artillery and cavalry up the Berryville Road……..Johnston and I were responsible for 
    keeping Sheridan out of Winchester and protecting the Confederate line of retreat and 
    communications up the valley.  In two minutes the command was mounted and moved at a trot, 
    crossing the fields to the Berryville Road and Johnston’s assistance.  There was not a fence nor 
    a tree nor bush to obscure the view.  We could see the crest of a hill covered with a cloud of 
    cavalry and in front of them—500 yards in front—was a thin, grey line moving off in retreat 
    solidly and in perfect coolness and self possession…….A regiment of cavalry would deploy 
    into line and their bugles would sound the charge and they would swoop down on the thin grey 
    line of North Carolina.  The instant the Yank bugles sounded, North Carolina (Johnston’s brigade) 
    would halt, face by the rear rank, wait until the horses got within 100 yards and then fire as 
    deliberately and coolly as if firing volleys of brigade drill.  The cavalry would break and scamper 
    back and North Carolina would ‘about face’ and continue her march in retreat as solemnly and 
    with as much dignity as if marching in review.  But we got there just in time—that is, to engage 
    cavalry with cavalry and hold Sheridan in check until Johnston had got back to the rest of the 
    infantry and formed a line at right angles with the pike west of Winchester.”
    Being in entirely open country, everything that was going on could be seen for miles around; 
    and Bradley Johnston says in conclusion:  “There were 45,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry in 
    the open fields against 8,500 infantry and 3,000 mounted gun men.  The thing began at daylight
     and kept on until dark when, flanked and warn out, Early retreated to escape being surrounded.  
    This is the story (given only in part here) of the thin grey line of North Carolina and the cavalry 
    charge, a feat of arms before which that of Sir Colin Campbell fades into insignificance.”
    The brigade had a severe fight at Monocacy River near Frederick City in entering Maryland.  
    Captain W.C. Wall, commanding Company F, was severely wounded in this fight.  General 
    Gordon’s division crossed the river and attacked the line of battle in the flank.  Johnston’s 
    brigade was ordered to capture a block house on the other side of the Baltimore and Ohio 
    Railroad.  A considerable number of the enemy were in the railroad cut and perfectly protected.
    The brigade charged across the railroad on the bridge under a raking fire from a heavy battery 
    on the other side of the river.  Seeing that it would not carry the block house in that way, a 
    company of soldiers passed under the culvert and opened fire on the enemy in the railroad 
    cut from the flank, drew them out of the railroad cut and captured the block house.
    When the first attempt to take the block house, made by Col. Blacknell with the 23rd 
    Regiment, had failed, by reason of an enfilade fire from a line of battle behind the railroad, 
    which caused the regiment to fall back, General Johnston sent a message to Col. Davis to 
    take the 12th Regiment and capture it.  Col. Davis says:  “General Johnston was not in a 
    very good humor and I was suffering (sick) so that I could hardly walk.  However, I went 
    forward to the ravine (not knowing the cause of the falling back of the 23rd) and here halted 
    and had picked men as videttes to reconnoiter and see all they could.  Finding out about the 
    line of battle behind the railroad, I sent General Johnston a message that if I advanced I would 
    expose my men to an enfilade fire and that if he would dislodge the line of battle behind the 
    railroad I could take the house without loss of men.  I never heard from General Johnston.  
    In the meantime, the fight was going on, on the other side between Wallace (of Ben Hur 
    fame) and Gordon.  Three lines of battle engaged Gordon’s one and now, Wallace began 
    to retreat.  His men on our side then had to cross over quickly or be taken.  I moved forward 
    and as we struck the bridge on our side, the enemy was clearing it on the other.  The retreat 
    and pursuit began which continued for about two miles.  We then advanced as far as Blair’s
     farm in full view of Washington City but soon deemed it wise to come back to Virginia.”
    Of course, the operations in the Valley under Early, already given, were subsequent to the 
    action and events recorded immediately above.  In the valley campaign, the brigade was 
    transferred to Ramseur’s Division.  At his death, General John Pender succeeded to the 
    command of the division.
    Almost simultaneous with the transfer of Sheridan from the Valley to Grant’s line near 
    Petersburg, Early’s command returned to the aid of Lee, at least the greater part of it.  
    Picket duty on Hatcher’s Run during the greater part of the winter was onerous and severe.  
    The 23rd took an active part in the fight at Hatcher’s Run, Captain Peace of Granville, being 
    its commander.  It was in this action that General J. Pegram was killed and Captain Frank 
    Bennett of Anson, former commander of the 23rd, lost an arm, at the time being in 
    command of the brigade skirmishers.  The division was afterwards commanded by General 
    Walker.  Johnston’s was one of the attacking brigades that carried the enemy’s line of 
    breast works at the Battle of Hare’s Hill, in which action General Johnston was so injured 
    by a fall in the breast works, spraining an ankle, that he was carried from the field.
    At dawn on the 9th April, the scene of a bloody midnight skirmish was passed.  Gordon’s 
    command, of which the 23rd Regiment was a part, moved with spirit against a body of 
    infantry which after a volley, fell back and once more the “Rebel Yell” of victory cheered on 
    our brave boys.  But suddenly and strangely a halt was ordered and the command marched 
    from vigorous pursuit in the direction of the town.  The whole army was massing in the vicinity 
    of the court house and there are Federal riding in the midst of the Confederates while on the 
    neighboring hills and passing swiftly to the right go hundreds of Federal cavalry, frantic with 
    business.  Weeping soldiers proclaim the surrender of Lee’s army.
    Dr. R.J. Hicks, now of Warrenton, Virginia, who was a faithful surgeon to the 23rd all 
    through the war, says of this regiment:  “It did as much hard service, fought in as many 
    battles, was as constant in performance of duty as any other regiment in the army.  And 
    at Appomattox, it surrendered about as many men as any regiment in the army.”
    By the Appomattox “parole list”, taken from the last volume of the “Rebellion Records”, 
    it is shown that Johnston’s brigade, at the surrender, numbered 463 men, rank and file.  
    At the time the brigade was commanded by Col. J.W. Lea.
    We close this paper with the addition of the following statistics taken from the source 
    above indicated with reference to the North Carolina soldiers surrendered at Appomattox: 
    Total:  42 regiments and one battalion of infantry
    5 regiments and one battalion of cavalry
    5 battalions of artillery
    That all the above should have numbered only 5,022 rank and file at the surrender, says 
    the Wilmington Messenger, shows the wear and tear North Carolina troops had sustained.  
    First and last, by muster rolls, these commands had contained over 100,000 men.
    July 1, 1895
    Rockingham, North Carolina 
    Transcribed by Christine Spencer, September 2008

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