In Their Own Words
SKETCH OF THE 2ND N.C. CAVALRY
From Gettysburg to Appomattox
W.P. Roberts, Victoria, B.C.
March 31, 1897
Addendum by W.A. Curtis
Company D, 2nd N.C. Cavalry—J.W. King
April 27, 1897
Raleigh News and Observer
To The Editor:
As stated by Major Graham, who gives a very intelligent sketch of the regiment up to
Gettysburg, it lost heavily at Hanover, Pennsylvania and upon its return to Virginia, it was
a mere shadow of its former self. An effort was made to reorganize it, but there was not
much of it to reorganize.
However, Lt. Col. J.B. Gordon of the 1st N.C. Cavalry, was made colonel, but a short time
after he returned to his own regiment and became its colonel, after its gallant colonel, L.S.
Baker, had been made brigadier general.
In August, I was commissioned captain of Company C, vice Captain J.M. Wynns, its old
commander, who had resigned and returned to North Carolina commissioned to raise a
battalion of cavalry. After the resignation of Col. Gordon, Major C.M. Andrews, late of
Company B, became its colonel and was its commander until June of 1864. During the
remainder of the campaign of 1863, at Jack Shops and Brandy Station, in the Bristow
campaign, Mine Run and other places, and until the close, the gallant little regiment was
always in readiness and took its place in front whenever called upon to do so.
During the winter of 183-4, it did its full share of picket duty on the Rapidan River, and with
other details of the brigade leveled many breastworks thrown up by General Meade, when
he crossed that river in November. Also, during the winter, the regiment was greatly
augmented in strength and discipline, so that when the campaign of 1864 opened, it was
in fair condition, although numerically much smaller than any other regiment of the brigade,
because of its great losses at Hanover, before mentioned, both in prisoners and killed.
Let us state just here that the regiment never entirely recovered from the blow it received
at Hanover. Some of the officers and men were exchanged only a few days before the
advance of General Grant in march, 1864; hence its losses were smaller than those of
the other regiments of the brigade as reported at the time; but I am sure that the loss of
the 2nd was as great, if not greater, than that of any other regiment, if numbers are to be
But to return. In the night attack made by a part of the brigade under the command of Col.
W.H. Cheek, of the 1st N.C. Cavalry, in March, the 2nd was part of the attacking column
and did its duty. I remember that it was here that Dr. Thomas F. Williams, of Clarke Co.,
Va., and surgeon of the 2nd Regiment, mistook Col. Dahlgren, a Union soldier, for the writer
and had quite a conference with him before he found out his mistake.
I was commissioned major of the regiment in March, 1864 and in May began the Wilderness
Campaign of General Grant.
General Sheridan’s “On to Richmond” soon followed with 12,000 horse and horse artillery
in abundance, and certainly everything looked badly for Richmond, as I thought. But that
great soldier and our incomparable leader, General Jeb Stuart, at once followed him, and
though he lost his life in the pursuit, yet it was his genius and quickness of movement that
saved Richmond on this occasion.
Among the pursuing columns was that of General J.B. Gordon, commanding the North
Carolina Brigade, and I beg to state here that the South furnished no grander or more
glorious soldier to the cause of Southern liberty. Gordon was a great favorite of Stuart’s
and when at last Stuart was so sorely pressed, his squadron broken, and just before his
death, his last words were: “Would to God Gordon were here”. And Gordon, too, received
his death wound the day after his beloved chief fell.
In the pursuit of Sheridan, the 2nd bore a conspicuous part, and was more than once
complimented on the field by General Gordon. Its losses, too, were heavy and among the
killed was the gallant adjutant of the regiment, Lt. Worth, of Randolph Co., who lost his life
at the head of the regiment while charging a battery well posted and heavily protected. The
battery was not captured here for reasons that need not be explained here, but all the same
the regiment covered itself with glory, as General Gordon afterwards said to me.
The regiment was engaged at Todd’s Tavern, White Hall, Hanover Court House, and at Hawes’
Shop, and at that last place it did splendid service. Upon the latter occasion, it was in front
and made several charges; I was there, wounded in the head, but did not leave the field. The
loss of the regiment was not considerable but it was here that Lt. Joseph Baker of Company
D was either killed or captured and his fate was never afterwards ascertained.(Transcriber’s
note—see addendum below regarding Joseph Baker.)
In the engagement near Hanover Court House in May, there occurred one of those unfortunate
stampedes which are always inexplicable; but at the time the brigade was a mere handful,
most of it having gone with General Fitz Lee to attack a stronghold on the James River. By
accident, I was in command of the regiment when the stampede occurred, and in the midst
of it, when the best officers and men seemed to be demoralized, the color sergeant of the
regiment, Private Ramsay, of Company B, brought his flag to me, as I had ordered him to
do when he could not rally his men around it and, offering it to me, said, “Major, will you
stand by the flag?” Everything was then in a perfect rout, myself with the rest, and I replied:
“Ramsay, damn the flag; I don’t want it”, but he insisted upon giving me the flag and said he
was only obeying orders from me, often repeated.
His brave words inspired a few, and the rally was sounded and what a moment before
seemed ignominious flight and the capture of our entire force, turned out to be a victory
for us in the end. Around the flag a few of us turned and met our pursuers, and most of
them were captured before they reached the Pamunkey River. God bless that brave boy!
I have not heard from him since the close of the war, but he was a gallant soldier upon
every field and carried the flag bravely until it and all others went down under “overwhelming
numbers and resources” at Appomattox.
The regiment did its full duty at the Davis farm in June, and it lost some men, too, but at
Blacks and Whites, on the Southside Railroad, a few days after, it eclipsed its record. At
this place, I had command of the regiment, because of the sickness of Col. C.M. Andrews,
who insisted that I should lead it into action. However, later in the day, Andrews attempted
to rejoin the head of his regiment, but in the attempt, was wounded in the thigh and died from
the effects of the amputation.
This was one of the most satisfactory engagements to me that I witnessed during the war,
and the old 2nd sustained it reputation manfully. It was ordered to the front early in the action,
in advance of every other regiment of the division, and although pressed hard until even after
darkness closed the scene; it held its own against great odds, and even after dark, many
prisoners were captured by it. Upon this occasion it was the great right, however, of the
gallant 1st N.C., commanded and led by Col.. W.H.H. Cowies, and its vigorous attack
upon that enemy’s flank, made sure the saving of our guns which were in great danger of
capture. There was stubborn fighting and much individual gallantry shown by some of my
men during the day, and I remember that Sgt. Nicholas Harrell, of Company C, a perfectly
reliable man, informed me at the close of the engagement, that during the day he had placed
hors de combat no less than six of the enemy. But the brigade commander did not witness
the action of this regiment, nor did I receive an order from him during the day, but he got
possessed with an idea somehow, or other, that the 1st alone was entitled to all praise and
published an order to that effect as soon as the brigade returned to camp. I declined to have
the order read to my men on dress parade, and there was friction between the brigade
commander and myself, but I carried my point in the end. I did not object to his congratulating
the 1st upon its splendid behavior but I did object to his partiality.
After the death of Col. C.M. Andrews, I was commissioned colonel of the regiment about
the 1st of August, I think, and soon after followed the Battle of Ream’s Station, brought on
by a movement of the Federals to capture and hold the Weldon and Petersburg Railroad on
August 25. The bearing of the 2nd there, furnished an inspiration to the whole cavalry
command, but the division commander, in his report only refers to the division generally.
The fact is, the great brunt of the battle, so far as the cavalry participated, was borne by the
2nd N.C. Cavalry and the 10th Virginia and these two regiments, unsupported, carried the
last of the entrenchments held by the enemy. It was just at dark, I remember, and I never
witnessed a more splendid charge. Our losses were small, but our captures were great,
and the old 2nd N.C. did splendid work. We captured twice as many prisoners as we had
men engaged. The next morning’s Richmond papers gave full credit to our splendid and
That superb soldier and our great chief, General Wade Hampton, congratulated me upon the
field and subsequently in his official report upon the battle, referred especially to the
conspicuous gallantry of our regiment.
At McDowell’s Farm, on the 25th September, the 2nd took the lead, and captured one officer,
a major, I think, and some prisoners. My loss in men was light, but it was here that the brave
Captain J.N. Turner of Company B was killed, and his death was a great personal bereavement
to me. He and I had served as second lieutenants together, and our relations were very warm
and cordial, but there was unpleasantness between him and his captain, and he asked to be
transferred to the engineer corps., which was done. After I became colonel of the regiment,
he asked me to have him sent back to it, and I remember how happy he was when he returned.
He would come to my quarters every night and talk over war memories of the past. He was
commissioned captain of his old Company B, but, poor fellow, his happiness was short lived.
A few days after he was shot through the head near me, in this McDowell farm fight, his sword
in one hand and his hat in the other, cheering on his men. Poor, dear, Turner, there was no
better man or more splendid soldier.
In all the marching, and counter-marching from the south to the north side of the James River,
the 2nd was always in place, and participated in every engagement at Jones’ Farm, Gravelly
Run, Hargroves, Roisseur’s Farm, and other places.
In one of these engagements, at White Oak Swamp, on the north side of the James River, and
where the gallant General J.H. Chamoless, of Virginia, lost his life, the regiment had a close call.
The division of General W.H.F. Lee was hurried to the front in column of fours, the 2nd being the
last of the division. Suddenly, I saw the regiments to my front bear to the right, and immediately
thereafter, an order from General Lee, borne by Major John Lee, of his staff, for the 2nd to hurry
to the front. The command “trot” was given and in a short while I reported to the major general.
My orders were to relieve the regiment to my front, the 9th Virginia, I think it was and he further
said to me: “Roberts, you know what to do, but the line must be held.”
The entire division was soon withdrawn by some miscarriage of orders, as I afterwards learned,
and it was not very long before the enemy advanced in great numbers upon my little command,
but it stood up against this onslaught as only brave men could. At one time the regiment was
practically surrounded, and it annihilation seemed complete, but in the very nick of time up
dashed the 1st, led by the gallant Col. W.H. Cheek, who promptly responded to my wishes and
put his regiment where I suggested it should be put, and by his prompt action I was enabled to
extricate my men. But my loss was enormous; more than thirty officers and men killed in a few
minutes. Captain L.R. Cowper of Company C, and Captain George P. Bryan of Company G were
among the killed. They were both brave officers and splendid soldiers and their loss was a sad
blow to the regiment. Captain Cowper and I had left home together—had been non-commissioned
officers together, and he was my personal friend; always jolly and in splendid humor, and ever
begging me to take care of myself if I wished to live, but always insisting that no Yankee
bullet had ever been molded to carry off “Old Cowp” as he called himself, to the “undiscovered
country from whose bourne no traveler ever returns.” He was a brave and gallant man and died
like a soldier, with his face to the foe.
At Wilson’s Farm, on the Boyoden plank road, on the 27th October, 1864, the 2nd Regiment
was again conspicuous for gallantry and bore its full share of the fight, as it had done at
Reams’, McDowell’s Farm, White Oaks Swamp and other places.
In the great cattle raid in September, 1864, the 2nd was part of the command of General
Hampton, commanding the expedition, and after the herd of cattle, 2,700, had been captured
and driven from the corral, I received orders from him in person to bring up the rear. The
regiment remained in the vicinity of where the cattle were captured for nearly an hour after
the entire command had been withdrawn, and I at once busied myself in making the necessary
disposition of the regiment to protect our rear. But very soon the Federal cavalry began to press
me and there were a number of mounted charges given and received during the day, but I was
hardly pressed and was glad when night came to end the pursuit. The day’s work was a hard
one; none more so that I remember, but I managed to keep my command so well in hand that
I lost only one or two men, I think, before reaching Belcher’s Mills.
The 2nd was at Bellefield on the 8th December when the Federals under General Warren
attempted once more to secure the Weldon and Petersburg Railroad, and when the rear of
Warren’s Corps was struck, a squadron of the 2nd, commanded by Captain A.F. Harrell, made
a splendid charge and captured some prisoners.
Soon thereafter, the regiment went into winter quarters near Bellefield, where it was fairly
comfortable during the winter, being called out occasionally. During this interval of partial rest,
I addressed myself to discipline, and there was drill and dismounted dress parade every day;
but the men were wearing out, or rather the regiment was, from its great work during the previous
campaigns, and not much headway was made in filling up our greatly depleted ranks. Yet the
men were cheerful and apparently happy, and most of them enjoyed the winter in their comfortable
quarters near Bellefield.
On the 21st February, 1865, I received my commission as brigadier general and was assigned
to the command of Dearing’s Brigade, he having been transferred to the brigade of General Rosser.
The bearing of both officers and men for the most part while I commanded the Second was all I
could wish, and there was much individual gallantry displayed by both, but time has blunted my
memory and I regret that I cannot recall the names of all whom I would be glad to mention in this
sketch, written from memory after the passage of more than thirty years.
Let me say that in the beginning the regiment did not have the same thorough military training
that the first cavalry had, as well as other regiments commanded by old army officers. Its first
commander, though a splendid and courteous gentleman, and a brave man, was made colonel
for political reasons, and this made a great difference. It went to meet the enemy too poorly
armed and equipped. But I am glad to bear testimony to the fact that in the campaigns from
1863 to 1865 it was almost equipped entirely by captures, including bridles and saddles,
carbines, pistols, swords, canteens, blankets and every article necessary to a thorough
equipment of a trooper.
I believe the regiment was equal to the best in either the brigade, division or corps, and it never
failed to respond with cheerfulness to any command of mine. There was an enthusiastic
response to every order of attack—but few laggards—and the bearing of the regiment on every
occasion elicited praise from those high in authority. I remember once that the courteous
gentleman and soldier General W.H.F. Lee, the division commander, said to me: “Roberts,
I think my division equal to if not superior to any division in the army, but let me tell you that
I think I am growing a little partial to your regiment, because I feel more secure and my sleep
is less disturbed when the gallant ‘two horses’ is in my front.”
These were his exact words, and it was the most splendid compliment ever paid the regiment.
I felt especially complimented when I remembered that there were in the division the gallant First
North Carolina, the brave Ninth Virginians, and other regiments of equal merit, all North Carolinians
After my promotion to brigadier general, that gallant soldier, Captain James L. Gaines, Assistant
Adjutant General of the brigade, was commissioned colonel, and he rode at its head all during
the trying times around Five Forks until he fell dangerously wounded, losing an arm at
Chamberlain’s Run, on the 31st March. Under his leadership, the regiment added if possible,
another star to its already perfect wreath. After Gaines was wounded, the regiment was
commanded by Capt. J.P. Lockhart, a gallant officer, formerly of my old squadron. Company
“K” Lockhart, I am told, led it through all the engagements following Chamberlain’s Run and
under his command the regiment lost none of its prestige for gallantry and devotion to duty.
I distinctly remember that in our regiment from Petersburg, I passed the regiment on the road,
and its great loss both in splendid officers and gallant men made such an impression on me
that I wept like a child. Its losses had been so many that I scarcely recognized it. Under
Lockhart, it kept up its organization until the capture and dispersal of General Barringer’s
brigade on April 2, and what was left of it, with some scattering remnants of other regiments
of the brigade, reported to me by orders from General Lee, and became a part of my brigade
until the surrender at Appomattox.
My brigade was made up of the 4th N.C. Cavalry, the 16th N.C. Battalion of Cavalry, the 8th
Regiment of Georgia Cavalry, a part of the last named regiment being on detached service.
The staff officers assigned to me were as follows:
Captain Theodore S. Garnett of Virginia, Assistant Adjutant General
Captain Wm. C. Coughenour, of North Carolina, Inspector General
Lt. Jas. E. Webb, Alabama, Ordnance Officer
Lt. W.P. Holcombe, Virginia, Aide de Camp
When I assumed command of the brigade, it was greatly wanting in organization and discipline,
but its material was equal to any brigade both in officers and men, and if it behaved with
exceptional gallantry from the time our lines were broken at Petersburg, until we finally
surrendered at Appomattox; especially at Namazene Creek, on April 3, a part of it stood as
firmly as the immortal 300 at Thermopylae, their bearing and splendid courage stemming the
tide of a great stampede and saving a part of our cavalry from an ignominious flight. In fact,
the little brigade did more than its share from the White Oak Road to Appomattox and on the
morning of the surrender, it was ordered to the front on the right of our lines. It faithfully and
bravely responded to the last call, and with the remnant of the Second, took the last guns
captured by the Army of Northern Virginia, and I am sure they fired the last shots as well.
Immediately after the capture of the guns—our Napoleons—the brigade was withdrawn from
the field by order of General Fitzhugh Lee, commanding the cavalry, disbanded and directed
by him to return to their homes if they could, and I remember that he said that the army had
I remember further that I saw a white flag borne down the lines, and I am sure that after that
there was no more firing from either cannon or small arms.
I desire to add that I had an efficient and faithful staff. Lt. Holcombe was disabled at White
Oak Road near Petersburg about the time our lines were broken. The gallant Lt. Webb,
ever watchful and faithful, remained with his ordnance train to the last, and Captain
Coughenour, whose courage was ever conspicuous, was dangerously wounded near me
not far from Jetersville, Va., and while delivering to me a message. My assistant adjutant
general, Captain Theodore S. Garnett, was ever by my side, brave to a fault, faithful and
loyal, and he was with me to the last; and although a mere boy, his wise counsel and
steady nerve rendered me valuable service always.
March 31, 1897
Raleigh News and Observer
Feb. 3, 1899
To the Editor:
The passage of the bill authorizing the publication of the sketches of North Carolina
regiments in the Civil War caused me to look up the sketches of the 2nd N.C. Cavalry
Regiment, written by General William P. Roberts, and published in the News and
Observer on April 27, 1897, and I read it tonight.
I notice General Roberts, in speaking of the engagement at Hawe’s Shop, in which I was
a participant, and saw him wounded, says: “The loss of the regiment was inconsiderable,
but it was here that Lt. Joseph Baker, of Company D, was either killed or captured, and
his fate was never afterwards ascertained.”.
I am able to give some information as to his fate. In the engagement twenty days after,
on June 23, at Blacks and Whites, I captured a prisoner, and in taking him to the rear,
we engaged in conversation and the Hawes Shop affair came up, and the prisoner told
me that Baker was killed at the root of a large pine tree, and he found him after we
withdrew from the field, and took from his pocket letters and other articles which the
prisoner then had in his possession which he returned to me. They were turned over to
some members of Company D by me.
My recollection is that Baker was promoted to the captaincy of his company just before
the Hawes Shop affair. The North Carolina Roster does not make any record of it but it
does of J.A.P. Conaly, who was commissioned captain in 1864, and Baker as second
lieutenant and first lieutenant always outranked Conaly up to that time.
Ex-member of Company A, 2nd N.C. Cavalry
August 19, 1899
Correspondence of the Observer
Hope Mills, N.C., Aug. 19, 1899
I would like to know how many of Company D, 2nd N.C. Cavalry could answer to roll call
now, after a lapse of 38 years.
Company D left Fayetteville for the war on Aug. 16, 1861, commanded by Captain J.W.
Strange. The roll call was as follows:
J.W. Strange, Captain
W.S. Lutterloh, 1st Lt.
J.W. Baker, 2nd Lt.
Jas. W. Williams, 3rd Lt.
John B. Person, 1st Sgt.
Alexander Patterson, 2nd Lt.
A.H. Baldwin, 3rd Lt.
Alexander Faucett, 4th Lt.
E.M. Waddill, 5th Lt.
Thomas Long, Commissary
C.H. Elder, 1st Corp.
Alexander Leach, 2nd Corp.
J.D. Buie, 3rd Corp.
George McMillan, 4th Corp.
T.J. Mimms, Farrier
J.Y. Webster, Saddler
Jas. Johnson, Blacksmith
H.V.H. Brower, Buglar
John A. Easom
Daniel I. Johnson
Neill A. Johnson
Dr. Franklin Phillips
Caleb G. Stephens
Thomas J. Stoner
Henry A. Smith
N. A. Wilks
Thomas A. Wright
Total 100 as near as I can remember at this late day. If I have left any out I would be glad
if some one of the living members would let me know. E.M. Waddill might do it.
Transcribed by Christine Spencer, September 2008
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