CLARK NC: 15th North Carolina at the Siege of Petersburg
Editor’s Note: The following excerpt comes from Walter Clark’s five volume Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-’65, published in 1901. The reference work provides mini regimental histories written mostly by men representing each unit, with gaps filled in by editor Clark. These histories often provide a surprising amount of detail on the Siege of Petersburg.
The [15th North Carolina] regiment was withdrawn soon after dark, moved to Cold Harbor and from there to James River.
On the 15th of June  the enemy’s cavalry moved up the Chickahominy towards Richmond, while the army was crossing James River to attack Petersburg. Heth’s Division was sent to meet them, and Cooke’s Brigade being in front, the Fifteenth [North Carolina] Regiment was engaged in several skirmishes during the day, with considerable loss, and captured many prisoners, mostly wounded.
The writer, with ten picked men, was ordered by General Cooke to reconnoiter the enemy’s position, during which he was wounded, and but for the gallantry of his squad would have been captured by about thirty of the enemy, who, in making a charge, received a volley which killed two and wounded several. We captured seven and the others retreated.1
After night the regiment moved towards Richmond, crossed James River and took position on the lines around Petersburg. During the siege we occupied various positions, but principally near the Crater, with constant duty, under fire from sharpshooters, artillery and mortars day and night, with but little to eat. The losses in the regiment from the Wilderness to Petersburg in the numerous skirmishes was twenty-four killed and eighty-nine wounded.
On the 25th of August  the [15th North Carolina] regiment moved down on the Petersburg Railroad to attack the enemy at Reams’ Station. Hancock’s [Second] Corps [Army of the Potomac] was formed in line in the railroad cut behind the embankment and breastworks. Cooke’s, MacRae’s and Lane’s [North Carolina] Brigades, numbering about one thousand seven hundred and thirty men, were ordered to attack the enemy in this strong position with three times their number. After forming in line of battle the Confederates had to charge for several hundred yards across an open space of fallen timber, brush and other obstructions, which was done in good order. We reached the enemy’s line without firing and captured several stands of colors, two batteries and about two thousand eight hundred prisoners. The loss in the Fifteenth [North Carolina] Regiment was twenty-three killed and ninety-one wounded. After this the regiment took position again at the Crater.
On the 27th of October  the regiment took position on the lines near Hatcher’s Run, remaining there until December , when, with other regiments, it marched towards Belfield, through sleet and snow, but had no general engagement. It returned to its former position and remained until February, 1865, when it moved to Petersburg and took position near the Crater, in support of General Gordon in his night attack [on March 25, 1865 at Fort Stedman], but was not actively engaged. In the evening it returned, under forced march, to its former position, which was threatened by the enemy, which position it occupied until the 2d of April, when the lines near Petersburg were broken and a retreat ordered.
On reaching Sutherland’s Station [on the afternoon of April 2, 1865] line of battle was formed to check the enemy. The army being in fragments and in full retreat, the Fifteenth [North Carolina] Regiment was deployed as skirmishers to protect the rear and keep up stragglers during the day. It marched all night and almost continuously, with but few hours’ rest and but little to eat, with frequent skirmishes, principally with cavalry, until the morning of the 9th of April at Appomattox Court House, where it was formed in line of battle to re-inforce General Cox’s and other brigades, but before advancing the Army of Northern Virginia, the pride of the South, yielded to overwhelming numbers and resources.
The loss to the regiment during these latter months in the trenches, on the retreat and in the various skirmishes was about eighty killed and wounded. At the last roll-call on that eventful morning there were two hundred and nineteen stands of arms turned over by those men in the regiment who had borne them for four years.
Thus ended the services of one of the first regiments of North Carolinians that responded to the call of their State and to the Confederacy.
In penning this short sketch of one of the first regiments that tendered its services to North Carolina and the Confederacy, it has been the object of the writer not to detract the least praise from any other regiment or State that they may merit (for I believe that with few exceptions they all did their duty), but simply as a North Carolinian, proud of her honor and the valor of her sons, to assist in bringing to light and preserving the gallant deeds of her soldiery, whereby all impartial and unprejudiced historians may be enabled to publish to the world the truth as it is, and that every citizen in our re-united country, whether from Maine or Texas, can in future ages point to their acts of bravery and devotion to duty, and with pride claim they were American citizens.
In this instance the best proof of their honesty of purpose, devotion to duty and conviction of right in a cause they had espoused, was the five hundred and ninety-three shattered remnants left of the eighteen hundred and two that had belonged to this regiment during its four years’ service.
H. C. Kearney.
Louisburg, N. C.
9th April, 1901.2
- SOPO Editor’s Note: These skirmishes were occurring in the area east of Richmond between the Chickahominy River to the north and the James River in the south, very near some of the sites of the Seven Days’ battles of June-July 1862. ↩
- Clark, Walter. Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-’65, Volume 1 (Nash Brothers: 1901), pp. 746-749 ↩