CLARK NC: 34th 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.
On 13 June  we were in the engagement at Riddle’s Shop, and for more than a mile drove the enemy in a running fight. The [34th North Carolina] regiment took part in the battle [of Jerusalem Plank Road] near Petersburg on 22 June . At Reams’ Station, 25 August , Scales’ North Carolina and Anderson’s Georgia Brigades made the first assault on the enemy’s works and were repulsed with considerable loss, the right of the line being exposed to a frightful enfilading fire of artillery and musketry; but, while feeling the sting of defeat in our attack, with swelling hearts we witnessed the gallant charge of Cook[e]’s, MacRae’s and Lane’s Brigades. Excepting some small skirmishing this last fight ended the campaign of 1864, and the regiment went into winter quarters at Battery No. 45, near Petersburg. During the winter [December 7-12, 1864] the regiment made a forced march, through rain, sleet and snow, to Bellfield Station, on the Petersburg & Weldon Railroad. The object of the march was to look after a raiding party of Federal cavalry. On our arrival we found that they had retired. This also was a winter of intense suffering among the soldiers. Almost destitute of provisions and clothing, many of them deserted and crossed the line to the enemy. On 25 March  the Thirty-fourth was thrown forward to support the picket line, which was about one mile in front of the main line of works. Superior numbers forced us to fall back to the works, losing considerably in killed, wounded and captured.1
On 1 April, 1865, the regiment with the brigade, occupied a position on the right, south of Hatcher’s Run. We learned soon after daylight that the Confederate lines between us and Petersburg had been broken. After this saddening news the regiment repulsed a force of Federal cavalry and then retreated to Southerland’s [sic, Sutherland’s] Station, where a portion of Heth’s and Wilcox’s divisions hastily constructed breastworks from a rail fence behind which we repulsed two desperate assaults of the enemy, killing and wounding a large number, and capturing a stand of colors and many prisoners. Discovering that we were vastly outnumbered we fell back to the Appomattox river. There was no way of crossing the river except in a small boat which was scarcely sufficient to carry the higher officers.
The regiment marched all night and reached Amelia Court House the next day. At this time the ranking officer was Lieutenant-Colonel George Norment, of the Thirty-fourth Regiment, from Mecklenburg county. Here we joined the main army and General Lee provided for us the much-needed rations. The regiment, with the brigade, protected the rear of the army at Farmville, marching several miles in line of battle, beating back the enemy’s cavalry, and was the last to cross the river. As we went out from the river a heavy artillery fire was poured down upon the regiment. On the morning of 9 April the brigade was moving into line near Appomattox Court House, and was in range of the enemy’s musketry, when orders were passed along the line to cease firing. All understood what it meant—the Army of Northern Virginia was to surrender. We then fell back to an open field, near the famous apple tree.
The Confederate soldiery which had cast their fortunes with the destiny of the South, had suffered untold and indescribable hardships and privations, but when their grand chieftain rode in among them and announced the terms of surrender, the agony of soul and the depth of suffering exceeded anything ever before endured in the cruel war. In the vast array of ragged braves, whose courage and zeal had carried them to the very mouths of the bronze war-dogs of the enemy, not a dry eye could be seen anywhere. It seemed that they preferred to make one last charge and become engulfed in death, the last long sleep, to the painful duty of giving up their tattered flag which had waved over them in so many victories ; but all was over, and the remnant of two hundred officers and men marched out and stacked their trusty muskets, laid down their bullet-pierced flag, never again to be unfurled in the rage of battle. Thus ended the great drama in which the Thirty-fourth played no mean part. The regiment deserves a more extensive history than this sketch, which has been written almost entirely from memory; which must necessarily have dimmed with the recession of thirty odd years; and the writer regrets that he has not had access to records from which to give the casualties of each battle in which the regiment was engaged.
Shelby, N. C,
9 April, 1901.2
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This action was part of a larger “Battle on the Skirmish Lines” on March 25, 1865 which resulted due to Grant and Meade probing the Confederate lines after the Confederate attack on Fort Stedman. ↩
- Clark, Walter. Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-’65, Volume 2 (Nash Brothers: 1901), pp. 588-590 ↩