CLARK NC: 38th 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 [38th North Carolina] regiment was in the attack made by General Hill on General Warren at Noel’s Station 23 May , and the skirmishing at Riddle’s Shop 13 June , and on down to Petersburg which was reached 18 June .
The following is a resolution of the Confederate Congress, 17 May, 1864:
“The Congress of the Confederate States of America do resolve, That the thanks of Congress are eminently due, and are hereby tendered to the Thirty-fourth and Thirty-eighth Regiments of North Carolina Troops, for the promptness and unanimity with which they have re-enlisted for the war.”
Colonel William J. Hoke, from wounds received in battle, was disabled for field service and was appointed to the post at Charlotte. Lieutenant-Colonel John Ashford was promoted to the command of the regiment; Major Geo[rge]. W. Flowers to be Lieutenant-Colonel, and Captain J[ohn]. T. Wilson to be Major.1
The regiment was engaged in the hard-fought battle at Ream’s Station 25 August, 1864, when the divisions under Wilcox, Mahone and Johnson attacked the enemy and captured about 2,000 prisoners. Hill attacked General Warren at the Davis house, on the Weldon road, three miles from the city, 21 [sic, 18th, 19th, and 21st] August, 1864, defeating him and capturing 2,700 prisoners.2 The regiment suffered severely in this engagement.3 The command remained around Petersburg until 2 April, 1865, when the Confederate lines were pierced in three places. A few days before the lines were broken, the Thirty-eighth [North Carolina] was sent out to reconnoiter, and ascertain the strength of the enemy in our front. We found their picket line much stronger than our line of battle, and after a severe engagement, we were compelled to retreat. In this engagement Colonel Ashford was wounded, and turned over the command [SOPO: Of Scales’ Brigade, NOT the 38th NC] to this writer, who retained it until the surrender, signing the paroles. The Thirty-eighth [North Carolina] was ordered out of the works and was soon thereafter on the retreat from Petersburg. The enemy were pursuing the retreating troops very hard, and first one regiment and then another was thrown out as skirmishers to retard the enemy. A line of battle was formed and breastworks were thrown up at Southerland’s Farm [on April 2, 1865] and when the enemy made an attack they were repulsed with heavy loss and several prisoners were captured. The enemy turned the flank about 4 p. m., and the Southern troops were again compelled to retreat. Cooke’s, Scales’ and MacRae’s North Carolina Brigades and McGowan’s South Carolina Brigade, the troops on the right of the break in the line, formed the corps. The North Carolina Regiments, Thirteenth, Twenty-second, Twenty-seventh, and Forty-seventh were thrown out to check the enemy while the other troops endeavored to cross, hoping to rejoin the main army from which the brigades had been separated. It was found impossible to cross and the regiments thrown out were recalled, when the troops pursued their way up the river until about 2 o’clock at night when they rested. The march was begun at sunrise the next morning, 3 April, and Deep Creek was reached about 9 a. m. A halt was made to let the wagon train get ahead for safety, and an attempt was made to throw a temporary bridge across the creek in order to cross. The cavalry had been in the rear guard, and about 2 o’clock they came rushing up and reported that the enemy were pursuing. McGowan’s Brigade was enabled to cross the bridge, which was not yet completed, but the other troops followed the wagons and crossed at a ford about three miles above the bridge. By this time the enemy were in sight, but no attack was made. The intention was to cross the Appomattox at Goode’s bridge, but the waters were very high and it was impossible to get to the bridge on account of the overflow, therefore the troops were marched up the river, and as night came on went into camp at the cross roads above the bridge. Couriers were sent out to find a place to cross, in order to join General Lee’s army, and about 1 o’clock the command was ordered to march. After crossing the river and marching through open fields and by-roads, Anderson’s Georgia Brigade was reached. This brigade was the leading brigade in Lee’s army and had crossed on a pontoon bridge where the whole army was then crossing. There was great rejoicing on the part of the soldiers at again meeting their comrades, from whom they had been separated for three days. The regiment was halted about sunrise and breakfast was prepared, after which the march was continued to Amelia Court House, Va., where the night was spent. The enemy next morning attacked and began burning the wagon train, but were driven off. The retreat was continued, the rear guard having frequent fights with the enemy. On Friday, 7 April, 1865, Farmville, Va., was reached, and Scales’ Brigade relieved Cooke’s brigade as rear guard of the infantry. The enemy having crossed the river, pressed the lines very hard and consequently the rear guard was engaged in several attacks, and suffered severely. The enemy was driven off, and this was the last fighting in which the regiment was engaged before the surrender. Saturday, 8 April, the regiment camped about three miles from Appomattox Court House, Va. As Appomattox Court House was approached the next morning [April 9, 1865] the Federal line was seen on the hill at the court house. Line of battle was drawn up and it was expected that an advance would be made. It began to be rumored that a surrender was made, but nothing definite could be learned until 12 o’clock, when it was known that Lee had indeed surrendered. It was soon learned that the soldiers would be paroled and given permission to return home. Monday morning 10 April, 1865, the farewell address of General Lee was read to the regiment. All the soldiers of the regiment had the opportunity of shaking hands with General Lee and hearing him say, “God bless you boys; I hope we shall meet again!” After remaining in this position until Wednesday, 12 April, the regiment was marched over near the court house, where the arms were stacked in front of the enemy. On the same evening the soldiers were furnished with the following:
Appomattox Court House, Va.,
April 10, 1865.
The bearer, ………………………………………………., of Co ……, 38th Regiment of N. C. Troops, a paroled prisoner of the Army of Northern Virginia, has permission to go to his home, and there remain undisturbed.
Jos[eph]. H. Hyman,
Colonel 38th [sic, 13th NC?] N. C. Troops,
Commanding Scales’ Brigade.
The Thirty-eighth Regiment of North Carolina Troops was disbanded and passed out of existence.
George W. Flowers.
Taylorsville, N. C,
9 April, 1901.4
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Brigade commander Alfred Scales recommended Ashford for the promotion on June 21, 1864. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The author seems to be mixing up the dates around the Battle of Globe Tavern. There were distinct phases of combat on three days, August 18, 19, and 21. Hill attacked on both August 18 and 19, with the August 19 attack bringing in over 2,500 Union prisoners. August 21, 1864 was a disaster for the Confederates, with much of Hagood’s South Carolina Brigade being captured or becoming casualties. That said, Scales’ Brigade was at least present facing the front of the Federal lines near Globe Tavern during Hagood’s unsuccessful “flank” attack on August 21, 1864, though it didn’t actually charge during the day. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: I am unclear if the author is referring to Reams Station or Globe Tavern with regards to suffering severely, but he almost certainly means Reams Station. If so, the placement of this sentence is rather odd, coming as it does after the mention of Globe Tavern. ↩
- Clark, Walter. Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-’65, Volume 2 (Nash Brothers: 1901), pp. 694-697 ↩