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CLARK NC: 46th North Carolina at the Siege of Petersburg

CLARK NC: 46th 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.


12 June [1864], the sidelong movement was resumed. 15 June [1864] the regiment was engaged in White Oak Swamp for some hours—losing about twenty-five men. Here it was that Lieutenant Robert A. Small [aka Robert S. Small], of Company G, met his death. Few nobler spirits “passed over the river” during those terrible years than that of Lieutenant Small—a Christian and one of nature’s noblemen.

18 June [1864] the command crossed the James river, above Drewry’s Bluff, and occupied a position near Petersburg, in the entrenchments.

The line of march of the regiment, from the beginning of the campaign, was as follows: Along the Fredericksburg turnpike to “The Wilderness”—thence to Spottsylvania Court House, Hanover Junction via Brooke turnpike to new Mechanicsville—thence via ”Nine Mile Road,” Williamsburg road, Charles City road, Darbytown road, River road, across Drewry’s Bluff pontoon bridge to the Richmond and Petersburg turnpike, thence to Petersburg—a path marked at almost every step with blood.

From 19 June to 22 August [1864], the regiment occupied various positions on the front lines near Petersburg, being moved hither and thither as emergency required.

22 [sic, 21] August [1864] the Forty-sixth [North Carolina] took part in a brilliant affair, on the extreme right of the lines, on the Weldon Railway, driving from their works two lines of the enemy, but was checked in its mad rush at the third line by a withering fire of grape and canister—under which a number of gallant spirits sank to rise no more, among others Captain L. Branson [sic, Thomas A. Branson], Company F, shot through the body by a grape shot.

25 August [1864], one of the most desperate actions of the year was fought at Reams Station, mainly by Cooke’s and Kirkland’s Brigades. The enemy was strongly fortified with a quantity of artillery. Two brigades of Wilcox’s Division had failed to drive them, when Cooke’s and Kirkland’s were sent forward, and in a most terrific storm of thunder and lightning, steadily advanced over the field, facing a deadly fire, and with a veil carried everything before them, capturing seven stands of colors, nine guns, 2,100 prisoners and a large quantity of camp equipage.

The bayonet was freely used in this affair, and Lieutenant-Colonel A[lexander]. C. McAlister distinguished himself by his daring in leading the regiment to the muzzles of the cannon.

Loss in the Forty-sixth [North Carolina], seventy-three killed and wounded. Among the wounded were Captain H[enry]. R. KcKinney [sic, McKinney], of Company A; Captain A[dolphus]. T. Bost, of Company K; Captain [Robert P.] Troy, of Company G; Lieutenant T. R. Price, of Company C; Lieutenant M. X. Smyer (both eyes shot out); Lieutenant. J. W. Brock, of Company G.

After Reams Station the regiment returned to the lines around Petersburg, occupying different positions until December, when winter quarters were built on Hatcher’s Run, near Burgess’ mill, about ten miles from Petersburg and immediately in front of the enemy.

About 7 December [1864] took place the famous Bellfield expedition, noted for the suffering endured by the men from cold and exposure, which continued for five days.

From 7 December [1864] to 4 February [1865] the Forty-sixth [North Carolina] remained in winter quarters, with little to vary the monotony.

5 February, 1865, took place the affair at Hatcher’s Run, in which the regiment was engaged, with some loss, among the killed being Lieutenant T. W. Brock, of Company G, by a shell.

27 February [1865] Lieutenant-Colonel A[lexander]. C. McAlister was detached from the regiment and with the writer [John M. Waddill] as Adjutant, assumed command of a force of about six hundred men and was assigned to duty in the counties of Randolph, Chatham, Montgomery and Moore, North Carolina. This force was composed of the Seventh North Carolina, Major James G. Harris commanding, and two companies each from the Fifteenth [North Carolina], Twenty-seventh [North Carolina], Forty-sixth [North Carolina], Forty-eighth [North Carolina] and Fifty-fifth North Carolina Regiments, designed for the protection of that section from raiding parties of the enemy, as also to preserve order in enforcing the Conscript Act. This force was actively employed until General Johnson’s army arrived near Greensboro, when it was attached to General D. H. Hill’s Division until paroled by General Sherman.

An episode of this bit of service was a lively engagement in the streets of Greensboro with a portion of Wheeler’s disorganized cavalry, which undertook to capture the Government stores in the warehouses, and incidentally the town generally. The cavalry was driven out, but not without a number of casualties to both sides.

By reason of the above mentioned detail service, the writer can give no particulars of the regiment’s experience from Petersburg to Appomattox from personal knowledge. Those whose duties kept them at the front near Petersburg state that the morning when Lee’s lines near Hatcher’s Run were broken [on April 2, 1865], the Forty-sixth [North Carolina], with the balance of Cooke’s Brigade, retired in its usual good order.

On the retreat to Appomattox its experiences were those of the army generally, continued fighting and starvation. Ever ready to do its duty, no apparent disaster, however great it seemed, shook its steady column, and up to the supreme moment at Appomattox its unity was preserved, its men, those whom the bullet and disease had spared, answering promptly “here,” when the final roll call was had.

At Appomattox the remnant of this band of heroes laid down their arms to take them up no more forever, and the Forty-sixth North Carolina passed into history with not one member who but feels a just pride in its record, upon which rests no blemish. At the surrender the regiment was commanded by Colonel W[illiam]. L. Saunders. Its strength is not recorded, but the whole Cooke’s Brigade numbered 70 officers and 490 men. Official Records Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 95, p. 1278.

Its torn and tattered battle flag which waved in triumph over many a bloody scene, was never lowered until by order of the immortal Lee it was laid down forever, but not in disgrace or shame, for about its folds shone the glories of Malvern Hill, Harper’s Ferry, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Bristoe, Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Mechanicsville, Cold Harbor, White Oak Swamp, Petersburg, Reams Station, Davis’ Farm and Hatcher’s Run.

Not many remain to tell the story of its bivouacs, marches and battles, its patience and endurance, its hardships and sufferings for three years of hard service Soon none will remain, but its glory is as fadeless as is that of “Lee’s Army,” whose fortunes and misfortunes it shared to the end.

[SOPO Editor’s Note: A portion of this article which does not pertain to the Siege of Petersburg has been omitted.]

In commenting on certain names here mentioned, it will be borne in mind that by reason of longer acquaintance or closer intimacy, the writer knew more of certain ones than of others. Some company officers were appointed but a short time before the writer was called away from the regiment, and whom he knew only by name.

No invidious discrimination is intended, for it is distinctly remembered that no officer of the Forty-sixth [North Carolina] was ever charged with doing less than his full duty.

J[ohn]. M. Waddill.

Greenville, N. C.,
9 April. 1901.1


  1. Clark, Walter. Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-’65, Volume 3 (Nash Brothers: 1901), pp. 77-80, 82
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