History of the 12th North Carolina Regiment of State Troops

 

    The 12th North Carolina Regiment of State Troops was originally designed the 2nd Regiment of North Carolina Volunteers. Volunteer and state regiments were being raised simultaneously by North Carolina. Confederate officials in Richmond, VA were having difficulty keeping track of regiments with similar numbers. The state of North Carolina then decreed that the volunteer regiments would be re-designated as state troops, but would have to add 10 to there regiment number. Thus the 2nd Volunteers became the 12th State Troops. After the re-designation, all North Carolina regiments were formed as state troops.

    The regiment was formed at the Garysburg training camp on May 15th, 1861. However, the ten companies that made up the regiment had all been in training since late April of 1861 at the old fairgrounds in Raleigh. The men of the Warren Light Infantry Guards, which would become Company F of the 12th, had been on active duty at Fort Macon. Fort Macon was seized by the State of North Carolina before it could be occupied by Federal troops. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Solomon Williams, was elected colonel of the regiment. The Warren Guards were originally designated Company A of the 12th and the company commander was Captain Wade.

    The regiment left it's training camp at Garysburg for Richmond, VA on May 22nd, 1861 via railroad. The regiment was ordered to Norfolk, VA in preparation of an expected attack on the city of Norfolk. The 12th was placed under the command of Brigadier General Withers and then that of William Mahone. During the summer of 1861 the regiment was encamped at Camp Carolina. The camp was on excellent ground for drill, and the regiment soon became highly proficient in the complex maneuvers of 19th Century armies. However, the regiment lacked discipline, due to the background of the troops comprising it. The enlisted men were men of education, good social standing, and wealth. They associated freely with the officers of the regiment. This made disciplining the troops all but impossible. While in Camp Carolina the troops were given frequent passes to the city of Norfolk and the men took full advantage to visit the citizens of Norfolk. The regiment was moved to winter quarters at Camp Arrington, near the Sewell's Point Battery, where it was posted until it left Norfolk on May 6th, 1862. The men did not see any action save for the famed Battle of the Ironclads on March 8th, 1862. Here, at Camp Arrington, the enlistment terms of Companies C and D expired and they were mustered out and two new companies joined the regiment in their places. At this time the companies of the regiment were re-designated. Company A, the Warren Guards, was re-designated Company F. When Norfolk was evacuated on May 9th, 1862 the 12th was ordered to the Shenandoah Valley with orders to report to General Jubal Early, however McClellan's Peninsula Campaign forced the 12th to return, and it was posted at Hanover Court House.

    During the Battle of Hanover Court House, May 27th, 1862, the 12th was not heavily engaged, but did suffer the loss of 7 men and 20 wounded. The regiment was transferred back to Mahone's Brigade, but did not participate in the Battle of Seven Pines. Colonel Williams was transferred to the 2nd North Carolina Cavalry, and Lt.-Colonel Wade became Colonel of the Regiment. On June 17th, 1862, the regiment was brigaded, along with the 5th, 13th, 20th, and 23rd regiments of North Carolina State Troops, under the command of General Samuel Garland. Garland was a great soldier and the men respected him, but were chafed that North Carolina troops were placed under the command of a Virginian. Garland's Brigade was placed in the division of General Daniel Harvey (D. H.) Hill.

    During the Battle of Gaines Mill General Garland's Brigade was the left flank of the Army of Northern Virginia and it participated in D. H. Hill's attack on the Federal positions. The men of the 12th had to walk through a tangled web of forest and swamp growth and face fire from the Yankees at the same time. Around dusk, Garland's Brigade successfully forced the Federal positions. At the Battle of Malvern Hill, the 12th participated in the ill fated attack and more then half of the casualties suffered by the regiment were in the two Warren companies, C and F. During the 1st Battle of Cold Harbor Garland's Brigade played a pivotal role in deciding the Confederate victory. It is to be noted that more men were lost to disease in Richmond then from the battles to save it.

    D. H. Hill's Division missed the Battle of 2nd Manassas by 3 days, but marched north with General Lee's army to liberate Maryland from the tyranny of Yankee rule. If you are unfamiliar with the Maryland Campaign of 1862 allow me to give you a brief synopsis.

    General Lee had decided that to gain foreign intervention and win the war that the Armies of the Confederacy needed to achieve sizable victories on Yankee soil. In the Western Theater the Confederacy had liberated Kentucky from the Union tyranny and Southern troops reached the Ohio River across from Cincinnati, Ohio. General Lee, calculating on a slow response from General McClellan, issued the infamous special order 191. This order split the Army of Northern Virginia into various divisions. Some were to march north to Hagerstown, MD and Harrisburg, PA, one was sent to capture Harper's Ferry, and D. H. Hill's Division was assigned to guard the armies ammunition and baggage train. Somehow, the duplicate copy of General D. H. Hill's copy of 191 was dropped by a courier. The order was wrapped around 3 cigars. Federal troops found the cigars and gave the copy of 191 to their officers. General McClellan was now in custody of Lee's whole invasion plan. This caused the usually lethargic McClellan to move with more speed then usual. A Southern spy informed General Lee of the knowledge the enemy had of his plans. Lee's army was in a precarious position. General McClellan outnumbered him at least 2 to 1. General Lee issued emergency orders to call the separated divisions back together. D. H. Hill's Division was ordered to hold the two passes at South Mountain, Turner's and Fox's Gaps. While D. H. Hill's men fought to fend off the overwhelming numbers of Federal troops, General Lee's army was re-forming near Sharpsburg. At South Mountain Garland's Brigade was posted at Fox's Gap.

    For some time during the battle of South Mountain, only two brigades were on hand to hold off approximately two Federal Corps. General Garland was mortally wounded and part of the brigade panicked after the Yankees flanked the right of the brigade, separating it from the left. The flag of the 12th never left it's posted position and the majority of the regiment stayed with the colors until relieved. The 12th entered the battle with 92 effectives and suffered 58 casualties in the Battle of South Mountain. During the Battle of Sharpsburg the 12th fought with honor in D. H. Hill's Division.

    After the Battle of Sharpsburg, Alfred Iverson was named brigade commander of Garland's Brigade. The 12th was not actively engaged at the Battle of Fredericksburg. General D. H. Hill was transferred to a new theater and General Robert Rodes was named as his replacement.

    At the Battle of Chancellorsville the 12th participated in Jackson's Flank March and helped rout the Union 11th Corps. The next day the 12th participated again in an assault on a fortified Federal position. By the time the battle had ended, the 12th had captured 3 Union regimental colors and a Yankee colonel. However the price of the victory at Chancellorsville was high Lee's "right arm", Lt- General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, was mortally wounded. A number of men from the 12th were killed or wounded.

    July 1st, 1863 found Iverson's Brigade on the field at Gettysburg. General Iverson was not on-line with his men, but some distance in the rear. His regimental commander's followed his orders and when they crested a rise they were shot to pieces by Baxter's Union troops lying in wait. Due to the way in which a brigade line of battle is formed, the entire 12th Regiment was not yet on line, and only the left 2 companies suffered high casualties, however the rest of the brigade was not as lucky. Seeing the complete decimation of the brigade, the 12th's commander, Lt-Colonel Davis had the men take cover behind a rise while he formed a plan. His plan was to make a surprise charge on the unsuspecting Yankee troops. The charge of the 12th led to the entire collapse of the Federal position in the 12th's sector of the battlefield. General Rodes praised the conduct and actions of the 12th in his report on the Battle of Gettysburg. The 12th did not participate further in the battle, but was engaged in a rear guard action during the Confederate withdraw at Hagerstown, MD. After the return of the Army of Northern Virginia to Virginia, 5 companies of the 12th under Lt-Colonel Davis successfully charged a Union artillery position and it's support at Stevensburg. The overall commander of the action, Colonel Garrett, praised the actions of the 12th during this engagement. During the early spring months of 1864, Iverson's Brigade was sent to guard the bridges over the Annas Rivers in Virginia.

    By the time of the Wilderness Campaign in May of 1864, Iverson's Brigade had a new commander, General Johnston, and a new name, Johnston's Brigade. On the morning of May 9th, Johnston's Brigade was ordered to make a reconnaissance of the Federal position. The brigade become entangled with the troops of General Ambrose Burnside's Union Corps and suffered heavy casualties. Johnston's Brigade was then transferred from Rode's Division to Early's Division. On May the 10th, Johnston's Brigade was ordered to stop a federal assault by plugging a gap in the line and charging the enemy. Upon seeing Johnston's Brigade arrayed for battle, the Yankee's assault died out. At the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Johnston's Brigade was in reserve near the "mule shoe". General Gordon ordered the brigade to the front. As the brigade marched to the front it encountered the advancing Union troops and was pushed back with heavy casualties. The brigade reinforced and reformed and attacked again. First hand accounts of members of the 12th during this campaign state the regimental losses at 2/3 killed or wounded.

    Early's Division was placed under the command of General Ramseur and participated in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864. The 12th was engaged at Lynchburg, VA. The regiment marched to the outskirts of Washington, D. C. with General Early and fought at the Battle of Monocacy. On July 20th, 1864 Ramseur's Division was attacked by Union cavalry. In the Battle at Winchester on the morning of September 20th, 1864 the 12th was posted in a good defensive and repulsed numerous Federal assaults. However, the isolated position of the brigade along with the numerical superiority of the Federal troops forced the brigade to withdraw. During the withdraw the brigade was harassed and threatened by Union cavalry. Confederate General Bradley Johnson gives the following account of the withdraw of the brigade.

    "There was not a fence, nor a house, nor a bush, nor a tree to obscure the view. Away off, more than 2 miles, we could see the crest of the hill, covered with a cloud of Yankee cavalry, and 500 yards in front of them was a thin gray line moving off in retreat, solidly and with perfect coolness and self possession. As soon as I got to realize what was going on, I quickened our gait, and when within a mile broke into a gallop. The scene was plain as day. A regiment of cavalry would deploy into line, their bugles would sound the charge, and they would swoop down on the thin gray line of North Carolinians. The instant the Yankee bugle sounded North Carolina would halt, face to the rear rank, wait until the horses got within 100 yards, and then fire as deliberately and coolly as if firing volleys on parade drill. The cavalry would break and scamper back, and North Carolina would 'about face' and continue her march in retreat as solemnly, stubbornly, and with as much discipline and dignity as if marching in review. But we got there just in time. Cavalry aids the Tar-heels. Certainly half a dozen charges had been made at the retreating thin gray line, and each and every time the charging squadrons had been driven back, when the enemy sent his line with a rush at the brigade of Tar-heels, and one squadron overlapped the infantry line and was just passing it when we got up. In another minute they would have been behind the line, sabering the men from the rear, while they were held by the fight in front; but we struck a headlong strain and went through the Yankees by the flank of North Carolina, and carried their adversaries back to the crest of the hill, back through the guns of their battery, clear back to their infantry lines. In a moment they rallied and were charging us in front and on both flanks, and back we went in a hurry, but the thin gray line of old North Carolina was safe. They had gotten back to the rest of the infantry and formed a line at right angles to the pike, west of Winchester." At the end of this battle the brigade was in good order and morale was high.

    Johnston's Brigade fought at the Battle of Cedar Creek in 1864. After achieving a sweeping victory, the Confederate forces began to take badly needed supplies from the Federal Camps. This disorganized the Confederate forces on the field. The Union commander, General Phillip Sheridan, rode from Winchester to rally his routed army. By mid-afternoon the Federal troops had reformed and were advancing upon the Confederate positions. Had the Southern troops not strayed into the Federal camps, but remained in their lines of battle, the Union advance could have easily been stopped. However, the Southern ranks were thinned by the troops searching the Federal Camps and were pushed back by Sheridan's troops. Johnston's Brigade remained in good order and held its position until ordered to retreat by General Early. Ramseur's Division was placed under the command of General Pegram, who complimented Johnston's Brigade in front of the division for its outstanding performance at the Battle of Cedar Creek.

    Pegram's Division was engaged at the Battle of Hatcher's Run on February 6th, 1865 and did a fine job. General Pegram was killed at this battle and was replaced by General James Walker. After this battle, the 12th spent more than a month on duty on the Roanoke River in order to stop deserters from Lee's army. After this duty the 12th was sent to the front at Petersburg and took part in the assault on Fort Steadman. The regiment suffered high losses in this battle. During a battle in the Petersburg trenches on April 2nd, 1865, Johnston's Brigade charged the positions and re-claimed them. That night the 12th evacuated the lines with the rest of Lee's Army. The regiment fought well at Amelia Court House, but was broken with most of Lee's army at the Battle of Sailor's Creek. At the Battle of Appomattox, the 12th made it's last charge against a line of dismounted cavalry, and successfully carried the position.

    Thus ended the service of a brave and gallant regiment. It's deeds of courage and honor etched forever into the minds of those who saw the great acts of its men. When it was surrendered at Appomattox, the 12th had 121 men. Company F finished the war with 14 men. It is estimated that throughout the war 1400 men served with the regiment. Losses have be estimated at 475 men.

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