THE CUMBERLAND PLOUGH BOYS, COMPANY "F" 24TH REGIMENT N. C. TROOPS
Submitted by William Bullard, Atlanta, Georgia.
Transcribed and posted by Myrtle Bridges
October 09, 2002
James Smith Evans (July 1, 1843-May 26, 1918) who wrote this memoir
was a son of Elizabeth Smith Evans (February 20, 1796-June 30, 1876). She was the oldest child of John
Smith (December 20, 1772-June 16-1851) who built Oak Grove Plantation House and who established Smithville
Plantation on the site of the Battle of Averasboro. James Smith Evans
and his older brother Johnathan
(March 18, 1838-March 5, 1892) were both officers in Company F, 24th NC Infantry according to the
"Whitfield, Bryan, Smith and Related Families" history, Book 2, page 270. Their home was in
the vicinity of Evans Dairy Road east of Fayetteville. James moved to Livingston, Texas about 1885. This data is shared by Walt and Martha Smith, Dunn, NC
It will be remembered by those who were living at that time what a revolution of feeling resulted
from the issuing of President Lincoln's Proclamation in the early spring of 1861, calling on North Carolina
for her quota of an army of seventy five thousand troops to coerce the then seceded states. Among other
military companies organized to resist this invasion was "The Cumberland Plough Boys", a company of twelve
months volunteers. This company was organized at Camp Bethany, the old Methodist Camp grounds, about twelve
or fifteen miles East of Fayetteville. The company, as accepted by the State, numbered more than one hundred
officers and enlisted men.
The officers were:- Jonathan Evans, Captain; Charles H. Blocker, 1st Lieut.; James S. Evans, 2nd Lieut.;
W. A. King, 3rd Lieut.; O. H. Blocker, 1st Sergeant; John Sh
, (torn) 2nd Sergeant;
J. A. Gainey, 3rd Sergeant;
and John A. McAlister 4th Sergeant. This company has the distinction of every man being a farmer or
a farmer. This fact gave it its name. At something like two months training and preparation for active
service, they were ordered to Weldon, (near Wilmington, NC) where it made part of the 14th Regiment North
Carolina Volunteers and was designated as Company F. on promotion of Capt. Evans to Major, Charles H. Blocker
succeeded to the Captaincy and O. H. Blocker promoted to 3rd Lieutenant. The first active service seen by
the company was under General Floyd in West Virginia. While not actively engaged in battle the company
suffered heavily. The unseasoned men died in great numbers from Measles and Camp Fever. After spending
the winter in Petersburg, Va., the company, with its regiment, was sent to Eastern North Carolina, the
Chowan River. The term enlistment having expired the company re-enlisted for three years or for the war,
as company F, 24th Regiment North Carolina Troops. The writer deems it necessary not to explain why the
regiment advanced then numbers, as the same has been told in the public prints repeatedly ever since the
occurrence. The health of Capt. Blocker being poor he decided to take service in the heavy artillery.
Under the new order of arrangement James S. Evans was made Captain, Lieuts. King and Blocker having left
the company, during the winter John A. McAlister was promoted 1st Lieutenant and James A. Gainey and
D. J. Downing were promoted and 3rd Lieutenants, respectively; Company F was designated "Color for
In June we were ordered to Petersburg, Va., and placed in the Brigade of Brig.-Gen. Robert Ransom,
on June 25the we smelt our first powder. The regiment was drawn in line of battle on the right of
Willimasburg road near Richmond. Virginia. Companies F and F were ordered forward across a field
grown up in pines, there to deploy as skirmishers and move forward through the pines to a wheat
field and wait for the regiment to come up. As we reached the edge of the old field and deploying
as instructed, Col. Ramseur of the 24th N.C. Regiment, told the captain of Co. F to have his men
lie down, saying the fire was very hot. Just then a man in Company F was killed and one in Company F
lost his arm. Then we realized for a fact that we were in battle. The Company behaved in this, their
first engagement, like veterans.
On the evening of the 27th the Regiment was moved to the right and placed on the firing line. Here
occurred an incident that showed the
discipline of Company F and the metal of the men. Early
the enemy opened a heavy fire on our lines, which caused considerable confusion. Company F seeing the
regiment leave the firing line was ordered into tanks and marched by the right flank some thirty or
forty yards to the rear. Careful inquiry not developing any authority for order, the company was faced
about, marched back and occupied its original position on the firing line. The other companies of the
regiment, with one exception, immediately rallied and reformed the line of battle, thus the steadiness
of Company F prevented what might have been a very discreditable affair; 1st Lieutenant John A. McAlister,
with a detachment of Company F guarded the line vacated by this company.
The next morning we had our first experience in attacking in line of battle. Our Brigade drove the enemy
handsomely, developing the fact that McClelland's army was in retreat. We reached White oak Swamp on the
evening of the 30th, in time to take a good shelling from the enemy's batteries, but not in time to intercept
McClelland's army, as intended. On the morning of July 1st the command of Company F was turned over to
Lieutenant McAlister (the captain being ill) who commanded the Company in the Battle of Malvern Hill.
Here the Company lost its first man killed in battle. An incident worthy of mention occurred in this battle;
Private William Brock could never keep exact step in march, due (the boys said) to the length of his feet,
so one or another officer often called out, "Keep the step, Mr. Brock". In the hot test of the fight this
fine soldier called out "Don't get excited boys and bite off the ball of your cartridge". Say boys, I don't
hear anybody calling "Keep step Mr. Brock".
When the army of Northern Virginia went after Pope, the captain of Company F was placed in command of a camp
of sick and wounded of the brigade near Richmond. Very soon thereafter Lieutenant J. A. McAlister was placed
on detached duty leaving the command of the Company under Lieut. James A. Gainey, then whom no soldier ever
drew blade in defense of his country. Under the command of Lieut. Gainey the Company participated in the
capture of Harper's Ferry and the Battle of Sharpsburg. Here the Company suffered terribly in dead and wounded.
Among the ones killed was the splendid Lieutenant D. J. Downing popular in the Company, brave and efficient
When Company F (Plough Boys) stripped for battle at Sharpsburg they were quickly [robbed] of the left of
their army and never saw their knapsacks and their blankets again. After the battle the army recrossed the
Potomac, resisting in different localities until Burnside moved cross the Rapahannoc at Fredericksburg. Our
Division was then at Madison Court House. There Company F had the first and only moccasins given them. As a
substitute for shoes they proved a failure as was demonstrated on the forced march of one hundred and twenty
five miles in four and a half days to intercept Burnside. This march was one of the greatest trials the
Company ever endured. Notwithstanding the bitter cold and rain and that there were but nine pairs of shoes
and three blankets in the company, when the roll was called at the end of this terrible march every many of
Company F answered to his name. Well do I remember the third morning out when the call to ranks was sounded,
Dan Melvin, a boy of seventeen, with feet twice their normal size and tears streaming down his face, stepped
into his place without a murmur.
BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG
The morning of December 13th, 1862 saw North Carolina troops in line of battle at the foot of Willis'
Hill on the opposite side of the street or road from Mars Heights, where Cobb's brigade was stationed
in the old sunken road at the foot of the hill. Companies E and F (the two right companies of the regiment)
were ordered from the line by Lieut. Col. Harriss to take position behind a small house at the end of
the street that separated us from Cobb's brigade where we fought until night and put an end to the battle.
About the middle of the afternoon our ammunition was exhausted. Col. Harriss ordered Company G from the
line of battle to rescue. They responded promptly but at the cost of about one third of its number
(Company G was the Highland Boys of Robeson County). They freely divided ammunition with Company E and F,
but it was only a short while until this was spent. The
on was grace and no one, whose duty it was to render
knew of our peril. Something had to be done. Col. Harriss as
. (Capt James S. Evans) if I
had a man who would undertake to carry a message to the ordinance Sergeant, who was in a ravine on the
left of the regiment some two hundred miles (?) distant (Perhaps 'miles' should be yards?). The
undertaking of this seemed certain death so I called for a volunteer; immediately Sergeants Hector Strickland
and Daniel Bain offered their services, Sergeant Strickland being nearest the Colonel was told to go.
That you may understand the hazard-ness of the undertaking of this brave man, the situation was this:
The enemy was in full line of battle, about two hundred yards distant protected by the formation of the
land. The space between the two lines was perfectly open, and the house fairly swarmed with sharpshooters.
The only route by which to reach the goal was by the line of the regiment. This the Sergeant Strickland
took at a run. Immediately a murderous fire was opened on him and the air seemed blue with lead. When
about half the distance had been covered, a speck of dust was seen to rise from his shoulder and he
went headlong to the ground; in an instant he was on his feet again speeding on, a great cheer greeted him
as he recovered his feet, a few moments more suspense and he was safe behind the hill. Ammunition was
passed from man to man along the line and we were ready to set the charge of the famous Irish Brigade.
When the battle was over there was not a gun in the Company into which a ball could be inserted more
than eight or ten inches. The Plough Boys expended in this battle about 120 rounds of ammunition to
each man. The wound received by Sergeant Strickland proved quite serious and caused his absence from
the Company for several months. The historian at the 24th regiment in Clark's Regimental History says
that the 24th Regiment fought on the celebrated Mary's Heights. This is an error. The three Companies
E, F and G were the only companies nearer than 200 yards of these heights and they were 100 feet away
all day taking position behind this small frame house to load and having to go into the street to fire.
Practically all the protection this house gave was to screen us from the shpar-shooters. It was literally
riddled by shot and
I mention this because I wish it to be known that we had no other protection as
did Cobb's men; here again the Plough Boys were called on to mourn the loss of a number of good men.
After this great battle late in December or early in January we were sent to North Carolina for the
Winter. Quite a number of the men were granted furlough to visit their house. The year of 1863 was
spent in running up and down the railroad from Richmond, Va. to Wilmington, N. C. protecting Richmond
and the line of railroad from sudden attacks from the enemy. During the summer we were engaged with the
enemy in quite a number of minor affairs, the most important of which was between Kinston and New Bern, N. C.
and at Bottom Bridge below Richmond Va. We had been on a long raid as far as South Mills, N. C. when we
killed and captured a few blue coats and on our return we learned of these Negro troops at Suffolk.
We came in contact with them in the streets of the town. In their retreat a number of them took refuge
in a house. The burning of the house caused the only ones living to come out. Here our Historian of the
24th Regiment is again in error. He credits Captain Durham with burning the house when in fact the Captain
of Company F ordered the house fired. The suggestion to fire the house came from some man in Company F
(I regret not being able to call his name). At the suggestion the Captain ordered the torch applied which
nearly cost him his life. A Negro trooper hearing the order gave fire on him from a window not ten feet away.
The campaign in North Carolina in 1864 open by an effort on our part to clear the eastern section of
the state of the enemy. The first place to engage our attention was Plymouth, a small town on the
Chowan river. This place was found to be well fortified with several forts connected by heavy earthworks.
The Brigade was assigned the task of storming the town. The attack was made from the east at dawn on
April 20th, and 3was over an open field three fourths of a mile. Company F and "The Plough Boys" covered
this public road. The fire from the enemy's heavy guns lighted up the Heavens so that the works of the
enemy, flags flying and smoke rolling with the town in the background formed the grandest picture it
ever beheld. Our line of battle struck the enemy's very evenly, there being no obstruction
, Company F
passed between the two forts on the right meanwhile the troops on either side of us were confronted by
deep ditches and heavy earthworks. The fact of Company F entering the town first was by reason of their
position in the line; we first gave our attention to the enemy on the left. When they were cleaned out
my attention was called by Lieut. Duffy of Company L to the fact that the first fort on our right had
not surrendered and was firing on us, we then turned our attention to this fort which in a few minutes
surrendered to Col. Jones of the 35th N. C. Regiment. A great many claims have been made as to who the
first man to enter the town was; this distinction, if distinction at all, should be accorded to the
gallant Captain Durham who was in command of the skirmish line. When we arrived a few paces of the
enemy's line Captain Durham jumped out of a ditch in from of the fort directly in from of Company F and
with his hat in one hand and his sword in the other raised over his head he called by name and said,
"Come on". This is why I know Captain Durham was the first man to enter the town from our part of the line.
After the surrender of this fort the lines were reformed and we continued to push the enemy back through
the town by reason of the fact that Company F was directly in the street. The formation of this company
was kept more intact than those on either side of us who had to pass around houses, yards, fences, etc.
On east side of the town we captured a fortified camp. Very soon the last fort was surrendered and the
town was ours. Company F again lost quite a number in killed and wounded. Among the killed was third
Lieutenant D. M. Johnson. After a few days rest we moved on to New Bern and invaded at town, but before
anything was accomplished we were hurriedly sent to Virginia to meet Butler's attack on Richmond and
Petersburg, where after three days fighting Butler was bottled up in Bermuda Hundreds; for the next
twenty days we were almost continually in skirmishes with the enemy. On the fifteenth day of June we
met Grant's attack on the city of Petersburg and the next morning we awoke to find that the enemy had
penetrated our line somewhere on the left and were fast placing themselves between us and the city.
effort to hold the line, Jajor Love in command of the regiment
. Lieut. Gainey of Company F to take
part of the company into
. with instructions to hold the enemy in check as long as possible. This
the brave Lieutenant did, but held too long and lost as prisoners some twelve or fifteen members of the
company. These were the first men of this company ever captured.
For the next three succeeding days the fighting was desperate. The last days battle resulted in the
establishing the permanent line occupied by General Lee's army in defense of the city. In the opening
of the campaign of 1864 Company F, the Plough Boys, had been recruited to its normal strength, but in
sixty days the arduous duties resultant of heavy fighting and hard march reduced the company in number
to less than a dozen men. Sergeant Strickland had been promoted to 3rd Lieut. and Corp. N. C. Thaggard
had gone up to orderly sergeant. Shortly after establishing this line Lieut. Gainey of this Company while
in command of a company on extra duty was severely wounded and the company was deprived of the services
of a fine officer for quite a while. The commander of the Brigade spoke in hightest terms of Lieut.
Gainey on this occasion The nine months following covered the period of the siege of Petersburg not
withstanding the arduous duties the company within the next thirty days began to grow in number again
on account of the return to ranks of the wounded and sick having quite a number of conscripts assigned to us.
The next thing out of the ordinary was the springing of Grant's line, which was but a short distance
to our right. Company F took an importance in this re-capture of our line, being assigned to duty in
a fort for the purpose of keeping down the enemy's sharpshooters. The Captain of the battery thanked
the Company for the splendid manner in which they performed this duty. We then continued our usual duty
along the line until August 19th. The Regiment under the command of the Captain of Company F was taken
out of the line and sent eight or ten miles out on the Weldon railroad. The next morning Company F under
the command of Lieut. J. A. McAlister, bore its part gallantly in the capture of a strong line of works
of the enemy, again losing a lot of good men. That night we returned to our usual position in the line of
defense on the east of the city. A very bitter winter followed; the thermometer of
. zero and below, the
Company was thinly clad and suffered
. On the 25th of March 1865 Company F participated in wounding and
capturing Grant's line at Hares Hillin front of
burg. Then it was determined to retreat from this line
Maj. Love then in command of the Regiment ordered me to tak my Company back to our original place in the
line passing through one of the captured forts a little to our right and near the open ground over which
we had to pass to reach our old line was swept by cannons and small arms from three directions. For fear
some of the men might be left in this fort the lieutenants of the Company were ordered to remain in the
fort until every man had left. The command had been given for every man to make for our lines as fast as
possible. After rescuing our works, I ordered the men into line and seeing only a corporal's guard realized
that the splendid old company was no more. We had left three fourths of our fine men on the field. Events
followed so rapidly and the was ended so soon that I never knew whether or not any of Company E were captured
on that occasion, but as lieutenants declare that they saw every man in the fort before they left the fort
themselves. It seemed almost certain that the missing were all killed or wounded. We went to the right of
Lee's line fighting day after day.
On the morning of the 1st of April while the right wing of our enemy was falling back from Dinwiddie
Court House, the remnant of our Regiment, Company F among them, acted as rear guard covering the retreat.
There were 140 men in line. Sheridan's calvary who were pursuing us in great swarms, attempted to ride us
down, but the accurate fire and steadiness of the men repulsed every attack. We then moved back and took
position where the line of battle was formed only to be enveloped and captured. I am pround to say that
the moral of the Company was a good as it ever was and there was as much fight in the remnant of eight
or ten men of the old company as at any time during the war.
Thus was brought to a close the career of "The Cumberland Plough Boys", than whom no finer organization
of soldiers entered the service of the Confederacy. Space will not permit me to go into details and say
nice things of the different members of the Company as they deserve: how Green Averitt, the smallest most
[frail] looking man in the Company, never missed a battle, or failed to be present at the end of the
hardest march; or how John Melvin, while laying on the ground resting, while on a long march, or
while leaning on a tree would give us his opinion of "Abe" Lincoln in language such as he never learned at
Old Cedar Creek Church.
In publishing this condensed and imperfect history of the old Company, I am discharging a duty I owe to
the survivors and the families of those who have passed away. The support given by the officers, and the
consideration by the men was all that any commander could ask and could get from only the highest type
of soldier. Not one man of the Company ever received harsh or degrading punishment.
Adieu, old boys
"May we meet on the other side of the river".
(Signed) Jas. S. Evans, Captain Company F
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