BRIEF HISTORY OF THE 27th REGIMENT N. C. TROOPS by Robert E. Stokley
Brief History of the 27th Regiment North Carolina Troops (Infantry) Written by Robert E. Stokley and delivered to a meeting of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, William A. Martin Camp #1521, Elizabeth City, N. C. What became Company F of the 27th was enlisted in Hertford, Perquimans County on May 16, 1861.
On April 15, 1861 the following message was sent to Union Secretary of War Simon Cameron from North Carolina Governor John W. Ellis: “Raleigh, NC, April 15, 1861; Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War: Your dispatch is received and if genuine, which its extraordinary character leads me to doubt, I have to say in reply that I regard the levy of troops made by the administration for the purpose of subjugating the States of the South as in violation of the Constitution and a gross usurpation of power. I can be no party to this wicked violation of the laws of the country, and to this war upon the liberties of a free people. You can get no troops from North Carolina. I will reply more in detail when your call is received my mail. JOHN W. ELLIS, Governor of North Carolina.”
ORGANIZATION AND NEW BERN
Company F enlistment
Designation of 27th Regiment
Training of companies
Consolidation of companies
Defense of New Bern
One month and one day later on May 16, 1861 at Hertford in Perquimans County what became Company F of the 27th Regt NC Troops was enlisted. On May 16, 1861 78 officers and men enlisted and were mustered in. By September 1 the company had grown to 95, 1 not having reported for muster and one transferred to a cavalry unit. Originally called Singletary’s Battalion, the regiment was finally organized on 28 September 1861 for 12 months service and was designated the 27th regiment NC Troops( Infantry). The regiment was composed of one company each from Orange, Guilford, Jones, Perquimans and two companies from Wayne, Pitt, and Lenoir Counties.
On the date the regiment was organized its ten companies were scattered about. Companies A, B, and G were stationed at Fort Macon, C, D, E, H, I, and K were on duty at Camp Gatlin near New Bern and Company F was stationed at Fort Ellis below New Bern where its members were being trained as artillerymen. After the fall of Roanoke Island all of the companies were consolidated at Camp Gatlin where Company F became an infantry company.
The regiment participated in the defense of New Bern in March of 1862. It was on the Confederate left near Fort Thompson with its left anchored on the Neuse River. It was not heavily engaged because most of the action took place on the Confederate right and right center. When the Confederate center gave way, it left the right flank of the 27th exposed and it was ordered to fall back which most of its companies did “in tolerable order”. It suffered 4 killed, 8 wounded, and 42 missing. With the loss of that town, the 27th Regiment fell back to the Kinston area where it was assigned to Gen. Samuel French’s brigade. In April, 1862, the regiment was reorganized “for the war” and Major John R. Cooke was elected Colonel and the regiment was assigned to Robert Ransom’s Brigade.
It remained in the Kinston area until May 31 at which time it was sent to Richmond where it arrived on June 1. Having arrived too late for the Battle at Seven Pines, the Regiment was sent to Drewry’s Bluff where it joined Gen. John G.Walker’s Brigade, then back across the James River on June 26. The regiment saw only limited action during the Seven Days and its losses were only 20 injured.
As General Walker had been promoted to division command in August, on September 1 his old Brigade now under the command of Colonel Van Manning joined the Army of Northern Virginia near Leesburg where Gen. Robert E. Lee was preparing to cross the Potomac into Maryland. The 27th Regiment, in the rear guard, crossed the Potomac into Maryland on 8 September. On September 12, Walker’s Division recrossed the Potomac to support Gen. Stonewall Jackson in his attack on Harper’s Ferry where it was placed atop Loudoun Heights to prevent an escape by the Federals at Harpers Ferry. After the capture of Harper’s Ferry, this division which included the 27th Regt. rejoined the Army of Northern Virginia at Sharpsburg on September 16. The 27th Regiment under the command of Col. John R. Cooke saw extensive action in the area between the Bloody Lane and the Dunker Church.
General Walker observed the attack made by Colonel Cooke’s men in this area and commented. “The 27th North Carolina and 3rd Arkansas obeyed the order to charge in the face of such fire as troops have seldom encountered without running away, and with steadiness and unfaltering gallantry seldom equalled. Battery after battery, regiment after regiment, opened fire on them, hurling a torrent of missles through their ranks, but nothing could arrest there progress, and three times the enemy broke and fled before their impetuious charge.” Losses for the 27th Regiment during the Maryland Campaign were approximately 203 killed and wounded out of the 325 officers and men it had when it entered the battle.
Following the Maryland Campaign Colonel John R. Cooke was promoted to brigade command with the 15th, 27th, 46th and 48th NC Regiments comprising his brigade. On November 19, 1862 Cooke’s Brigade arrived at Fredericksburg, Virginia where it was placed in a supporting position on Marye’s Heights and Willis’ Hill. On December 13, after the first Federal repulse, General Cooke moved the 27th and 46th Regiments down the hill to a position behind the rock wall where these two regiments supported Cobb’s Brigade for the remainder of the battle. Reported losses for the 27th Regiment at Fredericksburg were three killed and 12 wounded.
TO SOUTH CAROLINA AFTER FREDERICKSBURG
Defenses below Charleston
Following Fredericksburg, Cooke’s Brigade, along with the 27th, was ordered to South Carolina where it remained in defensive positions below Charleston at Coosahatchie until April 23, 1863 at which time it was sent to Kinston and then on to Richmond where it arrived on June 8, 1863.
RICHMOND DEFENSES DURING GETTYSBURG
Defenses around Richmond
During the Gettysburg Campaign, Cooke’s Brigade remained in the defenses around Richmond. When the Army of Northern Virginia returned to Virginia after the Gettysburg Campaign, Cooke’s Brigade and the 27th rejoined the ANV and was assigned to Heth’s Division of A. P. Hill’s Corps.
27th rejoins Heth’s Division
Winter along the Rapidan
Cooke’s Brigade rejoined Heth’s Division, A.P. Hill’s Corps on or about October 3, 1863 on a line defending the Rapidan River. On October 14 Heth’s Division came on the field and “without waiting for the rest of his division to come up or pausing to reconnoiter, Hill (Gen. A.P. Hill) ordered an attack; the Brigades of Cooke and William W. Kirkland, unaware that they were heavily outnumbered advanced down an open hill towards Federal troops entrenched behind a railroad embankment. Cooke’s and Kirkland’s Brigades were swept by the murderous fire of three federal divisions, were repulsed with decimating casualties.” Cooke’s and Kirkland’s brigades had engaged three Federal divisions. During the Battle of Bristoe Station the 27th Regiment lost 30 men killed and 108 wounded, and 67 captured for a total of 205. Lee’s comment to Gen. A.P. Hill following the fiasco was “let us bury these poor men and say no more about the matter.” General A. P. Hill stated in his after action report that “In conclusion, I am convinced that I made the attack too hastily…” but went on in a sense to justify his actions by further stating “…and at the same time that a delay of half an hour, and there would have been no enemy to attack. In that event I believe I should equally have blamed myself for not attacking at once.”
The 27th spent the winter on picket duty along the Rapidan and in camp near Orange Court House.
OVERLAND CAMPAIGN- WILDERNESS TO PETERSBURG
Battles to Petersburg
With the start of the Overland Campaign in 1864, the regiment was heavily engaged at the Wilderness. During the May 5-6 battle, the 27th sustained heavy but unreported losses in killed and wounded. Company F of the 27th lost approximately 14 killed and wounded. With the arrival at Petersburg of A.P. Hill’s Corps on June 18, it went into position on the extreme right of the line which was extended to the Petersburg & Weldon Railroad. Following the attack at Reams Station, in which the 27th Regiment participated, an officer who served in the 27th stated the strength of the Regiment had been reduced to approximately 70 men. The regiment was engaged in minor engagements during the seige and during February 5-7 was engaged at Hatcher’s Run on General Lee’s extreme right line at Petersburg.
RETREAT TO APPOMATTOX AND SURRENDER
From Petersburg to Appomottox
The 27th Regiment endured the hardships of the Petersburg trenches until the evening of April 2 when during the final Union assault on the Petersburg defenses, the Army of Northern Virginia began to withdraw. Cut off for two days, Cooke’s Brigade finally rejoined the main ANV force on 4 April, 1865. When General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, 117 members of the 27th NC Regiment were on hand to receive paroles.
COMPANY F TO NORTH CAROLINA AND SURRENDER
Cpl. Joseph Mullen’s diary
To Western NC
Activities in Western NC
Surrender with Johnston
The story of the 27th regiment does not end at Appomattox. According the the diary written by Cpl. Joseph Mullen, Jr., of Perquimans County, Company F of the 27th Regiment left the Petersburg trenches on February 27, 1865 and was detailed to Western North Carolina to hunt deserters. This company arrived at High Point, NC on March 2, 1865 . One excerpt from his diary and the activities of Company F was dated April 3, 1865 just outside of Thomasville: “Late in the evening we moved camp just outside of town. Overman and myself obtained leave to go out in the country foraging. We went about a mile and a half and stopped at a house, the landlady of which was a very fine lady. She would have us wait until tea. We told her we were out hunting something good to eat and asked her if she could tell us where to go. She told us that there was a Quaker who lived only about a half mile distant. This old man did not like rebels and consequently she did not think we would make much by going to see him. But an old Soldier is hard to fool. We concluded we would go over and play off deserter upon him. The route was quite a rough one over hills and rocks and across the creek, but we soon found his house–went to the door and knocked. He came out in his night clothes. We told him our business. He told us he had nothing cooked but would tell us where we could get anything we wanted not more than 1/4 mile from his house. We insisted on his going over with us , which he finally consented to do. He took us over to a free Negroe’s. (This Negro I suppose was a kind of commissary for deserters.) Here I got half a ham, 1/2 gallon syrup, some bread, some egge, and some as good cakes as I had eaten in some time. During his conversations he told us he had a deserter in his house. After we had gotten what we wanted for which he would not take anything, we bid him adieu. He insisted upon our calling again if we stayed in that neighborhood many days. We now started for camp, so full of laugh we could hardly hold it in. We had proved what this quaker would do. But there yet remained something to be done. It was now around 1o o’clock and camp was about two miles off, but we soon got there, and I went to the Captain commanding the detachment and told him all that had happened and told him if he would give me a detail of 12 good men I would go back and get the deserted and it might be that I would get one or two more, as this old man told us the country was full of them, and it was not anything for him to be called up at midnight for the same thing we called him up. The Captain readily consented and we started back. It was now about 11 o’clock at night. We went back, surrounded the house, searched it and found our prize who was a Cavalryman from Wheeler’s command. We took him and his horse and then went to the Negroe’s house and searched it. Here we got a fine silver mounted rifle which we also took to camp. We arrived at Camp with our prisoner about 2 o’clock. Then I lay down and slept until day. Corporal Mullen’s last entry is dated April 16 at Greensboro. Company F remained in this part of North Carolina rounding up deserters until its surrender as part of Gen. Joe Johnston’s Army of Tennessee on 26 April 1865. Records indicate 12 enlisted and one officer of Company F were paroled at or near Greensboro, NC on or about May 1, 1865 ending the final chapter in the history of the 27th Regiment NC Troops. Including Appomattox, only about 130 members of the 27th Regiment NC Troops were on hand to receive paroles at the end of the war. Back on September 1, 1861, Company F alone had 95 members on its roster, only about 35 less than the entire regiment had at the end of the war.
2LT WILLIAM A. WILSON
My Great-Great Grandfather William A. Wilson of Perquimans County was a member of Company F during the entire course of the war. He enlisted at Hertford, NC on 16 May 1861, mustered in as a Corporal and was promoted to Sergeant on 15 November 1861. As a result of there being no officers left after the Battle at Reams Station, he was elected 2nd Lieutenant On September 1, 1864 at which time he commanded the Company until the end of the war. Company F was sent on detached service to North Carolina in March-April to hunt deserters. He was paroled at Greensboro on May 1, 1865. He returned to Perquimans County and farmed until about the mid-1880s at which time he moved to Norfolk, Virginia. On September 29, 1887, he applied for membership in the Pickett-Buchanan Camp of Confederate Veterans of Norfolk, Virginia. On his application he stated that he had taken an active part in the Battles of New Bern, Richmond (the Seven Days Fight), Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Bristoe Station, 2nd Wilderness, Spotslyvania Court House, Minor Battles to Petersburg, Reams Station and Hatcher’s Run. He stated also that in March-April, 1865, He was in Western North Carolina hunting deserters. On 25th of October, he was elected a member of the Pickett-Buchanan Camp. He died in 1891 in Norfolk. Unfortunately his place of burial remains a mystery.
Jordan: North Carolina Troops: 1861-1865
a. response from Gov. John W. Ellis to Simon Cameron, 15 April, 1861
b. Report of Lieut. General Ambrose P. Hill on the Battle of Bristoe Station, 26 October 1863
Diary of Joseph Mullen, Jr., Perquimans County, NC (Museum of the Confederacy)
Confederate Army Records (National Archives) of William A.Wilson, Perquimans Co., NC
Application of William A. Wilson to Pickett-Buchanan Camp of Confederate Veterans, Norfolk, VA.
Compendium of the Confederate Armies: North Carolina, Stewart Sifakis, 1992
Maps from Civil War Preservation Trust:
a. Battle of Bristoe Station, Virginia, 14 October 1863
b. Battle of Antietam, Maryland, 17 September 1862
c. Hatcher’s Run, Virginia 5 February 1865
d. Reams Station, Virginia, 25 August, 1864
Written and contributed by Bob Stokley