Hoke’s Brigade at Batchelor’s Creek

In a recent blog I asked: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could ask some of the long gone veterans of the 6th North Carolina State troops what they did during specific battles?

I’m still waiting to hear from someone in the 6th North Carolina (Hint Hint Major York…) but I was surprised to “hear” from a soldier in the 43rd N.C. who was a participant and offered his first hand account to the Feb 23. 1864 “The Western Democrat”  newspaper in Charlotte, N. C. I “stumbled” across this article today when looking for something completely different. Odd…Did I really stumble across this or was it put in my path to trip over…Hmmmm.

Anyway, you can read it for yourself below, but fast forward to the last paragraph where he says:  “The other regiments of this brigade acted their parts nobly, but weren’t called upon as those four battalions mentioned above” . I take this to mean that the 6th NCST was there, but not actively engaged…which is what I had assumed, but now have a confirmation from someone who was there …Thanks “D”.

The_Charlotte_Democrat_Tue__Feb_23__1864_

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Soldier Letter from Batchelor’s Creek

John Walker to Mother letter dated February 7, 1864
Walker Papers,Duke University Archives
Copyright (C) 2016 Transcribed by Frederick E. Walton February 17, 2016

18640207 letter John Walker to mother-1
Camp near Kinston, N. C. [1]
February the 7th [1864]
Dear Mother,
I seat myself this morning to let you know where I am and where how I am. I am well with the exception of a bad cold and in camp near Kinston, N. C. but how long we will stay here I don’t know. We just got back from Newbern [2] Thursday. We left the Rapidan Va. the 20th Jan and have been marching and roaming about ever since. We left here Saturday the 30th of Jan and marched on Newbern for the purpose of attacking it and taking it by storm. but for some cause or other for not taking the place I don’t know. Our Brigade had a fierce engagement at Jumping River [4], but succeeded in routing them and driving them on into town. Capturing most of them. but lost but two men[5] in our Regt mortally wounded. Our Brigade done all the fighting that was done. It has been reported in camp ever since we left Va.that our Brigade was going to Salisbury. but I think it doubtful myself but we have orders to leave tomorrow. Some say to go up the Road I dont know, whether it is or not, I hope so. We captured on this raid the rise of 400 prisoners 2 pieces of Artillary 40 horses 300 small arms and equipments some few negros an amount of commisary and quartermaster stores clothing &c. [6] I am going to send some things to Mebanesville by Mr. Wilson and you must send after them. don’t send me anything more until I write for them. I will send my coat and pants back because they dont fit at all. I shall write no more this time J. K. W.

Transcribers comment: This note is written on both sides of a scrap of paper. It is written in ink, in a fairly neat and legible hand, although the ink bleeds through the paper. Walker says “I seat myself this morning…” Because of the steady hand and flourishes in the letters, I picture the writer sitting at a table somewhere with the ease to leisurely write, vs sitting around a campfire with a board balanced on his knee.


Footnotes:

1)  John K. Walker was a member of Co. K, 6th North Carolina State Troops, who were members of Hoke’s Brigade. The Compiled Service records show their movements as Follow: “Marched from Raccoon ford to Gordonsville Virginia January 21, 1864. Took the cars at that place January 22 arrived at Garysburg, N. C. January 24 and remained there about six days. Took the cars at that point for Kinston. Marched to Newbern. Participated in the engagement of Bachelors Creek 1st February 1864. returned to Kinston February 4, 1864. Whole distance traveled about 300 miles.”

2) New Bern, North Carolina. The Colonial Capitol of North Carolina that had been under Federal Occupation since the March 1862 Battle of New Bern. The reason Walker was here in 1864 was to recapture this Carolina Port and it’s supplies to support the Army of Northern Va in the upcoming Campaign.

3) Thursday, February 4, 1864

4)  Jumping Run branches off of Bachelors creek and crosses the Neuse road about 2 miles north of the place where Bachelors creek crosses the road. This is approximately where the Federal Outpost would have been located in advance of the Blockhouse protecting the Batchelor’s creek crossing.

5) A search of the 6th North Carolina Roster has been unsuccessful in identifying two mortally wounded soldiers at the time of this battle.

6) General Pickett reported the following in his official report of the incident: “The result may be summed up as follows, viz.: Killed and wounded, about one hundred; captured thirteen officers, two hundred and eighty-four privates, fourteen negroes, two rifle pieces and caissons, three hundred stand of small arms, four ambulances, three wagons, one hundred and three animals, a quantity of clothing and garrison equipage, and two flags.”

 

 

The 6th NCST at Batchelors Creek

Copyright (C) 2016 by Frederick E. Walton

IMG_4871

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could ask some of the long gone veterans of the 6th North Carolina State troops what they did during specific battles? Sure their memories may be a little off, years after the fact. Certainly each soldier’s personal experience would be slightly different. But, if you could ask them, they could tell you exactly what they saw, what they did and where they went, especially if they were ducking Yankee Lead!

Lt Walton and Captain Cheek, 6th NCST Co. I at the 2016 Battle of New Bern Reenactment

There is one place that this information is captured. Directly from the soldiers themselves. In their own words.

At the start of the “Compiled Service records of Confederate soldiers who served in Organizations from the State of North Carolina” (more generally known simply as the CSR’s or Compiled Service records) there is a a section labeled “Unit information”. In the records of the 6th NCST can be found, among other things, a company by company record of their movements during the war. Sometimes it includes casualty figures, but the intention is to show where the Company was when the company muster roll was taken. Sadly the rolls themselves are not readily available, but much if the information has been transcribed to the CSR’s.

The following is an extract of the companies whereabouts during the “engagement” (as they call it) of Bachelor’s Creek between Kinston and New Berne.

You will see that Company by Company recorded almost exactly the same experience, with some minor changes to the wording, but for the sake of completeness they are all included. I noticed several things of note. First, in most cases the Captains are absent, many of them having been gobbled up at Rappahannock Station in November, 1863. We see that in some companies, Lieutenants, and even 2nd Lieutenants are in command. In others it may be down to NCO’s. The men of the Sixth had lost their leadership.

Secondly there is little information about the engagement itself except that they “participated”, although looking at previous muster roll/station CSR cards, this is typical of how they reported. Even at big battles like Gettysburg or Fredericksburg they simply say- “engaged the enemy” or “part of the operations…” Wouldn’t it be nice if they were more specific like saying, “We were the left flank company and came under heavy fire as we attacked the Yankee line” or “As rear Guard, we sat out most of the fight”. It sure would clear up what they actually did during the engagement at Bachelor’s creek.

The Third thing I noticed is there are no casualties mentioned…at all…by any of the 10 companies… Again this is not really the place to report casualties, but looking back at previous cards, they’d often include this information. For Batchelor’s creek, does that mean there were no casualties? In “The Bloody Sixth”, author Iobst mentions that 2 members of the Regiment were mortally wounded. He got this from a letter. Who where they? I manually searched the roster and was unable to find ANY members of the 6th that were mortally wounded at Kinston, Batchelor’s Creek or New Berne.

As frustrating as it is to not know, I can at least share what I do know…from their own words, here is what the officers of the Sixth NCST reported for Batchelor’s Creek.IMG_4876

transcribed from the compiled service records by Frederick Walton, Feb 18, 2016


(Confederate)

CO. ____, 6 Regiment North Carolina Infantry.


Company Muster Roll

Of the organization named above,

For Jan & Feb, 1864,

Shows station of company,
Camp near Kinston

Record of events.
Co. A: Marched from Raccoon ford to Gordonsville Virginia January 21, 1864. Took the cars at that place. January 22 arrived at Garysburg, N. C. January 24 remain there about six days. Took the cars at that point for Kinston;
Marched to Newbern. Participated in the engagement of Bachlors creek 1st February 1864. returned to Kinston February 4, 1864. Whole distance traveled about 300 miles.
J. A. McPherson, Captain

Co B: Marched from Raccoon ford to Gordonsville Virginia January 21, 1864. Took the train at that place. Jan. 22 arrived at Garysburg, N. C. the 24th and remained there about six days. Took the cars at that point for Kinston, N. C.;
Marched from there to Newbern. Took part in the engagement of Bachelors Creek Feb.1,1864 and returned to Kinston February 4, ’64. Whole distance marched about 300 miles.
Geo. R Maynard, Lt. Commanding Co B. 6 N.C.

Co. C: Marched from Raccoon ford Va. to Gordonsville Jany 21-64. Took the cars at that place. Jany 22 arrived at Garysburg 24 remain there six days. and took the trains for Kinston.
Marched from there to the vicinity of Newbern. Took part in the engagement of Bachlors creek Feb1 and returned to this [place] Feb 4/64. Whole distance marched about 300 miles.
W. S. Clinton, Lt. Commanding Co [C]

Co. D: Marched from Raccoon ford to Gordonsville Virginia January 21. Took the cars at the above place. January 22 arrived at Garysburg, N. C. Jany 24th remained there about six days. Took the cars at that point for Kinston. Marched to Newburn. Took part in the engagement Bachlors creek Febry 1st,1864. returned to Kinston February 4, 1864. Whole distance traveled about 300 miles.
J. S. McPherson, Captain

Co. E: Marched from Raccoon ford to Gordonsville January 21 1864. Took the cars at that place. January 22 arrived at Garysburg January 24 remained there about six days. Took the cars at that place for Kinston. Marched to Newburn. Took part in the engagement of Bachlors creek February 1. returned to Kinston February 4. Whole distance traveled about 300 miles.
J. A. McPherson, Captain

Co. F: Marched from Raccoon ford to Gordonsville Virginia January 21-64. Took the cars at that place. Jan 22 arrived at Garysburg 24 remained there six days and took the train for Kinston. Marched from there to the vicinity of Newburn. Took part in the engagement at Bachlors creek Febry 1 and returned to this place Feb 4-64. Whole distance marched about 300 miles.
B. Y. Mebane, Lt. comdg Co.

Co. G: Marched from Raccoon ford to Gordonsville Virginia Januy 21 1864. Took the Train at Gordonsville Jan 22nd arrived at Garysburg, N. C. Jan 24th1864 remained there about six days and took the train from there to Kinston. Marched from Kinston to Newburn. Took part in the engagement at Bachlors creek Febry 1,1864. returned to Kinston Feby 4th 1864. Whole distance traveled about 300 miles.
S. P . Brown, Lt. Comdg Co. G 6 N. C. Troops

Co. H: Marched from Raccoon ford to Gordonsville Jany 21 1864. Took the cars at place Jan 22 arrived at Garysburg 24 remained there about 6 days. Took the train for Kinston, N. C. Marched from thence to Newburn. Took part in the engagement Bachlors creek Febry 1st,1864. return to Kinston, N. C. February 4, 1864. Whole distance Marched about 300 miles.
L. H. Walker Lt. Co. H. 6 N. C.

Co. I: Marched from Raccoon ford to Gordonsville Virginia Jany 21st 1864. Took the cars at that place on the 22 and arrived at Garysburg, N. C. on 24th remained there about six days. Took the cars at that place for Kinston. Marched from Kinston to Newburn. Participated in the engagement Bachlors creek Feby 1/64.Returned to Kinston February 4/64. Whole distance traveled about 300 miles.
D. C. Gunter, Lt. Co. “I” 6 N. C. Troops

Co. K: Marched from Raccoon ford, Va. to Gordonsville Jan 21-64. Took the cars at that place. Jan 22 arrived at Garysburg, N. C. 24 remained there six days. Took the cars at that placefor Kinston, N. C. Marched from there to Newbern. Took part in the engagement Bachelors creek Feb 1,1864. returned to Kinston Feb 4. Whole distance march about 300 miles.
J. S. Vincent Capt, Co. K 6 N. C. T


Members of the 6th NCST at the 2016 Battle of New Bern Reenactment

Since the regimental officers where very general in their description of the part played during the Engagement at Bachelor’s creek, I turned to the Official records and reviewed the reports of General Pickett and General Hoke. Neither mentioned the 6th NCST, but Hoke does mention other regiments in this brigade as taking leading role during the battle. Looking at the following returns and remembering that the 6th NCST was severely impacted during the Gettysburg campaign and the disaster at Rappahannock station in November of 1863, it is not hard to imagine that the understrength regiment would be used in a rear guard or support position, although I can find no records describing their precise role.

Lee Sherrill, Jr. In his book on the 21st North Carolina Infantry devotes and entire, very well documented, chapter on the battle of Batchelor’s Creek. He describes the long standing relationship of the 21st NCT and the 21st Ga. as well as the confidence and longstanding relationship that General Hoke had in these veteran troops. He selected them to cross the creek and flank the enemy blocking his path. He describes Hoke deploying his Brigade on both side of the Dove road in the marshy, Stubby fields that can still be seen today. The 1st Battalion and 43rd NCT were deployed as skirmishers. The 6th NCST is not even given an honorable mention. They were indisputably there, they may have even witnessed the brisk struggle, but their position was not a critical one and their role goes unreported.


The following table, from the CSR shows their strength on the roll as of Decmber 20, 1863, right before this engagement. This would not account for troops that where detailed for other duties or those that fell out during the long March from Virginia or those that were sick from the winter weather or still suffering from injuries from the previous battles. The number clearly demonstrate a regiment below half strength, even when you account for the companies not reporting.

6th North Carolina State Troops Returns as of 20 December 1863

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Extract from General R. F. Hoke’s report filed February 8, 1864 from Camp at Kinston, N. C.

“On Sunday morning, at 6 o’clock, I, with my brigade at the head of the column, proceeded on the Dover road, arresting all persons who saw us, and directed the march, so as to arrive at Stevens’ Ford, a point (10) ten miles from Newbern, and two miles from the outpost of the enemy, after dark, where we encamped without fires until one o’clock Monday morning, the 1st instant, at which time I moved forward, and captured all the outposts, but not without being hailed and fired upon.
I moved down the road with all possible speed, in order to reach Batchelor’s Creek before the bridge could be taken up, but upon reaching the point, found they had been alarmed by the firing of the pickets, and had taken up the bridge.
Here I lost a number of men killed and wounded. The enemy at this point were strongly entrenched, and also had a block-house erected. To avoid the loss of men by storming, I threw some trees across the creek, and crossed two regiments over under command of Colonel Mercer of the Twenty-first Georgia regiment, with orders to move upon their flank and rear, while I would repair the bridge and cross over the remainder of the command. This was soon done, arid we were not long delayed. The enemy, in the meantime, had telegraphed for reinforcements, who were about two miles distant, and arrived in time to form in the field in rear of the creek, artillery and infantry, but we soon drove them before us, and completely routed them. They made my anticipated move, which was to throw troops by cars across the creek on the railroad, and came in our rear. This was what we wanted, and I moved with all possible speed, a distance of six miles, to strike the railroad and capture the train, but the enemy by telegraphic communications were apprised of our move, and returned the train loaded with troops, just five minutes before I reached the road. It was my intention, had I gotten the train, to place my men upon it and go into Newbern.
At this point my brigade was halted to meet any advance of the enemy from the town, while General Clingman was ordered across to the Trent road to prevent the return of the enemy from Deep Gully, and also to take all stragglers, but not knowing the country, he failed to reach the road, which was extremely unfortunate, as during the evening, at different times (500) five hundred infantry and (400) four hundred cavalry, passed into the town panic-stricken, leaving their camps in wild confusion.
After General Corse came up to the railroad, I moved my brigade within a mile to the front of the town, to await the sound of Barton’s guns from the opposite side of Trent river, when, much to my surprise, I saw two trains come into town from Morehead City, which proved clearly that Barton had not reached the point of destination. We remained in front of Newbern all day Tuesday, waiting Barton’s move, when, much to my disappointment, a dispatch was received from him, stating that it was impossible for him to cross the creek. Being junior officer, it does not become me to speak my thoughts of this move. “

Bachelor’s Creek Bibliography:

Barefoot, Daniel W. General Robert F. Hoke, Lee’s Modest Warrior. Winston-Salem, NC: J.F. Blair, 1996. Chapter 6.

Iobst, Richard W. The Bloody Sixth, The Sixth North Carolina Regiment Confederate States of America., Gaithersburg, Md., Olde Soldier Books, Chapter 11, pp 177-180

Sherrill, Lee W. The 21st North Carolina Infantry: A Civil War History, with a Roster of Officers. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015. Chapter 32, “Batchelor’s Creek,” PP 289-303.
Note: Includes drawing of Blockhouse and map of battlefield with some troop positions.

Trotter, William R. Ironclads and Columbiads: The Civil War in North Carolina: The Coast. Winston-Salem, NC: J.F. Blair, 1989. Chapter19, “Pickett does not Charge,” PP 223-231.

Jump to more articles about Batchelors Creek:

Soldier Letter from Batchelor’s Creek

Hoke’s Brigade at Batchelor’s Creek