North Carolina Civil War Facts

Jan. 21, 2013

• On May 20, 1861, North Carolina became the last state to pass an ordinance of secession. (Tennessee was technically the last state to secede because its ordinance required ratification, which came on June 8.)

• The state chose May 20 for its secession convention because it resonated with the anniversary of the legendary Mecklenburg Resolves of May 20, 1775.

• North Carolina sent 130,000 to 135,000 Confederate troops into battle and had the highest death toll - about 33,500 - of any Southern state.

• More than 1,000 North Carolinians died fighting for the Union. Some were among the 10,000 soldiers serving in four white Union regiments raised in the state. About 5,000 men served in four regiments of U.S. Colored Troops from North Carolina. (A fifth regiment of Colored Troops, raised after the Battle of Bentonville, included soldiers from other states.)

• The war's first amphibious assault occurred Aug. 28-29, 1861, at Hatteras Island, where the Union took Forts Clark and Hatteras.

• The Hatteras Convention, held Nov. 18, 1861, was the first attempt at Civil War reunification. Congress ignored the effort.

• The first known curveball was thrown on Roanoke Island. Alphonse Martin, a 9th New York Zouave, arrived with Gen. Ambrose Burnside in February 1862, and his account of baffling batters in camp ballgames was included in a Collier's Weekly article. Even Candy Cummings, who's widely credited with inventing the pitch in the 1870s, acknowledged Martin as the first player to throw a curve.

• One of the earliest color renderings of a baseball game was based on a drawing from Salisbury Confederate Prison. "Union Prisoners at Salisbury, N.C.," issued as a lithograph in 1863, carries the credit "drawn from nature by Act. Major Otto Boetticher," who was imprisoned for three weeks in 1862. A "Union Prisoners" print sold for $46,400 in a 2005 auction.

• The Wilmington & Weldon was the world's longest railroad when it opened in 1840. It ran 161.5 miles from Wilmington through Goldsboro and Rocky Mount to Weldon in Halifax County. As a vital supply link to Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, it was known as "the lifeline of the Confederacy."

• Wilmington was the last Confederate port where blockade runners could land. The fall of Fort Fisher on Jan. 15, 1865, led to the city's capture and the port's closing on Feb. 22.

• The Union made its first attempt at a new social order with freed slaves on Roanoke Island in 1863, when a "contraband camp" was recognized as a Freedmen's Colony. The Rev. Horace James, who planned and administered the village, also established James City, a Freedman's Colony on the outskirts of New Bern.

• Freedom Hill, an Edgecombe County colony established in 1865 by former slaves, became Princeville, the nation's first town incorporated by African-Americans.

• North Carolina's D.H. Hill led Confederate troops to victory in the war's first major land battle (at Big Bethel in Virginia). Hill, a West Point graduate, was subsequently promoted from colonel to brigadier general.

• The 55th and 26th North Carolina regiments advanced farthest of all Confederate units at Gettysburg. The 26th also suffered the greatest casualty rate: In the three-day battle, 86 percent of the regiment's 800 men were killed, wounded or missing.

• The arsenal at Fayetteville was the Confederacy's second-largest source (after Richmond) of domestically produced arms. Rifles were made in Asheville and Guildford County, bayonets in Raleigh, and swords and bayonets in Kenansville. Potters made storage vessels for the military, and textile production was entirely dedicated to the military effort.

• North Carolina was known for having the Confederacy's best-clad soldiers. The state's textile industry produced flags as well as uniforms, and many soldiers wore "shirts and drawers" made by Randolph County's Cedar Falls Co.

• The war's largest troop surrender, covering 89,270 soldiers, took place April 26, 1865, at a farmhouse in Durham - midway between Gen. William T. Sherman's headquarters in Raleigh and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's camp in Greensboro. Johnston's surrender of the Army of Tennessee followed Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia by 17 days.

• The last full meeting of Jefferson Davis' Cabinet occurred April 26, 1865, in Charlotte. Charlotte is also where Davis learned of Lee's surrender.

• Thomas' Legion of Cherokee Indians and mountaineers claims the last shot of the war east of the Mississippi. The skirmish in question occurred May 6, 1865, at White Sulphur Springs (now Waynesville).

• Among the North Carolina places named for Civil War figures are Vance County and the towns of Zebulon and Vanceboro (for wartime Gov. Zebulon Baird Vance), Lee County for Gen. Robert E. Lee), Pender County (for Gen. William Dorsey Pender), Hoke County (for Gen. Robert F. Hoke) and Fort Bragg (for Gen. Braxton Bragg).

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Margo Metzger
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