North Carolina Civil War History

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North Carolina in the American Civil War

North Carolina Civil War History


North Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that participated in the American Revolution and it was admitted to the Union as the 12th U.S. State on November 21, 1789.

England was the primary European nation to settle the area, starting with a charter in 1584. Sir Walter Raleigh began two small settlements in the late 1580s, but they failed. Some mystery remains as to what happened to the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke Island, but most historians think they starved to death.

In 1629, King Charles I of England "erected into a province" all the land from Albemarle Sound on the north to the St. John's River on the south, which he directed should be called Carolina. The word Carolina is from the word Carolus, the Latin form of Charles. When Carolina was divided in 1710, the southern part was referred to as South Carolina and the northern or older settlement, North Carolina. From this came the appellation of "Old North State."

Province of Carolina Map
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Carolina Colony Map

Historically documented tribes in the North Carolina region included the Carolina Algonquian-speaking tribes of the coastal areas, such as the Chowanoke, Roanoke, Pamlico, Machapunga, Coree, Cape Fear Indians, and others, who were the first encountered by the English; Iroquoian-speaking Meherrin, Cherokee and Tuscarora of the interior; and Southeastern Siouan tribes, such as the Cheraw, Waxhaw, Saponi, Waccamaw, and Catawba.

The Province of Carolina (1629-1712) was an English and later British colony of North America. Sir Robert Heath, attorney-general of King Charles I of England, was granted the Cape Fear region of America, incorporated as the Province of Carolina, in 1629. Heath desired the land for French Huguenots, but when Charles restricted use of the land to members of the Church of England, Heath assigned his grant to George, Lord Berkeley.

The charter was unrealized and ruled invalid, and a new charter was issued to a group of eight English noblemen, the Lords Proprietors, on March 24, 1663. Led informally by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, the Province of Carolina was controlled from 1663 to 1729 by these lords and their heirs.

In 1691, dissent over the governance of the province led to the appointment of a deputy governor to administer the northern half of Carolina.

The Province of North Carolina (1712-1729) (also known variously as the North Carolina Colony, and sometimes as the Royal Colony of North Carolina) was originally part of the Province of Carolina in British America, which was chartered by eight Lords Proprietor. The province later became the U.S. states of North Carolina and Tennessee, and parts of the province combined with other territory to form the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

The division between the northern and southern governments became complete in 1712, but both colonies remained in the hands of the same group of proprietors. A rebellion against the proprietors broke out in 1719 which led to the appointment of a royal governor for South Carolina in 1720. After nearly a decade in which the British government sought to locate and buy out the proprietors, both North and South Carolina became royal colonies (aka crown colonies) in 1729. While the Carolinas remained royal colonies beginning in 1729, both declared their formal Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776 and subsequently received statehood in the United States.

During Colonial times, Edenton served as the state capital, beginning in 1722, and New Bern was selected as the capital in 1766. Tryon Palace, which served as the residence and offices of the provincial governor, William Tryon, began in 1767 and was completed in 1771. In 1788 Raleigh was chosen as the site of the new capital, as its central location protected it from attacks from the coast. Officially established in 1792 as both county seat and state capital, the city was named for Sir Walter Raleigh, sponsor of Roanoke, the "lost colony" on Roanoke Island.

The region’s growth was strong in the middle of the 18th century, as the economy attracted Scotch-Irish, Quaker, English and German immigrants. North Carolina was a rural state and, after 1800, cotton and tobacco became important export crops. The eastern half of the state, especially the Tidewater, developed a slave society based on a plantation system and slave labor. Many free people of color migrated to the frontier along with their European-American neighbors, where the social system was looser. By 1810, nearly 3 percent of the free population was free people of color, who numbered slightly more than 10,000. The western areas were dominated by white families who operated small subsistence farms. In the early national period, the state became a center of Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democracy with a strong Whig presence, especially in the West. The rights of free blacks were reduced in 1835 after Nat Turner's slave rebellion in 1831, and the legislature withdrew their right to vote.

On May 20, 1861, North Carolina was the last of the Confederate states to declare secession from the Union, 13 days after the Tennessee legislature voted for secession.

Map of Civil War Battlefields in North Carolina
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Map of Civil War Battles in North Carolina

(About) Map of the Civil War Battles and Operations in North Carolina. Early in the Civil War, the coastline of North Carolina was under a Union blockade while its ports and forts were subjected to a continuous assault from both Union navy and army forces. In merely 18 months, with the exception of Wilmington and Fort Fisher, the Federals had swept aside the Confederate mosquito fleet and scant land forces to capture every major fortress on the North Carolina barrier islands as well as the intracoastal ports and the masonry and earthen forts overlooking the Pamlico, Currituck, and Albemarle sounds.


During the American Civil War (1861-1865), North Carolina provided at least 125,000 soldiers to the Confederacy, and the Tar Heel State recruited more soldiers than any other Southern state. North Carolina soldiers, known as Tar Heels, participated in every major battle and campaign in the war's Eastern Theater. Although more than 620,000 died in the Civil War and approximately 40,000 were North Carolinians, the greatest loss sustained by any regiment (North or South) during the conflict was the 26th North Carolina Infantry at Gettysburg. The 26th had sent more than 800 men into action at Gettysburg and more than eighty percent were disabled. (See Total Union and Confederate Civil War Killed and Mortally Wounded, with Casualty Numbers for Each Northern and Southern State: North Carolina Emphasis.)

During the Civil War, North Carolina, compared to any other Southern state, suffered the greatest loss of life, the most casualties. As a result, during Reconstruction, the State was devastated. The population of widows and orphans boomed across the State, and the principal relief and assistance was to “pick oneself up, keep on going, and work, work, work.” There was, however, very little, if any, assistance for most citizens from the Old North State government. Widows and children now tended the family farm, and, since agriculture dominated the State, boys and girls worked on equal footing with men and women. The wounded, including mentally disabled from the scars of war, were an additional crisis for the State of North Carolina. Subsequently, insane asylums were created across the State. The Tar Heels gradually recovered through the same "grit and stickability of their forefathers." Although according to the 1860 U.S. census the State had a free population of 661,563 and an additional slave population of 331,059, in 1900, however, the Tar Heel State had nearly doubled with a total population of 1,893,810—including 624,469 free blacks. The State had finally recovered from the war that had torn her asunder.


In the early years the line between white indentured servants and African laborers was vague, as some Africans also arrived under indenture, before more were transported as slaves.

In total, English indentured servants, who arrived mostly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, comprised the majority of English settlers prior to the Revolution. On the eve of the American Revolution, North Carolina was the fastest-growing British colony in North America. The small family farms of the Piedmont contrasted sharply with the plantation economy of the coastal region, where wealthy planters had established a slave society, growing tobacco and rice with slave labor.

During the antebellum period, North Carolina was an overwhelmingly rural state, even by Southern standards. In 1860 only one North Carolina town, the port city of Wilmington, had a population of more than 10,000. Raleigh, the state capital, had barely more than 5,000 residents.

The majority of white families were "yeoman farmers." They owned their own small farms, and occasionally had a slave or two. Most of their efforts were to build and maintain the farm, and feed their families, with a little surplus sold on the market in order to pay taxes and buy necessities.

Most of North Carolina's slave owners and large plantations were located in the eastern portion of the state. Although North Carolina's plantation system was smaller and less cohesive than those of Virginia, Georgia or South Carolina, there were significant numbers of planters concentrated in the counties around the port cities of Wilmington and Edenton, as well as suburban planters around the cities of Raleigh, Charlotte and Durham. Planters owning large estates wielded significant political and socio-economic power in antebellum North Carolina, placing their interests above those of the generally non-slave holding "yeoman" farmers of western North Carolina.

Map of North Carolina Slavery Percentages
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(Map) 1860 North Carolina Slave Population by County on the Eve of Civil War

Slaveholding was slightly less concentrated than in some Southern states, and, according to the 1860 U.S. census, more than 330,000 of the State's 992,622  individuals were enslaved African-Americans. Although one-third of North Carolina's total population consisted of slaves, the mountain region, known as western North Carolina, comprised only 11.3% of the region's total population. (See Western North Carolina, Slavery, and Civil War.)

The slaves lived and worked chiefly on plantations in the eastern Tidewater. In addition, 30,463 free people of color lived in the state. Most were descended from free African Americans who had migrated along with neighbors from Virginia during the eighteenth century. They were also concentrated in the eastern coastal plain, especially at port cities such as Wilmington and New Bern where they had access to a variety of jobs. Free African Americans were allowed to vote until 1835, when the state rescinded their suffrage.


"In the agitation that pervaded the South previous to secession, North Carolina preserved its usual conservative calmness of action." 

The people of North Carolina, although profoundly stirred and keenly alive to the gravity of the impending crisis, were loath to leave the Union cemented by the blood of their fathers. That retrospectiveness which has always been one of their marked characteristics, did not desert them then. Even after seven of her sister States had adopted ordinances of secession, "her people solemnly declared" — by the election of the 28th of February, 1861,— "that they desired no convention even to consider the propriety of secession."

But after the newly-elected President's Springfield speech, after the widespread belief that the Federal government had attempted to reinforce Fort Sumter in the face of a promise to evacuate it, and especially after President Lincoln's requisition on the governor to furnish troops (Governor John Willis Ellis: A Reply to President Lincoln) for what Governor Magoffin, of Kentucky, called "the wicked purpose of subduing sister Southern States," — a requisition that, Governor Jackson, of Missouri, in a superflux of unlethargic adjectives, denounced as "illegal, unconstitutional, revolutionary, inhuman, diabolical" — there was a rapid change in the feelings of the people of North Carolina. Strong union sentiment was changed to a fixed determination to resist coercion by arms if necessary. So rapid was the movement of public events, and so rapid was the revolution in public sentiment, that "just three months after the State had refused even to consider the question of secession, the majority at the Raleigh convention thought it was the imperative duty of their State to withdraw from the Union." (Southern States Secede: Secession of the South History.)

(Map) Expansion of Slavery in North Carolina
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Map of North Carolina and the Rise and Fall of Slavery


On April 13, 1861, Fort Sumter fell to South Carolina troops, and President Lincoln consequently called for 75,000 troops to coerce and subdue the seceded states. On April 15 the Lincoln administration demanded that North Carolina furnish two regiments for this undertaking. (Lincoln's Call For Troops).

On April 15, North Carolina Governor John Ellis promptly replied by telegram to President Abraham Lincoln and stated that "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 a violation of the Constitution, and as a gross usurption 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."

Zebulon Vance arrived in Washington at the age 28 and was the youngest member of Congress and one of the strongest Southern supporters of the Union. In March of 1861, however, when indications reflected that the North Carolina legislature was going to vote for secession, Vance resigned his seat and returned home. Vance was soon elected as North Carolina's governor in 1862 and reelected in 1864. (North Carolina Governors.)

The young Vance was known throughout the Southern states as the "War Governor of the South," not because he was a war hawk, but because of his ability to wisely manage the state even during its most tumultuous hour. Many believed that the most remarkable Vance policy was his insistence of the rule of law in the midst of the devastation and confusion of Civil War. Vance had previously commanded the valiant 26th North Carolina Infantry, and Camp Vance was named in his honor.

On May 20th, a day sacred to her citizens in that it marked the eighty-six anniversary of the colonial Declaration of Independence of England, the fateful ordinance that severed relations with the Union was adopted:


We, the people of the State of North Carolina, in Convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, That the ordinance adopted by the State of North Carolina in the Convention of 1789, whereby the Constitution of the United States was ratified and adopted, and also, all acts and parts of acts of the General Assembly, ratifying and adopting amendments to the said Constitution, are hereby repealed, rescinded and abrogated.  

We do further declare and ordain, That the union now subsisting between the State of North Carolina and the other States under the title of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of North Carolina is in the full possession and exercise of all those rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State. [Ratified the 20th day of May, 1861.]

(Map) Date of North Carolina Secession
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Map of Secession and Readmission of North Carolina into the Union

Civil War

According to the 1860 U.S. census, North Carolina had a free population of 661,563 and an additional slave population of 331,059, or 33% of the population.

Because North Carolina, also known as the Tar Heel State, and the Old North State, provided at least 125,000 soldiers to the Confederacy, it had recruited more soldiers than any other Southern state. And as a result of the conflict, the Old North State suffered approximately 40,000 in killed and several thousands more in wounded. Approximately 10,000 white North Carolinians served the Union during the war, while more than 5,000 of the state’s African Americans joined the Federal Army. As in all Northern units, these free blacks and escaped slaves served in segregated regiments led by white officers. A staggering 27% of North Carolina's generals were killed-in-action while leading their troops into the thick of the fight. While the generals led by example, they also died by practicing what they preached: "I shall never request my men to do what I, myself, wound not."

Map of North Carolina Civil War Battles
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Map of North Carolina Civil War Battlefields

The Old North State provided 69 infantry regiments and 4 infantry battalions; 9 cavalry regiments and 9 cavalry battalions; 2 heavy artillery battalions, 4 artillery regiments, 3 light artillery battalions, and 4 light artillery batteries. The state also recruited numerous militia, independent, junior and senior reserve, and home guard units. The average Civil War regiment mustered 1,100 soldiers, however, several North Carolina infantry regiments mustered 1,500 soldiers, while few of the state’s regiments mustered as many as 1,800. And North Carolina's sole legion, Thomas' Legion, fielded more than 2,500 soldiers. Regarding the State's troops, A Guide to Military Organizations and Installations of North Carolina 1861-1865, explains the numerical designations according to branch of service and the nature and character of each unit's organization.

The state's major pitched battles were fought in the coastal and piedmont regions, while western North Carolina (mountain region) was contested primarily by guerrillas, bushwhackers, outliers, and Union and Confederate deserters.

The following major Civil War campaigns, expeditions, operations, and raids were fought on North Carolina soil: Blockade of the Carolina Coast [1861]; Burnside's North Carolina Expedition [1862]; Goldsboro Expedition (aka Foster's Raid) [1862]; Longstreet's Tidewater Operations [1863]; Operations against Plymouth [1864]; Expedition against Fort Fisher  [1864]; Operations against Fort Fisher and Wilmington [1865]; Campaign of the Carolinas [1865]; and Stoneman's Cavalry Raid [1865].

During campaigns, huge numbers of men and large quantities of equipment shifted and maneuvered across the landscape. Most North Carolina soldiers carried a haversack, an oilskin cloth, a blanket, a rifle, a bayonet, cartridges, percussion caps, a cartridge box, a drinking cup, and a canteen. Troops often marched twelve to fifteen miles a day, and seasoned soldiers soon learned to carry only essential items. (The Civil War Soldier.)

During the onset of the initial winter of the war, the state legislature directed General James Green Martin to provide winter clothing, shoes, etc., for the troops. The time was short and it was no small task, but he went about it with his usual energy. He organized a clothing factory in Raleigh, under the leadership of Captain Garrett; every mill in the State was made to furnish every yard of cloth that was possible; Captain A. Myers was sent through North Carolina, South Carolina and as far south as Savannah, Georgia, purchasing everything that was available for clothing the troops. The ladies came nobly to their assistance and furnished blankets, quilts, and whatever they could. Many carpets were torn up, and by the combined efforts of the ladies and the officers, these were lined with cotton and made into quilts. The troops of North Carolina were clothed the first winter of the war, if not exactly according to military regulations, at least in such a manner as to prevent much suffering. After this winter the State was in better condition to supply the wants of the troops. 

Regarding the preparing, organizing, and mobilizing of North Carolina for the Civil War: "The man [James Green Martin] thus trusted was a one-armed veteran of the Mexican war, a rigid disciplinarian, thoroughly trained in office work, and not only systematic but original in his plans. The State has never fully appreciated, perhaps never known, the importance of the work done for it by this undemonstrative, thoroughly efficient officer." Words of Daniel Harvey Hill, Jr., author of Confederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865.

Map of North Carolina Civil War Battlefields
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High Resolution Terrain Map of North Carolina Civil War Battles

The United States Arsenal at Fayetteville was also enlarged and machinery that had been removed from the captured U.S. armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), was installed there. This manufacturing complex became the second-largest source (after Richmond) of domestically produced arms in the Confederacy. In addition, there were rifle-manufacturing sites in Asheville and Guilford County. A large bayonet factory was established in Raleigh, and in Kenansville a private concern made swords, bayonets, and other war-related goods. North Carolina's entire textile production during the war was used for uniforms and other military supplies.

Early in the war, "General Robert E. Lee was fearful that General Ambrose Burnside would find out the defenseless condition of North Carolina and move forward. Every night General Lee telegraphed: 'Any movement of the enemy in your front to-day?'"

At the close of 1862, only two regiments of infantry were left in North Carolina, the Fiftieth and Fifty-first, and the Union forces on the coast could, had they been apprised of the heavy movement of troops, "have swept without opposition over all the State. A people less brave and less patriotic would never have consented to incur such a risk with so strong an enemy at its doors. The governor exposed his own capital to save that of the Confederacy." At the close of the Civil War, consequently, North Carolina had "forty regiments in Virginia."

In January of 1863, the troops of North Carolina were disposed, so far as the records show, as follows: Thirty-two regiments and one battalion of infantry; two regiments of cavalry and three battalions were with General Robert E. Lee; under the command of General Kirby Smith, the Fifty-eighth, Colonel Palmer, the Sixty-fourth, Colonel Allen, and Fifth Cavalry Battalion, Captain S. W. English, were stationed at Big Creek gap, Tennessee; the Sixty-second regiment, Colonel Love, was guarding bridges near Knoxville; the Seventh Cavalry Battalion was in Carter County, TN.; Walker's Cavalry Battalion of Thomas' Legion was in Monroe County, TN.; the Twenty-ninth, Colonel Vance, and the Thirty-ninth, Colonel Coleman, were in General Bragg's army. In North Carolina, General Whiting was in charge of the defenses of Wilmington, with 9,913 officers and men. General S. D. French, in charge of the Department of North Carolina, had his forces stationed as follows: General Pettigrew's brigade at Magnolia; General N. G. Evans' South Carolina brigade at Kinston; General Daniel's brigade, General Davis' brigade, Maj. J. C. Haskell's four batteries, Colonel Bradford's four artillery companies, and Captain J. B. Starr's light battery at Goldsboro; the Forty-second regiment, Colonel George C. Gibbs, and Captain Dabney's heavy battery at Weldon; the Seventeenth regiment, Colonel W. F. Martin, at Hamilton; General B. H. Roberson and three regiments of cavalry at Kinston; Thomas' Legion in the mountains. The field returns for January show that the forces scattered over the State aggregated 31,442 men.

High Resolution Map of NC Civil War Battlefields
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High Resolution Map of Principal Civil War Battles Fought in North Carolina

Map of Major Civil War Battles in North Carolina
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Map with List of Major Civil War Battles in North Carolina

(Map) Fort Fisher was the Guardian of Wilmington
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Map of Fort Fisher and Wilmington North Carolina in Civil War

(About) Map of Cape Fear Defenses. Fort Fisher was an intimidating, formidable defense that was often times referred to by Union commanders as the "Gibraltar of the South." After the Federal's disastrous initial attempt to capture Fort Fisher, it was however successful during its second attack which included a relentless bombardment by the largest naval contingent assembled to date. The vitality of the fort cannot be overstated, because it's port city, Wilmington, hosted the last remaining supply route, via rail, to Lee's forces, which were engaged in siege warfare in the trenches of Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia. Once the fort capitulated, Union forces quickly advanced and captured the Wilmington-Weldon railroad. Lee's troops, consequently, had no logistical support and the days of the renowned Army of Northern Virginia were coming to an end.

The close of 1863 was gloomy enough in eastern North Carolina. Moore thus describes it: "The condition of eastern North Carolina grew hourly more deplorable. Frequent incursions of the enemy resulted in the destruction of property of all kinds. Especially were horses and mules objects of plunder. Pianos and other costly furniture were seized and sent North, while whole regiments of 'bummers' wantonly defaced and ruined the fairest homesteads in eager search for hidden treasure. The 'buffaloes,' in gangs of a dozen men, infested the swamps and made night hideous with their horrid visitations. They and their colored coadjutors, by all manner of inducements, enticed from the farms such of the negro men as were fitted for military duty....To the infinite and undying credit of the colored race, though the woods swarmed with negro men sent back on detailed duty for the purpose of enlisting their comrades in the Federal army, there were less acts of violence toward the helpless old men, women and children than could have been possibly expected under the circumstances."

In an effort to alleviate the state of affairs at the opening of 1864, a force of magnitude was sent to North Carolina. General George Pickett, a well-known soldier of great zeal and valor, with a division of troops, advanced to the State to assist the forces already there.

General Lee said that "if Fort Fisher and Wilmington fell he could not subsist his army," and Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan stated that "A great point would be gained in any event by the effectual destruction of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad." 

On October 25, 1836, construction began on the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad to connect the port city of Wilmington with the state capital of Raleigh. In 1849 the North Carolina Railroad was created by act of the legislature to extend that railroad west to Greensboro, High Point, and Charlotte. During the Civil War the Wilmington-to-Raleigh stretch of the railroad would be vital to the Confederate war effort; supplies shipped into Wilmington would be moved by rail through Raleigh to the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. After Fort Fisher was captured in early 1865, the city of Wilmington soon capitulated, placing the vital Wilmington to Richmond rail line in Union hands, thus denying Lee the ability to resupply his troops in Virginia, and the bloody Civil War would soon come to an end. (Expedition against Fort Fisher and Operations against Fort Fisher and Wilmington.)

In January 1865, after a failed attempt in December 1864, "The U.S. navy department was able to concentrate before Fort Fisher a larger force than had ever before assembled under one command in the history of the American navy—a total of nearly sixty vessels." (North Carolina Coast and the American Civil War: Operations, Campaigns, and Expeditions.)
"All day and all night on the 13th and 14th of January 1865," says Confederate Colonel Lamb, "the Union fleet kept up a ceaseless and terrific bombardment....It was impossible to repair damage at night. No meals could be prepared for the exhausted garrison; the dead could not be buried without new casualties. Fully 200 had been killed during these two days, and only three or four of the land guns remained serviceable." But no effort of any importance seems to have been made by the commanding general, Braxton Bragg, to assist the doomed fort.

The Civil War Border States Map and North Carolina
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North Carolina and Sectionalism Map: Northern, Southern, and Border States

“Then the massive land forces approached nearer and nearer by pits and shelter, and Colonel Lamb, along with all the officers and men, fought valiantly for the important fort, and frequently did they signal for the aid they sorely needed.” As a result, General Whiting, a most gallant and noble soldier, and Colonel Lamb, a determined veteran and warrior, were both severely wounded, and 'on the 15th of January, after exhausting every energy, Fort Fisher was surrendered.'" The Federal loss was stated at 1,445, and the Confederate garrison lost approximately 500. Few more gallant defenses against such odds are recorded. General Whiting was also captured and soon died in a Northern prison.
Western North Carolina, meanwhile, spent much of the conflict fighting against Union incursions from neighboring Tennessee, i.e. Stoneman's Cavalry Raid, and against bushwhackers and "Home Yankees," e.g. Captain Goldman Bryson's Union Volunteers, and in late March of 1865, less than three weeks before Lee had surrendered to Grant, North Carolina witnessed that great Battle of Bentonville — the largest battle fought in North Carolina and the last full-scale Confederate offensive — and while the location's Harper House served as a Union field hospital, the Civil War officially concluded on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. (Official Order of Final Surrendering Confederate Forces of the American Civil War.)

Casualties and Fatalities
Killed in Action




Died of Wounds

Died of Wounds

North Carolina     677   13,845 14,522         330        4,821 5,151
Died from Diseases
STATE Officers  Enlisted  Total
North Carolina    541  20,061 20,602
Death Total
KIA  Wounds   Diseases    Total    
14,522        5151    20,602  40,275

Although North Carolina was not the most populated Southern state, it suffered the greatest loss of life of any Confederate state.
Most Civil War era statisticians only stated and applied the word killed if the soldier was killed in action or mortally wounded. Total deaths, on the other hand, included killed in action, mortally wounded, died from disease, died while in prison, deaths other than battle, or deaths from causes other than battle, and often included missing in action. The reader should therefore take note of the application of Total Killed and Total Deaths. The majority of Civil War soldiers, Union and Confederate, died by disease. Hence, disease was the major cause of death during the four year conflict.
Casualties were defined as soldiers who were unaccounted for or unavailable for service. Casualties included killed in action, mortally wounded, wounded, missing, died of disease, died as a prisoner-of-war, died of causes other than battle, captured, and deserted. On the other hand, fatalities only included soldiers who were killed in action, mortally wounded, and died of disease or from other causes. Civil War statisticians had a strict application of the words, killed, died, dead, and deaths. Furthermore, casualties included fatalities, while fatalities did not include all casualties. Casualty has been, by many, erroneously interchanged with fatality. See also Total Civil War killed and dead by category for each Union and Confederate state.

Map of NC Civil War Battles and Battlefields
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High Resolution Map of North Carolina


North Carolina furnished roughly one-sixth of the entire Confederate Army, and at the surrender at Appomattox, one-half of the muskets stacked were from North Carolina. The last charge of the Army of Northern Virginia under Lee was made by North Carolina troops. The Old North State sent at least 125,000 soldiers into combat and more than 40,000 perished, which is roughly 1-in-3 or one-third of North Carolina’s army. North Carolina deaths were more than twice the percentage sustained by the soldiers from any other state. Roughly 6.5% of the total killed during the Civil War hailed from the Tar Heel State. North Carolina soldiers totaled a staggering 22% of all Confederate combat deaths (killed-in-action and mortally wounded). The South lost 25% of its military aged men, however, about 32% of North Carolina's combatants died. For every soldier killed in combat two died from disease. 12.5% of the entire Confederate Army that died from disease hailed from the Old North State. While 33 generals were North Carolinians, 9 were killed in battle (roughly 27% of the state's generals were killed-in-action). Because an estimated  3,500,000 men fought in the Civil War and 620,000 perished, the war accounted for more casualties than all previous U.S. wars combined. (America's combined combat fatalities includes combat statistics and fatalities for all American conflicts and wars). Diseases and Napoleonic Tactics were the major contributing factors for the high casualties during the conflict, and as a result of North Carolina's high casualties, the state suffered many hardships during the aftermath and Reconstruction. Continue to: Civil War and North Carolina Reconstruction and North Carolina: Reconstruction to World War One.


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