Battle of Kinston and 61st North Carolina Infantry

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61st North Carolina Infantry Regiment

Battles Around Kinston, 1862

General Foster reached Southwest creek on the morning of the 13th. About 9 o'clock one company of the regiment had a little skirmish with the enemy at the bridge crossing, with trifling casualties. Lieutenant-Colonel Devane, with seven companies, repaired to Hines' mills, about four miles distant, in double quick, and on arrival promptly deployed the entire force as skirmishers. In a little while the ball opened. To us then the firing seemed to be rapid and terrific. Minie balls whistled through the air by front and cross fires from the enemy as if they had naught else to do. For some time we held our ground, but were forced to fall back by the enemy advancing upon us in overwhelming numbers. We retreated towards Kinston and halted about one mile to the rear. Here we formed a line of battle and a company of skirmishers moved forward to feel for the enemy. They advanced only about a hundred yards when they met with what they were looking for, fired one round and had the compliment promptly acknowledged in a double dose by our line. They retired as best they could, bringing the intelligence that the woods were full of blue coats, and that several regiments were flanking us on our left. Just then we had orders from General Evans to retreat under fire in good order. We did our best. We fired and fell back, and fell back and fired.

Battle of Kinston, Civil War
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NC Civil War Battlefields Map

The next big field not far away we made another stand, taking advantage of the woods on the Kinston side. Here we had a pretty lively artillery duel for about an hour, and an equally lively fusillade from the small arms of the enemy. We quietly laid mighty low and did not return fire, because our guns were inferior and we could not reach them. The day's casualties were very slight. The first to give up his life in this our first battle was Elbert Carpenter, a private in Company D, and he was at once buried on the spot where he fell, royally wrapped in his soldier's blanket.
At about 8 o'clock that night we quietly stole away through swamp, mud and water to Harriet's Chapel. It was a bitter cold night and all the boys were wet, half-frozen, hungry and worn out, and yet no word of complaint was murmured through the lines of these splendid Tar Heel heroes. When we bivouacked we were in hearing of the enemy, and we had no camp fires till past midnight. About daybreak our excellent Commissary, Captain O. P. Meares, gladdened our hearts with an abundant supply of good, wholesome rations, just the thing we were longing for and most needed. We were then upon the battlefield of Kinston on 14 December, 1862--a bright, beautiful Sabbath morning.

Kinston Civil War Battlefield Map
Kinston Civil War Battlefield Map.jpg
High Resolution Map of Kinston and other principal North Carolina Battlefields

General Evans with his South Carolina Brigade on the left, and the Sixty-first North Carolina on his right awaited Foster's attack. Foster sent in Wessell's Brigade and batteries; supporting Wessell by Amory's Brigade, supplemented by Stevenson's. The odds were overwhelmingly against us, and after two and a half hours of stubborn resistance on our part, we were forced back across the Neuse, and were so closely pressed that we unavoidably lost 400 prisoners, all of whom were paroled on the following morning. At one time during the progress of the battle the Sixty-first was compelled to fall back on account of the ammunition being entirely exhausted, and on being ordered back by General Evans, all hands without a murmur promptly obeyed and returned to within 150 yards of the enemy without a solitary cartridge and half of the men without bayonets. A small supply of ammunition soon reached us, which was speedily used to the best advantage, and being entirely out again and with no hopes of a second supply, and being in a forlorn and helpless condition and being crowded so unmercifully close by such a large force of the enemy, the better part of valor was to get away from there if we could, which we did in a quiet, orderly way, or as much so as pressing circumstances permitted. When we reached the bridge it was on fire, and in addition to the trying ordeal of passing over the blazing bridge, we were subjected to a terrible cross-fire from the enemy who were drawn up in line of battle 250 yards below.

Battle of Kinston
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General Foster

Here we lost several of our men and it is truly miraculous that half of them at least were not killed or burned to death. God was with us on this beautiful, lovely Sabbath day.

N. A. Ramsey, Captain, Company D, 61st North Carolina Infantry Regiment
Durham, N.C., 26 April, 1901

Recommended Reading: The Civil War in Coastal North Carolina (175 pages) (North Carolina Division of Archives and History). Description: From the drama of blockade-running to graphic descriptions of battles on the state's islands and sounds, this book portrays the explosive events that took place in North Carolina's coastal region during the Civil War. Topics discussed include the strategic importance of coastal North Carolina, Federal occupation of coastal areas, blockade-running, and the impact of war on civilians along the Tar Heel coast.
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Recommended Reading: Ironclads and Columbiads: The Coast (The Civil War in North Carolina) (456 pages). Description: Ironclads and Columbiads covers some of the most important battles and campaigns in the state. In January 1862, Union forces began in earnest to occupy crucial points on the North Carolina coast. Within six months, Union army and naval forces effectively controlled coastal North Carolina from the Virginia line south to present-day Morehead City. Continued below...
Union setbacks in Virginia, however, led to the withdrawal of many federal soldiers from North Carolina, leaving only enough Union troops to hold a few coastal strongholds—the vital ports and railroad junctions. The South during the Civil War, moreover, hotly contested the North’s ability to maintain its grip on these vital coastal strongholds.


Recommended Reading: Clingman's Brigade in the Confederacy. Description: Renowned historian and author Frances H. Casstevens, Out of the Mouth of Hell: Civil War Prisons and Escapes and Tales from the North And the South, delivers another masterpiece in Clingman's Brigade. "...I felt as though I was part of that brigade; I could graphically see the horror, the hell... the advance into shot and shell!" On November 11, 1862, Brigadier General Thomas Lanier Clingman, despite a lack of formal military training, was named commander of four regiments sent to the eastern counties of North Carolina to prevent Federal troops from making further inroads into the state. Continued below...

Clingman has been called one of North Carolina’s most colorful and controversial statesmen, but his military career received little attention from his contemporaries and has been practically ignored by later historians. Like Clingman, the brigade, composed of the 8th, 31st, 51st, and 61st regiments of North Carolina Infantry, has been both praised and condemned for its performance in battle. Clingman's Brigade is a treasured addition to every Civil War buff's library

Recommended Reading:  Storm over Carolina: The Confederate Navy's Struggle for Eastern North Carolina. Description: The struggle for control of the eastern waters of North Carolina during the War Between the States was a bitter, painful, and sometimes humiliating one for the Confederate navy. No better example exists of the classic adage, "Too little, too late." Burdened by the lack of adequate warships, construction facilities, and even ammunition, the South's naval arm fought bravely and even recklessly to stem the tide of the Federal invasion of North Carolina from the raging Atlantic. Storm Over Carolina is the account of the Southern navy's struggle in North Carolina waters and it is a saga of crushing defeats interspersed with moments of brilliant and even spectacular victories. It is also the story of dogged Southern determination and incredible perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds. Continued below... 

For most of the Civil War, the navigable portions of the Roanoke, Tar, Neuse, Chowan, and Pasquotank rivers were occupied by Federal forces. The Albemarle and Pamlico sounds, as well as most of the coastal towns and counties, were also under Union control. With the building of the river ironclads, the Confederate navy at last could strike a telling blow against the invaders, but they were slowly overtaken by events elsewhere. With the war grinding to a close, the last Confederate vessel in North Carolina waters was destroyed. William T. Sherman was approaching from the south, Wilmington was lost, and the Confederacy reeled as if from a mortal blow. For the Confederate navy, and even more so for the besieged citizens of eastern North Carolina, these were stormy days indeed. Storm Over Carolina describes their story, their struggle, their history.

Recommended Viewing: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns. Review: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns is the most successful public-television miniseries in American history. The 11-hour Civil War didn't just captivate a nation, reteaching to us our history in narrative terms; it actually also invented a new film language taken from its creator. When people describe documentaries using the "Ken Burns approach," its style is understood: voice-over narrators reading letters and documents dramatically and stating the writer's name at their conclusion, fresh live footage of places juxtaposed with still images (photographs, paintings, maps, prints), anecdotal interviews, and romantic musical scores taken from the era he depicts. Continued below...
The Civil War uses all of these devices to evoke atmosphere and resurrect an event that many knew only from stale history books. While Burns is a historian, a researcher, and a documentarian, he's above all a gifted storyteller, and it's his narrative powers that give this chronicle its beauty, overwhelming emotion, and devastating horror. Using the words of old letters, eloquently read by a variety of celebrities, the stories of historians like Shelby Foote and rare, stained photos, Burns allows us not only to relearn and finally understand our history, but also to feel and experience it. "Hailed as a film masterpiece and landmark in historical storytelling." "[S]hould be a requirement for every student."

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