Company D, 11th North Carolina: Part 2; 1864 – 1865

Posted on Friday, December 13th, 2013

Company D, 11th NC Infantry had eight soldiers paroled at Appomattox.

 

Company D

11th North Carolina Infantry

Part 2:

(1864 and 1865)

 

The 11th North Carolina remained in the Orange Court House area for the winter of 1863-64, a period of time in which the soldiers suffered from lack of supplies. One of the many unhappy riflemen wrote, “I am hungry all the time … I am bare footed … I am not going to stand guard duty bare footed any longer.” In time, a number of hungry Tar Heels gave up on the army’s rations and returned home.

North Carolina’s governor, Zebulon Vance visited the Tar Heel brigade and gave a rousing speech, attempting to halt the regiment’s desertion losses. He observed his soldiers’ deplorable plight and vowed to procure better provisions, as well as obtain new uniforms and equipment.

In Company, D, 1st Lt. Lewis Elias struggled to keep his men fed and outfitted. A few veterans returned to the company, having recovered from their Gettysburg wounds. One noted, “When I returned I found the [company] looking quite different.” Elias’s leaders consisted of one officer, 2nd Lt. James McCorkle, and three sergeants; Joseph M. Clay, John E. Land, and William T. Womack. The company had three corporals and 38 privates.

The regiment moved out of the winter camp on May 4, 1864 and slammed into massive Union forces the next day—the battle of the Wilderness. This fight was immediately followed by nearly a month of continuous conflict as the new Federal general, U. S. Grant tried to bludgeon the Army of Northern Virginia. Company D lost over a quarter of its strength:

Name Rank Remarks
William P. Hawkins

Pvt.

Wounded (left leg), 6/1/64 at Cold Harbor
Daniel L Johnson

Pvt.

Wounded, 6/12/64 at White Oak Swamp
William W. Kincaid

Pvt.

Captured, 5/10/64 at Spotsylvania
Alexander D. Kinney

Pvt.

Captured, 5/30/64 at Cold Harbor
John E. Lane

Sgt.

Killed, 5/5/64 at the Wilderness
E. A. Melton

Pvt.

Wounded (right thigh), 5/5/64 at the Wilderness
John Mosteller

Pvt.

Wounded, 5/5/64 at the Wilderness
Stephen A. Ross

Pvt.

Wounded, 5/5/64 at the Wilderness.Died of wounds, 8/7/64 in Richmond
Absalom Rudisill

Pvt.

Wounded (right hand), 5/6/64 at the Wilderness
H. D. Spain

Pvt.

Wounded, 5/5/64 at the Wilderness

By early July 1864, the men of the 11th North Carolina found themselves south and west of Petersburg. They dug deep entrenchments and huddled within their earthworks’ protection. Fortunately for Lt. Elias’ company a number of his men had been released from Yankee prisons and they joined the formation during this time.

Several brigades in General Henry Heth’s division were assigned the duty of rapid response and these units were required to move out of their positions in the trenches and dash to whatever location their rifles were needed. The 11th North Carolina’s brigade, now commanded by Brig. Gen. William MacRae was one of these formations. During the summer of 1864, Grant’s divisions pushed beyond the Confederate’s positions and the Tar Heels were required to hustle out and attempt to force the Yankees backwards. Fierce fights occurred along at Weldon Rd. Station, Reams Station, Jones Farm, and again along the Weldon Railroad. Lieutenant Elias’ company suffered:

Name Rank Remarks
Thomas W. Benfield

Pvt.

Wounded, 8/21/64 at Weldon Rd.Died of wounds, 9/19/64 in hospital in Richmond
William Causby (Cosby)

Pvt.

Wounded, 8/21/64 at Weldon Rd.
John Morefield

Pvt.

Mortally wounded, 8/25/64 at Reams’ Station. Died of wounds later that day.
William M. Blain

Pvt.

Wounded, 9/30/64 at Jones’ FarmDied of wounds, 10/3/64 at hospital in Petersburg
Abraham Huffman

Pvt.

Killed, 9/30/64 at Jones’ Farm
Marshall Miller

Pvt.

Wounded, 9/30/64 at Jones’ FarmDied of wounds, 10/8/64 in hospital in Richmond
William S. Albright

Pvt.

Wounded (head), 10/1/64 at Jones’ FarmDied of wounds, 10/4/64 at hospital in Richmond
Dan H. Upton

Pvt.

Wounded (left hand), 10/1/64 at Jones’ Farm
Emanuel A. Hennessee

Cpl.

Wounded (forehead),  11/2/64 at Weldon Rd.

In late October, Grant’s forces again pushed westward and the Carolinians were sent to stop their movement. On the morning of October 27, 1864 Lieutenant Elias’ company numbered 41 combat-ready soldiers and another dozen who were detached, or on sick call. They, along with the rest of the men in the 11th NC raced to drive the blue coats back to their trench positions. The two forces collided at a site near Burgess’ Mill.

The Tar Heels surprised the Federals and shattered the infantry before them, driving the Yanks backwards in confusion. The Confederates punched through the Northern line and Brig. Gen. MacRae saw a line of unprotected Union supply wagons not far away. He directed his hungry men to capture the wagon train. The Southerners hustled forward, however quick-thinking Union officers responded and three brigades of blue coats converged on MacRae’s formation, striking them from three sides. The fight was a disaster and large numbers of Tar Heels were not able to escape. The 11th North Carolina suffered nearly 100 captured. Company D’s losses were:

Name Rank Remarks
Andrew J. Abee

Pvt.

Captured, 10/27/64 at Burgess’ Mill
Henry Fair

Pvt.

Captured, 10/27/64 at Burgess’ Mill
Robert N. Johnson

Pvt.

Captured, 10/27/64 at Burgess’ Mill
Joseph Martin

Pvt.

Captured, 10/27/64 at Burgess’ Mill
James G. McCorkle

2nd Lt.

Captured, 10/27/64 at Burgess’ Mill
Absalom Rudisill

Pvt.

Captured, 10/27/64 at Burgess’ Mill

Following this disaster the Tar Heels hunkered down within their trench positions and endured the winter of 1864-65.  Lieutenant Lewis Elias, now the remaining officer in Company D, had 49 men under his command. His second, 1st Sgt. William t. Womack was assisted by four veteran sergeants; Samuel J. Black, William J. Butler, Joseph M. Clay, and Noah W. Jordan. These men struggled to keep the company together as inadequate shelter, poor equipment, scant food rations, and constant Union pressure devastated the Confederate morale.

The Southerners figured the war was lost and no one wanted to throw they lives away. Instead, disheartened men began to drift away. In February, thirteen of Elias’ men vanished, many rejoining delighted relatives at home. Lieutenant Lewis Elias, finally breaking from the strain of trying to hold his unit together, succumbed to the lure of going home. He slipped away, leaving command of the company to 1st Sgt. William T. Womack.

The Tar Heel formation continued to shrink in March 1865. Private James C. Clark died from chronic diarrhea and two more men deserted. Then, on March 25, a Yankee attack forced a Confederate response out in front of the trenches and four more Company D men were lost: Edmund Griffin, Isaiah Mosteller, Robert G. Pearson, and Moulton Williams. Therefore, on the first of April 1865, Company D consisted of just 22 combat effective soldiers, as well as teamster John B. Wadkins, and two men who were sick in hospital beds in Richmond.

The Union assault to break the Confederate lines struck before sunrise on April 22, 1865. First Sergeant William Womack’s thin line was immediately overwhelmed and thirteen men quickly captured:

Name Rank Remarks
George Causby (Cosby)

Pvt.

Captured, 4/2/65 at Petersburg
William P. Hawkins

Pvt.

Captured, 4/2/65 at Petersburg
P. W. Hennessee

Pvt.

Captured, 4/2/65 at Petersburg
Noah W. Jordan

Sgt.

Captured, 4/2/65 at Petersburg
Pleasant McMillon

Pvt.

Captured, 4/2/65 at Petersburg
John Mitchell

Pvt.

Captured, 4/2/65 at Petersburg
John Mosteller

Pvt.

Captured, 4/2/65 at Petersburg
John Pearson

Pvt.

Captured, 4/2/65 at Petersburg
Joseph H. Powell

Pvt.

Captured, 4/2/65 at Petersburg
William P. Powell

Pvt.

Captured, 4/2/65 at Petersburg
Thomas A. Simpson

Pvt.

Captured, 4/2/65 at Petersburg
Rob B. Whisenhunt

Pvt.

Captured, 4/2/65 at Petersburg
John Williams

Pvt.

Captured, 4/2/65 at Petersburg

First Sergeant William Womack gathered his tiny band of survivors together and they joined the flotsam of battered Confederates who drifted northwards towards Sutherland Station to join in a makeshift defense being organized by Gen. Heth’s staff. Womack’s survivors joined with the other remaining 11th North Carolinians under Col. William J. Martin and they helped stave off a quick, Federal attack.

The blue coats regrouped and stuck the Sutherland Station defenses a second time. Company D’s Pvt. John Butler was wounded in the thigh as the Confederate line collapsed and the routed Southerners retreated towards the Appomattox River. Fortunately the Tar Heels were able to find boats and rafts and crossed the Appomattox. Colonel Martin had barely one hundred men under his command; 1st Sgt. William Womack just eight, including the wounded John Butler.

The defeated Southern forces fled capture for the next week, straggling westward toward Appomattox Court House. First Sergeant Womack struggled to keep his band of exhausted and hungry comrades together, and by April 9, 1865, had lost only one more man; Pvt. Alexander Giles who had been captured at Amelia Court House, several days earlier. Then, on April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Grant’s and the war ended for the 11th North Carolina. Company D had eight men sign paroles at Appomattox:

Name Rank Company enrollment date
John M. Butler

Pvt.

2/15/1862
William H. Butler

Sgt.

2/26/1863
Samuel Brittain

Pvt.

2/14/1862
William Causby (Cosby)

Pvt.

3/12/1862
Mitchell Clark

Pvt.

3/17/1862
James Clay

Pvt.

12/1/1864
John B. Wadkins

Pvt.

3/10/1862
William T. Womack

1st Sgt.

2/10/1862

For the rest of the men in Company D who were being held in Union prisoner-of-war camps, they would be released in the next two months. Of the Tar Heels who had been with Lieutenant Lewis Elias to greet the new 1865 year, 22 were imprisoned at the Point Lookout prison in Maryland. All but one eventually signed Oaths of Allegiance and were released to go home. Sadly, Pvt. Pleasant McMillon died of pneumonia on April 23, 1865, making him the last Tar Heel in Company D to die in support of the cause.

Name Rank Oath of Allegiance date
Alexander Giles

Pvt.

6/3/1865
John Mitchell

Pvt.

6/6/1865
William P. Hawkins

Pvt.

6/13/1865
John Mosteller

Pvt.

6/15/1865
John Pearson

Pvt.

6/16/1865
Robert G. Pearson

Pvt.

6/16/1865
Joseph H. Powell

Pvt.

6/16/1865
William P. Powell

Pvt.

6/16/1865
James W. Saulman

Pvt.

6/19/1865
Thomas A. Simpson

Pvt.

6/20/1865
Rob B. Whisenhunt

Pvt.

6/21/1865
John Williams

Pvt.

6/21/1865
Moulton Williams

Pvt.

6/21/1865
Edmund (Alfred) Griffin

Pvt.

6/25/1865
George Causby (Cosby)

Pvt.

6/26/1865
P. W. Hennessee

Pvt.

6/27/1865
Noah W. Jordan

Sgt.

6/28/1865
W. L. Lawmon

Pvt.

6/28/1865
Isaiah Mosteller

Pvt.

6/29/1865
Benjamin Clark

Pvt.

6/30/1865
W. A. Williams

Pvt.

6/30/1865

 

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