“The Carolina Boys”: Company K, 38th NCT, May-June 1864

Compiled by David Hunter

We have decided to portray a North Carolina infantry company for the “Grant vs. Lee” event in June 1999.  The company we have selected is Company K, 38th Regiment, North Carolina Troops -nicknamed “The Carolina Boys” - which originally came from Cumberland County, NC.  The purpose of this brief essay it to provide some background on this unit, some notes on supply and ordnance issues in  Company K and the Regiment, and some suggestions on preparing a North Carolina infantry impression for this period.

Captain Murdock McLauchlin’s Company, North Carolina Volunteers was raised in the Longstreet Church community of Cumberland County, NC (now part of the Fort Bragg military reservation) and entered state service on 7 Feb 61 as Company K, 38th Regiment of North Carolina Troops.  The 38th NCT was transferred to Confederate service on 1 April 62 and moved to Virginia.   The regiment was assigned to William Dorsey Pender’s Brigade of A.P. Hill’s “Light Division” and would remain part of this organization until the Lee’s surrender in 1865.  (After Pender’s death at Gettysburg, Alfred Scales would assume command of the Brigade.)  As an element of the 38th NCT, “The Carolina Boys” of Company K would remain with the Army of Northern Virginia and fight in every campaign from the Seven Days to Appomattox. 
Overview of 38th NCT Operations, May-June 1864
The Wilderness.  In action as part of Scales’ Brigade near the Chewning house and the Widow Tapp farm, and along Poplar Run south of the Orange Plank Road, where they became separated from the brigade and fought as part of  Lane’s NC brigade.
Spotsylvania. In position along the lower right flank of the Salient.  In support of Lane’s Brigade, Scales’ brigade counterattacked up into the right side of the “Mule Shoe” position during the afternoon of 12 May, then returned to its original position after the battle.  Participated in the movement to contact on 21 May to determine the Federal dispositions.
North Anna Line:  With brigade, engaged Federal V Corps units at Jericho Mills, 23 May.
Cold Harbor.  Participated in Breckinridge’s successful assault on Turkey Hill,  then moved to a position with the brigade on the far right flank of the Confederate line, near the Chickahominy River.  No direct role in repulsing the Federal attacks on 3 June.

Personnel Strength
By the opening of the Battle of the Wilderness, Company K was much reduced from two years of campaigning, and was particularly hard hit, with the remainder of the Regiment, during the first and third days’ combat at Gettysburg.  The Regiment went into winter quarters “near Orange Court House” in November to rest and prepare for the coming Spring campaign.   The company was mustered on 30 April and the surviving muster roll provides a detailed look at the company only days before the Battle of the Wilderness began.  On 30 April 64, Company K had a strength of 2 officers and 43 enlisted men, but could muster only 1 officer and 21 enlisted men present for duty on 30 April.  The remainder were convalescents detailed to hospital service, prisoners of war, sick, or AWOL.  The company was commanded by its only officer present, brevet 2nd Lieutenant John F. McArthur, The company received 9 recruits between 29 February and 30 April 64. Company K would lose 2 killed, 5 wounded (2 mortally), and 1 captured during the battles of May-June 1864. (Source: K/38 NCT Muster and Pay Roll, 29 Feb-30Apr 64)

 Company Strength: 45
 1- 2LT
 1- bvt 2LT
 5 - Sergeants
 2 - Corporals   
 36 - Privates

Present for Duty:  22 
1 Officer (bvt 2LT)
2 Sergeants  (3rd Sgt, 4th  Sgt)
2 Corporals  (1st Cpl, 2nd Cpl)
17 privates  

Absent:  23
Leave  - 2
Sick/hospital  - 1
Hospital Detail - 7 (includes the 1st Sgt)
POW - 8 (includes 1 officer and 1 NCO)
Paroled POW - 2
AWOL – 1
Deserted – 2

 Supply and Ordnance Notes

Although far from complete, we have a fair picture of the supply and ordnance status of the Regiment on the eve of the campaign. Unfortunately, there is no information on the distribution of the weapons and equipment down to the individual companies, but there is some data on the clothing  issues.   For comparison, here is the personnel strength of the 38th NCT on 30 April 1864 (Source: 38th NCT Muster and Pay Rolls, 29 Feb-30Apr 64):

Regiment:   Aggregate: 487 (36 Off/451 EM)      Present for Duty:  295 (21Off/274 EM)

Present for duty by Company
A: 29 (1/28)    D: 30 (3/27)    G: 24 (2/22)    K: 22: (1/21)
B: 31 (1/30)    E: 24 (1/23)    H: 29 (1/29)    Field and Staff: 10 (7/3)
C: 31 (1/30)    F: 34 (2/32)    I: 32  (1/31)

The numbers of men present for duty changed frequently as the sick/wounded returned to duty, others got sick, soldiers returned from extra duties, etc. so the muster roll data is a close approximation of daily strength.  The extra duty men in the regiment, which were not present for duty with the companies, had a variety of assignments, including “Regimental teamster”,  “Division teamster”, “teamster with Col. Baldwin’s trains”,  “Division pioneer”, and several were assigned to Brigade and Division headquarters.  The most common was “detached for hospital service”, which was a means to employ convalescents on light duty…and this probably included a few goldbricks looking for a break from the picket line.

COL Hoke compiled “A List of Casualties in 38th NCT From 5th May to 20th June 1864” in which he listed 128 total losses -11 killed, 68 wounded, and 49 missing.  Some of the wounded would later die and those listed as “missing” were actually prisoners of war.  COL John Ashford, who commanded the Regiment in COL Hoke’s absence during May 1864, assumed command of the regiment in June when Hoke was invalided .  He prepared a report on 30 June showing the ordnance lost/expended from 5 May to 22 June 1864.  The casualty figures and the numbers of items “lost and expended” are close, but clearly do not match.  The balance of the losses would have to come from soldiers present in the ranks with discarded or unserviceable items.

“Ordnance and Ordnance Stores lost and expended in the battles of Wilderness 5”&6” Spotsylvania C.H.
14” &21st , and Noles Station 23d of May -  and Riddles Shops 14th  and Wilcox’s farm 22d June 1864”

Guns Cal .58 152
Ball-screws 46
Bayonets 180
Screw-drivers 52
Cartridge Boxes 149
Wipers 111
Cartridge Box Belts 145
Vises 8
Waist Belts 175
Cones 20
Bayonet Scabbards 223
Gun-wrenches 0
Cap Pouches 160
Tompions 41
Frogs 10
Gun Slings 150
Knapsacks 86
Gun Sling Buckles 10
Haversacks 148
Musket Caps 20,180
Canteens and Straps 22,543

Source:  CSR, COL John Ashford, Cdr 38th NCT, report dated 30 June 1864

Issues of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores to 38th NCT, July 1863 – June 1864
Issued to 38th NCT by LT. G.F. Bason, Bde Ord Officer 

31 Jul 63 28 Aug 63 29 Sep 63 4 June 64 30 June 64 Total
Rifle Musket cal 58, complete 20 9 14

Rifle Muskets cal 58

167 9 176
Rifles cal 58

Smooth Bore Muskets cal 69,complete 15

Smooth Bore Muskets, cal 69 30


Cartridge Boxes 39 35 16 141 8 239
Cartridge Box Belts 34 45 15 139 5 238
Waist Belts 33 41 18 148 10 250
Bayonet Scabbards 38 26 19 159 6 248
Cap Pouches 40 25 18 149 12 234
8 5
2 15
Ball Screws 8 31 6 25
Screw Drivers 8 26 1 18 13 66
Wipers 7 24 1 22 20 74
3 5 56 2 66
Gun Wrenches


Vises-Spring Vises
1 4 2
4 2

Gun Slings


Gun Sling Buckles

39 20 61 10 130
26 12

14 31

Canteens with Straps

26 21 47
Cartridges, cal 58 1,210 1,120 920 20,611 3,829 27,690
Cartridges, cal 69 900 1,430 520

Musket Caps

255 20,800 3,941 24,996

Source: CSR, LT G.F. Bason, Ord Officer, Scales’ Bde;   CSR, COL W.F. Hoke, Cdr, 38 NCT

The lack of any expended Cal..69 ammunition on COL Ashford’s report and the fact that none of that caliber was resupplied in June indicates that the Regiment went into the battles in May and June without the Cal..69 muskets issued after Gettysburg.  There are no ordnance reports or other receipts that provide any information on weapons or equipment at company level, but the Ashford and Bason reports indicate “Guns Cal..58” as the standard weapon in the regiment.

Clothing and Equipment

Company K suffered, with the other companies of the regiment, from a lack of regular supply to replace unserviceable clothing.  The clothing  that was issued was enough to meet the basic requirements, but was not in abundance, as the chart below shows.  The 38th NCT received a supply of clothing between 8 October and 29 November 1863, but not in sufficient quantities to provide new items for all.  Company K received a portion of that issue and obtained some additional clothing between December 1863 and March 1864.  During the 29 February muster, the inspector, a “Lt D. Montgomery” rated the military appearance of the company as “Good, considering the quality & style of the clothing furnished.”  Those present for duty would be those issued clothing while soldiers on leave, in hospital, AWOL, detached service away from the company, etc, probably would not.  The recruits who joined the company in the Feb-April period probably came with government clothing.   For comparison, here is the personnel strength of the company at the required musters during this period:

31 Oct 63 -  31 Dec 63:     Aggregate – 27         Present for Duty- 10        (Clothing rated “Inferior”)
31 Dec 63 - 29 Feb 64:     Aggregate – 36          Present for Duty- 13        (Clothing rated “Fair”)
29 Feb 64 - 30 Apr 64:     Aggregate – 42          Present for Duty- 22        (Clothing rated “Fair”)

If we accept the highest number of enlisted men “present for duty” (21) as a figure for comparison, then the chart shows that each soldier in the company received a basic uniform and shoes (less a few jackets) during the winter, but not all in one issue.  Blankets, caps, and overcoats apparently were in short supply. 

Clothing Issues to Company K, 38th NCT   Oct 63 – Mar 64

Clothing Items 1863
Oct Nov Dec Jan Mar
8 26 28 2 15 19 29 29 8 24 31 31


1 1
6 16


4 3 4 9
6 36
Shirt 1 1 6

6 5
4 27



1 23
2 2

4 4 8 30

9 6
2 22



2 1



Source: CSR, CPT W.R. Edwards AQM, 38 NCT;  CSR, LT John McArthur, K/38 NCT; 38 NCT Muster and Pay Rolls, Field and Staff file

Re-creating the 1864 “Carolina Boys”

As the Tar Heel regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia faced another year on campaign, the North Carolina “home department” struggled to produce the clothing for its soldiers.  The State of North Carolina undertook to provide clothing to its troops in an 1862 arraignment with the CS War Department, which remained in effect throughout the war.  Governor Vance, through the dogged application of “States’ Rights” and strict supervision of the State’s economy, had managed to push supply ahead of demand in early 1864.  Domestic production and the arrival of imports permitted the State to continue to provide the clothing to its troops and establish a reserve.  It is evident from the issues to Company K during the winter of ‘63-’64, that the State was able to meet the basic needs of its soldiers.  This resupply effort did not, however, extend to weapons and equipment.  After issue of these items from State stocks upon the initial organization of a regiment, the State provided very little, if any, individual equipment (blankets are a “clothing” item) and no resupply of weapons or accouterments once the unit entered Confederate service.  The Confederate government provided these items to NC troops as needed, as it did to the troops from the other Confederate States. 

The look we want to portray is that of  veteran North Carolina troops, resupplied during winter 1863-64 by the State and the CS Army.  Obviously, it will not be a homogenous appearance, but should reflect some standardization based on documented issues of clothing and equipment.  This resupply combined with convalescents returning from the hospital with replacement clothing, new recruits into the company, and serviceable items from previous issues created a random pattern of uniformity within the company.  There would be “clusters” of soldiers in the company wearing similar items, such as jackets or trousers, of the same pattern and made from the same type and color of fabric.  This would also apply to other clothing items as well, such as shoes and shirts.  If you and a few messmates with appropriate similar items get together and wear them to the event, we will come close to achieving this appearance.  

With this information in mind, we can create an accurate portrayal of the NC soldier in Spring, 1864 using many of the Confederate items we already have.  Our desire is, as always, to present the most accurate “common issue” appearance we can. But before we continue, a few notes concerning a few things some of us normally like to use…

Civilian Clothing: Generally, avoid the use of civilian items.  Remember that the folks at home in NC were hurting for clothing as much as the soldiers due to Governor Vance’s absolute control of the domestic cloth and yarn supply in the State.  They had little to spare for “Somebody’s Darling” in Virginia.  Also, remember that the area of the winter camps in Virginia was “picked over” by this point in the War and had little to offer in the way of any supplies. Civilian clothing, quilts, coverlets, blankets, overcoats, “homemade” uniforms, etc. would not have been common.

Federal Clothing: Avoid use of captured Federal clothing.  After the Mine Run operations and picketing along the Rappahannock, most items captured in Pennsylvania would have been pretty much worn out and would have been replaced with State or CS clothing by the Spring 1864. 

Drill Manual: Mr. Gilham’s tome is retired for this event…we’ll be using the “revised and improved” Hardee’s Tactics, 1862 NC printing.


Jacket:  Obviously the “NC Depot” type should predominate, chiefly of gray jeans. “Richmond Depot Type II” jackets are acceptable, as some may have been issued to convalescents in Richmond hospitals and some “emergency” issues to those in need.  A few Tait jackets will be allowed, but are discouraged, since the bulk of the small amount of “ready-to-wear” uniforms purchased by the State were apparently still in storage in Raleigh in May 1864.  There is no evidence so far that these items came from the Tait factory, but it seems logical since the State purchased goods through Alexander Collie and Co., who acquired clothing from Peter Tait for the CS QM Department on other contracts.  On the NC issue jackets, buttons may be either “state seal” or “sunburst” patterns; the latter probably more common at this stage of the war. No frock coats, NC or CS sack coats, western depot issue garments or captured Federal items.

Trousers:  “Richmond Depot”, “MacRae”, and “Confederate” patterns are acceptable. Gray jeans preferred, satinette permitted.  (leave that brown jeans to the Yellowhammers).  No Federal Issue trousers. 

Shirt:  “Holliday”, “MacRae” or other Confederate patterns appropriate to ANV in 1864, of the usual fabrics.

Drawers:  flannel or cotton

Shoes:  CS or English import types preferred, Federal issue is acceptable.  Boots on NC infantry soldiers in 1864 were probably very uncommon, so leave them at home for this event. 

Socks:  cotton or wool

Hats/Caps: the usual CS items, but stick with common items, plain caps, etc. A few “NC issue” black felt hats would be a nice touch.  While in their 1864 image the Spach boys are “high-profiling” in their hat-cords, not all of us should be wearing them.  
Overcoat:  Hell, it’s June…but it you must, captured Federal issue, CS import styles.  

Cal..58 Rifle Muskets.  M1861 or Richmond preferred; P1853 Enfields are acceptable, although no “Cal..57” weapons or ammunition are listed as lost or replaced.  Bayonets appropriate to the weapon used. No bayonet is acceptable for a few in the ranks.  Cartridges and ammunition packages should be of a type appropriate to ANV issue in Spring 1864, mainly the Richmond Arsenal.   As seen from Col. Ashford’s report and the replacements issued, the majority of the weapons in the 38th NCT were Cal..58 rifle muskets. Use of Cal..69 muskets is discouraged for this event, as the Ashford report shows no .69 ammunition expended in action.  The limited post-Gettysburg issue of Cal..69 muskets to the regiment must have been a temporary expedient.  Returns also show no use of Austrian rifles, other foreign muskets, any rifles, shotguns, etc.

Cartridge/Cap Boxes: Any CS issue styles appropriate to NC ANV units, Spring 1864, captured Federal items appropriate to 1863-early 1864  permitted. CS “russet”/natural leather, painted cloth boxes discouraged.

Bayonet Scabbards: Any CS issue styles appropriate to NC ANV units, Spring 1864, captured Federal items appropriate to 1863-early 1864 permitted.

Waist Belt: Any CS issue styles appropriate to NC ANV units, Spring 1864; avoid early-war, Federal, or civilian items.

Individual Equipment

Blanket:  NC issue (now’s the time, boys!), any CS issue styles appropriate to ANV units, Spring 1864, captured Federal.  Avoid use of quilts, coverlets, and other civilian blankets.

Rubber Blanket/Oilcloth/Poncho:  US or CS types.

Knapsack:  CS Kibbler/Johnson style, Isaac and Campbell,  captured Federal issue double-bag.  No western issue or early war items. 

Shelter Half: captured Federal issue, if carried.

Haversack:  CS “Richmond” or “Sketchbook” styles in plain cotton, captured Federal issue permitted. No western issue items,  carpet-bag/oddball haversacks.

Canteen:  CS issue tin drum (WVM item if possible), Gardner type, captured Federal issue. US leather sling, CS leather, cotton or webbing slings.  Nuckolls, filter, foreign, and other oddball CS types discouraged.

Mess Equipment: The usual tin cups, flatware, plates, and canteen halves, English mess kits.   No mess pans, skillets, spiders… all those traps are in the rear on a wagon at Orange Court House.

Personal items:  Appropriate to an NC soldier in the ANV, 1863-early 1864.

Notes on Sources:  The information on the 38th NCT in this article was taken from the standard sources: Clark’s NC Regts, Vols I and  II, and NC Troops: a Roster, Vol X. The compiled service records for the officers in the Company K provided the information from the Form 40s, especially that of Lt. John McArthur, and the CSR of the Regt AQM W. Edwards.  The muster roll data for the company is from surviving documents at NARA in DC.  The CSRs for Col. John Ashford and Lt. George Bason contained the ordnance information for the regiment during this period.
Additional information on the regiment came from Col. William Hoke’s Organization and Movements of the Thirty-Eighth Regiment North Carolina Troops January 17 1862-June 28, 1864 (Southern Historical Collection, UNC-CH).


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