45th NCT, The North State Boys on the eve of Gettysburg

By Peter Koch

Company K, the "North State Boys," formed in March 1862 and officially became part of the 45th NCT in early April at Camp Mangum, Raleigh. After some training, the regiment moved to Weldon and began picket duty nearby. Because of the threat of attack on Richmond, the 45th joined the 43rd and the 50th and moved north to protect the capital city. Once there, however, the brigade was only peripherally involved in the heavy fighting east of Richmond. In fact these men spent most of their time protecting and improving the fortifications at Drewry's Bluff. The 32nd and 53rd joined this brigade now known as Daniel's after the Seven Days campaign. In late 1862, the brigade moved back to North Carolina to help protect the Old North State from incursions from the east. Minus the 50th, the brigade continued this service in early 1863, participating peripherally in the attempts to retake New Bern and Washington (on the Pamlico River).

The majority of Company K was from Forsyth or Guilford counties and many were farmers. Other occupations noted include nurseryman, cabinetmaker, and blacksmith. Most were fairly young with almost sixty percent being between 16 and 24 when they enlisted. Eleven were in their thirties, however, and four were in their mid to late-forties making the average age of the company in June 1863 about 26. There were still thirty-three men who had volunteered for the company at its inception but most of the other twenty-one had joined in the early fall of 1862 or in March 1863. Some of these men were volunteers, but several might represent the early fruits of conscription. Within the fall of 1862 group there were four substitutes, three of whom were under 19. There were also three men who had served in the 1st North Carolina Infantry before it was disbanded. It seems likely that up to five pairs of brothers or cousins remained in Company K as it marched north to Pennsylvania. These were men with the same last name, the same county of origin, and who were within a few years in age. In addition was one Henry Burrow, 48, who joined on March 27, 1862. James Burrow, 21, who enlisted on the same day and was also from Davidson County, had died in camp in July 1862. There were also three Hesters of Forsyth County within the company. John, 42, was a lieutenant while Darias and Elias were privates in their late teens. Finally, note should be made of Joseph Mendenhall, the lone representative of Randolph county, and an individual possibly with a Quaker background.

Thus, after nearly eighteen months of service, the 45th NCT had dug into, rebuilt, or picketed a good deal of eastern North Carolina and southside Virginia. They had also seen some action, but mostly from a distance and their roster reflects this service. About 110 men had been in the company since March 1862. Although never a large company, they had only sustained a few battle casualties along with a number of sick and several desertions. Company K marched north with roughly fifty-four rank and file making this company still somewhat larger than others from North Carolina. The 18th NCT averaged thirty-six men per company while the 5th had roughly fifty and the 12th only twenty-three.

Sickness was the leading cause of Company K's losses before Gettysburg. Eighteen men had died from disease including five since January 1863. Eleven were absent sick from the company in hospitals or possibly at home. Four had already been discharged including John Taylor of Forsyth County. Taylor, a 40- year-old tailor, was sent home due to "paralysis affecting one side depriving him of the use of one arm & leg." Company K also suffered from its soldiers’ proclivity towards desertion. There were twenty-one desertions in 1862 and early 1863. Ten of these men left on May 2, 1863. Interestingly, the 45th NCT entered camp near Kinston at some point very close to May 2 after long and ineffectual campaigning in eastern NC. Desertion often occurred after particularly arduous service but was still a significant act at this point in the war, possibly entailing social ostracism. Two men did return to the company on its way north and others would come back after the summer of '63. Many, however were gone for good. Jabez McFarland, an 18 year old from Guilford County, deserted to the enemy during the company’s stop in Chambersburg PA on June 23, 1863.

Finally, the North State Boys had sustained one man killed in action at the Battle of Frayser's Farm, Henry Harrison Green of Davidson County. Jesse Sapp of Guilford County was captured in the same action, probably as a result of being kicked by an errant cavalry horse. He was exchanged in August 1862, spent some time at home, and then was discharged in early 1863 due to continued "paralysis of the lower limbs…." He must have recovered at some point because he later enlisted in the 1st Battalion N. C. Sharpshooters. J. Wilkerson Knight a 40-year-old farmer from Forsyth County also suffered an accident in the Seven Days campaign. He "fell across a log while attempting to leap a ditch" and sustained a rupture. This accident would plague him and his sergeant for years to come, as he was often absent without leave or absent sick.

New leadership also became firmly established on the move north. James Hines, captain for the first year of the company's existence, had resigned due to diabetes on May 25, 1863. His resignation was accepted on June 18. On that same day, 1st Lieutenant John Lindsay was promoted to captain. John Erwin and John Hester also moved up from 2nd Lieutenant to 1st and from 3rd to 2nd Lieutenant respectively. It is possible that Hines had been ineffectual for a while and maybe did not even attempt the trip north that began on May 17 with a march to Goldsboro and then a train trip to Richmond. Lindsay's affairs during early 1863 are also interesting. He resigned from the company on February 14 due to "varicose veins" of the abdomen. The resignation was accepted on February 25 and yet he applied for reinstatement, and was accepted, on March 6. Veins and all, John Lindsay would lead the North State Boys into their first significant fight on July 1, 1863.


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