The 50th NCT at the Battle of Averasboro

Compliled by Dave Hunter

PURPOSE: To provide a brief history of the 50th North Carolina Troops at the Battle of Averasboro and establish uniform, weapons, and equipment guidelines.

BACKGROUND:  The 50th Regiment North Carolina Troops mustered into Confederate service on April 15, 1862 at Camp Mangum near Raleigh. Marshall Craton, formerly of the 35th NCT, served as the 50th’s first colonel.

Company County Captain
A Person John Van Hook
B Robeson E.C. Atkinson
C Johnston R.D. Lunsford
D Johnston H.J. Ryals
E Wayne John Griswold
F Moore James A.O. Kelly
G Rutherford G.W. Andrews
H Harnett Joseph H. Adkinson
I Rutherford John B. Eaves
K Rutherford Samuel Wilkins

Armed with “Confederate Pikes”, the regiment drilled incessantly for six weeks in the capital city, then deployed to Weldon and Garysburg near the Virginia border.  In late June, with newly issued muskets in hand, the regiment joined General Junius Daniel’s brigade and fought in the Seven Days campaign. During the Maryland Campaign, Daniel’s Brigade remained in the vicinity of Richmond and Drewry’s Bluff guarding against a Federal incursion up the James River.

Roused from its winter quarters on January 1, 1863 the regiment headed to its native soil for a spring campaign under General D. H. Hill to recapture New Bern at the head of Pamlico Sound. On March 13, 1863, Daniels’ Brigade forced the Federals from their entrenched positions, but simultaneous Confederate attacks on the Federal line faltered, and the attempt ultimately failed. The subsequent campaign against Washington, NC failed as well, and the Confederate force fell back again to Kinston. Daniels’ Brigade, less the 50th NCT, returned to the Army of Northern Virginia in May 1863, and the 50th remained on extended picket duty in eastern North Carolina for the remainder of the summer. In August, 1863 the regiment moved to Wilmington where it spent the winter of 1863-1864 engaged in building fortifications, performing picket duty along the coast, and providing a garrison for the town. In the spring of 1864, the 50th returned to the Confederate lines along the Roanoke River, where it garrisoned the recently recaptured towns of Plymouth and Washington. From these bases, detachments from the regiment frequently raided behind Federal lines to capture food, forage, and prisoners. Though the detachments frequently skirmished with the Federals, few casualties were reported.


The Confederate War Department pulled the 50th from its outposts in October 1864, and sent it south to assist in the defense of Savannah. Commanded by Colonel George Wortham, the 50th numbered nearly 900 men at the outset of the campaign. Indeed, Company I still retained a good number of the March 1862 volunteers. When the regiment headed to Savannah, Captain John B. Eaves and three Lieutenants commanded ninety men. Fifty-nine of those were volunteers, and thirty-one were conscripts. Of the drafted men, most (20, and the most recent) had been with the regiment since it’s 1863-1864 winter quarters at Wilmington.

The 50th, newly assigned to General Laurence Baker’s brigade, rode the rails to Augusta and arrived there on November 27.  It was quickly turned around and sent, by way of Charleston, toward Savannah to face the Federal threat north of the city. The brigade arrived too late to participate in the Battle of Honey Hill, just north of the city on November 30, but stepped on to the battlefield shortly after the fighting ended.  The brigade then marched west of Savannah, this time to delay Sherman’s advance along the Georgia Central Railroad. At Ogeechee River, December 7, it faced Sherman’s troops for the first time.  After two days of sharp rear guard action, the regiment returned to Savannah.

Returning to Savannah on December 9, Baker’s Brigade remained in the city until it joined the remainder of General William Hardee’s forces in their retreat from that city beginning on the evening of December 20. On the evening of the 19th, Lt. John C. Ellington of Company C received orders to collect the regiment’s baggage from stored in boxcars in the city. He secured the 50th’s “important papers”, but was unable to carry out any other baggage. The Brigade marched north and soon was joined by the 7th North Carolina Senior Reserves.  Colonel Baker resigned due to an old wound, and Colonel Washington Hardy assumed command of the brigade. At times during the retreat through South Carolina, the brigade stopped at defensive positions along riverbanks, and at other times it was forced to withdraw rapidly to avoid capture by advancing Federal columns. At one such defensive position at River’s Bridge, South Carolina, Company I, on patrol in the fog, stumbled into a detachment of the Georgia Militia. In the subsequent exchange of fire, the company suffered a few wounded and the death of one officer, Lieutenant William Corbett. The Georgia Militia’s losses were reported as “considerable”.  The 50th NCT continued the retreat into North Carolina, marching through Fayetteville, until Hardee’s troops turned to face the Federals at Averasboro on March 15.


Hardee turned his force to face Sherman at Averasboro on the morning of March 15. He deployed his troops into three lines with Baker’s Brigade in the middle of the third Confederate line – 800 yards from the first, and 600 in rear of the second line. At 3:00 pm, skirmishers from the first line moved forward and engaged the advancing Federals. Lt. John Albright of the 7th Senior Reserves noted that in the third line, “we threw up breastworks by cutting down pine trees and chinking underneath with pine knots.”   Skirmishing along the front line continued for the remainder of the day, but darkness ended the fighting.

The morning of the 16th opened with heavier skirmishing along the Confederate first line, as the Federals moved their Divisions into place. At 10:30 am, a Federal assault overwhelmed the first Confederate line and sent its survivors reeling into the second line, which collapsed soon thereafter. The remnants were ordered to occupy the middle of the third line. This move displaced Hardy’s Brigade out of its newly constructed breastworks to the far left of the Confederate’s third line.  The consolidated front of the final Confederate position proved formidable, and the Federal XIV Corps mounted desultory attacks. The 50th NCT spent the remainder of the day skirmishing with the Federals. Only one member of Company I was wounded in this fight. The Confederates evacuated their position under cover of darkness and rain.


The 50th received clothing from the state of North Carolina through the Confederate Quartermaster. The last recorded issue of clothing to the 50th prior to Averasboro occurred in the third quarter (July-September) 1864 while the regiment garrisoned Plymouth and patrolled along the Roanoke River.

Co. A Co. D Co. E Co. I
Jackets 116 80 61 120
Pants 97 42 50 90
Shirts 115 72 61 117
Drawers 114 67 61 117
Shoes --- --- --- ---
Caps --- --- --- ---
Socks 61 61 --- 2
Blankets 14 10 7 14

The soldiers did have contact with their families at home. In 1864, several companies in the 50th NCT were relatively close to their homes in nearby counties while stationed at Plymouth and Washington.  The remainder of the companies came from areas with access to railroads, and there were no orders preventing transportation of boxes from home to the 50th NCT camps. Clothing, blankets, and shoes from families at home may have been sent to the soldiers before their departure for Georgia.

The availability of clothing between November 1864 and March 1865 is less certain. Neither Confederate or North Carolina government records, nor any private manuscript sources suggest that the 50th NCT received any government issue clothing anytime during that period. The regiment’s soldiers’ clothing was probably worn out by the time they arrived in Savannah (three to four months being the probable life span of clothing in the field). The 50th first traveled to Augusta, Georgia and spent three days there before arriving in Savannah. Augusta, though, an important Confederate supply center, diverted its remaining stocks to supply to the Army of Tennessee and by January the city’s warehouses were reported empty.   The regiment skirmished for a number of days outside of Savannah before their respite inside the city’s defenses. Savannah, as an important port for blockade running may have had some clothing available. In 1863, the local QM reported stocks of “English jackets” as well as some “Georgia jeans” jackets stored in the city.  There is no indication that the 50th NCT, or any other NC unit, received any of this clothing and it is likely that Hardee’s troops and the Savannah garrison would have been issued this clothing before the 50th  NCT arrived.

The “hit and run” skirmishing during the retreat through the South Carolina swamps presented few opportunities for the Tar Heels to obtain any clothing. The civilians along the route of the retreat, suffering from shortages as well, probably had little spare clothing to offer to the soldiers.  Lieutenant Ellington remembered the march as “severe and trying” and one during which they were “poorly clothed.”  He even recalled that “many of the men were entirely without shoes during January and February.” Ellington told of civilians who offered scant trays of food, but did not mention offers of clothing.  A member of the 10th NC Battalion, remembered the march as “slow and difficult. The weather was cold and rainy, the men poorly clothed, and there were many rivers and swamps to cross.”   Individual soldiers may have purchased or stolen some civilian clothing to supplement their worn uniforms, but the availability of this clothing in both Savannah and the along the route of the retreat must have very limited in 1865.

The 50th NCT had limited opportunities to capture or obtain Federal equipment. Any clothing or other equipment acquired in the 1863 operations against New Bern and the later raids was likely to have been worn out by November 1864. The only opportunity for other captures may have occurred immediately after the repulse of the Federals at Honey Hill. The regiment was not engaged, but arrived on the field as the battle ended. The delaying actions fought during the retreat though South Carolina would not have permitted time for the soldiers to comb the battlefield for supplies. 


Unlike their clothing, North Carolina soldiers received their weapons and equipment from Confederate sources. The closest source of supply to the 50th NCT in 1864 would have been the CS depots in Richmond and Raleigh. 

The 50th had an interesting mix of weapons in the Spring of 1865. Fortunately, the record book of Ordnance Sergeant Alexander O’Briant survived and that record lists the types of weapons carried  by the soldiers of the 50th NCT on the eve of Averasboro.

Companys Belgium Rifles Enfield Rifles Richmond Rifles Muskets Bayonets
A 17 4 64
B 2 8 63 4 56
C 5 2 11 50 53
D 4
7 29 33

8 33 34
F 54

G 52
1 1 45
H 7
6 22 24
I 3
41 35 45
K 5
15 16 20

149 14 206 190 411

Each company had a mix of rifles and muskets, but the most common types of weapons were the Richmond rifle-musket and caliber .69 musket.
Sergeant O’Briant’s book also recorded the number of knapsacks, haversacks, and canteens and straps:

Companys Knapsacks Haversacks Canteens & Straps
A 87 109 40
B 125 55 3

D 39 29 9
E 40 40 40
F 54 44 30
G 55 59 3
H 73 20 30
I 85 85 65
K 70 70 40

628 511 At least 293


The men of Hardy’s Brigade received no government rations on the retreat through South Carolina, and as Ellington noted, “we were compelled to subsist on the country through which we passed, and this was poorly supplied except with rice, until we reached the high-lands.” Civilians on the line of march were generous with their scant remaining provisions.  Hunger in the ranks remained severe: in Cheraw, some men of the 7th Reserves “got completely disheartened” and deserted for the lack of food. 

Re-creating the 50th NCT at Averasboro: A Guide to Uniforms, Weapons, and Equipment

The guidance here is provided to allow participants to develop an impression for this event that accurately depicts the appearance of the North Carolinians who served in the 50th NCT Please adjust your current impression to match the guidance for this event.

1.  North Carolina Jacket, of gray jeans or cassimere. (commonly called the “N.C. Depot Jacket” today), “Tucker”, “McRae” or “Hollyday” styles acceptable.  The 50th NC received a large number of jackets in the third quarter of 1864, making it the most prevalent garment worn by the soldiers in the ranks. NC Quartermaster records indicate that gray was the predominate color of the cloth purchased for State clothing.  Avoid the use of any other colors of fabric, especially brown, for this garment.  Buttons should be either NC state seal or NC sunburst, with the sunburst more likely.  The jackets should be dirty, frayed at wear points such as the cuffs and elbows, but not completely in tatters.
2.  Other military issue jackets.
 - Peter Tait imported jacket of English blue-gray “army cloth”, Tait “lined block I” or “script I” buttons.
-  Charleston Depot pattern, English blue-gray “army cloth”, “script I” buttons.
- “Type III” Richmond Depot in English blue-gray “army cloth” only,  “block I” or “script I” buttons.  Permitted, but discouraged
3. Civilian Coats:  Some companies of the regiment were relatively close to their homes in 1864, so it is possible that some civilian clothing from home would be seen in the ranks.  Remember, however, that the material for clothing for civilians was in short supply during this time.  It is unlikely that much clothing was available along the line of the retreat form Georgia into North Carolina.  Limited use of “homemade” military style jackets or sack coats of homespun jeans.  Civilian frock coats and vests of homespun permitted, but discouraged. Wood, bone, or cloth-covered buttons.  Grey, black, brown, tan colors acceptable. Avoid the use of full suits of civilian clothing.

Prohibited Items: Any type of military frock coats on enlisted men, or other CS issue coats or jackets of any type not specifically listed, overshirt/“battle shirt” as outer garment, any Federal clothing. No civilian clothing common to the upper classes of society (the “Rhett Butler” look, long frock coats of any sort, ecclesiastical garments, etc)

1. “McRae” or “Richmond” patterns in gray jeans, cassimere, satinette, English blue-gray “army cloth”, English medium blue kersey (NOT U.S. issue sky blue kersey).  The “Richmond” pattern trousers match the basic style of a pair of trousers identified as NC issue. These trousers would also have been dirty, frayed, and generally in worse condition than the jackets. Civilian trousers of homespun jeans; basic colors the same as civilian coats. 
Prohibited Items: CS issue types not common to eastern NC garrisons in 1864, any Federal trousers. Plaid, striped, checked civilian trousers

1.  “Hollyday” (plain white cotton), “McRae” (blue/gray flannel), “Seldon” (blue striped cotton English import) styles of shirts or any other shirt style identified as a North Carolina issue item or identified to a North Carolina soldier; CS issue common to the ANV in 1864. 
2. Civilian/homemade types. Plain cotton, woven checks or stripes
Prohibited Items: Federal issue shirts or any CS issue not common to the NC troops or the ANV in 1865, overshirt/“battle shirt” as outer garment.

Drawers: Any period types in cotton or flannel.  Do not use Federal drawers if you can avoid it. 

Socks: (if worn) Any period types in wool or cotton. 

Shoes:  Shoes were in short supply, but you must wear shoes at the event. 
1. NC-manufactured shoes, CS types issued to the ANV in 1864, English-made shoes, Civilian brogans or simple styles of civilian boots.  Federal shoes permitted, but discouraged. Please wear boots only if you cannot obtain proper shoes.
Prohibited Items: any elaborate styles of boots, canvas “sport shoes”

Hats/Caps: Apparently caps were in short supply, but are authorized for this event. Felt hats are preferred.
1. Civilian felt hat, NC issue felt hat
2. NC issue “kepi” or CS “kepi” styles common to the ANV in 1864, of gray jeans, satinette, cassimere, English blue-gray “army cloth”,. No colored bands or trim.
Prohibited Items: Federal headgear of any sort, any other types or patterns of Confederate caps or military hats.  Any types of civilian caps.

Weapons: The only weapons we can document to the regiment now are “Richmond rifles”, “Enfield rifles,” “Belgian rifles” and “muskets”. 
1. Richmond rifle muskets and P1853 Enfield rifle musket preferred, but captured M1861 and M1863 permitted.  Belgian rifles permitted.
2. Musket types are limited to M1842 smoothbore musket and percussion conversion of the M1816 musket.
Prohibited items: any other types of weapons not listed above.  Any bowie, side, or fighting knives, pistols of any sort, pikes, or any other types of military or civilian weapons not specifically permitted above. 
Bayonets appropriate to the weapon carried. It is also acceptable not to carry a bayonet.  A “gun sling” is not required with the weapon, but if used must be appropriate to the weapon carried. Musket appendages encouraged for all ranks, and each non-commissioned officer should have at least a wrench and wiper that fits his weapon.  Ammunition packages and boxes should show markings for the Richmond or Augusta Arsenal.

Accouterments: These items should be CS issue appropriate to the Richmond Depot in 1864; English accouterments sets; very limited use of captured US boxes ( patterns of 1857, 1861).  A few US issue will be allowed, as it is possible that individual soldiers could have found them at the Honey Hill battlefield or captured them during raids into Federal lines in 1863.  Please do not use these unless you have no other choice.  Limited use of CS painted canvas accouterments, belts, or slings.  No white webbing or white buff leather items of any sort, no “russet” leather. 
1. Cartridge Box: CS types identified to NC use, CS types common issue from the Richmond Depot in 1864, English import infantry box, painted cloth boxes, very limited use of captured US boxes (patterns of 1857, 1861 boxes with shoulder belts appropriate to the types of boxes).  If a cartridge box shoulder belt is used: black leather CS issue or painted canvas.
2. Cap Box: CS types identified to NC use, CS types common issue from the Richmond Depot in 1864. Very limited use of captured US pattern of 1850. 
3. Waist Belt: CS types identified to NC use, CS types common issue from the Richmond Depot in 1864, CS issue frames or forked-tongue buckles, English imports.  Painted canvas with raw iron roller buckles, very limited Federal issue. No canvas webbing, white buff.
4.  Bayonet Scabbard: CS types identified to NC use, CS types common issue from the Richmond Depot in 1864, English import scabbards and frogs of the correct pattern. Federal scabbards (two and seven rivet patterns) permitted but discouraged.

Blanket: Limit your bedding to one blanket if possible.
NC or CS issue military blankets of patterns common to NC troops in eastern NC in 1864; civilian bed blankets, coverlets, quilts, carpet blankets. Federal blanket. A few of these will be allowed, as it is possible that individual soldiers could have found them at the Honey Hill battlefield. Please do not use this item unless you have no other choice.

Oilcloth: CS types of oilcloths. Federal rubber blanket/poncho: a few of these will be allowed, as it is possible that individual soldiers could have found them at the Honey Hill battlefield. Please do not use these unless you have no other choice. No oilcloth/rubber blanket is also correct for this scenario. 

1. CS issue unpainted cotton haversack (Moses Alexander style), CS issue painted cloth haversack (“Bayley” style)
2. US Haversack: A few of these will be allowed, as it is possible that individual soldiers could have found them at the Honey Hill battlefield. Please do not use this item unless you have no other choice.
Prohibited Items: No striped, plaid, printed cloth haversacks; No early war items or any other types of haversacks not listed or any type of carpetbags.

1. CS issue wooden canteens. Correct copies of the Gardner and Nuckols patterns. Avoid using any with extensive carvings, unit markings, etc not appropriate to the 50th NCT. Canteen slings should be simple cotton cloth types.
2. CS issue tin drum canteens. These canteens should be the plain, flat- sided type or the convex-sided types common to the ANV. Canteen slings should be simple cotton cloth types.
3. Federal pattern of 1858/pattern of 1858 canteens. A few of these will be allowed, as it is possible that individual soldiers could have found them at the Honey Hill battlefield.  Do not use this item unless you have no other choice.
Prohibited Items: any canteens not common to the ANV in 1864-65, any with embossed “CS” or other markings, and any filter types.

Knapsack: Knapsack use is highly encouraged as the majority of soldiers in this regiment had them. CS issue types common to ANV including the Kibbler/Johnson style and Isaac & Campbell bags. Blanket rolls preferred in place of Federal Knapsacks. Very limited use of Federal knapsacks will be allowed, as it is possible that individual soldiers could have found them at the Honey Hill battlefield. If we have too many US issue knapsacks, some people will be required to discard their knapsack and use a blanket roll. No unit markings on Confederate bags not appropriate to the 50th NCT and no markings on Federal bags not appropriate to Federal regiments at Honey Hill. 

Mess Equipment: Tin cups, small boilers, small tin plates or bowls and the usual types of flatware. Any other mess pans, large mess pans/pots, frying pans, etc would have been left behind in Savannah. 

Miscellaneous Clothing and Equipment

Overcoat: None
Pioneer Tools: Axes, shovels/spades of period style, picks
Prohibited items: Rubber talmas/raincoats, rain covers for caps, any other one-of-a-kind or oddball items that are inappropriate or wrong for the 50th NCT in March 1865.

Personal Items : Carry only those items that can fit in your pockets: wallets, watches, pocketknives, cased images, etc.  These should be items common to a North Carolinian in 1865. Fancy writing kits, toilet articles, sewing kits, camp/smoking/sleeping caps, chess sets, books, etc. were probably lost with the baggage in Savannah as the regiment withdrew or discarded during the march from Savannah. We ask that you leave them at home for this event.

Rations:  Potatoes, parched corn, bacon, and any other item common to the North Carolina sandhills in early spring. 

Personal Appearance:  Dirty and unkempt.  Try to be as close to this your modern life will permit.

Additional Notes:  We will  portray Company A of the 50th NCT, originally from Person County. (county seat: Roxboro)  John Van Hook was the original company commander, but by 1865 he had  been promoted to Major.  At Averasboro the company was commanded by Captain James A. Burch, who had only recently returned to duty from a hospital in Raleigh.  It’s not clear if there were three lieutenants present, but these would have been 1st Lt William Blalock, 2nd Lt Albert O’Briant, and 3rd Lt Robert Ramsey.  There were three sergeants: Erasmus Frederick, George Gray, and James Jones  ( the last two had been “coastguardsmen” for a period at Wilmington) and one corporal, John Warren. The company had two musicians on the roster. 

Despite the report that the regiment was nearly 900 strong prior to departure for Savannah, the regiment reported 550 men present for duty on 28 December. This would indicate that the companies averaged around 50 men, still a high number for a Confederate company in 1865. (report in OR, I, v. 44, p.999)


Julie Carpenter Williams, ed., War Diary of Kinchen Jahu Carpenter (Rutherfordton, NC: privately published, 1955), 5.
Weymouth T. Jordan, ed., North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865, A Roster, Volume 12 (Raleigh, NC: Division of Archives and History, 1990), 141-142.
Ibid., 143-144.
John C. Ellington, “Fiftieth Regiment”, in Walter Clark, ed., Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-’65, Volume 3 (Goldsboro, NC: Nash Brothers, 1901), 188-189.
John G. Albright, “Seventy Seventh Regiment (Seventh Reserves)” in , Walter Clark, ed., Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-’65, Volume 4 (Goldsboro, NC: Nash Brothers, 1901),  104.
Mark L. Bradley, Last Stand in the Carolinas: The Battle of Bentonville (Campbell, CA: Savas Woodbury Publishers, 1996), 114-133.
See Compiled Service Record for William Best, James Burch, William Corbett, George Griswold, James Kelly in North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.
Telegram, D. H. Hill to Col. Brent, January 30, 1865, P.G.T. Beaureguard Papers, North Carolina Division of Archives and History.
E-mail, Greg Starbuck to Author, December 6, 2000.
Ellington, “Fiftieth Regiment”, 192.
Charles S. Powell, Diary, 1861-1865, Perkins Library, Duke University Special Collections, p. 30.
Ordnance Book, Albert O’Brient Papers, North Carolina Division of Archives and History.
Ellington, “Fiftieth Regiment”, 192.
Albright, “Seventy Seventh Regiment”, 104.
Federal regiments at Honey Hill: 56th, 127th, 144th,  & 157th New York, 54th & 55th Mass., 25th Ohio, and 26th, 32nd, 35th, & 102nd, USCT. 


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