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
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
|| John Van Hook
|| E.C. Atkinson
|| R.D. Lunsford
|| H.J. Ryals
|| John Griswold
|| James A.O. Kelly
|| G.W. Andrews
|| Joseph H. Adkinson
|| John B. Eaves
|| 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.
TO SAVANNAH AND
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.
THE BATTLE OF
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
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
|| Co. D
|| Co. E
|| Co. I
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.
ARMS AND EQUIPMENT
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
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.
|| Belgium Rifles
|| Enfield Rifles
|| Richmond Rifles
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:
|| Canteens & Straps
|| 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.
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
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
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
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
Drawers: Any period types in cotton or flannel. Do not use Federal drawers
if you can avoid it.
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”
caps were in short supply, but are authorized for this event. Felt hats
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Prohibited Items: No striped, plaid, printed cloth haversacks; No early
war items or any other types of haversacks not listed or any type of
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
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.
Clothing and Equipment
Pioneer Tools: Axes,
shovels/spades of period style, picks
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
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
Rations: Potatoes, parched corn, bacon, and any other item common to the North
Carolina sandhills in early spring.
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,
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,
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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