Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Civil War - NC's Role

Posted April 12, 2011

What was North Carolina’s most significant role in the Civil War? And what lessons did we learn? Have you ever toured a Civil War battlefield in North Carolina and if so, what was your experience? I think these are fitting questions on the 150th anniversary of the start of the brutal conflict. 

You have a lot of events to choose from. Tar Heel soldiers helped lead the Confederate Army to victory at the First Battle of Manassas. Old North State warriors also shed a staggering amount of blood at Gettysburg in Pickett’s Charge. Did you know that North Carolina sent more soldiers to battle than any other state in the Confederacy? 

Wilmington was a major port for the Confederacy. Fort Fisher nearby was the scene of two battles. Statewide nearly two dozen battles were fought on our soil including Bentonville which was one of the last major battles in the war. At Bennett Place near Durham the war in the East ended with General Joseph Johnston surrendering to Union General William Sherman. 

A lot of people in North Carolina didn’t share Jefferson Davis’ fervor for the Southern cause. You may have read about that in the best-selling novel by Raleigh’s Charles Frazier in Cold Mountain

Some researchers estimate that more than 40,000 North Carolinians died in the Civil War. That’s more than any other state and about four and a half times the number of Tar Heel fatalities in both World Wars combined.


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  • Frizz Apr 13, 2011

    I've been all over Gettysburg where my great great grandfather fought and it's eerie. My great grandmother endured reconstruction and always said d*** yankee. My grandfather showed me where the CSS Neuse was discovered near Hamilton.

    The War for Southern Independence was the worst and best thing that ever happened to the US. It ruined many good things (States rights, for example) while it corrected many others (Slavery). It had to happen.

  • dholt Apr 13, 2011

    At Appomattox, VA, there is a separate monument in tribute to the soldiers of NC. It is located across the road from the Appamattox site & is a short walk into the woods. One of the soldiers' names on the monument that was there at the surrender was one of my relatives - Etheldred Holt. There were more soldiers from NC than from any other state, and this is a great tribute to all of them. If you've never been there, it's worth the drive...

  • indrdw Apr 13, 2011

    From what I have read, North Carolina did not want to secede from the union and a good deal of the men who fought had no choice. Like most wars, if you dig deep enough the root of the problem is greed and power. Slavery is and was surely wrong but the aboloitionists held on to the coattails of the feds, some of whom wanted to keep the nation united and some who wanted the resources in the South.

  • oldrebel Apr 13, 2011

    So many places of interest concerning the Civil War in North Carolina makes it hard to compile a list. Ft. Fisher and Bennett Place are among my favorites. Yet I've probably traveled to Bentonville and Averasboro more times than I can count to walk the earthworks that remain and visit the museums in both places.

  • ziradog Apr 12, 2011

    I have been to both Fort Fisher & Fort Macon. Fort Macon in particular has a nice display explaining the fort's roll in the Civil War (and beyond), including what life was like there. While not really a battlefield, I have also visited the dueling ships (one real, one replica) in Kinston.

  • Iconoclast Apr 12, 2011

    Found the following statistics. NC dead: KIA 14,522, died of wounds 5,151, died of disease 20,602, total dead 40,275. According to the 1860 Census, NC had 128,889 men between the ages of 20 and 60. According to state records. NC provided 125,000 men to State or Confederate military service. More than 15,000 NC men joined the Union army. This makes a total of more than 140,000 NC men under arms for the war. NC furnished approximately 1/6 of the Confederate Army.

  • bleslie Apr 12, 2011

    Most estimates I have read put NC's death toll in the Civil War at around 40,000. However, a state historian recently said the figure could be closer to 37,000 after a new study. These are deaths.

  • thefensk Apr 12, 2011

    I think it is safe to say North Carolina *provided* more soldiers to Confederate armies than any other Southern state.

    I think the number of "deaths" you mention is confused with the number of casualties -- I see 36-40K casualties as a common number attribted to NC. Casualties usually indicates killed, wounded, and missing. Unfortunately, in the Civil War, missing includes desertions so the number is a bit misleading. Another confusing thing about deaths in the war is the fact that more soldiers died of disease than died in combat.

    Still, NC units fought with distinction throughout the war and you read about them in almost every major battle.

    And in this area we can never forget that the war was effectively ended by the surrender at Bennett Place.

  • Amusedone Apr 12, 2011

    NY...not the same thing to say NY REGIMENTS versus New Yorkers...many of the people serving in NY regiments were actually Canadians or other foreign born (ie Irish, etc) who did not live in NY before or after the war.

  • Union Cavalry Apr 12, 2011

    Please check your facts. New York state forces lost more than
    46,000 men during the Civil War.




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