Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Company B, North Carolina 3rd Light Artillery Battalion a/k/a The Edenton Bell Battery: The Skinner Brothers and Josiah Nowell, three first cousins

"The Edenton" and "St. Paul" from the Edenton Bell Battery

In 1862, the bells from Edenton's church and courthouse were melted in order to make cannons used to defend the town from Union forces.  Two of the original cannon have survived and are pictured above.  The cannons are located in front of the historical Barker House.

Cannon placements in front of the Barker House

The Edenton Bell Battery was originally organized as the Albemarle Artillery in March of 1862.  The first muster roll of the unit lists 127 soldiers.  The Albemarle Artillery was officially mustered into the service of the State of North Carolina on March 27, 1862.  They would later become Company B of the 1st North Carolina Light Artillery, which itself would later become the 3rd North Carolina Light Artillery.  Hertford County native, Major John W. Moore was assigned as the units commander. 

Major John Wheeler Moore

Following it's first muster, Moore's Battalion was sent to Fort Lee, Virginia to begin training.  There, they faced their first challenge of the war.  The 3rd North Carolina Light Artillery had no cannons.  Without cannon, the unit faced the possibility of disbanding and being forced to reorganize as an infantry regiment.  The Company's Captain, William Badham, Jr. dispatched his brother-in-law, John Meredith Jones, back to Edenton to try and round up materials that could be donated to their cause. 

1st Lieutenant John M. Jones
Captain William Badham, Jr.

Back in Edenton, Jones requested the hanging bronze bells from several local establishments.  Three bells were donated from the town of Edenton, another was donated from nearby Tyrell County.   Once the bells were procured, they were transported by wagon to Suffolk, Virginia where they were loaded on a rail car and sent to Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond.  

Historic Tredegar Iron Works

Examples of different sized cannons cast at Tredegar

At Tredegar, the bells were melted down and made into two 6 pounders and two 12 pound field howitzers. "The Edenton", which was melted down from the near hundred year old 1767 bell from the Courthouse, fired 6 pound shot, as did "the Columbia", which was name for the capitol of Tyrell County.  The two 12 pound field howitzer's were named "St. Paul", which was the name of the Church that donated it's bell, and "Fannie Roulac" which was named after a woman in the community who was regarded as a leader in the Edenton Methodist Church, which also donated it's bell. 

Two months later, on May 23rd the guns were delivered to Captain Badham and his men.   The Albemarle Artillery now had their cannons.   They were renamed the Edenton Bell Battery because of the origin of their guns. 

Although the unit was now equipped with cannon, the threat of disbanding still loomed .  Due to lack of other supplies, the group was deemed unfit for service.  Captain Badham made a personal plea to the President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis.


                  The guns of my battery were made from the bells of my town and have tolled to the resting place a great many of parents and relatives of my command.  And sooner than part with these guns they had rather be taken out and shot.  But if allowed to keep these guns they will stand by them until they die.
                   Your obedient servant,

                   William Badham Jr.
                   Company B 3rd Battalion North Carolina Light Artillery

Davis granted Captain Badham's wish.  The North Carolina 3rd Artillery was kept in tact and Company B was able to keep their guns.  The unit was ordered to the defense of Richmond, where they remained until September.  In September of 1862 the Battery was sent to the Shenandoah Valley to serve as Artillery reserve in Martinsville.  They saw action in battles at Winchester, Culpeper Courthouse and the Seven Days Campaign.  On November 22nd, the unit was ordered back to Richmond where it was sent to defend the Potomac Railroad bridge.  The bridge served as a vital communication line between Richmond and Lee's Army, who were in Fredericksburg.  The Battery was ordered to the south bank of the river on November 28th.  They would remain there for the Battle of Fredericksburg.  Following the Confederate victory at Fredericksburg, the Battery was sent back to it's home state. 

The Battery was initially ordered to Wilmington, however after arriving in Goldsboro, they were assigned to General Samuel French to assist the Confederate retreat from New Bern.  Lieutenant Nelson McLee's section was ordered to the town of Whitehall in support of the Confederate Infantry.  Lieutenant John Meredith Jones section was deployed to the Battle of Goldsborough Bridge, where Union General John Gray Foster burned the bridge before returning to Union occupied New Bern. 

Battle of Goldsborough Bridge Marker

Modern view of Goldsborough Bridge

The Edenton Bell Battery ultimately reported to Wilmington for general service and remained there until November of 1863 when it was ordered to report to Fort Holmes on Smith's (now Bald Head) Island.  At Fort Holmes they served as a "flying" battery to protect southern blockade runners from threatening Federals.  They remained at Fort Holmes until the fall of Fort Fisher on January 15, 1865.  The following day, the Battery engaged in a fighting retreat towards Wilmington.  Federal forces captured one of the cannon and crew from Lieutenant John M. Jones section on February 20, 1865 at the Battle of Town Creek.  That particular section and crew were commanded by Sergeant Benjamin F. Hunter.  Hunter and his men were imprisoned at Point Lookout, Maryland where they remained until their release in June of 1865 after taking the oath of allegiance to the Union. 

After the Battle of Town Creek, the remaining members of the Battery linked up with General Braxton Bragg and his army on their retreat from Wilmington.  Bragg joined forces with General Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennesee and what remained of General William Hardee's command at Bentonville, North Carolina.  The unit participated in the Battle of Bentonville on March 19, 1865.  Following the battle, the Edenton Bell Army retreated west toward Greensboro, North Carolina.   It's rumored that the "Fannie Roulac" and the "Columbia" were dumped in the Eno River.  The remaining cannon were surrendered with the surviving men of the Battery and the Army of Tennessee under General Joseph E. Johnston on April 26, 1865 at Bennett Place in Durham, North Carolina.  Captain Barham and his men were paroled in Greensboro, North Carolina on May 1, 1865. 

General Joseph E. Johnston's Field Chair, Tredegar Iron Works Museum

General Joseph E. Johntson's sword and pistol, Museum of the Confederacy

The location of the remaining Edenton Bell cannon remained a mystery until 1990 when a Civil War re-enactor from Edenton discovered the "Edenton" at Shiloh National Military Park in Shiloh, Tennessee.  In 1999 the twelve-pounder "St. Paul" was found at Old Fort Niagra in Youngstown, New York.   The Edenton Historical Commission began a ten year effort to retrieve the cannon in 1997.  By October of 2006, both the "Edenton" and "St. Paul" had been returned and placed in Edenton's waterfront park where they remain today.

Another view of the remaining Edenton Bell Battery cannon

Three of my relatives served in Company B, North Carolina 3rd Light Artillery Battalion, affectionately known as the Edenton Bell Battery.  Brothers, Joseph D. and James R. Skinner, were born in Edenton, Chowan County, North Carolina.  Josiah Nowell was born in Hertford County, North Carolina. 

Joseph D. Skinner was born in Chowan County, North Carolina in 1842.  He is my 1st cousin 4x removed.  Joseph enlisted as a Private in Company M, North Carolina 1st Infantry Regiment on April, 29 1861 and served for six months.  He was 19 years old. 

Joseph D. Skinner's 1st Muster with the NC 1st Infantry

While serving in the NC 1st Infantry, Private Joseph D. Skinner appeared on the Roll of Honor for his Company.

Roll of Honor record for J. D. Skinner

Following his brief stint with the NC 1st Infantry, Joseph enlisted as a Private in Company B of the North Carolina Light Artillery Battalion on February 3, 1862.   Sometime later he was promoted to Sergeant.

Joseph Skinner's 1st Muster with the NC 3rd Light Artillery

He was listed as being present and accounted for through December of 1864.  Joseph D. Skinner was paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina on May 1, 1865.

Joseph Skinner's parole document

Joseph survived the war but died sometime shortly after.   There is no record of him found in the 1870 Census.  His burial location is also unknown.

James R. Skinner was born in Chowan County, North Carolina in 1844.  He is also my 1st cousin 4x removed.  James enlisted as a Corporal in Company B, North Carolina 3rd Light Artillery Battalion on April 16, 1863.  He was was also 19 years old at the time of his enlistment. 

James Skinner's 1st Muster Roll

James was listed as present and accounted for through December of 1864 and was also paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina on May 1, 1865.

James Skinner's parole document

James died sometime after 1880 in Gates County, North Carolina.   His burial location is also unknown. 

Due to the fact that Joseph and James were brothers, I'm only listing one relationship chart.

Here's my relation to James:

James R. Skinner (1844 - 1880)
is your 1st cousin 4x removed
Margaret Simpson Skinner (1816 - 1880)
Mother of James R.
Exum Simpson (1773 - 1844)
Father of Margaret
George W. Simpson (1825 - 1879)
Son of Exum
Margaret B. Simpson (1858 - 1898)
Daughter of George W.
Joseph Warren Nowell (1889 - 1954)
Son of Margaret B.
Ruth Adelaide Nowell Stokes (1918 - )
Daughter of Joseph Warren
Selby Edward "Stokey" Stokes Jr. (1946 - )
Son of Ruth Adelaide
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Selby

Josiah Nowell was born in Hertford County, North Carolina in 1832.  He is my 1st cousin 5x removed.  enlisted in Bertie County, North Carolina on March 22, 1862. 

1st Muster for Josiah

He was listed as present and accounted for through December of  1864.  Josiah was paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina on April 28, 1865. 

Josiah's Parole

Following the end of the Civil War, Josiah Nowell returned home to Hertford County, North Carolina.  He died sometime after 1870.  No records of Josiah can be found after the 1870 Federal Census.  His burial location is not known at the time of this entry.

Here's my relation to Josiah:

Josiah Nowell (1830 - 1870)
is your 1st cousin 5x removed
Isaac Nowell (1790 - 1833)
father of Josiah Nowell
Dempsey Nowell Jr. (1755 - 1810)
father of Isaac Nowell
Rev. John Downing Nowell (1803 - 1859)
son of Dempsey Nowell Jr.
Joseph Warren Nowell (1829 - 1889)
son of Rev. John Downing Nowell
Walter Hinton Nowell (1855 - 1922)
son of Joseph Warren Nowell
Joseph Warren Nowell (1889 - 1954)
son of Walter Hinton Nowell
Ruth Adelaide Nowell Stokes (1918 - 2013)
daughter of Joseph Warren Nowell
Selby Edward "Stokey" Stokes Jr. (1946 - )
son of Ruth Adelaide Nowell Stokes
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Selby

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