Monday, December 17, 2012

The North Carolina 31st Infantry Regiment at Battery Wagner: Six Paternal Confederate Cousins

Six members of my family served in the North Carolina 31st Infantry Regiment.  All six men are on my father's side of the family.  Two served in Company G, while the remaining four men served in Company H. Five of these men came from the same family (Nowell) and were related to each other in their lifetimes.  The Nowell's wouldn't share a common relation to the Overman's until my Great Grandparent's, Joseph Warren Nowell and Sarah "Sallie" Elizabeth White were married in 1911. 


North Carolina's Civil War Flag


The North Carolina 31st Infantry Regiment was organized in Wilmington, North Carolina in September of 1861.  The unit was initially stationed at Roanoke Island until the Island was captured by Federal Forces in February of 1862.  Following it's capture, the unit was exchanged for Federal prisoners and mustered back into Confederate Service.  The unit was then assigned to Brigadier General Thomas Lanier Clingman's Brigade, which consisted of  the 8th, 31st, 51st, & 61st North Carolina Infantry Regiments.


Brigadier General Thomas Lanier Clingman, C.S.A

The North Carolina 31st would remain attached to Clingman's Brigade for the duration of the war.  While attached to the Brigade, the North Carolina 31st participated in the Battle of White Hall in Wayne County, North Carolina.  Following it's action at White Hall, the Brigade was ordered to Charleston, South Carolina where they were engaged in several minor battles and skirmishes.  The North Carolina 31st participated in the Battle at Battery Wagner, a Battle where severely outnumbered Confederates routed the attacking Federals. 


Plan of Fort Wagner aka Battery Wagner

In 1863, the Union command laid out a plan to take back Charleston Harbor.  After his successful amphibious assault on Port Royal, Virginia and a long range artillery bombardment that led to the swift capture of Fort Pulaski, Georgia, Union Brigadier General Quincy Gillmore was tasked with leading a campaign against the city of Charleston. 

Gillmore's plan called for support from several U.S. gunships.  With their support, Gillmore would lead an attack to seize Morris Island so that he could use it's position to place heavy rifled guns on Cummings Point.  These guns would be used to neutralize the Confederate Battery at Fort Sumter.  Once Sumter was out of play, the Federal Navy could move freely in the Confederate waters and the Army could move in and capture Charleston, the birth place of the rebellion.


Battery Wagner during the Civil War


Morris Island was protected by a small but strategically located Confederate earthen fort called Battery Wagner that was manned by 1,620 men under the command of Brigadier General William B. Taliaferro.


Brigadier General William Booth Taliaferro

Gillmore believed that the shot-torn beach in front of Battery Wagner could be crossed and the fort taken.   On July 10, 1863, Gillmore's forces landed on the southern end of Morris Island and quickly pushed back the small Confederate force that was defending that part of the island.  The Union troops failed to capture all of Morris Island.  The Confederate defenders of the island were quickly reinforced.  Twelve Confederate soldiers were killed in this skirmish compared to the loss of 339 Federal soldiers. 

The Union command felt they could finish off the small Confederate force on July 11th.  In an early morning attack, Union Brigadier General George Strong commanded the 7th Connecticut, 76th Pennsylvania, and 9th Maine to advance upon Battery Wagner.  They were repelled with heavy losses. 

Following the unsuccessful Union attack, Gillmore spent nearly a week ordering 41 Union guns to be positioned toward Battery Wagner.  At about noon on July 18th, the Union cannon emplaced at Morris Island and seven Union gunboats began to bombard Battery Wagner.  The bombardment lasted more than seven hours. 

Facing the Union bombardment was a Confederate force equipped with 14 heavy guns, mortars, and carronades, and field pieces situated amongst a well laid out fortress, designed to withstand modern rifled artillery fire.

At 7:30 p.m., a force of 6,000 Union soldiers from two Brigades began to advance upon the Fort.  These units were commanded by General George C. Strong, and Colonel Haldimand S. Putnam. 


Union Storming of Fort Wagner, by Alison and Kurtz

At the vanguard of the Union force was the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, U.S.C.T. (United States Colored Troops).  This was the first unit in the Federal Army comprised entirely of African Americans.  This Federal Infantry Regiment gained fame in the 1989 film "Glory".  The film depicts Union Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the commander of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, U.S.C.T and their valiant, yet unsuccessful attack on Fort Wagner.



Union Colonel Robert G. Shaw, Commander of the Massachusetts 54th Infantry

As the bombardment ended and the Federal forces advanced closer to Battery Wagner, the Confederates inside quickly left their bombproofs and began to man the guns of the fort.  Infantry men began to lay down withering sheets of musket fire towards the advancing Federals.   Despite the deadly cannonade and musket fire, men from the 54th Massachusetts scaled the earthen walls of Fort Wagner and descended into the Fort.  There they engaged the Confederates in bloody hand-to-hand combat.  Colonel Shaw yelled "onward boys! onward boys!" as he climbed one of the sandy ramparts of the fort.  He was quickly shot through the heart and killed.  Confederate reports claim Shaw's body was pierced by as many as seven bullets. 

The 31st North Carolina Infantry Regiment, which had been completely captured during the Battle of Roanoke Island and later exchanged, were slow to come out of their bombproof and take their position on the southeast bastion of the Fort.  The failure of the North Carolina 31st to take their position led to a small amount of success by the 6th Connecticut Infantry, who attacked the Confederate's weakest point. General Taliaferro quickly rounded up the soldiers to take their position.  The 48th New York Infantry began to advance behind the lines of the 6th Connecticut.  Confederate sharpshooters from the 51st North Carolina and the Charleston Battalion began to fire deadly volleys into the advancing Federals. 

As the 48th New York Infantry continued to advance up the ramparts along with the 6th Connecticut, Confederate Artillerymen fired canister shot into the ranks of the remaining Union Infantry units, causing them to halt their advance and begin the Federal retreat.  The Federal assault was now in disarray.  Lack of Federal reinforcements caused the attack to crumble.  Confederate reinforcements from the 32nd Georgia Infantry began to arrive.  The fresh troops swept over the bastions, killing and capturing any remaining Federals. 

By 10:00 p.m, the Battle concluded with heavy losses, mostly Union.  The total casualty number for the Union was 1,515 (246 killed, 880, wounded, 389 captured).  Confederate casualties numbered 174 (36 killed, 133 wounded, 5 captured).  The casualties for the North Carolina 31st Infantry's participation in the action at Battery Wagner numbered 30 (7 killed, 31 wounded, 1 missing).  Included in the Union casualties were General George C. Strong, who was mortally wounded in the thigh by grape shot as he tried to rally his men.  Colonel Haldimand S. Putnam was shot in the head and killed in the salient while giving the order to withdraw.  Colonel John Lyman Chatfield of the 6th Connecticut was mortally wounded.  The 54th Massachusetts's Colonel, Robert Gould Shaw, was killed upon the parapet early in the action.


Fort Wagner the day after the Union Assault


Following the Battle, Federal soldiers sent in flags of truce from their Army and Navy, and asked to bury their dead and care for their wounded.   General P.G.T. Beauregard, commander of the Confederate force in Charleston, complied and allowed a truce to last until 4:00 p.m.

General Gillmore and his Union troops settled into their positions on Morris Island where they began a lengthy and costly siege that finally led to the Confederate abandonment of Morris Island on September 7, 1863. 

After their participation in the Battle of Fort Wagner, the North Carolina 31st Infantry Regiment was ordered north, where it took an active part in the battles at Drewry's Bluff and Cold Harbor.  The NC 31st  later endured the hardships of the Petersburg siege, both on the north and south of the James River. In 1865 it fought its last Battle at Bentonville.  Very few soldiers from the NC 31st surrendered with the Army of Tennessee.

Below are brief biographies of all six of my relatives who served in the North Carolina 31st Infantry Regiment:

Company G

Jonathan Nowell was born on August 3, 1820 in Johnston County, North Carolina.  He is my 3rd cousin 5x removed.  Jonathan previously served in Company B, North Carolina 14th Infantry Regiment and was featured in a previous entry.  Prior to his service in the Civil War, he served as Deputy Sheriff of Wake County, North Carolina.  Jonathan was also a veteran of the Mexican War.  He enlisted as a Private in Company G, North Carolina 31st Infantry Regiment at Petersburg, Virginia on April 13, 1864 for the duration of the war. 


1st Muster Roll for Jonathan in the NC 31st

Present and Accounted for through December, 1864. 


Muster Roll showing Jonathan was present and accounted for through December of 1864

Jonathan Nowell lived an additional 43 years following the end of the Civil War.  He died in Asheville, North Carolina on December 22, 1909.  He was 88 years old. 


Below is Jonathan's obituary from the Asheville, NC paper:

OBITUARY - December 23, 1908



 A VETERAN OF THE MEXICAN WAR DEAD


Asheville, N.C. , Dec. 23-  JONATHAN NOWELL, aged 88 years, veteran of the Mexican and Civil War and who sought to enlist for the Spanish-American war, died at the home of his son, Charles Nowell, at West Asheville early yesterday morning. He retained full possession of his faculties up to a short time before his death.
 Mr. Nowell was a deputy sheriff of Wake Co this state, when troops were mustered in for the Merican War and enlisted to Company I, of the 12th Regiment composed almost entirely of North Carolinians and saw much active service during the campaign in Mexico. He participated with General Scott's army in the attack upon the walled heights of Chaputepec and was one of the intreped detail which hewed a hole through the castle walls through which the troops entered the forti-fications. In speaking of this incident, the old veteran related that many men were shot down by his side while they were working on the walls, adding " The Mexicans stopped shooting when our men began to pick them off every time they poked their heads over the wall to shoot at us ".
 
When War Between the States broke out Mr. Nowell enlisted in the 14th NC Regiment and served throughout the war, seeing much active service with his regiment.  When war was declared against Spain, the doughty old veteran still full of fight, again sought to enlist for active service in Cuba but was rejected on account of his age.
 
Mr. Nowell was born in Wake County, N.C., on August 3, 1820 but for many years past had been a resident of Buncombe county. He was the last of the Mexican war veterans in this county.


Jonathan Nowell is buried in the Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church Cemetery in Asheville, North Carolina.


Grave of Jonathan Nowell

Here's my relation to Jonathan:

Jonathan Nowell (1820 - 1909)
is your 3rd cousin 5x removed
William Nowell (1794 - 1880)
Father of Jonathan
James Nowell (1767 - 1830)
Father of William
John Nowell (1736 - 1793)
Father of James
Martin Nowell (1682 - )
Father of John
Dempsey Nowell Sr. (1728 - 1777)
Son of Martin
Dempsey Nowell Jr. (1755 - 1810)
Son of Dempsey
Rev. John Nowell (1803 - 1859)
Son of Dempsey
Joseph Warren Nowell (1829 - 1889)
Son of Rev. John
Walter Hinton Nowell (1855 - 1922)
Son of Joseph Warren
Joseph Warren Nowell (1889 - 1954)
Son of Walter Hinton
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 


Benjamin Franklin Overman, Jr. was born in Pasquotank County, North Carolina on February 17, 1837.  He is my 1st cousin 6x removed.  I previously wrote about his father, Benjamin Franklin Overman, Sr.'s service with the 1st Florida Infantry Regiment.  By the outbreak of the Civil War, Benjamin Senior had relocated to Florida.  Benjamin Junior would join his father in Florida after the Civil War.   Benjamin Junior had previously served in Company I, North Carolina 17th Infantry Regiment.  His service with the North Carolina 17th Infantry Regiment will be the focus of a forthcoming entry.  He enlisted as a Private in this Company prior to May 1, 1863 for the duration of the war.

Muster Roll showing Benjamin's service with the NC 31st.

Following the Civil War, Benjamin joined his father in Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida.  He lived an additional 28 years following the end of the Civil War.  Benjamin Died in Pensacola, Florida on January 26, 1893.  He was 55 years old .  His burial location is not known at the time of this entry.

Here's my relation to Benjamin:

Benjamin Franklin Overman Jr. (1837 - 1893)
is your 1st cousin 6x removed
Benjamin Franklin Overman (1797 - 1888)
Father of Benjamin Franklin
Charles Overman (1745 - 1806)
Father of Benjamin Franklin
Mary Overman (1785 - 1866)
Daughter of Charles
Margaret White (1807 - 1840)
Daughter of Mary
Martha M White (1828 - 1898)
Daughter of Margaret
Joseph Thomas White (1860 - 1910)
Son of Martha M
Sarah Elizabeth (Sallie) White (1892 - 1985)
Daughter of Joseph Thomas
Ruth Adelaide Nowell Stokes (1918 - )
Daughter of Sarah Elizabeth (Sallie)
Selby Edward "Stokey" Stokes Jr. (1946 - )
Son of Ruth Adelaide
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Selby


Company H

Addison, Jeremiah and Jesse Nowell were brothers.  Each of these men served in Company H, North Carolina 31st Infantry Regiment.

Addison J. Nowell was born in Wake County, North Carolina in 1835.  He is my 3rd cousin 5x removed.  Addison enlisted as a Private in Company H, North Carolina 31st Infantry Regiment on July 15, 1862.  Company records indicate he deserted on November 27, 1864. 


Muster Roll showing Addison's desertion

He also served in Company A, Mallett's N.C. Battalion (Camp Guards).  Addison is listed as "Town Commissioner" in the 1870 Federal Census and as a "Preacher" in the 1880 Federal Census.  Addison J. Nowell lived and additional 20 years following the end of the Civil War.  He died in Wake County, North Carolina in 1885.  He was 50 years old.  His burial location is not known at the time of this entry.


Jeremiah James Nowell was born in Wake County, North Carolina on January 5, 1832.  He is my 3rd cousin 5x removed.  J.J. resided in Wake County, North Carolina prior to his enlistment.  In a letter dated November 22, 1862, J.J. wrote a letter to the Confederate Secretary of War in Richmond.  J.J. offered his services as a clerk.  It is not known whether his services were ever accepted.


J.J.'s letter to the Secretary of War

He enlisted as a Private in Company H, North Carolina 31st Infantry Regiment on June 17, 1863 for the duration of the war.  He was 30 years old at the time of his enlistment.  J. J. was listed as Present and Accounted for during the March - April, 1864 Muster Roll.


Muster Roll for J.J.

J.J. deserted on November 27, 1864.  The reason for his desertion is not known.


Muster Roll showing J.J. had deserted

Following his desertion, J.J. returned home and became the Sheriff of Wake County, North Carolina.  Jeremiah James Nowell lived an additional 17 years following the end of the Civil War.  He died in Wake County, North Carolina on August 15, 1882.  He was 50 years old.  J. J. is buried in Raleigh's Historic Oakwood Cemetery. 


Nowell Family Plot in Oakwood Cemetery


Closeup of the Nowell Marker


Close-up of J.J.'s Grave Marker


Jesse Robert Nowell  was born in Mark's Creek, Wake County, North Carolina on August 16, 1841.  He is my 3rd cousin 5x removed.  Jesse resided in Wake County, North Carolina prior to his enlistment.  He enlisted as a Private in Company H, North Carolina 31st Infantry Regiment on October 14, 1861.


1st Muster Roll for Jesse

Jesse was promoted to Ordnance Sergeant on September 15, 1862. 


Roll of Honor showing Jesse's promotion to Sergeant

While serving as Ordnance Sergeant, Jesse had to make some difficult requisitions.  Below is a special requisition signed by Sergeant J. R. Nowell for a coffin for a soldier killed in action.




Jesse was captured near Fort Harrison, Virginia on September 30, 1864.  Following his capture, he was turned over to the Provost Marshall General at City Point , Virginia on October 1, 1864. 


Register showing Jesse had been captured

Jesse was committed to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, DC on October 6, 1864. 


POW Roll for Jesse

He was transferred to Fort Delaware Prison on October 23, 1864. 


POW Roll for Jesse while at Fort Delaware

Jesse was released after signing the Oath of Allegiance on June 17, 1865. 


Jesse's Oath of Allegiance

Following the Civil War, Jesse returned home and became Deputy Sheriff of Wake County.  Jesse Robert Nowell lived an additional 32 following the end of the Civil War.  He died in Wake County, North Carolina on January 18, 1897.  He was 55 years old.  Jesse is buried in the Willis Nowell Family Cemetery in Wendell, North Carolina.


Grave of Jesse Robert Nowell

Due to the fact that Addison, Jeremiah and Jesse are brothers, I'm only providing one relationship chart

Here's my relation to Jesse:

Jesse Robert Nowell (1841 - 1897)
is your 3rd cousin 5x removed
Willis W. Nowell (1806 - 1890)
Father of Jesse Robert
James Nowell (1767 - 1830)
Father of Willis W.
John Nowell (1736 - 1793)
Father of James
Martin Nowell (1682 - )
Father of John
Dempsey Nowell Sr. (1728 - 1777)
Son of Martin
Dempsey Nowell Jr. (1755 - 1810)
Son of Dempsey
Rev. John Nowell (1803 - 1859)
Son of Dempsey
Joseph Warren Nowell (1829 - 1889)
Son of Rev. John
Walter Hinton Nowell (1855 - 1922)
Son of Joseph Warren
Joseph Warren Nowell (1889 - 1954)
Son of Walter Hinton
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



William Henry Nowell  was born in Wake County, North Carolina in 1818.  He is my 3rd cousin 5x removed.  I've previously written about William in the Elmira Prison Camp Entry.  William enlisted as a Private in Company H, North Carolina 31st Infantry Regiment on September 28, 1863.  He was 45 years old at the time of his enlistment.  William was captured near Gaines Mills at the Battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia on June 1, 1864.


POW Roll showing William's capture

Following his capture he was confined at Point Lookout, Maryland on June 11, 1864. 



POW Roll showing William's confinement at Point Lookout

William was transferred to Elmira Prison, New York on July 12, 1864.  William Henry Nowell died at Elmira Prison on August 29, 1864 of "acute bronchitis". 


POW Roll showing William died at Elmira

He is buried in the Confederate Prisoner Section of Woodlawn National Cemetery in New York.


Grave of William Henry Nowell

Here's my relation to William:

Pvt. William Henry Nowell (1818 - 1864)
is your 3rd cousin 5x removed
Rev. Mark Nowell (1790 - 1872)
Father of Pvt. William Henry
James Nowell (1767 - 1830)
Father of Rev. Mark
John Nowell (1736 - 1793)
Father of James
Martin Nowell (1682 - )
Father of John
Dempsey Nowell Sr. (1728 - 1777)
Son of Martin
Dempsey Nowell Jr. (1755 - 1810)
Son of Dempsey
Rev. John Nowell (1803 - 1859)
Son of Dempsey
Joseph Warren Nowell (1829 - 1889)
Son of Rev. John
Walter Hinton Nowell (1855 - 1922)
Son of Joseph Warren
Joseph Warren Nowell (1889 - 1954)
Son of Walter Hinton
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

6 comments:

  1. What excellent, thorough work you've done here. I'm Jeremiah Jamrs Nowell, the great grand son of Wake Co. Sheriff JJ Nowell. Would love to compare notes. My understanding as to why he deserted is that his wife and family needed him. Manerva Todd Nowell gave bieth to 11 kids. Only 5 survived childhood. One of them was born and died while JJ was away in the war.

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    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you found my blog. I actually took my father by oakwood the other day to show him the Nowell's that are buried there. We also drove by a house on Bloodworth Street that I've been told belonged to JJ. I've also been out to the Nowell Cemetery in Wendell. I would love to compare notes and add a more thorough bio. My email is scstokey65@aol.com. My Sons of Confederate Veterens chapter puts on a Confederate memorial day program at Oakwood on the first Saturday in May. This year it is on May 4th and will focus on 1863. I will be giving a eulogy for Ransom Green Nowell who died on 7/1/1863 during the first day of fighting at Gettysburg. He's buried in the Gettsburg section at Oakwood. I look forward to hearing from you.

      Chip

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  2. Chip:

    I live in Oakwood, not far from Bloodworth. Our ancestors owned quite a few houses in the neighborhood. It's my understanding that my great grandfather's house burned down sometime in the 1930s or 40s. I think only one Nowell house is still standing today. I dont recall the address, but will get it. It's currently owned by Barry and Nancy Kitchner. I live at 312 east jones st, a short walk to the cemetery. If you are going to be in Raleigh in May, perhaps you can stop by for a visit.

    I have quite s few old papers from Sheriff Jeremiah James Nowell. Also a photo of him and manerva, circa 1870s. Also, a 6 pound cannon ball I found, as a kid, near what was once called Asbury Station. Its on rr tracks on easteen edge of cary. Sherman's troops came through here on the way to Johnston's surrender Rsleigh to Bennett Place forer to Johnstons surrender at Bennent Place.

    You've obviously done a lot more research than I have over the years, but I may be able to fill in a few blanks.

    Pls call before you come to town. 919-610-7427. Regards, jeremiah james nowell, jr. (Jerry)

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  3. Hello,

    Your research on the 31st Reg. is impressive. I am hopeful you can provide me with a few pieces of my puzzle that I am working on completing in regards to the 31st.

    I am researching the military service of a N.C. Revolutionary War Veteran. Recently, during my research, I discovered his Grandson served within the 31st. He is buried within Cedar Grove Cemetery New Bern, N.C. (Find-A-Grave . com has info). Then came the discovery of the "Lost Angel" cemetery survey of 1939, where it is listed that Matthew A.O. Gerock served in the Company T, 31st, N.C. Troops, C.S.A. At his gravesite a white marble stone with this info inscribed was uncovered this week.

    I can not find any reference of Matthew A.O.Gerock in any Civil War Rosters. His brother, Samuel L. Gerock is listed twice: N.C. Militia Captain and later as a Second Lt.

    Do you know of any official rosters of Company T? Could this be an example of poor transcription of the white stone being an "Company I" and not "T?. White stone is very worn.

    Also, Matthew died, as listed on his headstone, on October 18th, 1861. Just weeks after the formation of the 31st, as you mentioned in this post. Is this an important date in reference to the 31st?

    Any assistance will be appreciated. I have confirmed the Revolutionary War Veteran's service and will apply for a Veteran's headstone in 2015. If I can locate an official roster, I will be sending to National Archives for Matthew's military records, to see what they may have on file. In turn, I will do the same for his brother Samuel L. Gerock, 2nd Lt. I have recently located his burial site in Onslow County and there is no reference to his military service nor, does his Direct descendants know of this of these brothers' military service.

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately I couldn't find any information on Matthew Gerock. There was no company T. It was probably a mistranscription. Since he died so close to the formation of the Regiment, it's likely there are no official records for him. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

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    2. Hello Chip. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to search your files. I agree with you in regards the Company "i" and "T" mix up.

      I set a request for records to the National Archives in regards to Matthew Gerock's military service. I will keep you updated.

      P.s. I enjoyed reading your Blog

      Semper Fi !

      Jack Robinson

      jackrobinson@hotmail.com

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