April - Regiment formed; officers elected on April 30th

May-Aug - In the Wilmington vicinity

Sep-Nov - Arrived at Kinston on Sept. 12; engaged in skirmishes in New Bern area

Oct 1 - Assigned to Clingman’s Brigade

Oct 19 - Col. Cantwell resigned; Lt. Col. Allen assumed command of regiment

Nov 17 - Returned to Wilmington

Dec 16 - Moved to Goldsboro by rail

Dec 17 - Battle of Goldsboro 

Dec 28 - Began move to Wilmington on foot


Jan 2 - Arrived at Wilmington

Jan 5 - Lt. Col. Allen resigned while facing court-martial for drunkenness and verbally abusing and threatening Major McKethan; McKethan assumed command of regiment

Feb 17 - Moved by rail to Charleston

Mar 4 - Moved by rail to Savannah

Mar 9 - Moved back to Charleston

Mar 12 - Encamped on James Island

May 2 - Moved back to Wilmington

Jun 6 - Companies B, D, E, and H detached to Magnolia

July 1 - Encounter with Union raiding party near Warsaw

July 10 - Moved to Charleston

July 13 - Duty at Fort Wagner

July 18 - Assault on Fort Wagner by Union forces 

July 19 - Moved to Sullivan’s Island

Jul 29-Aug 3 - Garrisoned Fort Wagner

Aug 11-16 - Garrisoned Fort Wagner

Sep 2 - Shelled by Federals while on Sullivan’s Island

Sep 25 - Moved to Long Island

Nov 2 - Returned to Sullivan’s Island

Nov 29 - Moved to Hamilton, NC by rail

Dec 19 - Moved to Tarboro and performed picket duty


Jan 6 - Moved by rail to Camp Hill near Petersburg

Jan 29 - Moved to New Bern vicinity

Feb 1 - Skirmish at Batchelder’s Creek 

Feb 8 - Moved back to Camp Hill by rail

April 1-7 - Moved to Ivor Station; skirmished near Suffolk 

May 9 - Skirmish near Dunlop’s Farm

May 11 - Moved to Drewry’s Bluff

May 13-15 - Skirmished around Drewry’s Bluff  May 16 - Battle of Drewry’s Bluff

May 17-19 - Skirmished near Drewry’s Bluff

May 20 - Attacked Union forces at Bermuda Hundred

May 31 - Skirmished at Cold Harbor

June 1 - Battle of Cold Harbor June 16-17 - Battle of Petersburg

Aug 19 - Skirmish at Globe’s Tavern on railroad south of Petersburg; Clingman wounded and McKethan assumes brigade command

Sept 30 - Assault on Fort Harrison

Oct-Dec - In Richmond area

Dec 24 - Departed for Wilmington


Jan 12 - Moved near Fort Fisher

Feb 19 - Withdrew to Wilmington

Feb 22 - Moved near Rockfish; Wilmington captured by Federals

Mar 7-9 - Battle of Kinston 

Mar 17 - Moved to Smithfield

Mar 19 - Battle of Bentonville 

Mar 22 - Moved to Smithfield

Apr 10-12 - Moved to Raleigh, then Chapel Hill, then Durham

May 2 - Surrendered at Bush Hill

history of regiment

The 51st Regiment N.C. Troops was organized at Wilmington in April, 1862, and was composed of men recruited primarily in the counties of Brunswick, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, New Hanover, Robeson, and Sampson. Field Officers were elected on April 30. John Lucas Cantwell, a Wilmington cotton broker who had previously served as a captain of Company D, 13th Battalion N.C. Infantry, was elected colonel. Private W.J. Burney of Company G, whose experiences during thenext few months probably typified those of the regiment, wrote home in early May that he had "drawed" a coat, a pair of pants, and two shirts and, though unable to get anything to eat except "Bacon and salt Beef," he was "very well satafied" and "living easy." "We dont drill any worthwhile to mention, " Burney continued with evident gratification, and "only stand guard some times." Writing on May 7 from Camp Holmes, near Wilmington, Burney reported that the regiment was in a "very prety place" with "good water," a "high hill," and " a plenty of good shade trees to drill in."

The regiment remained in the Wilmington area until June 26. The camps they lived in during that time included Camps Morgan, Holmes, Davis, French, Lamb, and Leventhorpe. On the 26th of June, eight companies were ordered to Fort Johnson, near Smithville (present-day Southport), on the West bank of the Cape Fear River. Companies D and K remained behind to fortify batteries on the Cape Fear.

In early September, the regiment was sent to Kinston, about thirty miles nortwest of New Bern, N.C. On October 1st they were brigaded wtih Brigadier Thomas L. Clingman. The brigade consisted of the 8th, 31st, 51st, and 61st North Carolina Troops. The men of the 51st experienced their first taste of battle during this time. On November 17, the men were returned to Wilmington going into camp at Camp Mears, on Wrightsville Sound. From there to Camps Clingman on November 21, and to Camp Whiting on November 27.

By December 16, the regiment was again called to combat duty as they departed Wilmington for Goldsboro, N.C. where they would defend an important railroad bridge. The casualties from this action on December 21 resulted in 6 men killed, 43 wounded, and 8 missing. A later report filed by the adjutant stated there were 5 men killed and 55 wounded. On December 28, the men were on their way bac to Camp Whiting in Wilmington.

Later, during the month of February 1863, Company D was sent to Robeson County under orders to "capture, or if neccessary, destroy" a group of deserters and "freebooters" whose depredations had produced "deplorable" conditions. It not known of the outcome of this expedition, but it is documented that the regiment suffered frequent food shortages.

On the evening of February 17th, the regiment was deployed by rail to Charleston, S.C., where it arrived in camp by the 19th. They were dispatched on March 4 to the aid of the threat of attacks on Fort McAllister near Savannah, Georgia, however, they were not needed and returned to Charleston on March 9, going into camp on James Island, S.C. Due to the location of the regiment during the Naval assault on Charleston on April 7, 1863, the 51st had no active part in that fighing. On May 1st, the men were on the move again back to Wilmington for a short while. During that deployment, four companies (B.D,E, and H) were detached and sent to Magnolia (Duplin County) on the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad where on July 1 they had a skirmish with a Federal raiding party in the vicinty of Warsaw. On July 11, the regiment returned to Charleston.

The 51st Regiment was now considered "veterans".  It was on July 13th when the 51st and the 31st Regiments along with several South Carolina units relieved the garrison at Battery Wagner on Morris Island.  Normally the rotation was three days duty on the fort, however, due to bad weather they would have their time extended to five days. On July 18, 1863, they would take the brunt of the attack on Battery Wagner, Morris Island, in Chareston Harbor. (See McKethan's Report of July 20, 1863). This was the attacked led by the famous 54th Massachusettes Infantry led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.   Hollywood imortalized this regiment in the motion picture "Glory".   The compiled military service records used to make up the roster of the 51st indicate the regiment lost 23 men killed or mortally wounded, 50 wounded, and none taken prisoner. Throughout the remainder of the summer, the 51st rotated duty on Morris Island and and Sullivan's Island. 

November 29, 1863 found the regiment enroute back to the "Old North State" where they would see duty at Camp Pender in Martin County, North Carolina, then to Camp Battle near Tarboro.  On January 6, 1864 they took to the rails once again where they arrived in Petersburg, Virginia the next day.  The first trip to Virginia was short-lived due to the renewed threat by General George E. Pickett of the Federal Army back at New Bern, North Carolina.


Home of General Hoke


Headquarters Flag of General Robert F. Hoke

On a recent trip up to Lincolnton, NC recently, I stumbled onto the house that once belonged to NC Major General Robert F. Hoke (1837-1912) Wounded at Chancellorsville, later became division commander, 4th Corps, Army of Northern Virginia,   taking part in the fighting at Bermuda Hundred and Cold Harbor in Virgnia.  He commanded the division that Clingman's Brigade was attached to during their time in Virginia. The neighbors told me the house is built in the form of an H.  It was moved to it's present location many years ago from the adjacent lot on the corner where it once was situated, approximately 50 yards away.  It was on the main road leading into the old town of Lincolnton, NC.General Robert  F. Hoke, along with the 8th North Carolina. The 51st suffered only a few casualties and after General Pickett withdrew back to Kinston, the regiment board the train back to Petersburg, Virginia.  They arrived on February 8 and for the most part of the next three months, the men would be camped at Camp Hill.  The Headquarters Flag (Confederate 2nd National) was donated to the North Carolina Museum after his death in 1912.

It is ironic that the 51st would fight the some of the same regiments they faced in battle in Charleson just the summer before.  On May 10, 1864, Clingman's Brigade which included the 51st were ordered to reinforce the Confederate defenders of Fort Darling at Drewry's Bluff on the James River. They were placed in a reserved position right behind the brigade of General Bushrod Johnson.  From their actions as skirmishers from May 13-15th, they had taken part in an assault on May 16 which inflicted 4000 casualties in the Federat regiments under Major General Benjamine Butler, driving him back toward Bermuda Hundred, near Chester Station between the James and Appomattox Rivers.  The casualties of this action on May 16 cost the 51st a loss of 40 men killed or mortally wounded, 105 wounded, and 27 captured.  These figures are from the compliled service records and are a little different from the report of Colonel Hector McKethan.  The regiment would remain in Bermuda Hundred until May 31, 1864.

May 31 would be the beginning of renewed fighting at Cold Harbor, near Richmond.  The battle of 2nd Cold Harbor would take a heavy toll on the 51st.   From the 31st and June 1st, the roll call was reduced by 34 killed, 58 wounded, and 128 captured.  There was plenty of duty in the trenches around Bermuda Hundred.   There was a two day balltle in Petersburg in which the regiment saw some heavy fighting when a potentially disastrous Federal penetration was sealed off by Clingman's and Brigadier General Matt Ransom's brigades after a bayonette charge and hand-to-hand fight with clubbed muskets.  The losses from this fighting included 16 men killed, 25 wounded, and 26 captured.  So far the campaigns were taking a toll in the numbers of men from teh 51st.

The next fight place at the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad at Globe Tavern.  Despite the desperate attempt to hold the ground, the Federal Army had permenatly severed the railroad.  The fighting was descibes as "a regular woods scramble" by one member of the 51st.  There were 4 men killed, 3 wounded, and 25 captured at the battle of Globe Tavern.

The hardest and bloodiest battle was yet to come for the 51st.   Soon they would find themselves in battle at Fort Harrison.  The fort had been taken in a surprise attack on the 29th of September.  Clingman's Brigade played a large role in trying to retake the lost ground.  As the "Tarheels" advanced on the fort, they found themselves in an uncompormising position.  When they reached the abatis [inclined pointed poles] Lieutenant A.A. Mckethan of Company B reported "To retreat was death, so the only chance was to throw down their guns and pull up these obstructions, which the men at once attempted, but a double line armed with repeating rifles posted in front ot the works, and a dealdy fire from the garrison in the fort....and the concentration of all the artillery upon them, made the position untenable and the task impossible, so that the few left were forced to seek shelter offered by two old buildings near the works."  Of the 528 casualties of Clingman's Brigade, 104 of them were men of the 51st. In only five months, from May 1 through September 30, the regiment was reduced from approximately 800 men down to 145.

On December 22, Hoke's Division was ordered to Wilmington where Fort Fisher had become severly threatened.  General Butler had been replaced by a more competent General Alfred H. Terry [who would later in 1876 lead the 7th US Cavalry from Fort Abraham Lincoln, North Dakota to the battle of the Little Bighorn in Souteastern Montana].   The 51st would arrive in Wilmington on or about December 28 and would be dispatched to Fort Fisher to rejoing Hoke's Division.  This would be the beginning of the end.  In conjunction with the fall of Fort Fisher, General William T Sherman with his huge marching army was making its way up into North Carolina.  Soon, the regiment would skirmish in Kinston or the battle of Wise's Forks and Southwest Creeks on March 7 and 8.

Eventually, the last stand would be the battle of Bentonville.   Although the official report does not detail the casualties of the 51st, Hoke's Division suffered 61 men killed, 471 wounded, and 202 missing.  It need to be understood that by this time [March 1865] the ranks were small in all of the regiments. At the end on April 26, 1865, at the home of James Bennitt, three miles west of Durham Station, General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered.  A week later when the army was parolled at Greensboro, only thirty-six members of the 51st Regiment were present to received their paroles.