44th Regiment North Carolina Troops
Pvt. William Tate Crawford and the 44th Regiment N.C. Troops
By John W. Taylor, his great grandson (published here with his permission)
William was born on October 13, 1838 in Orange County, NC, to James and Nancy Crawford. They made a living by farming at the Bingham Township town of Oaks. He was 22 when the war started, and the regiment he later would join had been organized near the state capitol of Raleigh on March 28, 1862 at a place called Camp Mangum. After some preliminary drill and instruction, the 44th departed for Greenville, NC, via Tarboro, NC, where it served on picket duty. At Tranter's Creek on June 5th, portions of the 44th were engaged in a brief skirmish.
On July 5th, the regiment was relocated from eastern North Carolina to Petersburg, Virginia and united with the 47th and 52nd NC Troops under the command of Gen. James G. Martin. The brigade was ordered to Drewry's Bluff on the James River to build fortifications and do picket duty. Later, the brigade returned to Petersburg, and the 26th NC regiment joined their ranks. Gen James J. Pettigrew took over as commander. Their 1862 role was to protect the Wilmington & Weldon and Petersburg & Weldon RR's, as well as to harass and engage the enemy in southeast Virginia and eastern North Carolina.
During this period, on November 1, 1862, William Tate Crawford answered the call of the newly enacted Confederate conscription, enlisting as a Private at Camp French, which was east of Petersburg, Va., and was assigned to Company G , 44th Regiment North Carolina Troops.
During the unsuccessful campaign of March 1863 to recapture New Bern and Washington, NC, Pettigrew's brigade was assigned to flank New Bern from Magnolia and shell Fort Anderson. On March 14th, Pettigrew commenced bombardment of Fort Anderson to prepare an attack by the 26th and 44th; however, Pettigrew called off the advance upon being outgunned by superior Federal artillery. The brigade successfully repelled a Federal relief column at Blount's Creek on April 11th. The campaign was abandoned on April 15th when Union reinforcements reached Washington by way of the Pamlico River.
Late April to early May saw the brigade serving in detached duty. After leaving Kinston, NC by rail to Richmond, the brigade was sent to Hanover Junction, where detachments were assigned to protect the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac RR and key bridges over the North and South Anna Rivers. The 44th served on outpost duty in the Meadow Bridge-Mechanicsville area. (Read Richmond Enquirer article dated 5/12/1863 which describes the role of the 44th in the funeral procession of Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.) After the threat by Federal cavalry had passed, the brigade was reunited at Hanover Junction; but the brigade was on the move again by early June...all except the 44th Regiment. Its job was to remain behind and defend 7 bridges and river fords from Milford to the South Anna River.
As Pettigrew's brigade moved to Hamilton's Crossing near Fredericksburg, and later marched through the Shenandoah Valley and into history in the infamous Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, men of the 44th Regiment were making history of their own. On June 26, 1863, Companies A & G, consisting of 90 men, defending the Virginia Central RR bridge over the South Anna River, fended off numerous violent assaults by a Union force of over 1,100 cavalry and troops. Overwhelming Federal odds prevailed, but only after bloody hand to hand combat. Company A's losses were heavy, having lost 7 killed, 13 wounded, and 30 captured. Company G's losses were not as severe. The remainder of the 44th served on picket duty near Hanover Junction, and on July 24th the entire regiment was ordered to Gordonsville.
After rejoining the brigade in early August 1863, which was now under the command of Col. Thomas Singletary, upon the untimely death of Gen. Pettigrew at Gettysburg, the 44th occupied a line on the Rapidan River. Col. Singletary was replaced on August 29th by Gen. William Kirkland as brigade commander. Lee had moved his forces to the Rapidan in response to Meade's move across the Potomac from Gettysburg, taking up position on the Rappahannock. In October, Lee decided to strike; a move which drove Meade back towards Centreville. During the Battle of Bristoe Station on October 14th, the 44th under Kirkland was involved in an attack upon Federal troops entrenched behind a RR embankment. Heavy infantry and artillery fire greeted the brigade as it moved down an open hill and towards the Union line. Unable to take the position, the brigade was forced to retreat, but many of the men refused to recross the open area, and were captured. Losses to the 44th were 23 killed and 63 wounded, as well as the wounding of Gen. Kirkland. Col. Singletary again assumed command of the brigade. Meade continued his retreat towards Centreville, during which battles raged at Rappahannock Bridge and Kelly's Ford, on Nov. 7th. In late November, both armies entrenched across Mine Run Creek, but on Dec. 2nd, Lee discovered that Meade had withdrawn. Lee then ordered his army into winter quarters, whereupon the 44th Regiment, with Kirkland's brigade, encamped near Orange Court House.
The winter of 1863-64 is recorded as having been especially damp and cold, which undoubtedly took a heavy toll on the young men of the army, one being Private William Tate Crawford. Records show that he was present with Company G in November and December; however it also indicates that he was listed as "absent-sick" from January thru March, 1864. Furthermore, a receipt roll for clothing issued to William at Camp Winder General Hospital in Richmond, dated October 10, 1863, would seem to indicate that he had been admitted to that hospital in the fall of 1863; also, the records do not show a reason, but most likely due to sickness.
The year 1864 saw both armies side stepping their way towards Richmond. The brigade was again under the command of the recovered Gen. Kirkland. At The Wilderness, on May 5th, the brigade saw action once again. Hill's Corps, which Kirkland's Brigade was a part, occupied the crossroads at Parker's Store after driving back Union cavalry. Later the brigade, including the 44th, was ordered into reserve behind the brigade of John R. Cooke, which held the center line across the Orange Plank Rd. A 4:00pm Federal attack brought Kirkland's brigade into action, and later onto the offensive, but failed in routing the enemy. At 5am on the morning of the 6th, 13 Union brigades drove swiftly and severely into Hill's 8 brigades, causing the entire right wing of Lee's forces to fall back in disorder. Kirkland's brigade and others were brought up in support of Cooke, but again the line was broken. A complete collapse was averted at the last moment by the arrival of Longstreet's Corps. Hill was later sent to Chewning Plateau to strengthen the line between Longstreet and Ewell. The battle raged throughout the day until nightfall; during the battle the 44th suffered a high loss of officers.
Grant began side stepping southeasterly once again late on May 7th. Lee rushed the army in advance of Grant and successfully established defensive works at Spotsylvania Court House on the 8th. Hill's Corps, temporarily commanded by Gen. Jubal Early, was placed on the right wing. Gen. Heth's Division, which Kirkland's Brigade (44th included) was a part, maintained the extreme right of the line until May 10th. The division was temporarily moved to the extreme left of the Confederate line to attack an exposed Union flank, but was ordered to its original position on the extreme right on the morning of the 11th. Later, Kirkland's brigade was placed on detached duty in support of artillery positions and saw no action in the intense fighting at the "Mule Shoe" on the 12th.
Several additional attempts against the Confederate lines convinced Grant of the futility of his position, and he began moving once again. A clash at the North Anna River near Hanover Junction, in which Heth's division was not involved, prompted Grant to continue his march. A brief attack on the Union left near Bethesda Church, by Gen. Early on May 30th, indicated that Grant was still moving to Lee's right. Finally the two armies met at Cold Harbor on June 1, 1864, where fresh fighting resumed. The next day, Heth's division aligned with that of Ewell (Early) to mount an offensive on Federal positions, during which Gen. Kirkland was seriously wounded and was replaced by Gen. George Faribault of the 47th NC. The battle raged on as Union forces mounted a three point assault upon the six mile long Confederate line, commencing at 4:30am on the 3rd. Heth's division fought off three separate assaults upon their position. Late in the afternoon, Heth's division was sent to rejoin Hill at Turkey Hill. Afterwards, both armies dug in and remained so until the 12th, when Grant decided to move once again.
As Grant crossed the James River and began his move on Petersburg, Lee countered. Hill was ordered into position on the Confederate right wing, arriving near Globe Tavern on June 18th. Hill entrenched near the line of the Petersburg & Weldon RR. On the 28th, Heth's division was sent to confront a Federal column on the north side of the James River. This turned out to be a Union ploy to distract from the Federal offensive planned at "The Mine", on July 30th. Heth's division returned to their original position August 2nd. During three weeks of relative calm, Col. William MacRae of the 15th NC was appointed, and later promoted to, brigadier general in command of Kirkland's brigade.
Grant, in a move to extend his line westward, sent a force to occupy Globe Tavern on August 18th. Hill's Corps tried unsuccessfully on the 19th and 21st to drive out the Federals; MacRae's Brigade played a minor role on the 21st, holding onto the center of the Confederate line. Hill's Corps, including MacRae's brigade, successfully broke the Union line at Ream's Station on August 25th, routing the Federals and capturing 2000 men and nine pieces of artillery. Afterwards, Hill's men returned to the trenches of Petersburg.
Heth's division enjoyed a respite until September 30th, when the Confederates attempted to prevent Grant from extending his line once again. During the Confederate defeat at Jones' Farm on that date, Pvt. William Crawford was wounded, and later sent to the 5th Division General Hospital, Camp Winder, Richmond, Va. On October 27th, Union forces attempted to occupy high ground north of Hatcher's Run at Burgess' Mill, thereby cutting the Boydton Plank Road and the South Side RR. Hill's forces were marginally successful in attempting to prevent this; Union forces withdrew on the 28th, and on October 29th, MacRae's Brigade went into winter quarters near the Hart House.
The fate of the Confederacy deteriorated rapidly during the final year of the war. In early February, Hill's troops tried in vain to prevent Grant from cutting supply lines on the Boydton Plank Road, and the Union line was later extended to Vaughn Road at Hatcher's Run. On April 1st, Grant routed Confederate forces at Five Forks. Lee's forces, now vulnerable from flank and rear, were assaulted over the entire line south of Petersburg on the 2nd. Union troops broke through and swept the defenses. MacRae's brigade withdrew to a 2nd line of entrenchments, which they held until nightfall. On the night of the 2nd, Lee ordered his forces to abandon the line, and the Army of Northern Virginia began its march to Amelia Court House.
Lee was counting upon the arrival at Amelia CH of desperately needed supplies; their fate was sealed on April 4th and 5th as they arrived, only to discover that the supplies had not. The retreat continued; rear columns commanded by Generals Ewell and Anderson were overtaken and destroyed and/or captured by the Federals. Near Farmville on the 7th, MacRae served as rear guard as Lee's beleaguered army inched towards Appomattox Court House. Having an army of weary, hungry men, who were outnumbered and surrounded in all directions, Lee donned his finest uniform, met Grant at Appomattox CH on the 9th, and surrendered. As the Army of Northern Virginia stacked its arms before Union hero Gen. Joshua Chamberlain, only 82 members of the 44th NC were present to receive their paroles, on April 12, 1865.
Thus ends the history of the 44th NC Troops. After being furloughed for sixty days from his hospital in Richmond, on November 28th or 29th, 1864, my great grandfather, William Tate Crawford, never returned to duty. He was reported absent without leave on March 9, 1865. On August 26, 1866, William married Margaret Conklin, who had 2 brothers who also served with William in Company G of the 44th. They were Pvt. Cave M. Conklin, who enlisted at age 19, and Pvt. John Conklin, elder of the two who enlisted at age 27. Both resided in the same county as William. John was captured at Burgess' Mill on October 27, 1864, and was held at Point Lookout, Md until paroled on March 17, 1865. Interestingly, younger brother Cave was reported absent without leave on March 9, 1865.....the same day as William Tate Crawford. Records show that my great grandfather's name appears on a Roll of Honor of the 44th Regiment NC Troops. After the war, William and Margaret resided in Hillsboro, NC, and had four children, one being my grandfather, Gordon Bingham Crawford. William died on April 30, 1919 in Guilford County, and is buried in the Green Hill Cemetery in Greensboro, Section 9, Lot 66, Grave # 4, located near the Fireman's Marker.
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