62nd North Carolina Infantry

[Webmaster's Note: This account, written in 1901 by B.G. McDowell, includes precious little information about the men of the 62nd. The only Jackson county soldiers mentioned are the officers listed for Company G. McDowell instead devotes his energy to the refutation of the "false and slanderous statements" of General Frazier. Taken from Clark, Walter (Ed.). (1901). Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-'65. (Volume 3). Goldsboro: Nash Brothers Printers.]

The Sixty-second Regiment was composed almost entirely of Western North Carolinians, officers and men.

The companies composing the same met at Waynesville July 11, '62, and organized by electing the following:
R. G. A. Love, Colonel, Waynesville, N. C.
G. W. Clayton, Lieutenant-Colonel, Asheville, N. C.
B. G. McDowell, Major, Macon county, N. C.

STAFF AND COMPANY OFFICERS

The staff and company officers were as follows:
R. B. Johnson, Captain and Quartermaster, of Asheville.
Patrick Thrash, Captain and Commissary of Subsistence, Buncombe county.
Dr. H. M. Rogers, Surgeon, Haywood county.
Dr. G. D. S. Allen, Assistant Surgeon, Haywood county.
Lieutenant James H. McAlister, Assistant Commissary of Subsistence.
Joseph E. Haynes, Adjutant, of Knoxville, Tennessee.

The commanding officers of all these companies were, as elected:

Company A - Haywood County - A. T. Rogers, Captain; W. H. Leatherwood, First Lieutenant; E.R. Furgerson and Geo. H. Nelson, Second Lieutenants.

Company B - Clay County - Benjamin Moore, Captain; C. M. Crawford, First Lieutenant; J. J. McClure and M. Passmore, Second Lieutenants.

Company C - Haywood County - John Turpin, Captain; J. M. Tate, First Lieutenant; Jere Ratcliff and Robert L. Owen, Second Lieutenants.

COMPANY D - Macon County - R. M. Henry, Captain; M. L. Kelly, First Lieutenant; L. Enloe and W. P. Norton, Second Lieutenant.

COMPANY E - Haywood County - Captain, R. A. Edmondson and J. Ramsay Dills; W. H. Bryson, First Lieutenant; R. M. Wilson and M. L. Allison, Second Lientenant.

COMPANY F - Rutherford County - Captain, A. B. Cowan; Jas. M. Taylor, First Lieutenant; Jno. Jones and D. D. Walker, Second Lieutenants.

COMPANY G - Jackson County - Captain, A. D. Hooper; D. F. Brown, First Lieutenant; B. N. Queen and P. M. Parker, Second Lieutenants.

COMPANY H - Henderson County - Captain, W. G. B. Morris; J. M. Owen, First Lieutenant; G. W. Whitmore and I. F. Galloway, Second Lieutenants.

COMPANY I - Haywood County - Captain, William J. Wilson; I. P. Long, First Lieutenant; J. A. Burnett, and P. G. Murray, Second Lieutenants.

COMPANY K - Transylvania County - Captain, L. C. Neil; S. C. Beck, First Lieutenant; Jas. M. Gash and V. C. Hamilton, Second Lieutenants.

The Field Officers were happily chosen. Colonel Love was a leading and influential citizen of Haywood county, a man of first-class ability and often held places of trust, honor and profit, as the gift of his people, until his health gave way under disease, which resulted in his death after the war. He was Lieutenant-Colonel of the Sixteenth North Carolina Regiment in the Army of Northern Virginia, and was transferred by promotion to the Sixty-second.

Lieutenant-Colonel Clayton was of Buncombe county, North Carolina, and a resident of the city of Asheville, a graduate of West Point, of a most excellent family, an elegant gentleman, a magnificent disciplinarian, and was loved by every member of his regiment. Colonel Clayton died recently greatly lamented by a large circle of friends and relatives and mourned by his comrades in arms who shared with him the privations and hardships of a soldier's life.

While stationed at Cumberland Gap, a point which figured conspicuously in the late war between the States, Colonel Clayton fell a victim to typhoid fever. He was removed to a hospital at Greenville, Tennessee. Very soon after he left, the siege of Cumberland was on, and he could not return to his command at the Gap. Colonel Love was off on sick leave at the time, so the command of the regiment was left in the hands of the Major of the regiment Lieutenant-Colonel Clayton was not, therefore, able to return to his regiment until after the surrender of Cumberland Gap (9 September, 1863), when that portion of the regiment which escaped from the Gap was assembled at Pigeon river, in Haywood county, to be again prepared to enter into active service.

Major, later Lieutenant-Colonel, B. G. McDowell, was a native of Macon county, N. C. Early in 1861, he enlisted in the 39th North Carolina under Colonel David Coleman and was transferred to the 62nd by promotion to Major of the Regiment 11 July, 1862.

All three of these officers were descendants of revolutionary soldiers, and appropriately commanded men, most of whom were also lineal descendants of the heroes of 1776 and as brave and patriotic as their ancestors.

Want of space precludes the possibility of the mention of even the names of this heroic band which are given, with some occasions and inaccuracies in Moore's Roster, Vol.8, p. 716, et seq. Their descendants should remember and be proud of the membership of their parents in such a command.

EAST TENNESSEE.

Soon after the organization the regiment started Haynesville (now called Johnson's City), in Washington county, Tennessee, arriving there about 1 August, 1862, when it was placed under rigid drill and prepared for active service. A braver or more courageous body of men did not belong to the Confederate army. They left their homes, a majority of them leaving families dependent upon them and offered their lives a sacrifice upon the field of battle for a cause they thought to be right. The rank and file of this regiment were of the very best citizens of Western North Carolina. A finer or braver set of men, taken all together I have never seen. This regiment when it went into camp for drill, was without arms, except a few old muskets were furnished them for drilling purposes.

The regiment had not been in camp at Haynesville but a few days, when it was separated, three companies going to Zollicoffer (now Bluff City). Three to Carter's Depot (now South Watauga), two to Limestone, in Washington county the rest of the companies remaining at Haynesville (now Johnson's City)--all these points in Tennessee. The writer of this sketch was sent to Zollicoffer, to take charge of the three companies there, put them under rigid drill, and at the same time guard the bridge spanning the Holston river at that point and prevent railroad communication from being disturbed. The other two companies mentioned were put to like service. A very small amount of ammunition was furnished the forces placed in camp for drill and guard duties. This was true as to this regiment. We had a few old fashioned muskets, and a small amount of ammunition furnished for the purposes indicated. In this condition, this regiment was by no means in condition to meet an attack by the enemy, especially when in any sort of considerable force, being simply in a camp of instruction.

In the early fall of 1862, date not now remembered, one Battalion of the Regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel Clayton was ordered to Causby Creek, Cocke county, Tennessee, to help suppress an uprising of disloyal citizens there. It seems that some conscripts and deserters had been turned out of the Waynesville jail by their friends. Sheriff Noland while pursuing them, was killed on Noland or Utah Mountain, three miles north-east of town. The militia of the county was called out and followed the outlaws to the Tennessee line, via Cattaloochee and Big Creek, north forty miles.

Major W. W. Stringfield with 150 Cherokee Indians and whites of the Sixty-ninth North Carolina, also on a scout in Sevier county, Tenn., and Jackson county, N. C., rapidly crossed the Balsam mountains at Soco Gap (fifteen miles northwest of Waynesville) and in company with several hundred militia--old men and boys under Major Rhea and Colonel Rogers, Green Garrett, Arch Herren and others crossed over the Tennessee line, killed several of the outlaws and soon reduced the others to submission.

The Sixty-second, badly armed and equipped as it was, presented a formidable and war-like appearance. The outlaws were killed, captured or scattered and restive citizens were quieted. Not a great while after this the Sixty-second was ordered to Greenville, Tenn., the home of President Johnson. It was there brigaded with the Sixty-ninth North Carolina and others and all were subjected to drill and discipline. Railroad bridges were now threatened both from external as well as internal forces. The raid of General Carter mentioned above and its success emboldened all the people three-fourths of whom were "followers of Belial" and disloyal to the South. All the bridges and depots were threatened and some were burned. Hayden and others were hung and hundreds sent South to prison and thousands ran off North and joined the Union army.

I have noticed, in Brigadier-General Frazer's report, of his disgraceful surrender of Cumberland Gap, he refers to this regiment as at one time having been commanded by its Major (referring of course to the writer), and as having been surrendered by him to a gang of Yankee scouts, or raiders. A more unblushing falsehood was never penned by living man.

CAPTURE OF THREE COMPANIES.

I have stated the condition of the three companies under my immediate command at Zollicoffer, which eliminates necessity of repeating it here. On the night of 30 December 1862, General Samuel P. Carter, with three regiments of Federal cavalry, made his (the first) raid into East Tennessee for the purpose of burning the bridges and destroying railroad communication. The East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad bridge at Zollicoffer was the first point struck by this "Yankee raid," of not less than 2,500 men. I was there with three companies of poorly armed men, with no means of defense and absolutely helpless. In this condition these three companies were surrendered. And yet, the gallant Frazer has me surrendering this whole regiment to a Yankee scouting party. His false and slanderous statement is found on page 611, Official Records Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 51.

The men were paroled, and as soon as exchanged, which was but a short time, they were ordered to Cumberland Gap, and composed a part of the garrison of the Gap. In February, 1863, the balance of the regiment was stationed at Greenville, Tenn., and in March and April were in General A. E. Jackson's Brigade at Strawberry Plains. At the end of July the regiment was in Gracie's Brigade at Cumberland Gap.

General Gracie was in command at the Gap when the regiment reached that point, but did not remain but a short time, being ordered away, and was succeeded by General Frazer.

SURRENDER OF CUMBERLAND GAP

General John W. Frazer was in command at Cumberland Gap when the surrender of that stronghold occurred 9 September, 1863. The force we had at the Gap, was, of course, insignificant when compared with the Federal forces which approached the Gap on both sides, when the siege began, but the surrender of the Confederate forces there was a shame and disgrace, when the situation is fully understood. The approaches to the Gap were of such character that it would have been impossible for any number of men to have captured the post by force. The opportunity of General Frazer to have evacuated the Gap and saved his command from a long imprisonment and death (as was the case with many of them) was open, and nothing but treachery, or cowardice, or it may be both, could have led to the unconditional surrender of this, the strongest natural position in the Confederate States, and with it, 2,026 prisoners, 12 pieces of artillery, and the stores of ammunition and provision.

The writer has read, over and over again, the report of the surrender of Cumberland Gap, as given by General Frazer, and wondered if an opportunity would ever be offered for the vindication of our men at the Gap, from the miserable slanders hurled against them by Frazer in his attempt to shield himself from public censure. The report of this surrender made by him in Volume 51, pages 604, et seq, is to my own personal knowledge false in every essential particular, and does the brave men who composed the garrison at the Gap the greatest wrong. It should be corrected and handed down in history, just as it occurred, and let the blame rest where it rightfully belongs. I think we have reached the point that when known facts are given to the public for consideration and approval, or rejection, public sentiment will invariably reach a just conclusion.

It would, even at this late day, be exceedingly difficult for General Frazer to convince the survivors of the Cumberland Gap disaster, that he did not surrender for a money consideration.

This regiment when it reached the Gap, had about 800 men for duty. There were a few deserters from this regiment, but not more than was common from nearly all regiments. Desertions were by men who returned to their homes. They did not go to the enemy.

Shortly after we reached the Gap, Colonel Love left the regiment on account of extreme bad health, from which he never recovered, but ultimately died as has been stated. It was not long thereafter until Lieutenant-Colonel Clayton was taken sick of typhoid fever, and was removed to the hospital at Greenville, Tenn., and was away from the Gap when the siege began, and when the command was surrendered. The siege of Cumberland Gap began 7 September, 1863. General DeCourcy commanded the Federal forces on the Kentucky side and General Shackelford on the south or Tennessee side. It was in reality Burnside's army on the south side of the Gap. The writer was the only field officer of the Sixty-second Regiment there at the time. I was placed, with almost my entire regiment, out on the Harlan county road on picket duty. This road overlooked the valley leading down what was then, and is I think still, known as Yellow creek. Skirmishing and picket firing was continuous out on road, after the siege began, and not unfrequently the enemy from the Kentucky side assaulted our position along this road in strong force, and made repeated determined to drive us from our position. It affords me pleasure now to say, and will be a pleasure to me to know as long as I live, that men never behaved with more coolness and courage than did the men of the Sixty-second Regiment. Kain's Battery, commanded by Lieutenant O'Connor, was stationed on what was known as the East Mountain, only a short distance from where I was on duty with my regiment. We had been advised during the day of the 9th of the repeated demands that had been made for the surrender of the Gap, and of General Frazer's refusal, and felt entirely confident that we would not be surrendered, because it was utterly unnecessary owing to the fact that he could take the entire command out of the Gap at any time, against any odds. The situation was such that he could not have been prevented from doing so; and he well understood this if he understood anything. It was understood all along the line that the battle would open at noon on 9 September, 1863. Noon came, but no battle. The writer went up on top of the East Mountain and found Lieutenant Thomas O'Connor at his battery, from which point of vantage we had a splendid view of Burnside's army and all that was going on. We both observed that flags of truce were passing in and out of the Gap rather too frequently to make us feel comfortable, hut we had no information, though we suspected that something was wrong in some way. Just about sunset that day, a courier come to me from General Frazer with an order to report at the General's headquarters, with my regiment at once Then I began to realize that our suspicions were well founded. I returned to the Gap with my men, who had been on duty for nearly a week without intermission or relief, but not a man had flinched from duty for a moment. There I found General Frazer sitting in front of his tent surrounded by his staff officers. All the commanding officers of regiments and batteries arrived at General Frazer's headquarters about the same time. That was absolute]y the only consultation called, and we were then informed by General Fraser that we were surrendered. Every officer bitterly opposed being surrendered, and some of them denounced it in the most vigorous terms as cowardly and unwarranted by the conditions surrounding us at the time.

A detachment of sixty men (not one hundred and twenty five as stated by General Frazer), had been detailed from the various regiments to guard a little mill which rested just at the foot of the mountain on the south side, and which served to grind meal for the army at the Gap. Immediately in front of this little mill was Burnside's whole army. The Federal commander sent a force sufficient for the purpose which under cover of heavy artillery firing, attacked the guard at this mill and dispersed it, the guard being utterly insufficient to meet the emergency. They could do nothing but fall back on the command in the Gap, or stand and be shot down like brutes, as they would have been, had they not fallen back on their commands. And yet the gallant General Frazer and his engineer, Rush VanLeer, would have according to their own statement, 125 men hold this mill against side's whole army, numbering anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 men.

ESCAPE.

When I was told by General Frazer that I had been surrendered, and that I and my regiment were prisoners of war my indignation and that of my regiment knew no bounds. I informed him that I would not be made a prisoner of war that it took two to make such a bargain as that under the circumstances, and that he could not force me to do so. Sharp words were exchanged, and I called up all of the Sixty-second Regiment who were willing to take their lives in their hands and all of the other commands in the Gap who were willing to join us, and said to them, "If you will go with we will go out from here, and let consequences take care of themselves."

In all about 600 responded, and led by Colonel Slemp and a man from Abingdon, Va., whose name was Page, as I remember, both of whom were perfectly familiar with the country, we moved out of the Gap, eastward, passing Kain's battery and pushing one rifle piece over the cliff as we went along. We made our way along the north side of the mountain, on the Kentucky side, until we reached a point opposite Jonesville, where we encountered a pursuing force of Federal cavalry. Our entire escaping force had kept their guns and ammunition, expecting a collision as we went out, and being thus prepared, an immediate dash was made by our men. Having the decided advantage of position, we forced the Federal cavalry to retire and were permitted to pass on, the Federals returning to the Gap, after burning the little town of Jonesville, in Lee county, Va. We made our way to Bristol, Tennessee, and Zollicoffer, and I at once reported the surrender to Major C. S. Stringfellow, Adjutant-General, and awaited further orders from the General commanding.

CAMP ON PIGEON RIVER.

After the surrender of Cumberland Gap, the men of the Sixty-second Regiment who were at home on furlough, and all those who escaped capture went into camp at Pigeon river, in Haywood County, N. C. After remaining there for a few days, they entered again into active service and never for one moment flinched from any duty assigned them, nor from constant danger to which they were exposed, to the end of the war. In April, 1864, the fragment of the regiment was at Asheville under command of Captain Aug. B. Cowan and reported 178 men.

About this time Colonel Love resigned as Colonel of the regiment, and Lieutenant-Colonel Clayton was raised to the rank of Colonel, and the writer to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and Captain Rogers, of Company A, to the rank of Major.

This regiment (and by this I mean that portion which escaped capture) engaged in all the East Tennessee campaigns under General Breckinridge, General Vaughn and General Williams. The men of this regiment were the very last men to lay down their arms and very many of them never did take the oath of allegiance, which was required as every one knows, of all Confederate soldiers at the close of the war.

Immediately after the surrender of Cumberland Gap, General Frazer and the men who did not escape from the Gap, were removed to Federal prisons, where those who did not die from disease remained until the close of the war. On 30 December, 1863, there were 443 of the Sixty-second in person at Camp Douglas, 119 Official Records Union and Confederate Armies, p. 797. What became of General Frazer the writer does not know. After the surrender of the Gap, so far as I am advised, he was never heard of again beyond his lying report above cited, which purports to have been written at Fort Warren, in Boston harbor, November, l864.

General Frazer in his report of the surrender of the reflects severely and most unjustifiably upon the character of the troops and morale of the command. I was at my post of duty from the day the regiment arrived at the Gap till the surrender, and knew as much of the morale and character of the command as General Frazer, or any one else, and do most positively deny his charges.

On page 611, Vol.51, Official Records Union and Confederate Armies, he says: "The Colonel was absent and soon after resigned and became an open advocate of reunion in county." This, of course, refers to Colonel Love, who later on resign on account of extreme bad health, from which he died, as stated herein. But the allegation of his entertaining Union sentiments as published by General Frazer, who was then in prison and who never saw or heard of Colonel Love after the surrender of Cumberland Gap, is unfounded in fact. It is due to the memory of Colonel Love, who was loyal to the cause of the south, to the very end, and even after all hope was lost, to denounce this statement as absolutely untrue.

There are now numerous living witnesses to attest the truth of the foregoing. It is astonishing to think how docile, loyal and obedient were the men to their superior officers. It was such a surprise however, that no one had to think, ere we were in the hands of our enemies.

General Frazer was bitterly denounced by his brother officers after going to prison, and we are told by good men like Lieutenant J. M. Tate, Lieutenant R. A. Owen, W. H. Leatherwood of Haywood county, and others, that the indignation was so great against him that the Federals changed him to another prison and permitted him, doubtless, gladly, to slander his own men. Indignities were offered to these brave men all along the way to prison. At Aurora, Indiana, as our men passed under guard, a crowd of big rough toughs, crowded around our men and belabored them much as "miserable cowardly rebels," etc. Captain Printer of 55th Georgia, a big strong noble fellow finally said to the guards, "Stop these cowardly curs, or we will." They stopped. Notwithstanding all these slanders about this Regiment it can receive no higher endorsement, no greater need of praise, no more complete refutation of slanders, than the fact that though in prison, the dreadful prisons of the North, for 23 months, not a single man took the oath of allegiance to the North, although it was offered to them often. Many of the command were sick, starved, frozen to death. Shot down for any or no pretense, all kinds of insults and indignity were daily, monthly and yearly thrust into their faces. Disloyal indeed! Great Heaven!! Who will dare say so again!!!

The whole history of the surrender of Cumberland Gap, as given out by General Frazer and his staff, and one or two others who seem to have fallen under his influence, was a fabrication intended to mislead the authorities at Richmond, never dreaming, perhaps, that it would come to the eyes of the public, and of those who were on the ground and so unjustly slandered by his report.

We knew, or had been advised of the repeated demands for the surrender of the Gap, and also that these demands had been refused, and had not the most remote idea that we were to be surrendered until I was notified, as I have herein before stated; and as I stated in my communication of 16 September, 1863, found on pages 636-37, Official Records of Union and Confederate Armies, Vol.51.

There was no insubordination among the troops of the Sixty-second North Carolina Regiment, as far as I knew, and had there been, I certainly would have known it. Furthermore, there was no want of courage, discipline or determination among the men. We expected the battle to come on every moment,and at no time during the whole war did I ever see, or know, men more disappointed than these were when they found that they were surrendered without an exhibition of their courage. Stalwart men actually cried like children when they found that they were surrendered and had to submit to being made prisoners without defending their right and reputation, that our commanding General never lost an opportunity to defame.

THE CLOSING SCENES.

The Sixty-second North Carolina Regiment were the very last men to surrender when the war closed. The fragment left of the regiment composed part of Palmer's Brigade at Asheville 10 March, 1865, and under General Martin aided to repulse Kirby's Brigade near that town 5 April, 1865. Many of them never did take the oath of allegiance. The remnant of this regiment, along with other brave and noble men of the Old North State, after General Lee's surrender in Virginia, resisted a Federal force on the French Broad, near Asheville, and held them at bay for hours, until overcome by overwhelming forces and when forced to withdraw, under Colonel Clayton, did so and went to their homes and never did take the oath of allegiance as then required by the Federal authorities. No braver or more noble hearted men ever lived than those composing the Sixty-second North Carolina Regiment of Infantry.

B. G. McDowell
Bristol, TENN.
30 May, 1901

 


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