With nearly 750 of its 1,000-strong regiment captured in the first two years of Civil War, the remnant could have found
themselves dispirited and drinking from the poisoned well of desertion, and with its final chapter written, each soldier
merely fading into the ages. But this is a story about a regiment that suffered 75% casualties in nearly two
years with 44% becoming fatalities as they withered away in a putrid prison in the North. Regiments are
generally remembered for battlefield feats such as the valiant charge breaching the parapet, dislodging the stubborn foe,
and lifting the enemy's standard while shouting the rebel yell. The 62nd is scarcely remembered because of its atrocious
losses from diseases in the prisoner-of-war camp, but rather for one event that demanded a response just three days before
Lee surrendered to Grant. Having evaded capture in the Cumberland Gap when Confederate forces capitulated on September 9,
1863, the remnant of the 62nd fought bushwhackers and raiders before being assigned to Palmer's Brigade at
on March 10, 1865. Far from Thermopylae and lacking a single Spartan, the tested 175 remaining Tar Heels, of
their own free will, now formed the nucleus of 300 men who would make one last stand. Joined by senior and junior reserves,
some soldiers at home on leave, convalescent soldiers from Asheville, and an artillery battery consisting of
two Napoleons, the 62nd marched into battle to defend Asheville from an approaching Union brigade of 1,100.
The 62nd North Carolina Infantry Regiment was formed at Waynesville, North Carolina, on July 11, 1862,
and was composed almost entirely of men from Western North Carolina. Its members were recruited in the counties of Jackson, Haywood, Clay, Macon,
Rutherford, Henderson, and Transylvania. The field officers were colonels George W. Clayton and Robert G. A. Love, and Lieutenant Colonel Byron Gibbs McDowell (often spelled as Bryan), and they
were all descendants of Revolutionary War soldiers.
Colonel Robert Gustavus Adolphus Love, or R. G. A. Love, initially
served as a Captain in the 16th North Carolina Infantry Regiment in the Army of Northern Virginia. When Captain Love received his promotion to
colonel he transferred to the 62nd North Carolina. (The city of Waynesville, N.C., was founded by Robert Love, an ancestor of R. G. A.) Major, later Lieutenant Colonel, Byron Gibbs McDowell was a native of Macon County, and in early 1861 he enlisted in the 39th North Carolina under the command of Col. David Coleman and was transferred to the 62nd
by promotion to Major of the Regiment on July 11, 1862.
High Resolution Tennessee Civil War Map
62nd North Carolina spent most of the Civil War fighting in East Tennessee
Prisoners of War at Camp Douglas, 1863
Library of Congress
unit served and fought in East Tennessee, but after two consecutive surrenders of 295 and 442 soldiers respectively,
the remnant of the unit, 175 men, reformed in Asheville, North Carolina, and served there for the remainder of the war.
Major B. G. McDowell,
62nd North Carolina, stated that "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 me we will
go out from here, and let consequences take care of themselves."
unit proved invaluable in the defense of the vital and strategic Saltworks and railroads., and in July 1863 the unit was assigned to General Gracie's Brigade and was stationed in the
Together, the 58th, 62nd,64th, and 69th (Thomas' Legion) North Carolina regiments fought the enemy in East Tennessee and in western North Carolina.
In late December 1862, while guarding bridges and railroads in East
Tennessee, three poorly armed companies
(295 soldiers) of the 62nd were captured by a Union cavalry force of 3,000. Although General
John Wesley Frazer
surrendered the regiment in the Cumberland Gap on September 9, 1863, an estimated 600 from various units
evaded capture. The 62nd North Carolina returned to the Asheville area and in April 1864 recorded 178 men. The records
indicate that 442 men of the 62nd were prisoners at Camp Douglas. And in O.R., 1, 30, 11, pp. 636-637* Major McDowell discusses the Cumberland Gap's surrender, and Jefferson
Davis endorses the report by stating that Frazier's surrender "presents a shameful abandonment of duty." *Official
Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; hereinafter cited as O.R.
General Ulysses S. Grant,
while traveling through the Cumberland Gap in 1864, noted: "With two brigades of the Army of the Cumberland I could hold
that pass against the army which Napoleon led to Moscow."
Rock Island, Illinois, and Camp Morton, Indiana. When the Cumberland Gap capitulated, nearly all the officers of the 62nd were
captured; estimated at 24 officers. The officers, however, were segregated and imprisoned at Point Lookout, Maryland, and Johnson's Island, Ohio. Consequently,
while the 62nd was interned at Camp Douglas an estimated forty-four percent of its soldiers died. On Union soil their
bodies were placed in a mass grave known as "The Confederate Mound." The regiment's death toll at Camp Morton, Rock Island, Point Lookout and Johnson's Island is unknown. (See map with location
of American Civil War Prisoner of War Camps.)
McDowell was the only 62nd field officer present during the surrender of the Cumberland Gap. Furthermore, during the surrender, Colonel Love was ill and not present (North Carolina Standard, October 7, 1863), and Lt. Col. Clayton had contracted typhoid fever and was in a hospital
in Greeneville, TN.
Jan. 1865, according to O.R., Series 3, Volume 4, p. 1037, imprisoned 62nd North Carolina men were offered pardons if they joined
the Union Army. According to McDowell not one soldier from the 62nd accepted the offer.
The 62nd continued the war under generals Breckinridge (14th Vice President of the United States and cousin to Mary Todd Lincoln), Vaughn, and Williams in East Tennessee. Whereas in March 1865 the regiment was
attached to Colonel J. B. Palmer's brigade at Asheville, the unit soon disbanded near the French Broad River.
High Resolution Map of Battle of Asheville, North Carolina
Clayton gathered the 300 Confederates and two small brass Napoleon cannons and
marched them to rough earthworks on a hill that overlooked the French Broad route being used by Kirby’s 1,100
soldiers. When the two forces collided at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, they held their positions and began
firing. There was no maneuvering, but gunfire, with sporadic cannonading, which continued for five hours.
North Carolina was one of the state's last regiments to surrender during the Civil War. With the fragment of the regiment
forming part of Palmer's brigade at Asheville on March 10, 1865, and at the direction of General Martin, it engaged and thwarted Kirby's brigade near Asheville on April 6.
Civil War Battle of Asheville, NC
On April 3, 1865, Colonel Kirby, formerly commanding the 101st Ohio Infantry, was ordered to advance
his 1,100 strong brigade, with ten days' rations, from East Tennessee and capture Asheville, if he could do so without suffering high casualties, and he was assisted by Confederate deserters familiar with the terrain. Kirby advanced his force
into the Tar Heel state and camped at Warm Springs, a city adjacent the Tennessee line, and followed the French BroadRiver with his brigade of 900 infantrymen and an estimated 200 partisans, including rebel deserters who had pledged an oath of allegiance to the United States,
two cannon, and a train of wagons. Kirby, leaving his field pieces and wagons at Warms Springs, approached Asheville on April 6 and planned to sack the pristine mountain
city, but Col. Clayton, a West Point graduate and native of Asheville, and a mixed force of 300 Confederates, including 175 of the faithful 62nd North
Carolina, were determined to make a stand. To the west, 600 men of Thomas' Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers, a diverse unit of the rugged region, were stationed between Waynesville and Warm Springs (O.R., 49, 1, 31), ready to engage any Yankee incursion in that vicinity. Clayton was assisted by a company of the Silver Greys and some Confederate soldiers at home on sick leave and furlough. The Silver Greys,
consisting of senior and junior reserves, served as home guard and totaled 44 men, including a 14 year old boy and a 60 year old Baptist minister.
Battle of Asheville & Vicinity Map
Map of Battle of Asheville
Battle of Asheville
Civil War History
(Right) View of the Asheville
battlefield. Confederate artillery was placed on the hills across the road. The battle's historical marker is also in center
McConnell's brigade was en route
to support Kirby, who opined that Confederate infantry of 1,000 to 1,500 with an additional 1,100 cavalry confronted
him, but Kirby, in a calculated move, ordered his men forward without the supporting brigade. At approximately , while the Federal brigade deployed, the rebels commanded positions on the ridge, causing
the Federals to hastily confront them at short range (the location is currently known as Broadway Street). The battle commenced and the armies, with neither striving to gain the advantage,
remained static and exchanged volleys until that night. Although greatly outnumbering its foe, the Union army preferred to retreat,
and the opposing forces reported but few casualties.
Kirby's actions showed that he lacked conviction to press an assault on Asheville, not to
mention capturing it, because he left his field pieces and wagons, having been filled with ten days' rations,
some 30 miles to the north at Warm Springs, which allowed the Ohioan a quick exit should those imaginary 1,100 cavalry
thrash his position. Absent was any maneuvering of his brigade, for he had ample time, five hours, to ascertain the position
and strength of the enemy, which he later conceded was merely a small force of rebels with a two cannons that entertained
him from two positions on a hill. Whereas Kirby refused any flanking movement, he did perform a token demonstration before
the Confederates, who had used the topography to its advantage. Perhaps he was hoping that the Confederates would exhaust
their ammunition, or melt away like fluke flurries in the springtime, and then move toward the city in piecemeal fashion.
After General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865, the Confederates serving
with Clayton in Asheville withdrew and returned to their homes, and they never swore the oath of allegiance as required
by Federal authorities. Perhaps receiving some solace after four years of fighting, with the war having erased many
of their comrades from their Southern communities, several veterans from the unit later commented that we didn't
surrender, we just quit. Lt. Col. McDowell wrote that "No braver or nobler hearted men ever lived than those composing the
Sixty-second North Carolina Infantry Regiment."
Asheville had averted capitulation, it was soon captured, April 26, 1865, during Stoneman's Cavalry Raid. The city's fall, however, occurred almost two weeks after Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox on April
9, but coincided with Gen. Joe Johnston's surrender to Gen. William Sherman at Bentonville, North Carolina. (See Official Order of Surrendering Confederate Forces.)
(Sources and related reading listed at bottom of page.)
Recommended Reading: To Die in Chicago: Confederate Prisoners at Camp Douglas 1862-65
(Hardcover) (446 pages). Description:
The author’s research is exacting, methodical, and painstaking. He brought zero bias to the enterprise and the
result is a stunning achievement that is both scholarly and readable. Douglas, the "accidental" prison camp, began as a training
camp for Illinois volunteers. Donalson and Island #10 changed that.
The long war that no one expected… combined with inclement weather – freezing temperatures - primitive medical
care and the barbarity of the captors created in the author’s own words "a death camp." Stanton's and Grant's policy
of halting the prisoner exchange behind the pretense of FortPillow accelerated the suffering. Continued below...
In the latest
edition, Levy found the long lost hospital records at the National Archives which prove conclusively that casualties were
deliberately “under reported.” Prisoners were tortured, brutality was tolerated and corruption was widespread.
The handling of the dead rivals stories of Nazi Germany. The largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere is filled with....the
bodies of CampDouglas dead, 4200 known and 1800 unknown.
No one should be allowed to speak of Andersonville until they have absorbed the horror of Douglas, also known as “To
Die in Chicago.”
Reading:The Civil War in North Carolina.Description: Numerous battles and skirmishes were fought
in North Carolina during the Civil War, and the campaigns
and battles themselves were crucial in the grand strategy of the conflict and involved some of the most famous generals of
the war. Continued below...
Barrett presents the complete story of military engagements across the state, including the classical pitched battle of Bentonville--involving
Generals Joe Johnston and William Sherman--the siege of FortFisher,
the amphibious campaigns on the coast, and cavalry sweeps such as General George Stoneman's
Raid. Also available in hardcover: The Civil War in North Carolina.
Recommended Reading:East Tennessee and the Civil War (Hardcover) (588 pages). Description: A solid social, political, and military history, this work gives
light to the rise of the pro-Union and pro-Confederacy factions. It explores the political developments and recounts in fine
detail the military maneuvering and conflicts that occurred. Beginning with a history of the state's first settlers, the author
lays a strong foundation for understanding the values and beliefs of East Tennesseans. He
examines the rise of abolition and secession, and then advances into the Civil War. Continued below...
Early in the
conflict, Union sympathizers burned a number of railroad bridges, resulting in occupation by Confederate troops and abuses
upon the Unionists and their families. The author also documents in detail the ‘siege and relief’ of Knoxville.
Although authored by a Unionist, the work is objective in nature and fair in its treatment of the South and the Confederate
cause, and, complete with a comprehensive index, this work should be in every Civil War library.
Reading:Confederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina
In The Civil War, 1861-1865.Description: The author, Prof. D. H. Hill, Jr., was the son of Lieutenant General Daniel Harvey Hill (North Carolina produced only two lieutenant generals and it was the
second highest rank in the army) and his mother was the sister to General “Stonewall” Jackson’s wife. In
Confederate Military History Of North Carolina, Hill discusses North Carolina’s massive task of preparing and mobilizing for the conflict; the many regiments
and battalions recruited from the OldNorthState; as well as the state's numerous contributions during the
war. Continued below...
TarHeelState study, the reader begins with
interesting and thought-provoking statistical data regarding the 125,000 "OldNorthState" soldiers that fought
during the course of the war and the 40,000 that perished. Hill advances with the Tar Heels to the first battle at Bethel, through numerous bloody campaigns and battles--including North Carolina’s
contributions at the "High Watermark" at Gettysburg--and concludes with Lee's surrender at
Recommended Viewing: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns. Review:The
Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns is the most successful public-television miniseries in American history. The 11-hourCivil War didn't just captivate a nation,
reteaching to us our history in narrative terms; it actually also invented a new film language taken from its creator. When
people describe documentaries using the "Ken Burns approach," its style is understood: voice-over narrators reading letters
and documents dramatically and stating the writer's name at their conclusion, fresh live footage of places juxtaposed with
still images (photographs, paintings, maps, prints), anecdotal interviews, and romantic musical scores taken from the era
he depicts. Continued below...
The Civil War uses all of these devices to evoke atmosphere and resurrect an event that many knew
only from stale history books. While Burns is a historian, a researcher, and a documentarian, he's above all a gifted storyteller,
and it's his narrative powers that give this chronicle its beauty, overwhelming emotion, and devastating horror. Using the
words of old letters, eloquently read by a variety of celebrities, the stories of historians like Shelby Foote and rare, stained
photos, Burns allows us not only to relearn and finally understand our history, but also to feel and experience it. "Hailed
as a film masterpiece and landmark in historical storytelling." "[S]hould be a requirement for every
Reading:Mountain Rebels: East Tennessee Confederates and the Civil
War, 1860-1870 (240 pages) (University of Tennessee Press). Description:
In this fine study, Groce points out that the Confederates in East Tennessee suffered more for the ‘Southern Cause’
than did most other southerners. From the first rumblings of secession to the redemption of Tennessee
in 1870, Groce introduces his readers to numerous men and women from this region who gave their all for Southern
Independence. Continued below...
He also points out that East Tennesseans were divided in their loyalties and that slavery played only a small role. Groce goes
to great lengths to expose the vile treatment of the Region’s defeated Confederates during the Reconstruction. Numerous
maps, pictures, and tables underscore the research.
Sources: Official Records of
the Union and Confederate Armies (OR); National Archives (NARA); Library of Congress (LOC); National Park Service: American
Civil War (NPS); State Library of North Carolina; North Carolina Office of Archives and History; North Carolina Museum
of History; Walter Clark's Regiments: Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the
Great War 1861-65; Weymouth T. Jordan and Louis H. Manarin,
North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865; Joseph H. Crute, Jr., Units of the Confederate States Army; D. H. Hill, Confederate
Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865; Forster
A. Sondley, A History of Buncombe County (North Carolina), 2 vols. (1930).