North Carolina 64th Infantry Regiment (CSA)
By CAPTAIN B.T. MORRIS, COMPANY A
30 May, 1901
Related article: McRae's Battalion
[Morris list himself as Company A in the byline which is probably the company he ended up with. However, in 1862-65 (below) he is Commander of Company E.]
[This is a bio-sketch of a Confederate Infantry Regiment from western North Carolina. It is posted here as a supplement of the Laughter - Lawter genealogy site. Eleven "Laughter" men from North Carolina served in the 64th. However, in 1861 many people in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee didn't support the war or they sympathized with the North. The mixture of attitudes resulted in forced drafts by both sides and, as one would expect in such circumstances, many brave men deserted.
Deserters sometimes joined their old enemy or were drafted again when caught by the other side. Some Laughter men appear on both CSA AND Union rolls and we can't tell from official records whether they joined both armies or were drafted and re-drafted. We're still working to identify who, when, where and why they served.
There were men that refused to fight for either side and like today's rabble they took advantage of the sad situation by becoming "bushwhackers;" a term Southerners used for thugs, robbers, murderers, rapist, back-shooters, and ambushers whose only allegiance seemed to be to themselves. However, the North had a different perspective: To Union soldiers, even if the victims were women and children, those that attacked Southerners were called Patriots.]
.... Frank Laughter
[NOTE: The text below has been slightly edited to correct some obvious spelling errors and to break exceedingly long passages into smaller paragraphs. Otherwise, the words are those of CAPT. B.T. MORRIS.]
SIXTY-FOURTH NORTH CAROLINA REGIMENT
In presenting to the public the Sixty-fourth North Carolina Regiment, we are forced to admit that, in all probability there is not another regiment in the Confederate service with just such a history, owing to the fact that it was never in a pitched battle as a regiment and was soon taken prisoner.
On 20 July, 1862, Lawrence M. Allen was commissioned as Colonel to [raise], as was first anticipated, a Legion, and at one time had thirteen companies of infantry and some companies of cavalry. But for some cause, his command was cut down to a regiment of ten companies and numbered the Sixty-fourth North Carolina Regiment.
Six companies were raised principally in Madison county, one in Henderson, one in Polk and two in Tennessee.
The ten companies, including the commissioned officers numbering in all 1,110, probably presented one of the finest looking regiments in the Confederate army. Having been raised in the mountains of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee, they were strong and sturdy, full of courage and ready to do and do valiantly for their country.
FIELD AND STAFF
When the regiment was first organized the officers were:
L.M. ALLEN, Colonel, Marshall, N.C.
J.A. KEITH, Lieutenant-Colonel, Marshall, N.C.
W.N. GARRETT, Major, Hot Springs, N.C.
Colonel Allen was not at the surrender at Cumberland Gap, having resigned and the other field officers having been promoted, Thos. P. Jones, of Company B, became Major.
The commissioned officers who served in the different companies so far as we know, were as, follows:
Companies A, C, D, E, G and I were from Madison County, Company B from Henderson County, Company F from Polk County.
The regiment was first stationed at Greenville, Tenn., for a short time, and was moved to Knoxville, where they were drilled and used on guard duty for the city and as scouts for the surrounding country for about three months. About two hundred of the regiment were then sent to Shelton Laurel, in Madison county, N.C., under the command of J.A. Keith, Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment, and were kept there until the spring of 1863, when they joined the regiment at Clinton, Tenn.
This regiment, like several others from North Caro1ina, was moved about from "pillar to post" -- rather from post to post: In these tramps, marches and scouts very few comforts were furnished. As we are endeavoring to arrive at the truth of history, it is but fair and just to say that this regiment did not have a fair pull with some from other states. Strangers always commanded the Department of East Tennessee, while high-toned and fearless to a fault, they could not, or did not, understand the character and genuine merits of our rough mountain boys. Consequently, there was friction, jealousy, dictation and some tyranny.
Colonel Allen, of this regiment, was not an attractive man -- rather otherwise -- but was chosen leader because he was known to be brave and fearless. Fighting was expected, and his men had the utmost confidence in him.
Lieutenant-Colonel Keith was intrepid and fearless. He had bitter enemies among the enemies of his country. He did severely punish some of the enemies of his country -- some say far too severely, -- and his resignation was demanded in the spring Of 1863 by the authorities.
It is well known that the "Shelton Laurel" section of Madison County, bordering on East Tennessee, was infested with bushwhackers of such fierce audacity and viciousness that only severe and caustic measures would suppress them. In addition to the native disloyal element, scores and hundreds fled from conscription in Tennessee, and when hunted in those mountain [passages] they fought back, retaliated and did many outrageous things. Colonel Keith caught some of these and punished them severely -- perhaps cruelly. His resignation was called for at the instance of Governor Vance for shooting certain parties accused of having looted the town of Marshall.
When an officer finds himself and men bushwhacked from behind every shrub, tree or projection on all sides of the road, only severe measures will stop it.
Keith and Allen were fighters-soldiers. Their first duty was self-protection, protection of their people from midnight marauders.
Major W. N. Garrett, promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel later on, was also a good soldier and of good family, which for many years had lived near Hot Springs. His father was brutally murdered, shot down on his own door step in the very arms of wife and daughters.
This was only three or four miles from Paint Rock, at the Tennessee state line, along the borders of which up and down for near two hundred miles were constantly ranging bands of outlaws, murdering such men as Colonel Walker, of the Eightieth North Carolina Regiment; Wm. Walker, Cherokee County; Sheriff Noland, of Haywood County; Colonel Edney, of ______ Regiment, Henderson County; Privates Rice Hyatt, ___. _____ Hopkins, of the Sixty-ninth Regiment; and Woody and Askew, of Madison County, and many others.
Of the company officers, such men as Captain Melvin E. Carter, Jones, Peek, Candler and others were peers of the best men of the state.
The regiment was never attached to any body larger than a brigade, except on one or two occasions; but was all the time kept on scouting service, sometimes in one section of the country, then in another. In East Tennessee about 1 February, 1863, the regiment was attached to Colonel Palmer's Brigade and was at Big Creek Gap till about 1 April, when it went to Clinton and thence it was soon ordered to move and for one month was kept on a continuous march and went within four miles of [Monticello], Ky. This part of Kentucky was a hot-bed of unionists and little was accomplished by these hard marches.
While in camp on Wolf river, or creek, a detail was made of 300 men to make a raid on what was known as Poplar Cove where it was said was a regiment of bushwhackers. The detail was started out and marched all night. At a late hour in the night a special detail was made to go across the field to a house, the rest waiting their return. Arriving at the house they found a man in cavalry equipage and the woman of the house cooking rations for quite a company. Some of the men secured pine torches, but making no further discoveries, started back. When within about one hundred yards of the camp they were fired into by a company of bushwhackers who had taken in the situation, and taken position on the path they would return. Immediately our men extinguished their lights and made good their escape through the darkness, only one man being wounded, and that slightly.
The regiment returned to Clinton about 1 May and from that time until August was kept constantly on the ready. They were ordered to Murfreesboro, but arriving at Chattanooga were ordered back to Knoxville.
Twice again were they sent to Chattanooga. On 3 August 1863, the regiment then commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Garrett, was surrendered with the other troops by J.W. Frazer, who commanded that post, and remained prisoners during the rest of the war.
The Sixty-fourth was at that time much reduced in number. The officers were sent to Johnson's Island and the privates to Camp Douglas on December, 1863. The number of non-commissioned officers and privates belonging to the Sixty-fourth Regiment in prison at Camp Douglas were 288, 119 Official Records Union and Confederate Armies, p. 797.
So, while the Sixty-fourth North Carolina Regiment can not boast of battles fought, or deeds of daring, yet its career was one of hardship and endurance, always ready to act promptly at every command. A number of good men were lost, killed by bushwhackers and concealed enemies.
There were, however, several officers and some privates who would not surrender and made good their escape at Cumberland Gap with Major B.G. McDowell, of the Sixty-second North Carolina, through the mountains and again went into active service. The total surrendered so shamefully by General Frazer at Cumberland Gap was 2,026 prisoners, 12 pieces of artillery, and great stores of provisions and ammunition and quartermaster supplies.
In the fall of 1863 General R.B. Vance was sent to Asheville to take command of the forces on duty in Western North Carolina and in response to a general order from General Vance the men of the different companies of the regiment were brought together and again went into camp, but no new service for the fate of the Sixty-fourth seemed to be "guard and march," and "march and guard."
On __ of November the command was ordered to Hot Springs, N.C., and was on a forced march the whole day, but did not arrive in time for the battle in which the noble Major Jno. W. Woodfin was killed; yet they marched more than forty miles that day and part of the night, camping for the remainder of the night at Marshall, fifteen miles up the river towards Asheville.
After the killing of Major John W. Woodfin, of the Fourteenth Battalion, and the capture of General F.B. Vance, our people were much depressed. Our army, under the peerless Lee in Virginia, had fallen back from Maryland and Pennsylvania and Vicksburg with all our water line along the Mississippi had surrendered.
The clouds were lowering around us. Our noble comrades, now languishing on Johnson's Island and Camp Chase, were rapidly dying, heroically refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the United States.
The heroic band of the Sixty-second, Sixty-fourth, with parts of the Sixty-ninth and Eightieth North Carolina, were practically always on the march, and only those familiar with the mountains of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina can have an idea of the hardships endured.
Our enemies were at home knew all the roads, by-ways and trails, and were much in heart over the success of their arms elsewhere. There in East Tennessee we slashed them every time we had a chance at them. They never gave us a fair fight, square-up, face-to-face, man-to-man, horse-to-horse. If they did, it was another Bull's Gap (Bull Run in miniature) as at Strawberry Plains, Morristown, Greenville, Blountville or Rogersville, and the Dandridge stampede.
Some times the boot was on the other leg -- we had to "hit the grit," as the boys say, but never when we had half, or one-third of a chance.
Soon after the enemy had taken Knoxville, in East Tennessee, and Major Kirk had gotten some recruits in Western North Carolina, the disloyal sentiment began to spread in several counties and it required heavy scouting to keep the enemy down.
So after the surrender of the Sixty-fourth Regiment those who were fortunate enough to make their escape from the enemy and recruited the service in Western North Carolina, were not all in a body but in different squads. One commanded by Captain Candler, of Company C, one by Captain Anderson, of Company F, and one by Lieutenant-Colonel J.A. Keith, who later resigned. He was stationed most of the time at Marshall, in Madison County, and did good service in a hard place.
The writer of this sketch was the senior Captain and the field officers being prisoners of war, in the absence of Lieutenant-Colonel Keith and after his [resigna]tion, had command of the regiment, or so much of it together at any time and was stationed at different places in Madison, Buncombe and Henderson Counties. From these headquarters we made many hard scouts in different parts of the country.
No one except those who have tried it can realize what those who do this kind of service have to undergo. In some respects it is easier than being in the regular army but in some others it is not.
During the months of December, 1863, and January and February, 1864, we made many scouts down into East Tennessee.... One of these I will endeavor to describe, which might well be called a "bluff."
Colonel Palmer took two hundred men and one little mountain howitzer and made a raid down as far as Russellville, five miles above Morristown. While there our cavalry began passing him and he marched on up to Bull's Gap, fifteen miles above Morristown, when it was discovered that all our cavalry had passed us going back, and that the enemy's cavalry were in pursuit, so Colonel Palmer selected his battle ground, placed his little howitzer, put a small protection before it, put out a line of skirmishers and a picket which included all the men he had.
As the enemy advanced, our pickets fired and fell back. Then our line of skirmishers gave them a few shots and fell back. The howitzer then opened. That was more than they could stand, they no doubt thought it was a trap set for them and expected the Confederate cavalry would cut them off, so they about-faced and made a straight line for Knoxville, and Colonel Palmer took his little band, including the Sixty-fourth, back to North Carolina.
We did not exactly run, but were like the Indian said when asked if he had ever run from a white man. He said, "No, but I walked mighty fast down a branch one time." So Colonel Palmer made good his escape that time from about three thousand cavalrymen.
Our headquarters were at Marshall when the word came that Kirk was on Shelton Laurel with his men. Colonel Palmer, always ready, took the most of the command and made a raid for Shelton Laurel in the eastern part of Madison County, leaving Lieutenant-Colonel McDowell in command of the rest at Marshall, but telling him if he desired to do so, he could take what troops were left in camp and go over on Big Laurel and probably capture some that might attempt to escape that way from Kirk's command.
Lieutenant-Colonel McDowell gathered up about sixty men, including the citizens who were always ready for any emergency.
We made ready for a two day's scout I had only about twenty men of the Sixty-fourth for this raid. We made a forced march and about 3:30 p.m., the enemy began to bushwhack us and had several shots that evening.
We camped that night in a little valley between three hills. In the meantime we had learned that Kirk's whole command was there, so we naturally expected a fight next morning and we got it. I was acting as officer of the day, pickets were put on the tops of the three hills and I was instructed to go around before day and move the pickets just under the brow of the hills so they would be able to get the first shot.
At the proper time the pickets were properly placed and just as day began to dawn the firing commenced. In a short time we were on top of one of the hills which was the most available point. Kirk's command was not in a body, but were in every direction and had good long range rifles. We were not as well armed as they were, but the boys put in good time.
Just at the foot of the hill there was a little group gathered that was pouring shot into us and we were over-shooting them. Lieutenant-Colonel McDowell came to me and wanted me to move them, so we of the Sixty-fourth, with a down-hill start, made a charge and when about half way, and when we got in one hundred and fifty yards of the enemy they took to the woods, which were about fifty yards further.
We had but little time, but gave them a few shots while they were falling back. When we reached the foot of the hill we found a good place to stay for a while, having good protection behind some large stumps which had protected them from our fire.
The enemy had an advantage, having the woods on all sides. While in that place they began to cross fire, so neither side of our works gave us protection. We lost there one man killed, Hyram Gilbert, a young man and a good soldier. He was shot in the breast and died almost instantly.
Sergeant Robert Lee, of the Sixty-second Regiment, who fell in with the Sixty-fourth in the charge, was slightly wounded, struck with a spent ball which would have proved fatal if it had been in full force.
We then had to climb the hill back to the command under heavy fire from all directions except in our lines. When we had gotten back we found Lieutenant-Colonel McDowell shot through the arm and the men out of ammunition.
The next thing was to get out, which we did very nicely by making a charge both ways. When they ran we marched out, having a long trip up a mountain. The enemy fired many shots, but we being out of ammunition, had to take it quietly. However, we lost only two killed and four wounded, and returned to Marshall.
In April, 1864, the fragment of the regiment left was at Marshall, N.C., and commanded by Captain B.T. Morris.
Soon after this the Sixty-fourth was ordered to Flat Rock, in Henderson County, to break up the bands of robbers and those who were plundering the county. It was no uncommon thing for them to rob a house and sometimes kill the owner.
There were living in and around Flat Rock many Southerners who spent the summer in this delightful climate. These bands seemed to have a desire specially to rob Southern people, so that when we arrived and made our headquarters at the "Farmer" hotel, a great many families brought their furniture and other valuables and put them in the hotel for safety.
We remained at this place about six months, and during that time made many scouts in the counties of Henderson, Polk and Transylvania, and suffered many hardships.
At one time when Captain Deaver was in trouble in Transylvania County, I was ordered to send him ten good men. At that time I had a detail out on a scout in Polk County, the only commissioned officer I had with me was Lieutenant Morris, and he had command of that scout, so the best I could do was to send him ten young men under Corporal Gilbert.
They reported to Captain Deaver and when they had served the purpose for which they were sent, they were ordered back.
On their return there came a heavy rain, during which they took shelter in a house on Crab Creek, and when the rain was over resumed their march.
When about one mile from the house they were fired on by a band of bushwhackers who had taken all the advantage of the boys. They had selected a place in the road where there was a large rock above the road and on the top of a little knoll, they had carefully trimmed the brush out of the way, so that when our boys got within fifty yards they fired with shot guns or muskets and Enfield rifles, killing one man, Thomas Coggins, a brave and good young man.
All the others of our detachment except one were wounded, but fortunately all slightly. One of them, Lewis Laughter, was shot in six different places. A mini ball had struck the front part of his pants and cut them from seam to seam, but did not touch him.
The boys returned the fire, but the instant the bushwhackers fired they ran and were soon out of sight. Our boys had a slim chance, but it was said that there was a young man missing out of the settlement who has not yet turned up.
By the time the boys came into camp the other detail had come in, so we at once took a strong guard, went up and brought our dead comrade to camp, carried him to his home and buried him with the honors of war. A great many of our brave boys were not allowed such a burial.
Henry Perkins had leave of absence to visit his family. He lived in Green River Cove, in Polk County, about sixteen miles from camp. When he arrived at home and had been there but a short time he walked out in the yard and was shot down; he saw the man that shot him and told who he was. He was a vile fellow who made it his every day business to bushwhack every detail that passed through the country.
Word was immediately conveyed to camp and at the proper time leaving camp late in the evening so that our movements should not be known, we traveled nearly all night, arriving before day and having been informed that he was a frequent visitor at a house near the river where some bad women lived, we put our men in ambush to wait for daylight to develop something.
Just at the break of day the women came out of the house and began a general search as if suspicious of something. They continued their search till they came upon some of the boys, and they made all the racket they could make and it did seem as if our trip was vain.
Two of our men who had not been discovered, walked up a little branch only a short distance from the house, when suddenly a little dog commenced barking. The man we were seeking sprang to his feet and made an effort to get his gun, but was too late.
They fired into him one ball cutting the artery in his right arm, and in a few minutes he was dead.
Thus ended the life of a man who only a few days before had taken the life of his next door neighbor and that without a cause. From this time on that section was more quiet. Many other raids were made which were necessary to keep down such bands.
The last camp we occupied for any length of time was Camp Woodfin, two miles north of Asheville. While in camp at this place in April, 1865, General Stoneman made his raid on Asheville.
One bright day, while we were at dinner, the beating of the long roll commenced and soon every man was in line. The enemy had captured some of our men out on the river road.
The Sixty-fourth was ordered to remain in camp, but to keep in line. Colonel Palmer was commanding and formed a line of battle on the top of a ridge between our camp and the River road. The enemy was in the road and in some trenches that had been thrown up there. Several rounds were fired, the Yankee balls passing over our men and rattling on our shanties, which were covered with boards.
About 3 o'clock the Sixty-fourth was moved to the front and took part in a few shots, one man of the Sixty-fourth was wounded. This was another game of bluff.
Colonel Palmer who had only about three hundred men, moved one company passing a certain gap in sight of the enemy and round and through the same gap several times.
While this was going on, General Stoneman was doing the same thing.
Colonel Palmer had his glass looking on and said he saw one swayback horse come in sight a half dozen times.
When night came on our men went into Asheville and that night camped where Battery Park Hotel now stands.
About 10 o’clock that night we noticed all the enemy's campfires blaze up and in a short time they began to die down. We said "farewell General Stoneman."
We moved from there to Hickory Nut Gap, where we met him again, but only the pickets exchanged a few shots.
From there we went to Broad river and from there to Hendersonville, stopped there for the night and as the writer of this sketch was [with]in ten miles of his home, it appeared to be a good time to visit it so he borrowed a horse from a friend and went home.
The enemy's account of this raid will be found in 103 Official Records Union and Confederate Armies pp. 31-33.
On 10 March, 1865, the Sixty-second, Sixty-fourth and Sixty-ninth were under Colonel Palmer near Asheville and the three regiments reported a total of 488 present for duty.
My wife was living off from the Howard's Gap Road about one mile, so I spent the night with her and we were up early before light next morning to take breakfast at my father's, who lived on the road. When we came into the road we found it full of blue coats. What to do I could not tell. To turn back looked too suspicious, so I decided in my mind to go on to the house and on I went, my wife by my side, but just before we reached the house they arrested me.
I was turned over to a guard who was exceedingly kind to me; he seemed to be sorry for me; he told me I would get a parole next morning. He put me on an old poor horse and we started for Hendersonville.
I can not express my feelings as I went up town riding that horse following the Yankee army to the music of Yankee Doodle.
My guard took me to Dr. T.A. Allen's and had Mrs. Allen to fix me a good dinner (which she knows exactly how to do) after which we took the State road for Asheville, camped that night where the Mills Gap road leaves the State road. We stopped a while before night.
Colonel Palmer came out from Asheville under a flag of truce and after he returned I heard the soldiers talking and from what was said they made me believe there would be no parole for me.
I then made up my mind to take care of myself. They had two of their own men under guard for some misdemeanor. The man that guarded me all day told me that if I preferred, he would keep me with their men not put me with the soldiers they had captured that day. I told him that would just suit me.
About 9 o'clock they made their bed and I retired with my shoes and clothes on. We were in a line and they had all the fences on fire.
I heard a conversation with the guard wanting each man to take a prisoner and sleep with him, but my guard said no, so another guard was put on who took his seat near me and commenced to play with a Negro boy who was asleep; I got up, walked through the crowd leaning to the dark side of the road and was soon out of sight without any alarm being raised.
I went on the mountain side and stayed till morning and bid General Stoneman adieu, went home and so ended my part of the war.
This was a few days after Lee's surrender, but we did not know of it. The other scouts all did good service. Colonel L.M. Allen did some valiant and daring service in the Hot Springs fight. No braver man ever met a foe.
So the sad end came. Those in prison and out of it -- not dead of disease, frozen, starved or shot -- as long as our flag was afloat, stood by it.
The glorious remnants of the Sixty-second, Sixty-fourth, Sixty-ninth and Eightieth after the broken truce at Asheville, quietly returned to their homes, with and without guns, feeling honestly, yet sadly, "We have done what we could."
Henderson Co., N.C.
30 May, 1901.
Laughter's that served in N.C. 64th Infantry Regiment
Related sketch: McRae's Battalion
NOTE: One infamous band of bushwhackers was the Denton's of Monroe County, Tennessee (south of Knoxville). Wyley Ellis Laughter and his second wife, Mary A. Denton, lived in Monroe County*. Their son, George Washington Laughter, born 1852, may have been too young (14-17) to be a big-time bushwhacker but he admired the Denton's enough to change his name to George Washington Denton sometime between 1900 & 1910. In court papers he declared that he had ALWAYS been a Denton. George Washington Denton died 02 Jan 1915 at age 63 in Monroe county, Tennessee.
* It hasn't been established that Mary A. Denton was a blood relative of the bushwhacker Denton's of Monroe County. Mary was born in Virginia in 1810 and Wyley either went to Monroe County and married Mary or they married in 1846 and then moved from Rutherford County, N.C., to Monroe County. They appear together on the Monroe County census in 1860 but Wyley may have died before 1880 because Mary is shown as a resident of George's household (without Wyley) on the 1880 census.
.... Frank Laughter