1st Battalion North Carolina Sharpshooters during the Battle of Monterey Pass

wharton

Major Rufus Wharton: Rufus Wharton was born on February 10, 1827 in North Carolina. He attended Davidson College, graduating there in 1849. From Greesboro, he had practiced law in Salem from 1850 until the advent of War in 1861. In that year he was Captain, Company E, 11th North Carolina Infantry until appointed Major of the new 1st Battalion in April 1862. Major Wharton commanded the Battalion until he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the newly formed 67th North Carolina Infantry in 1864. The 67th served entirely in North Carolina until disbanded after the surrender of the ANV in April 1865. After the war, Wharton farmed cotton at Washington, North Carolina, and was active in the governance of Davidson College, from 1865 until his death on November 15, 1915 at Washington, NC.

1st Battalion North Carolina Sharpshooters Formation:

 

The Battalion [also sometimes called the 9th NC Battalion] was made up of Companies B and E of the 21st North Carolina Regiment, and was organized at Gordonsville (Va) in April 1862, commanded by Major Rufus Wharton.

 

Background:

Upon creation of the 1st North Carolina Battalion Sharpshooters, it was attach to the Department of Northern Virginia and then the Valley District, Department of Northern Virginia serving under Brigadier Isaac R. Trimble’s Brigade of Major General Richard Ewell’s Division where it remained. During the reorganization of the Confederate army from wings to Corps, the 1st Battalion NC Sharpshooters was attached to Brigadier General Robert Hoke’s Brigade of Major General Jubal Early’s Division of Lieutenant General Thomas Jackson’s Second Corps.

During reorganization of the Second Corps after the Battle of Chancellorsville, Major General Richard Ewell was given command of the corps and the 1st Battalion North Carolina Sharpshooters were made Provost Guards, reporting directly to Lt. Gen. Ewell.

Provost Guards:

Provost Guards were known to be the best in the military and were in charge of policing the army. Some of their duties included:

  1. Prevention of straggling on the march.
  2. Suppression of gambling-houses, drinking-houses, or bar-rooms, and brothels.
  3. Regulation of hotels, taverns, markets, and places of public amusement.
  4. Searches, seizures, and arrests. Execution of sentences of general courts-martial involving imprisonment or capital punishment. Enforcement of orders prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors, whether by tradesmen or sutlers, and of orders respecting passes.
  5. Deserters from the enemy.
  6. Prisoners of war taken from the enemy.
  7. Countersigning safeguards.
  8. Passes to citizens within the lines and for purposes of trade.
  9. Complaints of citizens as to the conduct of the soldiers.

The Pennsylvania Campaign:

They marched through Chambersburg and moved up to Carlisle where Major Wharton was made Military Governor for a few days, before being ordered to Gettysburg. Nearing the town, the battalion was ordered to Cashtown to guard the wagon trains from Federal cavalry. After Picket’s Charge on July 3, the battalion was ordered to move toward Gettysburg where the wounded were being collected.

July 4, 1863:

Next morning, 4 July, General Ewell ordered the battalion to escort his train back to Williamsport, on the Potomac, and sent a company of Alabamians, commanded by a Lieutenant, and containing about thirty men, to reinforce it. The Alabamians were placed in front, and the battalion brought up the rear. The train contained more than a hundred wagons and ambulances, and when strung out on the road extended over several miles. Our route, after passing through a valley for several miles, led up a mountain side by a narrow, rough road to the Gettysburg and Hagerstown turnpike. Soon after we started an exceedingly heavy rain fell which rendered travel slow and difficult.

At the junction of our road with the pike a considerable force of our cavalry had been previously stationed, as an attack on that point by the enemy’s cavalry was apprehended.

During the afternoon we occasionally heard a few shots on top of the mountain, and as night approached the firing became frequent. We also learned from couriers who came down the mountain that a heavy force of Federal cavalry was threatening that position.

Confederate Prisoners:

With the battalion were a few Federal prisoners and also forty or fifty Confederates under arrest for various minor offences during the campaign. In addition to these were four Confederate under sentence of death for desertion, and were under a separate guard. Just before night I released and armed all the Confederate prisoners except the four under sentence, and ordered them to fall in with the battalion, telling them if they behaved well that night I would report the same in their behalf. After nightfall the firing on top of the mountain greatly increased.

The Battle of Monterey Pass:

Taking the battalion and the men who had just been released from arrest, I proceeded up the mountain, halting the train as I passed, to the assistance of our friends at the junction of our road with the pike. Before reaching the point the firing became very heavy for a few minutes and then ceased and was followed by the huzzas of the enemy. By this we knew the position had been captured by them and that they would break into that part of the train that had passed that point.

We went ahead as fast as we could and as we came near found the enemy had placed a cannon in the road by which we were approaching and were firing grape shot down the same every few minutes. Fortunately, the road made a sharp turn, about 100 yards from the gun and the shot did not sweep the road beyond that point. After a sharp engagement we captured the position together with fifteen or twenty prisoners. Among the prisoners was an elderly gentleman named Mitchell, who was army correspondent of the New York Herald.

We also captured the colored servant of General Kilpatrick and three of the general’s saddle horses. The enemy captured and carried off a few of our wagons and ambulances and doubtless, but for our timely arrival and attack, would have destroyed a large part of the train. The Confederates, that I had released and armed a few hours before, behaved well and a number of them, who belonged to the cavalry, mounted themselves on horses captured that night.

The Cowards of the 6th Virginia Cavalry:

A very remarkable thing occurred next morning in rear of the train. While the battalion was engaged in the fight, some Confederate cavalry that arrived at the point of attack at the same time as the battalion, stampeded and rushing down the mountain in great disorder completely dispersed the guards in charge of the prisoners in rear of the train. It was a very dark and rainy night. They were in a dense woods. It was impossible to recognize any one and no attempt was made to collect the prisoners until next morning.

Death Sentences Reduced:

After daylight three of the Confederate soldiers that were under sentence of death, reported to the officer of the guard and all the Federal prisoners were found near by. Of course after that the three Confederates were pardoned.

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