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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Raleigh. June 10, 1912
E. J. HALE
Private Company H, M N. C. Volunteers
(Bethel Regiment); afterwards Major,
A. A. and I. General, C. S. A.
JUD6E PRINTING COMPANY FAYETTEVILLE
Univ. of North Carolina
tfp 2i 1333
UNVEILING OF THE WYATT STATUE.
RALEIGH, JUNE 10, 1912.
£ Address by E. J. Hale, Private Company H, 1st N. C. Volunteers
i^ (Bethel Regiment); afterwards Major, A. A. and I. General,
C. S. A.
Mrs. President and Daughters of the Confederacy; Comrades;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
"First at Bethel; last at Appomattox!" is an epigram which
embodies the spirit of all the serious acts of North Carolina.
It will be useful to consider its application to the circumstance
which brings us together to-day, and to recall some of the histori-
cal facts that relate to the latter.
The rapidity with which our race has subdued the wilderness
and acquired the arts of civilization is apt to lead one of our
generations to forgo*- the state of mind of its predeces-
sor. We have a case in point here. I doubt if more than a small
portion of this great audience is aware of the up-hill fight whicb
North Carolina waged in thp struggle for recognition of her
merits. Judge Gaston had that in toind, in our State Hymn, when
he resented the efforts of "witlings who defame her."
Notwithstanding her achievements in peace and war, North
Carolina, before the great war, was called "a strip of land be-
tween two States." That was a gibe which no doubt was suggested
by our commercial inferiority and want of large cities; but it
created an incorrect impression of our place among the original
Responsive to the conservative disposition which led her to
withhold her "accession" to the Union (as Washington termed
it) longer than any of her sisters, except. Rhode Island, North
Carolina was with exception of her daughter, Tennessee, the last to
secede from it Her "slowness" in this respect, as her critics
described it, supplied them with renewed occasion for expressions of
disfavor, and many were the scornful suggestions of the ignominy of
Upon the election of Mr. Lincoln, Governor Gist, of South
Carolina, wrote a letter to each of the governors of the Southern
States, including the border States, asking their views on the sub-
ject of secession, which he favored. He received replies from the
governors of North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississ-
ippi and Louisiana. All but the Governor of North Carolina gave
assurance of co-operation in secession.
While Governor Ellis, in common with most of the people of
North Carolina, believed in the right of secession (as taught at
West Point and elsewhere), he correctly represented their views
as to its inexpediency at the time he wrote. As it turned out, also, his
own views of "the monstrous doctrine of coercion" were those of
the people he represented.
His admirable letter was as follows:
"Political differences and party strife have run so high In this
State for some years past, and particularly during the past nine
months, that anything like unanimity upon any question of a
public nature could scarcely be expected: and such is the case
with the one under consideration. Our people are very far from
being agreed as to what action the State should take in the event
of Lincoln's election to the Presidency. Some favor submission,
some resistance, and others still would await the course of events
that might follow. Many argue that he would be powerless for
evil with a minority party in the Senate, and perhaps in the House
of Representatives also; while others say, and doubtless with en-
tire sincerity, that the placing of the power of the Federal Gov-
ernment into his hands would prove a fatal blow to the institution
of negro slavery in this country.
"None of our public speakers, I believe, have taken the ground
before the people that the election of Lincoln would, of itself, be
a cause of secession. Many have said it would not, while others
have spoken equivocally.
"Upon the whole, I am decidedly of the opinion that a majority
of our people would not consider the occurrence of the event re-
ferred to as sufficient ground for dissolving the Union of the
States. For which reason I do not suppose that our Legislature,
which will meet on the 19th prox., will take any steps in that direc-
tion — such, for instance, as the calling of a convention.
"Thus, sir, I have given you what I conceive to be the sentiment
of our people upon the subject of your letter, and I give it as an
existing fact, without comment as to whether the majority be in
error or not.
"My own opinions, as an individual, are of little moment. It
will be sufficient to say, that as a State's rights man, believing in
the sovereignty and reserved powers of the States, I will conform
my actions to the action of North Carolina, whatever that may be.
^o this general observation I will make but a single qualifiication —
/t is this: I could not in any event assent to, or give my aid to a
political enforcement of the monstrous doctrine of coercion. I do
lot for a moment think that North Carolina would become a party
to the enforcement of this doctrine, and will not therefore do her
the injustice of placing her in that position, even though hypo-
The General Assembly of North Carolina met on the 19th of
November, 1860. South Carolina passed her ordinance of secession
on the 20th of December. Mississippi followed on the 9th of Jan-
uary, 1861; Florida, on the 10th; Alabama, on the 11th; Georgia,
on the 19th; Louisiana, on the 26th; and Texas, on the 1st of Feb-
ruary. Amid the profound agitation which these events produced,
North Carolina preserved her equanimity as a State, though her
people were divided. Those who favored joining the newly formed
Confederacy advocated the calling of a convention. Those who
opposed secession opposed the calling of a convention. There were,
however, a large number who opposed secession as inexpedient,
who nevertheless favored the calling of a convention. Such a body,
it was thought, could observe the course of events, and be ready for
action if circumstances required.
On the 30th of January the General Assembly passed a bill for
an election to determine the question of calling a convention, and
at the same time for choosing members of the convention if called.
The 27th of February was named as the day for the election. The
call of the convention was rejected by a narrow majority, some
seven hundred and fifty; but the number of delegates chosen who
were known as "Unionists" — that is, who thought secession inex-
pedient unless coercion of the seceded States was attempted — was
eighty-two; while the number of those who were known as "seces-
sionists" — that, is, those who favored immediate action — was thirty-
From Peace to War.
On the 12th of April hostilities began in Charleston harbor.
On the 15th Mr. Lincoln issued his proclamation for coercion.
On the 17th, Governor Ellis issued his patriotic rejoinder, conven-
ing the General Assembly in "special session" on the 1st of May,
On the 18th of April, the leading organ of the majority contained an
editorial* which voiced their sentiments, as these were affected by
such a stupendous change in their affairs, and which it will be en-
lightening to quote as follows:
"It is needless to remind our readers how earnestly and hon-
estly we have labored to preserve our once great and glorious and
beneficent Union. In its existence we have believed were involved
that inappreciable blessing, peace; that sound form of liberty and
law inaugurated by the Constitution of the United States; and the
security, nay, even the existence, of that domestic institution out
♦Editorial in Fayetteville Observer, by Edward J. Hale (First).
of which have arisen all of our national troubles. In the new as-
pect of affairs, we see no reason to change any opinion that we
have expressed, that the difficulty ought to have been peaceably
settled, and would have been if good men had been influential. We
believe now, as heretofore, that by the exercise of that patience
which the immense issues at stake demanded, there would have
been a peaceful settlement. We believe now, as heretofore, that a
fratricidal war for such a cause is a wrong of which we would not
be guilty for a thousand worlds. But with all these opinions un-
changed, there is a change in the condition of affairs — a change
with which neither we nor the people of North Carolina have had
aught to do — over which they have had no control, but which of
necessity will shape their action. The President's proclamation
is 'the last feather that breaks the camel's back.' It shows that
the professions of peace were a delusion and a cheat, or, if ever
really entertained, that peaceful intentions have been abandoned.
War is to be prosecuted against the South by means of the seventy-
five thousand men called for; and North Carolina has been offi-
cially required to furnish a quota of the seventy-five thousand. Will
she do it? Ought she to do it? No, no! Not a man can leave her
borders upon such an errand who has not made up his mind to
war upon his own home and all that he holds dear in that home.
For ourselves we are Southern men and North Carolinians, and at
war with those who are at war with the South and North Carolina.
With such feelings we attended the large and almost impromptu
meeting of Tuesday last, and one of us was unexpectedly called
upon to take a part in that meeting. Its calm and dignified deter-
minations met with his full concurrence, though it was the saddest
public duty he was ever called upon to perform. The future seems
to us full only of evil A civil war, in which it will be hard to say
whether victor or vanquished is the greater sufferer. A civil war,
whose end no man can see, but full every day of its long and sad
years of woe, woe, woe. The impoverished, the down-trodden, the
widow and the orphan, will hereafter heap bitter imprecations upon
the bad men who have brought these terrible evils of desolation
and death upon a great and prosperous and happy people. Thank
God! that we can say we have labored for peace, and have had no
wish but to avert the dire calamities in a way honorable to both
History — history which the government is preserving in im-
perishable records — has shown with what unequaled fidelity the
people in whose behalf these words were written redeemed their
Leaving these generalizations, I ask your attention to a brief
recital of the particular events which led to the death of Wyatt.
and, in the light of the circumstances recounted, distinguished it
from that of all others who died for the Confederacy.
Of the four lines by which General Scott had planned the in-
vasion of Virginia-from Washington; from Fortress Monroe; by
the Cumberland Valley; and from Ohio, by the Kanawha, into West
Virginia— that from Fortress Monroe became the natural one, with
the transfer of the Capital of the Confederacy from Montgomery
to Richmond. Except that the first mentioned served the double
purpose of protecting the Federal Capital, the line from Fortress
Monroe would undoubtedly have claimed his chief attention. The
splendid base which that great military work, one of the largest
in the world, supplied, and the ideal route which the Yorktown Pen-
insula presented for his marching troops, with the James and York
rivers open to his naw on either flank, were considerations which
otherwise must have fixed his choice.
It is probable that the situation at the moment of the arriva
of the First North Carolina Regiment in Richmond (May 18-21)
would have destined it to Northern Virginia, but circumstances
were rapidly shifting the theatre of operations. The leading feat
ure of these circumstances, coupled with demonstrations by Fed-
eral gun boats up the James and York rivers, is thus described
(May 11) by Rev. Dr. W. N. Pendleton (afterwards Brigadier Gen-
eral of Artillery) in a letter addressed by him to his West Point
classmate, President Davis, at Montgomery: "As you value our
great cause, hasten on to Richmond. Lincoln and Scott are, if I
mistake not, covering by other demonstrations the great movement
upon Richmond Suppose they should send suddenly up the York
River, as they can. an army of thirty thousand or more; there are
no means at hand to repel them, and if their policy shown in Mary-
lajid gets footing here, it will be a severe, if not fatal, blow. Has-
ten, I pray you, to avert it. The very fact of your presence will
almost answer. Hasten, then, I entreat you; don't lose a day."
On the 18th of May (the day after Virginia's secession) the
United States Ship "Monticello" fired on a Virginia battery at
Sewell's Point, and again on the 21st. On the 22nd Major General
Benjamin F. Butler, United States Army, was transferred from the
Department of Annapolis and assigned to the command of the De-
partment of Virginia, with headquarters at Fortress Monroe; and
nine additional infantry regiments were sent there. On the 23rd
a Federal Regiment made a demonstration against Hampton, three
miles from Fortress Monroe.
It was under these circumstances that the destination of the
First North Carolina Volunteers, Colonel D. H. Hill commanding, the
crack regiment of the day, was decided. It was ordered to Yorktown,
^^ 8 ^
the "post of danger and of honor," as the papers of the day described
it. It broke camp at Richmond on May 24, and reached Yorktown
the same evening.
Colonel John B. Magruder, of the Provisional Army of Virginia,
who had just been assigned (May 21st) to the command of the De-
partment of the Peninsula, accompanied the First North Carolina
On June 6th, under orders from Colonel Magruder, Colonel
Hill proceeded with the First North Carolina to Big Bethel Church,
some thirteen miles distant from Yorktown, and eight or nine miles
distant from Hampton and from Newport News. He was accom-
panied by Major Randolph, of the Richmond Howitzer Batallion
(afterwards Secretary of War), with four pieces of artillery.
The march from Yorktown, which was made by dusk, was a
trying one for these unseasoned troops, as it was made by the in-
fantry in heavy marching order, with knapsacks, haversacks, can-
teens, loaded cartridge-boxes, often a Bible in the knapsack, and
with a tin cup and extra pair of shoes dangling from either corner
of this rather hoxey affair. The light marching order of Jackson'g
foot cavalry was as yet a sealed chapter of the regulations. A
drizzling mist had set in before dark, and it was the regiment's
first experience at cooking with ramrods and bivouacking without
Colonel Hill at once proceeded to fortify the position. There
were but twenty-five spades, six axes and three picks in possession
of the command, but these were applied so vigorously that by Sat-
urday, the 8th, the work began to show the outlines of a fortified
camp. On Sunday a fresh supply of intrenching tools arrived, and
enabled the men to make further progress with the work.
The First Regiment and Randolph's Artillery were aroused at
3 o'clock Monday morning, the 10th, for a general advance upon the
enemy, who had appeared in the roads leading from Fortress Mon-
roe and Newport News. After marching three and a half miles, it
was learned that the enemy was advancing in large force. Our
troops fell back upon their entrenchments, and awaited his coming.
At 9 o'clock the head of the enemy's column (Bendix's 7th New
York) appeared in the road a half mile away. A shot from Ran-
dolph's Parrot gun, aimed by himself, hit the earth in their front
and ricocheted; they fell away from the road; their artillery (reg-
ulars) at once replied; and the battle began.
A body of skirmishers advanced against our right, but were
driven back. Two small regiments of infantry made several at-
tempts to charge our left. One of Randolph's guns having been dis-
abled, was withdrawn. A regiment was then moved against our
right, and a body of "Zouave" skirmishers occupied the abandoned
battery. Under orders from Colonel Hill, Captain Bridgers, with
Company A of the First North Carolina, drove out the Zouaves, and
re-occupied the battery.
The First Vermont and Fourth Massachusetts, led by Major
Theodore Winthrop, of General Butler's staff, then attempted to
enter the gorge at our left by a sudden rush. Companies B and C,
and portions of Companies G and H, of Hill's Regiment, killed
Winthrop and drove back his troops.
When Bridgers recaptured the battery, he found in his front a
house which was used as a shelter for the enemy's sharpshooteru.
At Colonel Hill's suggestion. Captain Bridgers called for volunteers
to burn it. Corporal George T. Williams and privates Thomas Fall-
on, John H. Thorp*, Henry L. Wyatt, R. H. Ricks and R. H. Brad-
ley leaped the works and went on this mission. At the first volley
from the enemy Wyatt was killed.
The troops engaged on our side were eight hundred men of the
First North Carolina Regiment, and some four hundred Virginians.
Upon the enemy's side some four thousand four hundred took part
in the fight— the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 7th New York, the 1st Ver-
mont, the 4th Massachusetts and Greble's detachment of the 2nd
U. S. Artillery— all under command of Brigadier General Pierce.
The battle lasted from 9 o'clock until half past one. The enemy
lost heart upon the death of Winthrop, and shortly after retreated.
The battle of Bethel was but a small affair in itself, if we com-
pare it with the sanguinary conflicts between great bodies of men
of which it was the precursor. The total number of troops engaged
on our side, as we have seen, was but 1,200, and on the Federal
side but 4,400.
Our losses were but 10 — as follows:
North Carolinians: 1 killed, 6 wounded.
Virginians: 3 wounded.
The Federal losses were officially reported by General B. F.
Butler to Lieut. General Scott as follows: 18 killed, including
Major Winthrop and Lieutenant Greble; 53 wounded; 5 missing.
There were, however, numerous discrepancies in the reports of the
subordinate officers, and there was apparently a desire to suppress
the facts. Colonel Hill estimated the enemy's losses at 300.
The troops on our side, though they were the flower of the uni-
formed militia, had never seen service before; while those of the
enemy were backed by the prestige of the Federal Government,
and his artillery were regulars.
The result was hailed as an augury of the early triumph of the
Confederacy, which had thus demonstrated its ability to overcome
four times its numerical strength on the battlefleld— a disproportion
almost exactly representing the relative populations of the two sec-
tions. It made a profound impression upon the country, raising
the enthusiasm of the South to the highest pitch, repressing disaf-
fection there, and at the same time chilling the ardor of their ad-
versaries at the North
In the Virginia Convention then in session at Richmond, Mr.
Tyler, ex-President of the United States, submitted a series of
resolutions which were unanimously adopted, eulogizing Magru<'er,
Hill and their otRcers and men for their brilliant victory; and, in a
speech of great eloquence and force, he declared that there was but
one instance in the whole page of history that could be cited as a
parallel to this victory, and that was the battle of Buena Vista,
where Mr. Davis, with his Mississippi regiment, and Bragg, with
his battery, routed fivo times their number of Mexicans.
The Richmond Dispatch said: "It is one of the most extraor-
dinary victories in the annals af war. Four thousand thoroughly
drilled and equipped troops routed and driven from the field by
only eleven hundred men. . . . The courage and conduct of the
noble sons of the South engaged in this battle are beyond all
praise. They have crowned the name of their country with imper-
ishable lustre and made their own names immortal."
With common consent credit was given to North Carolina as the
chief actor in the great achievement.
The Petersburg Express said: "All hail to the brave sons of
the Old North State, whom Providence seems to have thrust for-
ward in the first pitched battle on Virginia soil in behalf of South-
ern rights and independence." The Richmond Whig said: "The
North Carolina regiment covered itself with glory at the battle of
Bethel." The Richmond Examiner, the leading paper of the Con-
federacy, said : "Honor those to whom honor is due. All our troops
appear to have behaved nobly at Bethel, but the honors of the day
are clearly due to the splendid regiment of North Carolina, whose
charge of bayonets decided it, and presaged their conduct on many
a more important field. Virginia's solemn sister is justly jealous of
her glory; her simple honest, courageous population are weary of
the great silence of their forests of pine; they have come out to fight
with a deep determination to make their mark, which friends and
foes have yet to fathom."
The North Carolinian of the present day, content with the fame
of his State now as the most valorous of them all, will learn some-
thing of the debt which he owes to the men of '61 by pondering the
words just quoted from the great Virginian newspaper.
Governor Ellis promptly recommended to the Convcnt'on in
session at Raleigh that Colonel Hill, commander of the North Car-
olina troops, be promoted to the rank of brigadier, and that a bri-
gade be formed and placed under his command. Indeed, Hill was
on all sides recognized as the real leader in the fight, though Col-
onel Magruder, commander of the troops in the Peninsula, had ar-
rived on the ground just before the battle began, and assumed com-
mand. The fortifications, whch were essential to our success, were
planned by Hill and constructed by his regiment.
On the 15th of June, Mr. Venable offered a resolution in the
convention at Raleigh, which was unanimously passed, as follows:
"Resolved, That this convention, appreciating the valor and
good conduct of the officers and men of the First Regiment, North
Carolina Volunteers, do, as a testimony of the same, authorize the
said regiment to inscribe the word 'Bethel' upon tbeir banner."
The First North Carolina Volunteers — the first regiment organ-
ized by North Carolina and sent to the front, as well as the first
Confederate regiment to engage in battle — included in its ranks
probably the highest average order of men ever mustered for war.
They contributed to oiher commands in the Confederate service
four general officers, seven officers of the general staff, fourteen
colonels, ten lieutenant-colonels, eight majors, twelve adjutants,
ten other staff officers, fifty-seven captains, thirty-seven first lieut-
enants and forty-three second lieutenants — total 202, being more
than the full complement required for four regiments.
The Death of Wyatt.
Private John H. Thorpe, one of the five companions of Wyatt,
afterwards a captain in the 47th Regiment, gave me in 1900, the fol-
lowing account of the death of Wyatt:
"When we got there (the redoubt) I saw a Zouave regiment of
the enemy in line of battle about three hundred yards away. Our
boys popped away at tliem, but the fire was not returned. Then, in
good order, they marched away down the New Market road. Prob-
ably the order to retreat had been given the whole Federal army.
A few minutes later Colonel Hill, passing from our right through
the company, said: 'Captain Bridgers, can't you have that house
burned?' and immediately went on. Captain Bridgers asked if five
of the company would volunteer to burn it. suggesting that one of
the number should be an officer. Corporal George T. Williams said
that he would be the officer and four others said they would go.
Matches and a hatchet were provided at once, and a minute later
the little party scrambled over the breastworks in the following
order: George T. Williams, Thomas Fallon, John H. Thorpe, Henry
L. Wyatt [R. H. Ricksl and R. H. Bradley. A volley was fired at us as
If by a company, not from the house, but from the road to our left. As
we were well drilled in skirmishing, all of us instantly dropped to the
ground, Wyatt mortally wounded. He never uttered a word or a
groan, but lay limp on his back, his arms extended, one knee up
and a clot of blood on bis forehead as large as a man's fist. He was
lying wthin four feet of me, and this is the way I saw him. . . .
To look at Wyatt one would take him to be tenacious of life; low,
but robust in build, guileless, open, frank, aggressive."
Wyatt's body was soon taken off the field by his comrades, who
carried him to Yorktown the same night, where he died. He had
apparently not recovered consciousness from the time he was struck.
His body was carried to Richmond the next day, where he was buri-
ed with military honors from the Reverend Mr. Duncan's Church.
Henry Lawson Wyatt was a son of Isham and Lucinda Wyatt, of
Tarboro. He was twenty years of age at his death. His parents
had moved to Tarboro in 1856 from Pitt county, though he was born
during their early residence in Richmond, Va.
Camps were named for Wyatt during the war; his portrait has
been placed in the State Library; and his memory, as
well as that of the First Regiment, is perpetuated in the inscription:
"First at Bethel; last at Appomattox!" cut upon the Confederate
Monument in front of the Capitol.
There is no dispute of the fact that Wyatt was the first Con-
federate soldier killed in battle — that is, in a general action. In
which all divisions of an army, infantry, cavalry and artillery, ar«
engaged. There were several citizens killed in the "Baltimore
riots," because of their action in behalf of the Confederacy. This
was on April 19. On the 24th of May J. W. Jackson, proprietor of
the Marshall House, Alexandria, Virginia, was killed by Ellsworth's
Zouaves, because he killed Ellsworth for hauling down the Confed-
erate flag which he had hoisted over his hotel. On the same day a
member of the Bethel Regiment was thrown by a lurch of the carg
from the train which was bearing it from Richmond to West Point
on the way to Yorktown, and killed. On June 1st, Captain Marr, of
the Warrenton (Virginia) Rifles, was killed in an accidental skir-
mish at Fairfax. Virginia.
Major Jed. Hotchkiss, the historian chosen by Virginia for the
Virginia volume of the "Confederate Military History," the official
history authorized by the United Confederate Veterans, says (Vol-
ume III, page 140) "It is generally admitted that young Wyatt was
the first Confederate soldier killed in action in Virginia during the
It is a fact that the State of North Carolina, which had been re-
proached by her sisters with "slowness," was called upon by the
Confederate government to supply the chief portion of the troops en-
gaged in the first pitched battle of the war. This was due to the
preparedness and the celerity of the movements of the companies
composing her 1st Regiment. A few years ago we witnessed the
deplorable delay with which the volunteers in our war with Spain
were equipped, notwithstanding the unlimited resources of the re-
united Republic, with its more than doubled population and its con-
centrated wealth. Contrast with this the record of the North Caro-
lina of 186] : The companies of the 1st Regiment volunteered on
April 17, 1861; they were formed into a regiment at the State capi-
tal by successive orders from the Adjutant-General's office, issued
on April 19, May 9, May 12 and May 16; three of them (the two Fay-
etteville companies and the Lincoln company) were in Richmond
on the 18th of May, the other seven arriving on the 21st; and they
had fought and won the first battle of the war by the 10th of June!
Military men know that this astonishing result could not have
been accomplished if completeness of equipment and organization
had been sacrificed to celerity of movement. It is believed that no
other regiment, then or afterwards, was set out in the field in such
style as the First North Carolina Volunteers when they were mus-
tered on the plain of Yorktown in the last week of May.
Such was the judgment, also, of impartial critics. The Virginia
press of the day was filled with testimony to the same effect.
Notwithstanding the circumstances related above, the quick
sue ession of battles that followed in the huge conflict, the din of
whose "clangor reached the remotest parts of the earth;" the enor-
mous rolls of dead and wounded in each; and the widespread suf-
fering of the people in the invaded section, threw the earlier inci-
dents of the war so completely into oblivion that Moore's Roster,
an oflacial publication of the State, placed the 1st Volunteers (which
was also the let Regiment) after the 11th Regiment, which, with
the preceding ten regiments, succeeded it.
The State is indebted to her great Chief Justice, Judge Walter
Clark, for the correction of this error as well as for causing the
facts of history, so creditable to North Carolina, to be brought to
the world's notice in his marvelous work "North Carolina Regi-
The accuracy of the legend on the soldiers' monument at the
West front of the capitol and of that on the cover of the "North Car-
olina Regiments" having been challenged, a committee of soldiers
of the war, headed by Chief Justice Clark, was appointed by the
North Carolina Historical and Literary Society to make reply. This
was made in the form of a report by the Committee on August 25,
1904, and published by the Society under the title "Five Points in
the Record of North Carolina." Its conclusions completely sustained
the contentions which had been challenged. The part relating to
the present subject is thus summarized:
"The word 'first,' then, used in connection with the victory at
Bethel, the first pitched battle of the war, and descriptive of North
Carolina's achievements and losses there, may be said to refer
with truth to these facts, viz:
"1. Her first Regiment of Volunteers was the first to arrive
"2. Her troops were first in the work done there.
"3. Her troops were first in numbers there, being as 2 to 1.
"4. Her losses were first in number there, being as 2 1-2 to 1.
"5. It was a member of her regiment there who was the first
to fall in battle in the war."
The General Assembly of 1905 appointed a commission to mark
the place where Wyatt fell. In course of correspondence with the
Virginia veterans in the neighborhood of Bethel with a view to se-
suring a site there, it was learned that the people of that State,
particularly those of the Peninsula country, had determined to erect
a monument at Bethel on June 10th. The Virginians invited North
Carolina to join them. Their invitation was accepted, and a hand-
some monument was erected on the battlefield, by the "Virginia
and North Carolina Monument Association." It was unveiled on
June 10th, in presence of an immense concourse, headed by the Gov-
ernor of Virginia, by Miss Kyle, of North Carolina, and Miss Tabb,
At the same time the North Carolina Commission dedicated the
Marker, which was placed where Wyatt fell.
This is the inscription on the face of the monument:
"To Commemorate the Battle of Bethel, June 10th, 1861,' first con-
flict between the Confederate Land Forces, and in Memory of Henry
Lawson Wyatt, private Co. A, First N. C. Volunteers, and the first
Confederate soldier to fall in actual battle."
And this on the reverse:
"Erected by the Bethel Monument Association of Virginia and
North Carolina, June 10th, 1905."
The inscription on the marker is this:
"On this spot, Junr 10th, 1861, fell Henry Lawson Wyatt, pri-
vate, Co. A, First Regiment N. C. Volunteers. This stone, placed
here by the courtesy of Virginia, is erected by authority of the
State of North Carolina.
E. J. HALE,
W. E. KYLE,
JOHN H. THORPE,
W. B. TAYLOR,
R. H. RICKS."
The Teaching of History by Monuments.
I think it is due to Mr. J. A. Mitchener, of Selma, to record liere
that he first (July 24, 1907) proposed the erection of the beautiful
monument before us; and to the ladies of Henry Wyatt Chapter of
the Daughters of the Confederacy of Selma to say that they started
the collection of the fund which brought it into being.
The teaching of history in this country by statues and other
memorials has grown at an amazing pace in the past quarter of a
century. The custom prevailed in all the old nations, but the
breach of it in our own attracted little attention until the period
mentioned. When the war broke out there were: an equestrian statue
of Washington in Union Square, New York; the statue of Washing-
ton as a Roman Senator, which faced the East front of the capitol
in the federal city; the equestrian statue of Jackson in front of the
White House; the equestrian statue of Washington at Richmond
with the group of Virginia patriots about him; Houdon's statue
of Washington in the Virginia capitol; the statue of Clay in the
pavilion in the grounds of the same; the replica of the Houdon
statue in this our own capitol square; a statue of Clay in Canal
Street, New Orleans; and a replica of the equestrian Jackson statue
In the same city. Besides these statues there were the Bunker Hill
monument at Boston, the battle monument at Baltimore, and the
Jasper and Pulaski monuments in Savannah. I do not recall any
others. They were all fine works of art, except the Jackson statue,
which was the subject of some ridicule at the time (about 1857).
No doubt the paucity of our achievements in this respect was
due to the reaction against king worship which followed the Revolu-
tion and to the exactions of pioneer life. With the accumulation
of wealth following the war has come the ancestral mania; and later
— no doubt stimulated by stories of valor in that great conflict —
came the hero worship era. The two have filled the land with
many memorials of personal, community or national interest. The
most of them are devoid of beauty, and many offensive to taste. Thia
is notably true of the statues in the federal capital erected since the
war. It is a matter of gratification that the effects of the mania
ri)f erred to have come into our conservative commonwealth since
travel and education have begun to correct the national post-bellum
In the light of these things, I conclude that the truth of history
finds correct and artistic expression here.
With these cursory observations upon the nature of pub.lc
memorials and the history of them in our country, I come to .i.e
question of the present moment:
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. 16 .
What is the meaning of the ceremonies which we are now en-
gaged in? Are they justified by the facts? Do they conform to the
true historic perspective? Are they separated in their object, as
they should be, from those with which the vanity of mere wealth
affronts us everywhere?
I think you will agree with me that the facts recited answer all
these questions in our favor.
Of our State, as she appeared in the supreme crisis of her
existence— truly, the times that tried men's souls— we may ex-
claim, as the Duke of York said of Richard's noble father:
"In peace, was never gentle lamb more mild;
In war, was never lion raged more fierce."
Of the regiment which was glorified by the death of Wyatt, it
may be said:
History shows that the character of the First North Carolina
Regiment was the natural outgrowth of the conditions from which
it sprung; that it expressed the peculiarities of the people whom it
represented, their gentleness in manner, their resoluteness in deed;
that the celerity and completeness with which it was organized
and equipped have no parallel in history; that it spilled the first
blood in battle in defense of the cause which the State was almost
the last to embrace; that, while it had never before heard a hostile
bullet, it exhibited the discipline and behaved with the steadiness
of veterans at Bethel Church; that its victory there was won against
odds which represented the numerical superiority of the North over
the South; that in this, and in other respects, its triumph in that ini-
tial battle produced consequences of the most far-reaching kind,
possibly holding Virginia in the Confederacy, and certainly reshift-
ing the theatre of war; that it raised the hopes of the South to the
nighest pitch and correspondingly depressed those of the North; that
its contributions of trained soldiers to the rest of the army consti-
tute a unique feature of military history; and that in this, and in all
other respects, it deserved the place assigned it by the authorities
of the State as Fugleman of the regiments.
Of Wyatt we may say: there stands the mute reply to our for-
mer defamers; it is not a boast, but the symbol of our recasted
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