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Local History Articles by Robert Ragan


January 6, 2002 - "The Gaston Guards enter the Civil War" - An introduction to a series of articles on the Gaston Guards (Company H of the Thirteen regiment, later Company H of the Twenty-Third Regiment). The names of the officers of the Company are listed. There is also a discussion of First Bull Run (First Manassas).

January 13, 2002 - "The Gaston Guards help the Confederate rally" - In April, 1862, the Thirteenth North Carolina was reorganized as the Twenty-Third North Carolina. Company H, the Gaston County recruits, were involved in the Penisular Campaign in Virginia, fighting near Williamsburg and in the battle of Seven Pines and the Seven Days' battles. The unit also played in imporatant role in the battle of South Mountain.

January 20, 2002 - "Critical clashes along the Va./Md. border" - The discussion of Company H of the Twenty-Third North Carolina continues. This article follows the company through the battles of Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville.

January 27, 2002 - "U.S. Grant bears down on the Confederates" - The discussion of Company H of the Twenty-Third North Carolina continues. This article follows the company through the battles of Gettysburg, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania.


February 3, 2002 - "The Gaston Guards fought to the end" - Between July of 1864 and Febrauary of 1865, the Twenty-Third North Carolina were part of the troops of Confederate commander Jubal Early and fought a series of battles for control of the Shenandoah Valley. At one point in the conflict, Early's troops had advanced to within three miles of Washington, D.C. After the fall of Petersburg in February, 1865, Early's troops retreated to joined Lee's army at Appomatox.

February 10, 2002 - "South Fork Farmers become Gaston Invincibles" - The beginning of a series of articles on Company B of the Twenty-Eighth North Carolina. The article provides a list of the leaders of the Company as well as a list of prominent surnames among the privates. The first Gaston County Citizen to be killed in battle, William A. Gamble, was a member of this company. The Twenty-Eighth was first assigned to the defense of Wilmington, then to the Shenandoah Valley. They were soon after sent to defend Richmond and arrived in time to be involved in the Seven Days Battle.

February 17, 2002 - "Gaston's Invincibles help defend the Shenandoah" - The discussion of Company B of the Twenty-Eighth North Carolina continues. The company is involved in fighting at Cedar Mountain and Second Manassas. The article ends with a brief discussion of the fighting at Ox Hill, near Fairfax Court House, in early September, 1862.

February 24, 2002 - "'A record of valor equaled by few'" - The men of Company B of the Twenty-Eighth North Carolina are involved in the taking of the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, September 15, 1862. Their company is one of several, under the command of A. P. Hill, that are left behind to wrap things up in Harper's Ferry, while the bulk of the army moved toward Sharpsburg. The late arrival of these men at Sharpsburg changed the course of the battle there. James H. Lane of the Twenty-Eighth is promoted to brigadier general after the Battle of Sharpsburg. The Twenth-Eighth North Carolina was also one the most heavily hit units on the front lines at the Battle of Fredericksburg. A list of the unit's casualties at Fredericksburg is included in this article.


March 3, 2002 - "Glory in Maryland, tragedy in Pennsylvania" - The discussion of Company B of the Twenty-Eighth North Carolina continues. This article focuses on the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. At Gettysburg, the unit was involved in fighting at Seminary Ridge and also in Pickett's Charge on Cemetary Ridge. Thirty-three men from Gaston County were killed or wounded during Pickett's Charge.

March 10, 2002 - "The Gaston Invincibles fight in the Wilderness" - This article summarizes the events of the Battle of the Wilderness, May, 1864.

March 17, 2002 - "The Gaston Invincibles face the inevitable" - This article follows Company B of the Twenty-Eighth North Carolina from the Battle of the Wilderness to the end of the war. Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and the seige of Petersburg are discussed.

March 24, 2002 - "Notable names made up the Gaston Blues" - This article begins a discussion of Company H of the Thirty-Seventh North Carolina. The names of the men who served as officers in this unit are included. The article also mentions the surnames of privates within this unit.

March 31, 2002 - "New Bern falls to Ambrose Burnside's Federals" - The men of the North Carolina Thirty-Seventh face their first fighting on March 14, 1862 in the defense of New Bern, North Carolina. After a day of heavy fighting, the confederates were forced to fall back to Kinston and leave New Bern in Union hands. This defeat was a major blow to the morale of the North Carolina Confederates.


April 7, 2002 - "The Gaston Blues join Stonewall Jackson's command" - On March 31, 1862, the Thirty-Seventh, Seventeenth, Eighteenth, Twenty-Eighth and Thirty-Third North Carolina regiments are formed into a new brigade under the command of General Lawrence O'Bryan Branch. This new brigade is sent west to the Shenandoah Valley to assist the troops of General Joseph Johnston.

April 14, 2002 - "The Gaston Blues skirmish in the Shenandoah" - General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, command of the Cofederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley, leads his men on a series of successful raids and minor skirmishes against the Union forces. They acheived victory at Fort Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys and Port Republic. In May, 1862, Branch's brigade was assigned to A. P. Hill's forces near Richmond. The brigade suffered heavy losses at Hanover Courthouse on May 27, 1862.

April 21, 2002 - "Gaston Blues help repel the Union advance" - The article follows the men of Company H of the Thirty-Seventh North Carolina from May through August of 1862. During this period, the unit is involves in fighting in the Seven Days Campaign, Cedar Mountain, and Second Manassas (Bull Run).

April 28, 2002 - "Gaston troops help thwart Federals at Sharpsburg" - This article focuses on the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam). The men of A. P. Hill's Division, including the Thirty-Seventh North Carolina, arrived late at the battle and helped turn the tide in the Confederacy's favor. After the battle, Lee's weary troops were forced to return back into Virginia, with the Thiry-Seventh North Carolina making up a portion of the rear guard troops covering their retreat.


May 5, 2002 - "Fredericksburg:'The hardest fight I have ever been in'" - This article focuses on the Battle of Fredericksburg in December of 1862. The Thirty seventh North Carolina made up the center of the Confederate's first line of defense. The Federal troops under General Ambrose Burnside failed to break the Confederate lines and suffered heavy losses.

May 12, 2002 - "Lee makes a daring move at Chancellorsville" - This article is a detailed discussion of the Battle of Chancellorsville, May, 1863. Several North Carolina were involved in this pivotal battle.

May 19, 2002 - "Paying the price for victory at Chancellorsville" - "The focus of this article is the Battle of the Wilderness. Ragan includes several stories and quotes from letters within this article. A list of the dead from Company H of the Thirty-Seventh North Carolina is included. The article also gives the account of the shooting and death of Stonewall Jackson.

May 26, 2002 - "The fateful foray into Gettysburg" - This article focuses on the first two days of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863.


June 2, 2002 - "The ill winds blow at Gettysburg" - The second of two articles on the Battle of Gettysburg, this article focuses on the third and final day of the battle. The article continues to discuss the Battle of Spotsylvania, May 12, 1864.

June 9, 2002 - "The grim fighting comes to a close" - The last of the articles about the Thirty-Seventh North Carolina. This article covers the period for Spotsylvania to the end of the war. The battles that are discussed include Cold Harbor; the seige of Petersburg, Va.; Fussell's Mill ( which claimed the life of Captain William Ragan of Gaston County ); Bellfield, Va.; Hatcher's Run; Fort Steadman; and Five Forks.

June 16, 2002 - "The Gaston Rangers begin as raw recruits" - The first of a series of articles following Company H of the Forty-Ninth North Carolina, nicknamed the Gaston Rangers. The unit was organized on March 22, 1862 in Dallas by Charles Q. Petty. The article mentions the non-commissioned officers that served with the unit during the war, as well as the surnames of many of the enlisted men. Ragan gives special attention to the family of Thomas and Sarah Ferguson, whose two twin sons, Albert and Robert, served with the Gaston Rangers.

June 23, 2002 - "The Gaston Rangers meet the enemy" - The men of Company H of the Forty-Ninth North Carolina, were initiated into battle on the last day of the Seven Day's Battle in July, 1862. A mis-communication of orders resulted in the men engaging in a suicidal attack on a well-defended position on Malvern Hill. The next major battle for the unit came in August of 1862 at the Battle of Second Bull Run(Manassas).

June 30, 2002 - "Gaston Rangers join Lee's Maryland offensive" - This article follows the Gaston Rangers (Company H of the Forty-Ninth North Carolina) through the battles of Sharpsburg (Antietam) and Fredericksburg.


July 7, 2002 - "The Gaston Rangers defend 'the lifeline'" - From January, 1863 until the spring of 1864, the Forty-Ninth North Carolina was assigned to the protection of the vital Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, a major supply line between Wilmington and Lee's troops in Virginia. The Confederates faced several minor skirmishes in the defense of this line, including the raid on Weldon bridge in July, 1863.

July 14, 2002 - "The Gaston Rangers join the South's last stand" - The Forty-Ninth North Carolina continues to defend Eastern North Carolina. In April, 1864, they force the federal troops to withdraw from Plymouth. By June, they successfully crippled Ben Butler's Army of the James. On June 15, 1863, General Ulysses Grant brought his troops across the James River east of Richmond and set the stage for the siege of Petersburg.

July 21, 2002 - "The Gaston Rangers face the Crater" - During the seige of Petersburg, the Forty-Eigth Pennsylvania, which had several coal miners amoung its ranks, dug a tunnel and planted explosives beneath the Confederate lines. Grant's troops drew the Confederates away from the area just before the explosion, which created a large crater in the center of the Confederate lines. Confederates troops, including the Foty-Ninth North Carolina, repulsed the Union soldeiers as they attempted to cross the Crater.

July 18, 2001 - "Gaston Rangers and Lee's army succomb to attrition" - The siege of Petersburg , from the summer of 1864 unitl early 1865, took its toll amoung the troops of both sides. The Forty-Ninth North Carolina was surrounded, only to advance and drive back the enemy on three separate occassions during the long seige. The regiment was eventually overwhelmed and captured. Petersburg, and soon after Richmond, fell to the union forces. Seven days later, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomatox Court House.


August 4, 2002 - "Teenage boys from Gastonia join their fellow Confederates" - By February of 1864, The Confedearacy was growing desperate for men to replenish their depleted ranks. The Legislature voted to reduce the minimum age for conscription to seventeen and raise the maximum to fifty. In May, 95 boys aged 17 and 18 from Gaston County joined with boys from Lincoln, Northampton, and Bertie counties to form Comapany C of the Second North Carolina Regiment of Junior Reserves. James Quinn Holland, of Gaston County, was elected and confirmed as the unit's captain. The article includes the names of the offficers and forty-four known survivors of the unit.

August 11, 2002 - "The Junior Reserves answer the call to battle" - In May, 1864, the Second North Carolina was reorganized as the Seventh-First North Carolina Regiment of Junior Reserves. The boys spent most of 1864 in eastern North Carolina. In December, the unit was called to Petersburg, where Lee's troops were currently under seige.

August 18, 2002 - "Junior Reserves face bitter cold, enemy troops" - The Junior Reserves are led into battle for the first time. They take part battles in Belfield and Hicksford, Virginia and near Kinston, North Carolina.

August 25, 2002 - "Junior Reserves show their mettle under fire" - In March of 1865, the Seventy-First North carolina Junior Reserves were engaged in one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War in North Carolina. At Bentonville, the Confederate troops of General Joe Johnston attempted to halt the advance of General William T. Sherman's Federal trops toward Goldsboro and Raleigh.


September 1, 2002 - "Junior Reserves help bolster Confederate spirit" - Continued discussion of the Battle of Bentonville, March, 1865.

September 8, 2002 - "Junior Reserves see an end to the struggle" - After Bentonville, the Junior Reserves withdrew to Smithfield. While camped there, rumors began to circulate that Richmond had fallen. The troops took part in a military review in Selma on April 6, 1865, which was attended by North Carolina wartime governor Zebulon Vance. The troops left Smithfield and withdrew to Trinity College in Randolph county. Word reached them while they were there of Lee's surrender to Grant a week before. On April 26, Johnston's troops surrendered to General Sherman at the Bennett house, near present day Durham.

September 15, 2002 - "Bested but unbowed, the Junior Reserves go home" - The fate of the flag of the Junior Reserves Company C is discussed. After the surrender, the soldiers begin the long walk home. The experiences of George Ragan on his journey home are recounted.

September 22, 2002 - "After war comes turmoil of Reconstruction" - Federal troops move into Gaston County to restore order and enforce civil law. These "law-keepers" were actually responsible for many acts of violence, vandalism, and mayhem in the area.

September 29, 2002 - "Sometimes law and compassion ruled the day" - More stories from the early Reconstruction period in Gaston County. Emanuel Rudisill and others from Company M of the Sixteenth North Carolina formally surrender to Federal troops in Dallas. Pinhook Mill is saved from burning by Federal troops through a friendly reunion. A Union soldier, John Campo, is arrested for stealing boots from a general store. After his release, he decides to live in Gaston County.


October 6, 2002 - "Post-war Gaston feels political and economic fallout" - During Reconstruction, Gaston County suffered through economic and political stagnation. Local officials were forced out of office and replaced with Northern Republicans. Debts were due in U. S. currency, which was hard to come by, while the Confederate Money more commonly held was now worthless. The article focuses on Daniel F. Ragan, a local justice of the peace, and on Admiral Charles Wilkes (U. S. Navy) who purchased and re-opened the iron works at High Shoals.

October 13, 2002 - "One hand on the ballot, one on the pistol" - Elections in Gaston County during the Reconstruction period were controlled by the Republicans, who used threats and intimidation to control the vote. A local chapter of the Union League was formed in Gaston County.

October 20, 2002 - "After Reconstruction, a new South is born" - In response to the Republican government of the Reconstruction era, the Ku Klux Klan was begun in the South. The objective of the first Klan was to return the control of the government to Conservative Democrats. Democrats began to return to power in Gaston County by the late 1870's and the Klan disbanded. This first Klan was a separate organization from the Klan that began in Georgia in 1915 to maintain segregation. Industrialization led to economic progress and the birth of the "New South."

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