Battle of Bethel, 150 Years Ago


North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"


The Battle of Bethel: 10 June 1861:

“This battle [Bethel]…was fought on the 10th of June, 1861. Being the first serious fight of the war…Col. D.H. Hill had, with the First North Carolina regiment, thrown up an enclosed earthwork on the bank of Marsh creek. The Confederate position was held by the following forces: Three companies of the Third Virginia, under Lieu.-Col. W.D. Stuart…three companies of the Virginia battalion, under Maj. E.B. Montague; five pieces of artillery, under Maj. (afterward secretary of war) G.W. Randolph, of the Richmond Howitzers; and the First North Carolina, under
Colonel Hill.

The companies composing the North Carolina regiment, which had the envied distinction of being the initial troops to enter organized battle, were: Edgecombe Guards, Capt. J.L. Bridgers; Hornet’s Nest Riflemen [Mecklenburg], Capt. L.S. Williams; Charlotte Grays, Capt. E.A. Ross; Orange Light Infantry, Capt. R.J. Ashe; Buncombe Rifles, Capt. William McDowell; Lafayette Light Infantry [Cumberland], Capt. J.B. Starr; Burke Rifles, Capt. C.M. Avery; Fayetteville Light Infantry, Capt. Wright Huske; Enfield Blues, Capt. D.B. Bell; Southern Stars
[Lincoln], Capt. W.J. Hoke. The whole force was nominally under the command of Col. J.B. Magruder, and numbered between 1,200 and 1,400 men.

[The Northern attack] was repelled mainly by [Major] Randolph’s accurate fire, aided by the gallant conduct of the Burke Rifles under Captain Avery and by the Hornet’s Nest Rifles. A little late in the action the Edgecombe Guards, Captain Bridgers, gallantly retook a redoubt that had, on the accidental disabling of a gun, been abandoned by the Confederates.

In front of this redoubt the Federals had found shelter behind and in a house. Colonel Hill called for volunteers from the Edgecombe guards to burn this house. Sergt. George H. Williams, Thomas Fallon, John H. Thorpe, H.L. Wyatt, and R.H. Bradley promptly offered their services and made a brave rush for the house. On the way a shot from the enemy’s rear guard struck Wyatt down. The determined spirit of this heroic young soldier led to a premature death, but by dying he won the undying fame of being the first Confederate soldier killed in action.

An attempt to turn the Confederate left having failed, [the Northern] forces retreated toward Fortress Monroe. The Confederate loss in this precursor of many bloody fields was 1 killed and 11 wounded; the Federal loss was 18 killed and 53 wounded. In the South this little victory over a vastly superior force awakened the wildest enthusiasm, for it was thought to indicate the future and final success of the cause for which its people were battling.”

(Confederate Military History, D.H. Hill, Jr., Blue & Grey Press, pp.