North Carolina Patriots of ’61 – Duplin County’s “Confederate Greys”
Duplin County supplied many men for North Carolina’s war effort from Duplin Roads (now Wallace), Kenansville, Warsaw, Magnolia and Faison who fought in Virginia as well as in the fortifications around Wilmington at Forts Fisher and Anderson on the Cape Fear River. Among the first units formed as local militia were the “Spartan Band” of Captain A.G. Moseley (later Company A, 38th North Carolina); the “Duplin Rifles” (organized at Kenansville in 1859, later in the 12th and 48th North Carolina Regiments) under Captain Thomas S. Kenan; the Duplin Stars which became Company C, 51st North Carolina; the Duplin Turpentine Boys which became Company E, 30th North Carolina; and the “Confederate (Duplin) Greys” under Captain Claudius B. Denson, originally of Suffolk, Virginia. His lieutenants were R.P. James, L.T. Hicks, and L.W. Hodges.
The latter was a unit largely composed of students at the Franklin Military Institute near Faison, founded by Denson in 1858 and the first military school in North Carolina. It was among the first to offer services in defense of North Carolina to Governor John W. Ellis, and it was equipped by “company members, families and patriotic friends.” The “Duplin Greys” eventually became Company E of the 20th North Carolina Regiment under Colonel (later General) Alfred Iverson and Colonel Frank J. Faison of Duplin. The 20th and fought at Malvern Hill, Seven Days, Mechanicsville, Cold Harbor, South Mountain, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Petersburg and the Shenandoah Valley. In fierce battle at Gettysburg on the first day, the 20th North Carolina Regiment lost every officer killed, wounded or captured (of 24 being present), and only 16 men of the regiment led by Lt. J.F. Ireland marched away from Gettysburg.
The names of the officers and soldiers of the Duplin units include: Hicks, Sprunt, Oliver, Grimes, Blalock, Carr, Kornegay, Wright, Barfield, Brinson, Brock, Branch, Davis, Farrior, Faison, Futrall, Grady, Hall, Huggins, Kellit, Kenan, Lanier, Outlaw, Padgett, Rogers, Strickland, Swinson, Southerland, Tew, Wallace, Westbrook and Winders. Additionally, many Duplin men served in the “Herring Artillery” under Captain William A. Herring in Company I of the 2nd North Carolina Artillery serving at Fort Johnson in Smithville. Lieutenant Robert B. Carr of Duplin County was wounded at Gettysburg and captured along with Col. Thomas S. Kenan; Carr became one of the “Immortal 600” Southern officers used as human shields in front of Northern artillery batteries at Charleston in 1864. Nearly starved by his captors, he finally died on July 3, 1865 of chronic intestinal disorders. Both of his brothers, Joseph and John, were killed in the war.
After the war, Captain Denson of the Duplin Greys opened the Pittsboro Scientific Academy in Chatham County, and in 1887 relocated to Raleigh where with Professor Hugh Morsen founded the Raleigh Male Academy, and served as president of the North Carolina Teachers’ Assembly, and secretary of the State Board of Charities. One of his main interests was an effort to establish a reformatory for young criminals in North Carolina, and this led to the Stonewall Jackson Training School at Concord, North Carolina which opened six years after his death, which occurred in 1903.
Sources: Historical Essays, Cape Fear Historical Institute, www.cfhi.net; Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, William S. Powell.
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