Sunday, March 1, 2009
Casualties at the Battle of Newport Barracks
One of the more interesting, yet frustrating, parts of my research has been trying to get a close count of the number of casualties from the fighting on February 2. I have been able to create a general roster of those men who were killed, wounded, or captured during the battle. I used a number of different sources to develop this list including sources such as the Official Reports, Supplement to the Official Reports, the North Carolina Roster of Troops, Service Records, as well as letters and memoirs.
Admittedly this is not a complete listing. Luckily the 9th Vermont kept fairly accurate records of the losses sustained so I feel pretty confident in the accuracy of the numbers I have for that regiment. But, from there comes the frustrating part. The records for the Confederate units engaged are far from complete in terms of detail. The same can be said for the 23rd New York Cavalry and Company D of the 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. By my best estimate I have a roster that includes 60 to 80% of those who were casualties that day.
To further complicate matters is the reported losses that were given in the official reports by both Union and Confederate commanders. This is understandable though as one would expect a certain "flexibility," if you will, with the numbers. The rules seems to be to overstate enemy losses and understate your own losses. The following examples from the official reports of Brigadier General James G. Martin (in command of Confederate forces) and Lieutenant Colonel Valentine Barney (in command of Union forces) give us some idea into this:
Martin: 2 officers, and 5 enlisted men killed. 14 wounded.
Barney: 3 officers and 15 men killed. As many as 30 wounded.
From my research I have been able to find recorded six Confederates killed with seven wounded. There are also the listing of three men who are reported absent wounded but the service records do not indicate when or where the wounds took place. In Clark's Regiments there is a mention of two members from Company A of the 3rd Battalion North Carolina Light Artillery. In the report of Barney he also mentions 2 Confederate soldiers being left behind and wounded at Newport Barracks. I have not been able to track down the names of the soldiers, but the report is verified by the account of a nurse who treated the two in the Mansfield Hospital in Morehead City.
Martin: 20 killed, 40-50 wounded, 74 men captured (with 4 men paroled due to wounds).
Barney: 3 men killed, 1 officer and 12 men wounded, and 50 men missing.
In addition to the official reports from each commander Frederick Dyer in his Compendium of the War of the Rebellion lists the total casualties for the Union forces at 77 (4 killed, 11 wounded, and 62 captured). In the Supplement to the Official Reports for the 23rd New York Cavalry reports three men captured, but no mention of their names. From my research in the roster of the 9th Vermont the losses suffered by that regiment seem to be 5 killed, 13 wounded, with 49 captured (31 of the 49 would die in Confederate prisons) for a total of 67. In addition to that the Death Roster from Andersonville shows four members of the 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery and six members of the 23rd New York Cavalry. If these numbers are correct, then that places the total number at 77, which would equal that as reported by Dyer.
In the end it will be difficult, in my opinion, to develop to complete roster in terms of the casualties, due to the discrepancies in the total from the various sources and the lack of solid records from the Confederate forces. In a day or two I hope to post the roster I have compiled so far, but first I wanted to explain the overall numbers and the problems I have encountered with them.