The above map of the Battle of Newport Barracks was drawn by Josiah O. Livingston of the 9th Vermont. Livingston was one of three members of the 9th Vermont to later win the Medal of Honor for their actions during the February 2, 1864 battle.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Death of Noah F. Muse

I am still in North Carolina, but I wanted to get back to updating the blog since I have missed a few days (All blame can rest with the wonderful weather, Eastern North Carolina BBQ, and the playoff push of the Carolina Hurricanes). I was going through my notes and wanted to share the accounts (or this case accounts) of the death of First Lieutenant Noah F. Muse of Company E of the 5th North Carolina Cavalry. Before I go on with the accounts I wanted to give a little background on Muse.

Muse was born in 1834, but the location is not fully clear. One source states he was born in Moore County, North Carolina; yet in North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865, A Roster, Vol II Cavalry it lists the place of birth as being Chatham County, North Carolina. Considering that Moore and Chatham share a border the confusion is to be somewhat expected. In November 1850 Muse is stated as being 16 years old and attending school. He would enlist as a private in Company E of the 5th North Carolina Cavalry on August 3, 1862. Muse would not remain a private for long, as he quickly advanced in rank. By September 18, 1862 he would be promoted to Second Lieutenant and again on October 16, 1862 to First Lieutenant.

The following is from the Service Records of the 5th North Carolina Cavalry Co. E: "The company formed a part of the force which attacked and captured Shepardsville on the 2nd. First Lieutenant N.F. Muse of this company was killed in the charge on the enemy."

The change that was referred to was the opening shots of the attack on the Gales Creek Blockhouse.

Moore's History of North Carolina describes the attack:

At 10 o'clock A.M. of the 30th of January (Moore is incorrect on the date as the attack was on February 2, 1864) the enemy's cavalry pickets, five miles from Shepherdsville were stampeded, and in the desperate race which ensued Lieutenant Muse of Chatham North Carolina, was shot by one of the flying pickets and instantly killed.

The death of Lieutenant Muse was also mentioned in the The Wilmington Journal on February 11, 1864:
On nearing the first pickets of the enemy and discovering them on the alert, the cavalry dashed furiously forward, and the Yankee pickets (twenty-five or thirty in number) retreated as fast as their horses would carry them. The road over which pursuers and pursued had to pass was through a swamp, and full of deep holes overflowing with mud and water. But on they sped- some of the Yankee horses and their riders turning somersets in the mud, and ours running over them, inflicting many bruises upon men and horses (breaking the neck of one of the latter) but doing no serious damage to the riders. It was at this point that Lieut. Muse, of Harris' cavalry, while gallantly leading the charge, fell mortally wounded by a pistol shot from a Yankee who was being hotly pursued. Having captured a portion and dispersed the rest of these outpost pickets, the column moved forward and soon came to a trading post of the yankees - but the enemy had fled in the direction of a block house some half mile distant.

This account was also carried in the Fayetteville Observer on February 15, 1864 and The Southerner from Tarboro, North Carolina on March 5, 1864.

From the accounts we have we can gather that the troops Muse and Co.E of the 5th North Carolina Cavalry encountered were from the 23rd New York Cavalry. We know they were in the area and it would make sense for them to be advance pickets in a position such as the Gales Creek Blockhouse.

Brigadier General James G. Martin in his report on the Battle of Newport Barracks also mentions Muse and the attack on the pickets:

About 12 o'clock the advance came on the enemy's pickets and immediately charged them over a most dreadful piece of road, killing and capturing, I believe, the whole picket. In this charge Lieutenant Muse, of Captain Harris' company (cavalry), was killed just as he was in the act of striking his enemy. His blow fell, wounding the enemy, apparently, after he had been himself killed.

From these accounts it would seem that Lieutenant Muse was killed during the charge on the enemy pickets, possibly wounding one of those pickets. The next account from George Benedict's Vermont in the Civil War seems to corroborate the Confederate accounts to a certain extent, but at the same time offering a slightly different take on the death of Muse. The Union troops at Gales Creek were Company H of the 9th Vermont. Benedict writes on the attack:

Colonel Ripley was absent, having gone to Fortress Monroe with some prisoners and dispatches, leaving Lieut. Colonel Barney in command of the Post, and Captain Kelley in command of the regiment. Company B (commanded for the time being by Lieutenant Ballard), occupied the block-house on Bogue Sound, and company H, Captain Gorham, was doing out-post duty at Gale's Creek, with a cavalry picket out
beyond. The first appearance of the enemy was at the latter point. About nine o'clock in the morning of the 2d the cavalry picket came in in a hurry, the lieutenant in command of it showing a sabre-cut in his shoulder. The infantry pickets next came in, less a dozen of their number who had been cut off and captured; but not without having inflicted some loss upon the enemy. One of the new recruits, Oberon Payne by name, shot a mounted man, supposed to be an officer, from his horse, and the animal, keeping on, came within reach of the pickets and was brought in with the empty saddle.

The lieutenant mentioned with the sabre cut might have received that cut from Muse in the attack, but of course we will never fully know. When looking over casualty reports for the 23rd New York Cavalry there is no mention of any lieutenant in the 23rd receiving such a wound though, but there is the chance it was never reported or considered that serious.

Another interesting aspect of this account is in regards to Oberon Payne. Payne was indeed a brand new recruit to the 9th Vermont having enlisted on January 2, 1864 (one month before the Battle of Newport Barracks) and mustered into service on January 5, 1864. What Benedict writes seems to match up with Lieutenant Muse when one considers that Muse was the only casualty reported by his unit in the engagement, also the fact that he was an officer.

Confederate accounts seem to indicate that Muse went down very early in the fight, while Benedict gives the possibility that Muse was mortally wounded closer to the blockhouse. Either way, we will probably never knew the exact details of the death of Lieutenant Muse, but this is one of the view incidents from the engagement where the Confederate accounts are in as much detail as that of their Union counterparts.

Unfortunately, the death of Noah F. Muse was not the only tragedy to befall the Muse family during the war as two of Muse's younger brothers would die as well in the war. Ashley Muse was a private in Company H of the 26th North Carolina and was killed in action on July 1, 1863 at Gettysburg. George Muse would die of disease while a prisoner of war at Elmira, New York on May 11, 1865.

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