Company F, 33rd
Regiment, North Carolina Troops
Researched by Robert W. Hester & James E. Hester
Middletown in 1861, one of the more important towns in Hyde County, was bustling with activity as the South began the awesome task of marshalling it's yeoman farmers into one of the greatest military forces then known to man. The men and boys of Hyde County would prove to be some of the best and toughest soldiers that the war produced. But in the spring of 1861 they were primarily preparing the land for that year's crop.
Middletown was likely the gathering spot for the latest news on Lincoln's invasion as the word came quickest from across the waters of Pamlico Sound. The rudimentary road system that led to Washington was a slow and laborious transportation route as compared to the sailing vessels that sliced the Pamlico Sound's waters with ease and speed. The silt that filled Middle Creeks' channel and gradually choked Middletown into decay, and led to the founding of Engelhard after the war, was even then a problem but not a mortal one yet. And so the vessels came and went and the fervor of defending one's home grew as more news of the Yankees intent to subjugate the South filtered from Middletown through the homes and stores of Hyde County.
On March 4, 1861 Abraham Lincoln, who had not received any votes in the South, gave his inaugural address and assured southerners that there would be no invasion of their states. Forty days later two Federal warships attempted to resupply, with men and weapons, Fort Sumter igniting a flurry of cannon fire. Two days later Lincoln, having apparently forgotten his inaugural promise, issued orders to mobilize 75,000 soldiers to subdue the Southern States. To this point North Carolina having steadfastly opposed secession even to the point of not authorizing a convention to discuss the matter was appalled and shaken. Now that Lincoln had proven his character and through his War Secretary, Simon Cameron, demanded two regiments from North Carolina, the strong Union sentiment in North Carolina evaporated. Governor Ellis of North Carolina speaking for the enraged people of his state acidly replied to Lincoln's demand; "you will get no troops from North Carolina."
And so from Sladesville to Waupoppin and New Lake to Lake Comfort Lincoln's invasion was the word and hundreds of men stepped forward. Henry Sylvester Gibbs quickly formed a company of "Local Defense Troops" that numbered 77 officers and men and was designated Captain. The "Hyde County Rifles" formed in Swan Quarter. This fierce group of 94 officers and men led by Sladesville farmer Captain James J. Leith was designated Company B of the 17th Regiment. By June 18th the Hyde County Rifles had arrived at Portsmouth Island. Through the spring and summer many dozens more flocked to Washington joining the "Southern Guards" (Company E) and the "Pamlico Rifles" (Company I) of the 4th Regiment. Some who preferred cannons to muskets joined the "Washington Grays" and others the "McMillan Artillery". Still other Hyde County men rode with Company G of the 19th Regiment (2nd Cavalry). And so it went throughout the war the men from Hyde fighting the Yankees in various units.
Though Hyde County men augmented the ranks of dozens of units, two full companies formed in the early fall of 1861; one in Middletown, the other in Swan Quarter, that became part of one of the most feared Confederate Regiments, the 33rd North Carolina.
Middletown by early August 1861 was celebrating the great Confederate victory at Manassas Virginia in July, but at the same time were casting an apprehensive eye twenty miles across the Pamlico to Hatteras and Ocracoke. Confederate privateers led by the Winslow were capturing northern ships and bringing them and their cargo to New Bern to auction. Their loss of shipping would very soon bring thousands of Union troops to the Outer Banks. But in early August this apprehension was overridden by the excitement of the new infantry company being formed in the village.
The "Dixie Invincibles" captained by Thomas W. Mayhew was being recruited and organized and undoubtedly the folks in the eastern end of Hyde County (where most of the Company were from) were especially proud of this group of Confederates. Thomas Mayhew in 1861 a 22 year old school teacher who had come to Hyde County in the late 1850's from his home in New Bern, was an obvious leader who was well respected, and at ease with military life. 21 months later after unusual courage and professionalism, Mayhew was mortally wounded and captured at the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia. He died on May 12, 1863. In the summer of 1861 Mayhew, and his wife Adelade, wee living with her father, William Watson II, and expecting their first and only child. Despite this bright domestic outlook, Captain Mayhew was deeply involved in recruiting the "Dixie Invincibles" and organizing his fellow officers.
1st Lt. James A. Weston, 23 years old, well educated and capable. He would follow Mayhew to becoming Captain of Company F. then Major of the 33rd. After an exemplary war record he would surrender with Lee at Appomattox. After the war Weston became a minister and moved to Hickory N.C. In 1901 Major Weston wrote the full account of the 33rd Regiment for Clarks Regiments.
2nd Lt. James W. Gibbs, 20 in 1861, would be promoted to 1st Lt. Badly wounded in the battle at Jericho Ford, VA. May 21,1865, a wound that crippled him for life. Major Weston stated that Lt. Gibbs was a "most worthy soldier."
2nd Lt. Samuel C. Watson, 24 in 1861, as evidenced in his letters in this book, was a vibrant, cheerful young officer. Killed at Gettysburg, PA.
And so Thomas Mayhew with three capable subalterns set about bringing in new recruits and molding these independent minded Hyde Countians into an efficient fighting unit. Organizing an infantry company was more than drill and orders. The men had to be clothed, armed, and fed. Several bills to the Hyde County War Fund show that food purchase began at least by August 10,1861. The boys, while certainly complaining about drill and the regimentation of military life, were eating sumptuously if the purchases of chicken, hams, bacon, mutton, and so on are any indication. After 1863 when they had little to eat, they doubtlessly would remember the menu of 1861.
The enlisted men forming the "Dixie Invincibles" were remarkably alike. Most were farm laborers or farming on their family's farm, and were in the age bracket of 18 to 22. Generally they were unmarried, and brothers and sons not husbands and fathers. Henry Selby (who years later named a son after Thomas Mayhew) and Sylvester Cutrell fit the norm in several ways. They were both 23 and in 1860 were farm laborers living in the household of Bonner Fulford. The Sergeants were generally older, for example 1st Sergeant Thomas Farrow was 27 and Sergeant Joseph B. Gibbs was 33. 16 or 17 year old boys like Richard Daniels, James Dailey and Henry Gibbs represented the youngsters in the company.
Another part of Company F that many today deny or fail to understand is that there were a number of Blacks that were an integral part. Throughout the Confederate Armies an undetermined number of Southern Blacks were part and parcel of the men that served. Because Blacks were seldom included in the rosters their involvement is normally found through other sources. John Collins, Benjamin Mackey, and Boy John were found on a bill sent to the Hyde County War Fund after being issued clothing. There were more clothing issues we have not located that will reveal more Black Hyde Countians in the Dixie Invincibles.
Although there were a good handful of married men with children, the eldest standout was William Watson II in his 50's and the proud father-in-law of Captain Mayhew. With five daughters at home, including the Captains wife, and his wife Sally, there is little doubt that Private William Watson was allowed to quietly slip back to the attentions of his wife and daughters from time to time.
Watson and the rest of the "Invincibles" were likely shocked with the serious business ahead when on the night of August 29, 1861 they learned that the Yankees had soundly whipped the Confederate forces at Cape Hatteras. Now with the invading army only hours away it is probable that they paid closer attention to their military duties.
By September 9, 1861, the day the men of the "Dixie Invincibles" enlisted "for the war", the Federal forces had consolidated their victory on the Outer Banks and were laying plans for further victories in Eastern North Carolina. Dozens of men evaded Colonel Rush Hawkins efforts to enlist them in the Union Army and crossed the sound to sign up in Confederate units enlisting in mainland Hyde County. Many of these men joined Company F's sister company in the 33rd Regiment, Company H, which enlisted in October 1861 in Swan Quarter.
But for the men in Middletown the war had officially begun. The "scare was in" and local Confederate authorities, bombarded Richmond with pleas for troops, gunpowder, cannons, rifles, and all other types of military supplies. Unfortunately the effort from Richmond to protect the coastal N.C. areas was minimal. The result was that Hyde and other eastern counties were not only subject to Yankee raids and depredations throughout the war, but were occupied by federal troops some of the time.
Commanders throughout the east were trying to ascertain the Yankees next move in September 1861. By mid- September the Invincibles were at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh as the 33rd Regiment was being organized, but while the bulk of the Regiment was sent to Camp Magnum, Companies F, H, and B by mid-October had joined Companies D and E of the 7th Regiment at Middletown. The short absence from Middletown had doubtless made the place more hospitable to the Hyde County soldiers.
Major E.D. Hall of the 7th Regiment who, was in command at Middletown, had his five companies constructed earthworks and other defensive positions if the Federals decided to attack Middletown.
As the Fall passed to Winter the fear of an attack quieted and the relentless drill and orders perhaps drove the men to boredom. Company F soldiers probably enjoyed this first winter of war by being near their families and seeing them often. It is certain that Middletown with over 400 young soldiers as guests enjoyed a lively winter that kept Major Hall and Hyde Co. Constable John Northan busy. Northan was also a militia officer and had previously been an officer in Gibbs' Co. Local Defense Troops.
By mid-February 1862 the three companies of the 33rd and the two companies of the 7th were ordered immediately to New Bern where authorities believed the next northern blow would fall. They were accurate in this belief. The men that called themselves the "Dixie Invincibles" marched from their Hyde County homes to their first of dozens of rendezvous with minie balls, grapeshot, cannons, disease, and hunger. Of the ninety men and officers that enlisted on September 9, 1861, only 55 would see their homes and families again. But throughout their struggle against overwhelming odds they mostly were dependable, brave, and determined soldiers that we should forever be proud of.
One of their number, Major James A. Weston, has said it best.
"We failed only because it was impossible to succeed."
The War Between the States represented a determination by a set of contiguous states with people of like culture, economics, and religion to separate from another set of contiguous states and people to be different in culture, economics, and religion. The Southern States that formed the Confederate States of America were determined that their withdrawal from the United States should be peaceful. The new president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, decided that the independence and self determination sought by the Southern people would not be allowed. His subsequent invasion and destruction of the South was followed by the horror of Reconstruction.
Through a relentless reeducation process the truth of the War for Southern Independence has been distorted, corrupted, and altered so that the Southern people feel their ancestors to have been a group of less than desirable people.
The work of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is to honor "the men who wore the gray". Their cause was just, their sacrifice total, and their motivation pure.
The following pages are for the purpose of honoring a group of Hyde County Confederate soldiers and hopefully give information that eases the processes of genealogical efforts by their descendants. These men fought in all the major battles with General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and their acts of bravery and heroism should forever make their descendants proud.
Roster of the Dixie Invincibles
Dixie Invincibles Monument
The focus of the struggle for Southern Independence is often on the battles and the men who fought them. The hundreds of thousands of women of the Confederacy suffered deprivations of all kinds particularly in Yankee occupied areas. Their spirit and belief in their new Nation is clearly represented by Annie Eliza. She saw her father William Watson II, her brother-in-law Major Thomas Mayhew, and numerous cousins and neighbors die for this new nation. Her two daughters born during the war, clearly reflect in their names, their mothers’ spirit: Dixie (1862-1949) (married Alonza O’Neal), and Victory (1863-1943), (married Francis C. Barber). Annie Eliza’s worth as a Southern woman is shown on her tombstone.
ANNIE ELIZA SMITH
Nov. 8, 1838 – July 4, 1876
"My wife how fondly thy Memory be shrined
Within the chambers of my brain. Thy
Enfuous worth was only known to me"
Her worth is inspiration to all southerners. It is both ironic and fitting that Annie Eliza died on July 4, 1876; the 100th anniversary of the United States and the year that marked the official end of reconstruction.
Annie Eliza’s first husband was Daniel Gray Credle who died in 1865. Her second husband, Charles C. Smith, who wrote the words for her tombstone, we know nothing about. Annie Eliza is buried on the Stotesbury farm, between New Holland and Lake Comfort on Hwy. 264. This is the original Watson home place where she spent most of her life.
Sons of Confederate Veterans
Company F 33rd Regiment NCT Camp 1695
Hyde County Home Page