Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Onslow County

The county-by-county exploration of North Carolina and the War is not going as fast as I hoped. Maybe we will be able to wrap up by the end of the sesquicentennial. I thought today we would turn our attention to Onslow County.

Onslow County, a part of North Carolina’s Costal Plane, was formed in 1734 from New Hanover County. It was named for Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons in the British Parliament. The county seat is located in Jacksonville, which was incorporated in 1843 and named for President Andrew Jackson. Onslow County is probably best known for these two things: the birthplace of Otway Burns, a privateer during the War of 1812 and later a member of the state house, and Camp Lejeune Marine Base.

In 1860, Onslow County had a population of 8,856 people, including 3,499 slaves and 159 free persons of color. In 1861, the men in Onslow County cast 781 votes for Breckinridge, 153 for Bell, and 24 for Douglas. In February 1861, the county cast 631 votes for calling a convention to consider the question of secession, and 89 votes against. Dr. G. W. Ward was their first elected delegate. Ward hailed from New Bern, but had spent some time in Mississippi. He was educated at UNC Chapel Hill, and later in Philadelphia. Ward served as a magistrate, County Superintendent of Public Instruction, and chairman of the county medical board. He resigned to enter the Confederate Cavalry and was replaced by Andrew J. Murrill, a farmer, magistrate and chairman of the board of county commissioners. Murrill later served in the state house and senate.

Men from Onslow County served in Companies E and G, 3rd NCST; Company B, 24th NCT; Company A, 35th NCT; Company H, 55th NCT; Company K, 61st NCT; Company I, 66th NCT; Company H, 67th NCT; Companies B and H, 3rd NC Cavalry; and, Company F, 8th Batt. Partisan Rangers.

Onslow County saw limited action during the war. In April 1862 there was a night-time skirmish at Gillett’s Farm, with the 2nd North Carolina Cavalry attacking a portion of the 103rd New York. On November 23, 1862, Lt. William B. Cushing, aboard the Union gunboat Ellis, arrived off the coast of Onslow County and destroyed salt works, then captured and burned a vessel loaded with turpentine and cotton at Stone’s Point. Cushing later captured the town of Jacksonville and captured two more schooners at Wantland’s Landing. The Ellis later grounded on the shoals across from Traps Bay and was attacked by the Confederates. The Federal Tars abandoned the vessel.

There is not much more to mention on Onslow County and the War. A visitor might learn more by visiting one of the local history museums – the Onslow County History Museum is in Richlands, and there is the Museum of the Marines on the base in Jacksonville. Louis H. Manarin wrote a small book entitled “Onslow County during the Civil War” back in 1982, but I do not have a copy and could find only one in a library in the state.


Andrew Duppstadt said...

Off the top of my head, I know of one company you missed on your list of units that contained Onslow County men. There were Onslow Countians in Co. K, 2nd NC Cavalry. I've done a presentation on one of those men, Pvt. Isaac Taylor, who lived in the area currently known as Hubert. Just thought I'd mention that.

Your assessment is very good. The best work on Onslow County in general is Alan Watson's "Onslow County: A Brief History" which is available through NC Historical Publications (Archives & History). You can also find it on Amazon. I'd never heard of the Manarin book. I'll have to look for it.

Michael Hardy said...

Thanks for the additions – it is amazing how hard some of these counties are to find information on. Of course, it might help if I did not live on the other side of the state, too.

The only copy of Manarin book that I could find on WorldCat was in the library at Lenoir Community College.

Andrew Duppstadt said...

How advantageous! Lenoir Community College is 10 minutes from my office. I may have to go take a look at that book and if it's not too lengthy maybe I can copy the whole thing. I'd be interested to know what Manarin was able to dig up on Onslow in the war. Thanks!

Michael Hardy said...

I saw someplace that it was only thirty pages – might I impose on you to also get a copy? I’ll gladly pay…

Andrew Duppstadt said...

I'll go out to the college today or tomorrow and take a look. I imagine it's probably in their local history room (Heritage Place, I think they call it). If I can get a copy I'll certainly send one along to you.

Andrew Duppstadt said...

I just got back from Heritage Place at the Lenoir Community College library and I found the Manarin piece. It is really nothing more than a research report, but I will send you a copy tomorrow. I'll send it to the PO Box address you have listed on your Facebook page if that's OK. They have about 6-8 of these research reports that were done in the early 1980s about different aspects of Onslow County history. They are all written by either former Dept. of Cultural Resources researchers or college professors. It's an interesting little collection that I hope to explore more now that I know about it. No worries about paying me for the copies; I'm happy to send them to you.

Michael Hardy said...

That PO Box is great – do you think a post man would come up here this time of year? Thanks for the help. I look forward to reading the report.

Brandie said...

What a wonderful entry! I would like to note that the Museum of the Marine isn't in operation yet - I'm not sure when they plan on opening.

laureen said...

Can anyone tell me the full name of the owner of the Gillett farm? This is a family name. I am an amatuer Civil War buff. Thanks for any clue. Laureen

brad becker said...

Ok the Gillette farm battle was not in Onslow county it was just across the White oak river in Jones county and the land is now part of the National Forest.

Gillett's owned land on both sides of the river. The National Forest took much of the Gillett's farms in Jones and Carteret county. Leaving just the Farms by Stella in Onslow County not where the battle was located.

Also not mentioned is the 6 gun earth fort in Swansboro abandoned and Cannons moved to Newbern before the Battle of Newbern. The 3 Raids on Swansboro by Union troops during the war. The skirmish in Swansboro during one raid. Union infantry Confederate Cavalry. The Union Cavalry patrol to Sneads Ferry by New York Cavalry. The Union raid on Palo Alto plantation located on the Belgrade/ Swansboro Road. This is just off the top of my head. There is probably more.

During the Grounding of the gun boat Ellis their is no mention of the 2 horse drawn cannons brought up from Wilmington that fired on the Ellis at Peru Point near Sneads Ferry that cause the Ellis to go aground on a sand bar. Scuttled by her crew the ship and her 2 guns one Iron the other Brass still lay out there in the New river inlet somewhere.

The Union command called Onslow county and Swansboro in particular a hornets nest of Sessionest.

Brad Becker bbbecker@bizec.rr.com
Pvt Company D. 5th Reg NC. State troops Reenactor

brad becker said...

Union Military operations in North Carolina 1864 From Union Records

Jan. 18-Feb. Ten operations about Newbern against Whiting CONN. 15th and 21st Inf. MASS.-17th Inf. NY-3d & 12th Cav. 3d Light Arty., 92d, 99th, 132d & 158th Inf. RI.-5th Heavy Arty. VER.-9th Inf. WISC.-19th Inf. US-1st Colored Inf., and Navy.

Jan. 27 Expedition to Onslow NY-12th & 23d Cav. (Det); 158th Inf.(Det). VERM.-9th Inf.(Det).

Feb.2 Skirmish, Gales Creek, near Newbern NY-23d Cav. (Co's "A," "B"). VER.-9th Inf. (Det). Union loss included in Newport Barracks, Feb. 2.

Feb. 2 Skirmish, Bogue Sound Block House VER.-9th Inf. (Co's "B," "H"). Union loss included in Newport Barracks, Feb. 2.

Feb.2 Skirmish, Newport Barracks MASS.-2d HV Arty.(Co. "D"). NY-23d Cav. (Co's "A," "B"). VERM.-9th Inf. Union loss, 4 killed, 11 wounded, 62 missing. Total, 77. 1864.

Feb.6 Skirmish, Newport Barracks NY-23d Cav. (Det).

Feb.9 Reconnaissance toward Swansborough, Onslow NY--158th Inf. NC Vol-2d Inf. US-Battery "C" 1st Arty.

March 25-26 Expedition to Bogue & Bear Inlets Onslow county NY-158th Inf.

April 1 Skirmish near Plymouth US-37th Colored Inf.

April 5 Affair near Blount's Creek CONN.-21st Inf. PENN.-58th Inf. (Det).

April 17-20 Engagement, Siege & Capture, Plymouth. CONN.-16th Inf.. MASS.-2d HV Arty. (Co's "G," "H"). NY-12th Cav. (Co's "A," "F"); 24th Indpt. Btry Lgt Arty.; 85th Inf. PENN.-3d HV Arty. (Det); 101st & 103d Inf. NC Vol-2d Inf. (Co's "B," "E"). US-lOth Colored Inf. (Det). Gunboats "Ceres," "Southfield" & "Whitehead." Union loss, 20 killed, 82 wounded, 2,732 captured & missing. Total, 2,834.

April 25 Skirmish, Plymouth NC Vol-2d Inf.

April 27-28 Skirmishes, Washington MASS.-17th Inf. NY.- 23d Indpt. Btry Lght Arty.

April 29-30 Expedition from Newport Barracks to Swansborough Onslow NY-158th Inf. (Det). VERM.-9th Inf. (Det).

May 4 Skirmish on Trent Road NY-23d Cav. (Det).

May 4-6 Operations about Newbern, and in Albemarle Sound RI.-5th HV Arty. and U.S. Navy.

May 5 Skirmish. Croaton RI.-5th Heavy Arty. (Co. "A"). U.S. Gun

May 5 Engagement in Roanoke River, with Ram boats "Ceres." "Sassacus," "Commodore Hull," "Miami," "Albemarle," "Seymour," "Whitehead," "Mattabesett" & "Wyalusing." Union loss, 5 killed, 26 wounded. Total, 31.

May 5 Skirmish, South Side Trent River NY.-3d Light Arty. RI.-5th HV Arty. and U.S. Navy.

May 26 Torpedo Explosion, Batchelder's Creek. NY-132d and 158th Inf.. PENN-58th Inf. Union loss, 35 killed, 19 wounded. Total, 54.

June 20-23 Expedition from Batchelder's Creek to near Kinston CONN.-15th Infantry. NY.-12th Cavalry (Co's "B," "D"); Btry "C" 3d Lght Arty.; 132d Inf. Union loss, 1 killed, 3 missing. Total, 4.

June 20-25 Expedition against Wilmington & Weldon R/R NY--12th (Co. "E"), and 23d (Det) Cav. Battery "C" 3d Lght Arty. (Det); 158th Inf. NC-1st Mounted Inf. (Co. "L"). VERM.-9th Inf. US. Btry "C" 1st Arty. (Det).

June 22 Skirmish, Southwest Creek Onslow county CONN.-15th Inf. NY.-12th Cav.(Co's "B," "D"); 132d Inf.

June 22-23 Scout to Sneed's Ferry Onslow. NY-12th Cav. (Det).

June 22-23 Skirmish, Swansborough Onslow, NY-12th Cav. (Det).

July 18-31 Expedition from Newbern to Manning's Neck U.S. Gunboat "Whitehead" and (Det) of Inf. & Arty. under Lieut. G. F. Ward.

Dec. 10-15 Scout from Core Creek to Southwest Creek CONN.-8th Inf. NY-12th Cav. (Det).

Dec. 10 Skirmish, Mosely Ford NY-12th Cav. (Det).

Dec. 11-12 Skirmishes, Southwest Creek Bridge NY-12th Cav. (Det).

Ann Forster said...


Gillett's Farm was owned by Thomas S. Gillett, it was in Jones County, NC not Onslow County. One can find info on Thomas S. Gillett on Ancestry.com both in the Federal Census and the Slave Census Schedules. I've been trying to find info on the Skirmish as my Great Great Grandfather, serving with the 103rd NY was killed that evening during the skirmish by the Confederate forces.

You can email me if you would like to join our little group researching the Skirmish at Gilletts Farm, we share resources when we happen upon them.