The war nearly over in early April 1865 and Southern regiments vastly outnumbered and starving, the defense of Fort Gregg by the decimated Thirty-seventh North Carolina demonstrated the resolve to continue the struggle for independence. Like the earlier heroic defense of Fort McAllister in Georgia, Fort Gregg can be easily compared to the embattled Texians at the Alamo.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Two Hundred-Fifty Half-Starved North Carolina Heroes
“The Federal infantry soon came into sight. One Mississippian later wrote: “Ah, what a contrast, what a soul-sickening spectacle to behold. 25,000 men, flushed with recent victory, to be hurled against 250 . . . half-starved heroes, whose hearts of steel [quailed] not even at such fearful odds.”
“About ten o’clock the enemy commenced charging with four or five lines,” Lieutenant [Dallas M.] Rigler [of Mecklenburg County] would write a few years after the war. “We did not fire until they were within forty yards, and then gave them one volley; they wavered, and then the first line gave way; the second came forward, and came within thirty yards of the fort. We yelled and fired – they stood a few seconds and then broke. The third retreated also, but the fourth and fifth came to the ditch around the fort.
While this fighting was in the front, one line came in the rear and almost got inside the fort through the door. About twenty men charged them, drove them back. About eleven o’clock they scaled the walls of the fort, and for several minutes we had a hand to hand fight. We used the bayonet, and killed almost all of them that came on top.”
Private [Angelum M.] Garrison [of Mecklenburg County] chronicled: “A man of Company D, of our regiment, volunteered to shoot while three of us loaded, and we did the best that was possible. This soldier of Company D took good aim, and I think he must have killed or wounded scores of the enemy.”
Twenty-year old Lieutenant [Dallas M.] Rigler would conclude his story of the defense of the fort:
“About half-past eleven they attempted to scale the walls again. We met them with the bayonets, and for several minutes it was the most desperate struggle I ever witnessed; but it did not last long. Soon they were all killed or knocked back, and then a deafening shout [arose] from our boys. [But] by this time the ammunition was almost out, and our men threw bats and rocks at them in the ditch. No ammunition would we get, and after a short struggle, they took the fort, and some few did fire on us after they got possession, but their officers tried to stop them.”
General [Cadmus] Wilcox would add this, viewing things from outside the fort while in the Confederate lines: “As they [Federals] appeared at this point [Fort Gregg], they were either shot or thrust off with the bayonet . . . Again and again this was done. At length numbers prevailed, and the parapet of the little work was thickly covered with men, six [Northern regimental] flags seen on it at one time; and from this dense mass a close, and of necessity destructive fire, was poured down upon the devoted band within.”
(The Thirty-seventh North Carolina Troops, Tar Heels in the Army of Northern Virginia, Michael C. Hardy, McFarland & Company, 2003, pp. 228-229)