Battle of Tranter's Creek
Battle of Tranter's Creek June 5th 1862
On March 20, 1862 Washington had fallen into the hands of the Yankees, in spite of this invasion there remained a mobile
force of Confederates in the neighboring area of eastern Pitt County and a portion of Beaufort County.
By May 19th the Forty-fourth Regiment, North Carolina State Troops (Infantry) were ordered to Tarboro, N.C. and then
preceded to Greenville where it remained for the balance of the month.Â During this time the regiment was engaged in
outpost and picket duty in this general area.
On Friday May 30, 1862, a picket squad of the Forty-fourth Regiment of North Carolina State Troops was sent to Washington
to exchange some 300 prisoners.Â The squad disembarked by boat at Yankee Hall, situated in Eastern Pitt County on the Tar
River some 10 miles from Washington, and then marched overland two miles over to Meyer's Mill which bridged Tranter's
Creek and set up camp.
Tranter's Creek is located eight miles west of Washington and is the dividing line between western Beaufort County and
eastern Pitt County in the eastern region of North Carolina.Â It is the deepest creek in the county, averaging fifteen feet
with many areas surpassing twenty-five feet. The creek lacks width with much of it averaging only twenty feet wide, until
it nears the Tar River.Â The creek makes up in the southwestern part of Martin County and runs toward the south of the
Beaufort and Pitt County line.Â From there it flows into the Tar River near Kennedy Creek.51Â Meyer's Mill is located, by
water, five miles northwest from the Tar River.
A small skirmish, reported in the official records as the First Skirmish, took place on this date at Tranter's Creek
between two patrols commanded by Corporal Goring and Lieut. Jas. A. Allis, numbered about fifteen men met a small
patrol of twelve men from the Forty-fourth Regiment North Carolina State Troops.Â The only detailed account of the
skirmish is from a report of the "New Era Newspaper" which was published by the Yankees while stationed in
Washington [NC], the June 4th 1862 issue stating that Union soldier Ogden Harrison was wounded by a musket ball
passing through both hips and rupturing his intestine.Â The Yankees reported only this one wounded and that the rebels
had three killed and five or six wounded.Â As was the custom of the Union reports they overly estimated the enemy loss
to boast morale of its Northern readers.Â The loss was never published in any known Confederate Records and must be
suspect.Â In reality it appears the Confederates won the first skirmish.
The following information shows that the Confederates were in the area as noted in a letter from Capt. Jocknick to
Colonel Edward E. Potter dated May 30, 1862, as Capt. Jocknick reports that he again encounters rebels at Tranter's
"Sir: I have the honor to submit to you the following report of the fight which occurred yesterday between a mounted
patrol of my company and a body of rebel troops laid in ambush.Â In accordance with our daily routine of duties Second
Lieutenant Allis started early in the morning with a detail of fifteen men to reconnoiter the Greenville road as far as
Tranter's Creek, about eight miles from here.Â Having received information that only a small body of rebel troops,
invariably estimated at from twelve to fifteen men, were in advance, Lieutenant Allis deemed it expedient to cross the
bridge over the said creek, leaving a few men to secure his retreat, but had only proceeded a short distance when he was
attacked by about a dozen men, mounted and on foot.Â After discharging their fire-arms and receiving our fire in return
they fled to the woods, closely followed by lieutenant Allis and his men, who succeeded in taking two prisoners.Â Finding
himself surrounded by a large body of infantry concealed in the woods Lieutenant Allis gallantly cut his way through the
crowd, and returned here with his command about noon, with only one man - Private Ogden Harrison -badly wounded and
two horses killed.Â The enemy had 3 men killed besides those wounded, supposed to have been five or six.Â A fine horse,
valued at $200, fell in our hands, which will partly make up for the two lost.
Lieutenant Allis speaks in the highest terms of the bravery and coolness displayed by our men, and I am happy to say that
this little affair has reflected much credit on all concerned.Â The wounded man has good medical attendance and is doing
well.Â Signed, G. F. Jocknick. 52
Ready For Battle
The Forty-fourth North Carolina Infantry Regiment was organized at Camp Magnum, near Raleigh, on March 28th, 1862,
and was mustered into Confederate service on April 28th for three years or the war, with Colonel George Badger Singletary
as its first Commander.Â Only a small remnant of this regiment would remain to the end of the war to surrender at
Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865.Â Singletary was an experienced soldier and had previously served as
Colonel of the Twenty-Seventy Regiment North Carolina Troops.Â This young inexperienced regiment would soon have its
mettle tested and be deprived of one of Eastern North Carolina's most promising Colonel's.
The Forty-fourth N.C. Regiment was made up of Company A, the Granville County "Granville Regulators"; Company B.
Edgecombe County; Company C, Pitt County - which included some Beaufort County men; Company D, the Pitt County "Pitt
Regulators" - also had some Beaufort County men to enlist in its ranks; Company E, the Chatham County "The Turtle Paws";
Company F, the Montgomery County "Trojan Regulators"; Company G, Orange/Alamance Counties; Company H, Montgomery
County, "Montgomery Guards"; Company I, the Pitt/Craven Counties, "Eastern Tiger"; Company K, the Franklin County
"Franklin Guides to Freedom."53Â However, it is not known which of the companies were represented for this skirmish, but
Company D the "Pitt Regulators' were believed to be one of the companies present.
On June 2nd the Third Regiment New York Calvary, Company I, which was organized in Syracuse, N.Y. on August 27th
1861, and under the command of Lieutenant George F. Josknick, was again patrolling the Tranter's Creek area.Â When the
dismounted Wilson County Partisan Rangers, under the command of Captain Joseph J. Lawrence, crossed the bridge
where they met Lieutenant Jocknick's party and an exchange of musketry and pistol shot took place.Â Two Yankee Calvary
officers, Sergeants Flagler and Reed were captured and Sergeant Colton was wounded in the face and shoulder.Â The
Union "New Era Newspaper" reported that two Rebels were killed.Â However, there are no reports that support the Union
claims and there were no other mentions of casualties on either side.Â This skirmish was reported as the Second Skirmish
at Tranter's Creek.Â The Third New York Calvary then proceeded back to Washington to announce the skirmish and Union
leaders began to fear that a large scale force was about to attack the city.54Â The Confederates won this skirmish as well
as the first one.
The next day, June 3rd Colonel Thomas Stevenson, stationed in New Berne, ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Francis A. Osborn
and seven companies of the Twenty-fourth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers to reinforce the garrison at Washington.Â
Stevenson would later be killed during Grant's Overland campaign against Richmond, VA., on May 10, 1965 by a Confederate
sharpshooter.Â It was rumored that Confederate Colonel George B. Singletary was in neighboring Pitt County awaiting the
arrival of some artillery in which to attack Washington.Â Colonel Stevenson decided to send re-enforcements for the city.Â
The Federal Pilot Boy carried Osborn and three companies to Washington and Captain Maker was to board the Lancer
bringing the other four companies.Â It had rained all day making boat travel somewhat slow due to the high Pamlico Sound
waves.Â The Pilot Boy arrived at 6 p.m., with the Lancer arriving sometime after 7 p.m.
Upon his arrival, Lieutenant-Colonel Osborn was informed by Colonel Edward E. Potter, First Regiment North Carolina
Volunteers (Union), and the town's Union Military Governor that the rebel forces had gathered at Tranter's Creek, and were
considering an attack upon Washington defenses.Â Colonel Potter was the brother of Bishop Potter of New York and Uncle
of Mrs. Carrie Brown Potter, a celebrated actress.Â He moved back to New York City after the war and entered the banking
business.Â Lieutenant-Colonel Osborn's plan was to send all his troops to meet Colonel Singletary's forces at Tranter's
Creek and surprise them before they were aware that Washington had received reinforcements.55
Captain Sylvester D. Nicoll, of the gunboat Picket, was ordered by Colonel Potter to "go up the Tar River on June 4th and
throw some shell in the woods between the river and the road as he planned to proceed in that direction".Â He also ordered
him to "take two scows in tow in which to bring down the troops in case they should reach Yankee Hall landing at Pactolus in
June 5th ushered in an intermittent rain and the humidity was almost unbearable to the Yankees who were not use to such
inhospitable weather.Â The temperature was high and much like to dog days of August.Â Lieutenant-Colonel F.A. Osborn
had assembled eight companies of Twenty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment and a detachment made up from companies
A-G of the First New York Marine Artillery Naval Brigade, under Lieutenant William B. Avery from New Berne.Â The New York
Marine Artillery had not seen any action and only recently left New Berne having been stationed there for only one month
before coming to Washington.Â This left two companies of Osborn's regiment, Company D, commanded by Captain Prince
and Company C, with Lieutenant Bell commanding with one of Avery's 12-pounder howitzer's and mountain howitzer for the
defense of the town.
The Yankees left Washington for the eight mile march to Tranter's Creek at 9:15 a.m.Â Later, the men of the
Twenty-fourth Massachusetts wrote home that some of the city boys from the company had fallen out, during the march,
from the intolerable heat.
The Colonel received information from contrabands, who were captured blacks, as they proceeded toward Tranter's
Creek that the enemy was posted at the two bridges which crossed the creek, one being on the Greenville road which he
was marching and the other about a half mile distance to the north of the road they were traveling.
He was also notified that "Myers" bridge was not accessible but that the second more Northern bridge was called
"Hardison's Mill".Â He then turned off to his right approximately one mile east of Tranter's Creek, and came upon the mill
after having to march the additional two extra miles.
Colonel George B. Singletary, in command of the Forty-fourth North Carolina Volunteer Regiment was returning from the
Greenville area and garrisoned near Pactolus, only three miles form Tranter's Creek.Â Singletary was the oldest son of
Rev. John and Eliza Williams Singletary.Â After settling in Nashville, N.C. he met and married Miss Cora Manly, daughter of
Governor Charles Manly of Raleigh.Â A lawyer prior to the war, Singletary had seen action in the Mexican War.Â Singletary
served the State Militia as Brigadier General and had been selected to the General Assembly in 1858.Â Offering his service
to the State, he was commissioned Colonel of the Twenty-seventy Regiment on September 28, of 1861 but later resigned on
December 16th of the same year.Â On March 25th of 1862, he was commissioned Colonel of the Forty-fourth Regiment.Â
While stationed near New Berne, he acted heroically in rescuing the officers and crew of a French vessel that had run
aground and were sinking.Â Such was the nature of this brave and gallant soldier who wore the Confederate gray. 56Â Â
He was patiently biding his time while awaiting artillery in which to reinforce his position, in order to make a probe of the
Washington defenses.Â Singletary was bold and daring, but had been tested in battle and knew without artillery to counter
the Federal guns that he would be waging a losing battle.Â He planned to await suitable firepower before taking action.
Before that support came, Lieutenant-Colonel Osborn attacked Colonel Singletary and his men on June 5th at Myers Mill
over Tranter's Creek.Â Osborn's forces now consisted of 430 men from eight companies of the Twenty-fourth
Massachusetts Infantry Regiment including (A, F, G, H, and K), he had received additional men and two howitzers from
Avery's battery, which consisted of 24 men and a additional 40 men from Company I, of the Third New York Cavalry under
Captain George F. Jocknick's command.Â Which brought a total of 494 men. 57
According to the Confederate report of Lieutenant-Colonel Singletary, brother of the colonel commanding, Colonel
Singletary's men numbered about 400 infantry and about seventy cavalrymen from Wilson County Partisan Rangers.Â
Some were recruits who had not fully received their baptism of fire in battle, and Singletary knew he had to set a steady
example for the raw recruits.Â The Union account of the battle stated that several of the dead confederates were guerrilla
[Partison Rangers] and were "ununiformed". 58
Singletary's plan was simple and would not unnecessarily expose his men to the greater force and artillery of Osborn.Â The
planks of the bridge at Myer's Mill over Tranter's Creek that forded the stream had been removed by Singletary's men so
Federal Calvary could not rush them.Â The mill itself had three buildings, about 30 feet apart, open in the first story, and
through which the bridge ran.Â The floor of the third building had its timbers removed and with the material they made an
abatis which would keep the Yankees from overrunning the young troopers.Â Singletary also had his men to fell trees and
made barricades in which to provide cover while each of his companies would take turns in firing into the bluecoats,
withdrawing and then the next company would follow suit.
What was thought to be a small skirmish quickly escalated into a battle with over 1,000 men, 150 horses and a well armed
ship engaged.Â The battle began at 2:45 p.m. with sporadic firing from small arms and steadily grew into what is commonly
known as the "Battle of Tranter's Creek".
Colonel Singletary's plan of defense proved to be an effective tactic as eight of the Yankees were killed and eight were
wounded within the first fifteen minutes.Â Lieutenant Horatio D. Jarvis, of Company A, was in command of the Union
advance, was one of the first to be wounded as he and his company received the full brunt of the initial rounds of musket
fire.Â This temporarily drove back the advance company as Singletary's plan seemed to be working.Â The narrow approach
to the bridged mill area afforded a sweep in which the muskets could inflict the greatest damage without unnecessarily
exposing his green troops to the Yankees return fire.Â This cover would also help stabilize Singletary's young soldiers with a
sense of security until they had been somewhat conditioned to enemy fire.
Lieutenant-Colonel Osborn's support came from the gunboat Picket which shelled the woods far to their left and in the
general direction of the Confederates, but had no effect nor caused any damage upon them.
The two land-based howitzers did have an effect upon Singletary's men.Â Osborn ordered the guns, which had taken up
position at the entrance of the first building, to begin firing and to pound away at the Confederates to dislodge them from their
fortifications.Â Singletary had no artillery piece in which to equalize the Yankees and knew he would soon be forced out of
Captain William F. Redding of Company A and Captain Clark of Company F were ordered to advance to the support of the
artillery, but the order was misinterpreted by the Union officers who heard the command and the whole regiment advanced at
the bridge and created a bottleneck.Â Here most of the casalities occurred as only about 50 or 60 men could be placed at a
position in which to return fire without endangering their own men.Â Captain Redding was wounded, receiving a buck-shot in
his right wrist by the close action of a shotgun as he had tried to holster his revolver after firing several shots, but was able to
continue in the battle.
Lieutenant-Colonel Osborn then ordered all his men to lie down and await further orders.Â At this time the Calvary was ordered
to retire to the rear to guard against the possibility of an attack in the rear.
According to Osborn in his official report to the battle, the Confederate musketry was only some 50 paces away from his troopers
and were being well directed and continued in a very rapid and steady pace.Â Meanwhile, the artillery was somewhat limited in the
placement of their fire, but provided the sounds and fury of action which was better that not being used at all.Â All this was about to
change when the Confederates were finally located on the opposite side of the creek among the barricades and bushes.
Corporal William Smith, of Battery H, Third New York Light Artillery, reportedly took command of his artillery piece during the
absence of his commanding officer and repulsed the attacking Confederates with a rapid and effective fire and in winning a
hand-to-hand combat for the control of the 6-pounder artillery cannon.Â Smith would later be awarded a Metal of Honor for his
actions in commanding the artillery piece after his superior who had fled the battlefield during action.Â The artillery was then
ordered to convert to grapeshot, which had a devastating effect upon the Confederates and caused them to slacken their firing.
About this time, Colonel Singletary was rallying his young troops on and imploring them to hold steady.Â But, as fate would
have it and as was his nature of usual boldness, Singletary had unnecessarily exposed himself to enemy fire and a volley
found its mark.Â Singletary was sitting on the end of a log giving orders to his men when the Confederacy and North Carolina
lost this talented soldier.Â He told his men with his dying breath to, "Give it to them, boys."Â This gallant soldier was killed
with a minnie ball to the head.
This was the last thing that his troops needed to experience and now his brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas C. Singletary who
was fully thrust into command, could not compete with the Federal artillery fire power either.Â Later, on June 28th of this same
year, Thomas C. Singletary would be recognized for his gallant and cool leadership under fire and be elected Colonel of the
Forty-Fourth Regiment North Carolina Troops and would go on to serve the Confederacy through the war years.
With the tide of the battle shifting, Osborn then ordered the leading Union companies to advance to the third building.Â They
replaced the floor and the infantry, except Company K, which stayed behind to support the artillery, then crossed the bridge and
regrouped on the opposite side.Â With its commanding officer mortally wounded the Confederates second in command
Lieutenant-Colonel Singletary sought to keep his troops together.Â It appeared they were being flanked and was concerned that
a support ship was bringing additional troops, so he had called for a hasty, but orderly withdrawal toward Pactolus.
Osborn mistakenly thought the enemy was trying to flank them by the Neck bridge and decided that rather be flanked or pursue
the enemy he would consult with and await further orders for Colonel Potter.Â After the battle Osborn stated that his objective
had been to give the enemy a severe lesson and that he would serve better if he returned to Washington.Â Lieutenant-Colonel
Osborn remarked that the Rebels would think twice about attacking Washington because of the support they would receive from
the help of the gunboats.Â Later, he would be proved wrong because his assessment of the Confederate determination to
liberate Washington and Beaufort County was woefully miscalculated.
Confederate losses were reported at five killed, with the greatest loss of Colonel Singletary.Â The [Union] "New Era Newspaper",
June 11th 1862 issue, reported that Colonel Singletary's remains were conveyed to Tarboro, and from there to Raleigh for
interment.Â It was here that his ten year old daughter was buried along with his wife, who it is said died of grief for her husband
Later, Governor Henry T. Clark, notified General Homes of Singletary's death, said, "He was one of our best officers, and
admirably adapted to the very service and position which you had assigned him. " 59
It was now 4 o'clock.Â The Carolina blue sky had turned to mourning and covered the battlefield with a reverent cloud of
gray.Â At 4 o'clock the battle ended and a drenching rain had set in which shortly washed away all physical signs of the
It took more than an hour for the Yankees to load their dead and wounded upon carts in which to carry them back.Â
They left the battlefield shortly after 5 p.m., returning at 9 p.m. to Washington.Â They struggled with their dead and
wounded, taking one hour to march at a pace of only two miles on a good road.Â The Twenty-fourth Massachusetts
reported in the official record that they had six killed and nine wounded, and two killed and two wounded in the Marine
Artillery for a total of eight killed and eleven wounded.Â The Cavalry suffered no loss due to their limited roll in the action.
The reported Union losses at the Battle of Tranter's Creek were Seg't George S. Litchfield (abdomen, Co. A), Seg't Orville
Brock (left hand, chest, Co I), Seg't Austin Gill (chest, Co. K) and William Moore (chest, captain of gun marine artillery).Â
Those wounded and reported but have since died: Private Leroy Doland (chest, Co. A), Corp. Melborwne Croscup (abdomen,
Co F), and Private George Baxter (chest, Co. F). 60Â The dead were sent to New Berne, on their way homeward and Lieut.
Jarvis also went to New Berne, and was then sent home to Boston on the next ship.
The Union wounded included: Capt. William G. Redding (right arm, slight, Co. A), Lieut. Haratio D. Jarvis (left ankle, severe
and later amputated, Co. A), Private Joseph Collins (left temple, slight, Co. E), Private James A. Beal (forehead, slight, Co. B),
Private John Vaughn (left hip, severe, Co. F), Private Michael J. O'Brien (right hip, severe Co. I) and of the Marine Artillery
those wounded included Albert Gibbs (back and neck, severe) and James Gillan (right calf, slight).
Lieutenant-Colonel F.A. Osborn noted in his official report that the following men were to be singled out for their attention
to duty: Capt R.F. Clark and Lieutenant J. C. Jones of Company F; Capt. C. H. Hooper, acting Lieutenant-Colonel, Lieutenant
Albert Ordway, acting adjutant; Capt. W. F. Redding, Company A; Capt. John Daland and Lieutenant Charles G. Ward of
Company H; Capt. E. C. Richardson and Lieutenant J. M. Barnard, Company G.
Lieutenant William B. Avery, 1st New York Marine Artillery, was later awarded a Medal of Honor for his services in this
battle.Â This regiment of ten companies was organized in New York City by Col. W. A. Howard for service on gunboats as
provided by the government.Â Most of the men were recruited principally in New York City and Buffalo, in Newark, N.J.,
Chicago, Ill., and Washington D.C. 61
Osborn also reported in his account to Captain William Pratt, that Col. Edward E. Potter, Union Military Governor of
Washington, NC and Lieutenant J. M. Pendleton, of his staff, accompanied him on this operation.
The Yankees did not take full advantage of the situation and the Confederates could have faired much worst had they
been pursued right after the Colonel's death.Â This gave the Confederates time in which to regroup their forces and they
ultimately went to camp at Tarboro.Â From there the Forty-fourth North Carolina Regiment was called to Virginia and
assigned to the brigade of General J. Johnson Pettigrew.
One of the early lessons learned by both the Confederates and Yankees was that if success was to be gained in the
coastal area of North Carolina it meant the Infantry, Calvary, Artillery and Navy unit would have to operate as one.Â Seldom
could one branch of service obtain victory without the assistance of the others. 62
51 - N.C. Gazetteer - William S. Powell
52 - O.R. Series I, Vol. IX
53 - N.C. Troops - L.H. Manarin and W.T. Jordan, Jr.
54 - Greenville Daily Reflector - February 19, 1965
55 - O.R. Series I, Vol. IX
56 - Confederate Reveille, Page 63
57 - Twenty-fourth Reg. Mass. Vol., New England Guards - A. S. Rose
58 - New Era Newspaper - June 11, 1862
59 - Bethel to Sharpsburg - Daniel Harvey Hill
60 - 24th Reg. Mass. In the Army and Navy In The War, Vol. I, 1896
61 - N.Y. In the War of the Rebellion - Frederick Phisterer, 1909
62 - N.C. In the War Between the States, Vol. I - D.H. Hill
Background - The Battle of Tranter's Creek, June 5, 1862 - Sketched by Mr. A. Wiser,
artist with General Burnside's expedition. Harper's Weekly, June 21, 1862, VI. p. 413