North Carolina in the American Civil War

The North Carolina Home Guard

NC Home Guard Rounding up Deserters

Since the beginning of the Colony in 1663, North Carolina had a Militia. When the American Civil War broke out, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a new Militia Law that created 28 newly-defined Brigades and 116 newly-defined Regiments of Militia (soon grew to 121 Regiments). But, North Carolina was compelled to send most of its able-bodied young men into the Confederate Army with the creation of 69 Regiments, 42 Battalions, 2 Legions, and roughly 100 Independent Companies. This seriously depleted the numbers left to serve in the Militia. Poor training, poor arms and ammunition, and often poor leadership caused the North Carolina Militia to be fairly ineffective throughout the war. Its three primary functions were to assist in recruiting conscripts for the Confederate Army, round up deserters, and put down local flare-ups of anti-Confederates, aka Unionists.

In early 1863, North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice - Richmond M. Pearson - ruled that the Militia had no authority to act on behalf of the Confederate government in rounding up deserters. By mid-1863, the Militia ranks were so depleted - most were now serving in Confederate units - and morale was so low, the North Carolina General Assembly was forced to pass new laws. On July 7, 1863, An Act in Relation to the Militia, and a Guard for Home Defense - along with three (3) other Acts - was passed by the General Assembly. The new Home Guard was fully under the control of the governor and it was now legal for them to go after Confederate deserters.

76 Battalions of Home Guard were created in North Carolina between the Summer of 1863 and early 1865. The counties occupied by Union forces could not establish Home Gaurd units and had to "limp along" with Militia units that were mostly ineffective. The less-populated counties could only muster one to three Home Guard companies and were led by Majors. Most Home Guard battalions were led by Lt. Colonels with five to nine companies, but the heavily-populated counties were led by full Colonels. Key counties - such as Wake County and Cumberland County - created Regiments of Home Guard, led by full Colonels. As 1864 evolved, the Legislature authorized newer Regiments to be created by consolidating new companies from many separate Battalions into a larger unit, led by a Colonel.

Although the North Carolina Militia was not abolished, it had very few responsibilities other than recruiting new soldiers for the Confederate Army and suppressing the few local flare-ups. Many officers of the Militia joined the Home Guard as Privates or Non-Commissioned Officers. Other Militia officers secured commissions as officers in the Home Guard. The two groups - Militia and Home Guard - were inexorably intertwined, therefore all key officers of both are identified in the links below. This Author has chosen to only identify the six (6) officer ranks shown below since these are the ranks that provided leadership - and - most enlisted men and Non-Commissioned Officers could name their Company Officers (Captains) and Field Officers/Generals.

Officers of the North Carolina Militia and Home Guard

Brigadier Generals


Lt. Colonels





© 2022 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved