The 1st North Carolina Cavalry was formed in Camp Beauregard, in Warren County, on August 12, 1861. It was originally designated as the 9th Regiment North Carolina State Troops but was the first full cavalry regiment mustered into Confederate service, hence the renaming of the regiment to 1st NC Cavalry.
During the next four years the 1st NC Cavalry fought in over 160 battles and skirmishes, more than any other regiment in the Confederate States Army, and from their prolific record they became known as “the Bloody first.” They were also known as “the Old First.” The 1st NC Cavalry was one of the elite regiments in the Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia and was General Jeb Stuart’s favorite regiment, of which he admonished all his other regiments of cavalry that they should be like the “Old First.” The 1st NC Cavalry always on General Stuart’s immediate right – the place of honor. The regiment was also the most famous regiment of cavalry over all other cavalry units of either side during the “Late Aggression.
Whenever the situation was critical it was the Old First that was sent in to clear the way. At the great cavalry review near Brandy Station, VA, June 8, 1863, General Stuart said to General Robert E. Lee “General, here comes the First North Carolina Cavalry, than which there is no better regiment in either army.” On the next day, Jeb Stuart’s troops were attacked unexpectedly by strong Federal cavalry units. When the enemy charged, the First NC Cavalry was one of the first units, which moved out to repulse the Federals. Some of the soldiers rode on unsaddled horses while driving the enemy’s troops back. During the next two hours the 1st NC made two charges on the Federal cavalry, captured the flag of the 10th New York Cavalry, took 130 prisoners and routed them. A Federal prisoner said of the 1st NC Cavalry, “Give North Carolinians a barlow knife and they charge hell for a canteen and a haversack.”At Gettysburg, on July 3, Hampton's brigade once again bore a crucial role. During the infamous cavalry engagement east of the main battlefield (near Hunterstown), the 1st North Carolina and the Jeff Davis Legion broke through the Federal ranks and pursued. Encountering Union reserves, the two forces fought hand-to-hand. A few months later, on October 18, 1863, Brigadier General Gordon and the 1st North Carolina Regiment played a major role in the "Buckland Races", near Buckland's Mills, VA.
In April, 1965, the end was coming near for the brave 1st NC Cavalry. At Namozine Church General Barringer’s Brigade, all North Carolinians, had to defend the rear of the Army of Northern Virginia. They were outnumbered ten to one. The Federal Cavalry, under General Philip Sheridan, shattered them and the brigade, including the 1st NC Cavalry, which was virtually destroyed. The remnants joined the retreating Army of Northern Virginia. Ten men surrendered with Lee’s troops at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. In the night before the surrender some cavalry units broke through the Federal lines, among them survivors of the 1st NC Cavalry. When it was clear that to continue fighting was senseless, the regiment was disbanded and the men were sent home.
The official records list 1597 men in the staff and regiment of the 1st NC Cavalry. 288 of these men were killed in action or died during the “late Unpleasantness” by wounds and disease, 268 were wounded, and 325 men of the regiment were captured.
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