Regimental Organization of the 51st North Carolina

The North Carolina General Assembly passed “An Act to Raise Ten Thousand State Troops” on May 8, 1861.  This act authorized the governor to raise a corps of volunteers, the State Troops of North Carolina, numbering 10,000 men.  The corps consisted of eight infantry regiments, one cavalry regiment and one artillery regiment.  The act contained the following provisions for State Troops:[i]

  • Term of service: duration of the war.
  • Same pay and allowances as the regular Confederate Army.
  • All officers of the corps appointed by the governor.
  • Company commanders receive commissions after recruiting at least 64 privates.
  • All officers and men must take an oath of allegiance upon entering service.
  • Noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and privates receive $15 bounty when mustered into service.

Two days later, the General Assembly passed “An Act to Provide for the Public Defense.”  This act authorized the governor to accept 20,000 volunteers into State service.  The governor could increase the number to 50,000 if events demanded.  The act contained the following provisions for volunteers:[ii]

  • Term of service: 12 months, unless discharged earlier.
  • Pay equal to that of soldiers in the regular Confederate Army.
  • Clothing allowance in lieu of being issued uniforms.
  • Recruits elect their company officers, and the company officers elect the regimental officers.  The governor commissions the officers when the volunteer companies are mustered into service.
  • Payment of $10 bounty upon muster into State service.

The two acts also specified the structure of regiments and companies.  This structure mimicked the organizational structure of the Confederate Army, with some modifications.  The regimental Field and Staff organization, with monthly pay, is listed below:[iii]

  • Colonel $195
  • Lieutenant Colonel $175
  • Major $150
  • Commissary (1st Lieutenant; appointed by Colonel) $110
  • Quartermaster (1st Lieutenant; appointed by Colonel) $110
  • Adjutant (1st Lieutenant; appointed by Colonel) $100
  • Sergeant Major $21
  • Commissary Sergeant $21
  • Quartermaster Sergeant $21
  • Chaplain $85
  • Assistant Chaplain (never implemented)
  • Surgeon (Major) $162
  • Assistant Surgeon (2 per regiment, one Captain and one First Lieutenant) $150/$110
  • Drillmaster (volunteer regiments only) Pay not specified.

Each regiment was composed of ten companies designated A through I, and K.  The letter ‘J’ was not used as a company designator because it was easily confused with the letter ‘I’.  Each company was organized as follows:[iv]

  • Captain $130
  • First Lieutenant $90
  • Second Lieutenant (two in State companies; one in volunteer companies) $80
  • Third Lieutenant* (volunteer companies only) $80
  • First Sergeant (State Troops only) $20
  • Sergeants (4 per company appointed by the captain) $17
  • Corporals (4 per company appointed by the captain) $13
  • Musicians (2 per company; State Troops only) $12
  • Privates (64 to 90 for State companies; 64 to 100 for volunteer companies) $11

Throughout the war, the Confederacy constantly changed the structure and regulations of its army.  North Carolina tried to stay aligned with the Confederate Army regulations and adjusted their own policies to that of the latest Confederate revisions.  As the war progressed, the following changes occurred to the structure of North Carolina infantry regiments as they transferred into the Confederate Army:[v]

The structure of the 51st Regiment North Carolina Troops, which organized on April 30, 1862, is largely consistent with the Confederate guidelines in effect at that time.  Regimental Staff consisted of a Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, Major, Sergeant Major, Drillmaster, Assistant Commissary, Assistant Quartermaster, Commissary Sergeant, Quartermaster Sergeant, Ordnance Sergeant, Surgeon, Assistant Surgeon, Hospital Steward, and Chaplain.  The original Staff also included a Color Sergeant, which probably filled the role of “color-bearer” described in General William J. Hardee’s Rifle and Infantry Tactics.

The 51st North Carolina’s original Field and Staff totaled fifteen men.  On June 1, 1862 Drillmaster John R. Latta was appointed Adjutant, leaving the Drillmaster position open.  On July 1, W. D. Lyons, was appointed as the regiment’s Drillmaster.  Lyon’s appointment completed the first regimental Field and Staff:[vi]

  • Colonel:  John L. Cantwell
  • Lt. Colonel:  William A. Allen
  • Major:  Hector McA. McKethan
  • Adjutant:  John R. Latta
  • Assistant Commissary:  David W. Ketchum
  • Assistant Quartermaster:  Henry C. Rockwell
  • Surgeon:  Samuel B. Morrisey
  • Assistant Surgeon:  James W. McGee
  • Chaplain:  H. C. Brooks
  • Sergeant Major:  George W. Stanford
  • Commissary Sergeant:  William L. Parker
  • Quartermaster Sergeant:  William R. French
  • Ordnance Sergeant:  John A. Murphy
  • Drillmaster:  W. D. Lyons
  • Color Sergeant:  David W. Turner
  • Hospital Steward:  Albert T. Robeson

The Drillmaster position was eliminated from North Carolina regiments on August 31, 1862.  There is no record of W. D. Lyons serving with the 51st North Carolina after that date.

The Color Sergeant was eliminated from Regimental Staff on January 1, 1863.  The 51st Regiment’s Color Sergeant, David W. Turner, was demoted to private and transferred back to his original company (Company C). 

The Assistant Commissary position was eliminated from regimental staffs on May 1, 1863.  The 51st North Carolina’s Assistant Commissary, David W. Ketchum, had been dropped from the regiment’s rolls three months before the position was abolished.

An Ensign, which was responsible for the duties previously performed by the Color Sergeant, was authorized for regiments on February 16, 1864.  Private William Guy of I Company was promoted to First Lieutenant and assigned to Staff as the regiment’s Ensign on July 7, 1864.


* The pay grade of a Third Lieutenant was the same as a Second Lieutenant, and these officers were sometimes referred to as Junior Second Lieutenants or Brevet Second Lieutenants.  Although technically a Second Lieutenant, the Third Lieutenant’s scope of responsibility was less than that of the senior Second Lieutenant.


[i] Public Laws First Session, 95-98.

[ii] Public Laws First Session, 87-90.

[iii] Digest of Military Laws, 29.

[iv] Digest of Military Laws, 30-31.

[v] Digest of Military Laws, 22, 27, 28, 55, 88, 96, 97, 107, 299 and Western Democrat 22 Oct. 1861.

[vi] North Carolina Troops, 12:  276-278.

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