AUTHOR: David Lennon (edited by Cheri Todd Molter; vetted by Hallie Smith)
In 1862, Capt. Daniel Patterson, my great-grandfather, raised a company of troops from his native Bladen County and its surrounding counties after he served for a year in the militia. They left from Council’s Bluff in May of 1862 for Wilmington, where they were designated Company H of the 36th N.C. Regiment (Artillery) and called themselves “The Clarendon Guards.” From 1862 until July of 1864, they were stationed at Fort St. Phillip (later renamed Fort Anderson) at Brunswick Town on the Cape Fear River. In July of 1864, they were moved to Fort Fisher.
On December 25, 1864, Union General Benjamin Butler led an unsuccessful amphibious assault against the fort. Company H was in the fray, manning the traverses where the sea face and land face converged. Butler and his minions were driven off. Capt. Patterson reported: “We engaged the enemy on land and sea…none of the enemy captured, I hope some killed.” He cited two men for heroism; they had grabbed a sputtering enemy shell that fell into their emplacement and doused the fuse with a bucket of water.
On January 13, 1865, Union forces returned under General Alfred Terry’s command. On the evening of Jan. 14th and early morning hours of the 15th, Colonel Lamb, the fort’s commander, chose Captain Patterson and his company to escort him on a nighttime reconnaissance mission to scout the enemy positions. Later on the 15th, Company H was in the forefront of the assault by Union sailors and marines, who were bloodily repulsed by the Confederates. As that attack failed, however, Union soldiers attacked along the river side of the fort, and after hours of bitter hand-to-hand fighting, the fort was surrendered. During that time, the Yankees had cut across the parade ground, leaving Company H isolated so they tried to exfiltrate. Finally, around 11 p.m. (per his diary), Capt. Patterson was surrounded and forced to surrender. The next day, they were taken aboard USS California to Governors Island, N.Y., where they were imprisoned at Fort Columbus (now called Fort Jay). Capt. Patterson was a Mason, and while he was imprisoned, he obtained extra rations from a guard who was also a Mason. On March 5th, he was taken to Boulware’s Wharf on the James River in Virginia, where he was exchanged during one of the last POW exchanges of the war. He rode trains from Richmond to Lynchburg to Danville (Virginia) to Greensboro (North Carolina), to Raleigh, to Goldsboro, and, finally, to Clinton, from whence he walked home, dodging Sherman’s troops who were in the area.