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SUBMITTED BY:  Roland Franklin Vause

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The future looked promising to Robert Bond Vause in March of 1861. He was living on a prosperous farm in the Wyse Fork community of Lenoir County with his wife Susan Adaline Jackson. The Vause household included Jesse Vause (age 5), John Irvin Vause (age 4) and newborn daughter Elizabeth “Bettie” Vause. Robert’s brother James Bryant Vause (age 18) also lived in the home.1 The Civil War would bring tragedy and fighting to the doorstep of the Vause home. Reconstruction would bring hardship and family upheaval. New opportunities for the Vause family slowly emerged following Reconstruction.

Early Civil War

Although the Civil War started on April 12, 1861, North Carolina did not secede from the Union and call for volunteers until May 20, 1861. James enlisted in the Confederate Army on August 12, 1861. Less than three weeks later he was captured after fighting at Hatteras Inlet, on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. James was imprisoned at Fort Warren on Georges Island in Boston Harbor, MA, until a prisoner exchange in February 1862.2

Following the Confederate Conscription Act of April 16, 1862, Robert Vause enlisted in Company A of the 40th Regiment of North Carolina Troops on June 30, 1862.3 By this time, the war on the North Carolina coast was going very badly for the South. Hatteras Inlet fell to the Federals on August 29, 1861, followed by Ocracoke Inlet on November 15, 1861, and Roanoke Island in February 1862. New Bern surrendered on March 14, 1862, and Morehead City/Fort Macon fell in late April 1862. The only significant North Carolina port that remained open in mid 1862 was Wilmington, the largest city in North Carolina at the time (see Figure 1). Eastern North Carolinians were starting to understand the terrible disadvantage the South faced in terms of manpower and firepower.4

In September 1862, Zebulon Vance became the governor of North Carolina. He was not fond of the Confederate Conscription Act and insisted that North Carolina troops be used to protect the Wilmington-Weldon-Petersburg railroad that was the lifeline of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Distrusting the Confederate government in Richmond, Vance refused to release blockade runner supplies at Wilmington until North Carolina received its fair share.5

Civil War – Cape Fear River District

To comply with Governor Vance’s wishes, the 40th regiment of NC Troops was stationed in the Cape Fear River district (downstream from the city of Wilmington). Work included the building of fortifications at Fort Fisher (east bank of Cape Fear River with ocean and river walls), Fort Anderson (west bank of Cape Fear about one mile upriver from Fort Fisher), and Fort Holmes and Fort Caswell (mouth of Cape Fear River). The duty at Fort Anderson was primarily blockade runner cargo inspection.6 However, underwater obstructions and crude mines were also placed in the river which would damage any Federal warships below the water line. Only a narrow river channel adjacent to Fort Anderson remained free of obstructions (see Figure 2).

In December 1863, the 40th regiment of NC Troops was reorganized into the 3rd Regiment of NC Artillery. The guns at Fort Anderson that Robert and James trained on consisted of old smoothbore cannon (32 lb. projectile) taken from the Fayetteville, NC arsenal and lighter Whitworth rifled cannon (12 lb. projectile) brought in from Great Britain aboard blockade runners. The Whitworth cannons were long-range breechloaders and extremely mobile with a horse team. These guns were often moved along the inlet beaches to protect blockade runners being pursued by vessels from the blockading Union fleet.7

There is some evidence that Robert and James received furloughs during their duty in the Cape Fear River District. Robert’s fourth child, Robert Frederick Vause, was born on April 9, 1864.

Robert Bond Vause placed a notice in The Daily Progress newspaper that it was his intent to run for Lenoir County sheriff in the August 1864 elections (see Figure 3). There is also a story that Robert Vause had to hide from a Yankee patrol while home on furlough.8

The Federals had failed to take Fort Fisher in December 1864 when an uncoordinated sea and land assault was repulsed by the Confederates. However, even more Union ships and men returned in early January 1865. More than half of the companies in the 40th regiment of NC Troops were transferred to Fort Fisher. Robert and James remained at Fort Anderson with Company A.9

Civil War – Fort Anderson

Fort Fisher fell on January 15, 1865 followed by the evacuation of Fort Caswell and Fort Holmes. Union navy ships could now move into the lower Cape Fear River (see Figure 1). Union troops were also moving up both banks of the Cape Fear River. Federal troops on the east bank met stiff resistance from a Confederate division just north of Fort Fisher. Therefore, Union attention shifted to the west bank and Fort Anderson. Union gunboats began setting the range to Fort Anderson with sporadic firing on February 17, 1865. Meanwhile, Northern troops were moving around the swamp to the west of Fort Anderson in hopes of cutting off any Confederate retreat to Wilmington. The full bombardment of Fort Anderson by the Union fleet began on February 18 with over 2600 projectiles fired at Fort Anderson. The Confederates responded with just over fifty shots from their outdated artillery. The limited ammunition for the long-range Whitworth cannon had been exhausted the previous day. During the Federal bombardment, Robert Bond Vause was killed by concussion when a Union navy shell exploded above his head.10 His body was buried along the western bank of the river just north of Fort Anderson.

Confederate troops at Fort Anderson retreated to Wilmington early the next morning.

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Civil War – Wyse Fork

After the fall of Wilmington on January 22, 1865, the remnants of the 40th regiment of NC troops were placed under the command of General Robert Hoke and ordered to Kinston, NC. A Union army under General Jacob Cox was marching along the rail line from New Bern to Goldsboro to meet with Sherman’s army coming up from Columbia, SC. The Confederates under Hoke intended to intercept Cox’s army at Kinston before they could link up with Sherman’s men. The fighting that took place on March 6, 7, and 8 occurred just west of Kinston, NC (see Figure 4). Union field reports refer to the fighting as the Battle of “Wise”

Fork.11 The Robert Bond Vause home was behind Union lines and was used briefly as a Federal field hospital. Confederate entrenchments extended along the west bank of Southwest Creek from Jackson’s Mill to the Neuse River. The surviving members of the 40th Regiment of NC Troops were fighting near their homes in Lenoir County. Many of the Confederate earthworks were on the land of Adaline Jackson Vause’s father. After three days of fighting, the Confederates retreated towards Goldsboro where they were involved in fighting at Bentonville, NC. The Confederate Army of the South/West surrendered to Sherman outside Raleigh, NC, on April 26, 1865. James was paroled on May 2, 1865, at Goldsboro after taking an oath of allegiance to the United States government.12


Robert’s widow, Adaline, married Levi Russell following the war. He was an ex-Confederate soldier from Beaufort County. The 1870 census shows Adaline, her new husband, the four Vause children, and Henry Russell (age 7 months) living in the Wyse Fork home of the late Robert Bond Vause. Robert’s brother James was renting a nearby home with his wife and two young children.13

The reconstruction years between 1870 and 1880 were full of upheaval for the Vause family.

Robert’s sons had moved into an old home on the Jackson property with William Jackson, a cousin, and Elizabeth Hines, an aunt.14 The boys’ Uncle James was on a tenant farm in adjacent Jones County with his five children.15 James’ wife Susan Ballard Vause died in 1880. Adaline’s father, John Jackson, died in 1877 leaving a large estate near Jackson’s Mill on which taxes had to be paid. The local government of Lenoir County was also in a bit of chaos. Union troops were pulled out of the former Confederate states following the presidential election of 1876.

Also, a fire at the Lenoir County Courthouse in 1878 destroyed many of the land records.16

A New Start

John Irvin Vause, Robert’s second son, purchased 187 acres of land from his grandfather’s estate.17 The new Vause farm was in the Southwest Township a little over a mile away from the old Wyse Fork home of Robert Bond Vause . John Irvin Vause had grown from a very young boy to a man during Civil War tragedy and Reconstruction hardships. The survival skills he learned served him well in the coming years. It was the start of the John Irvin Vause family in Lenoir County.


  1. United States 1860 Census for Lenoir County, North
  2. Manarin, Louis H. and Weymouth T. Jordan, eds. North Carolina Troops 1861-1865: A Roster, Volume 1 Artillery, 40th Regiment (3rd Regiment NC Artillery) page 384, Raleigh, North Carolina: Division of Archives and History, 1966-1998. (misspelling of Vause as Vance corrected in Addenda).
  3. Manarin, Louis H. and Weymouth T. Jordan, eds. North Carolina Troops 1861-1865: A Roster, Volume 1 Artillery, 40th Regiment (3rd Regiment NC Artillery) page 376, Raleigh, North Carolina: Division of Archives and History, 1966-1998. (misspelling of Vause as Vance corrected in Addenda).
  4. America, The Story of Us, page 125, A&E Television Network and Melcher Media, 2010
  5. Yates, Richard E. “Zebulon B. Vance: as War Governor of North Carolina, 1862-1865,” Journal of Southern History (1937) 3#1, pp. 43-75.
  6. Fonvielle Jr., Chris E., Fort Anderson Battle for Wilmington, page 23, Da Capo Press, 1999.
  7. Sutton, Thomas H., “Fort Fisher: A Soldier’s Account of the Defense of the Approaches to Wilmington,” Wilmington Daily Review, October
  8. Archbell, Lillian V., Carolina and the Southern Cross, page 12, November
  9. Manarin, Louis H. and Weymouth T. Jordan, eds. North Carolina Troops 1861-1865: A Roster, Volume 1 Artillery, 40th Regiment (3rd Regiment NC Artillery) page 373, Raleigh, North Carolina: Division of Archives and History, 1966-1998. (misspelling of Vause as Vance corrected in Addenda).
  10. Fonvielle Jr., Chris E., To Forge a Thunderbolt: Fort Anderson and the Battle for Wilmington, page 144, SlapDash Publishing,
  11. Sokolosky, W. and Mark A. Smith, To Prepare for Sherman’s Coming: The Battle of Wise’s Forks, March 1865, Savas Beatie LLC, 2015.
  1. Manarin, Louis H. and Weymouth T. Jordan, eds. North Carolina Troops 1861-1865: A Roster, Volume 1 Artillery, 40th Regiment (3rd Regiment NC Artillery) page 384, Raleigh, North Carolina: Division of Archives and History, 1966-1998. (misspelling of Vause as Vance corrected in Addenda).
  2. United States 1870 Census for Lenoir County, North
  3. United States 1880 Census for Lenoir County, North
  4. United States 1880 Census for Jones County, North
  5. 200 Years of Progress, Lenoir County Board of Commissioners, 1976, page
  6. Lenoir County, NC GenWeb Archives, Deed Book 7, Part 3.

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