Edenton Bell Battery
Edenton lawyer Captain William Badham, Jr. and his brother-in-law Lieutenant John M. Jones organized the Albemarle Artillery in March 1862. Lieutenant Nelson McLees and his men from Tyrrell County joined the battery, as did men from Washington, Bertie and Perquimans counties. The unit officially joined Confederate service as Company B, Third Battalion, North Carolina Light Artillery and drilled in Edenton, Raleigh and Richmond without cannons. After a threat to disband and incorporate the unit into the infantry, Captain Badham dispatched Lieutenant Jones to Edenton in April 1862 to solicit metal to cast cannons for the unit. Jones convinced the major institutions and residents of the town to donate their bells. In Richmond, Tredegar Foundry cast four bronze cannons on April 28, 1862, using the metal melted from the bells of Edenton. The Albemarle Artillery unit’s name then became the Edenton Bell Battery.
The men of the battery voted to name each tube for the bells from which it had been cast. The six-pounder “Edenton” came from the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse bell. Another six-pounder was named the “Columbia” to honor McLees’s men; Columbia was from the Tyrrell County seat. The “Fannie Rouhlac” twelve-pound howitzer was named after the woman who led Edenton Methodist Church, whose bell made that cannon. Finally, the “St. Paul” twelve-pounder was named after St. Paul’s Episcopal Church that donated the large bell used to make this cannon tube.
In Virginia with the Army of Northern Virginia, the battery saw action in battles at Winchester, Culpeper Courthouse and the Seven Days Battle. It protected a vital bridge south of the Battle of Fredericksburg. The battery transferred to the Department of North Carolina in 1863 to oppose Union advances towards the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad. It saw action in the battles of Whitehall Bridge, Goldsboro and Kinston. That same year the unit was garrisoned at Fort Holmes on Smith’s Island (now Bald Head) and served as a “flying” battery to protect of Southern blockade runners transiting Old Inlet at the mouth of the Cape Fear River.
After the fall of Fort Fisher in January 1865, the battery evacuated to Fort Anderson in Brunswick County, NC. When it retreated up the western bank of the Cape Fear River toward Wilmington, federal forces captured one of the cannons on February 20, 1865, at the Battle of Town Creek near Orton Plantation. The remainder of the battery saw action around Wilmington and at Cox’s Bridge near the Battle of Bentonville.
The “Fannie Roulac” and the “Columbia” may have been dumped into the Eno River during the unit’s retreat with Confederate forces west of Raleigh after the Battle of Bentonville. The remaining cannons were surrendered with the surviving men of the battery and the Army of Tennessee under General Joseph E. Johnston on April 26, 1865.
During the years following the War and the return home of the survivors of the Edenton Bell Battery, the whereabouts of the four cannons remained a mystery for generations. Not until 1990, did a Civil War re-enactor, from Edenton, discover the six-pounder “Edenton” at Shiloh National Military Park in Shiloh, Tennessee. Its origin unknown, the “Edenton” had been on display there since the Park’s creation in 1901. In 1999, the twelve-pounder “St. Paul”, with its distinct identifying markings, was discovered at Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York. Prior to transfer to Old Fort Niagara in 1930, the “St. Paul” had been stored at the U.S. War Department’s Watervliet Arsenal in New York State. A ten-year effort to retrieve the two known Bell Battery cannons began in 1997.
Finally, at a June 13, 2001 ceremony, the Old Fort Niagara Association transferred the “St. Paul” by loan to the Edenton Historical Commission. And on October 11, 2006, at Shiloh National Military Park, we received the “Edenton.”
Both cannons, half of the battery, are now on display in Edenton, outside the Barker House at 505 S. Broad Street, in the Town’s waterfront park. Sitting side by side, they re-enact the actual Jones Section of the Edenton Bell Battery. Come take a look at the weapon of choice in the late 1800s.
Edenton Bell Battery
Edenton Bell Battery