The 3rd North Carolina Volunteer Infantry served it term of service within the continental U.S. The regiment did not see service abroad. The regiment was a "Black" regiment in that it was a regiment of African Americans lead by white officers.
War having been declared against the Kingdom of Spain and a call for volunteers made by President McKinley, the African Americans of North Carolina were quick to respond and offer their services to their country.
James H. Young, of Raleigh, North Carolina was commissioned Major of the “Russell Black Battalion,” composed of three companies, A, B and C. The men were all new recruits with the exception of Company A, of Charlotte, North Carolina who were members of the state National Guard.
The “Russell Black Battalion” was mustered into the service of the United States on May 12, 1898 and went into camp at Fort Macon, North Carolina. May 30, 1898 where they drilled daily. All the while Major Young was untiring in his efforts to form a regiment. He succeeded through his Excellency Governor Russell.
Having issued a call for the formation of a Regiment, there would be eleven companies raised. The counties where the Companies A-L originated from are listed as follows:
Company A - Mecklenburg
Company B - Wake
Company C - Craven
Company D - Pitt
Company E - Guilford
Company F - Rutherford
Company G - Iredell
Company H - Franklin
Company I - Cumberland
Company K - Buncombe
Company L - Swain
Normally, a Spanish American War era volunteer regiment would include a Company M. There was no Company M raised as far as the author can derive from the State records. Neither was there a Company J created. This was to eliminate the confusion that resulted between the cursive capital letters I and J which would appear on all forms. The avoidance of a “Company J” was typical throughout the army.
On the 19th day of July, 1898, the “Russell Black Battalion” along with the eight companies that came to Fort Macon from the 1st to the 10th of July were mustered into the service of the United States as Third North Carolina Volunteer Infantry, having a total of 43 officers and 978 enlisted men.
The regiment remained at Fort Macon from July 19 to September 14, where it was well drilled and disciplined. The sanitary conditions of the camp was most excellent, there rarely being a case of sickness among the men. The bathing facilities could not be surpassed. The camp was within two hundred yards of a fine beach.
On August 12, the war’s fighting ended since an armistice was reached between Spain and the United States, though the war would officially continue until the Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898.
At Fort Macon, there were Squad, Company and Battalion drills daily. Dress parades occurred every afternoon which was one of the features that visitors from Beaufort, Morehead City and other parts of the State looked forward to with delight.
On September 14, 1898, the regiment was, by order of the War Department, moved in three sections to Knoxville, Tennessee, this being the first relocation since the muster in of the regiment. Thus this naturally strengthened hopes that they were being sent to Cuba. En route to Knoxville, the first section was under command of Major Haywood, the second under Major Walker, and the third under Colonel Young, the first and third sections arrived at Knoxville with out any accident. The second section had the misfortune to have a coach leave the rail and turn over a few miles from Asheville, injuring two or three men seriously, but killing no one. The regiment pitched camp at Knoxville on the afternoon of its arrival, and for the first time was thrown in contact and association with their fellow comrades of other regiments. The delight and joy of the men can not be described at being thus associated with their fellow countrymen for one grand and common cause.
By this time the regiment had attained such a degree of proficiency as to place it easily in the first rank of volunteer regiments in the service as in relation to drill and discipline. The officers and men had worked hard to bring about this proficiency second to none in the volunteer service, and they had cause to be proud of their records. While in Knoxville, Colonel Young was Brigade commander from the 1st of October to the 20th, thus showing the confidence and esteem in which the third North Carolina regiment was held by the War Department.
The regiment remained at Knoxville until it became so cold that on November 22, it was ordered to Macon, Georgia, a warmer climate and a more suitable camp for winter. Nothing special of interest happened while en-route to Macon. The regiment arrived at Macon on the same day it was ordered out and found the camp ground already laid off by a detachment that had been sent a few days prior. It was found to be a most desirable place for a winter camp, being on light sandy loam and a little more elevated than the surrounding country, and about three miles from the city of Macon, and connected by electric car line, there, as other places the regiment was in splendid conditions as to health and practice in drills.
On December 21, the troops stationed at Macon passed in review before President William McKinley and, again as before, the Third North Carolina Volunteer Infantry received special attention for their general appearance and soldierly bearing. While in Macon, the First Army Corps, of which the Third North Carolina was a part, was ordered to hold itself in readiness to be shipped to Cuba, consequently the men were all vaccinated and their general health looked after. This original order however was subsequently revoked.
With the signing of the Treaty of Paris, orders were quickly issued for the mustering out of many of the state volunteer forces doing service in the United States, and among that number was the Third North Carolina. On the 1st of February, 1899, the muster out was begun, and by the 8th the entire regiment had been mustered out of the service with a total of 40 officers and 1,022 enlisted men. Now they honorably laid down their arms, once more to become quiet and peaceful citizen of the State.
During the regiment’s term of service, it lost one officer killed in an accident, thirteen enlisted men who died of disease, and two enlisted men who were murdered. In addition, twelve men were discharged on disability and fourteen men deserted.
It will thus be seen that the Third regiment did not have the opportunity of immortalizing itself with the "Rough Riders" in the battle of the San Juan Heights nor at Santiago, but it was no fault of theirs, for the officers and men were ever ready for active service that they might write their names in the records of bravery and fortitude. But these and many more answered the call.
Statistical Exhibit of Strength of Volunteer Forces Called into Service During the War with Spain; with Losses from All Causes. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899).