The 2nd North Carolina Volunteer Infantry served its term of service within the continental U.S. It did not see service overseas
Though most of the officers and men taking part in the war were young, there were quite a number who had seen service in the American Civil War. The 2nd North Carolina had a number of who had fought and trained in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. In the regiment, Colonel Burgwyn, Majors Dixon and Cotton, Chaplain Osborne and Captains Davis, Bell, Jones, Smith and Cobb had followed General Robert E. Lee and his lieutenants during the years of 1861-1865.
Chaplain Osborne, as Colonel of the fourth North Carolina Regiment, Anderson's Brigade, was one of the most gallant officers of the Lost Cause, bearing on his person the scars of many wounds. Quartermaster Davis, as Captain of a battery of artillery in the Army of Northern Virginia, fired his guns from sunrise to sunset at the Battle of Sayler's Creek, VA, on 6 April, 1865, whose echoes were the last to be heard by Captain Bell, then a 2nd Lieutenant in Company I of the 59th Virginia Regiment, and others at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Also among those who wore the Confederate gray was Albert G. Freeman, from Rutherford County, who had been a private in Company I of the 56th North Carolina Regiment. Freeman was captured on 2 April, 1865, near Five Forks, Virginia and sent to Point Lookout, Maryland and released on 27 June, 1865.
In the years leading up to the Spanish American War, North Carolina also hadseveral state guard companies, and their commanders - Captains Huske, Gray, Smith, Cobb and McCrae - were experienced in the modern drill regulations, and Colonel Burgwyn had commanded the Fifth Maryland Regiment of Baltimore during his residence in that city since the war. Major Wilde was a graduate of the military academy at West Point with fifteen years service in the State guard. Seven of those years he filled the highest position, that of Brigadier General.
Eleven companies titled A through M were enlisted. There was no 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. The companies and their county of origin are as follows:
Company A - Cumberland
Company B - Rutherford
Company C - Burke
Company D - Guilford
Company E - Pitt
Company F - Roberson
Company G - Mecklenburg
Company H - Buncombe
Company I - Edgecombe
Company L - ?
Company K - New Hanover
Company M - Buncombe
When the regiment was mustered in, on the 9th of May, 1898, it had a total of 52 officers and 930 enlisted men. A rigid system of daily squad, company and battalion drills rapidly brought it up to a high state of efficiency. This was put to use in the early days by having Dress parades, in which the organized, battle-ready men, complemented by their fine regimental band, were witnessed by crowds of visitors from Raleigh and other cities of the state.
Separation of the regiment
After six weeks of camp instruction, eight companies were detached for duty along the coast of South Carolina, Florida and Georgia. Cmpanies, A and E were sent to Tybee Island Georgia, under the command of Major Wilde. Companies D and G to Land's End, South Carolina under command of Major Dixon. Companies, C and I to St. Augustine, Florida under Command of Major Cotton. Finally, Companies F and M were also temporarily sent to Fort McPherson, Atlanta, Georgia, for garrison at that point. Headquarters staff and the three remaining companies, B, H and K were sent to St. Simon's Island, Georgia.
At all these stations the conduct of the men was such as to merit the approval of their officers and the commendation of the public, and when several detachments were ordered back to Raleigh preparatory to muster out of the service, there was but one expression by those with whom they had been associated, and that was regret at their departure and encomiums on their good conduct. The citizens of the neighboring city of Brunswick gave the camp at St. Simon's Island a grand barbecue in recognition of the good conduct of those stationed at that post, and the papers of St. Augustine were marked in their praise of the efficiency and good behavior of the two companies, C and I, stationed in that ancient city. The detachments at Tybee and Land's End were subjected to one of the severest storms known on the coast, and though their tents were blown away and much personal property lost and the camps submerged under water, there were no loss of lives.
Health of the men
Soon after muster in, as a matter of precaution, the entire Regiment was vaccinated. It was estimated at one time over a thousand were ill, however so successful was the operation that not one case resulted fatally. While in camp at Raleigh a mild type of measles broke out, and there were a number of typhoid and malarial fever cases, as well as dysentery and diarrhea. The mortality rate remained low, there being but four deaths from typhoid fever while at Raleigh, and eight from the same disease in all.
Sanitary conditions of the camp
On moving to Camp Dan Russell, at the State Fair Grounds, Raleigh, North Carolina, the wells were all cleaned out and deepened, and the water was regarded as exceptionally pure, but it was subsequently ascertained from an analysis that the water from some of the wells was not suitable for drinking and these were disused. At St. Simon's Island the drinking water came from an artesian well. At this station the health of the men was excellent. Sea bathing, fishing and boating were the recreations when not on duty. When the regiment was ordered to reassemble at Raleigh, preparatory to muster out, the health of the men was exceptionally good, and the few who were to sick at the time to return with their companies soon followed.
The muster out
Under orders, as first issued, they were given a thirty day furlough to return at its expiration to Raleigh, where the final proceedings of muster out were to take place. Had the orders not been changed, the regiment would have been in camp at Raleigh during the state fair, and thus the men from the western part of the state would have been given the chance of visiting it, and the opportunity of seeing the people and products of other sections. The original orders were subsequently revoked, and the companies were ordered to be mustered out at different points in the state most accessible to the places where the companies were organized.
It was regretted that so fine a body of soldiers, remarkable for uniformity of size and regularity of height, well drilled and disciplined, were disbanded and that they were not given the opportunity of fighting at Santiago or charging over the San Juan Hill. But they realized that this was no fault of theirs, and no man doubts in the least, that all those that served wanted to make the record of the 2nd North Carolina a source of pride to the state and an honor to the command if ever the opportunity for battle had been given.
During the regiment's term of service, it had twenty enlisted men die from disease, and ad fifty-five more discharged on disability. One man was court-martialed. In addition, twenty-seven men deserted.
But battle or not, the 2nd North Carolina is to this day a
of "Tar Heel" dedication that in being not hardly a generation removed
from their fathers' failed bid for Independence, these sons of
patriots, answered the call of their National and State governments to
protect and serve and for that their fellow Tar Heels are proud of
service in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
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).