Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Patriots of '61 – Colonel Roger Moore of New Hanover County

The son of Roger and Ann Sophia (Toomer) Moore, Col. Roger Moore was born July 19, 1838 in New Hanover County. The first conspicuous American of his lineage was James Moore, a grandson of Col. Roger Moore of the Irish Rebellion. James Moore, born in Ireland in 1640, emigrated to America in 1665 and settled upon his grant of land in the Goose Creek part of the colony.  He was appointed governor of North Carolina in 1700.  His son Roger became a member of the Colonial Assembly, 1738-39, and known as "King Roger" due to his kingly bearing and unflinching courage in driving virtually all Indians from the surrounding countryside.  He was for many years a member of Royal Governor Gabriel Johnson's council, and built the historic mansion "Orton" in Brunswick County, still owned and occupied by Moore descendants.
In 1766 the Moore's once again became conspicuous as champions of the rights of the people by presenting Governor Tryon an assurance of the spirit of independence and armed resistance then prevailing in the colony – throughout the struggle for independence the Moore family bore and honorable part.
An antebellum Wilmington merchant, Roger Moore was commissioned major in the Third Regiment, North Carolina Cavalry in August, 1863, and assumed command of the unit in August 1864. The regiment's greatest achievements were accomplished under Col. Moore and according to author James Sprunt, "the regiment….was looked upon as a bulwark of protection for the railroad from Weldon to Wilmington and of all that portion of thirty counties east of it which was not in the hands of the enemy." Sprunt added: "In 1864 the regiment was ordered to Virginia and took part in the brilliant attack on Reams Station, August 25, 1864, following which General Robert E. Lee wrote to Governor [Zebulon] Vance: "If those men who remain in North Carolina have the spirit of those sent to the field, as I doubt not they have, her defense may be securely entrusted to their hands."
Under Moore, two of the most brilliant cavalry dashes were made:  that of Captain McClancey at White Oak Swamp in August, 1864, when he charged into the Yankee lines and brought out prisoners under short range of musketry; and Sergeant Johnston of Captain Hatchett's Company, when he entered the Federal camp on the Warren retreat from Bellfield in December, 1864, and made its whole circuit with a mounted squad of ten men.  Half these daring and gallant fellows were literally chopped to pieces with axes by the Pioneer Corps, but the survivors went ahead all the same.
After the war Moore was "Chief of the Division of the Ku Klux Klan in Wilmington." Organized early in Reconstruction to resist anarchy and military rule, many members were loyal and devoted soldiers who had served under Colonel Moore during the war.
Col. Moore befriended a young Chinese seaman, Charlie Soong, and introduced him to the Methodist faith, and helped him obtain his release from the American ship on which he was serving.  He advised a wartime friend, Julian S. Carr, of Soong's intense desire for an education and Carr made it possible for Soong to attend Trinity College in Durham and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.  After returning to China, Soong succeeded in business and lent his influence towards the spread of Christianity – one of his daughters became the wife of Chiang Kai-Shek, another married Sun Yat-Sen.
Col. Moore was a steward and trustee of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington. His first marriage was to Rebecca Scott Smith, their only son and child Roger died in his fifteenth year.  On May 3, 1871, Col. Moore married Eugenie Beery, daughter of Benjamin W. & Eliza Beery.  Benjamin Beery was a shipbuilder and constructed both the CSS North Carolina and CSS Wilmington at his Eagles Island yard.  Col. Roger Moore died in Wilmington, April 21, 1900.
(Sources:  Chronicles of the Cape Fear River, James Sprunt, 1916; Pictorial and Historical New Hanover County & Wilmington, William Lord DeRosset, 1938)

North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial
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