Friday, February 27, 2015

North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial

"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage, and Devotion to Liberty"

Patriots of '61:  Lt. George McNeill Rose of Cumberland County

"High-Minded and Honorable Confederate Officer"

An old and honored name in the annals of Cumberland County is that of George McNeill Rose, and particularly distinguished at Fayetteville, the family home for a period reaching back to its early development and covering historic events of State and national importance.

George McNeill Rose was born in Fayetteville on 5 June 1846, the son of John M. and Jane Strange (McNeill) Rose, the older ancestral line undoubtedly reaching to Scotland and early settlement in America. In 1860 he became a student in Davidson College and despite the excitements of public movements and the confusion and discomforts that came about following the declaration of the war between the States he remained through his freshman and sophomore years at Davidson, completing his latter year with honors when sixteen years old.

In 1863 he became a student at the Virginia Military Institute, it being his father's desire to have his brilliant son complete his education, and as a member of the Cadet Corps of that institution, took part in the battle of New Market on 15 May 1864, the courage and valor of these schoolboys being perpetuated in the records of the State's military history.

In 1864 Cadet Rose enlisted in the Confederate army and was commissioned first lieutenant, subsequently appointed adjutant of the Sixty-sixth North Carolina regiment, Kirkland's Brigade, of Gen. Robert F. Hoke's Division, Army of Northern Virginia, on 29 October 1864.

Near Christmas of 1864 Adjutant Rose's Sixty-sixth Regiment was detached from Lee's defenses at Petersburg and sent via rail to Wilmington, North Carolina, to assist in the defense of Fort Fisher at the mouth of the Cape Fear River.  This regiment of 436 officers and men was engaged in the fighting through both enemy landings and remained entrenched after the fall of the fort.

Regarding the morale of his regiment after the fort's capitulation, Rose wrote that "living amidst sand and dirt and on un-sifted corn meal and spoiled Nassau bacon until life became almost unendurable, but the spirit of the troops never flagged; they were always willing to do their full duty, and always glad to see the enemy in their front.

The enemy placed segregated black troops in front of Hoke's position while their white troops assaulted the fort.  Rose wrote further that "Almost every day there would be fighting along upon the skirmish line [and on 11February] an attack of considerable force was made upon us by a [Negro] regiment . . . the fact of seeing those negro troops in front of us exasperated the men and they fought with great gallantry and easily repulsed the attack . . . "  

Lieutenant Rose was with Hoke's division through the later battle of Forks Road below Wilmington, during the withdrawal to Duplin Roads, the movement to Kinston to fight at Southwest Creek, and on to ambush enemy troops at Bentonville.  He was paroled near Durham Station with Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's army in mid-April.

After the war, Mr. Rose entered the University of North Carolina where he studied law and maintained his exemplary scholastic reputation by being selected salutatorian of the class of 1867.

Upon graduation he established his law practice in the city of Fayetteville and as a trial lawyer was considered to have no equal in the State. During the last thirty-five years of his practice he devoted great attention to railroad corporation work, being the representative of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and division counsel over ten counties.

Active all his life in the councils of the Democratic party, Mr. Rose was frequently honored by this political organization, and was three-times elected to represent Cumberland County in the North Carolina General Assembly, 1877-78, 1881-82, and 1883-84, serving as speaker pro tem of the House of Representatives in the 1881-82 session, and as speaker in the session 1883-84.

In public life he proved high-minded and honorable as in his profession, and it is certain that few men of his time and public consciousness ever commanded more respect or enjoyed more public esteem. He was a trustee of the University of North Carolina, a trustee of the First Presbyterian Church of Fayetteville, major and commander of Camp No. 852, United Confederate Veterans at Fayetteville, and at the time of his death, 15 June 1924, was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Confederate Veterans Widows' Home at Fayetteville.

Rose authored the History of his Sixty-sixth North Carolina Regiment in Judge Walter Clark's "Histories of the North Carolina Regiments," published in 1901.

For more than fifty years he was a member of the Order of Odd Fellows, and it was, perhaps, one of the most pleasurable occasions of his closing years when he was presented with the Veterans Jewel, and emblem testifying to his half-century membership.

On 16 December 1869 he wed Augusta Jane Steele and their union was blessed with eight children, one of whom, Charles G. Rose, is his eminent father's successor as a leader of the Fayetteville bar.

Son Charles G. was a graduated from the University of North Carolina Law School and joined his father in practice in the style of Rose & Rose, which continued to his father's death in 1924. He later formed a partnership with Terry A. Lyon, and continued in his father's work as Atlantic Coast Line Railroad legal counsel.

North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865, Volume XV
North Carolina, Rebuilding an Ancient Commonwealth,  Volume III, American Historical Society, 1928, pp. 64-65