27th Infantry

Second Lieutenant Needham Lafayette Whitley

Company A (the “Goldsboro Rifles”), 27th Regiment N.C. Troops

Although the single star on the collar might suggest that the subject of this image was a Confederate major, stars were also used as decorative devices among some volunteer militia companies. Needham Lafayette Whitley (May 18, 1838-January 29, 1886) is in fact wearing the dark frock coat with collar star that was the enlisted man’s uniform of the “Goldsboro Rifles.”

The “Rifles” organized in December 1859 in reaction to John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, and were among the first North Carolina troops mobilized in April 1861. In response to the Lincoln administration’s call on North Carolina to provide two regiments to suppress the rebellion, Governor John Willis Ellis telegraphed to Marshall D. Craton, captain of the “Goldsboro Rifles,” an order to “proceed with your company to Fort Macon and take possession of the same in the name of the State of North Carolina. The “Rifles” arrived the next day but found the fort already occupied by a Carteret County company.

The “Rifles” remained on duty at Fort Macon, and on May 1, Whitley enlisted into their ranks. In September 1861 the “Rifles” joined the 27th Regiment N.C. Troops as Company A.

The first battle of the 27th North Carolina was New Bern, March 13, 1862. The regiment lost five men killed, three wounded, and sixteen captured. One of the latter was Whitley, who had been promoted to corporal in early 1862. He was briefly incarcerated at Fort Columbus, New York Harbor, but was exchanged prior to July 1, 1862. In October 1862 Whitely was promoted to sergeant.

No muster rolls are extant for Company A for the period November 1862-August 1864, but on October 3, Whitley was elected second lieutenant and the November-December muster roll of Company A reports him present commanding the company. Whitley was present through February 1865 and was one of 116 members of the 27th North Carolina who surrendered at Appomattox Court House, April 9, 1865.

Image: N.C. Office of Archives and History.

Source Note:
Manarin et. al., North Carolina Troops 8:10-12; Mast, “North Carolina Casualties”; Mast, State Troops and Volunteers, 1:101; service record files of Needham L. Whitley, 27th Regiment N.C. Troops, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers from the State of North Carolina (M270), RG109, NA.