A casual glance through an encyclopedia has turned into over 15 years of research for Lenoir County resident Jim Gaddis.
Gaddis said in 1999 he noticed that Confederate Brig. Gen. Richard Caswell Gatlin was born in Lenoir County and it struck his interest.
“At first I thought it was a misprint and that he had been born in the city of Lenoir in the western part of the state,” he said.
Gaddis said he did more digging and during the course of his research, wrote an account of Gatlin’s life and career.
According to Gaddis’s account, Gatlin was born at the Red House Plantation, two miles west of Kinston on Jan. 18, 1809. He left Kinston in 1828 and became the first Lenoir County native to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After graduating in 1832, Gatlin went on to serve in many conflicts, including the Second Seminole and Mexican wars.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Gatlin, along with other members of the army such as Robert E. Lee, decided to resign his commission and return home to protect his home state. In August 1861, Gatlin was appointed to the rank of Brigadier General by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and given command of the Confederate Army in North Carolina.
When Hatteras Inlet, New Bern and Roanoke Island were captured by Federal forces, Gatlin was blamed for the losses and relieved of command before resigning in August 1862. A year later, he was selected by Governor Zebulon Vance to serve as North Carolina’s Adjutant General, a post he held until the end of the war in April 1865.
After the war, Gatlin moved to Fort Smith Arkansas, where he lived until his death on Sept. 8, 1896.
Gaddis said he believes Gatlin doesn’t get a lot of recognition because he wasn’t a major general and only served for nine months. On a local level, he attributes lack of recognition to the fact that Gatlin left no descendants and moved away after the war.
“I think Kinston just forgot about him,” he said.
In March, Gaddis said he made a presentation to the Kinston Civil War Round Table, a local group that meets once a month to study various aspects of the Civil War. After the presentation, Charles Herring and Lyle Holland decided to help put up a historical marker.
Donations were made privately and in December, a marker honoring Gatlin was placed at the Kinston / Lenoir County Visitors Center.
“It’s a beautiful marker and something that was long overdue,” Gaddis said.
Gaddis said he has continued with his research and is planning on publishing a book about Gatlin’s life sometime in 2015.
Highlights of the life of Richard Caswell Gatlin
- Born Jan. 18, 1809, Kinston
- Son of John Gatlin and Susannah Caswell
- Graduate of West Point in 1832
- U.S. Army officer, 1832-61
- Confederate Brig. Gen., 1861-62
- N.C. Adjutant Gen. 1863-65
- Kinston’s only Confederate general
Died Sept. 8, 1896 in Yell County, Ark.