north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Marker Text:

Essay:
     Robert and Priscilla West Coffield Whitaker Ransom raised two boys, Matt and Robert, on their plantation known as “Bridle Creek” in Warren County. The brothers were educated by private tutors and in nearby academies. Although Matt was a lawyer and Unionist politician, and Robert was an Army officer in the West, the brothers followed their native state into the Confederacy and volunteered to serve in the North Carolina Troops. Matt and Robert Ransom served steadfastly, each in due course being promoted to general.

     Matt Whitaker Ransom (1826-1904) graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1847 and was immediately admitted to the bar. The General Assembly of 1852 elected him attorney general, a position that he held until resigning in 1855. From 1858 until 1861, Matt Ransom served as a member of the state house of commons and was a peace commissioner to the Provisional Congress in Alabama, 1861. When he returned to North Carolina, Ransom joined the Confederate army as a private but was soon commissioned a lieutenant colonel. He advanced to colonel before being promoted to brigadier general on June 13, 1863. He led the Confederate assault at Plymouth on April 20, 1864.

     Most biographers refer to Matt Ransom as a brigadier general but there are a few who have identified him as a major general, and it is the latter rank that is listed on the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker. There is no evidence of the promotion, but the a letter in the marker file (Research Branch, Office of Archives and History) conveys the story that Ransom was elevated to Major General on April 9, 1865, and that the fall of the Confederacy prevented the promotion from being fulfilled. Matt Ransom served in the United States Senate from 1872 to 1895 and as minister to Mexico from 1895 to 1897. Retiring to his estate, “Verona,” in Halifax County, Ransom died in 1904 and was buried at his home.

     Robert Ransom Jr. (1828-1892) was appointed to West Point where he graduated in 1850. The young officer was assigned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he performed frontier duties such as constructing forts and scouting against hostile Indians in the Southwest. Ransom returned to West Point as a cavalry instructor in 1854, but again was posted to the Kansas frontier in 1856. After extended illnesses kept him from his duties, Ransom was promoted to captain in January 1861. Four months later he resigned to join the Confederacy. Ransom was commissioned captain and ordered to raise a regiment. With his regiment designated the First North Carolina Cavalry, Ransom was promoted to colonel and placed in command.

     Robert Ransom was elevated to brigadier general in the spring of 1862 and to major general little more than a year later. In May 1863 he was ordered to assume command of Richmond. Ransom, who battled numerous serious illnesses over the years, fell sick in the summer of 1864 and remained on sick leave for the duration of the war. Ransom held a variety of jobs and continued to suffer from poor health after the war. In 1878 he was hired as assistant to the U. S. civil engineer in New Bern, a job that gave him the opportunity to improve harbors and waterways throughout the Carolinas. He died in 1881 and was buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery, New Bern.


References:
Clayton Charles Marlow, Matt W. Ransom: Confederate General from North Carolina (1996)
John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (1963)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V, 175-177—sketches by John G. Barrett and B. Ransom McBride
Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Gray (1959)
Biographical Directory to the United States Congress online: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=R000062
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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