James Green Martin was born in Elizabeth City in 1819. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1840, ranking fourteenth in his class. Martin was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant and assigned to the 1st Regiment U.S. Artillery. He was stationed in Rhode Island and Maine until the outbreak of the Mexican War. In 1847 he lost an arm at the Battle of Churubusco. He was subsequently brevetted to major. Following the Mexican War he was stationed in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Minnesota, and Kansas, and served as quartermaster for the U.S. forces in the Utah War of 1857-1858.
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Martin resigned from the U.S. Army in June 1861 and was appointed Adjutant General of the North Carolina State Troops. In July he became Adjutant General of all state forces, including the Militia. During his tenure he raised about 12,000 more troops than the Confederate quota for the state. In May 1862 he was commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate army, and in August was appointed commander of the Confederate Department of North Carolina. He continued to serve as adjutant general for the state until March 1863, when the General Assembly declared the position vacant, as it was felt that Martin’s Confederate commission conflicted with his holding a state office.
In February 1864, Martin’s Brigade drove Federal forces from Newport Barracks as part of Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett’s failed campaign to retake New Bern. During the Bermuda Hundred Campaign of May 1864, the brigade pushed Union troops out of their works at Ware Bottom Church, Virginia. Martin soon left his brigade due to ill health, and was assigned to command of the District of Western North Carolina. On May 6, 1865, almost a month after Appomattox, he surrendered his forces in Waynesville. After the war he moved to Asheville, where he practiced law until his death on October 4, 1878. On inspecting Martin’s former brigade in late 1864 and complimenting it on its efficiency, Robert E. Lee said that “Gen. Martin is one to whom North Carolina owes a debt that she can never repay.”
A. Gordon, “Organization of Troops: The Adjutant-General’s Office,” in Walter Clark, ed., Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions From North Carolina in the Great War 1861-’65, I (1901). Walter Clark, “Memorial Address Upon the Life of General James Green Martin, Delivered at Raleigh, N.C., May 10, 1916.”
Kenneth L. Stiles, “Martin, James Green,” in Richard N. Current, ed. Encyclopedia of the Confederacy, III (1993).
Matthew M. Brown and Michael W. Coffey, comps., North Carolina Troops 1861-1865: A Roster, XVI (2008)