As one of the original 13 colonies, North Carolina’s military history is deep, rich, and complex—and some of the battles fought in the early days of the colonies and the United States took place on her soil. Small but intense conflicts occurred in the colony's early history, as rival factions, both native and colonial, vied with each other for space and control of the land. North Carolina was one of the last states to join the Confederacy, and it is during this time that the phrase "Tar Heels" gained popularity. You might still hear some old timers quote Walter Clark about the Tar Heels: "First at Bethel.  Farthest to the Front at Gettysburg and Chickamauga. Last at Appomattox." Eighty years later, as World War II raged, the first class of African Americans to serve in the US Marine Corps began their training at the segregated Montford Point Base adjacent to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Today, North Carolina's land, sea, and airspace help to train many of the soldiers and sailors currently on active duty around the world. So, as we celebrate the anniversary of our country’s Declaration of Independence, take a few moments to learn a little more about the impact of North Carolina on our country’s military history.

back to top Conflicts in the Proprietary Era (1663-1729)
(Culpeper's Rebellion, Tuscarora War, Cary's Rebellion)

back to top Conflicts during the Colonial Period (1729-1775)
(French and Indian War--1754-63; Regulator Movement--1765-71)

back to top American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)

Lesson plans
Grade 5: One if by land, two if by sea!

back to topWalton War (1804)

back to topAmerican Civil War (1861–1865)

Book Discussion Series

- America's Greatest Conflict: Novels of the Civil War
- Beyond the Battlefield: Alternative Views of War
- Rebirth of a Nation: Nationalism and the Civil War

For information about organizing a book discussion series in your area, contact the Center for the Book.

  • Biography of Zebulon Baird Vance
    Biographical information about Zebulon Vance, also known as North Carolina's Civil War Governor.
  • Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System – National Park Service
    Computerized database containing very basic facts about servicemen
    who served on both sides during the Civil War. This project is a cooperative
    effort by the National Park Service (NPS) and several other public and private partners.
  • CSS Neuse & Gov. Caswell Memorial
    View the remnants of the ironclad gunboat CSS Neuse, a product of the Confederate navy's ill-fated attempt to regain control of the lower Neuse River and retake the city of New Bern during the Civil War.
  • Kepi of John Lane. NC Museum of HistoryGilmer Civil War Maps UNC-Chapel Hill, Wilson Library Manuscripts Department
    Digitized extensive collection of Civil War maps with large groupings for North Carolina and Virginia. Most of the maps are dated 1861-1865 and indicate waterways, roads, places, churches, landowners, and distances.
  • Government & Heritage Library Catalog Search
  • Hotchkiss Map Collection: Confederate Army maps
    The Hotchkiss Map Collection contains cartographic items made by Major Jedediah Hotchkiss (1828-1899), a topographic engineer in the Confederate Army.
  • NCpedia entries on the Civil War
  • North Carolina: American Civil War
    Contains statistics data ranging from population, farming, and troop numbers
  • North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial
    NC Department of Cultural Resesources commeration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Includes event listings, digtial resources and other materials.
  • Resources from the NC Digital Collections
  • Robert C. Caldwell Collection.East Carolina University, Joyner Library
    Digital collection of 57 letters and other documents from Cabarrus County Private Robert C. Caldwell of Company C, Young’s 10th Battalion, NC Heavy Artillery. These Civil War letters provide information about family, camp and homefront experiences, and activities of the military unit.
  • UNC-Chapel Hill
    Digital collections devoted to the Civil War home front in North Carolina, and a collection of maps about the War

Lesson plans
Grade 11-12: Fugitive Slave Law simulation
Grade 8: Diary of a Tar Heel Confederate soldier

back to topSpanish-American War (1898)

Did you know?
Ensign Worth Bagley of Raleigh, North Carolina, is thought to be the first American naval officer to die in the Spanish-American War.

back to topWWI (1914-1918)

Lesson plans
Grades 10-12: Photographs of the 369th Infantry and African Americans during World War I
Grades 10-12: Sow the Seeds of Victory! Posters from the Food Administration During World War I

back to topWWII (1939-1945)Image: Get war information material at your public library.

  • America’s Secret Warriors: The OSS and the George Watts Hill Collection
    This exhibit from the North Carolina Museum of History features objects used by the Office of Strategic Services in the Second World War. Other exhibits containing World War II–related artifacts include "A Call to Arms" and "David Marshall “Carbine” Williams."
    (summer 2009)
  • After the Day of Infamy: "Man on the street" interviews from the American Memory Project (Library of Congress)
    This collection presents approximately twelve hours of opinions recorded in the days and months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor from more than two hundred individuals in cities and towns across the United States. Includes “Man on the Street” interviews (audio and transcripts) in Alamance County and Burlington, North Carolina in 1941 and 1942.
    Burlington, NC -- December 1941
    Alamance County, NC -- January 1942
  • Government & Heritage Library Catalog Search
  • Military-related items in the Black Mountain College Collection
    This collection covers the experimental school located in Black Mountain, NC, from 1933 until 1956, its faculty, and students. The newsletters and bulletins linked below cover topics related to how WWII impacted the school and its students.
  • Resources from the NC Digital Collections
  • *Tuskegee Airmen Fight in WWII
    Information and photos from the Smithsonian Institution that chronicle the Tuskegee Institute 99th Fighter Squadron, American’s first black air unit.

Film Discussion Series

- World War I Years: America Becomes a World Power
- From Rosie to Roosevelt: A Film History of Americans in World War II
- Post-War Years, Cold War Fears: American Culture and Politics, 1946-1960

For information about organizing a film discussion series in your area, contact the Center for the Book.

Lesson plans
Grade 5: World War II at Home: Victory Gardens
Grades 10-12: Feed a Fighter

back to topKorea (1950-1953), Vietnam (1959-1975), and the Middle East (1991, 2003-)

Lesson plans
Grades 11-12: The United States Enters the Korean Conflict
Grades K–12: Vietnam: Educator's guide
Grades 11-12: The War in Vietnam -- A Story in Photographs

back to topGeneral Family History Resources Related to Military History

Family historians searching for military records of their ancestors will find a variety of online resources ranging from subscription databases with large military collections to websites of NC institutions which feature online finding aids and digital collections of private manuscript papers, oral histories, photographs, and maps.

    Many federal military records:  Revolutionary War Rolls, Service Records, and Pensions; Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers; Union Soldier Service Records with US Colored Troops; Civil War Union Army and Navy pensions; Pearl Harbor Muster Rolls.
     (Available by personal subscription or onsite at subscribing libraries)
  • Ancestry
    Over 900 databases in its Military Collection, including US Army Register of Enlistments 1798-1914; US Pensioners 1818-1872; Indexes to War of 1812 Service Records and pension applications; Civil War Prisoner of War Records (Federal and Confederate); Confederate Service Records [men serving in organizations raised directly by the Confederate Government]; NC Volunteers, Spanish-American War; World Wars I and II Draft Registration Cards.
    (Available by personal subscription or onsite at subscribing libraries in Ancestry Library Edition)
  • HeritageQuest
    Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land-Warrant Application Files - selected genealogical records from about 80,000 pension and bounty-land-warrant applications from National Archives microfilm series M805. 
    (Remote access available to North Carolina residents via NC LIVE through their local libraries. Other states offer similar accessibility.)

back to topGeneral Military History & Resources for Kids*

  • VA Kids imageEast Carolina University, Joyner Library
    Digital collection devoted to Military History featuring letters, photographs, diaries and scrapbooks.
  • *Fun games and info about veterans, Old Glory, and volunteer and scholarship information
    From the US Veterans Administration
  • Genealogy Microfilm Collection
    The Government and Heritage Library’s genealogy microfilm collection contains North Carolina military service records such as the complete Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, Revolutionary War records (federal), and North Carolina Confederate Pension Applications.
  • Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
    The “Piracy and Warfare” area of the Museum includes displays of shipwrecks related to warfare off the North Carolina coast during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and World Wars I & II.
  • NC Highway Marker Program
    Started in 1935 the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program is one of the oldest such programs in continuous operation in the United States recognizing significant events, people and sites across the state of North Carolina. You can search by keyword, county or predefined searches such as a specific war or battle.
  • NC Military History Society
    Organization dedicated to promoting and preserving the study of the state’s military history.
  • NC Scenic Byways
    This is a great resource for history buffs planning a trip in NC as it identifies many military-related points of interest:,21735
  • NC State Archives Military Collection
    State Archives of North Carolina possesses a sizeable collection of records related to the military affairs of the State of North Carolina and the military service of her citizens dating from the 1740s to the present.
  • NC's Military Impact Analysis
    18 pages of concerning the economic impact of the military in North Carolina by the policy Research & Strategic Planning, a division of the NC Dept of Commerce
  • UNC-Greensboro, Jackson Library
    Women Veterans Historical Collection which contains letters, papers, photographs, published materials, uniforms, artifacts and oral histories.
  • US Department of Defense
    The US dept of defense’s military history page links to Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps History pages.
  • US Department of Veteran Affairs, National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics
    Data Tables searchable by Region State, MSA, age, race and sex
  • *US War Dogs Association, Inc.
    Promoting the long history of the Military Service Dog.
  • Women VeteransVeterans History Project
    The American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.
  • Veterans Information
    Resources from the NC Digital Collections ––
  • Works Progress Administration (WPA): Resources from the NC Digital Collections ––
    and the NCpedia --

Lesson plans
Grades 6-8: Honoring Our Veterans Through Poetry Writing.
More lesson plans on the topics of "war" and "military" and from

back to topImage Credits

Page header image: History of the 105th Regiment of Engineers divisional engineers of the "Old Hickory" (30th) Division, p. 449. URL:

French and Indian War Image: Fort Dobbs, NC

Civil War image 1: Zebulon Baird Vance, North Carolina's Civil War governor, 1870. (N.93.8.43) General Negative Collection, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC

Civil War image 2: Kepi of John Lane. "North Carolina and the Civil War," North Carolina Museum of History.

WWI image: Josephus Daniels, half-length portrait, facing right. Photograph by Harris & Ewing, c1920. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-36747.

WWII image 1: Get war information material at your public library. Poster Collection. Series VII, Service and Relief Organizations Posters. US Works Projects Administration North Carolina Library Project, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC

WWII image 2: USS North Carolina, docked. (N-85-5-15) General Negative Collection, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC

Vietnam War image: Photograph, anti-war demonstrations on Franklin Street (detail). 1969. From the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC at Chapel Hill.

Family History image: Information at your public library: an American privilege. Poster Collection. Series VII, Service and Relief Organizations Posters. US Works Projects Administration North Carolina Library Project, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC