Confederate Captain Thomas J. Norris of Company F, 3rd Alabama Cavalry Regiment
was wounded in action on April 15, 1865, in a skirmish at a bridge on New Hope Creek, at the Atkins Plantation, approximately eight miles east of Chapel Hill.
Norris was brought into Chapel Hill by members of his unit as they retreated, and they were met by university professors and townspeople who were eager to help the suffering man. Minister Norvell W. Wilson
recorded in his diary: “Wheeler
’s Cavalry in & below town. Some wounded men brought in I got one of them a home.” Cornelia Phillips Spencer
spoke of one man who was taken to the "principal physician" (Dr. William P. Mallette) in town with a grisly wound. Spencer does not specifically name Norris but she recorded the soldier’s slow death in her book, The Last Ninety Days of the War in North Carolina
, published in 1866 (page 169):
"One poor fellow from Selma, Ala., mortally wounded, was carried to the house of one of our principal physicians, and tenderly cared for, for two or three days, while he talked of his distant home and his mother, and sent messages to those who would see him no more. After his comrades had passed on and the place was in the hands of the Federals, he resigned himself to die with childlike patience, asking for a favorite hymn, and begging the lovely girl who had watched him with a sister's fidelity to kiss him, as he was dying, 'for his sister.' He was laid to rest in the garden, and perhaps as bitter tears of regret and despair fell on that lonely grave as on any during the war; for the war was over, and he and the rest had died in vain."
On April 16, Federal troops entered/captured Chapel Hill.
After the war, citizens of Raleigh began collecting the bodies of Confederate soldiers killed in the local fighting. Norris’ body was exhumed and placed on a wagon, retracing the route Norris made a year earlier during his unit's withdrawal west. He was the only soldier moved from Chapel Hill to the Confederate section of Oakwood cemetery in Raleigh
. His original headstone was taken with his body when it was reinterred in Oakwood Cemetery.
A brief Norris bio:
Born in 1841 in Alabama
Thomas's father was William J. Norris (born in 1807 in Georgia); his Mother was Rebecca Louisiana Rutherford
In the 1850 and 1860 census Thomas lived with his parents in Selma, Dallas county, Alabama
Enlisted November 18, 1861 in Dallas county, Alabama
Norris' original headstone