SUBMITTED BY: Pam Barry (story written by Edward F. Small; submission transcribed by Carolina Echeverri; introduction researched & written by Cheri Todd Molter)
Pam Barry’s note: Here is the story I told you about, written by my great-grandfather, Edward Featherstone Small, who was a Confederate veteran. The original document was transcribed by Mary Bowen Caputo, then published by the Pender County Historical Society (Burgaw, N.C.) in 2005. I wanted the History Center to have a copy for its collection.
Introduction: Edward Featherstone Small was born in Beaufort County, N.C., and was a seventeen-year-old student when he enlisted as Corporal in the Confederate Army on Sept. 23, 1861. He served in Batty G Company, 2nd Light Artillery (North Carolina). On Jan. 1, 1862, he was discharged due to disability—he had a hernia. On Aug. 14, 1862, however, Edward returned to service as Guidon, enlisting in Batty G Company, 2nd Light Artillery (N.C.) again. On Nov. 4, 1863, he was transferred to Company D of the 13th Battalion Light Artillery (North Carolina). According to his military records, he was on the rolls through Feb. 28, 1865. [Sources: North Carolina Troops 1861-65, A Roster, (1993)]
Jeffrey Stark: An Account by a Civil War Veteran
This account was written around 1902, under the nom de plume Jeffrey Stark and in the third person. Eleven years later the author revised the manuscript and changed it to a first-person account. Edward F. Small was the grandfather of the Rev. Edward T. Small, former rector of the Church of The Good Shepherd in Wilmington and later Priest-in Charge of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Burgaw.
The Original manuscript was typed and when it was copied a century later the paper was brittle and crumbling. Some of the words were illegible, especially on the right-hand margin. Where it was impossible to read the original, the copyist has put [illegible] to indicate that something is missing.
Age Seventeen and A Half
I quit college, Sophomore half advanced, repaired to my private study, and stealthily indited [sic] the following letter to Captain Thomas Sparrow, commanding the Washington Grays, Ocracoke Island, N.C. Dear Sr: Believing it a duty that I owe myself, my country, and my all, I beg of you to accept my service under your command, promising the most faithful service in my power should you accept the same.
An early reply will greatly oblige,
Strange to say, at the conclusion of this letter I felt the presence of some one [sic]. Turning my head I caught sight of my mother. “What are you writing, Jeffrey?” Passing her the letter, and after reading the same, with a gentle embrace, she clasped me in her arms, saying, “I am proud of your patriotism, my boy. I had hoped you would feel thus of the situation, but I could not ask you to volunteer, for, should you be killed in battle, I never could forgive myself for such advice. May God bless and protect you from all harm is the wish of your loving mother for her baby boy.”
Weight:-125 pounds-with ne’er a care or sorrow to mar the joyous life of the halcyoned [sic] days of boyhood and with every reasonable wish gratified that means and love could bestow.
Two perplexing problems subsequently presented themselves. How could a fond mother with that tender love and care, so lavishly bestowed on him whom she had so fondly hoped would mature into manhood, (the highest type of all her imagination could depict) yield so cheerfully to the demand to arms to protect the honor of his country? Secondly:-How could I withstand the hardships of war-the demoralizing influences of which I was so ignorant and innocently thrust, after the tender care of the past seventeen years? This story will tend to answer ere its conclusion.
But a few days had passed ere a letter in answer came, accepting the proffered service as requested, and in consideration of the branch to which I was assigned, (heavy artillery) and the same being designated by the insignia of the color red, my best broadcloth suit was taken from the wardrobe, and, with the deft work of my mother, a strip of ordinary red melton, one inch wide, was placed on the outer seam of the pants, and the same material was put on the collar and cuffs of my coat.
With my grip carefully packed and transportation furnished me, I then boarded the train for Hatteras, N.C. On my arrival at Raleigh I learned that Hatteras, in one of the first battles of the war had fallen into the hands of the enemy and with it the command of Captain Sparrow. Thus my most patriotic hopes had been much impaired; however I continued to near my destination, stopping at Washington, the home of my childhood, which I had not seen for several years. Here I fell in with Lewis H. Reid and brother where we became the promoters of a light artillery company, and in a short while we had recruits for the same numbering over fifty when a meeting was called for an election of officers and enlistment for the men.
In a few days the company was ordered into camp for regular service with Reid as Sergeant Major and I as Guidon (Flag Bearer). The Rev. Charles Jones, a Methodist preacher of considerable notoriety having been elected as [illegible] the study of Hardies Tactics was the order of the day, and in a short while the daily drill was inaugurated until the horses could be procured and the field furnished.
The growth of the company was quite vigorous, and in the course of [illegible] months from its incipiency, the organization was now very near complete. A large silk flag was in the course of construction by Miss Kennedy, the daughter of [illegible] Kennedy from whom the company was named. The presentation of the flag was accompanied by several patriotic speeches, and a vast throng of people with patriotic hearts watched the transfer of the flag from Capt. Jones to myself, the Guidon.
In a few days the company was ordered to move into the country about [illegible] miles from the town within a few miles of the birth place of myself, to remain a few months for field drill, during which time the 24th Georgia Regiment under command of Col. McMillan, under whose command they were temporarily assigned. Col. McMillan soon endeared himself in the hearts of the people with his courtly manners and valor as a commander, and in an interview with Capt. Jones, granted him the privilege of a detail for one of his company to go to the western part of the state to purchase horses for the Kennedy Light Artillery Company.
Since I was the only man from [eastern] Carolina, Capt. Jones sent for me to know if I felt competent to the task of buying horses, giving me the requirements of the government in such matters. Notwithstanding my youth, I answered in the affirmative. The detail was handed me and preparations begun at once for the trip, and in a few days I was at my father’s home in Thomasville, advertising for horses, which came in by the score. Forty head were secured, reported and transportation furnished to deliver the same by rail on New Berne [sic], N.C. and safely thence to Washington, N.C.
By this time many more recruits had been added to the company, which now numbered 120 men, when two more field pieces were added making six in all, and more horses necessary. Another detail was furnished me for a similar trip, and twenty-two head more were purchased and safely delivered to Washington, completing at that time one of the handsomest Artillery Companies in the state.
The war had now practically begun with me. In about ten days after my return with the last purchase of horses, Mr. Myers, president of the Bank of Cape Fear, called me into his office and told me that the citizens of Washington contemplated presenting Col. McMillan with a handsome stallion and wished to know if I thought it possible to secure such an animal in western Carolina. I replied in the affirmative. The same evening Col. McMillan called me to his tent and asked me if I thought I could get him a horse (Which he accurately described) and I replied in the affirmative-not intimating my former interviews with Mr. Myers.
Returning instantly to Mr. Myers, I told him of the interview with Col. McMillan, and soon was fully equipped to secure just what Col. McMillan desired. In a few days the detail was handed me with funds from Mr. Myers from the purchase stating that if the horse cost more, to make good the amount myself and I should be reimbursed on my return, enjoying me to be sure to get the horse described by Col. McMillan regardless of cost.
In a few days I was again at home advertising for a certain horse. Many were brought in, but none of them filled the description, hence were declined. Hearing of one some ten miles away, I drove out to Mr. Green’s, and found a horse filling all the requirements, and the most beautiful animal I had ever seen in my life. The price was asked and paid in a few moments. Ordering Daniel, my Negro, to put the saddle on him, I mounted when he instantly started for a run, having never been ridden but once. It was quite risky, and more than once I thought seriously of having to wait for Daniel to overtake me, and relieve me of the terrible strain of the muscles in the arms, for if I should have lost any of my physical powers, it might have ended in my death; however, I reached home safely, with not enough muscular power left to lift five pounds.
In a few days I boarded a train with the horse and reached New Bern by rail the next morning, mounted him for thirty-six mile ride to Washington with many misgivings. It was a very ugly, cold day, but with much muscular power and coaxing I reached Washington about two in the afternoon. Riding him up to the bank, with a keen neigh at his stopping, he brought out the entire force of the bank for inspection. A general expression of admiration passed through the crowd, when I was interrogated by Mr. Myers as to the price paid for such a noble charger. My answer called forth the remark, “You shall have a hundred dollars as a present for your services and shrewd trading.”
The next day the horse was led to Col. McMillan’s headquarters, followed by many of the prominent citizens and presented to him by Mr. John Myers in the name of the people of Washington. After the presentation, Col. McMillan called me into his headquarters and complimented me on my good judgment and thanked me for the kindly interest I had taken in the matter.
Just before the close of the war I met a member of Col. McMillan’s Regiment and made special inquiry of the horse and learned that he was still taking the Colonel thru [sic] many battles.
The company was soon ordered to Williamston, N.C. on Roanoke River at Rainbow Bend, on their first duty; here I took my first drink of “New Dip” (apple brandy) just from the still, with all its horrors of taste and strangulation, which almost frightened me to death.
After a short stay at this point, we were ordered to move at once, but we knew not where. We marched all day while more troops joined us at the junction of every road, and by night-fall [sic] we were in the midst of a vast army and no sign of a stop for the night, nor did we stop. I finally fell asleep in my saddle. Just before day-light [sic] there was a halt. The ceaseless step of my horse awakened me just in time to hear the words “perfectly quiet.” About thirty minutes later the command “double quick” was given in a low tone.
In a few moments I discovered that we were entering the town of Washington at a break-neck speed, making a dash on the enemy who had taken possession of the place. At this juncture, one of the most ludicrous sights of my life was before me. It was just at the dawn of day, while the Federals not suspecting anything of the kind had as usual, retired, and were peacefully reposing in their beds, little dreaming of the storm of infantry, cavalry and light artillery that was thundering down upon them. Instant flight in their nightly uniform, instead of the blue, was clearly visible like Caesar’s ghosts fleeing in every direction, around corners, over fences, thru [sic] alleys, in and out of houses. Just as we entered the corporate limits a Federal sentinel was shot down, and I espying a handsome gold ring on his finger, jumped off my horse, removed the same, put it in my pocket, and remounted my steed.
Continuing the charge, we were by this time near the heart of town and spied many of the Federals entering the Dimock residence; where we checked up, surrounded the house and captured them. One of my commanders started to enter the house and was felled by a minnie [sic] ball passing thru [sic] his body just above his hips, fired by a Yankee secreted under a magnolia tree. However he finally recovered from the wound, made a good soldier, and survived several years after the war. Near by [sic] this house was a fine battery of four field pieces which was captured.
I was detailed to go in the country and press into service all the boys I could find to haul the battery out of the enemy’s line. I dashed out to Mr. Cherry, an old boyhood friend of my father, pressed in all his stock of mules and horses, including a favorite saddle horse, the only one that Mr. Cherry felt safe with. He begged me not to take him, but I did, promising to return him in a short while. In a few hours I returned to the scene of activities with a sufficient number to get a battery out of the lines. In moving the battery out and in making the first turn at the corner of the street, one wheel of one of the brass Howitzers missed the bridge across the stream and fell into the ditch. I put my back to the wheel, and with superhuman effort under the excitement, raised the same sufficiently for the horses to draw the gun from the ditch, then mounted my horse quickly when we hurried out with many prisoners, and the four guns and stores.
Safely out of the enemy’s line, the horses and mules pressed into service were unhitched and returned to their owners as promised. Arriving at Mr. Cherry’s with his stock, he met me at the gate with a smile and tears of joy in his eyes at the sight of his faithful steed. When I dismounted, the old gentleman put his once strong arm over my shoulder and remarked, “Do you ever drink anything?” I replied that I had never imbibed but once, and did not care for any, whereupon Mr. cherry said, “I have about a quart of peach brandy I made myself thirty years ago. I think a drink of it will help you.” (It did.)
The first of the kind and the last, the taste and effect of which is still fresh in my memory and more than counterbalanced the horrors of the first of “Apple Jack.” and which also individualizes me as one in the many thousands only, who has enjoyed the momentary pleasure of a drink of thirty year old peach brandy.
After riding some twenty miles the company went in to camp; all feeling the worse for long march, loss of sleep and hunger, and I, with a peculiar feeling of an internal injury occasioned by the superhuman effort of lifting the Howitzer out of the ditch. I called upon the army surgeon who made an examination and told me that I would have to give up the army and return home. An honorable discharge was recommended, secured and placed in my hands, and with transportation furnished me, I returned home and was in bed several weeks, finally convalescing so much as to be able to go down town [sic] and shake hands with my old friends and sweethearts who seemed at first to lionize me, especially the ladies, and court my society. However, this paradise of bliss was of short duration, as I soon discovered considerable coolness shown me by all the girls with whom I had been on most friendly terms. They declined to take drives with me, or to accept my attentions in any manner, this threw me into a particular dilemma that I could not comprehend.
One morning a petticoat, carefully wrapped up and addressed to Geofrey (sic) Stark was laid at my door to my utter astonishment and perplexity. I had no sister to don the same, and since I knew nothing of the modus operandi of such apparel, I was at a loss to know what to do or think. Keeping quiet to my domicile however, awaiting possible developments, when another package came containing a girl’s pantalets, and article I was very little acquainted with or not at all, save by chance when I had on a few occasions caught a lightning glance when some fair maid had by accident raised her crinoline a little too high to get her foot on the step of the buggy when leaving church (remember this was in the days of hoop-skirts). How and why I was to use these articles was to say the least, dumb-founding to me, this modest hero of the dash into Washington-my first encounter with the enemy.
After many days philosophizing as to the cause and results, an old gentleman approached me and asked. “Geofrey [sic], are you out of the war on the Negro act? I heard that you were discharged.” With a spirit of resentment I quietly replied, “No, I have a honorable discharge for disability.” “You don’t look unwell,” said the old gentleman. My indignation and timidity restrained me from any explanation. In a few weeks matters grew worse and I determined, since I could not explain my situation minutely and satisfactorily to my numerous lady friends and acquaintances and having no sister to act as proxy for me in such delicate matters, to return to my company and sue for a place in the ranks again, notwithstanding the army regulations forbidding my services.
Consequently I purchased a find stallion, mounted him, rode two hundred and fifty miles to the company, making a clean breast of my situation at home. To my captain I stated, “I prefer fighting the Yankees to the girls of my native heath, even if I were not competent of doing either.” A hearty laugh came from all of the officers when the captain replied, “Well, Geofry [sic], I guess I’ll have to protect you from your friends, and since I’ve made no permanent appointment to fill your former position, I will gladly reinstate you with the flag of your company.”
The reinstatement to my former position of Guidon subsequently developed into much of the ludicrous side of my four years’ service in the army. As far as the safety of my life was concerned, I filled the most dangerous position that could have been assigned me. However, as I soon learned from the environments of my office, and fully appreciated the same, which the purport to this narrative will show.
Since the writer has always intended portraying as best he could the ludicrous side of Geofry [sic] Stark’s experience as a soldier, leaving the reader to draw his own conclusion as to his bravery or just what kind of a soldier he was. Suffice it to say, whenever there are several witnesses living that will justify the assertion that whenever the roll was called for volunteer scout, I was invariably one of the first to step to the front and offer my services, and just as cheerfully did always respond when called upon to take part in a ball or country dance which often happened in many sections near the encampment.
The duties of the guidon in a light artillery company are circumscribed, almost to extreme, I presume as a panacea to the many dangers of the office. For instance, field drill, roll call, and engagements in battle was all that a senior officer could demand of the guidon.
The government should have furnished me a horse, but I desired to furnish my own in order that I might have one that pleased me; which gratification, as this story will subsequently show, proved both an advantage and disadvantage, and it is still a mooted question with the writer, which to lend favor to, and hope for an answer from the reader.
The demoralizing influences of the war did not take hold of me as with some owing to early training, association, and especial fondness for the society of the gentler sex. Outside of a little unconscious use of cuss words, I will show that I was free from the many vices practiced by many of my comrades, preferring to continue meriting respect for the higher inate (sic) principles, selecting associates for social relations from the best element in the company, of which there were many in the organization from the first, consisted of some of the sons and fathers of the refined and highly cultivated families of the south. With such environments it was no task to keep within the bounds of consistency as a gentleman and to command the respect of the entire company without even so much as arousing the jealousy of the lowest men of the company when I failed to participate in the menial duties, which my position rendered me exempt. Under all the foregoing considerations it was no special task for me to obtain leave of absence at any time to visit the nearest city or call on a young lady friend at will, provided I returned promptly at the time designated, which I almost religiously observed for future use with few exceptions, which the reader will note further on.
All these privileges subsequently afforded me a world of pleasure and a world of trouble; my noble, faithful steed sometimes sharing both.
Not long after the dash into Washington the company was ordered to Kinston on the Neuse, where we were met and given a warm reception by the enemy with the [illegible] of victory to the Confederates. Shortly after this we were ordered to Wrightsville Sound, six miles below Wilmington, to assist in keeping open the port of Wilmington to foreign countries for supplies. Shortly after our arrival at this point, the yellow fever broke out in the city, assuming a most malignant form, almost depopulating the city and cutting us off from supplies. This did not disconcert us much as we had the use of the Sound which furnished a bountiful supply of fish and clams to stave off hunger although we sadly felt the need of bread; the inate [sic] [illegible] cravings of which promoted me to my first theft. The peanut is the principal product of this country. The crop had but recently been gathered and stacked, with the vines around poles in the field [illegible] many farmers their hay, awaiting the drying process of the nut ere it was thrashed from the vine. I had noticed the peanut stacks in fields for several days with a longing appetite, and finally the temptation became abnormal and at night before taps (sic), I quietly slipped from camp, entered the field with my first experience of fear, disgrace and torture of conscience, to appease a raveneous (sic) appetite strongly flavored with fish. I reached the peanuts in safety however, and, securing about a quart in my haversack, repaired to the woods and ate about half of them; hiding the remainder in a hollow log for the next day’s feast. The company did not remain long at this point ere we were ordered to Topsail Sound, twenty miles north, up the coast on outpost duty to guard Topsail Inlet, where the enemy could enter port, land forces and attack Wilmington in the rear. Here the company remained until just before the attack on Fort Fisher by Butler, December 23, 1864. The encampment at this point subsequently developed to me some of the brightest days of my life, interspersed with many hazardous, startling and ludicrous events; some of which have been hanging upon the walls of the mental gallery for 50 years in obscurity, but in drawing the veil, they stand out in bold relief, with every line in perfect detail. You may look upon them while I hold the curtain.
The officers being men of culture and refinement with the appreciation of the beauties of nature, selected a most picturesque spot for the encampment in a triangle of two roads. At the foot or junction of the triangle, traced a rivulet, densely studded with sweet bay, honey-suckle, and colicanthus [sic], whilst the foliage of the tall towering pines loaned their shadows as also their soughing—known only to those who have heard it.
The environments here were of the most charming character, in that this company was the only one in this section and the first that had ever been stationed nearer than Wilmington, twenty miles distant. Immense plantations, with colonial homes centrally located on them, confronting the ocean for forty miles above Wilmington on the coast, were sadly in need of protection from the enemy, hence the arrival and encampment gladdened the hearts of all the dwellers on route. A more refined, cultivated, well-to-do and contented people never lived. After an intimate acquaintance of two years with nearly all of them, much of which served as the coloring to bring out the high lights of the picture in the reminiscent mental galleries previously mentioned.
In a few weeks the battery was parked, tents up, stables, guard house com [illegible] department were built and everything in “a la mode de militaire” order, when quite a number of lady equestrians rode into camp, chaperoned by a few of the elderly heads of the families, who presented the ladies to the commissioned officers. “Boots and Saddles” were blown, and a field drill was given for the benefit of the visitors who seemed much entertained. Every Friday was field drill day and if the weather was pleasant, scores of visitors attended—in equestrians habitments (sic) only, as it was almost impossible to use vehicles in this section, owing to the heavy sand. It was not long however, before I and others (included that way) knew the majority of the young ladies within twenty miles of the camp. Many of the most prominent families were Presbyterians; however, in times of war, all things are admissible, and there were no special barriers in the way of social informal dancing; while there was rarely a week passed but many of the company had invitations to such.
On my list of newly found lady acquaintances was one Miss T (sic) whose brother was Major of the Regiment. Having just graduated at the University of North Carolina, Miss T, to my partial eyes, was the perfection of beauty. She was petite, somewhat fair, with beautiful brown eyes that sparkled and spoke in unison with her every thought. All of this with her strong personal magnetism, made me a frequent visitor to her lovely cottage. My admiration for her had about reached its zenith when her brother, Mayor T arrived at home slightly wounded, when our acquaintance ripened into a warm friendship. As soon as the Major convalesced, he wrote my Captain a letter asking that I be allowed a leave of absence for several days, as he desired me to visit some of his friends in an adjoining county and attend a wedding to which he and I were invited.
Capt. Jones, who was first elected as commander of the company, soon discovered he was not as well adapted to fighting the Federal forces as he was the hosts of sin and in a few months resigned, retiring to his former duties as a minister of the gospel and was succeeded by first Lieutenant Adams, a fine commander as well as fine specimen of his sex—young and handsome, and at this time also a great admirer of Miss T persisted in absorbing more of her time than was agreeable to me.
On receipt of the Major’s letter, Capt. Adams sent me word to call at his tent. Handing me the letter from Major T , I read it, asking the Captain if it met his approval, he answered in the affirmative, subjoining, however, that if I remained out of camp over four days he would put me in the guard house for a week.
By four P.M. the same day I mounted Charlie, en route to Major T. where I enjoyed a game of whist with the Major and his two charming sisters. At sun rise the next morning, I was shown the Major’s wardrobe, stored with elegant suits from the full dress to handsome business suits, with the invitation to doff my military uniform and don anything to my fancy. Major T had recently graduated from the University of the State where it is generally supposed that the accomplishment of dress is closely allied with the accomplishments of the mind, which, in this instant, was quite evident. So complete was the change brought out so forcibly by the mirror, that I felt inclined to remark, “Geofry [sic] is himself again.”
A magnificent span of horses came dashing up to the front gate, with Charlie saddled for the trip. Major T announced that he was ready, asking me to take a seat with him and Buck, the valet, mounted Charlie. “Now for Rich lands!” said the Major. “Only seventy miles, Geofry [sic]; we will get there before sun down [sic], in time to accomplish our toilets before the dance.” This was true, notwithstanding a heavy sleet had been failing all day, and often in the last few miles I would jump out and hold the drooping branches in order that we might pass.
At seven P.M. sharp, the music was started, and dancing began with a bevy of as pretty faces as one could wish to look upon. Suddenly my eyes rested upon one of the sweetest faces in the world. An introduction was sought, and an engagement made for the first lancers. A mutual friendship soon sprang up between us, ripened into love in the short space of one hour.
We left the room to seek some quiet nook where we could hear the beating of our own hearts, and it was then and there that the first pleadings of my young heart ever went out for response. To my gratification a delicate little white hand fell into my own, and that look of response we all know and read so well, though we never before saw, told the whole story, when two hearts beat as one and the cup of happiness is full to overflowing. In my present state of ecstasy I had entirely forgotten Miss T , the sister of my bosom friend who, hitherto had so entranced me as to be ever present in my memory, with apprehensions of a serious climax similar to the one above mentioned, which might occur at any moment.
Repairing to the ball room, and, like all love fanatics, [we] monopolized each other’s society. At nine A.M. the music and dancing stopped; Good-byes were said but with us two, sighs were said, and promises of faith and love and trust and a correspondence, and we parted, never to meet again. She married a better man, and I married just as sweet a woman.
A sixty-mile ride brought us to Lieut. Gunter’s fiancée’s home where the wedding was to take place at seven-thirty P.M. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Lieutenant introduced me to his bride and requested me to dance the first set with her as he did not dance at all. There were [sic] something over one hundred guests in attendance at this wedding and it seemed as if every one [sic] presented had come for all the pleasure that could be had out of the occasion.
It was nine o’clock the next morning before the music and dancing stopped. Preparations were begun to remove to Lieut. Gunter’s father’s home, some seven miles away to the infair [sic], where shortly after our arrival before noon, the music and dancing were resumed and continued throughout the night and day.
If the reader will revert to the foregoing facts, he will readily see that we had been dancing three nights and two days consecutively without so much as an hours [sic] sleep. Thinking that we had been dissipating enough, we ordered our horses and started for the T cottage some seventy miles distant. The horses being very fiery, the subject matter of sleep was the philosophic question before us, and the result was that we should divide the time hourly. One handled the horses while the other sat down in the foot of the buggy, resting his head on the vacant seat, to get one hour of sleep, then vice versa. In this way we regained some of our lost [illegible]. My horse not having been accustomed to such long driving was much the worse of the trip. Next morning I, prepar[ing] for an early start to my company, ordered Charlie saddled and brought to the front gate. I soon discovered he was a physical wreck and mounted him with a sad heart and many misgivings as to his capabilities in landing me safely into camp. I had not proceeded more than five miles ere the faithful steed had expended all his physical energy, and loosing [sic] his footing, he fell prostrate, catching my foot under him, spraining every toe and causing such excruciating pain as to call forth some very ugly language. I pushed him off as best I could, and, extricating myself with painful effort, looked up and saw a few yards off, two young ladies of my acquaintance, approaching me in a buggy, trying hard to suppress a volcano of laughter at my misfortune, or my vehemently uttered expletives, I knew not which. There was with me at this time a co-mingling of “cuss” words, some laughter and many tears, as a result of the acute pain [and] the ludicrousness of my situation. Charlie lay very quiet while writhing in pain with the cold facts staring me in the face. It was still seven miles to camp; no horse to ride and only one foot to walk on, with the possibility of a week’s incarceration in the guard house for being absent from camp one day over time granted. My situation was anything but pleasant…and I woefully surmised “every sweet has its price.” I finally summed up courage enough to stand erect on one foot, still holding the reins in my hand, pouring out upon it all the sympathy and love of a recently warmed up heart, supposing that such devotion would help to restore it to its normal condition. I gently placed my heel on the ground and threw my arms around Charlie’s neck, and divided my affections between my foot and my horse. “Poor fellow,” I said, “I’m sorry for you. Get up old boy and let’s get to camp if possible.” With one desperate struggle Charlie regained his footing. There was no use to attempt to mount him for he was still reeling with exhaustion. Throwing the lines over his head we started off, [me] leading him, hopping on one foot and gently using the heel of the damaged one as best I could. We had gone only a few yards when he refused to be led any further and persisted in so doing regardless of coaxing. I cut a small switch and got behind him. We covered perhaps a mile and again he declined to be driven. My heart sank into my cavalry boots with no visible sign of extricating myself from the dilemma. Looking up the now isolated road, I spied a bundle of fodder which had been dropped from some passing vehicle. Leaving Charlie an equestrian statue in the middle of the road seemingly rebuking me for my dissipation and the neglect of my most faithful friend, I went after the fodder.
Returning with the treasure I proffered it to my jaded animal which he seemed most thankful for. In a few moments I turned my back on him, and coaxingly bade him follow which he did. I occasionally allowed him a portion of the fodder, taking care he did not consume all ere we reached camp, which we did in two or three hours. At this juncture the words of my Captain on my return to rejoin the army came forcibly to my mind. “Geofry [sic], I guess I’ll have to protect you from your friends,” but no such words greeted me now, nor did any such protection come. On the other hand it seemed as if the whole one hundred and twenty men caught sight of me with the diminished bundle of fodder and Charlie following close behind with that proud head, once erect, by now lowered and almost lifeless. Our appearance caused a general outburst of laughter and all the interrogationies [sic] and rebukes that could possibly emanate from the fertile brain[s] of one hundred and twenty indolent soldiers, which to me were of the most disgusting nature.
However, through the sympathy of my Captain, or from the fact that he had been having a rousing good time with Miss T during my absence, or both, I did not serve any time in the guard house, as was threatened, for staying out of camp over time. …The next day Charlie was himself again, and in a few weeks was none the worse for the five days hilarity.
When Charlie and I were again at the T cottage, Major T having sufficiently recovered, had returned to his regiment in Virginia. I found Miss T as attractive as ever. After the usual pouts and accusations of faithlessness on my part for absenting myself from her in search of prettier faces, more congenial society, all of which I, of course, emphatically denied, and she tried so hard to believe. Whether she succeeded or not, I was unable to say, buy I rather suspected that she did not. However, with the usual forgiving spirit of her sex, after having her say, matters assumed a more normal condition and soon the usual pleasantries and cooing were participated in, if anything more lavishly than before, and I only felt the meshes of the web being woven around me with the usual thrill of charm and delight, known only to those who bask in the sunlight of expressive eyes and ruby lips.
Matters now began to assume some specific shape; frequent visits, horse-back rides down the beach where nothing but the murmuring of the sea and the soft clatter of the horses’ feet could mar our tete a tete. All the world seemed beautiful to us now; Fannie, with arched neck and foaming sides, pranced and champed her bit with all the pride of her mistress, while Charlie seemed bantering her for race. As we approached the beach the snow-capped billows seemed to rush ashore to greet us.
Back home after tea, under the Yopon (sic) bush, we finally plighted our troth, and the world seemed still rounder and more beautiful. After this, when Charlie was saddled and mounted, no rein was necessary to guide him; he knew where to go and seemed interested in visit to the T cottage.
There was only one man in this company of one hundred and twenty men that was swifter of foot than I, and we were often urged to run a race by our comrades. It was the height of my ambition to be able to defeat my opponent, and, for the gratification of some of my personal friends, I on one occasion accepted a challenge from him. I led out, the other man following. Finding I was holding my own very cleverly I finally looked back to see if he was gaining on me, when the toe of my boot struck a small stump. Flying thru [sic] the air, I fell on a larger stump, landing on my chest. I was picked up for dead, placed on a litter and taken to the hospital tent where I soon recovered consciousness after a serious hemorrhage. In a few hours after the accident a boy rode into camp handing the captain a note from Mrs. Nixon, a highly cultivated and wealthy peanut planter, requesting him to send me to her home where she could nurse and care for me until my recovery. Her daughter being the fiancée of one of my personal friends, Miss T, and the frequent letters passing between us, assured her that there was something more than friendship existing between us, and with the usual promptings of a pure woman’s heart, told me in confidence that Miss T was the most noted flirt in that whole section and that the web so dexterously woven, as I supposed by the ardent fingers of love was in reality the art of a proficient flirt of twenty-eight summers, against my eighteen winters. This was quite a shock to a set of nerves that I had never before known to exist in my physical makeup, and I instantly began to fortify and protect the inner sanctuary against any such cruel attack in this line.
With some chagrin, humility and a whole lot of discomfiture, I finally decided that I would take advantage of the situation as best I could, and, laying all the facts before my bosom friend, Dr. L. whom I knew had some experience along this line, and ask his assistance in this matter. His advice was, “Feed her out of the same spoon she has been feeding others.” Accordingly I indited [sic] her a letter, notifying her that my extreme youth and environments were such that I deemed it best for all concerned, that the engagement be broken; returning her letters and asking for my own. Of course this was an unexpected boom shell in the prospective matrimonial camp; the explosion of which was very disastrous. Her brother, Major T, was telegraphed for, and in a few days was at home. He was told of my perfidy, also that I had exposed her letters by getting on a barrel and reading them to the whole company, whereupon the Major sent me challenge for a duel which I accepted, not knowing at the time for what I was challenged. I selected Dr. Latham as my second, and was at the appointed place on time, armed for the combat; the seconds having agreed upon pistols as the weapon to be used. Dr. Latham measured off the twenty paces, when Major T and I taking the position assigned each, Major T’s second exclaimed, “Gentlemen. Ready?” “One, two, three.” I feeling a slight stinging sensation just under the left arm heeded not the same, but was thinking of nerving myself for a better shot in the next round, when the second began counting again, “One, two –” “Hold”, my second called out, “blood!” Looking down I saw that my left hand was drenched in blood, – a small artery had been severed and the flow was copious. Major T’s second in company with my second took me in his buggy to his nearby home, and dispatched a boy for a surgeon. Before the surgeon could arrive, however, I had lost so much blood I had fainted, and my comrades were much wrought up as to be apprehensive of a serious result. Under the mental strain of this sudden fainting my second turning to Major T forcefully put the question, “Major, why did you challenge and wound my bosom friend whom I have known all of my life to be the very soul of honor and integrity?” The Major replied with a sneer, “Dr. Latham, you have a very poor conception of honor and integrity of you consider it honorable to read any young lady’s letters in public as Mr. Stark did my sister’s letters on a barrel head before your whole company as I have been credibly informed. Mr. Stark received his just deserts, with no regrets from me as to final results.” Then he took his hat for a departure. Dr. Latham, rising to his full height with the flames of indignant wrath almost consuming him, branded the allegation as an infamous lie, and said that he could easily substantiate the same by every man in the company.
“My God”, exclaimed the Major, “have I made this mistake with my once bosom friend!” Falling at my side, he implored my forgiveness, caressing my brow with one hand and saturating his handkerchief with the blood still flowing from my wound with the other. Rising quickly Major remarked, “Dr. Latham, you and Mr. Nixon do all you can for Geofry [sic]. I am going to hurry up the doctor.” Jumping into his saddle he put his gray charger into his top speed and in a short while returned with a radiant face when told I was better and the flow almost entirely checked with the methods applied by my second, Dr. Latham.
The following week I had convalesced sufficient to be able to return to camp, after receiving many courtesies from the ladies of that immediate vicinity who were most assiduously trying to define the cause of the patent fact I had been shot, eventually becoming reconciled with the currency report of accidental shooting, as there was no publicity given the matter before the duel and the facts known only to the four interested parties and the former friendship continued to grow stronger between the quartet, the solution was taken in good faith, much to the gratification of all concerned. On my return to camp my Captain handed me a letter, it was from my dear friend the Major inviting me to his home. With my Captain’s permission, I accepted the invitation. After tea we enjoyed a game of whist, and at ten o’clock the Major and his younger sister retired to the sitting room, leaving Miss T and me alone to fight our last battle with no weapons save lies. Ever afterwards we were friends and nothing more.
This being a very sandy country, riding in vehicles was very slow, monotonous and tiresome, therefore horseback riding was generally the most practical method. Every young lady had her own individual single footer, and you could seldom find a young lady who was not an expert equestrian.
A strong personal friendship grew up between Mr. Hill Nixon and myself, a near neighbor to our camp of considerable wealth. Anticipating my pleasure he invited two of Wilmington’s fairest daughters to visit him. I was not slow of availing myself of their charming society and soon an engagement was made with the ladies for a horseback ride on the beach with Dr. Latham and myself, Dr. Latham escorting Miss Mollie and I, Miss Pattie. Charlie being a most delightful saddler, was to bear Miss Pattie. There was, however, one ugly characteristic on Charlie’s makeup. He would shy at an empty envelope or bush lying in the road as quickly as a cat. I, of course, notified Miss Pattie of this fact, that she might not lose her equilibrium on such occasions, supporting that forewarned was forearmed. However, such was not the case, for ere we had gone four hundred yards, Charlie suddenly dashed off to the left; Miss Pattie lost her balance and fell over to the opposite side to which she was sitting, failing backwards when her dress being heavily leaded at the rim of the skirt, caught on the horn of the saddle. She being only about five feet in height, with a plump figure, weighing 140 pounds, beautiful flowing auburn hair, was in a most awkward as well as decidedly embarrassing position. I quickly dismounted to assist her back in the saddle, but owing to the fact that the portion of her apparel that had not been caught by the horn of the saddle, had slipped over and covered her head completely. I found myself under the excitement and embarrassment of the moment, completely baffled as to the best and quickest method of restoring her. My first impulse was to gather the dress covering her head and throw it back over her head, but this was a fruitless effort; owing to the leads it fell instantly back, bringing more with it. Driven to desperation in my embarrassment I got my shoulder under her head, and, by bringing all the muscular power I had into force, endeavored to lift her bodily to a point of equilibrium, but with her enormous weight, coupled with my youthful inexperienced muscular powers, and being completely submerged in her equestrian and other habiliments, I made a complete failure. The situation was now beyond embarrassment, and the time had come to relieve her at once or sacrifice my timidity forever; so with another effort similar to the last, moving her forward toward Charlie’s head, and raising her, she caught one hand in his mane and with our combined efforts, she regained her seat in the saddle. An ocean of tears began to rain from her beautiful eyes, and between her sobs she implored me never tell. I had no words of consolation for her, in fact, for the life of me, I could not think of a word to say.
Later we joined our friends on the beach, but we were very quiet, in fact almost mute for the remainder of the afternoon. She and her sister returned to Wilmington the next day. Nor did I have the courage to call on her again until the day they evacuated Wilmington and the enemy took possession. I bade her and her sister good-bye and they filled my haversack full of edibles—to my delight—and perhaps she did it to bribe me to a closed mouth.
McMillan’s Landing, just four miles north of here, was known to be the head of Top-sail Sound as far as navigation is concerned. On the crest of the hill, about four hundred yards from the landing, was a typical southern home, handsome and well furnished, indicating both wealth and refinement. Halfway between the camp and this point was the old palatial home of the Sheppard family, whose vast estate joined the one just mentioned. Both residences, although two miles distant from each other, could easily be seen with a field glass, (an auxiliary found in every credible home in this section as most of the homes fronted and were in full view of the grand old Atlantic, and the morbid curiosity of the old settlers could be easily gratified with the aid of a field glass, as to the name of every vessel or craft that passed along the coast, although many miles distant[)].
The hospitable Sheppard home began to be doubly attractive now, since the Misses Sheppard had just returned from College. Every charm the human mind is capable of imagining was really intact at the Sheppard home. Mrs. Sheppard herself was a most charming woman with all the attributes one could wish to find in any one woman. She seemed to exert herself in giving out as much of the sunshine of her pure nature as the world could ask for. Her eldest son subsequently became surgeon of our company and proved himself to be the highest type of a gentleman as well as of his profession. Her two daughters, charming by inheritance and the tutorage of a mother who made upon my memory a more indelible impression perhaps than any before or since; for, notwithstanding, 48 years have passed since the making of this picture, every line of it still stands out in bold relief, tinted and embellished with all the rays of nature and art lighted up with the radiance of souls that will shimmer in the sheen for ages to come. Not a cloud nor a shadow of one has ever darkened the picture, and much of my subsequent life (the better part of it) is perhaps indebted to it. Did I love them? Indeed, I did, with the most profound respect at my command, and I do to this day, not with a boyish love, or that of a suitor. Miss Lottie, the younger, was my favorite if I had any, but the thought of her as a wife never entered my mind. She was simply my companion, sunshine, life, happiness and contentment. I had no thought of separation from her, nor of making her a part of my life to prevent it. With all her beauty and accomplishments, both of mind and soul, it may be strange yet it is nevertheless true. Having never had a sister it was perhaps a brotherly love. Often times we would go hand in hand to the vineyard or to the watermelon patch; to the sound fishery or to the oyster rock for bivalves, or horseback riding and the merry ring of her laughter and the scream of these excursions was delightful to hear. Often on our return Mrs. Sheppard would be in her easy chair out on the spacious veranda, watching for us, and at our approach would remark, “Geofry [sic], you and Lottie are more like brother and sister ought to be than any one I ever saw.” and Miss Lottie would reply, “That’s just what we are, aren’t we, Geofry [sic]?”
A select musical club existed in the Company in which I usually assisted either with my tenor voice or with my flute. About once a month, under special permit, we would go out in the near vicinity, serenading our best girls, and of course the Sheppard home was always included.
I have no doubt but that Charlie objected seriously to this pastime, since he was the only available horse, and our only alternative was to borrow a two-wheeled dump cart from our nearest neighbor, get Charlie between the shafts and all get in with myself in the saddle, and in this my faithful steed hauled us from house to house. Sometimes coming to a good piece of road, I would strike Charlie between the ears with my soft hat and push him into a rapid run just to shake up the occupants of the cart. On one occasion we quietly approached the Sheppard home and rendered two or three selections. I being thirsty, tip-toed to the water pail. There was no moonlight, but I was quite familiar with the place and knew just where the water pail stood. On reaching it, olfactous faculties came in contact with what once was a familiar odor. With the instinct of a dog I trailed the odor to a large white bowl nearly filled with egg-nog. Without uttering a word to my companions, I felt around the rim of the bowl and found a spoon. The result can better be imagined than described. After repeated calls from my companions without answer, one by one they came to find out what was detaining the others, thus giving me the opportunity to get decidedly in the lead in the race of eating egg-nog, much to my gratification and their chagrin. We remained out of camp longer than we were permitted that night, and on our return the corporal of the guard informed us that he had orders to force us to mark time on the guard line for one hour and then to confinement in the guard house for twenty-four hours. Every sweet has its bitter. After marking time for one hour, all save Charlie who thru [sic] this hour had been impatiently waiting to be fed and stabled, which I was permitted to do, then returned to join my comrades in our new palatial quarters for the night. This notable structure was of neither Grecian nor modern architecture but built with the skill of unskilled hands of unhewn pine poles very much resembling the rustic, with the uncompleted chimney of the same material. The entire structure was seemingly built on hygienic principles, so far as ventilation was concerned. I felt confident that a good sized dog could have been thrown thru [sic] the cracks that were to ventilate the building, hence we were assured there was no foul air to intercept our peaceful slumbers when the early morning found our lungs full of the usual amount of oxygen, pregnant with the usual odor of pine.
Before noon the following day some sympathizer had passed the Sheppard home and related the facts of our misfortune following so closely on the heels of our good fortune the night previous. More sympathizers followed the ranks of the Sheppards and verified the same by sending a colored boy, about one o’clock, with a basket ladened with a quantity of viands of the most tempting nature, accompanied by a card addressed to the serenading party of the night before, which was a token of their appreciation and sympathy.
The Corporal of the Guard declined to allow us the privilege of gratifying our now morbid appetites from the tempting viands without special orders from the Commander, who, when called on, promptly refused to allow the basket into the guard house. However, there were six heads in the guard house, presiding over six morbid appetites, while there was only one at the head of the command, and in less than one hour one of our sympathizers had some very important business with the corporal while another got into a debate with the sentinel on post as to the point of his duty. During this time there was another sympathizer crawling along dragging the basket as best he could, keeping the guard house between himself and the sentinel on his beat, and as the sentinel turned his back, quickly scaled the logs to the top of the unfinished chimney, dropping the basket safely into our waiting hands. We sat down, forming a circle and placing the basket where the sentinel could not see it. We were eating for dear life, but with both eyes watching the sentinel thru [sic] the openings thru [sic] the logs, and the instant he turned his eyes on us, every mouth stopped working until he changed to look in some other direction, when every one [sic] went at it again with all his might. This was most religiously kept up until nothing remained except the basket, which was hidden under some boards until our release. Oh, but how love does laugh at locksmiths!
The colored bearer of the viands remained on the outside of the guard line, attracting no attention, but watching the play which interested him perhaps more than that of Romeo and Juliet before an intelligent audience. Returning home, he related the story in his own exultant way to very attractive and appreciative audience. [illegible] contents of that basket is simply a burlesque art. The next afternoon there was a reunion at the Sheppard mansion. After recapitulation a vote of thanks was tendered all concerned, for the victory of the morbid appetites over orders from headquarters.
The day following the above incident, this body of 120 men witnessed a most exciting combat. Charlie, my stallion (the pet of the company) loosed his halter and made a break for Lieut. Latham’s stallion to settle a long standing difference as to priority of possession and kingdom, with combat of feet and teeth, throwing the entire company into a state of intense excitement with a most strenuous effort on the part of every member of the company to separate the equestrian belligerents before serious injury could be done. It was however but a few seconds ere it was a known fact that man was not the master of the two enraged stallions, and no more attention was paid to the efforts of this body of men though they were so many flies arrayed against them, and the battle became more furious with each added moment. They would turn tail to and kick with all the vicious power within them, then suddenly rear on their hind legs and with an apparent lock with their fore legs, with ears laid flat on their necks, each grasping the top of the other with their teeth with such powerful pressure that often the muscle would slip, their teeth coming together with a report that resembled the shot from a pistol. For forty-five minutes these infuriated animals fought for supremacy without the slightest indication of ever giving in, until they reached a point near the guard house, when one of them turned to pass the house, one of the men turned the other’s head in the opposite direction, when they made an effort to meet on the opposite side of the house, but were foiled by my seizing Charlie by his nostril and under lip, instantly receiving assistance from one of my comrades, whilst others were capturing the other stallion. For several days both were out of commission from bruises, but neither seriously injured more from the fact that neither were shod on their hind feet.
It is more than probable that not one man in a million today has ever witnessed so intensely exciting a combat—in fact, several of the members of the company had nervous prostration for several days thereafter.
The port at Wilmington at this time was the only door of the Confederacy to the outside world and remained so until the 15th day of January 1865. Fort Fisher, at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, was the only coast stronghold. It afforded the Confederates their only opportunity for obtaining foreign supplies; hence there was quite a number of handsome swift steel steamers running in to the port of Wilmington buying cotton in exchange for imported goods. The steamers were owned by private individuals, corporations and companies, principally from England. They, of course, assuming the risk of being captured, and their crafts confiscated by the Federal Government. Several large men of war lay at anchor off Fort Fisher for the express purpose of blockading the mouth of the river against such traffic. However, the English laughed at the Federal locksmiths, and plied their profitable trade constantly, with only the loss of a steamer now and then.
New River, just forty miles north of Wilmington, was due west from Bermuda. The coast from this point to the mouth of the Cape Fear River was crescent shaped, forming a bay. The captain of an English blockade runner put his wheel to the compass due west for New River, and void of a gale blowing him out of line, rarely needed a log book for his bearings. They usually came in after twilight with no lights visible on board, and frequently made the entrance safely and without ever having been seen by blockaders. Now and then, however, there were occasional hair-breadth escapes, a few of which are here related.
One afternoon about three o’clock the Confederates were signaled by a steamer approaching from the east. She carried no flags and by this she was known to be a runner. “Boots and Saddles” was blown, and in a few seconds the company was ready for a dash to the bluff on Topsail Sound opposite the inlet, a distance of about one mile. They quickly reached their vantage point, and with battery in line, were ready for the fray. With their four Howitzers for grape and canister, and two rifles, they could keep the blockaders full seven miles at sea, as they could use them with great accuracy to about that distance. The old Minnesota, one of the largest and most formidable of the Federal Fleet, discovered that the Runner had weighed anchor, and, although sluggish, was in full pursuit, pouring shot and shell after her. They knew full well that she would hard down her helm and work due south so soon as she reached the coast, and work in under cover of the Confederate guns, stationed every three or four miles within an area of fifteen miles of Cape Fear. The Minnesota’s fifty-one guns held her down to a speed not exceeding eight knots an hour, while the Runner could work in seventeen knots. She, however, while gaining distance, could not run faster than the guns of the old Minnesota.
The race began some twenty miles up the coast, but in full view, and for more than an hour the company watched it with increasing interest and excitement as it neared. Neither runner nor blockader knew of their presence. The Runner, owing to the circle in the bay, (as she was skimming the coast as close as she dared) had many more miles to make to reach Cape Fear than the Blockader, some five miles out, and, to the Captain of the Runner, it seemed as if they were going to cut him off, and in his excitement he ordered a few barrels of resin he had on board thrown unto the furnace in order to get steam and speed. To his chagrin, however, he discovered, that it had melted and run thru [sic] the grates, stopping the drafts, and making the steam go rapidly down. Just at this critical moment they reached a point nearly opposite the battery, and to the company’s astonishment the Captain rounded to and beached his craft. The Blockader, discovering the dilemma of the merchantman, hove to and began to approach her, pouring into her volley after volley in rapid succession, while the crew of the beached vessel were hurriedly disembarking to the shore. The Confederates turned their two six-pound Whitworths loose upon the Blockader, cutting away some of her rigging, and the duel changed from the disabled ship to the land battery until near dark, when the Blockader withdrew. Beaching the steamer at high tide, made it quite favorable to wreck her at low tide. Captain Taylor, the owner of the Lynx, came ashore with his crew, making such disposition of the cargo as he saw fit to the captain of the land force who ordered his men to go to work, and unload her at dusk. I formed an alliance with two of my comrades. When they came in contact with anything, I could handle of value, they were to bring it to the starboard hull of the steamer aft midship, where I could be found under the water to my waist, waiting for them to drop the same overboard. I would save it and quietly watching my chance would take it to the beach and stow it in some place of safety until we could use it. I had not long to wait until I heard a splash in the water near me. When I reached for it I found it to be several fine French calf skins.
Now there was one principle instilled in me while in college which had not been entirely eradicated; and that was spending all the funds possible on my feet; hence I rejoiced greatly over the new found treasure and the probability of a nice fitting pair of cavalry boots. My co-workers soon came across some sole leather and dropped over two or three sides. Our morbid appetites for this world’s goods had almost been appeased when in the wee sma’ hours we abandoned the steamer for camp, going quietly to our boat with our trophies. In the due course of time our feet were encased in perfectly fitting boots, to the envy of our comrades, and as we supposed to the delight of our lady friends. Some parts of the Lynx to this day may be found near Topsail Inlet. This was the longest and most exciting race ever witnessed.
Only a few weeks had passed when the Phantom, another of Captain Taylor’s runners, started out of the Wilmington port, loaded with sea island cotton (then worth $1.50 per pound in England) crossed the bar at the mouth of the river at ten P.M. and by accident ran within a few feet of a blockader, not three miles from the bar. She was fired upon and an eight-inch hole blown thru her just below the water mark with a sixty-four pound rifle from the blockader. The Captain brought her right about and with all the steam possible, came straight back to shore and beached her. Being full of water she would not have lived ten minutes longer. Captain Taylor offered each man a bale of cotton to unload her, which we did. I sold my bale for $500.00 in Confederate money; the others held theirs for higher prices but have never heard from it to this day.
A few weeks later, the little Hattie was sighted about four P.M., thirty-five miles north of Wilmington, running due west under a full head of steam, giving the old Minnesota a wide berth, although the Minnesota had sighted her and was running under full steam to cut her off in the bay. However, the Captain of the runner knew his craft had a speed of twenty knots an hour and could easily keep out of range of the guns until he could get under cover of the Confederate guns. The race was very exciting one, with the sixty-four-pound shells of the Minnesota at times coming in close proximity with the side of the little Hattie. Just at sundown, having come under the cover of the guns of Fort Fisher, she hoisted the Bonny Blue Flag and proudly entered the port, in perfect safety, being loudly cheered by the boys in Gray. By way of a generally unknown fact, this steamer entered the Wilmington Harbor on the night of the fall of Fort Fisher, January 15th 1865, in the midst of a fleet of sixty sails; not knowing the enemy had taken possession, making good her escape before being captured. She had a remarkable record of speed and made more trips with fewer accidents than any runner during the war. Among the fleet of blockade runners was a steamer called the Hornet, which subsequently came into notoriety after the war. This ship was built for a speed of twenty-two knots an hour; at that time said to be the fastest ship that had ever sailed in American waters, making only one trip, however, after completion ere the surrender of the Confederacy. It was subsequently sold to the Cuban government, shortly after the beginning of the war between Cuba and Spain. She was bought thru [sic] by my brother-in-law David Telfair, who ran her to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and manned her to intercept Spanish transports enroute to Cuba, taking on a very inferior grade of coal at Halifax, hoping to replace it with better at Wilmington, N.C. put into that port. The indiscretion of this move, however, proved disastrous owing to the want of clearance papers, which, of course, could not be obtained at Halifax, since all governments were playing neutral between the belligerent powers. Hence the result was the arrest of the officers and crew, and detention of the steamer which was subsequently confiscated by the United States government; the officers being released under certain stipulations, after being lionized, wined and dined by many of the Cuban sympathizers at Wilmington.
While encamped at Topsail Sound, Corporal Gaylord and myself one afternoon took a sail over to the beach for a stroll and within a few hundred yards of our starting point, found some portions of an ocean craft, which signified that there had been a wreck at sea. We returned to camp and secured a permit for absence for the night, deciding to get a row-boat and go up the Sound, across the beach where we might find some of the cargo coming ashore. It was a beautiful moon-light evening. Leaving camp about eight o’clock arriving at the beach about eleven, we made fast the boat and started up the beach looking for treasure. After walking some two miles, a dark object loomed before us, and as we neared it our spirits rose to the highest point. It proved to be a large goods box; so heavy that we could scarcely move it. Of course we were totally ignorant of its contents; and had no implement near at hand with which to open it, as we were now at least five miles from any habitation or human being. After a caucus it was decided that I should remain on guard while my friend Gaylord would take the boat, return to camp for help to roll the box across the beach to our boat, and thence ship it to camp. I took no thought of the exceeding solitude of this coming situation. I knew there were no animals on the beach to harm me, hence there was no fear, nor was there any enemy in human shape. But solitude with all its horrors, inconceivable, in less than thirty minutes completely absorbed my whole being, and to rid myself of it was impossible. It was my first and only experience of a complete isolation from the human family. I walked to and fro, whistled, sang and ran; but for the life on me, could not shake off the dark robes of solitude that enveloped me, seeming to compound its volume momentarily. The fact of being on that desolate island with no possible escape to the mainland, unless my friends returned, absorbed all my thoughts.
About half mile down the beach, I suddenly caught sight of another large dark object looming up before me. Thinking it more goods from the wreck, I increased my pace to capture the prize, but to my horror, as I came within a few feet of the object, it raised itself several inches and walked into the surf, entirely disappearing. I stopped instantly, every hair standing on end, but ere it had entirely disappeared I saw plainly that it was a sea-turtle of mammoth proportions, some three feet in height by three and one half feet broad, and I felt sure it would have weighted between four and five hundred pounds. This incident somewhat broke the chain of thoughts of loneliness for a few moments, then they seemed to return with renewed force, holding me in despair for over three hours. Returning to my box, I seated myself upon it, trying hard to make a companion of it. Presently I heard the shrill whistle of my friend in the distance. It is utterly impossible for the human mind to conceive of the joy, peace and happiness of that moment to me. With rapid strides I started to meet them and related to them my experience with the great sea monster. They upbraided me for not having run quickly to the turtle and turned him over on his back, thereby securing two prizes rather than one. Had I done so and shipped him to Wilmington [illegible] for $500.00
It was now about three o’clock in the morning. We hurried to the box and turned it over and over-a slow process, a quarter of a mile to the boat-loaded it and pulled out, reaching camp just at daylight. Securing one of the commissary wagons we transported our treasure to camp. On opening it we found black calico, which was then worth about $1.00 per yard. A gentleman in the neighborhood, hearing of the prize, came over to trade for it; finally offering us a fine pair of horses, a good two horse wagon and $500.00 for it just as it was, relieving us of the laborious task of rinsing the salt water out, and drying and bolting it again, -which was no small task. We accepted his offer and felt that we were well paid for our find although I was confident that I never could be well paid for the horrors of that, to me, life-time watch on the desolate beach of an island, with no companion save a monster sea-turtle and a box of mourning calico.
Some three weeks later a small schooner was sighted approaching Topsail inlet, of which they were signaled. “Boots and Saddles” was blown and we rushed down the sound to find the vessel just crossing the bar, hauling to and casting anchor. The Captain took a small boat with some armed men and started for the schooner. On boarding her, they found that she was a Yankee trading smack that had lost her log-book and with it her reckoning, and had no idea of her whereabouts; not dreaming she was in Confederate lines. The Captain and his crew were arrested and sent to Richmond, Va. They unloaded her cargo which consisted principally of Yankee notions, such as buttons, thread, stationary, shoe-strings, pins, and the like all of which were more than acceptable to the Confederate government at this time. All was promptly forwarded to Richmond, save a few things which we appropriated for our own use. For instance, I secured a pair of lady’s No 5 shoes especially to dance in, since that was my favorite pastime; a ream or two of paper and such like.
This being only a sailing vessel, we found it necessary to tow her to the nearest landing which was some four miles distant and known as McMillan’s Landing. With the aid of fifteen or twenty men this was accomplished within a few hours. The unloading began and ended within a few days. A detachment of light artillery of thirteen men and sergeant, under command of first Lieut. Latham was ordered to McMillan’s Landing to guard the vessel from recapture by the enemy, until we received orders from Richmond for her disposal. Lieut. Latham’s father and mine were warm personal friends in the early part of the nineteenth century, hence there was quite a congenial feeling existing between me and my first Lieutenant, ripening into social relations. After taking his detachment to the Landing, and personally occupying the neat little cabin of the vessel with her convenient cook and storage pantry, finding his solitude growing monotouous, he requested the commander to allow me to go aboard with him. Capt. Adams cheerfully consented, much to my gratification as the McMillan home contained two very attractive young ladies. Lieut. Latham and I spent the greater part of our evenings at his social board, enjoying the musical talent of the family, and often joining in ourselves. Thru [sic] the kindness of Mr. McMillan, I was tendered a stall in his barn for my horse.
For several weeks things went smoothly enough, till [sic] one afternoon about five o’clock a walking beam steamer was seen approaching shore, cautioning her course until within a few hundred yards of the beach, casting anchor. There was a skirt of woods on the beach at this point which obstructed our view of the steamer except the smokestack. We could not surmise her intention. Lieut. Latham ordered me to saddle Charlie and report the facts to our Commander (Adams), at headquarters, four miles distant, which I lost no time in doing. Capt. Adams and Lieut. Forbes accompanied me back to the schooner which we reached about dusk. All was quiet and no special suspicion was aroused for our safety, from the fact that there was no possible chance of the enemy reaching us without coming up the channel, the same route they had brought the schooner. With 12 pound Howitzer with grape and canister bearing down on the channel from the crest of the hill, we could have slain them by the thousands ere it could have reached us; this being the head of navigable waters and none of the sound deep enough to float a yawl, with nothing but marsh, covered with sea-grass five to six feet in height and covering an area one mile in width from swampland to beach. We were told by Mr. McMillan that no human being ever crossed [illegible] (t)his landing or could; hence we never anticipated any attack from the rear. I sat around for quite a while, feeling drowsy, undressed for the night’s rest. I remember hearing Mr. McMillan’s remarking to my Captain, “It would be quite a joke on you to see you and all your men going out in tow of that steamer tomorrow being prisoners.” In the meantime, a sergeant with a few men were dispatched in a row boat [sic] over the beach to reconnoiter what the enemy was up to.
As soon as darkness set in, however, the enemy had landed some sixty men. They crossed the beach to the sound where they expected to find water deep enough to float their boat; in this they were disappointed but continued pushing their way on the slick mud and thru [sic] the grass, oftentimes knee deep or waist deep in the mud until they crossed the untrodden path to mainland. The Confederate reconnoitering party had not returned when I fell asleep. One of my bosom friends Sergeant L.M. Reid, having just returned from Wilmington, tired and worn out, joined me in my berth without my knowledge. As he expected to call on some young ladies, I had loaned him my No. 5 lady’s shoes, which I afterwards learned he had not removed when he retired. I was sleeping soundly, totally unconscious of the peril that awaited me. About 11 P.M. I was awakened by quick and rapid firing of musketry, and, looking ashore I saw the blue coats setting fire to all the buildings, arresting my comrades and making them prisoners. This sudden awakening somewhat [illegible] me. I could hardly realize the situation. Seeing my senior officer walking down the gangway, I inadverdantly (sic) followed suit, without stopping to get my wearing apparel which was a very important adjunct, as I only had on my person two garments which it is not necessary to name.
A blue-coat stood at the foot of the gangway, holding in his right hand his gun, and in his left a torch, ordering the surrender of each one as he stepped ashore which was, of course, the inevitable. Lieut. Latham was the last preceding me. When ordered to surrender, I heard him say distinctly,” “go to hell”, and with that he knocked the torch from the hand of his adversary and walked coolly off in the direction of his associates. The only egress from this position was by a road cut thru a dense thicker of yaupon bushes and bamboo briars which no animal could have possibly [illegible]. This only avenue of escape was cut off by the captor who stood facing it. Under these circumstances all were captured and made prisoners. Not yet fully wake, not knowing just what I was doing, I continued to walk down the gangway, not [illegible] feet behind Lieut. Latham. I stepped ashore while some of the torch-light was still lying on the ground; my adversary had taken his gun in both hands, and placing the muzzle of it to my side, ordered me to surrender. I looked him square in the face for a second only, then the idea occurred to me, “you will be as apt to miss as to hit.” Quick as the thought came the action; Instantly I jumped and ran, keeping the road directly in front of me, as there was no other way to run. I had one hundred yards to run before making a right angle, thus getting out of sight. I was now wide awake and began to realize the danger of my indiscretion; my speed increased with each step until I knew not whether I was on the ground or not. On turning the right my first thought was to get to camp, report the matter, recapture the prisoners and annihilate the enemy. While walking down the gangway, I saw the building in which I had hitched Charlie on fire. I knew that my best friend was being cremated. I went to Mr. McMillan’s stables where I had often stalled Charlie, and, being familiar with the stall that contained my saddle horse, I put my hand on the bridle and quickly mounted him. In a few minutes I was bounding thru [sic] the fields at a fearful [illegible]. Coming to a large gate and finding some trouble in opening it, I reined the horse to one side; he leaped the fence, landing me on the opposite side without any spare time. In a few moments I was at the Sheppard home, just half way to camp. Forgetting I was not dressed for an evening call, I rode up in the yard, loudly hailed. In an instant the window flew up and the Misses Sheppard appeared. I started to tell them the misfortune, but suddenly remembering my two garments, I hurriedly turned my horse’s head towards camp. Arriving there, I reported the situation to the man then in command of the company, who ordered me to proceed to Wilmington telegraph office some twelve miles distant and wire Gen. Whiting, commander of Wilmington, of the facts. Thinking perhaps it would be daylight before I returned I quickly dismounted, and seeing a pair of Capt. Andrews’ boots lying [illegible] them on and discovered that I had on more boots than ever before in [illegible]. The captain being six feet two inches in height, [illegible] answered easily for a pair of pants. Picking up someone’s coat I quickly mounted and started for the telegraph office, reaching there in good time.
Lieut. Bryant in the meantime was taking the company to the scene of disorder at McMillan’s Landing. Arriving there he found everything in ruin and disorder except the presence of Sergeant M and his little squadron that had gone to the beach reconnoitering. They had heard the musketry and seen the flames leaping from the buildings. On his arrival he soon took in the situation by the total absence of any human being. Hearing some noise in the grass, however, he ordered the few men he had to fire in the direction of the noise, taking care to aim high as some if the prisoners might catch the load instead of the enemy. This proved to be most excellent judgment on his part, as the firing threw the enemy into a state of panic, as their environments were anything but pleasing or satisfactory to them. In [illegible] tall grass, speed was out of the question, and they had no assurance that [illegible] not thousands of the Boys in Gray just over the crest of the hill, who would [illegible] hot pursuit. Hence at the first volley they became rattled, and quickly evinced the same. Huddling together they passed the countersign, and in the darkness-the moon having gone down-the Confederates made good use of their last chance of escape by falling over in the tall grass and remaining perfectly still, allowing their adversaries to pass by; the result was the safe return to camp next morning of all the captured, except three, DeLeon, Terrie, and Frazier. To this day the three captured have never been heard from.
Sergeant L.H. Reid returned with my No. 5 lady’s shoes, but as objects of attraction at an evening call among ladies, they were a most signal failure form a fastidious standpoint. The mud and oyster shells of the marsh that night sealed their doom as far as arousing the pride of the owner was concerned.
I have ever been able to decide just why the blue-coat, who captured all save myself allowed me to escape. There is not reason why he should not have shot me as he never could have had a better or safer mark. I have never been able to arrive to conlcusions; either my quick and unexpected decision caused him to lose his head at the brilliant whiteness of my attire, so rapidly receding from him, caused [illegible] that he f[illegible] duty [illegible] I have often thought of advertising for an interview with this blue-coat, and enjoying a hearty laugh with him over the midnight flight of the white-robed rebel.
While encamped near the village of Lockwoods Folly, I had casually met a charming country lass, whose exquisite form and features had awakened a sufficient interest to induce me to try to locate her place of abode for future guidance in prospective pleasures and the like. The following Sunday, I (with a permit from the officer of the day) mounted Charlie to ride over to the village church where I hoped to realize this dream. To my gratification I located the object of my search just in the rear of a vacant seat which I entered while the congregation was standing to sing the last hymn before the beginning of the sermon.
I at once noticed [that smiles] began to play over the faces of every one [sic] in the immediate vicinity and soon discovered it was the smile that did not wear off, but grew stronger with age, until my chagrin and indignancy at such uncalled for conduct was (as I thought) entirely inexcusable in civilized communities. This vacant seat now occupied by me only, was well known to the residents and was just opposite a south fronting window without blinds, giving the noonday sun full play on a very resinous plank seat that had been painted. [W]ith the intense heat of the sun quantities of the resin had been drawn to the surface in great blisters. It was my ignorance of this fact coupled with a morbid desire of the spectators to witness a grand stand [sic] comedy play by this young “Lochinvar” or he might have been notified of the coming disaster. At the close of the hymn the congregation seated themselves, so did I, when the strongly woven cords to suppress mirth were called forth and put to their utmost tension (sic) to prevent an explosion. For forty-five minutes I sat and warmed that seat with my blood at possibly higher temperature than ever before, trying to solve the problem of why my personality at such time and place should arouse such levity, still totally ignorant of my dilemma until the closing of the sermon and the minister giving out the hymn and the congregation arose to sing, when I failed in my effort to rise there was an audible outburst, and I grasped the problem as also the seat of my pants involuntarily, but, alas, my mind had been too active as also had the resin, during the period of forty-five minutes in trying to solve the reason for my being the subject of ridicule.
Edward F. Small was born 26 January 1844, in Washington, N.C. He entered the service of the Confederacy 17 April 1861, and was flag bearer for Co. A 13th Battery NC Artillery. He was five feet seven inches tall and was a student when he enlisted. He was with the Kennedy Light Artillery on 31 December 1861. He was discharged on 1 June 1862, due to a hernia caused by straining to lift an artillery piece. He reenlisted 19 August 1862.
Small saw action in several places in eastern North Carolina including the North East Cape Fear, Duplin Crossroads, Kinston, Jackson’s Mills, Goldsboro, Smithfield and Bentonville where he “went missing.” He was also in engagements a Seven Pines and The Wilderness. …Two of his commanding officers were Capt. Thomas and Col. Anderson. Small applied for a pension at age 78 on 1 September 1922. He died at Memphis at a company reunion at 9:30 p.m. on 6 June 1924. This information is from Small’s great-grandson, Edward S. Small of Cary, N.C., who has seen muster rolls and other documents that support this history.