Some Lived to Tell the Tale

by | May 18, 2017 | Confederate, Harnett

(Source: Contributed by E.W. Smith)

Of fifteen children who spent their childhood at the Harnett County house called Lebanon, eight soldier brothers served the Confederacy at one time or another while four surviving sisters did their best to keep track of them and cajoled them to write.

Jimmy had moved to Texas before Fort Sumter fell, and enlisted there. Curtis was settled in Arkansas, although he would ultimately become a Californian. But war had redistributed the rest, or soon would.

“Doug, Fark, and Henry are in the 3rd Cavalry near Petersburg doing very well. Fark has some position in the medical department, the others are honorable privates,” reported Sarah Smith in a letter to her Texas kin.

“Eddie still holds his position in the 4th regiment. He has since visited us but once, has been in the valley of Virginia for nearly three years. The Yanks have had their hands on him or nearly so several times. All his brigade with the exception of a few men have been captured. So you see a little of the Fox still remains within him.”

Brother Alex, who began the war as a member of the Cumberland Plough Boys, “has not yet gone into service though does not expect to remain at home much longer.”

That left only Jesse, the youngest.

Legally, Jesse could have stayed out of it. Realistically, he could not. Within weeks, two armies were bearing down on Fayetteville and Goldsboro and everything in between, which included Smithville. Both desperate Rebs and suspicious Yanks would have been quick to snap up a young southerner who had grown too tall to “pass” for what he actually was: 16.

When the time came, it made sense for Jesse to throw in with Gen. Hardee, serving as a courier through the bitter showdown at Bentonville, where, amid the carnage of the biggest and last battle of the Civil War in North Carolina, he was said to have witnessed the death of Hardee’s son.

Fortune favored the Smiths. None of the brothers was killed or wounded during four years of war. The sisters were treated tolerably well, by Sherman’s standards, although they had no reason to think so after seeing their belongings ransacked and after being imprisoned in their own home for two days. And the house, now in its 20th decade, still stands, facing the erstwhile stage road and the Cape Fear River beyond.

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