SUBMITTED BY: John McKinnon
(The original copy was written in 1934 when Papa, Mr. F. L. Castex, Sr., was 82 years old. His birthday was February 14, 1852: therefore his recollections of the Civil War were of a child nine to thirteen years old.)
I have been asked a great many times to give my recollections of events that took place in and around Goldsboro, North Carolina during the war of 1861 to 1865.
A few weeks after war was declared, the military company from New Bern came up here to join the Goldsboro Rifles on their way to the front. They had a cannon mounted on a flat car and fired salutes as they came into town. In our brass band was a drummer boy, not over twelve years of age named Jim Carter, who was the envy of all other boys. He went through the entire war.
On the porch of the old Gregory Hotel, Mr. George Strong made a speech to the crowd and said that he would guarantee to wipe up all the blood shed in the war with his pocket handkerchief. A few months later, we heard that General Burnside had captured Roanoke lsland and would attack New Bern.
Then every train came in loaded with refugees making for all points in the state. General Burnside captured New Bern and Fort Macon in March 1862. After the fight at New Bern, the Confederate troops fell back to Kinston and held it until the end of the war.
The only fight we ever had within twenty miles of Goldsboro was when General Foster in December 1862 made his raid from New Bern to burn the railroad bridge over Neuse River, three miles south of town. He was met by General Clingman with a small army of men. The fight continued all day but Foster accomplished his mission – that was to burn the bridqe and tear up the railroad for several miles.
I shall never forget the scare I got that day. I went down to the railroad track to about where Borden’s Brick Plant is now to see what was going on. (At that time, both sides of the railroad were a forest.) I was standing watching the smoke as it rolled across the track from the gunfire, which sounded like a reed marsh on fire, interspersed with the roar of cannons. A stray shell from the Yankee’s battery struck a large tree not far from where I was standing and exploded. I thouqht the whole Yankee army had opened fire on me. When I got back to town, I did not have breath enough to tell what had happened.
The next day after the fight, Sam Royall, several others and I went over on the battlefield. There were no dead visible but a great many dead horses. I presume they carried the dead back with them.
We went over to the David Everett’s old home which the Yankees used as a hospital. It was a large two story eight room house. The floors in each room were covered with blood. The stair steps were tracked with blood. At the back door they had dug a hole and filled it with arms, hands, legs, feet, etc. They had also dug out the floor in the smokehouse, and filled that with all parts of the human body and then covered it up with about an inch of dirt.
The Confederates had two lines of breastwork, one near the railroad bridge, the other about half way between the railroad and the country covered bridge. These are the only breastworks that the Confederates ever built near Goldsboro.
There were never any Confederate soldiers that camped near Goldsboro. They were needed on the firing line.
General Baker made headquarters in Richard Atkinson’s house for a few days. H. P. Dortch, Sr. was on his staff. At that time, the Atkinson home was the showplace of the town. There were two large greyhounds at each end of the steps and a large lion in a circle between the steps and the iron gate.
Mr. W. S. Royall, father of George Royall, had charge of the commissary for the Confederate Army and gathered supplies of all kinds to feed our soldiers.
In 1865, General Schofield, who had been with General Sherman in Tennessee, was ordered to eastern North Carolina with his corps. They landed by transport in New Bern and then marched to reinforce Sherman who was on his way to capture Raleigh.
General Schofield had no opposition in his march to Goldsboro as General Johnson had ordered every available soldier in eastern Carolina to join him in his last stand against General Sherman, which took place at Bentonsville [sic]. When we heard the Yankees were coming, I went to the upper floor of the old Gregory Hotel and saw the head of General Schofield’s army as it passed Creech’s store over in Webbtown coming into Goldsboro. In a short while they had covered every vacant space in and around town.
That night they circled the entire town with a line of breastwork and camped inside these works for General Schofield knew that General Johnson with his army was in the section.
Schofield’s army crossed the Neuse River at White Hall, now Seven Springs, and came into Goldsboro over the old stage road near Bizzell’s Mill. There were only two roads then to the east, one north of the railroad via Millers and the one by Creech’s store via Bizzell’s Mill. The road to Adams store was open about twenty-five years after the war, later made #10 highway. The breastwork at the golf course was part of the line Schofield’s army made around town.
A few days after the battle of Bentonsville between Johnson and Sherman, General Sherman with his army crossed the covered bridge over the Neuse River south of here and came into Goldsboro, through old Waynesboro and what is now little Washington. General Schofield having made headquarters in Mr. E. B. Borden’s residence [home of the great-grandfather of story contributor John B. McKinnon of Winston-Salem], that was the only house n the section, ordered a battery of artillery placed on the brow of the hill where now stands the residence of Harry and Sol Weil and Mrs. Arnold Borden and fired salutes to General Sherman as he marched in.
I was attracted by the gun fire and went to see what was happening. I saw General Sherman ride up with his staff to Mr. Borden’s house. I saw Sherman dismount and walk in. He was met on the front porch by General Schofield and both entered the house together. Later General Sherman made headquarters at the old Richard Washington home (later known as Doctor Jones’ home) on West Center Street.
When Schofield heard that Sherman and his army were coming to Goldsboro, he issued an order that every citizen who wished a guard to protect their homes could have one by applying to the Provost Marshal’s office which was in Dr. John Davis’ home, now occupied by the Elks Lodge.
The Provost Marshal’s name was Glavis. I remember him as he ordered me to bring my shotgun to his office, and I never saw it again. That order of General Schofield’s saved the town from being plundered by the gang of theives [sic] that followed Sherman on his march to the sea. It took over a day for the caravan of thieves and burners to pass a given point.
There were fine carriages loaded with plunder, buggies, carts, all sorts of conveyances loaded with featherbeds, quilts, chickens, hogs, turkeys, etc. Women with babies and children whose homes had been destroyed, followed into town for protection. It is impossible to describe this picture.
This gang that followed in the wake of his army did no fighting as there was not one out of a hundred that carried a gun. After the caravan went into camp out beyond where the fair grounds are now, they had nothing to feed their horses and mules; so they stayed all over the country dying from starvation. There were dead horses dying all over the town. The streets were full of them. They would throw a little dirt over them but not enough to keep down the odor.
They had to do something, so they issued orders for the calvary squadron to round up all stray horses and mules, drive them down to the Neuse River at old Waynesboro, force them into the river while a regiment of soldiers shot them from the banks. They almost dammed up the river. A great many got by and went into the low grounds of the river. These horses were taken up by the farmers on the south side of the river after the war.
There was quite a contrast between the two armies. General Schofield had his men under complete military control, no stragglers or burners. The only depredation I saw or heard of was that they destroyed fences and outhouses to make fires to cook with. General Sherman permitted all kinds of depredations and allowed an army of stragglers, theives, and burners to follow in his wake which carried out his boast that “A crow would starve to death flying over my trail.” “That war was hell.”
On General Schofield’s march from New Bern, one of his soldiers committed rape on a white woman in the White Hall (Seven Springs) section. He was arrested, court-martialed, and ordered shot. I witnessed the shooting. They took him from the jail, placed him in an ambuIance with a Chaplain and Officer of the day. His box or coffin was in another ambulance which preceded him. A brass band in front followed by the firinq squad and his regiment. They marched out to where the city waterworks are now located and placed the box beside the grave. After the Chaplain read the Bible and prayer, they seated the man upon his box – coffin blindfolded, pinned a white piece of paper on his left breast. The firing squad having taken their place about thirty paces away, the officer of the day gave the order that sent his soul into eternity. Then they placed the body upon his box and marched the regiment by so that they could see the man. There were twenty-four men in the firing squad, four of them Indians. Twelve guns were loaded with balls and twelve loaded with blanks.
We lived at that time on the corner opposite where the Jewish Synagogue now stands. At that time there was not a house from the Presbyterian Church north; only two houses beyond where we lived. They were the Clark home and Waters (John Grantham) home. Only two houses on George Street, Mr. E. B. Borden and Mr. John Everett now Mrs. Thomas Holmes. The army camped on all the vacant spaces, all in our garden.
I remember very well when the General told my mother he wanted our house and sent his soldiers in to move us into the dining room. My mother and I were then alone. He proved to be a gentleman and did us several favors. We southern people had a hard time during the war. We used all kinds of substitutes for coffee. Flour at five hundred dollars a barrel, meat ten dollars a pound, etc.; so we had very little to eat on hand and not a cent that we could spend, as our Confederate money was no good after the Yankees came in.
I remember the first ten cent paper money I ever saw. They called that paper money “shin plasters”, I had a box of plug tobacco which I cut up in small pieces and peddled in their camps. The first piece I sold the soldiers gave me one of those ten cent “shin plasters”, and I refused to take it until an officer told me it was good money.
When a big four-horse army wagon drove into our yard loaded with supplies for the General, he gave my Mother a lot of groceries and she made cakes and I peddled them. I got money enough ahead to go to New Bern. In about four days after the army got here, they had the trains coming in from New Bern bringing supplies, etc. I asked the General if he would not get me a pass to New Bern and a return one, which he did. I went down in a box car, bought me some oranges, lemons, tobacco, cigars, candy and had them put on a flat car. The train got into Goldsboro before day and I sat on those boxes all night. Next morning I got some help to take them home.
I took three or four planks off our smokehouse and made me a stand on the corner where the George Crabtree house is now and started in business selling lemonade, cakes, and the like. We had a guard both night and day in front of our house, and they had instructions not to let anyone molest my stand. I moved my stock in the house at night.
One of the most noted desperados that came in with Sherman was a man named Andrew Wilson. He was a perfect terror to the country around Fremont-Pikesville. He would not hesitate to commit any kind of crime. His last act was to try to kill Frank Coley. He shot a white man in Mr. Coley’s yard thinking he was Frank.
There were several confederate calvarymen who lived in that section who banded together as vigilantes [sic] and opened war on the burners and thieves. A few days after he shot this man in Coley’s yard, they heard the man Wilson was in that community again. They followed him into Goldsboro and headed him off as he came walking in on the railroad track at North Boundry Street. As they rode up around him, he broke into a run for Joyner’s store on the corner. They opened fire on him, and he fell dead on the store’s steps.
They gave a rebel yell and rode out of town before the Yankee army knew what had happened. The Yankees made several attempts to arrest these men but could never locate them. No one would give them any information.
After President Johnson issued his general amnesty proclamation, these men returned to private life. Would it not be a great idea for The Daughters of the Confederacy to place a marker in memory of these men who protected the life, property and virtue of the community during the closing days of the war. I remember the names of a few: Dr. Thomas Person, Frank Coley, Matthew Johnson, Gil Ward, J. H. Robinson. Perhaps someone in the Fremont and Pikesville section could almost complete the list.