AUTHOR: Amelia R. Phillips (edited by Cheri Todd Molter)
My great-great-great-grandfather was William “Wesley” Wakester [also spelled Wacaster in records]. I was a small child when the following story was recited to me: Wesley was musically inclined, so when he joined the Confederate Army, they made him a fifer; this upset him greatly. To go to war with a musical instrument instead of a gun seemed like a bad idea to him.
Amid the war Wesley was sent to patrol near his home, and while there, he stopped in to check on his family. They were slaughtering hogs, so in an effort to preserve his uniform, he changed out of it before helping. As they were working, a superior officer happened to pass by and saw him. Wesley was charged as a deserter and imprisoned. I am not sure where.
While imprisoned, he escaped by jumping over a wall along with another man, to whom he was shackled. This man may have been John Newton Waycaster, his brother: Records show that his right foot was amputated at some point [It was probably NOT John Newton Waycaster: See Editor’s Note below]. In the midst of the escape, the other man broke his ankle, so Wesley picked him up and carried him for over a mile. This escape was also considered desertion.
While carrying him, they ran into a Union patrol and were asked, “Which side are you on?” Wesley reportedly said, “Give me a gun, and I will show you.”
He stayed with the Union company until he could escape and make his way back home.
I would love to hear from anyone who knows this story or can fill in the gaps.
According to his compiled military record, “William W. Wacaster,” A.K.A. Wesley, was listed as a thirty-five-year-old “Fifer” when he joined the Confederate Army on March 8, 1862 at McDowell County, North Carolina. On April 15, 1862, he mustered into Company A of the 49th North Carolina Infantry. Records indicate that he deserted on July 24, 1863, then returned on July 1, 1864. However, he was listed as having deserted again a few days later, on July 24th, and that was the last entry. There is no mention of imprisonment in his record. (Source: North Carolina Troops 1861-65, A Roster)
John Newton Waycaster [also spelled Wacaster] was a twenty-year-old farmer who was residing in Macon County, North Carolina, when he enlisted in the Confederate Army on June 25, 1861. According to his record he was born in Yancey County, North Carolina. John served in Company K of the 1st North Carolina Cavalry and was wounded on Aug. 1, 1862, then discharged on Oct. 21, 1862, after having his right foot amputated at Richmond, Virginia. Based on the dates and places these events occurred, it is extremely unlikely that John was the man mentioned in the oral tradition above who traveled with Wesley during his civil war experiences. (Source: North Carolina Troops 1861-65, A Roster)