AUTHOR: Lewis Hardee, Jr. (edited and vetted by Cheri Todd Molter)
Editor’s Note: John Wescott was born on Aug. 28, 1845 to Samuel and Eliza Wescott [also spelled “Wescoat” in some records] of Brunswick County, North Carolina. After the war started, he served the Confederacy, joining Galloway’s Company of the North Carolina Coast Guards. According to his obituary, Wescott also served in Confederate land forces, but neither of the two compiled military records found for men named “John Wescott” seemed to fit with the other verifiable details of his life: Both soldiers were older than this Wescott, and one died while being held prisoner at Point Lookout (He served in the 30th Inf., NC Troops.), and the other was confined at Fort Columbus, New York, through March 1865 (He was a 1st Lt. who served in Batty K, 2nd Light Inf., N.C. Troops.). However, not knowing the exact regiment Wescott served in should not diminish the value of the story below. John Wescott died on March 17, 1936, and according to Mr. Lewis and other sources, at the time of his death, Mr. Wescott was the last surviving Confederate veteran of Brunswick County. [Photo of grave marker above. Click on image to enlarge.]
Wescott mentions a traveling companion, “Mr. S. P. Tharp” in his memoirs. I believe that gentlemen might be Samuel P. Tharp, who was also from Brunswick County. Tharp enlisted in the Confederate Army on July 18, 1861 as a Second Lieutenant. He was commissioned into Company C, 30th Infantry, North Carolina Troops.
Introduction: The following is an excerpt from an article that was published by Star News Online on Sept 20, 2006 entitled “Kindness greeted soldiers returning home from war.” The article features John Wescott’s writings about his experiences on his journey home from the war.
“[These are the] memories of John Wescott, the last surviving veteran of Brunswick County at the time of his death in 1936. We do not know when it was written but it was probably very soon after his return home. The article was provided by one of his direct descendants, Lewis J. Hardee Jr. of Southport and New York City.
Homecoming from the War: After General Johnston surrendered near Bentonville, there was quite a bustle, making preparation for going home. Those of us whose home was in Brunswick County, after laying our guns and cartridge boxes aside and placing our blankets on our shoulders, headed for home.
We didn’t travel far before we reached the stage road leading from Fayetteville to Georgetown. It was in such bad repair that it was impossible for vehicles to travel on it, but it served a good purpose for pedestrians and we made good use of it. The people living near the road were kind to us, giving us food and shelter, so we traveled until we reached Fayetteville. Mr. S.P. Tharp and I were a distance behind our comrades, he being unable to travel fast.
On arrival at the old town, was a dwelling near the road, and a well of water stood in the backyard. Being very thirsty, Mr. Tharp asked me to take our canteens to the well and fill them, which I did.
I saw signs of life on the premises, but on going back to the gate where Mr. Tharp was waiting the lady of the house opened the front door and asked what we wanted. We told her a morsel to eat if she had it to spare. She told us to come in, we did so, and sat on the steps of the porch. She invited us into the dining room, but we asked to be excused. She went into the dining room and soon returned with two well-filled plates of excellent food such as we had not seen for quite a while.
After satisfying our appetites we could not consume all the food. We told her if she would give us a bit of paper we would take what was left for our supper. She went into the dining room and soon returned with a well-packed lunch, more than enough for our supper. After talking with her awhile and thanking her for her kindness, we bade her goodbye and went in search of our comrades.
After searching the riverfront we found they had secured a boat shed for our quarters. After supper we talked about the best way home, thinking we would have to travel on foot. We spread our blankets down for the night.
The next morning two gentlemen, whose home was in Wilmington, told us they had a large row boat and gave us passage down the river. We gladly accepted the offer and went on board the little craft. Loosing the mooring, we started down the river. Having a strong current in our favor, and two oars that we used alternately, we made good time, far better than we could have come on foot.
We admired the large growth of magnolia trees, which grew on each side of the river, covered with white blossoms, exhaling an aroma far more agreeable than that of gunpowder we inhaled on the battlefields. Having some good singers on the boat we would occasionally strike out on some familiar song, which made the time pass more cheerfully.
Thus we glided down the Cape Fear, arriving in Wilmington late in the afternoon. Those of us whose homes were in Brunswick County asked to be landed on the west side of the river, which was granted. After thanking the gentlemen for their kindness we headed homeward.
There being no road leading from the river we traveled through the woods. Night soon overtaking us, we camped for the night.
On waking the next morning we were told by the noise of chickens that we were near someone’s house, and going in the direction of the noise, we soon arrived at a small farmhouse. Some of the inmates had just returned with a pail of milk, which they divided with us. Filling our canteens, we thanked them and continued our journey.
We soon arrived at the home of Mr. W.W. Drew. They were through with breakfast but had enough left over, which with our milk furnished a good breakfast. After talking with them awhile we continued our journey. Having some relatives living several miles from there, we called on them. We received a hearty welcome and they insisted that we spend the night, which we did.
Next morning my good old uncle hitched his mule to the wagon and sent us within a few miles of our house. After thanking the young driver and bidding him goodbye, we continued our journey.”
“Kindness greeted soldiers returning home from war,” Star News Online (Posted Sept. 20, 2006) Link: https://www.starnewsonline.com/news/20060920/kindness-greeted-soldiers-returning-home-from-war