The Padgett Brothers: Only One Came Home
Submitted by: Willis P. Whichard, Jerry H. Padgett, James L. Padgett, and Obie G. Whicha
In the 1850s, Sidney and Elijah Padgett migrated to Cherokee County from Rutherford County, North Carolina with their parents, John and Rachel Padgett, and six siblings: Salina, Dulcena, Susan, Julia, Rose, and Lander. By 1860, the Padgett family had become well established landowners in Cherokee County and in what would soon become Clay County; but the nation was entering a period of protracted turmoil.
On May 20, 1861, North Carolina seceded from the Union, and a few months later, on December 27, twenty-three-year-old William Sidney Padgett enlisted at Grahamville, South Carolina. Sidney was a private in Company G, 25th Regiment of the North Carolina Troops. This particular regiment moved north to become a part of the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee.
On December 13, 1862, Sidney Padgett and his regiment were positioned to defend Fredericksburg, Virginia. Sidney was injured there and died two days later of his wounds. During his year of military service, Sidney had survived the great battle at Antietam Creek and several smaller skirmishes.
Elijah Blyth Padgett, at 23 years old, was mustered into the Confederate Army as private on July 5, 1862. Cavalry companies were elite units made up of men who could afford to furnish their own horses and saddles. Captain William Patton Moore organized the Clay County company, mostly from local men. Private “Bly” Padgett was appointed corporal in February of 1863. About six months later, Bly’s company became Company F, 6th North Carolina Cavalry, under the command of Col. George N. Folk.
By January 1864, Col. Folk reported that his troops had “completely dispersed.” The Cavalry unit, made up of mostly Clay County men, pretty much dissolved after the September battle at Chickamauga Creek. Folk was left with fewer than 50 men. He was ordered to collect his regiment and proceed to attach to any unit he thought appropriate. Folk reported that “the unit contains a large element of disloyalty.” He stated that the home area for these troops—Clay County, North Carolina — was largely within the enemy lines. Eventually, Colonel Folk pulled together approximately 400 men from another regiment and moved them east to New Bern, North Carolina. There the men continued to be engaged with the enemy, some enduring, some deserting, and some dying.
On June 22, 1864, Col. Folk and 44 of his men were captured, and his regiment was dissolved. Elijah Blyth Padgett was reported present when the regiment was dissolved. His unit had been in the thick of action for the better part of two years.
Bly Padgett survived his war experiences and returned to live out his life on his family’s land in Clay County.
The Padgetts owned a good bit of land, and were farmers, so they may have owned slaves before the Civil War. The 1870 Census gives us some facts that engender speculation, although it sometimes seems that the Census information was rather carelessly recorded and many names were spelled a variety of ways. For example, Padgetts were listed both as “Padgetts” and “Pongets.” However, the evidence is clear that three families who lived adjacent to each other had one name or the other. The household immediately adjacent to John Padgett’s (Sidney’s and Bly’s father) was headed by a black woman named Priscilla Padgett. She had three children: Albert, aged 12 years, Calvin, 10, and Doctor, only four. Immediately following Priscilla in the 1870 Census listing was Bly “Ponget,” who was most likely John’s son Elijah Blyth Padgett. It is a logical guess that Priscilla was a freed slave who took her owner’s name and continued to live on his property after the Civil War ended. She was 28 years old in 1870, and may have moved with the Padgett family from Rutherford County as a small child. Although there is no proof that Priscilla had been a slave or that she ever belonged to John Padgett, the Census records suggest that this was the case. By the time of the 1880 Census, Priscilla was no longer listed as living in Clay County.
Sources: North Carolina Troops: 1861-1865, A Roster, A letter from Colonel G.N. Folk to General Samuel Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General, dated February 12, 1864, and assorted Clay County Census Records.