AUTHOR: Donald Reaves
Robert Reaves was my 3rd great uncle, the older brother to my 2nd great-grandfather, David Reaves of the Wolfscrape District of Duplin County. David Reaves served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Duplin County Home Guard. Their youngest brother and my 3rd great uncle, Timothy Reaves was a private in the Confederate Army.
This branch of the Reaves family provided several sons to the Confederate Army during the Civil War. This particular story is about the toll and tragedy Robert Reaves’ family experienced.
Robert Reaves (1814 – 1881) was a farmer and turpentine harvester. He was the husband of Lucy Lewis Reaves, and they had ten children leading up to the Civil War campaign. He tended a 425-acre farm, growing food and raising various livestock, southwest of Faison, North Carolina (an area now known as Bowdens, N.C.). Prior to the war, Robert Reaves had already suffered great tragedy: His eldest son died at birth in 1836, and another son died in 1860 at the age of fifteen.
In 1861, Robert and Lucy Reaves had four sons who were at least eighteen years old, all fit and qualified for service. Three of those sons served the Confederate Army, some of whom died during that conflict.
Loami Reaves (1838 – 1862) helped on the farm and managed the family turpentine operation. He was 24 years of age when he was conscripted into the Confederate Army on July 16, 1862 as a private in Company B, 3rd Regiment, North Carolina Infantry. He was mortally wounded in or near the skirmish of the cornfield, during the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862. Of the 25,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who confronted one another that morning in the cornfield for thirty minutes, almost 8,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in and around the cornfield alone. Loami Reaves was captured by Union troops the same day in Sharpsburg, Md. He died weeks later on November 6, 1862. He is buried at Mt Olivet Hospital Cemetery in Frederick, Maryland.
Jesse Reaves (1843- 1863), tended the farm, and at nineteen years old, he was conscripted into the Confederate Army. On October 1, 1862, he became a private in Company B, 52nd Regiment of North Carolina Infantry. He was wounded at Seminary Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863. The following day, July 4, 1863 he was captured by the Union Army in Cashtown. Records note that he died from typhoid pneumonia on December 31, 1863, at General Hospital No. 9 in Richmond, Virginia. His belongings, consisting of a knapsack and uniform, were forwarded to his father on October 26, 1864. He was not listed as being buried in one of the five Richmond cemeteries for Confederate dead.
Stephen James Reaves (1839 – 1900). Like his brothers, Stephen James Reaves tended the family farm. No specific Civil War record for a Stephen Reaves from Duplin County exists; however, Stephen Reaves from Cumberland and James Stephen Reaves from Lumberton regions were found, and each survived the war. A Stephen Reaves from Harnett County was also locatedby means of his widow’s application for pension.
What we know is that Stephen Reaves of Duplin County survived the war. My genealogy research led me to a surviving cousin now living in California whose genealogy research noted that he’s a 2nd great-grandson of Robert Reaves and great-grandson of his son, Stephen James Reaves of Duplin County. Per an 1870 census, it appears that Stephen J. Reaves settled in Minnesota immediately after the war, had married, and had two daughters. An 1875 territory census shows a Stephen J. Reaves in Minnesota who was about the same age as the one who was born around 1839. Both census records note that Stephen J. Reaves originated from North Carolina.
With the help of a civil war researcher friend, we pieced together the connections between James S. Reaves of Lumberton district and Stephen James Reaves of Duplin County. Keep in mind, record keeping in those days was fairly good but subject to error. The records note that he was assigned as a private in Company H, 1st Regiment North Carolina Infantry, later deserted, then captured and assigned to Union POW Old Capital Prison in Washington DC in January 1864. Records note that he stated the Oath of Amnesty on March 15, 1864 and was released to Philadelphia where, on March 17, 1864, James Stephen Reaves enlisted in the 163rd Regiment, 18th Calvary of the Union Army. When the war ended, Stephen Reaves relocated to Minnesota, married, raised two daughters, and died in 1900.
Confederate desertion was common for many reasons, and many soldiers rejoined their ranks after weeks of absence. Knowing that his father’s brother, David Reaves, was a 1st lieutenant of the Duplin Home Guard and charged with administering desertion policies, Stephan may have not wanted to return home as a Union veteran and Confederate deserter.
Having never seen nor heard from Stephen again, Robert Reaves swore under oath to Commissioners of Claims, that three sons died during the war. In addition, his claim notes Brigadier General Alfred Terry’s Union Army raided his Duplin County farm multiple times. After his troops conquered Fort Fisher near Wilmington, General Sherman’s Carolina Campaign advanced deeper into North Carolina. Troops under General Terry’s command took control of Faison using Isham R. Faison’s home as their headquarters, suppressing the Faison Depot rebellion prior to heading north towards Mt Olive, Newton Grove, and Bentonville. General Terry’s troops raided local farms for food and supplies. According to Robert Reaves’ claim, in March 1865, General Sherman’s troops visited his farm several times, taking property like cattle, horses, and carts/buggies they use to haul thousands of lbs of bacon, flour, corn and livestock feed. As part of the claim, Robert provided three signed affidavits from neighbors supporting his case. Robert Reaves was awarded $1,706 of his $2,191 claim.
While food and other provisions could be replaced, his sons couldn’t be. Robert Reaves’ journey ended in 1881. His wife, Lucy, had already died in 1870. The family suffered much, but surviving them were three sons and four daughters, including Stephen James Reaves.